The memorial, known as the Chief White Eagle memorial, will commemorate former Rochester resident Basil Heath, along with Hamilton, Tom Griffin, William Wamego and Leon Stewart.
Hamilton, 1929 – 2010, was descended from Abram Burnett, who was one of numerous people from the Potawatomi tribe removed from northern Indiana on the Trail of Death in 1838.
Hamilton was born in Oklahoma, moving to Indiana in 1978 to work as vice president of advertising at Chore Time Brock, Milford. After retirement, he and his wife spent their summers in Warsaw, wintering in Oklahoma.
Hamilton frequently attended the Trail of Courage Living History Festival in Rochester and helped organize Trail of Death memorial caravans from 1988 to 2008. He and his family sponsored five markers along the Trail of Death route and he designed the Trail of Death map used on historical markers and the Potawatomi Trail of Death Association’s website.
Hamilton’s ancestor, Abram Burnett, later became a chief in Kansas. Hamilton discovered Burnett’s birthplace on land belonging to Ernie Hiatt of Rochester.
Born in 1917, Basil Heath, or Chief White Eagle, was a well-known film star, appearing in “Northwest Passage,” “Red River,” “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” and several other movies.
He served in World War II for the United States and England and moved to Fulton County in 1987 with his wife, Bobbie Bear. He became active in the Trail of Courage Living History Festival in Rochester, dedicating the site in 1985 and planting the Great Peace Tree in 1988. He also traveled the country giving programs on Native Americans and was named a Living Legend of Fulton County in 2005. He passed away in 2011.
Griffin, 1928 – 1993, founded the 42nd Royal Highlanders Band of Pipes, Fifes and Drums in 1975. They have performed during the Trail of Courage since 1983 and continue to perform at historic festivals throughout the Midwest.
Wamego, 1919-1993, was descended from Chief Wamego, who also traveled on the Potawatomi Trail of Death in 1838. Wamego helped with the Trail of Courage from 1982 to 1993 and traveled with commemorative caravans in 1988 and 1993.
Stewart, 1925 – 2010, was a Fulton County Historical Society volunteer and was the 1995 RSVP volunteer of the year. He worked as a carpenter for FCHS, repairing and remodeling several buildings. He also donated time to Fulton County Habitat for Humanity and other non-profits. His son, Kevin Stewart, did the landscaping at the memorial site.