A pilgrimage from Indiana to Kansas
By Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian

Sept. 24 Tuesday - Our group got separated but then found each other and drove slowly by the Trail of Death marker on Morehouse Road, following the signs erected in 2010 across Tippecanoe County. This is the marker that tells about Chief We-wis-sa’s 100-year-old mother dying there.

Ed Earl the donkey greeted us with loud brays at Lagrange Trail of Death marker. Jim Crites’ farm house, barn and animals, include the donkey, are by the marker, a huge boulder with metal plaque.

We followed the road to Independence, Indiana, where a huge boulder with words sand-blasted into it telling about Zachariah Cicott’s trading post and how he watched the Potawtomi go by.

In Williamsport Judy Newmun of Independence, Indiana, met the caravan and recalled meeting us in 1988 when we camped at Cicott Park in Independence. Judy had become friends with Sister Ginger and visited her in Kansas in the 1990s. Williamsport’s Review Republican had a big story and photos Oct. 3. Judy traveled with the caravan to Danville.

At Gopher Hill Cemetery southwest of Williamsport, Noyes’ filming crew flew their drone with a camera overhead while we all waved good-bye and it crashed into a tree. Alan and Jo Switzer brought their scrapbook of when we dedicated the marker at Gopher Hill in 1999. They also had photos of when we first stopped there in 1988. Such faithful friends!

We arrived an hour early to eat at the Danville Museum because Illinois is an hour behind us. So we took time to look over their excellent museum. Sharon Hoogstraten, a professional photographer and member of Citizen Potawatomi Nation traveling with us, showed her portfolio of photos taken of Potawatomi in their beautiful regalia. Several of them were traveling with us, including the Wamego sisters, Sister Virginia Pearl, and George Godfrey.

Danville Township had purchased 10 Potawatomi Trail of Death historic highway signs in 2009 but did not get them erected. After talking to several different employees at their street department, I finally got a man to put up the signs. When we traveled we dedicated the sign beside Turtle Run Golf Course. There was television coverage of our dedication but we did not get to see it that night.

George Godfrey lifted tobacco to the four directions in a blessing to dedicate new Trail of Death highway signs and historical markers. We turned to face the same direction that George faced as he turned to the four winds. It always amazes me to see the tree tops and how beautiful they are. It seems we white people go through life looking down but when we look up, the sky and trees uplift our spirits.

We also visited Elsworth Park in Danville, where Cheryl Lawrence and Norm Skinner were waiting for us. Lawrence was a member of the group that erected the Trail of Death marker there in 1993. Skinner has Skinner’s Farm Museum & Village, a collection of old buildings and lots of antique farm equipment at his farm near Perryville, Indiana.

We met Andy Chase and his mom in Catlin, Illinois. As a Boy Scout, Andy erected two Trail of Death markers in Homer and Sidney in 1991. He is a pilot for United Airlines now.

We were an hour and a half late to dedicate the new Trail of Death historic highway signs at Monticello. Kay Gilbreath and newspaper lady took photos. We followed the signs to the next stop. At Sangamon Crossing west of Monticello, Illinois, we met the Anderson family who lives next door to the Trail of Death marker and rescued it. A vehicle hit the boulder late at night and knocked the metal plaque off. He used his tractor to turn the boulder over and get it back in place. The plaque was re-attached by two members, Cheri Hunter and Linda Morrell, from the Stephen Decatur Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

We drove into Mueller Park to see the Trail of Death marker in Decatur. We were too late to visit the Decatur - Macon County Museum and Prairie Village which closed at 5 p.m. We checked into our motel and discovered that the local Bob Evans Restaurant was closed for remodeling. So we all went different directions to eat supper. It was raining that evening.

Judy Newnum, Independence, Indiana, met up again with Sister Ginger Pearl at Williamsport, Indiana. They met on the first caravan in 1988. (Photo: Sharon Hoogstraten, Hoogstraten Photography, Chicago)

This is the flying drone with video camera used by Dan Noyes filming crew as they traveled across Indiana with the Trail of Death caravan. (Photo: Sharon Hoogstraten, member of Citizen Potawatomi Nation.)

Caravan members waved good-bye at Gopher Hill Cemetery which is the last Trail of Death historical marker in Indiana. It is in Warren County near State Line City. (Photo: Sharon Hoogstraten, member of Citizen Potawatomi Nation.)

Cathy Wamego, Carmelita Wamego Skeeter and grandson Chris Osborn look at scrapbook of Trail of Death caravans made by Jo Switzer at Gopher Hill Cemetery. Jeannie Wamego Van Veen is at left in background. (Photo: Sharon Hoogstraten)

Dedication of new Potawatomi Trail of Death historic highway sign at Turtle Run Golf Course, Danville, Illinois. From left: Sharon Hoogstraten and mother Jo Hoogstraten, Juliana Estall, Rich Meyers, Susan Estall, Bill and Shirley Willard, George Godfrey, Carmelita Wamego Skeeter and grandson Chris Osborn, Bob Pearl in front of Dan Noyes, Jeannie Wamego Van Veen, Ginger Pearl in front of Elizabeth Mann, Lois and Ralph Bazhaw. (Photo: David Sherman Begg)

Sangamon crossing of Sangamon River, southwest of Monticello: Mr. and Mrs. Anderson and daughters Rene and Blair show the repaired Trail of Death marker to Ralph Bazhaw, Potawatomi. (Photo: Shirley Willard)
< Previous Home Next >
This page updated Nov 19, 2013.