Caravan to Kansas Draws Potawatomi From Several States

Fourteen Potawatomi, Father Petit’s chalice, two authors and a sponsor of a Trail of Death historical marker will all be going on the Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan from Indiana to Kansas Sept. 22-28. Also a descendant of William Polke, the federal conductor on the Trail of Death, will go on the caravan, as well as several other interested persons for a total of 17 going all the way from Indiana to Kansas, and eight going part way. They will stop at the 48 campsites where the Potawatomi camped in 1838. They will dedicate three new Trail of Death historical markers, thus completing the marking of the Trail of Death Regional Historic Trail, for a total of 74 historical markers.

The group will meet at Chief Menominee statue at Twin Lakes south of Plymouth at 9 a.m. for a ceremony Sept. 22. Menominee Elementary School will bring its fourth graders. George Schricker, Plymouth, will sing a song he wrote about Menominee. Mike Wolfington, Marshall County Tourism, will welcome the group. Shirley Willard, Rochester, will serve as emcee.

At 10:00 the caravan of cars and trucks and campers will begin the trip, following the Michigan Road to Rochester and Logansport. They will stop at 10:30 at the Tippecanoe River and Old 31, which was the first night’s camp site in 1838, and where a historical marker was placed in 1925 by the DAR. At 11:00 they will stop at the Rochester court house by the historical marker there, which recalls that the Potawatomi were marched at gunpoint down Rochester’s Main Street Sept. 5, 1838. The caravan will eat at McDonald’s at 11:30. They will stop at Logansport’s Trail of Death marker by the hospital at 1:00. At 1:30 they will drive across Cass and Carroll counties following the Wabash River and Towpath Road: Chief Winnemac’s old village, Burnett’s Arch - a boat bridge over the canal, VanderVolgen farm on 800N and 700W, Pleasant Run at edge of Pittsburg. If time does not permit stopping at all the Trail of Death markers, the history will be read on CB radio as they drive by. At 3:00 they will stop Battle Ground Museum and then drive by Burnett’s trading post on Prophet’s Rock Road. At 4:00 they will visit Mrs. Cable Ball in Lafayette to see the George Winter pictures. Winter was an artist and eye-witness of the forced emigration and sketched scenes of them. At 5:30 they will drive to Trail of Death markers in Lafayette and on the Tippecanoe - Warren county line. At 6:30 they will eat at Double K Cafe in Independence. They will spend the night at Cicott’s Trading Post Park in Independence.

On Tuesday Sept. 23 the caravan members will eat breakfast at Double K Cafe and drive to Williamsport’s Trail of Death marker, then on to Gopher Hill Cemetery for the last Trail of Death camp in Indiana. They will cross the state line at Danville, visit the Trail of Death marker in Ellsworth Park, and then eat lunch.

As Fulton County Historian and secretary of the Indian Awareness Center, a branch of the Fulton County Historical Society, Shirley Willard has served as coordinator for placing of the historical markers. This project has taken 15 years, as they began in 1988 with the goal of placing a marker at each campsite every 15 to 20 miles. The task is done, making this the best marked historic trail in the U.S, maybe the whole world. Their next project is to make a big folding highway map of the four states showing all the Trail of Death historical markers.

Potawatomi are coming from several states, from Oklahoma to Minnesota to Maryland. They have ancestors who went on the 1838 Trail of Death, some of whom signed treaties in Indiana in the 1830s. All will attend the Trail of Courage Living History Festival Sept. 20-21, taking part in the Indian dances, parade to the river and the fur trade skit, and gathering at the Indian Awareness Center booth to autograph books for the public.

When Father Petit died in St. Louis on his way back to Indiana after accompanying the Potawatomi on the Trail of Death, he willed his belongings to Bishop Brute of Vincennes. The Vincennes Catholic Church still has the chalice and is loaning it to the caravan. It will be used for Mass at Quincy, Ill., in the St. Boniface Church where the Potawatomi attended services when they camped there Oct. 8-10, 1838, ferrying the Mississippi River and repairing wagons. The chalice will also be used for Mass Sept. 28 following the dedication of the Father Petit memorial at the former Sugar Creek Mission, where the Potawatomi lived 1838-48.

Larry Pritchard of Lynn, Ind., a descendant of William Polke, the federal conductor on the Trail of Death, comes every year to the Trail of Courage Living History Festival to host the Polke house by the Fulton County Museum. Larry and his wife Rose will travel in the caravan to Kansas.

The itinerary for the Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan Sept. 22-28, 2003:

Mon. - Plymouth to Independence, Ind., 136 miles. Ceremony at Chief Menominee statue 9 a.m., Rochester court house 11:00, Logansport hospital 1 p.m., visit Mrs. Cable Ball in Lafayette at 4:00 to see George Winter pictures. Camp in Zachariah Cicott Trading Post Park.

Tue. - Independence, Ind., to Monticello, Ill., 118 miles. Programs at Unity Elementary School, Philo, 1:45 and at Monticello Methodist Church 6:30 p.m. Camp at Friend’s Creek Campgrounds, Argenta.

Wed. - Monticello to Exeter, Ill., 130 miles. Springfield’s Old Capitol at noon, Jacksonville High School band serenades caravan at Jacksonville town square 3:30 p.m. Hog roast at Exeter 6 p.m., camp in Exeter town park.

Thurs. - Exeter to Perry and Quincy, Ill., and Monroe City, Mo., 116 miles. Mass at St. Boniface Church at noon using Father Petit’s chalice. Dedication of memorial to all Indian removals at Quinsippi Island Park at 4:30, barbecue 5:30 sponsored by North American Archaeological Institute and the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County. Camp at Clifford and Josephine Gander’s farm house, near Monroe City, Mo.

Fri. - Monroe City to Carrollton, Mo., 120 miles. Lunch at Huntsville with historical society. camp in Carrollton town park.

Sat. - Carrollton to Independence, Mo., 90 miles. Dedication of new Trail of Death marker at Richmond High School at 9:30. Give program at 7 p.m. National Frontier Trails Museum, Independence, camp at Campus RV Park.

Sun. - Independence to Osawatomie, Kan., and on to St. Philippine Memorial Park/Shrine in Linn Co., Kan., 98 miles. Lunch at Osawatomie with historical society. Dedicate Father Petit memorial at 3:00, Mass at 4:00 using Father Petit’s chalice. Camp at St. Philippine Duchesne park.

For more detailed schedule, see

People who are traveling on the Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan 2003:

Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian and coordinator for placing of Trail of Death historical markers, Rochester, Ind., and her husband Bill Willard, who drives the truck and looks out for all on the caravan. He made maps on his computer so they won’t make any wrong turns, hopefully. She is co-author of a new book, Potawatomi Trail of Death, for sale at the Fulton County Museum.

Dr. George Godfrey, descendant of Potawatomi on 1838 Trail of Death, Severn, Md. Godfrey was co-organizer with Shirley Willard for caravans in 1988, 1993 and 1998. He will travel with the caravan the first two days.

Tom Hamilton, Checotah, Ok., has a second home in Warsaw, Ind. A descendant of Abram Burnett - full blood Potawatomi on 1838 Trail of Death, Hamilton has designed several of the Trail of Death plaques for historical markers and video taped all the caravans and several years at Trail of Courage.

Descendants of Theresa Slavin, a little girl on 1838 Trail of Death, include Sister Virginia Pearl, Pawnee Rock, Kan.; Robert Pearl and daughter Janet Pearl, Parma Heights, Oh.; Mary Ann Dockry Harty, Gilford, Conn., and her brother Patrick Dockry, Anoka Minn.; Jim and Eileen Pearl, St. Marys, Kan. - will meet caravan at Quincy, Ill.; and Joe Slavin, Burdette, Kan. - will meet caravan at Huntsville, Mo.

Dagmar Thorpe, Prague, Ok. descendant of Mas-saw, Potawatomi chieftess on 1838 Trail of Death and great grandmother of Jim Thorpe, World’s Greatest Athlete.

Theresa & Wayne McNary, Meriden, Kan., descendants of Pierre Navarre.

Galen and Mickie Kabance, Pittsburg, Kan. - descendant of Kabanseh and Optageshic.

Mike Dodson, Shawnee, Ok., Director of Public Information for Citizen Potawatomi Nation headquarters.- will travel with the caravan the first two days.

Howard and Barbara Kline, Florissant, Mo., descendant of Huron Band of Potawatomi, will meet caravan in Missouri.

Larry and Rosalee Pritchard, Lynn, Ind., great great great great grandson of William Polke, conductor on Trail of Death.

Carol Spurlock Layman, North Vernon, Ind., author of Isaac McCoy and the American Indians. Layman will bring a friend to travel with her.

Dolores & Si Grizzell, Winamac, Ind., sponsored a Trail of Death marker at Moberly, Mo.

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This page updated Mar 27, 2011.