Lewis and Clark Expedition.The object of this expedition, as recited in the instructions, was "to explore the Missouri river, and such principal streams of it as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado, or any other river, may offer the most direct and practicable water communication across the continent, for the purpose of commerce." It was determined by President Jefferson to associate two commanders of the expedition, and accordingly William Clark was chosen, and given coördinate powers with Capt. Meriwether Lewis. Every citizen of the United States became at once intensely interested in the results, and awaited anxiously for the return of the expedition. Capt. Clark joined the party at Louisville, and all arrived at St. Louis in Dec., 1803.
The start was made on May 14, 1804, the expedition consisting of 9 Kentuckians, 2 experienced French boatmen, 14 soldiers, 1 interpreter, 1 hunter and a colored servant; and in addition a corporal, 6 soldiers and 9 boatmen, who were instructed to assist the expedition as far as the Mandan country. They embarked in three boatsone a keel-boat 55 feet long, bearing one large sail and arranged for 22 oarsmen. It also had deck provided with cabin and forecastle, and was protected amidships by lockers and by a breastwork that could be raised in case of attack. In addition there were two pirogues of 6 and 7 oars respectively. Two horses were ridden along the bank, designed to bring in the game killed, upon which it was planned the expedition would largely subsist. Full provision was made for a complete record of all noteworthy discoveries and occurrences. All the vast territory of the unknown western country was now at last to be opened to the enterprise of the Americans. Lewis and Clark reached the town of St. Charles on May 15, passed Osage Woman river on May 23, and on June 1 reached the mouth of the Osage river. On the night of June 26 they encamped at the upper point of the mouth of the Kansas river, on the site of the present city of Kansas City, Kan.
Here the Missouri river runs northwesterly, forming the boundary line between Kansas and Missouri. The Kansas counties ascending are Leavenworth, Atchison and Doniphan, and of the journey along their shores the following is a succinct and circumstantial narrative: "Here [at the mouth of the Kansas river] we remained two days, during which we made the necessary observations, recruited the party, and repaired the boat. On the banks of the Kansas reside the Indians of the same name, consisting of two villages, one at about 20, the other 40 leagues from its mouth, and amounting to about 300 men. They once lived 24 leagues higher than the Kansas, on the south bank of the Missouri, and were then more numerous; but they have been reduced and banished by the Sauks and Ayauways, who, being better supplied with arms, have an advantage over the Kansas, though the latter are not less fierce or warlike than themselves. This nation is now hunting on the plains for buffalo, which our hunters have seen for the first time."
According to the journal, on June 30, the expedition "reached the mouth of a river coming in from the north, and called by the French Petite Riviere Platte, or Little Shallow river; it is about 60 yards wide at its mouth . . . . One mile beyond this is a small creek on the south, at 5 miles from which we camped on the same side, opposite the lower point of an island called Diamond island. The land on the north between the Little Shallow river and the Missouri is not good, and subject to overflow; on the south it is higher and better timbered."
On July 1, "We proceeded along the north side of Diamond island, where a small creek called Biscuit creek empties. . . . Here we observed great quantities of grapes and raspberries. Between one and two miles further are three islands, and a creek on the south known by the French name of Remore. The main current, which is now on the south side of the largest of the three islands, ran three years ago, as we were told, on the north, and there was then no appearance of the two smaller islands. . . . Paccaun trees were this day seen, and large quantities of deer and turkey on the banks. We had advanced 12 miles."
On July 2, "We left camp, opposite to which is a high and beautiful prairie on the southern side, and passed up the south of the islands, which are high meadows, and a creek on the north called Parc creek. Here for half an hour the river became covered with drift-wood, which rendered navigation dangerous, and was probably caused by the giving way of some sand-bar, which had detained the wood. After making 5 miles we passed a stream on the south called Turkey creek, near a sand-bar, where we could scarcely stem the current with 20 oars and all the poles we had. On the north at about two miles further is a large island called by the Indians Wau-car-da-war-card-da, or the Bear-medicine island. Here we landed and replaced our mast, which had been broken three days ago, by running against a tree overhanging the river."
The island here mentioned is Kickapoo island, a short distance above Fort Leavenworth, in the immediate vicinity of Kickapoo City. By July 4 they had ascended the Missouri to a point not far from the present city of Atchison. They were able to celebrate the occasion "only by an evening gun, and an additional gill of whisky to the men," but in honor of the day they named Fourth of July and Independence creeks, the latter of which is still so called. It empties into the Missouri in Atchison county. The next day they camped in what is now Doniphan county, and on July 11 they passed the 40th parallel of latitude, which is the northern boundary line of Kansas. The expedition was continued to the Pacific ocean, and the duration of the journey was from May, 1804, to Sept., 1806.
Lewis and Clark's description of the region through which they passed revealed to the citizens of the United States the marvelous value of their new possession, but recently purchased from France. It was the first governmental exploration of the "Great West," and it was now only a question of time until the whole tract would be peopled by millions and enriched and beautified by a progressive Anglo-Saxon civilization.Page 150-152 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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