Visit Lewis & Clark State Park to ride a replica keelboat and live 1804-style at the Rendezvous.Lewis & Clark State Park
Visit Lewis & Clark State Park to ride a replica keelboat and live 1804-style at the Rendezvous.Lewis & Clark State Park
Due to the generosity of Boys Town in Omaha our center now has an exhibit of Lewis & Clark Postage Stamps and a related history of the expedition. It is an exhibit worth seeing and is located in the classroom on the loft level of our center.
Sept. 14-15, 2013 are the dates for the 6th annual Lewis & Clark Reunion at the Lewis & Clark Center in Nebraska City, NE.
The hours each day are from 9am to 4pm. There will be a schedule of re enacting, interpreters, speakers, children’s activities and more. More detail will be added in the spring of 2013
When the weather in Nebraska City cooperates, the trails at our Lewis and Clark Visitors center are a great activity. One of the highlights of the trail hike is the Native American Earth Lodge – which is a replicate of a Plains Indian home.
During Lewis and Clark’s journey to the Pacific, they traveled through the Plains area. Though most Plains Indians were nomadic buffalo hunters who lived in tipis, a few of the tribes – including Mandans and Pawnees – lived in permanent housing for most of the year. Lewis and Clark encountered Osage, Sioux, Cheyenne, Crow and Mandan tribes on their expedition.
The more permanent villages for these tribes included the earth lodges, semi-subterranean dwellings dug into the earth with a dome build over the top – typically a wooden frame covered with earth or reeds. These homes were best build in a terrain with little to no trees, since roots get in the way of digging a foot or two into the ground. These dwellings were typically from thirty to forty feet in diameter, from ten to fifteen feet high in the center, and from five to seven feet high at the eaves.
This type of housing benefited those tribes who lived in harsh climates. Nebraska summers can be very warm and its winters very cold and the earth lodge kept a temperate climate for families to live. Additionally, the earth lodge was a natural way to protect from the whipping winds of the plains.
Come to our center to experience a real earth lodge – winter or summer. It’s a great way to learn about the Native Americans of our area and learn about the people who Lewis and Clark met on the expedition.
In August of 1804, Lewis and Clark passed the Omaha village of Tonwantonga and found it empty. The Omaha lived in what is now northeastern Nebraska, where the Niobrara River flows into the Missouri.
During the 1790′s the settlement had over 1000 members and was led by Chief Blackbird. Blackbird was well renowned throughout the region in his time and the legends of his accomplishments and tyrant rule grew even after his death.
Through a desire to rule by fear and force, Blackbird learned, though a trader, how to maintain his power. By giving Blackbird a large supply of the deadly poison arsenic, he terrorized his enemies and those who spoke out against him. The Omaha chief was also a great warrior, and even as a young boy escaped other tribes and burned down neighboring villages.
Eventually, a killer struck the Omaha tribe that not even Blackbird’s mystery and medicine could withstand. An outbreak of small pox traveled from lodge to lodge, village to village killing two-thirds of the Omaha tribe, including Blackbird. He was buried on the top of a hill, now called Blackbird Hill.
During Lewis and Clark’s journey they passed this hill and the grave of Blackbird. The expedition left a token of their respect – despite the fact that he lead by fear and cruelty. A one-of-a-kind flag was left at the site, which it’s expected that the flag was made special in St. Louis before the start of the journey, though there is no mention of it in journals.
Lewis and Clark wanted to form a council of the Oto-Missouri tribe and the Omaha in order to secure peace, after much fighting. But the remaining Omaha couldn’t be located in time for the August 18th council. The only encounter with the Omaha Lewis and Clark had was in September of 1804 when Clark saw 48 Omaha prisoners who had been captured in a battle with the Teton Sioux.
Today, the Omaha are on a reservation in Nebraska and our Lewis and Clark Center in Nebraska City helps celebrate the Lewis and Clark Journey’s relationship with tribes across the expedition, and specifically that of Nebraska tribes.
Purpose of the Corps
The Missouri River Basin Lewis & Clark Living History Corps was created in the spring of 2004 by the Missouri River Basin Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center to commemorate the bi-centennial of the expedition. This unit is unique as its purpose is to portray the common soldiers and contracted boatmen of the expedition and to demonstrate the duties, skills and way of life that were necessary to make the expedition a success. Although the bi-centennial festivities were completed in 2006, the unit continues to provide public demonstrations to educate the Center’s visitors.
Unlike most re-enactor units, members of the MRB Corps do not have to provide their own equipment. Through grants and support from the Lewis & Clark Center, re-enactors are provided with their basic equipment and clothing. However, as the Center provides the clothing there are basic requirements to become an MRB Re-enactor. To portray a soldier, a re-enactor must be male, have short hair, appear between the ages of 17 and 34 and be in good physical condition. As the contracted boatmen’s ages were not well recorded, boatmen or engages, can be of any age, older than 17, can have long hair and must be in good physical condition. In return for equipment, re-enactors are asked to attend as many of the training sessions and demonstration days as their schedule will allow.
In 2009, the Corps expanded to include interpreters. Interpreters can of either gender and of any age. Their primary role is to work on and interpret the Native American garden and the earth lodge. Volunteers wear the Corp’s t-shirts and may provide other demonstrations as skills and materials allow.
The primary demonstrations offered by the re-enactors are blacksmithing, canoe making, leather making, cooking, military drill and weapons and cabin construction. Other demonstrations available are hygiene, fire making, tomahawk throwing, packing, and weapons cleaning and repair.
The unit meets the second Sunday of the month from January through October. The January through March sessions are for training and equipment repair / replacement. The unit presents demonstrations to the public from April to October from 10:00 to 4:00.
The Men Portrayed
There are three groups of men portrayed by the unit:
Regular Soldiers – These men are primarily from the First Regiment of Infantry. However, members from the Second Regiment of Infantry and the Corps of Artillery were also on the expedition. The soldiers primarily wear variations of the white fatigue uniform. When portraying the expedition in late 1804 and afterwards, the soldiers can wear moccasins and some civilian or hand-made leather clothing.
Men from Kentucky – Nine men joined the Army just to go on the expedition. These “Nine Young Men from Kentucky” wear a uniform designed by Captain Lewis and wear a combination of soldier’s gear and frontiersmen costumes.
Engages – Captains Lewis and Clark hired approximately sixteen civilians to go on the expedition. The boatmen were contracted for only one year and returned to St. Louis with the keel boat in the spring of 1805. The others were contracted for the entire expedition as hunters, translators and guides. A majority of these men were French-Indian Creoles, wearing a combination of Eastern Woodlands Indian clothing and trade clothing such as shirts and sashes. They brought their own weapons on the expedition, which were usually trade muskets.
While the Living History Corps are volunteers they do receive some benefits from the Lewis & Clark Center. Volunteer hours include not only demonstration days, but training sessions, parades, and prep time that the re-enactor does on their own time to prepare for demonstrations.
Trial Every volunteer, even if they only come out once to try it, receives a Living History Corps t-shirt
10 Hours Thirty percent Volunteer discount in gift shop
50 Hours The incentive changes each year based on an overall consensus by the volunteers. In the past a variety of shirts, books and blankets have been awarded.
c/o Nebraska City Museum Association
917 Wildwood Lane, Suite F
Nebraska City, NE 68410
Did you know that Thomas Jefferson (sent out the Lewis and Clark Expedition) was a very remarkable man who started learning very early in life and never stopped.
Age 5, began studying with his cousin’s tutor
Age 9, studied Latin, Greek and French
Age 14, studied classical literature and additional languages
Age 16, entered the College of William and Mary
Age 19, studied law for 5 years starting with George Wythe
Age 23, started his own law practice
Age 25, was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses
Age 31: wrote the widely circulated “Summary View of the Rights of British America” and retired from his law practice
Age 32, was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress
Age 33, wrote the Declaration of Independence
Age 33, took 3 years to revise Virginia’s legal code and wrote a Public Education bill and a statute for Religious Freedom
Age 36, was elected the second Governor of Virginia, succeeding Patrick Henry
Age 40, served in Congress for two years
Age 41, was the American minister to France and along with Ben Franklin and John Adams, negotiated commercial treaties with European nations
Age 46 served as the first Secretary of State under George Washington
Age 53, served as Vice President and was elected president of the American Philosophical Society
Age 55, drafted the Kentucky Resolutions and became the active head of the Republican Party
Age 57, was elected the third president of the United States
Age 60, obtained the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the nation
Age61, was elected to a second term as president of the United States of America
Age 65, retired to Monticello in Virginia
Age 80, helped President Monroe shape the Monroe Doctrice
Age 81, almost single-handedly created the University of Virginia and served as its first president
Age 83, died on July 4, 1825, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He and John Adams died on the same day.
THOMAS JEFFERSON, A TRULY REMARKABLE MAN
The Nebraska City area is a place which holds much historical significance in Lewis and Clark Expedition history. It’s important to note that this journey was a scientific expedition, set out to discover and study new plants, animals and places never seen before. In the Nebraska portion of the journey, the Corps of Discovery found several noteworthy items of interest.
In June of 1804, the expedition first came near what is modern day Nebraska City. Clark records the discovery of a “boundless prairie.” He writes:
“I Say bound less because I could not See the extent of the plain in any Derection, the timber appeared to be confined to the River Creeks & Small branches, this Prarie was Covered with grass about 18 Inches or 2 feat high and contained little of anything else, except as before on the River Creeks &c, This prospect was So Sudden & entertaining that I forgot the object of my prosute and turned my attention to the Variety which presented themselves to my view”
This same entry also mentions their discovery of cherries, more specifically choke cherries.
In their continued pursuit of the modern day Nebraska City/Cass County area, the Corps of Discovery came upon more prairie. Clark notes these prairies are “parched” as he travelled through. As their time in the prairie progressed it became known to the men that fires were an important ecological happening in these vast grasslands in order to foster secondary growth of the plants for animals. Whether the fires were natural or started by Indians, it was an important part of growth in this area of the country. Now, there are too many homes, business and farms in the Nebraska City/Cass County area to burn many acres of prairie.
Continuing on in Nebraska, the expedition moved into modern day Sarpy County, where the men named their camp “Camp White Catfish.” While here, game was scarce but catfish were caught for food– hence the name of the camp. Also, the men copied a map here and prepared letters to send back to Thomas Jefferson.
Much of the important details and discoveries of the Lewis and Clark Journey are noted in the Missouri River Basin Lewis and Clark Center. You can walk the trails and encounter interactive exhibits that allow our guests to learn about the expedition through experience. We would love to see you there!
The Corps of Discovery included several non-military members, including the infamous Sacagawea – a Shoshone Indian who was kidnapped at the age of 12 by a war party of Hidatsa Indians. Throughout the expedition, the men encountered many Indian tribes; and when approached by a Shoshone or Hidatsa tribe, Sacagawea and her husband Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trader, would act as a translator for the corps.
Lewis and Clark’s expedition encountered many Native American tribes along their journey – some fairly close to home for our Nebraska City Missouri River Basin Visitors Center. Two tribes who were located in or near Nebraska are the Missouri Indians and the Oto Indians.
The Missouri Indians were part of the Southern Sioux tribes who lived along the present-day border of Missouri and Nebraska. After an epidemic of smallpox depleted their numbers, the Missouri Indians joined the community of Oto Indians, who also lived along the same border.
The Lewis and Clark expedition encountered these communities in July of 1804, but the people were away hunting. In August, a small group from these tribes arrived at the Corps of Discovery site in what Clark had named Council Bluffs (close to where present-day Council Bluffs is located, at Fort Atkinson).
Lewis and Clark then met with these group of Native Americans in what is known as the first formal meeting between the US and western Indians. The meeting was ceremonial, as gifts were presented and Lewis told them that the US would provide trade and protection, and that the Missouri and Oto tribes were to make peace with other tribes in order to usher in this new trade. As a result of meetings in Council Bluffs, a delegation of Missouri and Oto Indians went to Washington to meeting with President Jefferson. Jefferson promised them trade and spoke of peace.
Nebraska and its surrounding areas hold many historical markers in the Lewis and Clark Journey, many of which honor the relationship Lewis and Clark had with the Indian tribes. Our Nebraska City Lewis and Clark Visitors Center offers a resource about the journey, highlights the Indian tribes the corps encountered and is surrounded by trails to follow their journey. This rich history is one to be celebrated and remembered and we look forward to seeing you at our visitors center!
The expedition was executed by Lewis and Clark, four Sergeants, 20 privates and several non-military members. As mentioned in the previous article, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark are, of course, the members primarily discussed when referencing the expedition – but one would be remiss to forget the others who were a significant part of the journey’s successes; especially the contributions of the 20 privates.
There are many privates of who very little is known. These include George Gibson, Silas Goodrich, Hugh Hall, Thomas Proctor Howard, Jean Baptiste LePage, Hugh McNeal, John Potts, John B. Thompson, Peter M. Weiser, William Werner, Alexander Hamilton Willard and Richard Windsor. They are briefly mentioned in journals and lists of corps members, but little else is mentioned. Many do not even have a record of birth or death.
The others, however, do have lengthy records recorded in journals about their activities during the expedition and some post-expedition records have been found, as well.
Several of the members were granted early discharge including John Colter – all other member agree it was amicable – in order to become a fur trapper with two other Illinois trappers. Much of his success was post-expedition. After several months he left his partners, and after the Lewis and Clark expedition ended, he and another private from the expedition, John Potts, were assigned to trapping in the Blackfeet region. Here, Potts was killed in an encounter with Blackfeet Indians, which Colter barely survived. Colter is, perhaps, best known for is being the first white man to enter Yellowstone National Park.
Private John Collins was not discharged but did suffer some major disciplinary action. His trial was among the first on the expedition. Collins, another private – John Hall – and a barrel of whiskey found themselves in a bit of trouble during watch one evening.
Some of the privates possessed special language skills that became handy on the journey. Private Pierre Cruzatte was of French and Omaha Indian descent and was extremely beneficial when communicating with tribes in the lower Missouri, close to where our Lewis and Clark Missouri River Basin Visitors Center is in Nebraska City. This gift of language, along with his musical talents, helped entertain and build rapport with Indians. After the last mention of him in the journal, it seems as though Cruzatte is mentioned nowhere else in history. The river that the expedition named after him, Crusat River, in what is now Washington State, we now call the Wind River.
Private Robert Frazer had a gift of communicating with the Indians, as well, and was a skilled trader during the journey. Upon his return he settled in St. Louis and was reported to have an offer to publish it. But now only one inaccurate map is found to be left of the journal. Frazer also got himself into trouble because of his aggressive nature. In 1808 he was charged with beating a Sheriff. The following year he was charged with hitting an Indian several times for reasons unknown and in 1812 he was charged with murder.
Brothers, Privates Joseph and Reuben Field, were two important members of the expedition who were skilled hunters and woodmen. After a long, honorable and successful service both men were discharged in October of 1806. Upon leaving the expedition, Joseph and possibly his brother joined the Chouteau fur men who hunted up the Missouri. In 1807 Joseph became the first of the Corps of Discovery veterans to die. Reuben married Mary Myrtle and passed away shortly after creating his will in 1822 as a farmer with his wife.
George Shannon was the youngest enlisted man of the permanent party on the expedition. At 22 years old Shannon and the entire Corps ran into some warriors with whom they battled. Shannon was injured during this time and this injury caused him many years of disability and distress. Upon reaching the doctor four weeks after the injury occurred, the doctor found gangrene and had to amputate his leg. Shannon petitioned congress for a pension and was only awarded $8 per month. Three years later Shannon petitioned congress again and received $12 per month.
As you can see with the several men listed here, life was often not easy for these men after the journey ended. And there are several more who are not discussed here who experienced both hardship and successes in the years following. We will, of course, discuss these men later, along with the non-enlisted persons who accompanied the expedition.