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July 24, 2013

Marking history

Sixth Trail of Death caravan to begin this fall

About 175 years ago, the Potawatomi Indians were forced out of the place they’d called home for generations.

A caravan of vehicles will retrace their path, the Trail of Death, through 26 counties from Indiana to Kansas in September for the sixth Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan.

The caravan takes place every five years to retrace the Trail of Death, the forced removal of Potawatomi Indians from north central Indiana to eastern Kansas in 1838.

Shirley Willard, Fulton County historian and former Fulton County Historical Society president, has been involved as coordinator for the Trail of Death caravan since it began in 1988, on the 150th anniversary of the Trail of Death. She was previously president of the Fulton County historical society for 30 years and is a member of the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association.

The caravan will begin Sept. 23 and continue until Sept. 29 and all 26 counties along the trail in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas are invited to participate, Willard said.

Although people will be able to register for the caravan Sept. 23, they should register and book hotel rooms as soon as possible, Willard said.

There are now 80 Trail of Death historical markers, making it most likely the best marked historical trail in the U.S. and the world. Historic highway signs have been erected on the Indiana and Kansas portions of the Trail of Death and in parts of Illinois and Missouri, Willard said.

Willard noted they will dedicate two new historical markers at Spring Hill and Trading Post, Kansas, and new historic highway signs at Danville and Monticello, Illinois, and Brunswick to DeWitt, Missouri.

Willard continues to participate because it is important to her.

“It has become very much a part of me,” Willard said. “We love the Potawatomi and the people we have traveled with on the caravan have become family. It is a spiritual journey.”

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