WITH LEWIS AND CLARK ON
Before anyone buys land he usually
wants to see it or wants to be told about it by someone who has seen
it. When President Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory, of
which Iowa was a part, he had not seen the land nor had he learned
much about it. Before the deal was completed, however, he had asked
Congress for $2,500 to send a party of men on an exploring trip from
the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.
The President began to get the party
ready soon after the territory had been bought. He selected two
young men to lead the party and each of them had the same power.
Never has such an important piece of work been given to two young
men, each with equal power. Some people in the East said President
Jefferson was sending the men to their death. They said the
president was crazy and wanted to know what good could come from it.
All the men that were chosen for the
party except one, a negro servant, either were or became soldiers in
the regular army. Some of them, before the trip, had been
frontiersman. The negro servant proved to be great curiosity to the
Indians because they had never seen a black man before.
LEWIS AND CLARK
Captain Meriwether Lewis, a Virginian
and twenty-nine years of age, was the first man to be chosen. He
had been President Jefferson's private secretary for two years.
William Clark, also a Virginian and thirty-three years old, was the
other leader of the party. He was a younger brother of George
Rogers Clark, the conquerer of the North west Territory east of the
Mississippi. Both Lewis and Clark had been in the regular army and
both had fought in Indian Wars.
Many men wanted to go with Lewis and
Clark, but only twenty-six were taken for the entire trip. Sixteen
more were to travel along as far as the lands of the Mandan Indians
in what is now North Dakota.
There were great dangers ahead for the
party. Strange and powerful Indians would be met. The land was not
known. Food had to be obtained along the way. The men might
starve to death, they might drown in the swift rivers, or they
might even freeze to death in the mountains.
Much preparation had to made. Three
boats were loaded with supplies, such as clothes, tools, guns,
powder, and food. Fourteen bales of presents were taken to the
The party started up the Missouri
River from St. Louis on May 21, 1804. Travel was slow. The boats
had to be pulled by long ropes from the shore or rowed against the
current. Sometimes sails were used on the boats.
IOWA IS REACHED
On July 18, the Lewis and Clark party
reached what is now the southwest corner of Iowa. Already strange
Indian tribes had been met. The President had told Lewis and Clark
to hold councils with the Indians and to make friends with them.
An important council was held on the
west bank of the Missouri River, on August third. Lewis and Clark
told the Indians about their new "White Father," as the president
was called by the Indians. They told them that the president
wanted the Indians for friends. Presents were given to six chiefs
of the Otoe and Missouri tribes.
Lewis and Clark liked the place where
the council was held. They called it Council Bluffs, and said it
would be a good place upon which to build a fort. Council Bluffs,
Iowa, is located across the river from where this meeting place.
The party had plenty of food while
traveling along what is now Iowa. Game was plentiful and much wild
fruit was to be found. Hunting parties were sent out nearly every
day. A whole buffalo lasted only one day and it took several deer
to supply meat for a day.
On August 19, Sergeant Charles Floyd,
a young man form Kentucky, became very sick. There were no doctors
who might be called. The men did what they could for Sergeant Floyd
but he died the next day. He was buried on a high bluff now called
Lewis and Clark thought Floyd was one
of their best men. He had been one of seven that were selected to
keep a journal of the trip. They named the Floyd River, in
Northwestern Iowa, in his honor. The town, Sergeants Bluff, is also
named for him. He was the only man in the party who died on the
trip. Lewis and Clark asked the government to pay a pension to his
parents, but it was never done.
Floyd's grave was marked with a cedar
post and it became a landmark for early settlers. In 1857 the
remains were moved back two hundred yards from the river because the
bluff had been washed away until the grave was partly destroyed. A
large stone was then put over the grave to mark it.
People said that a monument should be
put up in honor of Sergeant Floyd. Money was got from the United
States Congress and from the Iowa Legislature for that purpose.
Many people who lived in and near Sioux City also gave money. The
monument was dedicated on May 10, 1901. It is one hundred feet high
and the cost was about $20,000.
AFTER LEAVING IOWA
During the winter of 1804-5, the Lewis
and Clark party lived near the Mandan Indians, in what is now North
Dakota. In the spring, the large boat, with sixteen men aboard, was
sent back to St. Louis. The rest of the party went on west. The
second winter was spent at the mouth of the Columbia River.
The Lewis and Clark party returned to
St. Louis on September 23,1806. It had taken them two years and
four months to make the trip, but it had been worth all that it cost
in time, in money, and in hardships.
RESULTS OF THE TRIP
Long reports of the trip were written
by Lewis and Clark. They told of animals and plants that white men
had never seen. They brought back alive some small animals and the
skeletons and hides of larger animals. They told, too, of making
friends with strange Indian tribes.
President Jefferson was proud of Lewis
and Clark. No one said, after they returned, that the trip had been
foolish, as some had said before they started. The people now could
learn many things about the new land that had been bought. White
people, too, could go into this land because Lewis and Clark had
made friends of the Indians.