In 1830, the Federal Government passed the Indian Removal Act. It was the intent of the government to remove the Indian population from the populated east to the remote and unpopulated lands west of the Mississippi. The Act of 1830 specifically targeted the Five Civilized Tribes on Georgia and Tennessee, but also led to treaties being negotiated with the many other minor tribes east of the Mississippi.
The Pottawatomie 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 Pottawatomie lived in relative peace with their white neighbors. The government of Indiana, however, was eager to open up the northern parts of the state for settlers and development.
Potawatomi of the Woods are those tribes living around the southern tip of Lake Michigan in Michigan and Indiana. In October, 1832 treaties were signed at Tippecanoe on the Wabash, 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 Pottawatomies to completely eliminate their titles from lands in Indiana. Unlike all the other chiefs, Chief Menominee and his band at Twin Lakes, Indiana refused to sign the treaties.
In August of 1836 the Pottawatomie negotiated with state and signed the Treaty of Yellow River. The terms of the treaty were generous and in exchange for their land they were offered $1 per acre and each member of the tribe was granted a 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 nearly the entire Pottawatomie Nation migrated peacefully to their new lands in Kansas except the Twin Lakes village of Chief Menominee. The village was near present day Plymouth, Indiana. After the deadline passed and the village refused to leave, Governor David Wallace order General John Tipton to mobilize the state militia in support of US Colonel A. C. Pepper to remove the tribe forcibly.
On August 30, General Tipton and one hundred soldiers surrounded Twin Lakes and proceeded to round up the natives. There were 859 natives in all. Once the tribe was ready, they were marched west starting on September 4. The tribes crops and homes were burned to discourage them from trying to return. The state supplied a caravan of twenty-six wagons to help transport their goods, once loaded they were on their way. In the first day they traveled twenty-one miles and campted near Rochester, Indiana. The second day they reached Fulton County, Indiana and by the third day they reached Logansport, Indiana. Several of the sick and elderly were left at Logansport to recover several of the dead were buried in a cemetery there. The route they were traveling was on a road their nation had granted the state permission to build only a few years earlier.
On September 10 the the march resumed from Logansport and the caravan moved along the Wabash River. After eleven more days of travel the caravan reached Perrysville, Indiana were several more member of the tribe were buried. In Perrysville the caravan was joined by Father Benjamin Petit who kept a journal as 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 marching in a line guarded on both sides by soldiers.... Almost all with babes, exhausted by heat, were dead or dying. I baptized several newly born happy little onces who first was from the land of exile to heaven.
Their caravan continued over land to Danville, Illinois where they resupplied and rested. There, 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, the Indiana Agent in Illinois. Polke would lead the tribe the rest of the way to their new reservation. From Sundusky Point, Illinois the tribe moved passing through Decautr, Springfield, Jacksonville, and Naples. Then on October 10 the tribe left Illinois and crossed into Missouri.
Marching through Missouri the tribe passed through Quincy, Palmyra, Clinton, Paris, Huntsville and finally Keatsville where they rested for about a week. On November 1 they resumed their march and on November 4 the tribe reached the end of their journey having traveled . On arrival there were less than 700 Pottawatomie left out of the 859 that started the journey. Not all of the missing 150 died as many straggled or escaped.
Father Petit died two months after the march from illness brought on by exhaustion. Chief Menominee died three years later, never returning to Indiana. Many of the exiles did attempt to return to Indiana. Kansas named a county after the tribe and a reservation for the descendants of the tribe was still in existence in 2008.
A statue of Chief Menominee was erected in 1909 near Twin Lakes on S. Peach Road, west of U. S. 31. A boulder with a metal plaque marks the site of the log chapel and village.
The passed through Chippewa-Nung Village on the Tippecanoe River two miles (3 km) north of Rochester on the Michigan Road (Old 31). They reached Rochester on September 5, 1838. Che-shaw-gen, and Abram Burnett where members of the procession, along with Father Petit.
For three days the group camped a half mile from Logansport. (Thursday 6th Sept. - Sunday 9th Sept.). Here those individuals who had been left at Chippeway returned to the group. The ill were cared for and four children died. Bishop Brute said Mass on Sunday. The local physicians report that 300 were ill. The march to Logansport had been under a hot sun through the dust cloud kicked up by the movement of people and animals. 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. I baptized several who were newly born - happy Christians, who with their first step pass from earth to heaven. Potawatomi Encampment on Trail of Death, on grounds of Memorial Hospital, State Road 25, north edge of town.
Commemoration "of the Trail of Death removal of Potawatomi and Miami Indians," wooden sign erected 1988 near route of the march, northeast of Delphi, on County Road 800 West and 700 North, erected by . . Pleasant Run north of Pittsburg at 800W and 550 N.
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,
The group passed through the area of Zachariah Cicott Park just north of town.
Here the cross the Wabash River.
On Friday, September 21 the caravan of people and wagons reached Sidney. Chief Muk-kose and a child died here. Monticello
After marching they reached the Sangamon River at Pyatt’s Point. It was the Sunday 23rd of 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.
On Friday the 28th of September, the group crossed the Sangamon River. The men were promised tobacco if they mad 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.
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.
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 less than 700 Potawatomi arrived at Osawatomie. 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 of 1839. Some Potawatomi had escaped the dragnet of soldiers and remained in the east. Many had fled to Michigan, where they became part of the Huron and Pokagon Potawatomi. The Potawatomi of the Woods remained in eastern Kansas for eight years. In 1846 they were consolidated with Prairie Potawatomi as a single tribe. It wasn’t until June of 1846 that this was completed by treaty and payment of $850,000 for their old reservations. They were then moved again to a reservation north of Topeka in 1847.