|A Day in Indiana History - September|
President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law on May 28, 1830. Using the law, Indiana Governor David Wallace authorized General John Tipton to use the militia to round up the Potawatomi tribe under Chief Menominee and force them from the state. The forced march became known as the Potawatomi Trail of Death.
John Tipton (August 14, 1786 – April 5, 1839)
John was born in Sevier County, Tennessee, where his father died in an Amerindian raid. He moved to Harrison County, Indiana in 1803 and married Martha Shields. He farmed and fought natives, leading a unit of the famed Yellow Jackets during the Battle of Tippecanoe. His next military experience was commanding Fort Vallonia as major during the War of 1812. He gained election to the Indiana State House of Representatives from 1819 to 1823. During this time, he was involved in the formation of Bartholomew County and its county seat, Columbus.
Indian Removal Act
The Indian Removal Act gave the President the authority to grant Amerindian tribes in the east lands in the lands west of the Mississippi River in exchange for their eastern lands. The law was meant primarily for the Cherokee in the southeast United States, but it was also used as a tool to remove other tribes, also.
Indiana Governor David Wallace (April 24, 1799 – September 4, 1859)
The eldest of seven children of Andrew and Eleanor Wallace, Wallace was a native of Lewistown, Pennsylvania. The family moved first to Cincinnati, then to Brookville, Indiana in 1817. His father and Indiana Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison had become friends during the War of 1812. Harrison helped secure a berth for David in the United States Military Academy. He later attended West Point, from which he graduated in 1821. After graduation, he served as a second lieutenant at the school, where he taught math. After resigning around 1822, he returned to Brookville to study law. He gained admittance to the bar in 1823 and opened a practice in Brookville. During these years, he served in the Indiana militia, as lieutenant, captain, and finally colonel. His political career began with his election to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1828. The voters elected him lieutenant governor in 1831, serving under Governor Noah Noble. He was elected governor in 1837, an office he held until 1840.
Menominee (circa 1791 – April 15, 1841)
Historians know little of Chief Menominee's early life. Many think he was born in Wisconsin or northern Indiana. He became a religious leader of the Potawatomi, combining elements of Amerindian spirituality with Roman Catholicism. He signed various treaties with the Americans, ceding lands them. He refused to sign a treaty that would have deprived the Potawatomi of their final lands in Indiana. Many of the Potawatomi gathered at Menominee's village. Whites continued to encroach on his lands, leading to conflicts between the Potawatomi and the trespassers. Minor incidents occurred, resulting in the settlers appealing to Governor Wallace to protect them. Wallace authorized Tipton to use force to remove the Potawatomi.
Potawatomi Trail of Death
Tipton gathered a force of about 100 militia, surprised the Potawatomi at their village, and rounded them up. On September 4, the militia forced the 859 natives from their homes. The following march of 660 miles crossed Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. About forty-one Potawatomi died on the way, mostly of cholera from contaminated drinking water. Most of the victims were children. The Potawatomi crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri at Quincy, Illinois. They arrived at their destination of Osawatomie, Kansas on November 4, 1838. The refugees had no shelter, which the government had promised them, and little food.
For more information about the Potawatomi Trail of Death and their history, contact:
The Association maintains a Trail of Death Historic trail that travels the approximate route of the Potawatomi. A series of markers along the trail commemorate their journey.
Potawatomi Trail of Death Association