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

Sept. 25 Wednesday - We drove through Niantic to see the Trail of Death historical marker there. Then on to drive slowly by the Trail of Death historical marker at the golf course, erected by the Springfield DAR in 1995.

At Springfield we visited the Trail of Death plaque at the Old State Capitol. A Korean War Museum is across the street from the kiosk with the historical plaques. The museum took photos of the three Korea veterans on the caravan: Bill Willard, Wayne McNary, and Jerry Pearl.

We drove by the Trail of Death markers at Riddle Hill’s New Salem church. Robert Hitt has preserved the huge oak trees across the Old Jacksonville Road from Island Grove Church. He let us take photos and acorns home. The trees were obviously there in 1838 and maybe a hundred years before that.

We had lunch in the Island Grove Church, hosted by the New Berlin Area Historical Society. After eating, we told stories. Ralph Bazhaw told how he got the name of Two Hawks. Ginger Pearl told of their family naming party at Bob Pearl’s house. I told how Bill and I were given Potawatomi names by Don Perrot at a feast in the Fulton County Museum in 2004.

We drove through Jacksonville, discovering that the buildings were gone in the town square. The Trail of Death marker faced Court Street so we looked at it as we drove by.

Exeter had refreshments waiting for us in the park. I called Millie Pepion to ask what happened to them as they had disappeared at Lafayette. She said she and Leonard had a fight and he took the baby and drove back home to Arizona, leaving her stranded in Lafayette on Monday evening. Her uncle and cousin flew home Tuesday. Her father was sending her money to get an Amtrak ticket home. We all gathered in a prayer circle to pray for this little family.

We drove to the levee at Naples to see where the Potawatomi were ferried across the Illinois River. There is no crossing there so we had to go to Meredocia to go over the bridge.

Sometimes things get moved in five years. The Trail of Death marker at Perry, Illinois, was moved further west so that a veterans memorial could be centered in the town park. Dean and Nikki Mountain and neighbors served us cookies and cold bottled water.

We drove by the Trail of Death marker at Liberty and also the marker at Mill Creek by the gravel pit. I told how Rudy Vallejo had danced at the dedication of the Mill Creek marker in 1998. He and his sister, Celerina “Sally” Masquat Riley, descendants of Chief Shipshewano, came to be head dancers and the honored Potawatomi family at the Trail of Courage in 2005, and we always give gifts to them. There was a large framed painting of an old Indian woman in the museum gift shop that had never sold, and I got the feeling that Sally would like that picture. I put the painting in my booth at the Trail of Courage that morning and this woman came by and asked if she could buy the painting. I said, “No, it is a gift for the Head Woman Dancer.” She said, “I am the Head Woman Dancer. That painting looks like my grandmother.” She was so happy to get the painting. Her grandmother was a Prairie Band Potawatomi. It was strange that I just knew she would like that picture and I had never met her.

We drove slowly through Mounds Park in Quincy to see the history plaques overlooking the Mississippi River. The plaques told about the Indian mounds. One of the plaques told about the Trail of Death.

Jon Boursaw, Kansas representative for Citizen Potawatomi Nation, met us at Quincy at the St. Boniface Church. City of Quincy officials met us and proclaimed September 25 as Potawatomi Day in remembrance of the three children who died there in 1838 before the tribe was ferried across the Mississippi River. The Trail of Death historical marker was erected in 1995 by descendants of Theresa Slavin, a little girl on the 1838 Trail of Death. The Pearls gathered for a photo in front of the huge boulder that Jerry Pearl had hauled from Kansas for the historical marker. We looked inside the church that is no longer used as a church.

Friends of the Log Cabins, led by John Gephardt, had a potluck supper at Quinsippi Island where a log cabin village was moved in the 1960s to preserve them. Television covered our ceremony there. The manager at the motel the next morning told us he saw us on TV.

Old Capitol building of Springfield, Illinois, in the background. Front row: Cathy Wamego, Janet Pearl, Camelita Wamego Skeeter, Theresa McNary, Shirley Willard, Ginger Pearl, Jo Hoogstraten, Wayne McNary. Row 2: Sharon Hoogstraten, Lois Bazhaw, Jeannie Wamego Van Veen, George Godfrey, unknown, Bob Pearl, Sue Bauman, Juliana Estall, Rich Meyers, Susan Estall, Jim Bauman, Hildy and Jerry Pearl. Standing high in back: Ralph Bazhaw, Bill Willard, Chris Osborn. (Photo: David Sherman Begg)

Lunch at Island Grove Church west of Jacksonville, Illinois, was hosted by the New Berlin Area Historical Society. Storyteller Ralph Bazhaw is telling how he got his name of Two Hawks. Seated around the table are George Godfrey, Wayne and Theresa McNary, Susan and Julianna Estal. At right is Bob Pearl. (Photo: Shirley Willard)

Huge oak trees that were here in 1838 and probably a hundred years before that are preserved at Robert Hitt’s farm west of Jacksonville, Illinois, across the Old Jacksonville Road from Island Grove Church. (Photo: Shirley Willard)

The Trail of Death historical marker at Perry, Illinois, was moved west to make room for a Veterans Memorial, which is centered in the town park. The park has play ground and a pavilion for picnics. The Mountain family and friends met with caravan members for refreshments in the pavilion. (Photo: Shirley Willard)

Sister Ginger Pearl, Bob Pearl and Jerry Pearl stand by the Trail of Death memorial in front of the St. Boniface Catholic Church in Quincy. The church is no longer being used for church services. (Photo: Sharon Hoogstraten)

Quinsippi Island Park - John Gephardt of Friends of the Log Cabins welcomes the Trail of Death caravan to the potluck supper. Notice the log cabins in the background.(Photo: Sharon Hoogstraten)
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This page updated Nov 19, 2013.