The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

September 18, 2013

Historic signs to mark Trail of Death

DANVILLE — A group of people determined to keep the Potawatomi history alive will stop in Danville next week to dedicate an historic marker.

A caravan with more than 20 cars will leave Rochester, Ind., on Monday, and travel to Kansas, stopping along the way to pay tribute to the native people who suffered in the 1838 Trail of Death.

The group will arrive in Danville around noon Tuesday, and have a private lunch at the Vermilion County Museum. About 1 p.m. or so, they will dedicate the new Trail of Death historic highway sign at Turtle Run, 332 E Liberty Lane.

In fact, Danville has 10 historic markers that will be placed at various sites: on Bowman Avenue near the airport, along Liberty to Vermilion, Vermilion to Main, and to Ellsworth Park.

“They’ll be spread out along that route,” said Bob Scott, service and operations manager with the city.

The signs had been bought by Danville Township a couple of years ago, and they were turned over to the city this year. The signs are affixed to utility poles, and were set up Tuesday.

The sign at Turtle Run marks a campsite where the Potawatomi rested during the forced march from their homelands in northern Indiana to reservation land in Kansas. Forty-two died along the way.

The Potawatomi were rounded up by volunteer militia and began their journey at Twin Lakes south of Plymouth, Ind. They were marched at gunpoint down Rochester’s Main Street on Sept. 5, 1838. They walked 660 miles in 60 days, losing more than 40 elders and babies to death from disease and stress.

Before 1988 — when the caravan first began — many people weren’t aware that the Potawatomi Trail of Death came through this area.

“That history had been swept under the rug,” said Shirley Willard, a volunteer with the Fulton County Historical Society in Rochester, Ind. “It’s especially hard because there isn’t a paper trail.”

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