Entrance to St. Philippine Duchesne Park
St. Philippine Duchesne Historical and Memorial Park near Centerville, Kansas was the location of St. Mary's Mission, which was also known as Sugar Creek Mission. It was established in 1838 by the United States government as a destination for the forced moving of nearly 900 Potawatomi Indians from Michigan & northern Indiana on a march known as "The Trail of Death." The 660 mile walk took 2 months and more than 40 died, mostly children. The party joined other Potawatomi from the Great Lakes region. Over 600 died during the 10 years of Sugar Creek Mission's existence and they are buried at the mission. The survivors and the mission were moved to what is now St Marys, Kansas in 1848.
In 1841, Catholic sisters in the Society of the Sacred Heart established a school for Potawatomi girls at the mission. They were led by Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769-1852), who brought the first members of that order to North America in 1818 and was instrumental in the founding of a number of schools. At the age of 72, she was frail and she only stayed at the frontier Mission for one year.
Duchesne was beatified in 1940 and canonized in 1988. There is a monument devoted to her at St. Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park and shrines devoted to her in nearby Mound City, Kansas and in St. Charles, Missouri.
St. Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park is owned by the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas and maintained by the Knights of Columbus. There are nature trails and many memorials and signs telling the story of the Potawatomi, the Trail of Death and of St. Philippine. There is a picnic area and signs point out the foundations of several of the buildings which were part of the mission. There are 14 Stations of the Cross which were created by Lawrence Branstetter of Fort Scott which were made by sandblasting granite.
copyright 2015-2018 by Keith Stokes