Potawatomi Trail of Death
The Potawatomi Trail of Death was the forced removal by the United States army of 859 members of the Potawatomi nation from Indiana to what is now Kansas in 1838. Of the 859 Potawatomi, more than 40 persons, mostly children, died during the journey, due to typhoid fever and exhaustion.
The march took place from September 4 to November 4, 1838, and covered a distance of 660 miles (1,060 km), from the Twin Lakes (now Myers Lake and Cook Lake, near Plymouth, Indiana) to the location of present-day Osawatomie, Kansas. Fr. Benjamin Marie Petit, who marched with his congregation of natives, died in St. Louis on February 10, 1839, in part exhausted by the rigors of the journey.
In 1830, the Federal Government passed the Indian Removal Act. It was the intent of the government to purchase lands and extinguish territorial claims of Indian nations, and remove them from the populated east to the remote and relatively unpopulated lands west of the Mississippi River (where other Indian tribes controlled large territories). The Act of 1830 specifically targeted the Five Civilized Tribes in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, but also led to treaties being negotiated with the many other minor tribes east of the Mississippi, including several in the former Northwest Territory south of the Great Lakes.
The Potawatomi were the second major tribe to leave Indiana after white settlement began in the state. After the War of 1812, when the tribe had allied with the British against the Americans, the Potawatomi lived in relative peace with their white neighbors. But, the government of Indiana was eager to open up the northern parts of the state for settlers and development.
The Potawatomi of the Woods are those tribes living around the southern tip of Lake Michigan in Michigan and north central Indiana. In October 1832, numerous leaders signed treaties at Tippecanoe River north of Rochester, Indiana, which ceded most of their remaining lands in northwestern and north central Indiana. In exchange for their lands in the east, they were given lands in the west (Potawatomi County, Kansas) and annual annuities.
Over the next 4 years, additional treaties were completed with the other Potawatomi to completely eliminate their titles from lands in Indiana. Chief Menominee's signature was recorded with an "x" on the treaty of 1832, but he and his band at Twin Lakes, Indiana, were known for refusing to move.
In 1836 the Potawatomi signed nine treaties, including the Treaty of Yellow River in Marshall County, five treaties on the Tippecanoe River north of Rochester, two treaties in Logansport, and one treaty at Turkey Creek in Kosciusko County. These treaties were called the Whiskey Treaties because whiskey was given to get the Indians to sign. In exchange for their land, they were offered $0.50 per acre, and each member of the tribe was granted a 320-acre (1.3 km2) parcel of land in Kansas. In exchange, the tribe agreed to vacate their lands within two years.
The deadline for the tribe to leave was August 5, 1838. By then some Potawatomi bands had migrated peacefully to their new lands in Kansas. The Twin Lakes village of Chief Menominee was near the site of present-day Plymouth. After the deadline passed and the village refused to leave, Governor David Wallace ordered General John Tipton to mobilize the state militia in support of Colonel A. C. Pepper to remove the tribe forcibly.
On August 30, General Tipton and one hundred soldiers (volunteer militia) surrounded Twin Lakes and began to round up the natives, 859 in all. They burned the crops and homes of the Potawatomi to discourage them from trying to return. On September 4, the march to Kansas began. The state supplied a caravan of twenty-six wagons to help transport their goods. In the first day they traveled twenty-one miles and camped at the Tippecanoe River north of Rochester. The second day they reached Mud Creek in Fulton County, where a baby died - the first casualty. By the third day they reached Logansport. Several of the sick and elderly were left at Logansport to recover, and several of the dead were buried there. They traveled along the Michigan Road, which the tribe had granted permission for Indiana to build only a few years earlier.
On September 10, the march resumed from Logansport, and the caravan moved along the north side of the Wabash River. They passed through present-day Pittsburg, Battle Ground, Lafayette, and Williamsport, with two or more deaths occurring nearly every day. Their last camp in Indiana was near the Gopher Hill Cemetery one and one-half miles from the Indiana - Illinois state line. On September 16, the caravan crossed into Illinois and camped at Danville, where four more Potawatomi died and were buried. In Danville the caravan was joined by Father Benjamin Petit, who kept a journal; he traveled with the tribe the rest of the way to help care for the sick. He wrote on September 16:
On Sunday, September 16, I came in sight of my Christians, under a burning noonday sun, amidst clouds of dust, marching in a line, surrounded by soldiers who were hurrying their steps.... Nearly all the children, weakened by the heat, had fallen into a state of complete languor and depression. I baptized several who were newly born -- happy Christians, who with their first step passed from earthly exile to the heavenly sojourn."
The order of march was as follows: the United States flag, carried by a dragoon; (mounted soldier) then one of the principal officers, next the staff baggage carts, then the carriage, which during the whole trip was kept for the use of the Indian chiefs, then one or two chiefs on horseback led a line of 250 to 300 horses ridden by men, women, children in single file, after the manner of savages. On the flanks of the line at equal distance from each other were the dragoons and volunteers, hastening the stragglers, often with severe gestures and bitter words. After this cavalry came a file of forty baggage wagons filled with luggage and Indians. The sick were lying in them, rudely jolted, under a canvas which, far from protecting them from the dust and heat, only deprived them of air, for they were as if buried under this burning canopy - several died.
At Danville, they resupplied and rested, adding a couple of ox teams and wagons. On September 20, General Tipton and all but fifteen of the Hoosiers returned to Indiana and left the tribe under the control of Judge William Polke of Rochester, who was the federal conductor. Polke led the Potawatomi the rest of the way to their new reservation. From Catlin (known as Sandusky Point, Illinois, the tribe passed through Monticello, Decatur, Springfield, New Berlin, Jacksonville, Exeter, and Naples, where they crossed the Illinois River on a ferry. On October 10 the tribe left Illinois at Quincy, crossing the Mississippi River on steam ferry boats, and crossed into Missouri.
Marching through Missouri, the tribe passed through West Quincy, Palmyra, Paris, Moberly, Huntsville, Salisbury, Keatsville (now spelled Keytesville), Brunswick, DeWitt, Carrollton, Richmond, crossed the Missouri River at Lexington, Wellington, Napoleon, near Buckner and Lake City, Independence, and Grand View. They crossed into Kansas November 2 and camped at Oak Grove (probably Elm Grove because there is no Oak Grove here), then went on November 3 to Bulltown (present Paola). On November 4 they reached the end of their journey, Osawatomie, Kansas, having traveled 660 miles (1,060 km). On arrival 756 Potawatomi remained of the 859 who had started the journey. Forty-two were recorded as having died; the remainder escaped.
Father Petit died two months after the march from illness, believed to be typhoid, and contributed to by exhaustion. Chief Menominee died three years later, never returning to Indiana. Many of the exiles tried to return to Indiana. Kansas named a county after the tribe and a reservation for Prairie Band Potawatomi is at Mayetta, Kansas.
Plymouth From Thursday 30 August until Monday the 3rd of September, General Tipton was gathering the Potawatomi people together for removal at Twin Lakes southwest of modern day Plymouth, Indiana. He called for a meeting at Father Petit's chapel at the beginning, while the priest was in South Bend, and kept the Potawatomi men there as prisoners. He had Chief Menominee, Chief Black Wolf, and Chief Pepinawa placed in a jail wagon. On his return from South Bend, Father Petit immediately began serving the needs of the sick and hearing the confessions of the Indians who escaped the round-up. Makkahtahmoway, the mother of Black Wolf, was extremely ill as she had taken refuge in the woods for six days when she heard the soldiers firing their rifles. She was only found by another Indian, who was looking for his horse. In the six days, all she had had to eat was a dead pheasant she had found. Her foot was wounded and she was unable to walk.
A statue of Chief Menominee was erected in 1909 near Twin Lakes on S. Peach Road, 5 miles (8.0 km) west of U. S. 31. It is the first statue to a Native American paid for by a U.S state legislature. A boulder with a metal plaque marks the site of the log chapel and village.
They passed through Chippeway Village on the Tippecanoe River two miles (3 km) north of Rochester on the Michigan Road (Old 31). They marched down Rochester's Main Street on September 5, 1838. A memorial to Father Benjamin Petit was erected at the Fulton County Museum.
For three days the group camped a half mile from Logansport. (Thursday 6 September - Sunday 9 September). Here those individuals who had been left at Chippeway returned to the group. The ill were cared for and four children died. Bishop Brute and Father Petit said Mass on Sunday. The local physicians report that 300 were ill. Father Petit found the camp one of desolation. There were sick people and people dying in all directions. The heat has weakened most if not all of the children. A historical marker for Potawatomi Encampment on Trail of Death, was erected on grounds of Logansport Memorial Hospital, State Road 25, north edge of town.
There are three historical markers in Carroll County: The first is at Old Winnemac's Village on Towpath Road in rural Carroll County; it was the campsite for September 10, 1838. The second is a commemoration "of the Trail of Death removal of Potawatomi and Miami Indians." It is a wooden sign erected in 1988 near the route of the march, northeast of Delphi, near the intersection of County Roads 800 West and 700 North. The third is a metal sign on Pleasant Run north of Pittsburg near the intersection of County Roads 800 West and 550 North.
Plaque and map on boulder at Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum.
The group moved along the route of County Road 500 North between Morehouse Road and 225 West just west of the Mt. Zion Church.
A metal plaque attached to a boulder marks the campsite at LaGrange, a village that no longer exists, along the Wabash River at Tippecanoe - Warren county line.
The group passed through the area of Zachariah Cicott Park just north of town.
The Trail of Death did not cross the Wabash River but zigzagged across Warren County. There is a Trail of Death historical marker at Gopher Hill Cemetery.
Sunday, 16th Sept. - 15 mi., camp by filthy stream near Indiana-Illinois state line. Young Indians allowed to go hunting. 2 small children died along the road.
An historic marker identifies the Sandusky Point Encampment, September 17–19, 1838.
Another Trail of Death marker is at Davis Point near Homer, Illinois, campsite of September 20.
On Friday, September 21 the caravan of people and wagons reached Sidney. Chief Muk-kose and a child died here. Further west, on September 22, while at the Sadorus Grove encampment, three men were jailed for drunkenness.
Monticello Monticello has two Trail of Death historical markers:
- "Pyatt's Point" in 1838 diary, wooden sign on 100 block of Bridge Street, erected by Boy Scout Daniel Valentine in 1988.
- Monticello City Cemetery on Railroad Street, erected by Boy Scout David Moody in 1998.
After marching 15 miles (24 km) they reached the Sangamon River near Pyatt’s Point. It was the Sunday 23 September. A child had died that morning and 29 persons were left in camps being too sick to travel. They encamped along the Sangamon River for two days. During that time, two more children died and an adult died. The sick from the camp of the 23rd rejoined the group. The men were allowed to go hunting for food.
Sangamon River Crossing - Monday 24th - Tuesday 25th Sept. - 15 mi. Sangamon Crossing in Illinois. 2 children and 1 adult died. Indian men permitted to go hunting. Sick left in camp yesterday caught up.
Trail of Death marker placed on corner of Dunbar and Caleb roads by Boy Scout Ryan Berg in 1993.
Niantic or Long Point - Trail of Death marker in town park by water tower, erected in 2000 by Boy Scout Griffin Smith, sponsored by Gerald and Tom Wesaw families, Pokagon Potawatomi.
The men were promised tobacco if they made a good appearance going through Springfield. Chief Ioway (I-o-weh) took charge of making everyone presentable. They were able to find plenty of food this day by foraging through the countryside. Overnight, two children had died.
Two Trail of Death markers:
- Oak Crest Road at golf course, erected by Springfield Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, 1995.
- Metal plaque placed at Old State Capitol Plaza on side of building going to parking garage by Pokagon Potawatomi in 2001.
Two Trail of Death markers:
- Old Jacksonville Road and New Salem Church Road. McCoy's Mill Encampment. Erected in 1995 by Rainbow Dancers, Pow Wow Committee, and Clayville Folk Arts Guild.
- Old Jacksonville Road near Peters Road (Island Grove Methodist Church/Woodwreath Cemetery). Island Grove Encampment. A child died a few hours after making camp. He is buried near this spot. Erected in 1995 by Rainbow Dancers, Pow Wow Committee, and Clayville Folk Arts Guild.
Two markers: Monday 1st Oct. 17 mi., Jacksonville, Ill. A child fell from wagon and was crushed by wheels, will probably die. Late at night the camp was complimented by serenade from Jacksonville Band. Trail of Death marker is in Foreman Grove Park, East College Ave and Johnson Street, erected 2001 by Native American Fellowship Council and Bill Norval, Peoria, Ill., and Morgan County Historical Society.
On the first of October, a Monday they reached Jacksonville, Illinois. A child had fallen from a wagon and was crushed under the wheels. While in Jacksonville, the local Band played a concert for them.
Tuesday 2nd Oct. 16 mi. Marched into Jacksonville town square where presents of tobacco and pipes given to Indians by citizens. Band played & escorted Indians. Trail of Death marker in town square, erected 1993 by Morgan County Historical Society.
Monday 8th - Wednesday 10th Oct. - 7 mi., Quincy, Illinois. Steam ferry across river, entered Missouri. 3 children died. Permission granted to remain in camp each succeeding Sabbath for devotional services (note: attended Mass at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Quincy.)
For three days (Monday October 8 through Wednesday, October 10 the group was at Quincy, Illinois crossing the Mississippi River on a steam ferry. During this time, three children died. From here on, they were permitted to stay in camp on the Sabbath for devotional services. While in Quincy, they attended Mass at St. Boniface Catholic Church.
Independence (Kansas City)
It was November when about 750 Potawatomi arrived at Osawatomie, Kansas. Over half the deaths along the trail had been children. Father Petit who had volunteered to care for his congregation on the journey became ill on the Illinois River. He completed the journey, but returned to St. Louis where he died in February 1839. Some Potawatomi had escaped the dragnet of soldiers and remained in the east. Many went west on another removal in 1840. Some had fled to Michigan, where they became part of the Huron and Pokagon Potawatomi bands.
The Potawatomi of the Woods or Mission Band remained in eastern Kansas for ten years. In 1848 they moved further west to St. Marys, Kansas, close to the Prairie Band Potawatomi Reservation at Mayetta, Kansas. In 1861 the Potawatomi of the Woods Mission Band were offered a new treaty which gave them land in Oklahoma. Those who signed this treaty became "Citizen Band Potawatomi", because they were given U.S. citizenship. Their headquarters today is at Shawnee, Oklahoma.
- "Potawatomi History, 1998". Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation". Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Treaty with the Potawatomi, October 20, 1832, proclaimed January 21, 1833
- Treaty with the Potawatomi, October 26, 1832, proclaimed January 21, 1833
- Funk, 45
- Funk, 46
- Funk, 47
- "Letter from Benjamin Marie Petit, a priest and missionary to the Potawatomi". Usd116.org. Retrieved 2014-03-05.
- Douglas, Jesse C. Diary of Jesse C. Douglas, Enrolling Agent under General Tipton, the United States' conductor.
- “The Trail of Death, Letters of Benjamin Marie Petit” by Irving McKee, the Indiana Historical Society, v. 14 (1941), p. 97-101
- Chief Menominee Statue, State of Indiana
- Marshall County, Indiana page at potawatomi-tda.org site
- a boulder with metal plaque was erected 1922 by Manitou Chapter of the Daughters of American Revolution
- "Places to see, things to do in Fulton Co.". The Rochester Sentinel. Retrieved 10 September 2014.
- by Cass County Historical Society, 1988.
- erected by Carroll County Historical Society
- Metal plaque, Boy Scout Kris Cannon, Troop 144. 1996
- Girl Scout Troop 219, 1996
- Metal sign on boulder, Tippecanoe County Historical Association, 1998
- Words cut into boulder, John Henry and Warren County Park board 1993
- Metal sign at Old Town Park on Main and Old 2nd, 1996, Phil High and Boy Scout Troop 344
- "Diary of Jesse C. Douglas, Enrolling Agent". Usd116.org. Retrieved 2014-03-05.
- Historic Marker in Catlin, Paul Quick and Society of Indian Lore in 1993
- Bronze historic marker erected in 1993 by the descendents of the Potawatomi, North Paris Street, Catlin, Illinois
- "Trail of Death Monument Photos from Sadoris, IL". Usd116.org. Retrieved 2014-03-05.
- Funk, Arville (1963). Sketchbook of Indiana History. Indiana: Christian Book Press.
- Journal of an Emigrating Party of Pottawattomie Indians, 1838. 1925. Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 21, Issue 4 (Dec.), pp. 315–336.
- McKee, Irving. 1941. The Trail of Death, Letters of Benjamin Marie Petit. Indiana Historical Society Publications 14:1. (index at archive.org) (readable online at archive.org)
- Robertson, Nellie Armstrong, and Riker, Dorothy (eds), The John Tipton Papers, V. III, 1834–1839, Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1942, Chapter V. August 7, 1838 - November 23, 1838. Removal of the Potawatomi, pp. 659–669.
- Willard, Shirley; Susan Campbell. 2003. Potawatomi Trail of Death: 1838 Removal from Indiana to Kansas. Fulton County Historical Society, Rochester, Indiana.
- Winger, Otho, The Potawatomi Indians, Elgin, IL: Elgin Press, 1939, (esp. pp. 43–53).
- Forest County Potawatomi
- Match-e-be-nash-she-wish (Gun Lake) Band of Pottawatomi
- Citizens Band of the Potawatomi
- Prairie Band of the Potawatomi
- Historical Marker Database
- Potawatomi Trail of Death Primary Sources
- Potawatomi Trail of Death
- Potawatomi History
- Potawatomi Web: Trail of Death map
- Keith Drury: Walking the Trail of Death
- Chief Menominee Memorial
- Trail of Death Podcast, Moment of Indiana History
- Entries from the journal of artist George Winter describing the Trail of Death