September 22, 2014
Letter to the editor: Trail of Death

The following is a “Letter to the Editor” regarding the Indiana timeline on ALL-IN, from Shirley Willard,  theFulton County Historian in Rochester, Ind.

I was surprised that the Removal of the American Indians was not mentioned in the Brief History of Indiana [on]. Removals took place from 1820-1851 and most tribes were removed so that there are no federally-recognized tribes in Indiana. The Potawatomi Trail of Death from Indiana to Kansas took place in 1838. The history did not mention the Potawatomi either, even though the Potawatomi signed more treaties than other tribe, 40 treaties. Northern Indiana was Potawatomi Territory. The Trail of Death had 42 deaths, more than any other except for the Trail of Tears of the Cherokees.

I have worked closely with the Potawatomi since 1988 to commemorate the Trail of Death. We organized and traveled on commemorative caravans every 5 years: 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013. We got the legislatures of the four states (Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas) to pass resolutions declaring the Trail of Death a Regional Historic Trail in 1994-96. We contacted all 26 counties on the Trail of Death and with the help of many groups got 80 historical markers erected, including the camp sites every 15 to 20 miles. Groups that erected markers and/or donated money to erect them include Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, 4-H, youth groups, county historical societies, clubs, businesses, and Potawatomi families and tribal officers. See our website

Since 1976 the Fulton County Historical Society has produced the annual Trail of Courage Living History Festival. Each year we honor a different Potawatomi family that had ancestors on the Trail of Death or signed treaties in Indiana.

May I make a suggestion? Please include the Potawatomi in the list of Indians, perhaps taking out Mascoutens as they were absorbed by the Potawatomi and Wea which is a branch of the Miami. Please insert between 1816 and the Civil War this item: President Jackson signed the Removal Act in 1830 which led to the removal of Indiana’s native tribes, including the Trail of Death of the Potawtomi in 1838.

Thank you for considering my request. I think this is  very important.

Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian, Rochester


Editor’s Note: We were as thorough as possible when putting together the ALL-IN site, however we know we missed some important facts and pieces of information. Think of something we left out? Drop us a line (kwells[at] and we might turn the omission into a blog post to help educate us all.

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