April 2, 2004May 23, 2004Meeting Report

April 18, 2004

Hank and Cleo Kocol
The Lewis and Clark Expedition

HAGSA member Cleo Kocol presented the program, with assistance from Hank Kocol, with whom she had shared the task of preparing the presentation and the accompanying slides. It dealt with the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the bicentennial of which is now being celebrated. This was the first transcontinental travel by persons of European descent through what is now the United States. (The continent had previously been traversed through what is now Mexico and Canada.) The expedition was the result of President Thomas Jefferson’s desire to explore the territory newly acquired from France through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

Hank and Cleo had driven last year through much of the route taken by Lewis & Clark. Photographs of the route taken in 2003 punctuated Cleo’s account of the history of the expedition. Most of the talk dealt with the history and character of the two leaders, the men they hired, and of the vital assistance given by Indians, particularly Sacagawea,1 who served as a guide, a translator and as a means to obtain horses when their possession became essential.

The expedition, which left St. Louis in May 1804, initially consisted of 48 people. They proceeded upstream on the Missouri River and spent the winter of 1804-1805 at Ft. Mandan, near present-day Bismarck, ND. They continued the following spring up the Missouri, across the Continental Divide and continued down the Snake and Columbia Rivers to the Pacific Ocean, where they wintered at Ft. Clatsop, near present-day Astoria, OR. They were able to make it overland all the way back to St. Louis during 1806.

The expedition brought a wealth of information about this little-known region to the East and served as an impetus to later explorations by mountain men and for even later settlement. Meriwether Lewis, the expedition leader, died three years later, perhaps by suicide as a result of depression.

The presentation was followed by a lively discussion.

Report prepared by Wayne Luney, HAGSA Recorder

1 Cleo mentioned that Sacagawea died in 1812. However, the pbs.org website has an article on Sacagawea, in which the final paragraph says, "Whether Sacagawea accompanied Charbonneau to St. Louis is uncertain. Some evidence indicates that she did make this journey, then returned to the upper Missouri with her husband where she died in an epidemic of 'putrid fever' late in 1812. Other accounts say that Sacagawea ultimately rejoined the Shoshone on their Wind River reservation and died there in 1884."

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April 2, 2004 2004 Meetings May 23, 2004