Clio Logo
Downtown Jacksonville Illinios
Item 5 of 8

The Potawatomi Indian tribe originated in the Midwest. Affected by Government treaties they were forced to relocate west of the Mississippi River. Their 600-mile, two month journey has come to be known as the Trail of Death. Along the way various monuments have been placed to serve as memorials to the lives that were taken. The tribe made a stop in Jacksonville Illinois in 1838, and in 1933 they were given a monument by the Morgan County Historical Society.

In the early to mid 1800s the Potawatomi Indian tribe used to live in parts of lower Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, with an estimated population around 8,000 people. Their first settlement was in Northern Indiana. Their creator was named Gitche Manitou meaning Great Spirit and giver of life in the Potawatomi language. In many areas, members of the tribe lived in dome-shaped houses called wigwams and lodges and used canoes that they built out of birch bark. Even though they hunted and fished, their main source of food was from farming corn, beans, squash, and tobacco. The Potawatomi were a part of the Council of Three Fires with the Ojibwe and Ottawa Indians.

In the wake of government treaties, many tribes were forced to relocate west of the Mississippi River. When Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, forced removal of Native peoples accelerated. In September of 1838, the federal government claimed that removal was needed to protect tribal members and would allow them to continue to pursue their way of life. In return, Native claims to land derived from past treaties were no longer honored and Native tribes were forced to remove to lands west of the Mississippi River. In two months, tribal members walked from Plymouth, Indiana to Osawatomie, Kansas, crossing part of Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and part of Kansas.

Father Benjamin Marie Petit was sent with the tribe to care for the sick. He kept a diary during the trip, and that is where many of the known facts about the journey were recorded. Over 800 members of the tribe endured a 600-mile journey, and more than 40 died. During the first decade in Kansas, another additional 600 members died.

When the tribe came through Jacksonville on October 2, 1838, they were greeted by citizens at Central Park Plaza, referred to as “The Public Square." Residents were moved by their plight, but nothing was done to significantly ameliorate their condition or plight. In 1993, a small marker was erected in the northeast corner of the square by the Morgan County Historical Society.

   Dvechart. “Potawatomi Trail of Death.” YouTube, YouTube, 28 Mar. 2011,  

  Lara de Vries. “The potawatomi tribe.” YouTube, YouTube, 11 Sep. 2014,

 “Citizen Potawatomi Nation.” Home -,          

   “Foreman Grove Park.” Foreman Grove Park,                                                                                   

“Potawatomi Trail of Death Assn.” Potawatomi Trail of Death,                                                 

 “Central Park Plaza.”,