Near Centerville in Linn County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
Father Petit and the Trail of Death
Father Benjamin Marie Petit, a missionary to the Potawatomi in northern Indiana, accompanied them on the forced removal in 1838. He ministered to their needs, both spiritual and physical. He baptized the dying children, "whose first step was from the land of exile to the bliss of heaven." Petit's letters to Bishop Brute of Vincennes were published by the Indiana Historical Society in 1941. His letters vividly describe the hardships of the trek as they "marched in line and surrounded by soldiers, who hurried them along under a burning midday sun and amid clouds of dust" and the heartbreak of the Indians as they buried their loved ones and marched on. Across the great prairies of Illinois they marched, crossed the Mississippi River at Quincy, and then crossed Missouri to enter Kansas south of Independence, Mo. About 40 Indians died, and Father Petit blessed each grave, at times himself sick with fever.
After turning the Potawatomi over to Father Christian Hoecken at the Sugar Creek Mission in Kansas on Nov. 4, Father Petit again fell sick with fever. On Jan. 2 he started for Vincennes, accompanied by Abram Burnett, a full-blooded Potawatomi friend, but again was taken ill on the way.
With three open sores draining his strength, he rode in an open wagon, the roads rough and rain frequent, from Jefferson City.
Father Elet, president of St. Louis University, wrote that he placed the crucifix to Father Petit's lips and twice he kissed it tenderly. He suffered in agony and then expired 20 minutes before midnight, having lived 27 years and 10 months.
Father Petit died in the Jesuit Seminary building at 9th and Washington Streets. His grave was in the old cemetery which was located at 7th Street and St. Charles Ave. and was moved in 1856 to make way for downtown St. Louis.
In 1856 Father Edward Sorin, founder of Notre Dame University, came and took Father Petit's body back to Indiana. Today Father Petit's remains lie under the log chapel at the University of Notre Dame.
Plaques placed by Indian Awareness Center of the Fulton County Historical Society, Rochester, In. and in memory of Adam Black Fox, his Potawatomi grandfather, by Howard Kline, Florissant, Mo.; and by descendant of Abram Burnett, Tom Hamilton, Leesburg, In.
"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. If it should please God to send me death, I accept it in all love and submission to His amiable providence and I hope that His mercy will have pity on me at the last moment. I commend myself to Mary now and at the hour of my death." Father Petit's will, written Aug. 17, 1838, at Vincennes, Indiana.
Erected by Indian Awareness Center of the Fulton County Historical Society and St. Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park Committee.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Potawatomi Trail of Death marker series.
Location. 38° 14.07′ N, 94° 56.6′ W. Marker is near Centerville, Kansas, in Linn County. Touch for map. Marker is on the grounds of St. Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park, off 1525th Road, about four miles ENE of Centerville. Marker is in this post office area: Centerville KS 66014, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. "Quah-Kah-Ka-Num-Ad" (a few steps from this marker); Priests House (a few steps from this marker); Log Convent (a few steps from this marker); Log Cabin School (within shouting distance of this marker); Daily Offering (within shouting distance of this marker); Ft. Scott and California Road (within shouting distance of this marker); Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Onkweonweke Katsitsiio Teotsitsianekaron (within shouting distance of this marker); Father Petit and the Potawatomi 'Trail of Death' (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Centerville.
Also see . . .
1. Father Benjamin Marie Petit. (Submitted on December 7, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. The Trail of Death: Letters of Benjamin Marie Petit (IN Historical Society 1941). (Submitted on December 7, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. Father Benjamin Petit. (Submitted on December 7, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
Categories. • Charity & Public Work • Churches & Religion • Disasters • Native Americans •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on December 7, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 352 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on December 7, 2013, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.