Lewis and Clark In Missouri - St. Charles, Missouri
Posted by: Groundspeak Charter Member BruceS
N 38° 46.809 W 090° 28.853
15S E 718823 N 4295394
Historical marker about Lewis and Clark located at the Katy Trail trailhead in Frontier Park, St. Charles.
Waymark Code: WM8GF4
Location: Missouri, United States
Date Posted: 03/29/2010
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member YoSam.
Views: 24

Text of marker:

Missouri was a beginning and end for the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  Planned by President Thomas Jefferson and carried out by the tow captains and a large crew, the expedition is a keystone American event.  When the United States took ownership of the Louisiana Territory--during a ceremony in St. Louis in March 1804 probably attended by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark--the country doubled in size, and expansion to the Pacific Ocean seemed possible.  Two months later, the "Corps of Discovery" traveled up the Missouri River toward the Pacific and, they hopped, a new American era in trad, diplomacy and settlement.

"Corps of Volunteers on an Expedition of North Western Discovery"

After leaving winter cam at Wood River, on the east side of the Mississippi river directly opposite the mouth of the Missouri River, the crew made a final recruiting stop in St. Charles in May 1804.  Most of the men were army sergeants and privates, but the expedition--with 45 members beginning the journey--also included Clark's slave York, a French-Shawnee interpreter, and French-Canadian, French-Omaha and French-Missouri Indian boatmen.  Thanks to seven who kept journals, we can imagine the journey vividly.  On the way west, the expedition spent 66 days in what is now Missouri.  During the return to St. Louis in 1806, the same 600 miles took just two weeks.

The River Master

The Missouri River and its dangers dominated the early trip in spring and summer 1804.  The55-foot keelboat, suitable for the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, turned out to be a poor design for the Missouri.  The swift main channel required the keelboat and two smaller pirogues to travel near shore, where snags, moving sandbars, rafts of driftwood and collapsing banks often blocked the way.  Often the crew was forced to tow the keelboat from the riverbank.  They repaired broken masts and towropes, were exhausted by exertion and heat, blasted by sand and tormented by mosquitoes.

The way upriver was more than a challenge: "it can hardly be imagined the fatigue that we underwent," wrote Pvt Joseph Whitehouse.  It was disaster waiting to happen but always avoided.  In the struggle, the crew was drawn together with a singular purpose to succeed.  On the June 14 above the Grand River, Clark's journal tells a story of the keelboat in peril, but it tells much more about the expedition's collective willpower: "we saved ehr by Some extrodary exertions of our party (ever ready to inconture [encounter] and fatigue for the premotion of the enterprise)"

What They Saw

Every day in Missouri brought something of note.  Beyond final outposts at Boone's Settlement and La Charrette, the expedition still met fur traders on the well-traveled Missouri River.  Though the captains established daily routines, life on the river was hardly dull.  Lewis almost tumbled off a cliff; Pvt. Whitehouse found a remarkable cave; and two hunters were gone a week and returned "much worsted."  The crew saw signs of Indian war parties adn Indian pictographs on bluffs.

Those who kept journals wrote of the beautiful summer landscape along the river, of forests, bluffs and prairies, caves, creeks and springs.  As the expedition passed from "well timber'd" eastern Missouri to the "Beautiful prarie" of western Missouri, the scenery inspired descriptions that burst from the journal pages.  Sgt Charles Floyd, usually confining himself to the facts of the trip, wrote on Jun 4 of "a Butifull a peas of Land as ever I saw." On the western prairies, the normally businesslike Clark wrote that "nature appears to have exerted herself to butify the Senery by the variety of flours Delicately and highly flavered raised above the Grass."

The Meaning of Return

When the Corps of Discovery returned to St. Louis, it ended the dream of a Northwest Passage.  The expedition reached the Pacific, but only after a hard crossing over the Rocky Mountains.  During the journey, Lewis and Clark met nearly 50 Indian nations.  Their scientific achievements were vast; they returned with detailed records of 300 animals and plants never described before, but unfortunately many of their finders were not published for almost a hundred years.  Though a vanguard of American expansion, the expedition was far from the first into the West.  The French and British had traed in and mapped portions of the Missouri River country during the previous century.  Lewis and Clark were the first Euro-American explorers to ascend the length of the Missouri River from the mouth to its source.  They also explored a large portion of the Columbia River and helped establish a U.S. claim to the Pacific coast.  There are few if any American explorations more important or epic, and few better travel stories.

The marker also has a time line of events across the bottom and a map showing their time line across Missouri.

Web link: Not listed

History of Mark: Not listed

Additional point: Not Listed

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