After the Trail of Death...
St. Louis, Missouri

After the Mission Band of Potawatomi Indians arrived in Kansas on the 1838 forced removal, Father Petit stayed with them for a few weeks and visited Father Christian Hoecken at the Sugar Creek Mission about 20 miles south of Osawatomie. After resting at Sugar Creek and recovering somewhat from the fever sores and illness, Father Petit started January 2, 1839, on horseback back to Indiana, accompanied by Abram Burnett, a full-blood Potawatomi of the same age as Petit. Father Petit did not recover and suffered terribly during his journey, sometimes so ill Burnett had to hold him on his horse, sometimes in an open wagon, bouncing on the hard wooden seat. We can only imagine his pain, caused by several open sores and also boils brought on by the fever. Arriving in St. Louis on Jan. 15, he was taken in by the Jesuits at the St. Louis University. They put him to bed and doctored him but Father Benjamin Marie Petit died Feb. 10, 1839. He was 27 years and 10 months old.

Abram Burnett traveled back to Vincennes, Indiana, and carried Father Petit’s personal property, including his silver chalice, to give to Bishop Brute. The chalice is still at the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, 205 Church Street, Vincennes, Indiana.

Burnett then traveled north to Rochester, Indiana, and found that his trading post had been broken into and robbed while he was on the trip to Kansas. He filed suit in the Fulton County court, naming the man who stole his merchandise, and he won the case. Burnett then accompanied the next Potawatomi removal in 1840 from Indiana to Kansas. He spent the rest of his life in Kansas and is buried near Burnett’s Mound overlooking Topeka, Kansas.

In 1856 Father Edwin Sorin, founder of Notre Dame University, South Bend, Indiana, traveled to St. Louis and retrieved Father Petit’s remains, taking them back to Indiana where he was interred with three other missionary priests beneath the Cathedral at Notre Dame University. In the 1990s they were moved to the Log Chapel on the Notre Dame campus, a replica of Father Steven Badin’s log chapel. [Badin was a predecessor of Father Petit as missionary to the Indians in northern Indiana and southern Michigan.] The bones of the four missionary priests remain under the floor of the Log Cabin Chapel today (2006).


St. Louis, Missouri - Midwest Jesuit Archives, 4511 W. Pine Blvd.

Trail of Death and Father Benjamin Petit memorial at the entrance door. Erected 1998 by Father William B. Faherty of Midwestern Jesuit Archives, and by Howard Kline in memory of his Potawatomi grandfather Adam Fox. Two corian plaques (map and story) designed by Tom Hamilton, descendant of Abram Burnett who accompanied Father Petit from Kansas to St. Louis, where Father Petit died. Pictured above are from left: George Godfrey, Father John A. Apel, Father William Faherty, and Shirley Willard. Godfrey and Willard are holding cloth banners presented by them by Father Faherty. (Photo by Bill Willard, March 21, 1998.)



St. Louis, Missouri - Midwest Jesuit Archives, 4511 W. Pine Blvd.

Trail of Death and Father Benjamin Petit memorial at the entrance door. Erected 1998 by Father William B. Faherty of Midwestern Jesuit Archives, and by Howard Kline in memory of his Potawatomi grandfather Adam Fox. Two corian plaques (map and story) designed by Tom Hamilton, descendant of Abram Burnett who accompanied Father Petit from Kansas to St. Louis, where Father Petit died. (Corian is a space-age plastic that withstands 400 degree temperatures.)

The Midwestern Jesuit Archives have records of missionary work among the Potawatomi, copies of prayer books in their native language, and the earliest and only known Potawatomi dictionary.

The Midwest Jesuit Archives adjoin the Missouri Provincial headquarters at 4515 West Pine Boulevard, near the center of the City of St. Louis. Visitors coming from Illinois will find that the Poplar Street Bridge (Highway I-70, I-64 and I-55) leads to U.S. 40 directly west from the Mississippi River. After 30 blocks, take the Forest Park Boulevard Exit and proceed 8 blocks to Taylor, then turn right and go 2 blocks to the northwest corner of Taylor at West Pine, and turn left. The entrance to the Archives is at the annex to the second building from the corner, between the two large buildings.

Travelers from the west should take I-44 or U.S. 40 to MLK or Kings highway, turn north (left) to West Pine, and turn right 1 blocks to 4515 West Pine, which will be on the left just past the Lashly Branch of the St. Louis Public Library. The archives phone is 314-361-5122.

  Home  
This page updated Jul 1, 2006.