One is tucked away on a gravel road about 500 feet from the Monroe County Route FF bridge over the Salt River in the North Fork area. A monument sits on a peaceful, neatly maintained patch of grass that abuts a soybean field.

A crudely embossed plank, nailed on one side to a stump and the other to a tree, reads: “Historical Site.” Beneath sits a stone monument marking the spot where some 800 members of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation camped in 1838 on a forced relocation from LaFayette, Indiana, to the eastern edge of what was then the Kansas Territory, in the area that eventually became the city of Osawatomie — about 60 miles southwest of Kansas City.

Shirley Willard of Rochester, Indiana, who has written books and articles on the Trail of Death, has led a caravan every five years since 1988 that retraces the march from Indiana to Kansas.

The caravan plans to visit the North Fork marker around 1:30 p.m. Sept 20, before stopping in Paris at 2:30 p.m. to hold a ceremony at the Monroe County Courthouse. The caravan will then make its way to Moberly, visiting a historical marker before stopping overnight in the city.

“All our times are approximate,” Willard said. “This is a car caravan, and we could be ahead of schedule or slightly behind.”

Willard said the relocation of the Potawatomi started Sept. 4, 1838. Historical accounts report that members of the Indiana Militia, on orders from governor of Indiana, surrounded the nation Aug. 30, 1838, near Twin Lakes, the village where the tribal members lived. The militia spent the next several days rounding up members of the nation.

On Sept. 4, 1838, militia soldiers forced 859 Potawatomi nation members to begin a 61-day, 660-mile journey through four states, forcing them to battle oppressive heat and harsh conditions.

When they arrived Nov. 4 in the Kansas Territory, only 817 were still alive as 42 Potawatomi, mostly children and the elderly, died during the harsh march. The dead were buried along the route in unmarked graves.

Historian Jacob Piatt Dunn, who is credited with coining the phrase “Trail of Death” in a book published in 1909, wrote the Potawatomi traveled about 15-20 miles a day before erecting camp in some often-primitive areas along the route. During the fall of 1838, the region was in the midst of a severe drought, and water was hard to find, Dunn wrote. This added to the death toll.

“The caravan started in 1988 to mark the 150th anniversary of the Trail of Death,” Willard said. “George Godfrey, a citizen who lives in Illinois, helped organize and plan the caravan.”

It is called the Potawatomi Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan, she said.

According to Willard, Indiana officials wanted to rid the state of the Potawatomi members from land sold by tribal members to the U.S. government for $1 an acre.

“When Indiana became a state in 1816, this area was still Potawatomi Territory, but nine treaties in 1836 transferred the land to the U.S. government,” Willard wrote in a history of the relocation. “These are called the ‘whiskey treaties’ because whiskey was used to get the Potawatomi to sign, thus selling their land for $1 an acre. The land was then sold for $1.50 an acre to white settlers.”

The Indiana Militia was charged with removing holdouts who did not want to leave land they had lived on for hundreds of years.

Willard said that a Catholic priest, Father Benjamin Petit, a missionary who had baptized many of the Potawatomi, was placed in charge of the sick along the route. He celebrated Mass each day, buried the dead and wrote a journal.

After reaching Osawatomie, she said the Potawatomi were ministered to by Father Christian Hoecken at St. Mary’s Mission, Sugar Creek in Linn County.

“Sister Rose Philippine Duchesne, an elderly French nun, served as a missionary to them 1841-42, praying so much they called her ‘She Who Prays Always,’” Willard wrote. “She was canonized in 1988, and the former Sugar Creek Mission was purchased by the Archdiocese of Kansas City and made into St. Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park. That is where the Trail of Death caravan ends, in this beautiful park dedicated to St. Philippine and the Potawatomi.”

Willard said there are now 80 historic markers along the Trail of Death route.

“It is important that we honor the Potawatomi,” Willard said.