Stories Told - Page 4

--  Train of Courage and Tears, by Bill & Shirley Willard [] Posted 7/27/16
Winter of My Life

If you can come, please do. You will be amazed, I’ve been working hard on this event.

Please tell everyone and help us spread the word by putting this or any part of it on your website or Facebook. Please forward this everyone who might be interested. Thanks. Hope to see you there.


Rocky Barrett, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, honored

            Always an event that brings never-known history, the 41st Trail of Courage Living History Festival Sept. 17-18 at the Fulton County Historical Society, Rochester, Indiana, will have many special things for the Indiana Bicentennial. You are invited. The FCHS grounds are located 4 miles north of Rochester on U.S. 31 where the museum and big white round barn is seen beside the highway. The Trail of Courage is held there on the banks of the Tippecanoe River 10 to 6 on Sat., 10 to 4 on Sunday. Admission $7 adults, $3 children age 6 to 11, free 5 and under. Living history activities, traditional crafts, blanket trading, wigwams and teepees make this like stepping on a movie set. It is so educational, many schools send buses of children. Foods cooked on wood fires include buffalo burgers, ham & beans & cornbread, barbecue, corn on the cob, apple dumplings, and more. Lots of tables and benches make this relaxing for all ages. It is handicapped accessible.

            The family of John “Rocky” Barrett, chairman of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Shawnee, Ok., will be the honored family at the Trail of Courage Living History Festival Sept. 17-18, 2016. A different Potawatomi family is honored every year at the Trail of Courage in its presentation of frontier Indiana. In 2015 it was Matt Wesaw who was the honored Potawatomi family. Rocky will be presented a Key to the City of Rochester at the Opening Ceremony on Saturday at 10 a.m. Sept. 17. Similar ceremonies will be held Sunday morning Sept. 18.

            Barrett is descended from two original Potawatomi families: Bourassa and Peltier. The Bourassa/ Boursaw family has been honored and written about in previous years, so this year the Peltier history will be researched and written for publication.  


Father Petit relatives flying from France to Trail of Courage

               Julien Petit, a 28- year- old Frenchman, who is a relative of Father Benjamin M. Petit, is coming to the Trail of Courage Sept. 16-18, arriving in time for the Potawatomi Trail of Death Assn. meeting Friday evening at the Fulton County Museum.

            Father Petit went with Chief Menominee’s band of Potawatomi on the 1838 Trail of Death from Indiana to Kansas and died in St. Louis on his way back. Father Petit was from France and became a missionary to the Potawatomi in northern Indiana, learning their language and enjoying their company and thus becoming very beloved by the Potawatomi. He became ill with typhoid, the disease that caused so many Potawatomi to die. Abram Burnett, the same age as Petit, rode back toward Indiana with Petit in January 1839. Petit was so sick, Burnett had to hold him on the horse. Petit died in St Louis and Burnett brought his silver chalice back to Bishop Brute at Vincennes, where it is displayed today in the Old Cathedral museum. Father Petit is buried beneath the Log Chapel at Notre Dame University.

            Here is where living history comes into play again. Julien Petit, a young man, age 28, the same age as Father Petit when he died, is a relative of his and will be coming to the Trail of Courage. Julien’s grandfather, Andre Petit, age 73, will be with him.

Because of Father Petit’s  importance in Indiana history, this is an big addition to the Bicentennial.

There have always been good and bad events in history, and the forced removals of the American Indians from Indiana is a black mark on the state’s history. We cannot change history, but we can learn from it. We acknowledge the human error made by the Indiana Governor in 1838 in authorizing General John Tipton to round up the Potawatomi and forcibly march them to Kansas. This forced emigration is known as the Trail of Death because over 40 died on the way and are buried in unmarked graves. Today’s Hoosiers regret this inhumane act and wish it had never happened, and we humbly express our sincere sorrow for this event.


“Like Birds in a Wind Storm” showing Friday Sept. 16

The annual meeting of the Potawatomi Trail of Death Assn. and a special screening of the documentary “Like Birds in a Wind Storm” will be Friday evening Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Fulton County Museum. The title refers to how the Potawatomi were scattered after being forcibly removed from Indiana to Kansas in 1838 on the Trail of Death. This documentary was made by Susan Green, Rochester, a professional film maker. It was sponsored by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Shawnee, Ok.


Chief Kee-wau-nay historical marker dedication Sat. Sept. 17 at 7 p.m.

            On Saturday evening Sept. 17 of the Trail of Courage will be the dedication of a historical marker for Chief Kee-wau-nay at Lake Bruce in the Pleasant Hill cemetery at 7 p.m. Following the dedication will be a carry-in supper inside the Pleasant Hill UM Church,11941 W 75 N, about 12 miles west of Rochester on Indiana 14, then turn north on 1200 N (aka County Line road or 700 E) at Lake Bruce and UM church signs. The public is invited. Bring food and table service. The historical marker is a huge boulder with metal plaque erected by Pulaski County Girl Scouts, the Gold Award project of Rachel Ploss, Star City, Ind. The Girl Scout leader is Mary Conner, Winamac. Donations are needed to help pay for the metal plaque and can be mailed to PTDA, c/o FCHS 37 E 375 N, Rochester IN 46975.    Citizen Potawatomi Nation donated $500. The girls are working hard to raise the rest of the money to pay for the metal plaque, concrete footer and moving the boulder.


Trail of Courage brings old favorites and new history

            Many long-time participants will return, including the Aztec Dancers, Indian dancers and drum, mountain men, trade blankets and tents, canoe rides, foods cooked over wood fires, shooting contests, two stages with music and dance, and more.          

            The round barn, taken down by a tornado Aug. 3, 2015, has been rebuilt and so has the cider mill. The 1912 jail and 1860 log cabin have not been repaired yet for lack of funding.

            For more information, contact Fulton County Historical Society, 37 E 375 N, Rochester IN 46975. 574-223-4436,,  and which has photos of all 80 Trail of Death markers, history, maps, etc.


William Polke’s Trading Post historical marker dedication Oct. 5

            Fulton County Girl Scouts are erecting a historical marker for William Polke’s Trading Post on the Tippecanoe River and Michigan Road (Old 31) north of Rochester. The Scout leader is Ellen Boardman,

Rochester. To help with this historical marker, send check to FCHS, 37 E 375 N, Rochester IN 46975 and note it is for the Polke trading post marker. This marker will be dedicated Oct. 5, 2016, at 5:30 p.m.

            Polke was taken by the Indians when he was seven years old and learned their language. As an adult he was a missionary to the Potawatomi with his brother-in-law, Rev. Isaac McCoy at Niles, Mich. Polke was Fulton County’s first white settler, coming in 1830 to survey the Michigan Road, which is Rochester’s Main Street. He built the county’s first frame house in 1832, and this house/ stagecoach inn was moved to the Fulton County Historical Society grounds in 1993. Polke was known to be a friend to the Indians and was appointed federal conductor on the 1838 forced removal, replacing Gen. John Tipton, who was appointed by Indiana Governor David Wallace. Tipton turned the removal over to Polke at Danville, Ill.  Father Benjamin Petit caught up with the Potawatomi at Danville, Ill., and cared for the sick and dying. Forty-two died on the 660 mile trip to Kansas, hence it went down in history as the Trail of Death.

            Polke’s trading post was a double log cabin on the south side of Tippecanoe River, east side of Michigan Road (Old 31). In 1832 Polke established Fulton County’s first post office in this trading post and he was our first post master. The post office and village was named Chippeway. The Trail of Courage has a replica Chippeway post office which offers post cards, commemorative postal folders with history of the honored Potawatomi family each year. Visitors can write post cards and mail them there. 

Special Screening of “Like Birds in a Wind Storm,”

Trail of Death documentary Sept. 16 at FC Museum

            A special  free showing of the documentary “Like Birds in a Wind Storm” will be Friday evening Sept. 16 at the Fulton County Museum. The title refers to how the Potawatomi were scattered after being forcibly removed from Indiana to Kansas in 1838 on the Trail of Death. The annual meeting of the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association will be held at the same time.

            Susan Green, Rochester, a professional film-maker, made the film from videos of the six Trail of Death caravans, and interviews she did of Potawatomi: George Godfrey, Sister Virginia Pearl and Bob Pearl, and Jon Boursaw. Shown as speakers or dancers at the Trail of Courage are other Potawatomi: Tracy Locke and daughter Erin, Susan Campbell, Janet Pearl, Sharon Hoogstraten and mother Jo Hoogstraten, Ralph and Lois Bazhaw. Erin Locke also plays a part in the portrayal of the Trail of Death removal. Prairie Band Potawatomi shown are Eddie Joe Mitchell, Tom Wabnum and son Marshal.

            Potawatomi pictured from videos of Trail of Death caravans are Jerry and Hildegard Pearl, Eileen and Jim Pearl, Carmelita Wamego Skeeter and grandson Chris Osborn, Jeannie Wamego Van Veen, Cathryn Wamego, Theresa McNary, Tom Hamilton, Joe and Clara Slavin, Peggy Anderson and daughter Linda.

            Also pictured at Chief Menominee monument ceremonies or other places are people interested in history: Martin Uebel, Mike Woolfington, Dolores Grizzell, Susan and Juliana Estall, Valerie Berkshire, Howard and Barbara Kline.        

             Bill Wamego is shown in the jail wagon portraying Chief Menominee on the Trail of Death at the 1988 Trail of Courage Living History Festival on Fulton County Historical Society grounds, Rochester.

            Video footage from the six caravans was taken by Tom Hamilton, Eric Campbell, Bill Willard, Wayne Harvey, Leslie Gee, and Dan Noyes. Pictures from George Winter in 1838 are from the Tippecanoe County Historical Association.

            Lawrence Vander Volgen is shown telling about his memories of the Trail of Death as told by his grandfather in Carroll County, Indiana.

            Navajo Stanley Perry is shown blessing the Trail of Death monument at the Rochester courthouse in 2013.  Pictures are shown of 2013 Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan attendees at the Chief Menominee statue at Twin Lakes near Plymouth, at the beginning of their journey to Kansas: Bill and Shirley Willard, Janet Pearl, Carmelita Wamego Skeeter, Jeannie Wamego Van Veen, Sister Virginia Pearl, Bob Pearl, Linda and Peggy Anderson, Jerry and Hildegard Pearl, Sharon Hoogstraten and mother Jo Hoogstraten, Chris Osborn, Theresa McNary, George Godfrey, Ralph Bazhaw, and Cathy Wamego. (Photo: David Sherman Begg, also a member of the caravan; this photo and many others are shown on

            Tim Harmon, State Representative, is shown reading the proclamation from Governor Mike Pence in 2014. Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian, who has worked to preserve the Trail of Death history with 80 historical markers and six caravans from Indiana to Kansas, narrates the story.

            Susan Green also enlisted Trail of Courage participants who became amateur actors, such as the shooters, Ginot Picor as Father Petit, Kim and Denny Setnor as Rochester residents as the Potawatomi were marched down Main Street at gunpoint Sept. 5, 1838, and Colton Sailors as Billy Ward, the little boy who followed the Potawatomi south of town until his mother, played by Sailor Canfield, caught up with him and took him back home.

            George Schricker, Plymouth, played guitar and sang his song, “Menominee.” Jacqui Foreman’s song, “Crying Sky” was written for her Cherokee Trail of Tears ancestors. Other music is included that fits the theme.


You know, time has a way of moving quickly And catching you unaware of the passing years.

It seems just yesterday that I was young, Just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, And I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all...

And I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams... But, here it is... The winter of my life and it catches me by surprise... How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go?

I remember well... Seeing older people through the years and thinking that those Older people were years away from me and that winter was so far off That I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like...

But, here it is... My friends are retired and getting gray... They move slower and I see an older person now. Some are in better and some worse shape than me... But, I see the great change...

Not like the ones that I remember who were young and vibrant... But, like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those Older folks that we used to see and never thought we'd be. Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! And taking a nap is not a treat anymore... it's mandatory! 'Cause if I don't on my own free will... I just fall asleep where I sit!

And so, now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared For all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability To go and do things that I wish I had done but never did!! Yes, I have regrets.

There are things I wish I hadn't done... Things I should have done better, but indeed, there are many things I'm happy to have done. It's all in a lifetime...

So, if you're not in your winter yet... Let me remind you, that it will be here faster than you think. Whatever you would like to accomplish in your life, please do it quickly! Don't put things off too long!!

Life goes by quickly. So, do what you can today, As you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not!

You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life...

So, live for today and say all the things you want your loved ones to remember... And hope they appreciate and love you for all the things you have done for them in all the years past!!

Life is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to both those who come after and to those who came before you. Make it a fantastic one. - And, Remember - "It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold or silver."

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