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Title: First Across the Continent
 - The Story of the Exploring Expedition of Lewis and Clark in 1804-5-6
Author: Brooks, Noah
Language: English
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 - The Story of the Exploring Expedition of Lewis and Clark in 1804-5-6" ***

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The Story of The Exploring Expedition of Lewis and Clark in 1804-5-6

By Noah Brooks

Chapter I -- A Great Transaction in Land

The people of the young Republic of the United States were greatly
astonished, in the summer of 1803, to learn that Napoleon Bonaparte,
then First Consul of France, had sold to us the vast tract of land known
as the country of Louisiana. The details of this purchase were arranged
in Paris (on the part of the United States) by Robert R. Livingston and
James Monroe. The French government was represented by Barbe-Marbois,
Minister of the Public Treasury.

The price to be paid for this vast domain was fifteen million dollars.
The area of the country ceded was reckoned to be more than one million
square miles, greater than the total area of the United States, as the
Republic then existed. Roughly described, the territory comprised all
that part of the continent west of the Mississippi River, bounded on the
north by the British possessions and on the west and south by dominions
of Spain. This included the region in which now lie the States of
Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, parts of Colorado, Minnesota, the
States of Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, a part
of Idaho, all of Montana and Territory of Oklahoma. At that time, the
entire population of the region, exclusive of the Indian tribes that
roamed over its trackless spaces, was barely ninety thousand persons,
of whom forty thousand were negro slaves. The civilized inhabitants
were principally French, or descendants of French, with a few Spanish,
Germans, English, and Americans.

The purchase of this tremendous slice of territory could not be complete
without an approval of the bargain by the United States Senate. Great
opposition to this was immediately excited by people in various parts
of the Union, especially in New England, where there was a very bitter
feeling against the prime mover in this business,--Thomas Jefferson,
then President of the United States. The scheme was ridiculed by persons
who insisted that the region was not only wild and unexplored, but
uninhabitable and worthless. They derided “The Jefferson Purchase,” as
they called it, as a useless piece of extravagance and folly; and, in
addition to its being a foolish bargain, it was urged that President
Jefferson had no right, under the constitution of the United States, to
add any territory to the area of the Republic.

Nevertheless, a majority of the people were in favor of the purchase,
and the bargain was duly approved by the United States Senate; that
body, July 31, 1803, just three months after the execution of the treaty
of cession, formally ratified the important agreement between the two
governments. The dominion of the United States was now extended across
the entire continent of North America, reaching from the Atlantic to the
Pacific. The Territory of Oregon was already ours.

This momentous transfer took place one hundred years ago, when almost
nothing was known of the region so summarily handed from the government
of France to the government of the American Republic. Few white men had
ever traversed those trackless plains, or scaled the frowning ranges of
mountains that barred the way across the continent. There were living in
the fastnesses of the mysterious interior of the Louisiana Purchase many
tribes of Indians who had never looked in the face of the white man.

Nor was the Pacific shore of the country any better known to civilized
man than was the region lying between that coast and the Big Muddy, or
Missouri River. Spanish voyagers, in 1602, had sailed as far north as
the harbors of San Diego and Monterey, in what is now California;
and other explorers, of the same nationality, in 1775, extended their
discoveries as far north as the fifty-eighth degree of latitude. Famous
Captain Cook, the great navigator of the Pacific seas, in 1778, reached
and entered Nootka Sound, and, leaving numerous harbors and bays
unexplored, he pressed on and visited the shores of Alaska, then called
Unalaska, and traced the coast as far north as Icy Cape. Cold weather
drove him westward across the Pacific, and he spent the next winter at
Owyhee, where, in February of the following year, he was killed by the

All these explorers were looking for chances for fur-trading, which was
at that time the chief industry of the Pacific coast. Curiously enough,
they all passed by the mouth of the Columbia without observing that
there was the entrance to one of the finest rivers on the American

Indeed, Captain Vancouver, a British explorer, who has left his name
on the most important island of the North Pacific coast, baffled by the
deceptive appearances of the two capes that guard the way to a noble
stream (Cape Disappointment and Cape Deception), passed them without a
thought. But Captain Gray, sailing the good ship “Columbia,” of Boston,
who coasted those shores for more than two years, fully convinced that a
strong current which he observed off those capes came from a river, made
a determined effort; and on the 11th of May, 1792, he discovered and
entered the great river that now bears the name of his ship. At last
the key that was to open the mountain fastnesses of the heart of the
continent had been found. The names of the capes christened by Vancouver
and re-christened by Captain Gray have disappeared from our maps, but
in the words of one of the numerous editors(1) of the narrative of the
exploring expedition of Lewis and Clark: “The name of the good ship
‘Columbia,’ it is not hard to believe, will flow with the waters of the
bold river as long as grass grows or water runs in the valleys of the
Rocky Mountains.”

     (1) Dr. Archibald McVickar.

It appears that the attention of President Jefferson had been early
attracted to the vast, unexplored domain which his wise foresight was
finally to add to the territory of the United States. While he was
living in Paris, as the representative of the United States, in 1785-89,
he made the acquaintance of John Ledyard, of Connecticut, the well-known
explorer, who had then in mind a scheme for the establishment of a
fur-trading post on the western coast of America. Mr. Jefferson proposed
to Ledyard that the most feasible route to the coveted fur-bearing lands
would be through the Russian possessions and downward somewhere near to
the latitude of the then unknown sources of the Missouri River, entering
the United States by that route. This scheme fell through on account of
the obstacles thrown in Ledyard’s way by the Russian Government. A few
years later, in 1792, Jefferson, whose mind was apparently fixed on
carrying out his project, proposed to the American Philosophical Society
of Philadelphia that a subscription should be opened for the purpose of
raising money “to engage some competent person to explore that region in
the opposite direction (from the Pacific coast),--that is, by ascending
the Missouri, crossing the Stony (Rocky) Mountains, and descending the
nearest river to the Pacific.” This was the hint from which originated
the famous expedition of Lewis and Clark.

But the story-teller should not forget to mention that hardy and
adventurous explorer, Jonathan Carver. This man, the son of a British
officer, set out from Boston, in 1766, to explore the wilderness north
of Albany and lying along the southern shore of the Great Lakes. He was
absent two years and seven months, and in that time he collected a vast
amount of useful and strange information, besides learning the language
of the Indians among whom he lived. He conceived the bold plan of
travelling up a branch of the Missouri (or “Messorie”), till, having
discovered the source of the traditional “Oregon, or River of the West,”
 on the western side of the lands that divide the continent, “he would
have sailed down that river to the place where it is said to empty
itself, near the Straits of Anian.”

By the Straits of Anian, we are to suppose, were meant some part of
Behring’s Straits, separating Asia from the American continent. Carver’s
fertile imagination, stimulated by what he knew of the remote Northwest,
pictured that wild region where, according to a modern poet, “rolls the
Oregon and hears no sound save his own dashing.” But Carver died without
the sight; in his later years, he said of those who should follow his
lead: “While their spirits are elated by their success, perhaps they may
bestow some commendations and blessings on the person who first pointed
out to them the way.”

Chapter II -- Beginning a Long Journey

In 1803, availing himself of a plausible pretext to send out an
exploring expedition, President Jefferson asked Congress to appropriate
a small sum of money ($2,500) for the execution of his purpose. At that
time the cession of the Louisiana Territory had not been completed; but
matters were in train to that end, and before the expedition was fairly
started on its long journey across the continent, the Territory was
formally ceded to the United States.

Meriwether Lewis, a captain in the army, was selected by Jefferson to
lead the expedition. Captain Lewis was a native of Virginia, and at that
time was only twenty-nine years old. He had been Jefferson’s private
secretary for two years and was, of course, familiar with the
President’s plans and expectations as these regarded the wonder-land
which Lewis was to enter. It is pleasant to quote here Mr. Jefferson’s
words concerning Captain Lewis. In a memoir of that distinguished young
officer, written after his death, Jefferson said: “Of courage undaunted;
possessing a firmness and perseverance of purpose which nothing but
impossibilities could divert from its direction; careful as a father of
those committed to his charge, yet steady in the maintenance of
order and discipline; intimate with the Indian character, customs
and principles; habituated to the hunting life; guarded, by exact
observation of the vegetables and animals of his own country, against
losing time in the description of objects already possessed; honest,
disinterested, liberal, of sound understanding, and a fidelity to truth
so scrupulous that whatever he should report would be as certain as if
seen by ourselves--with all these qualifications, as if selected and
implanted by nature in one body for this express purpose, I could have
no hesitation in confiding the enterprise to him.”

Before we have finished the story of Meriwether Lewis and his
companions, we shall see that this high praise of the youthful commander
was well deserved.

For a coadjutor and comrade Captain Lewis chose William Clark,(1) also
a native of Virginia, and then about thirty-three years old. Clark, like
Lewis, held a commission in the military service of the United States,
and his appointment as one of the leaders of the expedition with which
his name and that of Lewis will ever be associated, made the two men
equal in rank. Exactly how there could be two captains commanding the
same expedition, both of the same military and actual rank, without jar
or quarrel, we cannot understand; but it is certain that the two young
men got on together harmoniously, and no hint or suspicion of any
serious disagreement between the two captains during their long and
arduous service has come down to us from those distant days.

     (1) It is a little singular that Captain Clark’s name has
     been so persistently misspelled by historians and
     biographers. Even in most of the published versions of the
     story of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the name of one of
     the captains is spelled Clarke. Clark’s own signature, of
     which many are in existence, is without the final and
     superfluous vowel; and the family name, for generations
     past, does not show it.

As finally organized, the expedition was made up of the two captains
(Lewis and Clark) and twenty-six men. These were nine young men from
Kentucky, who were used to life on the frontier among Indians; fourteen
soldiers of the United States Army, selected from many who eagerly
volunteered their services; two French voyageurs, or watermen, one of
whom was an interpreter of Indian language, and the other a hunter; and
one black man, a servant of Captain Clark. All these, except the negro
servant, were regularly enlisted as privates in the military service of
the United States during the expedition; and three of them were by the
captains appointed sergeants. In addition to this force, nine voyageurs
and a corporal and six private soldiers were detailed to act as guides
and assistants until the explorers should reach the country of the
Mandan Indians, a region lying around the spot where is now situated
the flourishing city of Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota. It was
expected that if hostile Indians should attack the explorers anywhere
within the limits of the little-known parts through which they were
to make their way, such attacks were more likely to be made below the
Mandan country than elsewhere.

The duties of the explorers were numerous and important. They were to
explore as thoroughly as possible the country through which they were
to pass; making such observations of latitude and longitude as would be
needed when maps of the region should be prepared by the War Department;
observing the trade, commerce, tribal relations, manners and customs,
language, traditions, and monuments, habits and industrial pursuits,
diseases and laws of the Indian nations with whom they might come in
contact; note the floral, mineral, and animal characteristics of the
country, and, above all, to report whatever might be of interest to
citizens who might thereafter be desirous of opening trade relations
with those wild tribes of which almost nothing was then distinctly

The list of articles with which the explorers were provided, to aid them
in establishing peaceful relations with the Indians, might amuse traders
of the present day. But in those primitive times, and among peoples
entirely ignorant of the white man’s riches and resources, coats richly
laced with gilt braid, red trousers, medals, flags, knives, colored
handkerchiefs, paints, small looking-glasses, beads and tomahawks were
believed to be so attractive to the simple-minded red man that he would
gladly do much and give much of his own to win such prizes. Of these
fine things there were fourteen large bales and one box. The stores of
the expedition were clothing, working tools, fire-arms, food supplies,
powder, ball, lead for bullets, and flints for the guns then in use, the
old-fashioned flint-lock rifle and musket being still in vogue in our
country; for all of this was at the beginning of the present century.

As the party was to begin their long journey by ascending the Missouri
River, their means of travel were provided in three boats. The largest,
a keel-boat, fifty-five feet long and drawing three feet of water,
carried a big square sail and twenty-two seats for oarsmen. On board
this craft was a small swivel gun. The other two boats were of that
variety of open craft known as pirogue, a craft shaped like a flat-iron,
square-sterned, flat-bottomed, roomy, of light draft, and usually
provided with four oars and a square sail which could be used when the
wind was aft, and which also served as a tent, or night shelter, on
shore. Two horses, for hunting or other occasional service, were led
along the banks of the river.

As we have seen, President Jefferson, whose master mind organized and
devised this expedition, had dwelt longingly on the prospect of crossing
the continent from the headwaters of the Missouri to the headwaters of
the then newly-discovered Columbia. The route thus explored was more
difficult than that which was later travelled by the first emigrants
across the continent to California. That route lies up the Platte River,
through what is known as the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains, by Great
Salt Lake and down the valley of the Humboldt into California, crossing
the Sierra Nevada at any one of several points leading into the valley
of the Sacramento. The route, which was opened by the gold-seekers, was
followed by the first railroads built across the continent. The route
that lay so firmly in Jefferson’s mind, and which was followed up with
incredible hardships by the Lewis and Clark expedition, has since been
traversed by two railroads, built after the first transcontinental
rails were laid. If Jefferson had desired to find the shortest and most
feasible route across the continent, he would have pointed to the South
Pass and Utah basin trails. But these would have led the explorers into
California, then and long afterwards a Spanish possession. The entire
line finally traced over the Great Divide lay within the territory of
the United States.

But it must be remembered that while the expedition was being organized,
the vast Territory of Louisiana was as yet a French possession. Before
the party were brought together and their supplies collected,
the territory passed under the jurisdiction of the United States.
Nevertheless, that jurisdiction was not immediately acknowledged by
the officials who, up to that time, had been the representatives of the
French and Spanish governments. Part of the territory was transferred
from Spain to France and then from France to the United States. It was
intended that the exploring party should pass the winter of 1803-4 in
St. Louis, then a mere village which had been commonly known as Pain
Court. But the Spanish governor of the province had not been officially
told that the country had been transferred to the United States, and,
after the Spanish manner, he forbade the passage of the Americans
through his jurisdiction. In those days communication between frontier
posts and points lying far to the eastward of the Mississippi was very
difficult; it required six weeks to carry the mails between New York,
Philadelphia, and Washington to St. Louis; and this was the reason why
a treaty, ratified in July, was not officially heard of in St. Louis
as late as December of that year. The explorers, shut out of Spanish
territory, recrossed the Mississippi and wintered at the mouth of Wood
River, just above St. Louis, on the eastern side of the great river, in
United States territory. As a matter of record, it may be said here that
the actual transfer of the lower part of the territory--commonly known
as Orleans--took place at New Orleans, December 20, 1803, and the
transfer of the upper part was effected at St. Louis, March 10, 1804,
before the Lewis and Clark expedition had started on its long journey to
the northwestward.

All over the small area of the United States then existed a deep
interest in the proposed explorations of the course and sources of the
Missouri River. The explorers were about to plunge into vast solitudes
of which white people knew less than we know now about the North Polar
country. Wild and extravagant stories of what was to be seen in those
trackless regions were circulated in the States. For example, it was
said that Lewis and Clark expected to find the mammoth of prehistoric
times still living and wandering in the Upper Missouri region; and it
was commonly reported that somewhere, a thousand miles or so up
the river, was a solid mountain of rock salt, eighty miles long and
forty-five miles wide, destitute of vegetation and glittering in the
sun! These, and other tales like these, were said to be believed and
doted upon by the great Jefferson himself. The Federalists, or “Feds,”
 as they were called, who hated Jefferson, pretended to believe that he
had invented some of these foolish yarns, hoping thereby to make his
Louisiana purchase more popular in the Republic.

In his last letter to Captain Lewis, which was to reach the explorers
before they started, Jefferson said: “The acquisition of the country
through which you are to pass has inspired the country generally with a
great deal of interest in your enterprise. The inquiries are perpetual
as to your progress. The Feds alone still treat it as a philosophism,
and would rejoice at its failure. Their bitterness increases with the
diminution of their numbers and despair of a resurrection. I hope you
will take care of yourself, and be a living witness of their malice and
folly.” Indeed, after the explorers were lost sight of in the wilderness
which they were to traverse, many people in the States declaimed
bitterly against the folly that had sent these unfortunate men to perish
miserably in the fathomless depths of the continent. They no longer
treated it “as a philosophism,” or wild prank, but as a wicked scheme to
risk life and property in a search for the mysteries of the unknown and

As a striking illustration of this uncertainty of the outcome of the
expedition, which exercised even the mind of Jefferson, it may be said
that in his instructions to Captain Lewis he said: “Our Consuls, Thomas
Hewes, at Batavia in Java, William Buchanan in the isles of France and
Bourbon, and John Elmslie at the Cape of Good Hope, will be able to
supply your necessities by drafts on us.” All this seems strange enough
to the young reader of the present day; but this was said and done one
hundred years ago.

Chapter III -- From the Lower to the Upper River

The party finally set sail up the Missouri River on Monday, May 21,
1804, but made only a few miles, owing to head winds. Four days
later they camped near the last white settlement on the Missouri,--La
Charrette, a little village of seven poor houses. Here lived Daniel
Boone, the famous Kentucky backwoodsman, then nearly seventy years old,
but still vigorous, erect, and strong of limb. Here and above this place
the explorers began to meet with unfamiliar Indian tribes and names. For
example, they met two canoes loaded with furs “from the Mahar nation.”
 The writer of the Lewis and Clark journal, upon whose notes we rely for
our story, made many slips of this sort. By “Mahars” we must understand
that the Omahas were meant. We shall come across other such instances
in which the strangers mistook the pronunciation of Indian names. For
example, Kansas was by them misspelled as “Canseze” and “Canzan;” and
there appear some thirteen or fourteen different spellings of Sioux, of
which one of the most far-fetched is “Scouex.”

The explorers were now in a country unknown to them and almost unknown
to any white man. On the thirty-first of May, a messenger came down the
Grand Osage River bringing a letter from a person who wrote that the
Indians, having been notified that the country had been ceded to the
Americans, burned the letter containing the tidings, refusing to believe
the report. The Osage Indians, through whose territory they were now
passing, were among the largest and finest-formed red men of the West.
Their name came from the river along which they warred and hunted, but
their proper title, as they called themselves, was “the Wabashas,” and
from them, in later years, we derive the familiar name of Wabash. A
curious tradition of this people, according to the journal of Lewis and
Clark, is that the founder of the nation was a snail, passing a quiet
existence along the banks of the Osage, till a high flood swept him down
to the Missouri, and left him exposed on the shore. The heat of the sun
at length ripened him into a man; but with the change of his nature
he had not forgotten his native seats on the Osage, towards which he
immediately bent his way. He was, however, soon overtaken by hunger and
fatigue, when happily, the Great Spirit appeared, and, giving him a bow
and arrow, showed him how to kill and cook deer, and cover himself
with the skin. He then proceeded to his original residence; but as he
approached the river he was met by a beaver, who inquired haughtily who
he was, and by what authority he came to disturb his possession. The
Osage answered that the river was his own, for he had once lived on its
borders. As they stood disputing, the daughter of the beaver came, and
having, by her entreaties, reconciled her father to this young stranger,
it was proposed that the Osage should marry the young beaver, and share
with her family the enjoyment of the river. The Osage readily consented,
and from this happy union there soon came the village and the nation of
the Wabasha, or Osages, who have ever since preserved a pious reverence
for their ancestors, abstaining from the chase of the beaver, because in
killing that animal they killed a brother of the Osage. Of late years,
however, since the trade with the whites has rendered beaver-skins more
valuable, the sanctity of these maternal relatives has been visibly
reduced, and the poor animals have lost all the privileges of kindred.

Game was abundant all along the river as the explorers sailed up the
stream. Their hunters killed numbers of deer, and at the mouth of Big
Good Woman Creek, which empties into the Missouri near the present town
of Franklin, Howard County, three bears were brought into the camp.
Here, too, they began to find salt springs, or “salt licks,” to which
many wild animals resorted for salt, of which they were very fond.
Saline County, Missouri, perpetuates the name given to the region by
Lewis and Clark. Traces of buffalo were also found here, and occasional
wandering traders told them that the Indians had begun to hunt the
buffalo now that the grass had become abundant enough to attract this
big game from regions lying further south.

By the tenth of June the party had entered the country of the Ayauway
nation. This was an easy way of spelling the word now familiar to us
as “Iowa.” But before that spelling was reached, it was Ayaway, Ayahwa,
Iawai, Iaway, and so on. The remnants of this once powerful tribe now
number scarcely two hundred persons. In Lewis and Clark’s time, they
were a large nation, with several hundred warriors, and were constantly
at war with their neighbors. Game here grew still more abundant, and in
addition to deer and bear the hunters brought in a raccoon. One of these
hunters brought into camp a wild tale of a snake which, he said, “made
a guttural noise like a turkey.” One of the French voyageurs confirmed
this story; but the croaking snake was never found and identified.

On the twenty-fourth of June the explorers halted to prepare some of the
meat which their hunters brought in. Numerous herds of deer were feeding
on the abundant grass and young willows that grew along the river banks.
The meat, cut in small strips, or ribbons, was dried quickly in the hot
sun. This was called “jirked” meat. Later on the word was corrupted into
“jerked,” and “jerked beef” is not unknown at the present day. The verb
“jerk” is corrupted from the Chilian word, charqui, meaning sun-dried
meat; but it is not easy to explain how the Chilian word got into the

As the season advanced, the party found many delicious wild fruits, such
as currants, plums, raspberries, wild apples, and vast quantities of
mulberries. Wild turkeys were also found in large numbers, and the party
had evidently entered a land of plenty. Wild geese were abundant, and
numerous tracks of elk were seen. But we may as well say here that the
so-called elk of the Northwest is not the elk of ancient Europe; a more
correct and distinctive name for this animal is wapiti, the name given
the animal by the Indians. The European elk more closely resembles the
American moose. Its antlers are flat, low, and palmated like our moose;
whereas the antlers of the American elk, so-called, are long, high, and
round-shaped with many sharp points or tines. The mouth of the great
Platte River was reached on the twenty-first of July. This famous stream
was then regarded as a sort of boundary line between the known and
unknown regions. As mariners crossing the equator require all their
comrades, who have not been “over the line” to submit to lathering
and shaving, so the Western voyageurs merrily compelled their mates to
submit to similar horse-play. The great river was also the mark above
which explorers entered upon what was called the Upper Missouri.

The expedition was now advancing into a region inhabited by several
wandering tribes of Indians, chief of which were the Ottoes, Missouris,
and Pawnees. It was determined, therefore, to call a council of some of
the chiefs of these bands and make terms of peace with them. After
some delay, the messengers sent out to them brought in fourteen
representative Indians, to whom the white men made presents of roast
meat, pork, flour, and corn-meal, in return for which their visitors
brought them quantities of delicious watermelons. “Next day, August
3,” says the journal, “the Indians, with their six chiefs, were all
assembled under an awning formed with the mainsail, in presence of all
our party, paraded for the occasion. A speech was then made, announcing
to them the change in the government, our promises of protection, and
advice as to their future conduct. All the six chiefs replied to our
speech, each in his turn, according to rank. They expressed their joy at
the change in the government; their hopes that we would recommend them
to their Great Father (the president), that they might obtain trade and
necessaries: they wanted arms as well for hunting as for defence, and
asked our mediation between them and the Mahas, with whom they are now
at war. We promised to do so, and wished some of them to accompany us to
that nation, which they declined, for fear of being killed by them. We
then proceeded to distribute our presents. The grand chief of the nation
not being of the party, we sent him a flag, a medal, and some ornaments
for clothing. To the six chiefs who were present, we gave a medal of the
second grade to one Ottoe chief and one Missouri chief; a medal of the
third grade to two inferior chiefs of each nation; the customary mode
of recognizing a chief being to place a medal round his neck, which is
considered among his tribe as a proof of his consideration abroad. Each
of these medals was accompanied by a present of paint, garters, and
cloth ornaments of dress; and to this we added a canister of powder, a
bottle of whiskey, and a few presents to the whole, which appeared
to make them perfectly satisfied. The air-gun, too, was fired, and
astonished them greatly. The absent grand chief was an Ottoe, named
Weahrushhah, which, in English, degenerates into Little Thief. The two
principal chieftains present were Shongotongo, or Big Horse, and Wethea,
or Hospitality; also Shosguscan, or White Horse, an Ottoe; the first an
Ottoe, the second a Missouri. The incidents just related induced us to
give to this place the name of the Council Bluffs: the situation of it
is exceedingly favorable for a fort and trading factory, as the soil
is well calculated for bricks, and there is an abundance of wood in the
neighborhood, and the air being pure and healthy.”

Of course the reader will recognize, in the name given to this place by
Lewis and Clark, the flourishing modern city of Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Nevertheless, as a matter of fact, the council took place on the
Nebraskan or western side of the river, and the meeting-place was at
some distance above the site of the present city of Council Bluffs.

Above Council Bluffs the explorers found the banks of the river to be
high and bluffy, and on one of the highlands which they passed they saw
the burial-place of Blackbird, one of the great men of the Mahars, or
Omahas, who had died of small-pox. A mound, twelve feet in diameter and
six feet high, had been raised over the grave, and on a tall pole at
the summit the party fixed a flag of red, white, and blue. The place
was regarded as sacred by the Omahas, who kept the dead chieftain well
supplied with provisions. The small-pox had caused great mortality among
the Indians; and a few years before the white men’s visit, when the fell
disease had destroyed four hundred men, with a due proportion of women
and children, the survivors burned their village and fled.

“They had been a military and powerful people; but when these warriors
saw their strength wasting before a malady which they could not resist,
their frenzy was extreme; they burned their village, and many of them
put to death their wives and children, to save them from so cruel an
affliction, and that all might go together to some better country.”

In Omaha, or Mahar Creek, the explorers made their first experiment
in dragging the stream for fish. With a drag of willows, loaded with
stones, they succeeded in catching a great variety of fine fish, over
three hundred at one haul, and eight hundred at another. These were
pike, bass, salmon-trout, catfish, buffalo fish, perch, and a species of
shrimp, all of which proved an acceptable addition to their usual flesh

Desiring to call in some of the surrounding Indian tribes, they here
set fire to the dry prairie grass, that being the customary signal for a
meeting of different bands of roving peoples. In the afternoon of August
18, a party of Ottoes, headed by Little Thief and Big Horse, came in,
with six other chiefs and a French interpreter. The journal says:--

“We met them under a shade, and after they had finished a repast with
which we supplied them, we inquired into the origin of the war between
them and the Mahas, which they related with great frankness. It seems
that two of the Missouris went to the Mahas to steal horses, but were
detected and killed; the Ottoes and Missouris thought themselves bound
to avenge their companions, and the whole nations were at last obliged
to share in the dispute. They are also in fear of a war from the
Pawnees, whose village they entered this summer, while the inhabitants
were hunting, and stole their corn. This ingenuous confession did
not make us the less desirous of negotiating a peace for them; but no
Indians have as yet been attracted by our fire. The evening was closed
by a dance; and the next day, the chiefs and warriors being assembled
at ten o’clock, we explained the speech we had already sent from the
Council Bluffs, and renewed our advice. They all replied in turn, and
the presents were then distributed. We exchanged the small medal we had
formerly given to the Big Horse for one of the same size with that of
Little Thief: we also gave a small medal to a third chief, and a kind
of certificate or letter of acknowledgment to five of the warriors
expressive of our favor and their good intentions. One of them,
dissatisfied, returned us the certificate; but the chief, fearful of
our being offended, begged that it might be restored to him; this we
declined, and rebuked them severely for having in view mere traffic
instead of peace with their neighbors. This displeased them at first;
but they at length all petitioned that it should be given to the
warrior, who then came forward and made an apology to us; we then
delivered it to the chief to be given to the most worthy, and he
bestowed it on the same warrior, whose name was Great Blue Eyes. After a
more substantial present of small articles and tobacco, the council was
ended with a dram to the Indians. In the evening we exhibited different
objects of curiosity, and particularly the air-gun, which gave them
great surprise. Those people are almost naked, having no covering except
a sort of breech-cloth round the middle, with a loose blanket or buffalo
robe, painted, thrown over them. The names of these warriors, besides
those already mentioned, were Karkapaha, or Crow’s Head, and Nenasawa,
or Black Cat, Missouris; and Sananona, or Iron Eyes, Neswaunja, or
Big Ox, Stageaunja, or Big Blue Eyes, and Wasashaco, or Brave Man, all

Chapter IV -- Novel Experiences among the Indians

About this time (the nineteenth and twentieth of August), the explorers
lost by death the only member of their party who did not survive the
journey. Floyd River, which flows into the Upper Missouri, in the
northwest corner of Iowa, still marks the last resting-place of Sergeant
Charles Floyd, who died there of bilious colic and was buried by his
comrades near the mouth of the stream. Near here was a quarry of red
pipestone, dear to the Indian fancy as a mine of material for their
pipes; traces of this deposit still remain. So fond of this red rock
were the Indians that when they went there to get the stuff, even
lifelong and vindictive enemies declared a truce while they gathered the
material, and savage hostile tribes suspended their wars for a time.

On the north side of the Missouri, at a point in what is now known
as Clay County, South Dakota, Captains Lewis and Clark, with ten men,
turned aside to see a great natural curiosity, known to the Indians as
the Hill of Little Devils. The hill is a singular mound in the midst of
a flat prairie, three hundred yards long, sixty or seventy yards wide,
and about seventy feet high. The top is a smooth level plain. The
journal says:--

“The Indians have made it a great article of their superstition: it
is called the Mountain of Little People, or Little Spirits; and they
believe that it is the abode of little devils, in the human form, of
about eighteen inches high, and with remarkably large heads; they are
armed with sharp arrows, with which they are very skilful, and are
always on the watch to kill those who should have the hardihood to
approach their residence. The tradition is, that many have suffered from
these little evil spirits, and, among others, three Maha Indians fell
a sacrifice to them a few years since. This has inspired all the
neighboring nations, Sioux, Mahas, and Ottoes, with such terror, that no
consideration could tempt them to visit the hill. We saw none of these
wicked little spirits, nor any place for them, except some small holes
scattered over the top; we were happy enough to escape their vengeance,
though we remained some time on the mound to enjoy the delightful
prospect of the plain, which spreads itself out till the eye rests upon
the northwest hills at a great distance, and those of the northeast,
still farther off, enlivened by large herds of buffalo feeding at a

The present residents of the region, South Dakota, have preserved the
Indian tradition, and Spirit Mound may be seen on modern maps of that

Passing on their way up the Missouri, the explorers found several kinds
of delicious wild plums and vast quantities of grapes; and here, too,
they passed the mouth of the Yankton River, now known as the Dakota,
at the mouth of which is the modern city of Yankton, South Dakota. The
Yankton-Sioux Indians, numbering about one thousand people, inhabited
this part of the country, and near here the white men were met by a
large band of these Sioux who had come in at the invitation of Lewis
and Clark. The messengers from the white men reported that they had been
well received by the Indians, who, as a mark of respect, presented their
visitors with “a fat dog, already cooked, of which they partook heartily
and found it well-flavored.” From this time, according to the journal,
the explorers tasted occasionally of roast dog, and later on they
adopted this dish as a regular feature of their bill-of-fare. They do
tell us, however, that they had some difficulty in getting used to so
novel an article of food.

The Sioux and the white men held a grand council under an oak-tree,
from the top of which was flying the American flag. The head chief was
presented with a gold-laced uniform of the United States artillery, a
cocked hat and red feather. The lesser chiefs were also presented
with suitable gifts of lesser value. Various festivities followed the
conference. Next day another powwow was held at which the head chief,
Weucha, or Shake Hand, said:--

“‘I see before me my great father’s two sons. You see me and the rest
of our chiefs and warriors. We are very poor; we have neither powder,
nor ball, nor knives; and our women and children at the village have no
clothes. I wish that, as my brothers have given me a flag and a medal,
they would give something to those poor people, or let them stop and
trade with the first boat which comes up the river. I will bring the
chiefs of the Pawnees and Mahas together, and make peace between them;
but it is better that I should do it than my great father’s sons, for
they will listen to me more readily. I will also take some chiefs to
your country in the spring; but before that time I cannot leave home. I
went formerly to the English, and they gave me a medal and some clothes:
when I went to the Spaniards they gave me a medal, but nothing to keep
it from my skin: but now you give me a medal and clothes. But still
we are poor; and I wish, brothers, you would give us something for our

When he sat down, Mahtoree, or White Crane, rose:

“‘I have listened,’ said he, ‘to what our father’s words were
yesterday; and I am to-day glad to see how you have dressed our old
chief. I am a young man, and do not wish to take much; my fathers have
made me a chief; I had much sense before, but now I think I have more
than ever. What the old chief has declared I will confirm, and do
whatever he and you please; but I wish that you would take pity on us,
for we are very poor.’

“Another chief, called Pawnawneahpahbe, then said:

“‘I am a young man, and know but little; I cannot speak well, but I
have listened to what you have told the old chief, and will do whatever
you agree.’

“The same sentiments were then repeated by Aweawechache.

“We were surprised,” the journal says, “at finding that the first of
these titles means Struck by the Pawnee, and was occasioned by some blow
which the chief had received in battle from one of the Pawnee tribe.
The second is in English Half Man, which seemed a singular name for
a warrior, till it was explained to have its origin, probably, in the
modesty of the chief, who, on being told of his exploits, would say,
‘I am no warrior, I am only half a man.’ The other chiefs spoke very
little; but after they had finished, one of the warriors delivered a
speech, in which he declared he would support them. They promised to
make peace with the Ottoes and Missouris, the only nations with whom
they are at war. All these harangues concluded by describing the
distress of the nation: they begged us to have pity on them; to send
them traders; that they wanted powder and ball; and seemed anxious that
we should supply them with some of their great father’s milk, the name
by which they distinguish ardent spirits. We gave some tobacco to each
of the chiefs, and a certificate to two of the warriors who attended
the chief We prevailed on M. Durion (interpreter) to remain here, and
accompany as many of the Sioux chiefs as he could collect to the seat of
government. We also gave his son a flag, some clothes, and provisions,
with directions to bring about a peace between the surrounding tribes,
and to convey some of their chiefs to see the President.

“The Indians who have just left us are the Yanktons, a tribe of the
great nation of Sioux. These Yanktons are about two hundred men in
number, and inhabit the Jacques, Des Moines, and Sioux Rivers. In person
they are stout, well proportioned, and have a certain air of dignity and
boldness. In their dress they differ nothing from the other bands of the
nation whom we met afterwards.”

Of the Sioux let us say here, there are many bands, or subdivisions.
Some writers make eighteen of these principal branches. But the first
importance is given to the Sioux proper, or Dakotas. The name “Sioux” is
one of reproach, given by their enemies, and signifies “snake;” whereas
“Dakota” means “friend” or “ally.” The Lewis and Clark journal says of
the Yankton-Sioux:--

“What struck us most was an institution peculiar to them and to the Kite
(Crow) Indians further to the westward, from whom it is said to have
been copied. It is an association of the most active and brave young
men, who are bound to each other by attachment, secured by a vow, never
to retreat before any danger, or give way to their enemies. In war they
go forward without sheltering themselves behind trees, or aiding their
natural valor by any artifice. Their punctilious determination not to
be turned from their course became heroic, or ridiculous, a short time
since, when the Yanktons were crossing the Missouri on the ice. A hole
lay immediately in their course, which might easily have been avoided
by going around. This the foremost of the band disdained to do, but
went straight forward and was lost. The others would have followed his
example, but were forcibly prevented by the rest of the tribe. These
young men sit, camp, and dance together, distinct from the rest of the
nation; they are generally about thirty or thirty-five years old, and
such is the deference paid to courage that their seats in council are
superior to those of the chiefs and their persons more respected. But,
as may be supposed, such indiscreet bravery will soon diminish the
numbers of those who practise it; so that the band is now reduced to
four warriors, who were among our visitors. These were the remains of
twenty-two who composed the society not long ago; but, in a battle with
the Kite (Crow) Indians of the Black Mountains, eighteen of them were
killed, and these four were dragged from the field by their companions.”

Just above the site of the city of Yankton, and near what is still known
as Bon Homme Island, Captain Clark explored a singular earth formation
in a bend of the river. This had all the appearance of an ancient
fortification, stretching across the bend and furnished with redoubts
and other features of a great fort. In the journal is given a glowing
account of the work and an elaborate map of the same. Modern research,
however, has proved that this strange arrangement of walls and parapets
is only a series of sand ridges formed by the currents of the river and
driftings of sand. Many of these so-called earthworks are situated on
the west bank of the Upper Missouri, in North Dakota and South Dakota.

A few days later, the party saw a species of animal which they described
as “goats,”--very fleet, with short pronged horns inclining backward,
and with grayish hair, marked with white on the rump. This creature,
however, was the American antelope, then unknown to science, and first
described by Lewis and Clark. While visiting a strange dome-shaped
mountain, “resembling a cupola,” and now known as “the Tower,” the
explorers found the abode of another animal, heretofore unknown to them.
“About four acres of ground,” says the journal, “was covered with small
holes.” The account continues: “These are the residence of a little
animal, called by the French petit chien (little dog), which sit erect
near the mouth, and make a whistling noise, but, when alarmed, take
refuge in their holes. In order to bring them out we poured into one of
the holes five barrels of water without filling it, but we dislodged and
caught the owner. After digging down another of the holes for six feet,
we found, on running a pole into it, that we had not yet dug half-way to
the bottom: we discovered, however, two frogs in the hole, and near it
we killed a dark rattlesnake, which had swallowed a small prairie dog.
We were also informed, though we never witnessed the fact, that a sort
of lizard and a snake live habitually with these animals. The
petit chien are justly named, as they resemble a small dog in some
particulars, although they have also some points of similarity to the
squirrel. The head resembles the squirrel in every respect, except that
the ear is shorter; the tail like that of the ground squirrel; the toe
nails are long, the fur is fine, and the long hair is gray.”

Great confusion has been caused in the minds of readers on account of
there being another burrowing animal, called by Lewis and Clark “the
burrowing squirrel,” which resembles the petit chien in some respects.
But the little animal described here is now well known as the
prairie-dog,--an unfortunate and misleading name. It is in no sense a
species of dog. The creature commonly weighs about three pounds, and its
note resembles that of a toy-dog. It is a species of marmot; it subsists
on grass roots and other vegetable products; its flesh is delicate and,
when fat, of good flavor. The writer of these lines, when crossing the
great plains, in early times, found the “prairie-dogs” excellent eating,
but difficult to kill; they are expert at diving into their holes at the
slightest signal of danger.

The following days they saw large herds of buffalo, and the copses of
timber appeared to contain elk and deer, “just below Cedar Island,”
 adds the journal, “on a hill to the south, is the backbone of a fish,
forty-five feet long, tapering towards the tail, and in a perfect
state of petrifaction, fragments of which were collected and sent to
Washington.” This was not a fish, but the fossil remains of a reptile of
one of the earliest geological periods. Here, too, the party saw immense
herds of buffalo, thousands in number, some of which they killed for
their meat and skins. They also saw elk, deer, turkeys, grouse, beaver,
and prairie-dogs. The journal bitterly complains of the “moschetoes,”
 which were very troublesome. As mosquitoes we now know them.

Oddly enough, the journal sometimes speaks of “goats” and sometimes of
“antelopes,” and the same animal is described in both instances. Here is
a good story of the fleetness of the beautiful creature:--

“Of all the animals we had seen, the antelope seems to possess the most
wonderful fleetness. Shy and timorous, they generally repose only on
the ridges, which command a view of all the approaches of an enemy:
the acuteness of their sight distinguishes the most distant danger;
the delicate sensibility of their smell defeats the precautions of
concealment; and, when alarmed, their rapid career seems more like
the flight of birds than the movements of a quadruped. After many
unsuccessful attempts, Captain Lewis at last, by winding around the
ridges, approached a party of seven, which were on an eminence towards
which the wind was unfortunately blowing. The only male of the party
frequently encircled the summit of the hill, as if to announce any
danger to the females, which formed a group at the top. Although they
did not see Captain Lewis, the smell alarmed them, and they fled when he
was at the distance of two hundred yards: he immediately ran to the
spot where they had been; a ravine concealed them from him; but the next
moment they appeared on a second ridge, at the distance of three miles.
He doubted whether they could be the same; but their number, and the
extreme rapidity with which they continued their course, convinced
him that they must have gone with a speed equal to that of the
most distinguished race-horse. Among our acquisitions to-day were a
mule-deer, a magpie, a common deer, and buffalo: Captain Lewis also
saw a hare, and killed a rattlesnake near the burrows of the barking

By “barking squirrels” the reader must understand that the animal better
known as the prairie-dog is meant; and the mule-deer, as the explorers
called it, was not a hybrid, but a deer with very long ears, better
known afterwards as the black-tailed deer.

At the Big Bend of the Missouri, in the heart of what is now South
Dakota, while camped on a sand-bar, the explorers had a startling
experience. “Shortly after midnight,” says the journal, “the sleepers
were startled by the sergeant on guard crying out that the sand-bar was
sinking, and the alarm was timely given; for scarcely had they got off
with the boats before the bank under which they had been lying fell in;
and by the time the opposite shore was reached, the ground on which they
had been encamped sunk also. A man who was sent to step off the distance
across the head of the bend, made it but two thousand yards, while its
circuit is thirty miles.”

The next day, three Sioux boys swam the river and told them that two
parties of their nation, one of eighty lodges, and one of sixty lodges,
were camped up the river, waiting to have a palaver with the white
explorers. These were Teton Sioux, and the river named for them still
bears that title.

Chapter V -- From the Tetons to the Mandans

“On the morning of September 25th,” says the journal, “we raised a
flagstaff and an awning, under which we assembled, with all the party
parading under arms. The chiefs and warriors, from the camps two miles
up the river, met us, about fifty or sixty in number, and after smoking
we delivered them a speech; but as our Sioux interpreter, M. Durion, had
been left with the Yanktons, we were obliged to make use of a Frenchman
who could not speak fluently, and therefore we curtailed our harangue.
After this we went through the ceremony of acknowledging the chiefs, by
giving to the grand chief a medal, a flag of the United States, a laced
uniform coat, a cocked hat and feather; to the two other chiefs, a
medal and some small presents; and to two warriors of consideration,
certificates. The name of the great chief is Untongasabaw, or
Black Buffalo; the second, Tortohonga, or the Partisan; the third,
Tartongawaka, or Buffalo Medicine; the name of one of the warriors was
Wawzinggo; that of the second, Matocoquepa, or Second Bear. We then
invited the chiefs on board, and showed them the boat, the air-gun, and
such curiosities as we thought might amuse them. In this we succeeded
too well; for, after giving them a quarter of a glass of whiskey, which
they seemed to like very much, and sucked the bottle, it was with much
difficulty that we could get rid of them. They at last accompanied
Captain Clark on shore, in a pirogue with five men; but it seems they
had formed a design to stop us; for no sooner had the party landed than
three of the Indians seized the cable of the pirogue, and one of the
soldiers of the chief put his arms round the mast. The second chief, who
affected intoxication, then said that we should not go on; that they
had not received presents enough from us. Captain Clark told him that
he would not be prevented from going on; that we were not squaws, but
warriors; that we were sent by our great father, who could in a moment
exterminate them. The chief replied that he too had warriors, and was
proceeding to offer personal violence to Captain Clark, who immediately
drew his sword, and made a signal to the boat to prepare for action. The
Indians, who surrounded him, drew their arrows from their quivers,
and were bending their bows, when the swivel in the boat was instantly
pointed towards them, and twelve of our most determined men jumped into
the pirogue and joined Captain Clark. This movement made an impression
on them, for the grand chief ordered the young men away from the
pirogue, and they withdrew and held a short council with the warriors.
Being unwilling to irritate them, Captain Clark then went forward, and
offered his hand to the first and second chiefs, who refused to take it.
He then turned from them and got into the pirogue; but he had not got
more than ten paces, when both the chiefs and two of the warriors waded
in after him, and he brought them on board. We then proceeded on for a
mile, and anchored off a willow island, which, from the circumstances
which had just occurred, we called Bad-humored Island.”

The policy of firmness and gentleness, which Lewis and Clark always
pursued when treating with the Indians, had its good results at this
time. What might have been a bloody encounter was averted, and next day
the Indians contritely came into camp and asked that their squaws and
children might see the white men and their boats, which would be to them
a novel sight. This was agreed to, and after the expedition had sailed
up the river and had been duly admired by a great crowd of men, women,
and children, the Tetons invited the white men to a dance. The journal

“Captains Lewis and Clark, who went on shore one after the other, were
met on landing by ten well-dressed young men, who took them up in a robe
highly decorated and carried them to a large council-house, where they
were placed on a dressed buffalo-skin by the side of the grand chief.
The hall or council-room was in the shape of three-quarters of a circle,
covered at the top and sides with skins well dressed and sewed together.
Under this shelter sat about seventy men, forming a circle round the
chief, before whom were placed a Spanish flag and the one we had given
them yesterday. This left a vacant circle of about six feet diameter,
in which the pipe of peace was raised on two forked sticks, about six
or eight inches from the ground, and under it the down of the swan was
scattered. A large fire, in which they were cooking provisions, stood
near, and in the centre about four hundred pounds of buffalo meat as a
present for us. As soon as we were seated, an old man got up, and after
approving what we had done, begged us take pity on their unfortunate
situation. To this we replied with assurances of protection. After he
had ceased, the great chief rose and delivered a harangue to the same
effect; then with great solemnity he took some of the most delicate
parts of the dog which was cooked for the festival, and held it to the
flag by way of sacrifice; this done, he held up the pipe of peace, and
first pointed it toward the heavens, then to the four quarters of the
globe, then to the earth, made a short speech, lighted the pipe, and
presented it to us. We smoked, and he again harangued his people, after
which the repast was served up to us. It consisted of the dog which they
had just been cooking, this being a great dish among the Sioux, and used
on all festivals; to this were added pemitigon, a dish made of buffalo
meat, dried or jerked, and then pounded and mixed raw with grease and
a kind of ground potato, dressed like the preparation of Indian corn
called hominy, to which it is little inferior. Of all these luxuries,
which were placed before us in platters with horn spoons, we took the
pemitigon and the potato, which we found good, but we could as yet
partake but sparingly of the dog.”

The “pemitigon” mentioned here is better known as pemmican, a sort of
dried meat, which may be eaten as prepared, or pounded fine and cooked
with other articles of food. This festival concluded with a grand dance,
which at midnight wound up the affair.

As the description of these Tetons, given by Lewis and Clark, will give
the reader a good idea of the manners, customs, and personal appearance
of most of the Sioux nation, we will copy the journal in full. It is as

“The tribe which we this day saw are a part of the great Sioux nation,
and are known by the name of the Teton Okandandas: they are about two
hundred men in number, and their chief residence is on both sides of the
Missouri, between the Chayenne and Teton Rivers. In their persons they
are rather ugly and ill-made, their legs and arms being too small, their
cheek-bones high, and their eyes projecting. The females, with the same
character of form, are more handsome; and both sexes appear cheerful and
sprightly; but in our intercourse with them we discovered that they were
cunning and vicious.

“The men shave the hair off their heads, except a small tuft on the top,
which they suffer to grow, and wear in plaits over the shoulders; to
this they seem much attached, as the loss of it is the usual sacrifice
at the death of near relations. In full dress, the men of consideration
wear a hawk’s feather, or calumet feather worked with porcupine quills,
and fastened to the top of the head, from which it falls back. The face
and body are generally painted with a mixture of grease and coal. Over
the shoulders is a loose robe or mantle of buffalo skin dressed white,
adorned with porcupine quills, loosely fixed, so as to make a jingling
noise when in motion, and painted with various uncouth figures,
unintelligible to us, but to them emblematic of military exploits or
any other incident: the hair of the robe is worn next the skin in fair
weather, but when it rains the hair is put outside, and the robe is
either thrown over the arm or wrapped round the body, all of which it
may cover. Under this, in the winter season, they wear a kind of shirt
resembling ours, made either of skin or cloth, and covering the arms and
body. Round the middle is fixed a girdle of cloth, or procured dressed
elk-skin, about an inch in width, and closely tied to the body; to this
is attached a piece of cloth, or blanket, or skin, about a foot wide,
which passes between the legs, and is tucked under the girdle both
before and behind. From the hip to the ankle is covered by leggins of
dressed antelope skins, with seams at the sides two inches in width, and
ornamented by little tufts of hair, the produce of the scalps they have
made in war, which are scattered down the leg. The winter moccasins
are of dressed buffalo skin, the hair being worn inward, and soled with
thick elk-skin parchment; those for summer are of deer or elk-skin,
dressed without the hair, and with soles of elk-skin. On great
occasions, or whenever they are in full dress, the young men drag after
them the entire skin of a polecat fixed to the heel of the moccasin.
Another skin of the same animal, either tucked into the girdle or
carried in the hand, serves as a pouch for their tobacco, or what the
French traders call bois roule.(1) This is the inner bark of a species
of red willow, which, being dried in the sun or over the fire, is,
rubbed between the hands and broken into small pieces, and used alone or
mixed with tobacco. The pipe is generally of red earth, the stem made of
ash, about three or four feet long, and highly decorated with feathers,
hair, and porcupine-quills. . . .

     (1) This is bois roule, or “rolled wood,” a poor kind of
     tobacco rolled with various kinds of leaves, such as the
     sumach and dogwood. The Indian name is kinnikinick.

“While on shore to-day we witnessed a quarrel between two squaws, which
appeared to be growing every moment more boisterous, when a man came
forward, at whose approach every one seemed terrified and ran. He took
the squaws and without any ceremony whipped them severely. On inquiring
into the nature of such summary justice, we learned that this man was
an officer well known to this and many other tribes. His duty is to keep
the peace, and the whole interior police of the village is confided to
two or three of these officers, who are named by the chief and remain in
power some days, at least till the chief appoints a successor. They
seem to be a sort of constable or sentinel, since they are always on
the watch to keep tranquillity during the day and guard the camp in the
night. The short duration of the office is compensated by its authority.
His power is supreme, and in the suppression of any riot or disturbance
no resistance to him is suffered; his person is sacred, and if in the
execution of his duty he strikes even a chief of the second class,
he cannot be punished for this salutary insolence. In general he
accompanies the person of the chief, and when ordered to any duty,
however dangerous, it is a point of honor rather to die than to refuse
obedience. Thus, when they attempted to stop us yesterday, the chief
ordered one of these men to take possession of the boat; he immediately
put his arms around the mast, and, as we understood, no force except the
command of the chief would have induced him to release his hold. Like
the other men his body is blackened, but his distinguishing mark is a
collection of two or three raven-skins fixed to the girdle behind the
back in such a way that the tails stick out horizontally from the body.
On his head, too, is a raven-skin split into two parts, and tied so as
to let the beak project from the forehead.”

When the party of explorers subsequently made ready to leave, signs of
reluctance to have them go were apparent among the Indians. Finally,
several of the chief warriors sat on the rope that held the boat to
the shore. Irritated by this, Captain Lewis got ready to fire upon the
warriors, but, anxious to avoid bloodshed, he gave them more tobacco,
which they wanted, and then said to the chief, “You have told us that
you were a great man, and have influence; now show your influence by
taking the rope from those men, and we will then go on without further
trouble.” This appeal to the chieftain’s pride had the desired effect.
The warriors were compelled to give up the rope, which was delivered on
board, and the party set sail with a fresh breeze from the southeast.

The explorers were soon out of the country of the Teton Sioux and into
that of the Ricaras, or, as these Indians are more commonly called, the

On the first day of October they passed the mouth of a river incorrectly
known as Dog River, as if corrupted from the French word chien. But the
true name is Cheyenne, from the Indians who bear that title. The stream
rises in the region called the Black Mountains by Lewis and Clark, on
account of the great quantity of dark cedar and pine trees that covered
the hills. This locality is now known as the Black Hills, in the midst
of which is the famous mining district of Deadwood. In these mountains,
according to Lewis and Clark, were to be found “great quantities
of goats, white bear, prairie cocks, and a species of animal which
resembled a small elk, with large circular horns.” By the “white bear”
 the reader must understand that the grizzly bear is meant. Although this
animal, which was first discovered and described by Lewis and Clark, is
commonly referred to in the earlier pages of the journal as “white,” the
error naturally came from a desire to distinguish it from the black
and the cinnamon-colored bears. Afterwards, the journal refers to this
formidable creature as the grizzly, and again as the grisly. Certainly,
the bear was a grizzled gray; but the name “grisly,” that is to say,
horrible, or frightful, fitted him very well. The Latin name, _ursus
horribilis_ is not unlike one of those of Lewis and Clark’s selection.
The animals with circular curled horns, which the explorers thought
resembled a small elk, are now known as the Rocky Mountain sheep, or
bighorn. They very little resemble sheep, however, except in color,
head, horns, and feet. They are now so scarce as to be almost extinct.
They were among the discoveries of Lewis and Clark. The prairie cock
is known to western sportsmen as “prairie chicken;” it is a species of

It was now early in October, and the weather became very cool. So great
is the elevation of those regions that, although the days might be
oppressively warm, the nights were cold and white frosts were frequent.
Crossing the Rocky Mountains at the South Pass, far south of Lewis
and Clark’s route, emigrants who suffered from intense heat during the
middle of day found water in their pails frozen solid in the morning.

The Rickarees were very curious and inquisitive regarding the white men.
But the journal adds: “The object which appeared to astonish the Indians
most was Captain Clark’s servant York, a remarkably stout, strong negro.
They had never seen a being of that color, and therefore flocked round
him to examine the extraordinary monster. By way of amusement, he told
them that he had once been a wild animal, and been caught and tamed by
his master; and to convince them, showed them feats of strength which,
added to his looks, made him more terrible than we wished him to be.”

“On October 10th,” says the journal, “the weather was fine, and as we
were desirous of assembling the whole nation at once, we despatched Mr.
Gravelines (a trader)--who, with Mr. Tabeau, another French trader, had
breakfasted with us--to invite the chiefs of the two upper villages to
a conference. They all assembled at one o’clock, and after the usual
ceremonies we addressed them in the same way in which we had already
spoken to the Ottoes and Sioux. We then made or acknowledged three
chiefs, one for each of the three villages; giving to each a flag, a
medal, a red coat, a cocked hat and feather, also some goods, paint and
tobacco, which they divided among themselves. After this the air-gun was
exhibited, very much to their astonishment, nor were they less surprised
at the color and manner of York. On our side we were equally gratified
at discovering that these Ricaras made use of no spirituous liquors of
any kind, the example of the traders who bring it to them, so far
from tempting, having in fact disgusted them. Supposing that it was as
agreeable to them as to the other Indians, we had at first offered them
whiskey; but they refused it with this sensible remark, that they were
surprised that their father should present to them a liquor which would
make them fools. On another occasion they observed to Mr. Tabeau that no
man could be their friend who tried to lead them into such follies.”

Presents were exchanged by the Indians and the white men; among the
gifts from the former was a quantity of a large, rich bean, which grows
wild and is collected by mice. The Indians hunt for the mice’s deposits
and cook and eat them. The Rickarees had a grand powwow with the white
chiefs and, after accepting presents, agreed to preserve peace with
all men, red or white. On the thirteenth of the month the explorers
discovered a stream which they named Stone-Idol Creek, on account of two
stones, resembling human figures, which adorn its banks. The creek is
now known as Spring River, and is in Campbell County, South Dakota.
Concerning the stone images the Indians gave this tradition:--

“A young man was deeply enamoured with a girl whose parents refused
their consent to the marriage. The youth went out into the fields to
mourn his misfortunes; a sympathy of feeling led the lady to the same
spot, and the faithful dog would not cease to follow his master. After
wandering together and having nothing but grapes to subsist on, they
were at last converted into stone, which, beginning at the feet,
gradually invaded the nobler parts, leaving nothing unchanged but a
bunch of grapes which the female holds in her hand to this day. Whenever
the Ricaras pass these sacred stones, they stop to make some offering
of dress to propitiate these deities. Such is the account given by the
Ricara chief, which we had no mode of examining, except that we found
one part of the story very agreeably confirmed; for on the river near
where the event is said to have occurred we found a greater abundance of
fine grapes than we had yet seen.”

While at their last camp in the country now known as South Dakota,
October 14, 1804, one of the soldiers, tried by a court-martial for
mutinous conduct, was sentenced to receive seventy-five lashes on the
bare back. The sentence was carried out then and there. The Rickaree
chief, who accompanied the party for a time, was so affected by the
sight that he cried aloud during the whole proceeding. When the reasons
for the punishment were explained to him, he acknowledged the justice of
the sentence, but said he would have punished the offender with
death. His people, he added, never whip even their children at any age

On the eighteenth of October, the party reached Cannonball River, which
rises in the Black Hills and empties in the Missouri in Morton County,
North Dakota. Its name is derived from the perfectly round, smooth,
black stones that line its bed and shores. Here they saw great numbers
of antelope and herds of buffalo, and of elk. They killed six fallow
deer; and next day they counted fifty-two herds of buffalo and three
herds of elk at one view; they also observed deer, wolves, and pelicans
in large numbers.

The ledges in the bluffs along the river often held nests of the calumet
bird, or golden eagle. These nests, which are apparently resorted to,
year after year, by the same pair of birds, are usually out of reach,
except by means of ropes by which the hunters are let down from the
cliffs overhead. The tail-feathers of the bird are twelve in number,
about a foot long, and are pure white except at the tip, which is
jet-black. So highly prized are these by the Indians that they have been
known to exchange a good horse for two feathers.

The party saw here a great many elk, deer, antelope, and buffalo, and
these last were dogged along their way by wolves who follow them to feed
upon those that die by accident, or are too weak to keep up with the
herd. Sometimes the wolves would pounce upon a calf, too young and
feeble to trot with the other buffalo; and although the mother made an
effort to save her calf, the creature was left to the hungry wolves, the
herd moving along without delay.

On the twenty-first of October, the explorers reached a creek to which
the Indians gave the name of Chisshetaw, now known as Heart River,
which, rising in Stark County, North Dakota, and running circuitously
through Morton County, empties into the Missouri opposite the city of
Bismarck. At this point the Northern Pacific Railway now crosses the
Missouri; and here, where is built the capital of North Dakota, began,
in those days, a series of Mandan villages, with the people of which
the explorers were to become tolerably well acquainted; for it had been
decided that the increasing cold of the weather would compel them to
winter in this region. But they were as yet uncertain as to the exact
locality at which they would build their camp of winter. Here they met
one of the grand chiefs of the Mandans, who was on a hunting excursion
with his braves. This chief greeted with much ceremony the Rickaree
chief who accompanied the exploring party. The Mandans and Rickarees
were ancient enemies, but, following the peaceful councils of the white
men, the chiefs professed amity and smoked together the pipe of peace.
A son of the Mandan chief was observed to have lost both of his little
fingers, and when the strangers asked how this happened, they were told
that the fingers had been cut off (according to the Mandan custom) to
show the grief of the young man at the loss of some of his relations.

Chapter VI -- Winter among the Mandans

Before finally selecting the spot on which to build their winter
quarters, Lewis and Clark held councils with the chiefs of the tribes
who were to be their neighbors during the cold season. These were
Mandans, Annahaways, and Minnetarees, tribes living peacefully in the
same region of country. The principal Mandan chief was Black Cat; White
Buffalo Robe Unfolded represented the Annahaways, and the Minnetaree
chief was Black Moccasin. This last-named chief could not come to the
council, but was represented by Caltahcota, or Cherry on a Bush. The
palaver being over, presents were distributed. The account says:--

“One chief of each town was acknowledged by a gift of a flag, a medal
with the likeness of the President of the United States, a uniform coat,
hat and feather. To the second chiefs we gave a medal representing some
domestic animals and a loom for weaving; to the third chiefs, medals
with the impressions of a farmer sowing grain. A variety of other
presents were distributed, but none seemed to give them more
satisfaction than an iron corn-mill which we gave to the Mandans. . . .

“In the evening the prairie took fire, either by accident or design, and
burned with great fury, the whole plain being enveloped in flames.
So rapid was its progress that a man and a woman were burned to death
before they could reach a place of safety; another man, with his wife
and child, were much burned, and several other persons narrowly escaped
destruction. Among the rest, a boy of the half white breed escaped
unhurt in the midst of the flames; his safety was ascribed to the great
medicine spirit, who had preserved him on account of his being white.
But a much more natural cause was the presence of mind of his mother,
who, seeing no hopes of carrying off her son, threw him on the ground,
and, covering him with the fresh hide of a buffalo, escaped herself from
the flames. As soon as the fire had passed, she returned and found him
untouched, the skin having prevented the flame from reaching the grass
on which he lay.”

Next day, says the journal,--

“We were visited by two persons from the lower village: one, the Big
White, the chief of the village; the other, the Chayenne, called the Big
Man: they had been hunting, and did not return yesterday early enough to
attend the council. At their request we repeated part of our speech of
yesterday, and put the medal round the neck of the chief. Captain
Clark took a pirogue and went up the river in search of a good
wintering-place, and returned after going seven miles to the lower point
of an island on the north side, about one mile in length. He found the
banks on the north side high, with coal occasionally, and the country
fine on all sides; but the want of wood, and the scarcity of game up the
river, induced us to decide on fixing ourselves lower down during the
winter. In the evening our men danced among themselves, to the great
amusement of the Indians.”

It may be said here that the incident of a life saved from fire by a
raw-hide, originally related by Lewis and Clark, is the foundation of
a great many similar stories of adventures among the Indians. Usually,
however, it is a wise and well-seasoned white trapper who saves his life
by this device.

Having found a good site for their winter camp, the explorers now built
a number of huts, which they called Fort Mandan. The place was on the
north bank of the Missouri River, in what is now McLean County, North
Dakota, about sixteen hundred miles up the river from St. Louis, and
seven or eight miles below the mouth of Big Knife River. On the opposite
bank, years later, the United States built a military post known as Fort
Clark, which may be found on some of the present-day maps. The huts were
built of logs, and were arranged in two rows, four rooms in each hut,
the whole number being placed in the form of an angle, with a stockade,
or picket, across the two outer ends of the angle, in which was a gate,
kept locked at night. The roofs of the huts slanted upward from the
inner side of the rows, making the outer side of each hut eighteen feet
high; and the lofts of these were made warm and comfortable with dry
grass mixed with clay, Here they were continually visited during the
winter by Indians from all the region around. Here, too, they secured
the services of an interpreter, one Chaboneau, who continued with them
to the end. This man’s wife, Sacajawea, whose Indian name was translated
“Bird Woman,” had been captured from the Snake Indians and sold to
Chaboneau, who married her. She was “a good creature, of a mild and
gentle disposition, greatly attached to the whites.” In the expedition
she proved herself more valuable to the explorers than her husband, and
Lewis and Clark always speak of her in terms of respect and admiration.

It should not be understood that all the interpreters employed by white
men on such expeditions wholly knew the spoken language of the tribes
among whom they travelled. To some extent they relied upon the universal
language of signs to make themselves understood, and this method of
talking is known to all sorts and kinds of Indians. Thus, two fingers of
the right hand placed astraddle the wrist of the left hand signifies a
man on horseback; and the number of men on horseback is quickly added by
holding up the requisite number of fingers. Sleep is described by gently
inclining the head on the hand, and the number of “sleeps,” or nights,
is indicated by the fingers. Killed, or dead, is described by closed
eyes and a sudden fall of the head on the talker’s chest; and so on, an
easily understood gesture, with a few Indian words, being sufficient to
tell a long story very clearly.

Lewis and Clark discovered here a species of ermine before unknown
to science. They called it “a weasel, perfectly white except at the
extremity of the tail, which was black.” This animal, highly prized on
account of its pretty fur, was not scientifically described until as
late as 1829. It is a species of stoat.

The wars of some of the Indian tribes gave Lewis and Clark much trouble
and uneasiness. The Sioux were at war with the Minnetarees (Gros
Ventres, or Big Bellies); and the Assiniboins, who lived further to the
north, continually harassed the Sioux and the Mandans, treating these as
the latter did the Rickarees. The white chiefs had their hands full
all winter while trying to preserve peace among these quarrelsome and
thieving tribes, their favorite game being to steal each other’s horses.
The Indian method of caring for their horses in the cold winter was
to let them shift for themselves during the day, and to take them into
their own lodges at night where they were fed with the juicy, brittle
twigs of the cottonwood tree. With this spare fodder the animals thrive
and keep their coats fine and glossy.

Late in November, a collision between the Sioux and the Mandans became
almost certain, in consequence of the Sioux having attacked a small
hunting party of the Mandans, killing one, wounding two, and capturing
nine horses. Captain Clark mustered and armed twenty-four of his men,
crossed over into the Mandan village and offered to lead the Indians
against their enemies. The offer was declined on account of the deep
snows which prevented a march; but the incident made friends for white
men, and the tidings of it had a wholesome effect on the other tribes.

“The whole religion of the Mandans,” like that of many other savage
tribes, says the journal, “consists in the belief of one Great Spirit
presiding over their destinies. This Being must be in the nature of a
good genius, since it is associated with the healing art, and ‘great
spirit’ is synonymous with ‘great medicine,’ a name applied to
everything which they do not comprehend. Each individual selects for
himself the particular object of his devotion, which is termed his
medicine, and is either some invisible being, or more commonly some
animal, which thenceforward becomes his protector or his intercessor
with the Great Spirit, to propitiate whom every attention is lavished
and every personal consideration is sacrificed. ‘I was lately owner of
seventeen horses,’ said a Mandan to us one day, ‘but I have offered them
all up to my medicine and am now poor.’ He had in reality taken all his
wealth, his horses, into the plain, and, turning them loose, committed
them to the care of his medicine and abandoned them forever. The horses,
less religious, took care of themselves, and the pious votary travelled
home on foot.”

To this day, all the Northwest Indians speak of anything that is highly
useful or influential as “great medicine.”

One cold December day, a Mandan chief invited the explorers to join them
in a grand buffalo hunt. The journal adds:--

“Captain Clark with fifteen men went out and found the Indians engaged
in killing buffalo. The hunters, mounted on horseback and armed with
bows and arrows, encircle the herd and gradually drive them into a plain
or an open place fit for the movements of horse; they then ride in among
them, and singling out a buffalo, a female being preferred, go as close
as possible and wound her with arrows till they think they have
given the mortal stroke; when they pursue another, till the quiver is
exhausted. If, which rarely happens, the wounded buffalo attacks the
hunter, he evades his blow by the agility of his horse, which is trained
for the combat with great dexterity. When they have killed the requisite
number they collect their game, and the squaws and attendants come up
from the rear and skin and dress the animals. Captain Clark killed ten
buffalo, of which five only were brought to the fort; the rest, which
could not be conveyed home, being seized by the Indians, among whom the
custom is that whenever a buffalo is found dead without an arrow or
any particular mark, he is the property of the finder; so that often a
hunter secures scarcely any of the game he kills, if the arrow happens
to fall off.”

The weather now became excessively cold, the mercury often going
thirty-two degrees below zero. Notwithstanding this, however, the
Indians kept up their outdoor sports, one favorite game of which
resembled billiards. But instead of a table, the players had an open
flooring, about fifty yards long, and the balls were rings of stone,
shot along the flooring by means of sticks like billiard-cues. The white
men had their sports, and they forbade the Indians to visit them on
Christmas Day, as this was one of their “great medicine days.” The
American flag was hoisted on the fort and saluted with a volley of
musketry. The men danced among themselves; their best provisions
were brought out and “the day passed,” says the journal, “in great

The party also celebrated New Year’s Day by similar festivities. Sixteen
of the men were given leave to go up to the first Mandan village with
their musical instruments, where they delighted the whole tribe with
their dances, one of the French voyageurs being especially applauded
when he danced on his hands with his head downwards. The dancers and
musicians were presented with several buffalo-robes and a large quantity
of Indian corn. The cold grew more intense, and on the tenth of the
month the mercury stood at forty degrees below zero. Some of the men
were badly frost-bitten, and a young Indian, about thirteen years old,
who had been lost in the snows, came into the fort. The journal says:--

“His father, who came last night to inquire after him very anxiously,
had sent him in the afternoon to the fort; he was overtaken by the
night, and was obliged to sleep on the snow with no covering except a
pair of antelope-skin moccasins and leggins, and a buffalo-robe. His
feet being frozen, we put them into cold water, and gave him every
attention in our power. About the same time an Indian who had also been
missing returned to the fort. Although his dress was very thin, and he
had slept on the snow without a fire, he had not suffered the slightest
inconvenience. We have indeed observed that these Indians support the
rigors of the season in a way which we had hitherto thought impossible.
A more pleasing reflection occurred at seeing the warm interest which
the situation of these two persons had excited in the village. The boy
had been a prisoner, and adopted from charity; yet the distress of the
father proved that he felt for him the tenderest affection. The man was
a person of no distinction, yet the whole village was full of anxiety
for his safety; and, when they came to us, borrowed a sleigh to bring
them home with ease if they had survived, or to carry their bodies if
they had perished. . . .

“January 13. Nearly one half of the Mandan nation passed down the river
to hunt for several days. In these excursions, men, women, and children,
with their dogs, all leave the village together, and, after discovering
a spot convenient for the game, fix their tents; all the family bear
their part in the labor, and the game is equally divided among the
families of the tribe. When a single hunter returns from the chase with
more than is necessary for his own immediate consumption, the neighbors
are entitled by custom to a share of it: they do not, however, ask for
it, but send a squaw, who, without saying anything, sits down by the
door of the lodge till the master understands the hint, and gives her
gratuitously a part for her family.”

By the end of January, 1805, the weather had so far moderated that the
explorers thought they might cut their boats from the ice in the river
and prepare to resume their voyage; but the ice being three feet thick,
they made no progress and were obliged to give up the attempt. Their
stock of meat was low, although they had had good success when the cold
was not too severe to prevent them from hunting deer, elk, and buffalo.
The Mandans, who were careless in providing food for future supplies,
also suffered for want of meat, sometimes going for days without flesh
food. Captain Clark and eighteen men went down the river in search of
game. The hunters, after being out nine days, returned and reported that
they had killed forty deer, three buffalo, and sixteen elk. But much of
the game was lean and poor, and the wolves, who devour everything left
out at night, had stolen a quantity of the flesh. Four men, with sleds,
were sent out to bring into camp the meat, which had been secured
against wolves by being stored in pens. These men were attacked by
Sioux, about one hundred in number, who robbed them of their game
and two of their three horses. Captain Lewis, with twenty-four men,
accompanied by some of the Mandans, set out in pursuit of the marauders.
They were unsuccessful, however, but, having found a part of their game
untouched, they brought it back, and this, with other game killed after
their chase of the Sioux, gave them three thousand pounds of meat; they
had killed thirty-six deer, fourteen elk, and one wolf.

By the latter part of February, the party were able to get their boats
from the ice. These were dragged ashore, and the work of making them
ready for their next voyage was begun. As the ice in the river began to
break up, the Mandans had great sport chasing across the floating cakes
of ice the buffalo who were tempted over by the appearance of green,
growing grass on the other side. The Indians were very expert in their
pursuit of the animals, which finally slipped from their insecure
footing on the drifting ice, and were killed.

At this point, April 7, 1805, the escorting party, the voyageurs, and
one interpreter, returned down the river in their barge. This party
consisted of thirteen persons, all told, and to them were intrusted
several packages of specimens for President Jefferson, with letters
and official reports. The presents for Mr. Jefferson, according to the
journal, “consisted of a stuffed male and female antelope, with their
skeletons, a weasel, three squirrels from the Rocky Mountains, the
skeleton of a prairie wolf, those of a white and gray hare, a male
and female blaireau, (badger) or burrowing dog of the prairie, with a
skeleton of the female, two burrowing squirrels, a white weasel, and the
skin of the louservia (loup-servier, or lynx), the horns of a mountain
ram, or big-horn, a pair of large elk horns, the horns and tail of a
black-tailed deer, and a variety of skins, such as those of the red fox,
white hare, marten, yellow bear, obtained from the Sioux; also a number
of articles of Indian dress, among which was a buffalo robe representing
a battle fought about eight years since between the Sioux and Ricaras
against the Mandans and Minnetarees, in which the combatants are
represented on horseback. . . . Such sketches, rude and imperfect as
they are, delineate the predominant character of the savage nations.
If they are peaceable and inoffensive, the drawings usually consist of
local scenery and their favorite diversions. If the band are rude and
ferocious, we observe tomahawks, scalping-knives, bows and arrows, and
all the engines of destruction.--A Mandan bow, and quiver of arrows;
also some Ricara tobacco-seed, and an ear of Mandan corn: to these were
added a box of plants, another of insects, and three cases containing a
burrowing squirrel, a prairie hen, and four magpies, all alive.” . . .

The articles reached Mr. Jefferson safely and were long on view at his
Virginia residence, Monticello. They were subsequently dispersed, and
some found their way to Peale’s Museum, Philadelphia. Dr. Cones, the
zealous editor of the latest and fullest edition of Lewis and Clark’s
narrative, says that some of the specimens of natural history were
probably extant in 1893.

Chapter VII -- From Fort Mandan to the Yellowstone

Up to this time, the expedition had passed through regions from which
vague reports had been brought by the few white men who, as hunters and
trappers in pursuit of fur-bearing game, had dared to venture into these
trackless wildernesses. Now they were to launch out into the mysterious
unknown, from which absolutely no tidings had ever been brought by white
men. The dim reports of Indians who had hunted through some parts of the
region were unreliable, and, as they afterwards proved, were often as
absurdly false as if they had been fairy tales.

Here, too, they parted from some of their comrades who were to return
to “the United States,” as the explorers fondly termed their native
country, although the strange lands through which they were voyaging
were now a part of the American Republic. The despatches sent to
Washington by these men contained the first official report from Lewis
and Clark since their departure from St. Louis, May 16, 1803; and they
were the last word from the explorers until their return in September,
1806. During all that long interval, the adventurers were not heard of
in the States. No wonder that croakers declared that the little party
had been cut off to perish miserably in the pathless woods that cover
the heart of the continent.

But they set out on the long journey with light hearts. In his journal,
whose spelling and punctuation are not always models for the faithful
imitation of school-boys, Captain Lewis set down this observation:--

“Our vessels consisted of six small canoes, and two large perogues. This
little fleet altho’ not quite so respectable as those of Columbus or
Capt. Cook, were still viewed by us with as much pleasure as those
deservedly famed adventurers ever beheld theirs; and I dare say with
quite as much anxiety for their safety and preservation. We were now
about to penetrate a country at least two thousand miles in width, on
which the foot of civilized man had never trodden; the good or evil
it had in store for us was for experiment yet to determine, and these
little vessels contained every article by which we were to expect to
subsist or defend ourselves. However as the state of mind in which we
are, generally gives the colouring to events, when the imagination is
suffered to wander into futurity, the picture which now presented itself
to me was a most pleasing one. Entertaining as I do the most confident
hope of succeeding in a voyage which had formed a darling project of
mine for the last ten years, I could but esteem this moment of our
departure as among the most happy of my life.”

The barge sent down the river to St. Louis was in command of Corporal
Wharfington; and with him were six private soldiers, two French
voyageurs, Joseph Gravelines (pilot and interpreter), and Brave Raven, a
Ricara (or Arikara) chief who was to be escorted to Washington to visit
the President. The party was also intrusted with sundry gifts for the
President, among them being natural history specimens, living and dead,
and a number of Indian articles which would be objects of curiosity in

The long voyage of the main party began on the 8th of April, 1805, early
passing the mouth of the Big Knife River, one of the five considerable
streams that fall into the Missouri from the westward in this region;
the other streams are the Owl, the Grand, the Cannonball, and the Heart.
The large town of Stanton, Mercer County, North Dakota, is now situated
at the mouth of the Big Knife. The passage of the party up the river was
slow, owing to unfavorable winds; and they observed along the banks
many signs of early convulsions of nature. The earth of the bluffs was
streaked with layers of coal, or carbonized wood, and large quantities
of lava and pumice-stone were strewn around, showing traces of ancient
volcanic action. The journal of April 9 says:--

“A great number of brants (snow-geese) pass up the river; some of them
are perfectly white, except the large feathers of the first joint of
the wing, which are black, though in every other characteristic they
resemble common gray brant. We also saw but could not procure an animal
(gopher) that burrows in the ground, and is similar in every respect to
the burrowing-squirrel, except that it is only one-third of its size.
This may be the animal whose works we have often seen in the plains and
prairies; they resemble the labors of the salamander in the sand-hills
of South Carolina and Georgia, and like him the animals rarely come
above ground; they consist of a little hillock of ten or twelve pounds
of loose ground, which would seem to have been reversed from a pot,
though no aperture is seen through which it could have been thrown. On
removing gently the earth, you discover that the soil has been broken
in a circle of about an inch and a half diameter, where the ground is
looser, though still no opening is perceptible. When we stopped for
dinner the squaw (Sacajawea) went out, and after penetrating with a
sharp stick the holes of the mice (gophers), near some drift-wood,
brought to us a quantity of wild artichokes, which the mice collect and
hoard in large numbers. The root is white, of an ovate form, from one to
three inches long, and generally of the size of a man’s finger, and two,
four, and sometimes six roots are attached to a single stalk. Its
flavor as well as the stalk which issues from it resemble those of the
Jerusalem artichoke, except that the latter is much larger.”

The weather rapidly grew so warm, although this was early in April,
that the men worked half-naked during the day; and they were very much
annoyed by clouds of mosquitoes. They found that the hillsides and
even the banks of the rivers and sand-bars were covered with “a white
substance, which appears in considerable quantities on the surface
of the earth, and tastes like a mixture of common salt with Glauber’s
salts.” “Many of the streams,” the journal adds, “are so strongly
impregnated with this substance that the water has an unpleasant taste
and a purgative effect.” This is nothing more than the so-called alkali
which has since become known all over the farthest West. It abounds in
the regions west of Salt Lake Valley, whitening vast areas like snow and
poisoning the waters so that the traveller often sees the margins of
the brown pools lined with skeletons and bodies of small animals whose
thirst had led them to drink the deadly fluid. Men and animals stiffer
from smaller doses of this stuff, which is largely a sulphate of soda,
and even in small quantities is harmful to the system.

Here, on the twelfth of April, they were able to determine the exact
course of the Little Missouri, a stream about which almost nothing was
then known. Near here, too, they found the source of the Mouse River,
only a few miles from the Missouri. The river, bending to the north and
then making many eccentric curves, finally empties into Lake Winnipeg,
and so passes into the great chain of northern lakes in British America.
At this point the explorers saw great flocks of the wild Canada goose.
The journal says:--

“These geese, we observe, do not build their nests on the ground or in
the sand-bars, but in the tops of the lofty cottonwood trees. We saw
some elk and buffalo to-day, but at too great a distance to obtain
any of them, though a number of the carcasses of the latter animal are
strewed along the shore, having fallen through the ice and been swept
along when the river broke up. More bald eagles are seen on this part of
the Missouri than we have previously met with; the small sparrow-hawk,
common in most parts of the United States, is also found here. Great
quantities of geese are feeding on the prairies, and one flock of white
brant, or geese with black-tipped wings, and some gray brant with them,
pass up the river; from their flight they seem to proceed much further
to the northwest. We killed two antelopes, which were very lean, and
caught last night two beavers.”

Lewis and Clark were laughed at by some very knowing people who
scouted the idea that wild geese build their nests in trees. But later
travellers have confirmed their story; the wise geese avoid foxes and
other of their four-footed enemies by fixing their homes in the tall
cottonwoods. In other words, they roost high.

The Assiniboins from the north had lately been on their spring hunting
expeditions through this region,--just above the Little Missouri,--and
game was scarce and shy. The journal, under the date of April 14,

“One of the hunters shot at an otter last evening; a buffalo was killed,
and an elk, both so poor as to be almost unfit for use; two white
(grizzly) bears were also seen, and a muskrat swimming across the river.
The river continues wide and of about the same rapidity as the ordinary
current of the Ohio. The low grounds are wide, the moister parts
containing timber; the upland is extremely broken, without wood, and in
some places seems as if it had slipped down in masses of several acres
in surface. The mineral appearance of salts, coal, and sulphur, with the
burnt hill and pumice-stone, continue, and a bituminous water about
the color of strong lye, with the taste of Glauber’s salts and a slight
tincture of alum. Many geese were feeding in the prairies, and a number
of magpies, which build their nests much like those of the blackbird, in
trees, and composed of small sticks, leaves, and grass, open at the top;
the egg is of a bluish-brown color, freckled with reddish-brown spots.
We also killed a large hooting-owl resembling that of the United States
except that it was more booted and clad with feathers. On the hills
are many aromatic herbs, resembling in taste, smell, and appearance the
sage, hyssop, wormwood, southernwood, juniper, and dwarf cedar; a plant
also about two or three feet high, similar to the camphor in smell and
taste; and another plant of the same size, with a long, narrow, smooth,
soft leaf, of an agreeable smell and flavor, which is a favorite food of
the antelope, whose necks are often perfumed by rubbing against it.”

What the journalist intended to say here was that at least one of the
aromatic herbs resembled sage, hyssop, wormwood, and southernwood, and
that there were junipers and dwarf cedars. The pungent-smelling herb was
the wild sage, now celebrated in stories of adventure as the sage-brush.
It grows abundantly in the alkali country, and is browsed upon by a
species of grouse known as the sage-hen. Junipers and dwarf cedars also
grow on the hills of the alkali and sage-brush country. The sage belongs
to the Artemisia family of plants.

Four days later, the journal had this interesting entry:

“The country to-day presented the usual variety of highlands
interspersed with rich plains. In one of these we observed a species of
pea bearing a yellow flower, which is now in blossom, the leaf and stalk
resembling the common pea. It seldom rises higher than six inches, and
the root is perennial. On the rose-bushes we also saw a quantity of
the hair of a buffalo, which had become perfectly white by exposure and
resembled the wool of the sheep, except that it was much finer and more
soft and silky. A buffalo which we killed yesterday had shed his long
hair, and that which remained was about two inches long, thick, fine,
and would have furnished five pounds of wool, of which we have no doubt
an excellent cloth may be made. Our game to-day was a beaver, a deer, an
elk, and some geese. . . .

“On the hills we observed considerable quantities of dwarf juniper,
which seldom grows higher than three feet. We killed in the course of
the day an elk, three geese, and a beaver. The beaver on this part of
the Missouri are in greater quantities, larger and fatter, and their fur
is more abundant and of a darker color, than any we have hitherto seen.
Their favorite food seems to be the bark of the cottonwood and willow,
as we have seen no other species of tree that has been touched by them,
and these they gnaw to the ground through a diameter of twenty inches.”

And on the twenty-first of April the journal says:

“Last night there was a hard white frost, and this morning the weather
was cold, but clear and pleasant; in the course of the day, however, it
became cloudy and the wind rose. The country is of the same description
as within the few last days. We saw immense quantities of buffalo,
elk, deer, antelopes, geese, and some swans and ducks, out of which we
procured three deer and four buffalo calves, which last are equal in
flavor to the most delicious veal; also two beaver and an otter.”

As the party advanced to the westward, following the crooked course
of the Missouri, they were very much afflicted with inflamed eyes,
occasioned by the fine, alkaline dust that blew so lightly that it
sometimes floated for miles, like clouds of smoke. The dust even
penetrated the works of one of their watches, although it was protected
by tight, double cases. In these later days, even the double windows of
the railway trains do not keep out this penetrating dust, which makes
one’s skin dry and rough.

On the twenty-fifth of April, the explorers believed, by the signs which
they observed, that they must be near the great unknown river of which
they had dimly heard as rising in the rocky passes of the Great Divide
and emptying into the Missouri. Captain Lewis accordingly left the
party, with four men, and struck off across the country in search of
the stream. Under the next day’s date the journal reports the return of
Captain Lewis and says:--

“On leaving us yesterday he pursued his route along the foot of the
hills, which he descended to the distance of eight miles; from these
the wide plains watered by the Missouri and the Yellowstone spread
themselves before the eye, occasionally varied with the wood of the
banks, enlivened by the irregular windings of the two rivers, and
animated by vast herds of buffalo, deer, elk, and antelope. The
confluence of the two rivers was concealed by the wood, but the
Yellowstone itself was only two miles distant, to the south. He
therefore descended the hills and camped on the bank of the river,
having killed, as he crossed the plain, four buffaloes; the deer alone
are shy and retire to the woods, but the elk, antelope, and buffalo
suffered him to approach them without alarm, and often followed him
quietly for some distance.”

The famous water-course, first described by Lewis and Clark, was named
by them the Yellow Stone River. Earlier than this, however, the French
voyageurs had called the Upper Missouri the Riviere Jaune, or Yellow
River; but it is certain that the stream, which rises in the Yellowstone
National Park, was discovered and named by Lewis and Clark. One of the
party, Private Joseph Fields, was the first white man who ever ascended
the Yellowstone for any considerable distance. Sent up the river by
Captains Lewis and Clark, he travelled about eight miles, and observed
the currents and sand-bars. Leaving the mouth of the river, the party
went on their course along the Missouri. The journal, under date of
April 27, says:--

“From the point of junction a wood occupies the space between the two
rivers, which at the distance of a mile come within two hundred and
fifty yards of each other. There a beautiful low plain commences,
widening as the rivers recede, and extends along each of them for
several miles, rising about half a mile from the Missouri into a plain
twelve feet higher than itself. The low plain is a few inches above high
water mark, and where it joins the higher plain there is a channel of
sixty or seventy yards in width, through which a part of the Missouri,
when at its greatest height, passes into the Yellowstone. . . .

“The northwest wind rose so high at eleven o’clock that we were obliged
to stop till about four in the afternoon, when we proceeded till dusk.
On the south a beautiful plain separates the two rivers, till at about
six miles there is a piece of low timbered ground, and a little above it
bluffs, where the country rises gradually from the river: the situations
on the north are more high and open. We encamped on that side, the
wind, the sand which it raised, and the rapidity of the current having
prevented our advancing more than eight miles; during the latter part of
the day the river became wider, and crowded with sand-bars. The game
was in such plenty that we killed only what was necessary for our
subsistence. For several days past we have seen great numbers of buffalo
lying dead along the shore, some of them partly devoured by the wolves.
They have either sunk through the ice during the winter, or been drowned
in attempting to cross; or else, after crossing to some high bluff, have
found themselves too much exhausted either to ascend or swim back again,
and perished for want of food: in this situation we found several small
parties of them. There are geese, too, in abundance, and more bald
eagles than we have hitherto observed; the nests of these last being
always accompanied by those of two or three magpies, who are their
inseparable attendants.”

Chapter VIII -- In the Haunts of Grizzlies and Buffalo

Game, which had been somewhat scarce after leaving the Yellowstone,
became more plentiful as they passed on to the westward, still
following the winding course of the Missouri. Much of the time, baffling
winds and the crookedness of the stream made sailing impossible, and the
boats were towed by men walking along the banks.

Even this was sometimes difficult, on account of the rocky ledges that
beset the shores, and sharp stones that lay in the path of the towing
parties. On the twenty-eighth of April, however, having a favorable
wind, the party made twenty-eight miles with their sails, which was
reckoned a good day’s journey. On that day the journal records that game
had again become very abundant, deer of various kinds, elk, buffalo,
antelope, bear, beaver, and geese being numerous. The beaver, it was
found, had wrought much damage by gnawing down trees; some of these, not
less than three feet in diameter had been gnawed clean through by the
beaver. On the following day the journal has this record:--

“We proceeded early, with a moderate wind. Captain Lewis, who was on
shore with one hunter, met, about eight o’clock, two white (grizzly)
bears. Of the strength and ferocity of this animal the Indians had given
us dreadful accounts. They never attack him but in parties of six or
eight persons, and even then are often defeated with a loss of one or
more of their party. Having no weapons but bows and arrows, and the bad
guns with which the traders supply them, they are obliged to approach
very near to the bear; as no wound except through the head or heart
is mortal, they frequently fall a sacrifice if they miss their aim. He
rather attacks than avoids a man, and such is the terror which he has
inspired, that the Indians who go in quest of him paint themselves and
perform all the superstitious rites customary when they make war on a
neighboring nation. Hitherto, those bears we had seen did not appear
desirous of encountering us; but although to a skilful rifleman the
danger is very much diminished, yet the white bear is still a terrible
animal. On approaching these two, both Captain Lewis and the hunter
fired, and each wounded a bear. One of them made his escape; the other
turned upon Captain Lewis and pursued him seventy or eighty yards, but
being badly wounded the bear could not run so fast as to prevent him
from reloading his piece, which he again aimed at him, and a third shot
from the hunter brought him to the ground. He was a male, not quite full
grown, and weighed about three hundred pounds. The legs are somewhat
longer than those of the black bear, and the talons and tusks much
larger and longer. Its color is a yellowish-brown; the eyes are small,
black, and piercing; the front of the fore legs near the feet is usually
black, and the fur is finer, thicker, and deeper than that of the black
bear. Add to which, it is a more furious animal, and very remarkable for
the wounds which it will bear without dying.”

Next day, the hunter killed the largest elk which they had ever seen. It
stood five feet three inches high from hoof to shoulder. Antelopes were
also numerous, but lean, and not very good for food. Of the antelope the
journal says:--

“These fleet and quick-sighted animals are generally the victims of
their curiosity. When they first see the hunters, they run with great
velocity; if he lies down on the ground, and lifts up his arm, his hat,
or his foot, they return with a light trot to look at the object, and
sometimes go and return two or three times, till they approach within
reach of the rifle. So, too, they sometimes leave their flock to go
and look at the wolves, which crouch down, and, if the antelope is
frightened at first, repeat the same manoevre, and sometimes relieve
each other, till they decoy it from the party, when they seize it. But,
generally, the wolves take them as they are crossing the rivers; for,
although swift on foot, they are not good swimmers.”

Later wayfarers across the plains were wont to beguile the antelope by
fastening a bright-colored handkerchief to a ramrod stuck in the ground.
The patient hunter was certain to be rewarded by the antelope coming
within range of his rifle; for, unless scared off by some interference,
the herd, after galloping around and around and much zigzagging, would
certainly seek to gratify their curiosity by gradually circling nearer
and nearer the strange object until a deadly shot or two sent havoc into
their ranks.

May came on cold and windy, and on the second of the month, the journal
records that snow fell to the depth of an inch, contrasting strangely
with the advanced vegetation.

“Our game to-day,” proceeds the journal, “were deer, elk, and buffalo:
we also procured three beaver. They were here quite gentle, as they have
not been hunted; but when the hunters are in pursuit, they never leave
their huts during the day. This animal we esteem a great delicacy,
particularly the tail, which, when boiled, resembles in flavor the
fresh tongues and sounds of the codfish, and is generally so large as to
afford a plentiful meal for two men. One of the hunters, in passing near
an old Indian camp, found several yards of scarlet cloth suspended on
the bough of a tree, as a sacrifice to the deity, by the Assiniboins;
the custom of making these offerings being common among that people, as,
indeed, among all the Indians on the Missouri. The air was sharp this
evening; the water froze on the oars as we rowed.”

The Assiniboin custom of sacrificing to their deity, or “great
medicine,” the article which they most value themselves, is not by any
means peculiar to that tribe, nor to the Indian race.

An unusual number of porcupines were seen along here, and these
creatures were so free from wildness that they fed on, undisturbed,
while the explorers walked around and among them. The captains named
a bold and beautiful stream, which here entered the Missouri from the
north,--Porcupine River; but modern geography calls the water-course
Poplar River; at the mouth of the river, in Montana, is now the Poplar
River Indian Agency and military post. The waters of this stream, the
explorers found, were clear and transparent,--an exception to all the
streams, which, discharging into the Missouri, give it its name of the
Big Muddy. The journal adds:--

“A quarter of a mile beyond this river a creek falls in on the south,
to which, on account of its distance from the mouth of the Missouri, we
gave the name of Two-thousand-mile creek. It is a bold stream with a bed
thirty yards wide. At three and one-half miles above Porcupine River,
we reached some high timber on the north, and camped just above an
old channel of the river, which is now dry. We saw vast quantities of
buffalo, elk, deer,--principally of the long-tailed kind,--antelope,
beaver, geese, ducks, brant, and some swan. The porcupines too are
numerous, and so careless and clumsy that we can approach very near
without disturbing them, as they are feeding on the young willows.
Toward evening we also found for the first time the nest of a goose
among some driftwood, all that we had hitherto seen being on the top of
a broken tree on the forks, invariably from fifteen to twenty or more
feet in height.”

“Next day,” May 4, says the journal, “we passed some old Indian
hunting-camps, one of which consisted of two large lodges, fortified
with a circular fence twenty or thirty feet in diameter, made of timber
laid horizontally, the beams overlying each other to the height of five
feet, and covered with the trunks and limbs of trees that have drifted
down the river. The lodges themselves are formed by three or more strong
sticks about the size of a man’s leg or arm and twelve feet long, which
are attached at the top by a withe of small willows, and spread out so
as to form at the base a circle of ten to fourteen feet in diameter.
Against these are placed pieces of driftwood and fallen timber, usually
in three ranges, one on the other; the interstices are covered with
leaves, bark, and straw, so as to form a conical figure about ten feet
high, with a small aperture in one side for the door. It is, however, at
best a very imperfect shelter against the inclemencies of the seasons.”

Wolves were very abundant along the route of the explorers, the
most numerous species being the common kind, now known as the coyote
(pronounced kyote), and named by science the canis latrans. These
animals are cowardly and sly creatures, of an intermediate size between
the fox and dog, very delicately formed, fleet and active.

“The ears are large, erect, and pointed; the head is long and pointed,
like that of the fox; the tail long and bushy; the hair and fur are of a
pale reddish-brown color, though much coarser than that of the fox; the
eye is of a deep sea-green color, small and piercing; the talons are
rather longer than those of the wolf of the Atlantic States, which
animal, as far as we can perceive, is not to be found on this side of
the Platte. These wolves usually associate in bands of ten or twelve,
and are rarely, if ever, seen alone, not being able, singly, to attack a
deer or antelope. They live and rear their young in burrows, which they
fix near some pass or spot much frequented by game, and sally out in a
body against any animal which they think they can overpower; but on the
slightest alarm retreat to their burrows, making a noise exactly like
that of a small dog.

“A second species is lower, shorter in the legs, and thicker than the
Atlantic wolf; the color, which is not affected by the seasons, is of
every variety of shade, from a gray or blackish-brown to a cream-colored
white. They do not burrow, nor do they bark, but howl; they frequent the
woods and plains, and skulk along the skirts of the buffalo herds, in
order to attack the weary or wounded.”

Under date of May 5, the journal has an interesting story of an
encounter with a grizzly bear, which, by way of variety, is here called
“brown,” instead of “white.” It is noticeable that the explorers dwelt
with much minuteness upon the peculiar characteristics of the grizzly;
this is natural enough when we consider that they were the first white
men to form an intimate acquaintance with “Ursus horribilis.” The
account says:--

“Captain Clark and one of the hunters met, this evening, the largest
brown bear we have seen. As they fired he did not attempt to attack,
but fled with a most tremendous roar; and such was his extraordinary
tenacity of life, that, although he had five balls passed through his
lungs, and five other wounds, he swam more than half across the river to
a sand-bar, and survived twenty minutes. He weighed between five and six
hundred pounds at least, and measured eight feet seven inches and a half
from the nose to the extremity of the hind feet, five feet ten inches
and a half round the breast, three feet eleven inches round the neck,
one foot eleven inches round the middle of the fore leg, and his claws
five on each foot, were four inches and three-eighths in length. This
animal differs from the common black bear in having his claws much
longer and more blunt; his tail shorter; his hair of a reddish or bay
brown, longer, finer, and more abundant; his liver, lungs, and heart
much larger even in proportion to his size, the heart, particularly,
being equal to that of a large ox; and his maw ten times larger. Besides
fish and flesh, he feeds on roots and every kind of wild fruit.”

On May 8 the party discovered the largest and most important of the
northern tributaries of the Upper Missouri. The journal thus describes
the stream:--

“Its width at the entrance is one hundred and fifty yards; on going
three miles up, Captain Lewis found it to be of the same breadth and
sometimes more; it is deep, gentle, and has a large quantity of water;
its bed is principally of mud; the banks are abrupt, about twelve
feet in height, and formed of a dark, rich loam and blue clay; the
low grounds near it are wide and fertile, and possess a considerable
proportion of cottonwood and willow. It seems to be navigable for boats
and canoes; by this circumstance, joined to its course and quantity of
water, which indicates that it passes through a large extent of
country, we are led to presume that it may approach the Saskaskawan
(Saskatchewan) and afford a communication with that river. The water has
a peculiar whiteness, such as might be produced by a tablespoonful of
milk in a dish of tea, and this circumstance induced us to call it Milk

Modern geography shows that the surmise of Captain Lewis was correct.
Some of the tributaries of Milk River (the Indian name of which
signifies “The River that Scolds at all Others”) have their rise near
St. Mary’s River, which is one of the tributaries of the Saskatchewan,
in British America.

The explorers were surprised to find the bed of a dry river, as deep and
as wide as the Missouri itself, about fifteen miles above Milk River.
Although it had every appearance of a water-course, it did not discharge
a drop of water. Their journal says:--

“It passes through a wide valley without timber; the surrounding country
consists of waving low hills, interspersed with some handsome level
plains; the banks are abrupt, and consist of a black or yellow clay,
or of a rich sandy loam; though they do not rise more than six or eight
feet above the bed, they exhibit no appearance of being overflowed; the
bed is entirely composed of a light brown sand, the particles of which,
like those of the Missouri, are extremely fine. Like the dry rivers we
passed before, this seemed to have discharged its waters recently, but
the watermark indicated that its greatest depth had not been more than
two feet. This stream, if it deserve the name, we called Bigdry (Big
Dry) River.”

And Big Dry it remains on the maps unto this day. In this region the
party recorded this observation:--

“The game is now in great quantities, particularly the elk and buffalo,
which last is so gentle that the men are obliged to drive them out
of the way with sticks and stones. The ravages of the beaver are very
apparent; in one place the timber was entirely prostrated for a space of
three acres in front on the river and one in depth, and great part of it
removed, though the trees were in large quantities, and some of them as
thick as the body of a man.”

Yet so great have been the ravages of man among these gentle creatures,
that elk are now very rarely found in the region, and the buffalo have
almost utterly disappeared from the face of the earth. Just after
the opening of the Northern Pacific Railway, in 1883, a band of sixty
buffaloes were heard of, far to the southward of Bismarck, and a party
was organized to hunt them. The _bold_ hunters afterwards boasted that
they killed every one of this little band of survivors of their race.

The men were now (in the middle of May) greatly troubled with boils,
abscesses, and inflamed eyes, caused by the poison of the alkali that
covered much of the ground and corrupted the water. Here is an entry in
the journal of May 11:--

“About five in the afternoon one of our men (Bratton), who had been
afflicted with boils and suffered to walk on shore, came running to the
boats with loud cries, and every symptom of terror and distress. For
some time after we had taken him on board he was so much out of breath
as to be unable to describe the cause of his anxiety; but he at length
told us that about a mile and a half below he had shot a brown bear,
which immediately turned and was in close pursuit of him; but the bear
being badly wounded could not overtake him. Captain Lewis, with seven
men, immediately went in search of him; having found his track they
followed him by the blood for a mile, found him concealed in some
thick brushwood, and shot him with two balls through the skull. Though
somewhat smaller than that killed a few days ago, he was a monstrous
animal, and a most terrible enemy. Our man had shot him through the
centre of the lungs; yet he had pursued him furiously for half a
mile, then returned more than twice that distance, and with his talons
prepared himself a bed in the earth two feet deep and five feet long;
he was perfectly alive when they found him, which was at least two hours
after he had received the wound. The wonderful power of life which these
animals possess renders them dreadful; their very track in the mud or
sand, which we have sometimes found eleven inches long and seven and
one-fourth wide, exclusive of the talons, is alarming; and we had rather
encounter two Indians than meet a single brown bear. There is no chance
of killing them by a single shot unless the ball goes through the brain,
and this is very difficult on account of two large muscles which cover
the side of the forehead and the sharp projection of the centre of the
frontal bone, which is also thick.

“Our camp was on the south, at the distance of sixteen miles from that
of last night. The fleece and skin of the bear were a heavy burden for
two men, and the oil amounted to eight gallons.”

The name of the badly-scared Bratton was bestowed upon a creek which
discharges into the Missouri near the scene of this encounter. Game
continued to be very abundant. On the fourteenth, according to the
journal, the hunters were hunted, to their great discomfiture. The
account says:--

“Toward evening the men in the hindmost canoes discovered a large brown
(grizzly) bear lying in the open grounds, about three hundred paces from
the river. Six of them, all good hunters, immediately went to attack
him, and concealing themselves by a small eminence came unperceived
within forty paces of him. Four of the hunters now fired, and each
lodged a ball in his body, two of them directly through the lungs. The
furious animal sprang up and ran open-mouthed upon them.

“As he came near, the two hunters who had reserved their fire gave him
two wounds, one of which, breaking his shoulder, retarded his motion
for a moment; but before they could reload he was so near that they
were obliged to run to the river, and before they had reached it he
had almost overtaken them. Two jumped into the canoe; the other four
separated, and, concealing themselves in the willows, fired as fast
as they could reload. They struck him several times, but, instead of
weakening the monster, each shot seemed only to direct him towards the
hunters, till at last he pursued two of them so closely that they threw
aside their guns and pouches, and jumped down a perpendicular bank of
twenty feet into the river: the bear sprang after them, and was within
a few feet of the hindmost, when one of the hunters on shore shot him
in the head, and finally killed him. They dragged him to the shore, and
found that eight balls had passed through him in different directions.
The bear was old, and the meat tough, so that they took the skin only,
and rejoined us at camp, where we had been as much terrified by an
accident of a different kind.

“This was the narrow escape of one of our canoes, containing all our
papers, instruments, medicine, and almost every article indispensable
for the success of our enterprise. The canoe being under sail, a sudden
squall of wind struck her obliquely and turned her considerably. The man
at the helm, who was unluckily the worst steersman of the party, became
alarmed, and, instead of putting her before the wind, luffed her up into
it. The wind was so high that it forced the brace of the square-sail
out of the hand of the man who was attending it, and instantly upset the
canoe, which would have been turned bottom upward but for the resistance
made by the awning. Such was the confusion on board, and the waves ran
so high, that it was half a minute before she righted, and then nearly
full of water, but by bailing her out she was kept from sinking until
they rowed ashore. Besides the loss of the lives of three men, who, not
being able to swim, would probably have perished, we should have been
deprived of nearly everything necessary for our purposes, at a distance
of between two and three thousand miles from any place where we could
supply the deficiency.”

Fortunately, there was no great loss from this accident, which was
caused by the clumsiness and timidity of the steersman, Chaboneau.
Captain Lewis’s account of the incident records that the conduct of
Chaboneau’s wife, Sacajawea, was better than that of her cowardly
husband. He says:--

“The Indian woman, to whom I ascribe equal fortitude and resolution with
any person on board at the time of the accident, caught and preserved
most of the light articles which were washed overboard.”

Chapter IX -- In the Solitudes of the Upper Missouri

Under date of May 17, the journal of the party has the following
interesting entries:--

“We set out early and proceeded on very well; the banks being firm and
the shore bold, we were enabled to use the towline, which, whenever
the banks will permit it, is the safest and most expeditious mode of
ascending the river, except under sail with a steady breeze. At the
distance of ten and one-half miles we came to the mouth of a small creek
on the south, below which the hills approach the river, and continue
near it during the day. Three miles further is a large creek on the
north; and again, six and three-quarters miles beyond this, is another
large creek, to the south; both containing a small quantity of running
water, of a brackish taste. The last we called Rattlesnake Creek, from
our seeing that animal near it. Although no timber can be observed on
it from the Missouri, it throws out large quantities of driftwood, among
which were some pieces of coal brought down by the stream. . . .

“The game is in great quantities, but the buffalo are not so numerous as
they were some days ago; two rattlesnakes were seen to-day, and one of
them was killed. It resembles those of the Middle Atlantic States, being
about thirty inches long, of a yellowish brown on the back and sides,
variegated with a row of oval dark brown spots lying transversely on the
back from the neck to the tail, and two other rows of circular spots of
the same color on the sides along the edge of the scuta; there are one
hundred and seventy-six scuta on the belly, and seventeen on the tail.”

Two days later, the journal records that one of the party killed a
grizzly bear, “which, though shot through the heart, ran at his usual
pace nearly a quarter of a mile before he fell.”

The mouth of the Musselshell River, which was one of the notable points
that marked another stage in the journey, was reached on the twentieth
of May. This stream empties into the Missouri two thousand two hundred
and seventy miles above its mouth, and is still known by the name given
it by its discoverers. The journal says:

“It is one hundred and ten yards wide, and contains more water than
streams of that size usually do in this country; its current is by no
means rapid, and there is every appearance of its being susceptible of
navigation by canoes for a considerable distance. Its bed is chiefly
formed of coarse sand and gravel, with an occasional mixture of black
mud; the banks are abrupt and nearly twelve feet high, so that they are
secure from being overflowed; the water is of a greenish-yellow cast,
and much more transparent than that of the Missouri, which itself,
though clearer than below, still retains its whitish hue and a portion
of its sediment. Opposite the point of junction the current of the
Missouri is gentle, and two hundred and twenty-two yards in width;
the bed is principally of mud, the little sand remaining being wholly
confined to the points, and the water is still too deep to use the

“If this be, as we suppose, the Musselshell, our Indian information is
that it rises in the first chain of the Rocky mountains not far from the
sources of the Yellowstone, whence in its course to this place it waters
a high broken country, well timbered, particularly on its borders, and
interspersed with handsome fertile plains and meadows. We have reason,
however, to believe, from their giving a similar account of the timber
where we now are, that the timber of which they speak is similar to that
which we have seen for a few days past, which consists of nothing more
than a few straggling small pines and dwarf cedars on the summits of the
hills, nine-tenths of the ground being totally destitute of wood, and
covered with short grass, aromatic herbs, and an immense quantity
of prickly-pear; though the party who explored it for eight miles
represented the low grounds on the river to be well supplied with
cottonwood of a tolerable size, and of an excellent soil. They also
report that the country is broken and irregular, like that near our
camp; and that about five miles up, a handsome river, about fifty
yards wide, which we named after Chaboneau’s wife, Sacajawea’s or the
Bird-woman’s River, discharges into the Musselshell on the north or
upper side.”

Later explorations have shown that the Musselshell rises in the
Little Belt Mountains, considerably to the north of the sources of the
Yellowstone. Modern geography has also taken from the good Sacajawea
the honor of having her name bestowed on one of the branches of the
Musselshell. The stream once named for her is now known as Crooked
Creek: it joins the river near its mouth, in the central portion of
Montana. The journal, under date of May 22, has this entry:--

“The river (the Missouri) continues about two hundred and fifty yards
wide, with fewer sand-bars, and the current more gentle and regular.
Game is no longer in such abundance since leaving the Musselshell. We
have caught very few fish on this side of the Mandans, and these were
the white catfish, of two to five pounds. We killed a deer and a bear.
We have not seen in this quarter the black bear, common in the United
States and on the lower parts of the Missouri, nor have we discerned any
of their tracks. They may easily be distinguished by the shortness of
the talons from the brown, grizzly, or white bear, all of which seem to
be of the same species, which assumes those colors at different seasons
of the year. We halted earlier than usual, and camped on the north, in a
point of woods, at the distance of sixteen and one half miles (thus past
the site of Fort Hawley, on the south).”

Notwithstanding the advance of the season, the weather in those great
altitudes grew more and more cold. Under date of May 23, the journal
records the fact that ice appeared along the edges of the river, and
water froze upon their oars. But notwithstanding the coolness of the
nights and mornings, mosquitoes were very troublesome.

The explorers judged that the cold was somewhat unusual for that
locality, inasmuch as the cottonwood trees lost their leaves by the
frost, showing that vegetation, generally well suited to the temperature
of its country, or habitat, had been caught by an unusual nip of the
frost. The explorers noticed that the air of those highlands was so pure
and clear that objects appeared to be much nearer than they really were.
A man who was sent out to explore the country attempted to reach a ridge
(now known as the Little Rocky Mountains), apparently about fifteen
miles from the river. He travelled about ten miles, but finding himself
not halfway to the object of his search, he returned without reaching

The party was now just westward of the site of the present town of
Carroll, Montana, on the Missouri. Their journal says:--

“The low grounds are narrow and without timber; the country is high and
broken; a large portion of black rock and brown sandy rock appears in
the face of the hills, the tops of which are covered with scattered
pine, spruce, and dwarf cedar; the soil is generally poor, sandy near
the tops of the hills, and nowhere producing much grass, the low grounds
being covered with little else than the hyssop, or southernwood, and the
pulpy-leaved thorn. Game is more scarce, particularly beaver, of which
we have seen but few for several days, and the abundance or scarcity
of which seems to depend on the greater or less quantity of timber. At
twenty-four and one-half miles we reached a point of woodland on the
south, where we observed that the trees had no leaves, and camped for
the night.”

The “hyssop, or southernwood,” the reader now knows to be the wild sage,
or sage-brush. The “pulpy-leaved thorn” mentioned in the journal is the
greasewood; and both of these shrubs flourish in the poverty-stricken,
sandy, alkaline soil of the far West and Northwest. The woody fibre of
these furnished the only fuel available for early overland emigrants to
the Pacific.

The character of this country now changed considerably as the explorers
turned to the northward, in their crooked course, with the river. On the
twenty-fifth of May the journal records this:--

“The country on each side is high, broken, and rocky; the rock being
either a soft brown sandstone, covered with a thin stratum of limestone,
or else a hard, black, rugged granite, both usually in horizontal
strata, and the sand-rock overlaying the other. Salts and quartz, as
well as some coal and pumice-stone, still appear. The bars of the river
are composed principally of gravel; the river low grounds are narrow,
and afford scarcely any timber; nor is there much pine on the hills. The
buffalo have now become scarce; we saw a polecat (skunk) this evening,
which was the first for several days; in the course of the day we also
saw several herds of the bighorned animals among the steep cliffs on the
north, and killed several of them.”

The bighorned animals, the first of which were killed here, were
sometimes called “Rocky Mountain sheep.” But sheep they were not,
bearing hair and not wool. As we have said, they are now more commonly
known as bighorns.

The patience of the explorers was rewarded, on Sunday, May 26, 1806, by
their first view of the Rocky Mountains. Here is the journal’s record on
that date:--

“It was here (Cow Creek, Mont.) that, after ascending the highest summit
of the hills on the north side of the river, Captain Lewis first caught
a distant view of the Rock mountains--the object of all our hopes, and
the reward of all our ambition. On both sides of the river, and at no
great distance from it, the mountains followed its course. Above these
at the distance of fifty miles from us, an irregular range of mountains
spread from west to northwest from his position. To the north of these,
a few elevated points, the most remarkable of which bore N. 65'0 W.,
appeared above the horizon; and as the sun shone on the snows of their
summits, he obtained a clear and satisfactory view of those mountains
which close on the Missouri the passage to the Pacific.”

As they continued to ascend the Missouri they found themselves
confronted by many considerable rapids which sometimes delayed their
progress. They also set forth this observation: “The only animals we
have observed are the elk, the bighorn, and the hare common to
this country.” Wayfarers across the plains now call this hare the
jack-rabbit. The river soon became very rapid with a marked descent,
indicating their nearness to its mountain sources. The journal says:--

“Its general width is about two hundred yards; the shoals are more
frequent, and the rocky points at the mouths of the gullies more
troublesome to pass. Great quantities of stone lie in the river and on
its bank, and seem to have fallen down as the rain washed away the clay
and sand in which they were imbedded. The water is bordered by high,
rugged bluffs, composed of irregular but horizontal strata of yellow
and brown or black clay, brown and yellowish-white sand, soft
yellowish-white sandstone, and hard dark brown freestone; also, large
round kidney-formed irregular separate masses of a hard black ironstone,
imbedded in the clay and sand; some coal or carbonated wood also
makes its appearance in the cliffs, as do its usual attendants, the
pumice-stone and burnt earth. The salts and quartz are less abundant,
and, generally speaking, the country is, if possible, more rugged and
barren than that we passed yesterday; the only growth of the hills being
a few pine, spruce, and dwarf cedar, interspersed with an occasional
contrast, once in the course of some miles, of several acres of level
ground, which supply a scanty subsistence for a few little cottonwoods.”

But, a few days later, the party passed out of this inhospitable region,
and, after passing a stream which they named Thompson’s (now Birch)
Creek, after one of their men, they were glad to make this entry in
their diary:

“Here the country assumed a totally different aspect: the hills retired
on both sides from the river, which spreads to more than three times
its former size, and is filled with a number of small handsome islands
covered with cottonwood. The low grounds on its banks are again wide,
fertile, and enriched with trees: those on the north are particularly
wide, the hills being comparatively low, and opening into three large
valleys, which extend themselves for a considerable distance towards the
north. These appearances of vegetation are delightful after the dreary
hills among which we have passed; and we have now to congratulate
ourselves at having escaped from the last ridges of the Black Mountains.
On leaving Thompson’s Creek we passed two small islands, and at
twenty-three miles’ distance encamped among some timber; on the north,
opposite to a small creek, which we named Bull Creek. The bighorn are
in great quantities, and must bring forth their young at a very early
season, as they are now half grown. One of the party saw a large bear
also; but, being at a distance from the river, and having no timber to
conceal him, he would not venture to fire.”

A curious adventure happened on the twenty-eighth, of which the journal,
next day, makes this mention:--

“Last night we were alarmed by a new sort of enemy. A buffalo swam over
from the opposite side, and to the spot where lay one of our canoes,
over which he clambered to the shore: then, taking fright, he ran full
speed up the bank towards our fires, and passed within eighteen inches
of the heads of some of the men before the sentinel could make him
change his course. Still more alarmed, he ran down between four fires,
and within a few inches of the heads of a second row of the men, and
would have broken into our lodge if the barking of the dog had not
stopped him. He suddenly turned to the right, and was out of sight in
a moment, leaving us all in confusion, every one seizing his rifle and
inquiring the cause of the alarm. On learning what had happened, we had
to rejoice at suffering no more injury than some damage to the guns that
were in the canoe which the buffalo crossed. . . .

“We passed an island and two sand-bars, and at the distance of two
and a half miles came to a handsome river, which discharges itself on
the South, and which we ascended to the distance of a mile and a half:
we called it Judith’s River. It rises in the Rocky Mountains, in about
the same place with the Musselshell, and near the Yellowstone River. Its
entrance is one hundred yards wide from one bank to the other, the water
occupying about seventy-five yards, and being in greater quantity than
that of the Musselshell River. . . . There were great numbers of the
argalea, or bighorned animals, in the high country through which it
passes, and of beaver in its waters. Just above the entrance of it we
saw the ashes of the fires of one hundred and twenty-six lodges, which
appeared to have been deserted about twelve or fifteen days.”

Leaving Judith’s River, named for a sweet Virginia lass, the explorers
sailed, or were towed, seventeen miles up the river, where they camped
at the mouth of a bold, running river to which they gave the name
of Slaughter River. The stream is now known as the Arrow; the
appropriateness of the title conferred on the stream by Lewis and Clark
appears from the story which they tell of their experience just below
“Slaughter River,” as follows:

“On the north we passed a precipice about one hundred and twenty feet
high, under which lay scattered the fragments of at least one hundred
carcasses of buffaloes, although the water which had washed away the
lower part of the hill must have carried off many of the dead. These
buffaloes had been chased down the precipice in a way very common on
the Missouri, by which vast herds are destroyed in a moment. The mode of
hunting is to select one of the most active and fleet young men, who is
disguised by a buffalo-skin round his body; the skin of the head with
the ears and horns being fastened on his own head in such a way as to
deceive the buffalo. Thus dressed, he fixes himself at a convenient
distance between a herd of buffalo and any of the river precipices,
which sometimes extend for some miles. His companions in the mean
time get in the rear and side of the herd, and at a given signal show
themselves and advance toward the buffaloes. These instantly take
the alarm, and finding the hunters beside them, they run toward the
disguised Indian or decoy, who leads them on at full speed toward the
river; when, suddenly securing himself in some crevice of the cliff
which he had previously fixed on, the herd is left on the brink of the
precipice. It is then in vain for the foremost buffaloes to retreat or
even to stop; they are pressed on by the hindmost rank, which, seeing
no danger but from the hunters, goad on those before them till the
whole are precipitated, and the shore is strewn with their dead bodies.
Sometimes, in this perilous seduction, the Indian is himself either
trodden under foot by the rapid movements of the buffaloes, or missing
his footing in the cliff is urged down the precipice by the falling
herd. The Indians then select as much meat as they wish; the rest is
abandoned to the wolves, and creates a most dreadful stench. The wolves
which had been feasting on these carcasses were very fat, and so gentle
that one of them was killed with an espontoon.” (1)

     (1) A short spear.

The dryness and purity of the air roused the admiration of the
explorers, who noticed that the woodwork of the cases of their
instruments shrank, and the joints opened, although the wood was old and
perfectly seasoned. A tablespoonful of water, exposed to the air in
an open saucer, would wholly evaporate in thirty-six hours, when the
thermometer did not mark higher than the “Temperate” point at the
warmest hour of the day. Contrary to their expectations, they had not
yet met with any Indians, although they saw many signs of their having
recently been in that vicinity. The journal says:

“In the course of the day (May 30) we passed several encampments of
Indians, the most recent of which seemed to have been evacuated about
five weeks since; and, from the several apparent dates, we supposed
that they were formed by a band of about one hundred lodges, who were
travelling slowly up the river. Although no part of the Missouri from
the Minnetarees to this place exhibits signs of permanent settlements,
yet none seem exempt from the transient visits of hunting-parties. We
know that the Minnetarees of the Missouri extend their excursions on the
south side of the river as high as the Yellowstone, and the Assiniboins
visit the northern side, most probably as high as Porcupine River. All
the lodges between that place and the Rocky Mountains we supposed to
belong to the Minnetarees of Fort de Prairie, who live on the south fork
of the Saskashawan.”

The party now entered upon some of the natural wonders of the West,
which have since become famous. Their journal says:--

“These hills and river-cliffs exhibit a most extraordinary and romantic
appearance. They rise in most places nearly perpendicular from the
water, to the height of between two hundred and three hundred feet, and
are formed of very white sandstone, so soft as to yield readily to the
impression of water, in the upper part of which lie imbedded two or
three thin horizontal strata of white freestone, insensible to the rain;
on the top is a dark rich loam, which forms a gradually ascending plain,
from a mile to a mile and a half in extent, when the hills again rise
abruptly to the height of about three hundred feet more. In trickling
down the cliffs, the water has worn the soft sandstone into a thousand
grotesque figures, among which, with a little fancy, may be discerned
elegant ranges of freestone buildings, with columns variously
sculptured, and supporting long and elegant galleries, while the
parapets are adorned with statuary. On a nearer approach they represent
every form of elegant ruins--columns, some with pedestals and capitals
entire, others mutilated and prostrate, and some rising pyramidally over
each other till they terminate in a sharp point. These are varied
by niches, alcoves, and the customary appearances of desolated
magnificence. The illusion is increased by the number of martins, which
have built their globular nests in the niches, and hover over these
columns, as in our country they are accustomed to frequent large
stone structures. As we advance there seems no end to the visionary
enchantment which surrounds us.

“In the midst of this fantastic scenery are vast ranges of walls, which
seem the productions of art, so regular is the workmanship. They rise
perpendicularly from the river, sometimes to the height of one hundred
feet, varying in thickness from one to twelve feet, being as broad at
the top as below. The stones of which they are formed are black, thick,
durable, and composed of a large portion of earth, intermixed and
cemented with a small quantity of sand and a considerable proportion
of talk (talc) or quartz. These stones are almost invariably regular
parallelopipeds of unequal sizes in the wall, but equally deep and
laid regularly in ranges over each other like bricks, each breaking and
covering the interstice of the two on which it rests; but though the
perpendicular interstice be destroyed, the horizontal one extends
entirely through the whole work. The stones are proportioned to the
thickness of the wall in which they are employed, being largest in the
thickest walls. The thinner walls are composed of a single depth of the
parallelopiped, while the thicker ones consist of two or more depths.
These walls pass the river at several places, rising from the water’s
edge much above the sandstone bluffs, which they seem to penetrate;
thence they cross in a straight line, on either side of the river, the
plains, over which they tower to the height of from ten to seventy feet,
until they lose themselves in the second range of hills. Sometimes they
run parallel in several ranges near to each other, sometimes intersect
each other at right angles, and have the appearance of walls of ancient
houses or gardens.”

The wall-like, canyon formations were charted by Lewis and Clark as “The
Stone Walls.” Their fantastic outlines have been admired and described
by modern tourists, and some of them have been named “Cathedral Rocks,”
 “Citadel Rock,” “Hole in the Wall,” and so on.

Passing out of this wonderful region, the expedition entered upon a more
level country, here and there broken by bluffy formations which extended
along the river, occasionally interspersed with low hills. Their journal

“In the plains near the river are the choke-cherry, yellow and red
currant bushes, as well as the wild rose and prickly pear, both of which
are now in bloom. From the tops of the river-hills, which are lower than
usual, we enjoyed a delightful view of the rich, fertile plains on
both sides, in many places extending from the river-cliffs to a great
distance back. In these plains we meet, occasionally, large banks of
pure sand, which were driven apparently by the southwest winds and there
deposited. The plains are more fertile some distance from the river than
near its banks, where the surface of the earth is very generally
strewed with small pebbles, which appear to be smoothed and worn by the
agitation of the waters with which they were, no doubt, once covered.”

Under date of June 2d, the journal says:--

“The current of the river is strong but regular, the timber increases
in quantity, the low grounds become more level and extensive, and the
bluffs are lower than before. As the game is very abundant, we think
it necessary to begin a collection of hides for the purpose of making
a leathern boat, which we intend constructing shortly. The hunters, who
were out the greater part of the day, brought in six elk, two buffalo,
two mule-deer, and a bear. This last animal had nearly cost us the lives
of two of our hunters, who were together when he attacked them. One
of them narrowly escaped being caught, and the other, after running
a considerable distance, concealed himself in some thick bushes, and,
while the bear was in quick pursuit of his hiding-place, his companion
came up, and fortunately shot the animal through the head.”

Here the party came to the mouth of a large river which entered the
Missouri from the northwest, at the site of the latter-day town of
Ophir, Montana. This stream they named Maria’s River, in honor of
another Virginia damsel. So large and important in appearance was
Maria’s River that the explorers were not certain which was the main
stream, that which came in from the north, or that which, flowing here
in a general course from southwest to northeast, was really the true
Missouri. The journal says:

“It now became an interesting question, which of these two streams is
what the Minnetarees call Ahmateahza, or Missouri, which they describe
as approaching very near to the Columbia. On our right decision much
of the fate of the expedition depends; since if, after ascending to the
Rocky Mountains or beyond them, we should find that the river we were
following did not come near the Columbia, and be obliged to return, we
should not only lose the travelling season, two months of which have
already elapsed, but probably dishearten the men so much as to induce
them either to abandon the enterprise, or yield us a cold obedience,
instead of the warm and zealous support which they have hitherto
afforded us. We determined, therefore, to examine well before we decided
on our future course. For this purpose we despatched two canoes with
three men up each of the streams, with orders to ascertain the width,
depth, and rapidity of the current, so as to judge of their comparative
bodies of water. At the same time parties were sent out by land
to penetrate the country, and discover from the rising grounds, if
possible, the distant bearings of the two rivers; and all were directed
to return toward evening. . . .”

Both parties returned without bringing any information that would settle
the point. Which was the true Missouri still remained uncertain. Under
these circumstances, it became necessary that there should be a more
thorough exploration, and the next morning Captains Lewis and Clark
set out at the head of two separate parties, the former to examine the
north, and the latter the south fork. In his progress Captain Lewis and
his party were frequently obliged to quit the course of the river and
cross the plains and hills, but he did not lose sight of its general
direction, and carefully took the bearings of the distant mountains. On
the morning of the third day he became convinced that this river pursued
a course too far north for his contemplated route to the Pacific, and he
accordingly determined to return, but judged it advisable to wait till
noon, that he might obtain a meridian altitude. In this, however, he was
disappointed, owing to the state of the weather. Much rain had fallen,
and their return was somewhat difficult, and not unattended with danger,
as the following incident, which occurred on June 7th, will show:

“In passing along the side of a bluff at a narrow pass thirty yards
in length, Captain Lewis slipped, and, but for a fortunate recovery by
means of his spontoon, would have been precipitated into the river over
a precipice of about ninety feet. He had just reached a spot where, by
the assistance of his spontoon, he could stand with tolerable safety,
when he heard a voice behind him cry out, ‘Good God, captain, what shall
I do?’ He turned instantly, and found it was Windsor, who had lost his
foothold about the middle of the narrow pass, and had slipped down to
the very verge of the precipice, where he lay on his belly, with his
right arm and leg over it, while with the other leg and arm he was
with difficulty holding on, to keep himself from being dashed to pieces
below. His dreadful situation was instantly perceived by Captain Lewis,
who, stifling his alarm, calmly told him that he was in no danger; that
he should take his knife out of his belt with his right hand, and dig
a hole in the side of the bluff to receive his right foot. With great
presence of mind he did this, and then raised himself on his knees.
Captain Lewis then told him to take off his moccasins and come forward
on his hands and knees, holding the knife in one hand and his rifle in
the other. He immediately crawled in this way till he came to a secure
spot. The men who had not attempted this passage were ordered to return
and wade the river at the foot of the bluff, where they found the water
breast-high. This adventure taught them the danger of crossing the
slippery heights of the river; but as the plains were intersected by
deep ravines, almost as difficult to pass, they continued down the
river, sometimes in the mud of the low grounds, sometimes up to their
arms in the water; and when it became too deep to wade, they cut
footholds with their knives in the sides of the banks. In this way
they travelled through the rain, mud, and water, and having made only
eighteen miles during the whole day, camped in an old Indian lodge of
sticks, which afforded them a dry shelter. Here they cooked part of six
deer they had killed in the course of their walk, and having eaten the
only morsel they had tasted during the whole day, slept comfortably on
some willow-boughs.”

Chapter X -- To the Great Falls of the Missouri

Next day, June 8, the Lewis party returned to the main body of the
expedition. They reported that timber was scarce along the river, except
in the lowlands, where there were pretty groves and thickets. These
trees, the journal says, were the haunts of innumerable birds, which, as
the sun rose, sung delightfully:--

“Among these birds they distinguished the brown thrush, robin,
turtle-dove, linnet, gold-finch, large and small blackbird, wren, and
some others. As they came along, the whole party were of opinion
that this river was the true Missouri; but Captain Lewis, being fully
persuaded that it was neither the main stream, nor that which it
would be advisable to ascend, gave it the name of Maria’s River.
After travelling all day they reached camp about five o’clock in the
afternoon, and found Captain Clark and the party very anxious for their
safety. As they had stayed two days longer than had been expected, and
as Captain Clark had returned at the appointed time, it was feared that
they had met with some accident.”

As we now know, the stream that came in from the north was that which
is still called Maria’s (or Marais) River, and the so-called branch from
the southwest was the Missouri River. Lewis and Clark, however, were in
the dark as to the relations of the two streams. Which was the parent?
Which was the branch? After pondering all the evidence that could be
collected to bear on the important question, the two captains agreed
that the southern stream was the true Missouri, and the northern stream
was an important branch. The journal says:

“These observations, which satisfied our minds completely, we
communicated to the party; but every one of them was of a contrary
opinion. Much of their belief depended on Crusatte, an experienced
waterman on the Missouri, who gave it as his decided judgment that the
north fork was the genuine Missouri. The men, therefore, mentioned that,
although they would most cheerfully follow us wherever we should direct,
yet they were afraid that the south fork would soon terminate in the
Rocky Mountains, and leave us at a great distance from the Columbia. In
order that nothing might be omitted which could prevent our falling into
an error, it was agreed that one of us should ascend the southern branch
by land, until we reached either the falls or the mountains. In the
meantime, in order to lighten our burdens as much as possible, we
determined to deposit here one of the pirogues, and all the heavy
baggage which we could possibly spare, as well as some provision, salt,
powder, and tools. This would at once lighten the other boats, and give
them the crew which had been employed on board the pirogue.”

On the tenth of June, the weather being fair and pleasant, they dried
all their baggage and merchandise and secreted them in places of
deposits, called caches, as follows:--

“These deposits--or caches, as they are called by the Missouri
traders--are very common, particularly among those who deal with the
Sioux, as the skins and merchandise will keep perfectly sound for years,
and are protected from robbery. Our cache was built in the usual manner.
In the high plain on the north side of the Missouri, and forty yards
from a steep bluff, we chose a dry situation, and then, describing a
small circle of about twenty inches diameter, removed the sod as gently
and carefully as possible: the hole was then sunk perpendicularly for
a foot deep. It was now worked gradually wider as it descended, till at
length it became six or seven feet deep, shaped nearly like a kettle,
or the lower part of a large still with the bottom somewhat sunk at the
centre. As the earth was dug it was handed up in a vessel, and carefully
laid on a skin or cloth, in which it was carried away and thrown into
the river, so as to leave no trace of it. A floor of three or four
inches in thickness was then made of dry sticks, on which was placed a
hide perfectly dry. The goods, being well aired and dried, were laid on
this floor, and prevented from touching the wall by other dried sticks,
as the merchandise was stowed away. When the hole was nearly full, a
skin was laid over the goods, and on this earth was thrown and beaten
down, until, with the addition of the sod first removed, the whole
was on a level with the ground, and there remained not the slightest
appearance of an excavation. In addition to this, we made another of
smaller dimensions, in which we placed all the baggage, some powder, and
our blacksmith’s tools, having previously repaired such of the tools as
we carry with us that require mending. To guard against accident, we had
two parcelss of lead and powder in the two places. The red pirogue was
drawn up on the middle of a small island, at the entrance of Maria’s
River, and secured, by being fastened to the trees, from the effects of
any floods. We now took another observation of the meridian altitude of
the sun, and found that the mean latitude of Maria’s River, as deduced
from three observations, is 49'0 25’ 17.2” N.”

In order to make assurance doubly sure, Captain Lewis resolved to
take four men with him and ascend the south branch (that is, the true
Missouri), before committing the expedition to that route as the final
one. His proposition was that his party should proceed up the river as
rapidly as possible in advance of the main party. On the second day out,
says the journal:--

“Captain Lewis left the bank of the river in order to avoid the steep
ravines, which generally run from the shore to the distance of one or
two miles in the plain. Having reached the open country he went for
twelve miles in a course a little to the W. of S.W.; when, the sun
becoming warm by nine o’clock, he returned to the river in quest of
water, and to kill something for breakfast; there being no water in
the plain, and the buffalo, discovering them before they came within
gunshot, took to flight. They reached the banks in a handsome open low
ground with cottonwood, after three miles’ walk. Here they saw two large
brown bears, and killed them both at the first fire--a circumstance
which has never before occurred since we have seen that animal. Having
made a meal of a part, and hung the remainder on a tree, with a note for
Captain Clark, they again ascended the bluffs into the open plains.
Here they saw great numbers of the burrowing-squirrel, also some wolves,
antelopes, mule-deer, and vast herds of buffalo. They soon crossed a
ridge considerably higher than the surrounding plains, and from its top
had a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains, which are now completely
covered with snow. Their general course is from S.E. to N. of N.W., and
they seem to consist of several ranges which successively rise above
each other, till the most distant mingles with the clouds. After
travelling twelve miles they again met the river, where there was a
handsome plain of cottonwood.”

Again leaving the river, Captain Lewis bore off more to the north, the
stream here bearing considerably to the south, with difficult bluffs
along its course. But fearful of passing the Great Falls before reaching
the Rocky Mountains, he again changed his course and, leaving the bluffs
to his right he turned towards the river.

The journal gives this description of what followed:--

“In this direction Captain Lewis had gone about two miles, when his
ears were saluted with the agreeable sound of a fall of water, and as he
advanced a spray, which seemed driven by the high southwest wind, arose
above the plain like a column of smoke, and vanished in an instant.
Toward this point he directed his steps; the noise increased as he
approached, and soon became too tremendous to be mistaken for anything
but the Great Falls of the Missouri. Having travelled seven miles after
first hearing the sound, he reached the falls about twelve o’clock. The
hills as he approached were difficult of access and two hundred feet
high. Down these he hurried with impatience; and, seating himself on
some rocks under the centre of the falls, enjoyed the sublime spectacle
of this stupendous object, which since the creation had been lavishing
its magnificence upon the desert, unknown to civilization.

“The river immediately at this cascade is three hundred yards wide, and
is pressed in by a perpendicular cliff on the left, which rises to about
one hundred feet and extends up the stream for a mile; on the right the
bluff is also perpendicular for three hundred yards above the falls. For
ninety or one hundred yards from the left cliff, the water falls in
one smooth, even sheet, over a precipice of at least eighty feet.
The remaining part of the river precipitates itself with a more rapid
current, but being received as it falls by the irregular and somewhat
projecting rocks below, forms a splendid prospect of perfectly white
foam, two hundred yards in length and eighty in perpendicular elevation.
This spray is dissipated into a thousand shapes, sometimes flying up in
columns of fifteen or twenty feet, which are then oppressed by larger
masses of the white foam, on all of which the sun impresses the
brightest colors of the rainbow. Below the fall the water beats with
fury against a ledge of rocks, which extends across the river at one
hundred and fifty yards from the precipice. From the perpendicular cliff
on the north to the distance of one hundred and twenty yards, the rocks
are only a few feet above the water; and, when the river is high, the
stream finds a channel across them forty yards wide, and near the higher
parts of the ledge, which rise about twenty feet, and terminate abruptly
within eighty or ninety yards of the southern side. Between them and
the perpendicular cliff on the south, the whole body of water runs with
great swiftness. A few small cedars grow near this ridge of rocks, which
serves as a barrier to defend a small plain of about three acres, shaded
with cottonwood; at the lower extremity of which is a grove of the same
trees, where are several deserted Indian cabins of sticks; below which
the river is divided by a large rock, several feet above the surface
of the water, and extending down the stream for twenty yards. At the
distance of three hundred yards from the same ridge is a second abutment
of solid perpendicular rock, about sixty feet high, projecting at right
angles from the small plain on the north for one hundred and thirty-four
yards into the river. After leaving this, the Missouri again spreads
itself to its previous breadth of three hundred yards, though with more
than its ordinary rapidity.”

One of Lewis’s men was sent back to inform Captain Clark of this
momentous discovery, which finally settled all doubt as to which was
the true Missouri. The famous Great Falls of the river had been finally
reached. Captain Lewis next went on to examine the rapids above the
falls. The journal says:--

“After passing one continued rapid and three cascades, each three or
four feet high, he reached, at the distance of five miles, a second
fall. The river is here about four hundred yards wide, and for the
distance of three hundred rushes down to the depth of nineteen feet, and
so irregularly that he gave it the name of the Crooked Falls. From the
southern shore it extends obliquely upward about one hundred and fifty
yards, and then forms an acute angle downward nearly to the commencement
of four small islands close to the northern side. From the perpendicular
pitch to these islands, a distance of more than one hundred yards, the
water glides down a sloping rock with a velocity almost equal to that
of its fall: above this fall the river bends suddenly to the northward.
While viewing this place, Captain Lewis heard a loud roar above him,
and, crossing the point of a hill a few hundred yards, he saw one of the
most beautiful objects in nature: the whole Missouri is suddenly stopped
by one shelving rock, which, without a single niche, and with an edge as
straight and regular as if formed by art, stretches itself from one side
of the river to the other for at least a quarter of a mile. Over this
it precipitates itself in an even, uninterrupted sheet, to the
perpendicular depth of fifty feet, whence, dashing against the rocky
bottom, it rushes rapidly down, leaving behind it a sheet of the
purest foam across the river. The scene which it presented was indeed
singularly beautiful; since, without any of the wild, irregular
sublimity of the lower falls, it combined all the regular elegancies
which the fancy of a painter would select to form a beautiful waterfall.
The eye had scarcely been regaled with this charming prospect, when at
the distance of half a mile Captain Lewis observed another of a similar
kind. To this he immediately hastened, and found a cascade stretching
across the whole river for a quarter of a mile, with a descent of
fourteen feet, though the perpendicular pitch was only six feet. This,
too, in any other neighborhood, would have been an object of great
magnificence; but after what he had just seen, it became of secondary
interest. His curiosity being, however, awakened, he determined to go
on, even should night overtake him, to the head of the falls.

“He therefore pursued the southwest course of the river, which was one
constant succession of rapids and small cascades, at every one of which
the bluffs grew lower, or the bed of the river became more on a level
with the plains. At the distance of two and one-half miles he arrived
at another cataract, of twenty-six feet. The river is here six hundred
yards wide, but the descent is not immediately perpendicular, though
the river falls generally with a regular and smooth sheet; for about
one-third of the descent a rock protrudes to a small distance, receives
the water in its passage, and gives it a curve. On the south side is a
beautiful plain, a few feet above the level of the falls; on the north,
the country is more broken, and there is a hill not far from the river.
Just below the falls is a little island in the middle of the river, well
covered with timber. Here on a cottonwood tree an eagle had fixed her
nest, and seemed the undisputed mistress of a spot, to contest whose
dominion neither man nor beast would venture across the gulfs that
surround it, and which is further secured by the mist rising from
the falls. This solitary bird could not escape the observation of the
Indians, who made the eagle’s nest a part of their description of the
falls, which now proves to be correct in almost every particular, except
that they did not do justice to the height.

“Just above this is a cascade of about five feet, beyond which, as
far as could be discerned, the velocity of the water seemed to abate.
Captain Lewis now ascended the hill which was behind him, and saw from
its top a delightful plain, extending from the river to the base of the
Snowy (Rocky) Mountains to the south and southwest. Along this wide,
level country the Missouri pursued its winding course, filled with water
to its smooth, grassy banks, while about four miles above, it was joined
by a large river flowing from the northwest, through a valley three
miles in width, and distinguished by the timber which adorned its
shores. The Missouri itself stretches to the south, in one unruffled
stream of water, as if unconscious of the roughness it must soon
encounter, and bearing on its bosom vast flocks of geese, while numerous
herds of buffalo are feeding on the plains which surround it.

“Captain Lewis then descended the hill, and directed his course towards
the river falling in from the west. He soon met a herd of at least a
thousand buffalo, and, being desirous of providing for supper, shot one
of them. The animal immediately began to bleed, and Captain Lewis, who
had forgotten to reload his rifle, was intently watching to see him
fall, when he beheld a large brown bear which was stealing on him
unperceived, and was already within twenty steps. In the first moment of
surprise he lifted his rifle; but, remembering instantly that it was not
charged, and that he had no time to reload, he felt that there was no
safety but in flight. It was in the open, level plain; not a bush nor a
tree within three hundred yards; the bank of the river sloping, and
not more than three feet high, so that there was no possible mode of
concealment. Captain Lewis, therefore, thought of retreating with a
quick walk, as fast as the bear advanced, towards the nearest tree; but,
as soon as he turned, the bear rushed open-mouthed, and at full speed,
upon him. Captain Lewis ran about eighty yards, but finding that the
animal gained on him fast, it flashed on his mind that, by getting into
the water to such a depth that the bear would be obliged to attack him
swimming, there was still some chance of his life; he therefore turned
short, plunged into the river about waist-deep, and facing about
presented the point of his espontoon. The bear arrived at the water’s
edge within twenty feet of him; but as soon as he put himself in this
posture of defence, the bear seemed frightened, and wheeling about,
retreated with as much precipitation as he had pursued. Very glad to
be released from this danger, Captain Lewis returned to the shore,
and observed him run with great speed, sometimes looking back as if he
expected to be pursued, till he reached the woods. He could not conceive
the cause of the sudden alarm of the bear, but congratulated himself
on his escape when he saw his own track torn to pieces by the furious
animal, and learned from the whole adventure never to suffer his rifle
to be a moment unloaded.”

Captain Lewis now resumed his progress towards the western, or Sun,
River, then more commonly known among the Indians as Medicine River.
In going through the lowlands of this stream, he met an animal which he
thought was a wolf, but which was more likely a wolverine, or carcajou.
The journal says:--

“It proved to be some brownish yellow animal, standing near its burrow,
which, when he came nigh, crouched, and seemed as if about to spring on
him. Captain Lewis fired, and the beast disappeared in its burrow. From
the track, and the general appearance of the animal, he supposed it
to be of the tiger kind. He then went on; but, as if the beasts of
the forest had conspired against him, three buffalo bulls, which were
feeding with a large herd at the distance of half a mile, left their
companions, and ran at full speed towards him. He turned round, and,
unwilling to give up the field, advanced to meet them: when they were
within a hundred yards they stopped, looked at him for some time, and
then retreated as they came. He now pursued his route in the dark,
reflecting on the strange adventures and sights of the day, which
crowded on his mind so rapidly, that he should have been inclined to
believe it all enchantment if the thorns of the prickly pear, piercing
his feet, had not dispelled at every moment the illusion. He at last
reached the party, who had been very anxious for his safety, and who had
already decided on the route which each should take in the morning to
look for him. Being much fatigued, he supped, and slept well during the

On awaking the next morning, Captain Lewis found a large rattlesnake
coiled on the trunk of a tree under which he had been sleeping. He
killed it, and found it like those he had seen before, differing from
those of the Atlantic States, not in its colors, but in the form and
arrangement of them. Information was received that Captain Clark had
arrived five miles below, at a rapid which he did not think it prudent
to ascend, and that he was waiting there for the party above to rejoin

After the departure of Captain Lewis, Captain Clark had remained a day
at Maria’s River, to complete the deposit of such articles as they could
dispense with, and started on the twelfth of June.

Four days later, Captain Clark left the river, having sent his messenger
to Captain Lewis, and began to search for a proper portage to convey the
pirogue and canoes across to the Columbia River, leaving most of the
men to hunt, make wheels and draw the canoes up a creek which they named
Portage Creek, as it was to be the base of their future operations. The
stream is now known as Belt Mountain Creek. But the explorers soon
found that although the pirogue was to be left behind, the way was too
difficult for a portage even for canoes. The journal says:--

“We found great difficulty and some danger in even ascending the creek
thus far, in consequence of the rapids and rocks of the channel of the
creek, which just above where we brought the canoes has a fall of
five feet, with high steep bluffs beyond it. We were very fortunate in
finding, just below Portage Creek, a cottonwood tree about twenty-two
inches in diameter, large enough to make the carriage-wheels. It was,
perhaps, the only one of the same size within twenty miles; and the
cottonwood which we are obliged to employ in the other parts of the work
is extremely soft and brittle. The mast of the white pirogue, which we
mean to leave behind, supplied us with two axle-trees.

“There are vast quantities of buffalo feeding on the plains or watering
in the river, which is also strewed with the floating carcasses and
limbs of these animals. They go in large herds to water about the falls,
and as all the passages to the river near that place are narrow and
steep, the foremost are pressed into the river by the impatience of
those behind. In this way we have seen ten or a dozen disappear over
the falls in a few minutes. They afford excellent food for the wolves,
bears, and birds of prey; which circumstance may account for the
reluctance of the bears to yield their dominion over the neighborhood.

“The pirogue was drawn up a little below our camp, and secured in a
thick copse of willow-bushes. We now began to form a cache or place
of deposit, and to dry our goods and other articles which required
inspection. The wagons are completed. Our hunters brought us ten deer,
and we shot two out of a herd of buffalo that came to water at Sulphur
Spring. There is a species of gooseberry, growing abundantly among the
rocks on the sides of the cliffs. It is now ripe, of a pale red color,
about the size of the common gooseberry, and like it is an ovate
pericarp of soft pulp enveloping a number of small whitish seeds, and
consisting of a yellowish, slimy, mucilaginous substance, with a sweet
taste; the surface of the berry is covered glutinous, adhesive matter,
and its fruit, though ripe, retains its withered corolla. The shrub
itself seldom rises more than two feet high, is much branched, and has
no thorns. The leaves resemble those of the common gooseberry, except
in being smaller, and the berry is supported by separate peduncles or
foot-stalks half an inch long. There are also immense quantities
of grasshoppers, of a brown color, on the plains; they, no doubt,
contribute to the lowness of the grass, which is not generally more than
three inches high, though it is soft, narrow-leaved, and affords a fine
pasture for the buffalo.”

Chapter XI -- A the Heart of the Continent

Captain Clark continued his observations up the long series of rapids
and falls until he came to a group of three small islands to which
he gave the name of White Bear Islands, from his having seen numerous
white, or grizzly, bears on them. On the nineteenth of June, Captain
Clark, after a careful survey of the country on both sides of the
stream, decided that the best place for a portage was on the south, or
lower, side of the river, the length of the portage being estimated
to be about eighteen miles, over which the canoes and supplies must
be carried. Next day he proceeded to mark out the exact route of the
portage, or carry, by driving stakes along its lines and angles. From
the survey and drawing which he made, the party now had a clear and
accurate view of the falls, cascades, and rapids of the Missouri; and,
it may be added, this draught, which is reproduced on another page
of this book, is still so correct in all its measurements that when a
Montana manufacturing company undertook to build a dam at Black Eagle
Falls, nearly one hundred years afterwards, they discovered that their
surveys and those of Captain Clark were precisely alike. The total fall
of the river, from the White Bear Islands, as Lewis and Clark called
them, to the foot of the Great Falls, is four hundred twelve and
five-tenths feet; the sheer drop of the Great Fall is seventy-five and
five-tenths feet. The wild, trackless prairie of Lewis and Clark’s
time is now the site of the thriving town of Great Falls, which has a
population of ten thousand.

Here is a lucid and connected account of the falls and rapids,
discovered and described by Lewis and Clark:

“This river is three hundred yards wide at the point where it
receives the waters of Medicine (Sun) River, which is one hundred and
thirty-seven yards in width. The united current continues three hundred
and twenty-eight poles to a small rapid on the north side, from which it
gradually widens to fourteen hundred yards, and at the distance of five
hundred and forty-eight poles reaches the head of the rapids, narrowing
as it approaches them. Here the hills on the north, which had withdrawn
from the bank, closely border the river, which, for the space of three
hundred and twenty poles, makes its way over the rocks, with a descent
of thirty feet. In this course the current is contracted to five hundred
and eighty yards, and after throwing itself over a small pitch of five
feet, forms a beautiful cascade of twenty-six feet five inches; this
does not, however, fall immediately or perpendicularly, being stopped by
a part of the rock, which projects at about one-third of the distance.
After descending this fall, and passing the cottonwood island on which
the eagle has fixed her nest, the river goes on for five hundred and
thirty-two poles over rapids and little falls, the estimated descent
of which is thirteen and one-half feet, till it is joined by a large
fountain boiling up underneath the rocks near the edge of the river,
into which it falls with a cascade of eight feet. The water of this
fountain is of the most perfect clearness, and of rather a bluish cast;
and, even after falling into the Missouri, it preserves its color
for half a mile. From the fountain the river descends with increased
rapidity for the distance of two hundred and fourteen poles, during
which the estimated descent is five feet; and from this, for a distance
of one hundred and thirty-five poles, it descends fourteen feet seven
inches, including a perpendicular fall of six feet seven inches.
The Missouri has now become pressed into a space of four hundred and
seventy-three yards, and here forms a grand cataract, by falling over
a plain rock the whole distance across the river, to the depth of
forty-seven feet eight inches. After recovering itself, it then proceeds
with an estimated descent of three feet, till, at the distance of
one hundred and two poles, it is precipitated down the Crooked Falls
nineteen feet perpendicular. Below this, at the mouth of a deep ravine,
is a fall of five feet; after which, for the distance of nine hundred
and seventy poles, the descent is much more gradual, not being more than
ten feet, and then succeeds a handsome level plain for the space of one
hundred and seventy-eight poles, with a computed descent of three feet,
the river making a bend towards the north. Thence it descends, for four
hundred and eighty poles, about eighteen and one-half feet, when it
makes a perpendicular fall of two feet, which is ninety poles beyond the
great cataract; in approaching which, it descends thirteen feet within
two hundred yards, and, gathering strength from its confined channel,
which is only two hundred and eighty yards wide, rushes over the fall to
the depth of eighty-seven feet.

“After raging among the rocks, and losing itself in foam, it is
compressed immediately into a bed of ninety-three yards in width: it
continues for three hundred and forty poles to the entrance of a run or
deep ravine, where there is a fall of three feet, which, added to the
decline during that distance, makes the descent six feet. As it goes
on, the descent within the next two hundred and forty poles is only
four feet; from this, passing a run or deep ravine, the descent in four
hundred poles is thirteen feet; within two hundred and forty poles,
another descent of eighteen feet; thence, in one hundred and sixty
poles, a descent of six feet; after which, to the mouth of Portage
Creek, a distance of two hundred and eighty poles, the descent is
ten feet. From this survey and estimate, it results that the river
experiences a descent of three hundred and fifty-two feet in the
distance of two and three quarter miles, from the commencement of the
rapids to the mouth of Portage Creek, exclusive of the almost impassable
rapids which extend for a mile below its entrance.”

On the twenty-first of the month, all the needed preparations having
been finished, the arduous work of making the portage, or carry, was
begun. All the members of the expedition were now together, and the two
captains divided with their men the labor of hunting, carrying luggage,
boat-building, exploring, and so on. They made three camps, the lower
one on Portage Creek, the next at Willow Run (see map), and a third at
a point opposite White Bear Islands. The portage was not completed until
July second. They were often delayed by the breaking down of their rude
carriages, and during the last stage of their journey much of their
luggage was carried on the backs of the men. They were also very much
annoyed with the spines of the prickly pear, a species of cactus,
which, growing low on the ground, is certain to be trampled upon by the
wayfarer. The spines ran through the moccasins of the men and sorely
wounded their feet. Thus, under date of June twenty-fourth, the journal
says (It should be understood that the portage was worked from above and
below the rapids):--

“On going down yesterday Captain Clark cut off several angles of the
former route, so as to shorten the portage considerably, and marked it
with stakes. He arrived there in time to have two of the canoes carried
up in the high plain, about a mile in advance. Here they all repaired
their moccasins, and put on double soles to protect them from the
prickly pear, and from the sharp points of earth which have been formed
by the trampling of the buffalo during the late rains. This of itself is
sufficient to render the portage disagreeable to one who has no burden;
but as the men are loaded as heavily as their strength will permit, the
crossing is really painful. Some are limping with the soreness of their
feet; others are scarcely able to stand for more than a few minutes,
from the heat and fatigue. They are all obliged to halt and rest
frequently; at almost every stopping-place they fall, and many of them
are asleep in an instant; yet no one complains, and they go on with
great cheerfulness. At the camp, midway in the portage, Drewyer and
Fields joined them; for, while Captain Lewis was looking for them at
Medicine River, they returned to report the absence of Shannon, about
whom they had been very uneasy. They had killed several buffalo at the
bend of the Missouri above the falls, dried about eight hundred pounds
of meat, and got one hundred pounds of tallow; they had also killed some
deer, but had seen no elk.”

Under this date, too, Captain Lewis, who was with another branch of the
expedition, makes this note: “Such as were able to shake a foot amused
themselves in dancing on the green to the music of the violin which
Cruzatte plays extremely well.”

The journal continues:--

“We were now occupied (at White Bear camp) in fitting up a boat of
skins, the frame of which had been prepared for the purpose at Harper’s
Ferry in Virginia. It was made of iron, thirty-six feet long, four and
one-half feet in the beam, and twenty-six inches wide in the bottom. Two
men had been sent this morning for timber to complete it, but they could
find scarcely any even tolerably straight sticks four and one-half feet
long; and as the cottonwood is too soft and brittle, we were obliged to
use willow and box-elder.”

On the twenty-seventh, the main party, which was working on the upper
part of the portage, joined that of Captain Clark at the lower camp,
where a second cache, or place of deposit, had been formed, and where
the boat-swivel was now hidden under the rocks. The journal says:--

“The party were employed in preparing timber for the boat, except two
who were sent to hunt. About one in the afternoon a cloud arose from
the southwest, and brought with it violent thunder, lightning, and hail.
Soon after it passed, the hunters came in, from about four miles above
us. They had killed nine elk and three bears. As they were hunting on
the river they saw a low ground covered with thick brushwood, where from
the tracks along shore they thought a bear had probably taken refuge.
They therefore landed, without making a noise, and climbed a tree about
twenty feet above the ground. Having fixed themselves securely, they
raised a loud shout, and a bear instantly rushed toward them. These
animals never climb, and therefore when he came to the tree and stopped
to look at them, Drewyer shot him in the head. He proved to be the
largest we had yet seen; his nose appeared to be like that of a common
ox; his fore feet measured nine inches across; the hind feet were seven
inches wide and eleven and three quarters long, exclusive of the talons.
One of these animals came within thirty yards of the camp last night,
and carried off some buffalo-meat which we had placed on a pole.”

The party were very much annoyed here by the grizzlies which infested
their camp at night. Their faithful dog always gave warning of the
approach of one of these monsters; but the men were obliged to sleep
with their guns by their side, ready to repel the enemy at a moment’s

Captain Clark finally broke up the camp on Portage Creek, June 28,
having deposited in his cache whatever could be left behind without
inconvenience. “On the following day,” the journal says:--

“Finding it impossible to reach the upper end of the portage with the
present load, in consequence of the state of the road after the rain, he
sent back nearly all his party to bring on the articles which had been
left yesterday. Having lost some notes and remarks which he had made
on first ascending the river, he determined to go up to the Whitebear
Islands along its banks, in order to supply the deficiency. He there
left one man to guard the baggage, and went on to the falls, accompanied
by his servant York, Chaboneau, and his wife with her young child.

“On his arrival there he observed a very dark cloud rising in the west,
which threatened rain, and looked around for some shelter; but could
find no place where the party would be secure from being blown into the
river, if the wind should prove as violent as it sometimes does in the
plains. At length, about a quarter of a mile above the falls, he found
a deep ravine, where there were some shelving rocks, under which he
took refuge. They were on the upper side of the ravine near the river,
perfectly safe from the rain, and therefore laid down their guns,
compass, and other articles which they carried with them. The shower
was at first moderate; it then increased to a heavy rain, the effects
of which they did not feel; but soon after, a torrent of rain and hail
descended. The rain seemed to fall in a solid mass, and instantly,
collecting in the ravine, came rolling down in a dreadful current,
carrying the mud, rocks, and everything that opposed it. Captain Clark
fortunately saw it a moment before it reached them, and springing up
with his gun and shot-pouch in his left hand, with his right clambered
up the steep bluff, pushing on the Indian woman with her child in her
arms; her husband too had seized her hand and was pulling her tip the
hill, but he was so terrified at the danger that he remained frequently
motionless; and but for Captain Clark, himself and his wife and child
would have been lost. So instantaneous was the rise of the water that,
before Captain Clark had reached his gun and begun to ascend the bank,
the water was up to his waist, and he could scarcely get up faster than
it rose, till it reached the height of fifteen feet, with a furious
current which, had they waited a moment longer, would have swept
them into the river just above the Great Falls, down which they must
inevitably have been precipitated. They reached the plain in safety and
found York, who had separated from them just before the storm to hunt
some buffalo, and was now returning to find his master. They had been
obliged to escape so rapidly that Captain Clark lost his compass (that
is, circumferentor) and umbrella, Chaboneau left his gun, with Captain
Lewis’ wiping-rod, shot-pouch, and tomahawk, and the Indian woman had
just time to grasp her child, before the net in which it lay at her feet
was carried down the current.”

Such a storm is known in the West as a cloud-burst. Overland emigrants
in the early rush to California often suffered loss from these sudden
deluges. A party of men, with wagons and animals, have been known to
be swept away and lost in a flood bursting in a narrow canyon in the

“Captain Clark now relinquished his intention of going up the river, and
returned to the camp at Willow Run. Here he found that the party
sent this morning for the baggage had all returned to camp in great
confusion, leaving their loads in the plain. On account of the heat,
they generally go nearly naked, and with no covering on their heads.
The hail was so large, and driven so furiously against them by the high
wind, that it knocked several of them down: one of them, particularly,
was thrown on the ground three times, and most of them were bleeding
freely, and complained of being much bruised. Willow Run had risen six
feet since the rain; and, as the plains were so wet that they could not
proceed, they passed the night at their camp.

“At the White Bear camp, also,” (says Lewis), “we had not been
insensible to the hailstorm, though less exposed. In the morning there
had been a heavy shower of rain, after which it became fair. After
assigning to the men their respective employments, Captain Lewis took
one of them, and went to see the large fountain near the falls. . . . It
is, perhaps, the largest in America, and is situated in a pleasant level
plain, about twenty-five yards from the river, into which it falls over
some steep, irregular rocks, with a sudden ascent of about six feet in
one part of its course. The water boils up from among the rocks, and
with such force near the centre that the surface seems higher there than
the earth on the sides of the fountain, which is a handsome turf of
fine green grass. The water is extremely pure, cold, and pleasant to the
taste, not being impregnated with lime or any foreign substance. It is
perfectly transparent, and continues its bluish cast for half a mile
down the Missouri, notwithstanding the rapidity of the river. After
examining it for some time, Captain Lewis returned to the camp. . . .”

“Two men were sent (June 30) to the falls to look for the articles
lost yesterday; but they found nothing but the compass, covered with mud
and sand, at the mouth of the ravine. The place at which Captain Clark
had been caught by the storm was filled with large rocks. The men
complain much of the bruises received yesterday from the hail. A
more than usual number of buffalo appeared about the camp to-day, and
furnished plenty of meat. Captain Clark thought that at one view he must
have seen at least ten thousand.”

Of the party at the upper camp, opposite White Bear Islands, the journal
makes this observation:--

“The party continues to be occupied with the boat, the cross-bars for
which are now finished, and there remain only the strips to complete the
woodwork. The skins necessary to cover it have already been prepared;
they amount to twenty-eight elk-skins and four buffalo-skins. Among our
game were two beaver, which we have had occasion to observe are found
wherever there is timber. We also killed a large bull-bat or goatsucker,
of which there are many in this neighborhood, resembling in every
respect those of the same species in the United States. We have not seen
the leather-winged bat for some time, nor are there any of the small
goatsucker in this part of the Missouri. We have not seen that species
of goatsucker called the whippoorwill, which is commonly confounded in
the United States with the large goatsucker which we observe here.
This last prepares no nest, but lays its eggs on the open plains; they
generally begin to sit on two eggs, and we believe raise only one brood
in a season; at the present moment they are just hatching their young.”

Dr. Coues says that we should bear in mind that this was written “when
bats were birds and whales were fishes for most persons.” The journal
confounds bats, which are winged mammals, with goatsuckers, or
whippoorwills, which are birds.

The second of July was an interesting date for the explorers. On that
day we find the following entry in their journal:--

“A shower of rain fell very early this morning. We then despatched some
men for the baggage left behind yesterday, and the rest were engaged in
putting the boat together. This was accomplished in about three hours,
and then we began to sew on the leather over the crossbars of iron on
the inner side of the boat which form the ends of the sections. By two
o’clock the last of the baggage arrived, to the great delight of
the party, who were anxious to proceed. The mosquitoes we find very

“Having completed our celestial observations, we went over to the large
island to make an attack upon its inhabitants, the bears, which have
annoyed us very much of late, and were prowling about our camp all last
night. We found that the part of the island frequented by the bears
forms an almost impenetrable thicket of the broad-leaved willow. Into
this we forced our way in parties of three; but could see only one bear,
which instantly attacked Drewyer. Fortunately, as he was rushing on, the
hunter shot him through the heart within twenty paces and he fell, which
enabled Drewyer to get out of his way. We then followed him one hundred
yards, and found that the wound had been mortal.

“Not being able to discover any more of these animals, we returned
to camp. Here, in turning over some of the baggage, we caught a rat
somewhat larger than the common European rat, and of a lighter color;
the body and outer parts of the legs and head of a light lead color; the
inner side of the legs, as well as the belly, feet, and ears, white; the
ears are not covered with hair, and are much larger than those of the
common rat; the toes also are longer; the eyes are black and prominent,
the whiskers very long and full; the tail is rather longer than the
body, and covered with fine fur and hair of the same size with that on
the back, which is very close, short, and silky in its texture. This was
the first we had met, although its nests are very frequent in the cliffs
of rocks and hollow trees, where we also found large quantities of the
shells and seed of the prickly-pear.”

The queer rat discovered by Lewis and Clark was then unknown to science.
It is now known in the Far West as the pack-rat. It lives in holes and
crevices of the rocks, and it subsists on the shells and seeds of the
prickly pear, which is usually abundant in the hunting grounds of the
little animal. The explorers were now constantly in full view of the
Rocky Mountain, on which, however, their present title had not then been
conferred. Under date of July 2, the journal says:--

“The mosquitoes are uncommonly troublesome. The wind was again high
from the southwest. These winds are in fact always the coldest and most
violent which we experience, and the hypothesis which we have formed
on that subject is, that the air, coming in contact with the Snowy
Mountains, immediately becomes chilled and condensed, and being thus
rendered heavier than the air below, it descends into the rarefied air
below, or into the vacuum formed by the constant action of the sun
on the open unsheltered plains. The clouds rise suddenly near these
mountains, and distribute their contents partially over the neighboring
plains. The same cloud will discharge hail alone in one part, hail and
rain in another, and rain only in a third, all within the space of a few
miles; while at the same time there is snow falling on the mountains
to the southeast of us. There is at present no snow on those mountains;
that which covered them on our arrival, as well as that which has since
fallen, having disappeared. The mountains to the north and northwest
of us are still entirely covered with snow; indeed, there has been no
perceptible diminution of it since we first saw them, which induces a
belief either that the clouds prevailing at this season do not reach
their summits or that they deposit their snow only. They glisten with
great beauty when the sun shines on them in a particular direction, and
most probably from this glittering appearance have derived the name of
the Shining Mountains.”

A mysterious noise, heard by the party, here engaged their attention,
as it did years afterwards the attention of other explorers. The journal

“Since our arrival at the falls we have repeatedly heard a strange noise
coming from the mountains in a direction a little to the north of west.
It is heard at different periods of the day and night (sometimes when
the air is perfectly still and without a cloud), and consists of one
stroke only, or of five or six discharges in quick succession. It is
loud, and resembles precisely the sound of a six-pound piece of ordnance
at the distance of three miles. The Minnetarees frequently mentioned
this noise, like thunder, which they said the mountains made; but we had
paid no attention to it, believing it to have been some superstition, or
perhaps a falsehood. The watermen also of the party say that the
Pawnees and Ricaras give the same account of a noise heard in the Black
Mountains to the westward of them. The solution of the mystery given by
the philosophy of the watermen is, that it is occasioned by the bursting
of the rich mines of silver confined within the bosom of the mountains.”

Of these strange noises there are many explanations, the most plausible
being that they are caused by the explosion of the species of stone
known as the geode, fragments of which are frequently found among the
mountains. The geode has a hollow cell within, lined with beautiful
crystals of many colors.

Independence Day, 1805, was celebrated with becoming patriotism and
cheerfulness by these far-wandering adventurers. Their record says:--

“An elk and a beaver are all that were killed to-day; the buffalo seem
to have withdrawn from our neighborhood, though several of the men, who
went to-day to visit the falls for the first time, mention that they
are still abundant at that place. We contrived, however, to spread not
a very sumptuous but a comfortable table in honor of the day, and in
the evening gave the men a drink of spirits, which was the last of our
stock. Some of them appeared sensible to the effects of even so small
a quantity; and as is usual among them on all festivals, the fiddle was
produced and a dance begun, which lasted till nine o’clock, when it was
interrupted by a heavy shower of rain. They continued their merriment,
however, till a late hour.”

Their bill-of-fare, according to Captain Lewis, was bacon, beans, suet
dumplings, and buffalo meat, which, he says, “gave them no just cause to
covet the sumptuous feasts of our countrymen on this day.” More than a
year passed before they again saw and tasted spirits.

Great expectations were entertained of the boat that was built here on
the iron frame brought all the way from Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. The
frame was covered with dressed skins of buffalo and elk, the seams being
coated with a composition of powdered charcoal and beeswax, in default
of tar or pitch. This craft was well named the “Experiment,” and a
disappointing experiment it proved to be. Here is Captain Lewis’ account
of her failure:

“The boat having now become sufficiently dry, we gave her a coat of the
composition, which after a proper interval was repeated, and the next
morning, Tuesday, July 9th, she was launched into the water, and swam
perfectly well. The seats were then fixed and the oars fitted; but
after we had loaded her, as well as the canoes, and were on the point of
setting out, a violent wind caused the waves to wet the baggage, so
that we were forced to unload the boats. The wind continued high until
evening, when to our great disappointment we discovered that nearly
all the composition had separated from the skins and left the seams
perfectly exposed; so that the boat now leaked very much. To repair this
misfortune without pitch is impossible, and as none of that article
is to be procured, we therefore, however reluctantly, are obliged to
abandon her, after having had so much labor in the construction. We now
saw that the section of the boat covered with buffalo-skins on which
hair had been left answered better than the elk-skins, and leaked but
little; while that part which was covered with hair about one-eighth of
an inch retained the composition perfectly, and remained sound and
dry. From this we perceived that had we employed buffalo instead of
elk skins, not singed them so closely as we did, and carefully avoided
cutting the leather in sewing, the boat would have been sufficient even
with the present composition; or had we singed instead of shaving the
elk-skins, we might have succeeded. But we discovered our error too
late; the buffalo had deserted us, and the travelling season was so
fast advancing that we had no time to spare for experiments; therefore,
finding that she could be no longer useful, she was sunk in the water,
so as to soften the skins, and enable us the more easily to take her to

“It now became necessary to provide other means for transporting the
baggage which we had intended to stow in her. For this purpose we shall
want two more canoes; but for many miles--from below the mouth of the
Musselshell River to this place--we have not seen a single tree fit to
be used in that way. The hunters, however, who have hitherto been sent
after timber, mention that there is a low ground on the opposite side of
the river, about eight miles above us by land, and more than twice that
distance by water, in which we may probably find trees large enough for
our purposes. Captain Clark determined, therefore, to set out by land
for that place with ten of the best workmen, who would be occupied in
building the canoes till the rest of the party, after taking the boat to
pieces, and making the necessary deposits, should transport the baggage,
and join them with the other six canoes.

“He accordingly passed over to the opposite side of the river with his
party next day, and proceeded on eight miles by land, the distance by
water being twenty-three and three quarter miles. Here he found two
cottonwood trees; but, on cutting them down, one proved to be hollow,
split at the top in falling, and both were much damaged at the bottom.
He searched the neighborhood, but could find none which would suit
better, and therefore was obliged to make use of those which he had
felled, shortening them in order to avoid the cracks, and supplying the
deficiency by making them as wide as possible. They were equally at a
loss for wood of which they might make handles for their axes, the eyes
of which not being round, they were obliged to split the timber in such
a manner that thirteen of the handles broke in the course of the day,
though made of the best wood they could find for the purpose, which was
the chokecherry.

“The rest of the party took the frame of the boat to pieces, deposited
it in a cache or hole, with a draught of the country from Fort Mandan
to this place, and also some other papers and small articles of less

High winds prevented the party from making rapid progress, and
notwithstanding the winds they were greatly troubled with mosquitoes.
Lest the reader should think the explorers too sensitive on the
subject of these troublesome pests, it should be said that only western
travellers can realize the numbers and venom of the mosquitoes of that
region. Early emigrants across the continent were so afflicted by these
insects that the air at times seemed full of gray clouds of them. It
was the custom of the wayfarers to build a “smudge,” as it was called,
a low, smouldering fire of green boughs and brush, the dense smoke
from which (almost as annoying as the mosquitoes) would drive off their
persecutors as long, as the victims sat in the smoke. The sleeping tent
was usually cleared in this way before “turning in” at night, every
opening of the canvas being afterwards closed.

Captain Lewis, on the thirteenth of July, followed Captain Clark up the
river; crossing the stream to the north bank, with his six canoes and
all his baggage, he overtook the other party on the same day and found
them all engaged in boat-building.

“On his way he passed a very large Indian lodge, which was probably
designed as a great council-house; but it differed in its construction
from all that we had seen, lower down the Missouri or elsewhere. The
form of it was a circle two hundred and sixteen feet in circumference at
the base; it was composed of sixteen large cottonwood poles about fifty
feet long and at their thicker ends, which touched the ground, about the
size of a man’s body. They were distributed at equal distances, except
that one was omitted to the cast, probably for the entrance. From the
circumference of this circle the poles converged toward the centre,
where they were united and secured by large withes of willow-brush.
There was no covering over this fabric, in the centre of which were
the remains of a large fire, and around it the marks of about eighty
leathern lodges. He also saw a number of turtle-doves, and some pigeons,
of which he shot one, differing in no respect from the wild pigeon of
the United States. . . .”

“The buffalo have not yet quite gone, for the hunters brought in three,
in very good order. It requires some diligence to supply us plentifully,
for as we reserve our parched meal for the Rocky Mountains, where we do
not expect to find much game, our principal article of food is meat, and
the consumption of the whole thirty-two persons belonging to the
party amounts to four deer, an elk and a deer, or one buffalo, every
twenty-four hours. The mosquitoes and gnats persecute us as violently as
below, so that we can get no sleep unless defended by biers (nets), with
which we are all provided. We here found several plants hitherto unknown
to us, of which we preserved specimens.”

On the fourteenth of July, the boats were finally launched, and next day
the journal records this important event:

“We rose early, embarked all our baggage on board the canoes, which,
though eight in number, are heavily loaded, and at ten o’clock set out
on our journey. . . . At the distance of seven and a half miles we came
to the lower point of a woodland, at the entrance of a beautiful river,
which, in honor of the Secretary of the Navy, we called Smith’s River.
This stream falls into a bend on the south side of the Missouri, and
is eighty yards wide. As far as we could discern its course, it wound
through a charming valley towards the southeast, in which many herds
of buffalo were feeding, till, at the distance of twenty-five miles, it
entered the Rocky Mountains and was lost from our view. . . .

“We find the prickly pear, one of the greatest beauties as well as
greatest inconveniences of the plains, now in full bloom. The sunflower,
too, a plant common on every part of the Missouri from its entrance to
this place, is here very abundant, and in bloom. The lamb’s-quarter,
wild cucumber, sand-rush, and narrow dock, are also common.”

The journal here records the fact that the great river had now become so
crooked that it was expedient to note only its general course, leaving
out all description of its turns and windings. The Missouri was now
flowing due north, leaving its bends out of account, and the explorers,
ascending the river, were therefore travelling south; and although the
journal sets forth “the north bank” and “the south bank,” it should be
understood that west is meant by the one, and east by the other. Buffalo
were observed in great numbers. Many obstacles to navigating the river
were encountered. Under date of July 17, the journal says:

“The navigation is now very laborious. The river is deep, but with
little current, and from seventy to one hundred yards wide; the low
grounds are very narrow, with but little timber, and that chiefly the
aspen tree. The cliffs are steep, and hang over the river so much that
often we could not cross them, but were obliged to pass and repass from
one side of the river to the other, in order to make our way. In
some places the banks are formed of dark or black granite rising
perpendicularly to a great height, through which the river seems, in the
progress of time, to have worn its channel. On these mountains we see
more pine than usual, but it is still in small quantities. Along the
bottoms, which have a covering of high grass, we observed the sunflower
blooming in great abundance. The Indians of the Missouri, more
especially those who do not cultivate maize, make great use of the seed
of this plant for bread, or in thickening their soup. They first parch
and then pound it between two stones, until it is reduced to a fine
meal. Sometimes they add a portion of water, and drink it thus diluted;
at other times they add a sufficient proportion of marrow-grease to
reduce it to the consistency of common dough, and eat it in that manner.
This last composition we preferred to all the rest, and thought it at
that time a very palatable dish.”

They also feasted on a great variety of wild berries, purple, yellow,
and black currants, which were delicious and more pleasant to the palate
than those grown in their Virginia home-gardens; also service-berries,
popularly known to later emigrants as “sarvice-berries.” These grow on
small bushes, two or three feet high; and the fruit is purple-skinned,
with a white pulp, resembling a ripe gooseberry.

The journal, next day, has the following entry:--

“This morning early, before our departure, we saw a large herd of the
big-horned animals, which were bounding among the rocks on the opposite
cliff with great agility. These inaccessible spots secure them from
all their enemies, and their only danger is in wandering among these
precipices, where we would suppose it scarcely possible for any animal
to stand; a single false step would precipitate them at least five
hundred feet into the water.

“At one and one fourth miles we passed another single cliff on the left;
at the same distance beyond which is the mouth of a large river emptying
from the north. It is a handsome, bold, and clear stream, eighty yards
wide--that is, nearly as broad as the Missouri--with a rapid current,
over a bed of small smooth stones of various figures. The water is
extremely transparent; the low grounds are narrow, but possess as much
wood as those of the Missouri. The river has every appearance of being
navigable, though to what distance we cannot ascertain, as the country
which it waters is broken and mountainous. In honor of the Secretary of
War we called it Dearborn’s River.”

General Henry Dearborn, who was then Secretary of War, in Jefferson’s
administration, gave his name, a few years later, to a collection of
camps and log-cabins on Lake Michigan; and in due time Fort Dearborn
became the great city of Chicago. Continuing, the journal says:

“Being now very anxious to meet with the Shoshonees or Snake Indians,
for the purpose of obtaining the necessary information of our route,
as well as to procure horses, it was thought best for one of us to go
forward with a small party and endeavor to discover them, before the
daily discharge of our guns, which is necessary for our subsistence,
should give them notice of our approach. If by an accident they hear us,
they will most probably retreat to the mountains, mistaking us for their
enemies, who usually attack them on this side.” . . . . . . . . .

Captain Clark was now in the lead with a small party, and he came upon
the remains of several Indian camps formed of willow-brush, Traces of
Indians became more plentiful. The journal adds:--

“At the same time Captain Clark observed that the pine trees had been
stripped of their bark about the same season, which our Indian woman
says her countrymen do in order to obtain the sap and the soft parts of
the wood and bark for food. About eleven o’clock he met a herd of
elk and killed two of them; but such was the want of wood in the
neighborhood that he was unable to procure enough to make a fire, and
was therefore obliged to substitute the dung of the buffalo, with which
he cooked his breakfast. They then resumed their course along an old
Indian road. In the afternoon they reached a handsome valley, watered by
a large creek, both of which extended a considerable distance into the
mountain. This they crossed, and during the evening travelled over a
mountainous country covered with sharp fragments of flint rock; these
bruised and cut their feet very much, but were scarcely less troublesome
than the prickly-pear of the open plains, which have now become so
abundant that it is impossible to avoid them, and the thorns are so
strong that they pierce a double sole of dressed deer-skin; the best
resource against them is a sole of buffalo-hide in parchment (that
is, hard dried). At night they reached the river much fatigued, having
passed two mountains in the course of the day, and travelled thirty
miles. Captain Clark’s first employment, on lighting a fire, was to
extract from his feet the thorns, which he found seventeen in number.”

The dung of the buffalo, exposed for many years to the action of sun,
wind, and rain, became as dry and firm as the finest compressed hay.
As “buffalo chips,” in these treeless regions, it was the overland
emigrants’ sole dependence for fuel.

The explorers now approached a wonderful pass in the Rocky Mountains
which their journal thus describes:

“A mile and a half beyond this creek (Cottonwood Creek) the rocks
approach the river on both sides, forming a most sublime and
extraordinary spectacle. For five and three quarter miles these rocks
rise perpendicularly from the water’s edge to the height of nearly
twelve hundred feet. They are composed of a black granite near their
base, but from the lighter color above, and from the fragments, we
suppose the upper part to be flint of a yellowish brown and cream color.

“Nothing can be imagined more tremendous than the frowning darkness
of these rocks, which project over the river and menace us with
destruction. The river, one hundred and fifty yards in width, seems to
have forced its channel down this solid mass; but so reluctantly has it
given way, that during the whole distance the water is very deep even at
the edges, and for the first three miles there is not a spot, except
one of a few yards, in which a man could stand between the water and the
towering perpendicular of the mountain. The convulsion of the passage
must have been terrible, since at its outlet there are vast columns
of rock torn from the mountain, which are strewed on both sides of the
river, the trophies, as it were, of its victory. Several fine springs
burst out from the chasms of the rock, and contribute to increase the
river, which has a strong current, but, very fortunately, we were able
to overcome it with our oars, since it would have been impossible to use
either the cord or the pole. We were obliged to go on some time after
dark, not being able to find a spot large enough to encamp on; but at
length, about two miles above a small island in the middle of the river,
we met with a place on the left side, where we procured plenty of light
wood and pitch pine. This extraordinary range of rocks we called the
Gates of the Rocky Mountains.”

Some of Captain Clark’s men, engaged in hunting, gave the alarm to
roving bands of Shoshonee Indians, hunting in that vicinity. The noise
of their guns attracted the attention of the Indians, who, having set
fire to the grass as a warning to their comrades, fled to the mountains.
The whole country soon appeared to have taken fright, and great clouds
of smoke were observed in all directions. Falling into an old Indian
trail, Captain Clark waited, with his weary and footsore men, for the
rest of the party to come up with them.

The explorers had now passed south, between the Big Belt range of
mountains on the cast and the main chain of the Rocky Mountains on the
west. Meagher County, Montana, now lies on the cast of their trail, and
on the west side of that route is the county of Lewis and Clark. They
were now--still travelling southward--approaching the ultimate sources
of the great Missouri. The journal says:--

“We are delighted to find that the Indian woman recognizes the country;
she tells us that to this creek her countrymen make excursions to
procure white paint on its banks, and we therefore call it Whiteearth
Creek. She says also that the Three Forks of the Missouri are at no
great distance--a piece of intelligence which has cheered the spirits
of us all, as we hope soon to reach the head of that river. This is the
warmest day, except one, we have experienced this summer. In the shade
the mercury stood at eighty degrees, which is the second time it has
reached that height during this season. We camped on an island, after
making nineteen and three quarters miles.

“In the course of the day we saw many geese, cranes, small birds common
to the plains, and a few pheasants. We also observed a small plover or
curlew of a brown color, about the size of a yellow-legged plover or
jack-curlew, but of a different species. It first appeared near the
mouth of Smith’s River, but is so shy and vigilant that we were unable
to shoot it. Both the broad and narrow-leaved willow continue,
though the sweet willow has become very scarce. The rosebush, small
honeysuckle, pulpy-leaved thorn, southernwood, sage, box-elder,
narrow-leaved cottonwood, redwood, and a species of sumach, are all
abundant. So, too, are the red and black gooseberries, service-berry,
choke-cherry, and the black, yellow, red, and purple currants, which
last seems to be a favorite food of the bear. Before camping we landed
and took on board Captain Clark, with the meat he had collected during
this day’s hunt, which consisted of one deer and an elk; we had,
ourselves, shot a deer and an antelope.”

The party found quantities of wild onions of good flavor and size. They
also observed wild flax, garlic, and other vegetable products of value.
The journal adds:--

“We saw many otter and beaver to-day (July 24th). The latter seem to
contribute very much to the number of islands, and the widening of the
river. They begin by damming up the small channels of about twenty yards
between the islands: this obliges the river to seek another outlet, and,
as soon as this is effected, the channel stopped by the beaver becomes
filled with mud and sand. The industrious animal is then driven to
another channel, which soon shares the same fate, till the river spreads
on all sides, and cuts the projecting points of the land into islands.
We killed a deer, and saw great numbers of antelopes, cranes, some
geese, and a few red-headed ducks. The small birds of the plains and
the curlew are still abundant: we saw a large bear, but could not come
within gunshot of him. There are numerous tracks of the elk, but none
of the animals themselves; and, from the appearance of bones and old
excrement, we suppose that buffalo sometimes stray into the valley,
though we have as yet seen no recent sign of them. Along the water are
a number of snakes, some of a uniform brown color, others black, and
a third speckled on the abdomen, and striped with black and a brownish
yellow on the back and sides. The first, which is the largest, is about
four feet long; the second is of the kind mentioned yesterday; and the
third resembles in size and appearance the garter-snake of the United
States. On examining the teeth of all these several kinds, we found them
free from poison: they are fond of the water, in which they take shelter
on being pursued. The mosquitoes, gnats, and prickly pear, our three
persecutors, still continue with us, and, joined with the labor of
working the canoes, have fatigued us all excessively.”

On Thursday, July 25, Captain Clark, who was in the lead, as usual,
arrived at the famous Three Forks of the Missouri. The stream flowing in
a generally northeastern direction was the true, or principal Missouri,
and was named the Jefferson. The middle branch was named the Madison,
in honor of James Madison, then Secretary of State, and the fork next to
the eastward received the name of Albert Gallatin, then Secretary of
the Treasury; and by these titles the streams are known to this day. The
explorers had now passed down to their furthest southern limit, their
trail being to the eastward of the modern cities of Helena and Butte,
and separated only by a narrow divide (then unknown to them) from the
sources of some of the streams that fall into the Pacific Ocean. Under
the date of July 27, the journal says:--

“We are now very anxious to see the Snake Indians. After advancing for
several hundred miles into this wild and mountainous country, we may
soon expect that the game will abandon us. With no information of the
route, we may be unable to find a passage across the mountains when we
reach the head of the river--at least, such a pass as will lead us
to the Columbia. Even are we so fortunate as to find a branch of that
river, the timber which we have hitherto seen in these mountains does
not promise us any fit to make canoes, so that our chief dependence is
on meeting some tribe from whom we may procure horses. Our consolation
is that this southwest branch can scarcely head with any other river
than the Columbia; and that if any nation of Indians can live in the
mountains we are able to endure as much as they can, and have even
better means of procuring subsistence.”

Chapter XII -- At the Sources of the Missouri

The explorers were now (in the last days of July, 1805) at the head of
the principal sources of the great Missouri River, in the fastnesses
of the Rocky Mountains, at the base of the narrow divide that separates
Idaho from Montana in its southern corner. Just across this divide are
the springs that feed streams falling into the majestic Columbia and
then to the Pacific Ocean. As has been already set forth, they named the
Three Forks for President Jefferson and members of his cabinet. These
names still survive, although Jefferson River is the true Missouri
and not a fork of that stream. Upon the forks of the Jefferson Lewis
bestowed the titles of Philosophy, Wisdom, and Philanthropy, each of
these gifts and graces being, in his opinion, “an attribute of that
illustrious personage, Thomas Jefferson,” then President of the United
States. But alas for the fleeting greatness of geographical honor!
Philosophy River is now known as Willow Creek, and at its mouth, a busy
little railroad town, is Willow City. The northwest fork is no longer
Wisdom, but Big Hole River; deep valleys among the mountains are known
as holes; and the stream called by that name, once Wisdom, is followed
along its crooked course by a railroad that connects Dillon, Silver Bow,
and Butte City, Montana. Vulgarity does its worst for Philanthropy; its
modern name on the map is Stinking Water.

On the thirtieth of July, the party, having camped long enough to unpack
and dry their goods, dress their deerskins and make them into leggings
and moccasins, reloaded their canoes and began the toilsome ascent of
the Jefferson. The journal makes this record:--

“Sacajawea, our Indian woman, informs us that we are encamped on the
precise spot where her countrymen, the Snake Indians, had their huts
five years ago, when the Minnetarees of Knife River first came in
sight of them, and from whom they hastily retreated three miles up
the Jefferson, and concealed themselves in the woods. The Minnetarees,
however, pursued and attacked them, killed four men, as many women,
and a number of boys; and made prisoners of four other boys and all
the females, of whom Sacajawea was one. She does not, however, show any
distress at these recollections, nor any joy at the prospect of being
restored to her country; for she seems to possess the folly, or the
philosophy, of not suffering her feelings to extend beyond the anxiety
of having plenty to eat and a few trinkets to wear.

“This morning the hunters brought in some fat deer of the long-tailed
red kind, which are quite as large as those of the United States,
and are, indeed, the only kind we have found at this place. There are
numbers of the sand-hill cranes feeding in the meadows: we caught a
young one of the same color as the red deer, which, though it had nearly
attained its full growth, could not fly; it is very fierce, and strikes
a severe blow with its beak. . . .

“Captain Lewis proceeded after dinner through an extensive low ground of
timber and meadow-land intermixed; but the bayous were so obstructed by
beaver-dams that, in order to avoid them, he directed his course toward
the high plain on the right. This he gained with some difficulty,
after wading up to his waist through the mud and water of a number
of beaver-dams. When he desired to rejoin the canoes he found the
underbrush so thick, and the river so crooked, that this, joined to the
difficulty of passing the beaver-dams, induced him to go on and endeavor
to intercept the river at some point where it might be more collected
into one channel, and approach nearer the high plain. He arrived at the
bank about sunset, having gone only six miles in a direct course from
the canoes; but he saw no traces of the men, nor did he receive any
answer to his shouts and the firing of his gun. It was now nearly dark;
a duck lighted near him, and he shot it. He then went on the head of a
small island, where he found some driftwood, which enabled him to cook
his duck for supper, and laid down to sleep on some willow-brush. The
night was cool, but the driftwood gave him a good fire, and he suffered
no inconvenience, except from the mosquitoes.”

The easy indifference to discomfort with which these well-seasoned
pioneers took their hardships must needs impress the reader. It was a
common thing for men, or for a solitary man, to be caught out of camp
by nightfall and compelled to bivouac, like Captain Lewis, in the
underbrush, or the prairie-grass. As they pressed on, game began to fail
them. Under date of July 31, they remark that the only game seen that
day was one bighorn, a few antelopes, deer, and a brown bear, all of
which escaped them. “Nothing was killed to-day,” it is recorded, “nor
have we had any fresh meat except one beaver for the last two days; so
that we are now reduced to an unusual situation, for we have hitherto
always had a great abundance of flesh.” Indeed, one reason for this is
found in Captain Lewis’s remark: “When we have plenty of fresh meat, I
find it impossible to make the men take any care of it, or use it with
the least frugality, though I expect that necessity will shortly teach
them this art.” We shall see, later on, that the men, who were really as
improvident of food as the Indians, had hard lessons from necessity.

Anxious to reach the Indians, who were believed to be somewhere ahead
of them, Captain Lewis and three men went on up the Jefferson, Captain
Clark and his party following with the canoes and luggage in a more
leisurely manner. The advance party were so fortunate as to overtake a
herd of elk, two of which they killed; what they did not eat they left
secured for the other party with the canoes. Clark’s men also had good
luck in hunting, for they killed five deer and one bighorn. Neither
party found fresh tracks of Indians, and they were greatly discouraged
thereat. The journal speaks of a beautiful valley, from six to eight
miles wide, where they saw ancient traces of buffalo occupation, but no
buffalo. These animals had now completely disappeared; they were seldom
seen in those mountains. The journal says of Lewis:--

“He saw an abundance of deer and antelope, and many tracks of elk and
bear. Having killed two deer, they feasted sumptuously, with a dessert
of currants of different colors--two species red, others yellow, deep
purple, and black; to these were added black gooseberries and deep
purple service-berries, somewhat larger than ours, from which they
differ also in color, size, and the superior excellence of their
flavor. In the low grounds of the river were many beaver-dams formed of
willow-brush, mud, and gravel, so closely interwoven that they resist
the water perfectly; some of them were five feet high, and caused the
river to overflow several acres of land.”

Meanwhile, the party with the canoes were having a fatiguing time as
they toiled up the river. On the fourth of August, after they had made
only fifteen miles, the journal has this entry:--

“The river is still rapid, and the water, though clear, is very much
obstructed by shoals or ripples at every two hundred or three hundred
yards. At all these places we are obliged to drag the canoes over the
stones, as there is not a sufficient depth of water to float them, and
in the other parts the current obliges us to have recourse to the cord.
But as the brushwood on the banks will not permit us to walk on shore,
we are under the necessity of wading through the river as we drag the
boats. This soon makes our feet tender, and sometimes occasions severe
falls over the slippery stones; and the men, by being constantly wet,
are becoming more feeble. In the course of the day the hunters killed
two deer, some geese and ducks, and the party saw some antelopes,
cranes, beaver, and otter.”

Captain Lewis had left a note for Captain Clark at the forks of the
Jefferson and Wisdom rivers. Clark’s journal says:--

“We arrived at the forks about four o’clock, but, unluckily, Captain
Lewis’s note had been attached to a green pole, which the beaver had cut
down, and carried off with the note on it: an accident which deprived us
of all information as to the character of the two branches of the river.
Observing, therefore, that the northwest fork was most in our direction,
we ascended it. We found it extremely rapid, and its waters were
scattered in such a manner that for a quarter of a mile we were forced
to cut a passage through the willow-brush that leaned over the little
channels and united at the top. After going up it for a mile, we
encamped on an island which had been overflowed, and was still so wet
that we were compelled to make beds of brush to keep ourselves out of
the mud. Our provision consisted of two deer which had been killed in
the morning.”

It should be borne in mind that this river, up which the party were
making their way, was the Wisdom (now Big Hole), and was the northwest
fork of the Jefferson, flowing from southeast to northwest; and near the
point where it enters the Jefferson, it has a loop toward the northeast;
that is to say, it comes from the southwest to a person looking up its

After going up the Wisdom River, Clark’s party were overtaken by
Drewyer, Lewis’s hunter, who had been sent across between the forks to
notify Clark that Lewis regarded the other fork--the main Jefferson--as
the right course to take. The party, accordingly, turned about and began
to descend the stream, in order to ascend the Jefferson. The journal

“On going down, one of the canoes upset and two others filled with
water, by which all the baggage was wet and several articles were
irrecoverably lost. As one of them swung round in a rapid current,
Whitehouse was thrown out of her; while down, the canoe passed over him,
and had the water been two inches shallower would have crushed him to
pieces; but he escaped with a severe bruise of his leg. In order to
repair these misfortunes we hastened (down) to the forks, where we were
joined by Captain Lewis. We then passed over to the left (east) side,
opposite the entrance of the rapid fork, and camped on a large gravelly
bar, near which there was plenty of wood. Here we opened, and exposed
to dry, all the articles which had suffered from the water; none of them
were completely spoiled except a small keg of powder; the rest of the
powder, which was distributed in the different canoes, was quite safe,
although it had been under the water for upward of an hour. The air is
indeed so pure and dry that any wood-work immediately shrinks, unless
it is kept filled with water; but we had placed our powder in small
canisters of lead, each containing powder enough for the canister when
melted into bullets, and secured with cork and wax, which answered our
purpose perfectly. . . .”

“In the evening we killed three deer and four elk, which furnished us
once more with a plentiful supply of meat. Shannon, the same man who had
been lost for fifteen days (August 28 to Sept. 11, 1804), was sent
out this morning to hunt, up the northwest fork. When we decided on
returning, Drewyer was directed to go in quest of him, but he returned
with information that he had gone several miles up the (Wisdom) river
without being able to find Shannon. We now had the trumpet sounded,
and fired several guns; but he did not return, and we fear he is again

This man, although an expert hunter, had an unlucky habit of losing
himself in the wilderness, as many another good man has lost himself
among the mountains or the great plains. This time, however, he came
into camp again, after being lost three days.

On the eighth of August the party reached a point now known by its
famous landmark, Beaver Head, a remarkable rocky formation which gives
its name to Beaverhead County, Montana. The Indian woman, Sacajawea,
recognized the so-called beaver-head, which, she said, was not far from
the summer retreat of her countrymen, living on the other side of the
mountains. The whole party were now together again, the men with the
canoes having come up; and the journal says:--

“Persuaded of the absolute necessity of procuring horses to cross
the mountains, it was determined that one of us should proceed in the
morning to the head of the river, and penetrate the mountains till
he found the Shoshonees or some other nation who can assist us in
transporting our baggage, the greater part of which we shall be
compelled to leave without the aid of horses.”. . .

Early the next day Captain Lewis took Drewyer, Shields, and M’Neal, and,
slinging their knapsacks, they set out with a resolution to meet some
nation of Indians before they returned, however long they might be
separated from the party.

The party in the canoes continued to ascend the river, which was so
crooked that they advanced but four miles in a direct line from their
starting-place in a distance of eleven miles. In this manner, the party
on foot leading those with the canoes, they repeatedly explored the
various forks of the streams, which baffled them by their turnings and
windings. Lewis was in the advance, and Clark brought up the rear with
the main body. It was found necessary for the leading party to wade the
streams, and occasionally they were compelled by the roughness of
the way to leave the water-course and take to the hills, where great
vigilance was required to keep them in sight of the general direction in
which they must travel. On the 11th of August, 1805, Captain Lewis came
in sight of the first Indian encountered since leaving the country of
the Minnetarees, far back on the Missouri. The journal of that date

“On examining him with the glass Captain Lewis saw that he was of a
different nation from any Indians we had hitherto met. He was armed with
a bow and a quiver of arrows, and mounted on an elegant horse without a
saddle; a small string attached to the under jaw answered as a bridle.

“Convinced that he was a Shoshonee, and knowing how much our success
depended on the friendly offices of that nation, Captain Lewis was full
of anxiety to approach without alarming him, and endeavor to convince
him that he (Lewis) was a white man. He therefore proceeded toward the
Indian at his usual pace. When they were within a mile of each other the
Indian suddenly stopped. Captain Lewis immediately followed his example,
took his blanket from his knapsack, and, holding it with both hands at
the two corners, threw it above his head, and unfolded it as he brought
it to the ground, as if in the act of spreading it. This signal, which
originates in the practice of spreading a robe or skin as a seat for
guests to whom they wish to show a distinguished kindness, is the
universal sign of friendship among the Indians on the Missouri and the
Rocky Mountains. As usual, Captain Lewis repeated this signal three
times: still the Indian kept his position, and looked with an air of
suspicion on Drewyer and Shields, who were now advancing on each side.
Captain Lewis was afraid to make any signal for them to halt, lest he
should increase the distrust of the Indian, who began to be uneasy, and
they were too distant to hear his voice. He therefore took from his pack
some beads, a looking-glass, and a few trinkets, which he had brought
for the purpose, and, leaving his gun, advanced unarmed towards the
Indian. He remained in the same position till Captain Lewis came within
two hundred yards of him, when he turned his horse and began to move off
slowly. Captain Lewis then called out to him in as loud a voice as he
could, repeating the words tabba bone, which in the Shoshonee language
mean white man. But, looking over his shoulder, the Indian kept his eyes
on Drewyer and Shields, who were still advancing, without recollecting
the impropriety of doing so at such a moment, till Captain Lewis made a
signal to them to halt: this Drewyer obeyed, but Shields did not observe
it, and still went forward. Seeing Drewyer halt, the Indian turned his
horse about as if to wait for Captain Lewis, who now reached within one
hundred and fifty paces, repeating the words tabba bone, and holding up
the trinkets in his hand, at the same time stripping up the sleeve of
his shirt to show the color of his skin. The Indian suffered him to
advance within one hundred paces, then suddenly turned his horse, and,
giving him the whip, leaped across the creek, and disappeared in an
instant among the willow bushes: with him vanished all the hopes
which the sight of him had inspired, of a friendly introduction to his

Sadly disappointed by the clumsy imprudence of his men, Captain Lewis
now endeavored to follow the track of the retreating Indian, hoping that
this might lead them to an encampment, or village, of the Shoshonees. He
also built a fire, the smoke of which might attract the attention of
the Indians. At the same time, he placed on a pole near the fire a
small assortment of beads, trinkets, awls, and paints, in order that the
Indians, if they returned that way, might discover them and be thereby
assured the strangers were white men and friends. Next morning, while
trying to follow the trail of the lone Indian, they found traces of
freshly turned earth where people had been digging for roots; and, later
on, they came upon the fresh track of eight or ten horses. But these
were soon scattered, and the explorers only found that the general
direction of the trails was up into the mountains which define the
boundary between Montana and Idaho. Skirting the base of these mountains
(the Bitter Root), the party endeavored to find a plain trail, or Indian
road, leading up to a practicable pass. Travelling in a southwesterly
direction along the main stream, they entered a valley which led into
the mountains. Here they ate their last bit of fresh meat, the remainder
of a deer they had killed a day or two before; they reserved for their
final resort, in case of famine, a small piece of salt pork. The journal

“They then continued through the low bottom, along the main stream, near
the foot of the mountains on their right. For the first five miles, the
valley continues toward the southwest, being from two to three miles in
width; then the main stream, which had received two small branches from
the left in the valley, turned abruptly to the west through a narrow
bottom between the mountains. The road was still plain, and, as it
led them directly on toward the mountain, the stream gradually became
smaller, till, after going two miles, it had so greatly diminished in
width that one of the men, in a fit of enthusiasm, with one foot on
each side of the river, thanked God that he had lived to bestride the
Missouri. As they went along their hopes of soon seeing the Columbia
(that is, the Pacific watershed) arose almost to painful anxiety, when
after four miles from the last abrupt turn of the river (which turn
had been to the west), they reached a small gap formed by the high
mountains, which recede on each side, leaving room for the Indian road.
From the foot of one of the lowest of these mountains, which rises with
a gentle ascent of about half a mile, issues the remotest water of the

“They had now reached the hidden sources of that river, which had never
yet been seen by civilized man. As they quenched their thirst at the
chaste and icy fountain--as they sat down by the brink of that little
rivulet, which yielded its distant and modest tribute to the parent
ocean--they felt themselves rewarded for all their labors and all their

“They left reluctantly this interesting spot, and, pursuing the Indian
road through the interval of the hills, arrived at the top of a ridge,
from which they saw high mountains, partially covered with snow, still
to the west of them.

“The ridge on which they stood formed the dividing line between the
waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They followed a descent
much steeper than that on the eastern side, and at the distance of
three-quarters of a mile reached a handsome, bold creek of cold, clear
water running to the westward. They stopped to taste, for the first
time, the waters of the Columbia; and, after a few minutes, followed the
road across steep hills and low hollows, when they came to a spring on
the side of a mountain. Here they found a sufficient quantity of dry
willow-brush for fuel, and therefore halted for the night; and, having
killed nothing in the course of the day, supped on their last piece of
pork, and trusted to fortune for some other food to mix with a little
flour and parched meal, which was all that now remained of their

Chapter XIII -- From the Minnetarees to the Shoshonees

Travelling in a westerly direction, with a very gradual descent, Captain
Lewis, on the thirteenth of August, came upon two Indian women, a man,
and some dogs. The Indians sat down when the strangers first came in
sight, as if to wait for their coming; but, soon taking alarm, they
all fled, much to the chagrin of the white men. Now striking into a
well-worn Indian road, they found themselves surely near a village. The
journal says:--

“They had not gone along the road more than a mile, when on a sudden
they saw three female Indians, from whom they had been concealed by
the deep ravines which intersected the road, till they were now within
thirty paces of each other. One of them, a young woman, immediately took
to flight; the other two, an elderly woman and a little girl, seeing
they were too near for them to escape, sat on the ground, and holding
down their heads seemed as if reconciled to the death which they
supposed awaited them. The same habit of holding down the head and
inviting the enemy to strike, when all chance of escape is gone, is
preserved in Egypt to this day.

“Captain Lewis instantly put down his rifle, and advancing toward them,
took the woman by the hand, raised her up, and repeated the words ‘tabba
bone!’ at the same time stripping up his shirt-sleeve to prove that he
was a white man--for his hands and face had become by constant exposure
quite as dark as their own. She appeared immediately relieved from her
alarm; and Drewyer and Shields now coming up, Captain Lewis gave them
some beads, a few awls, pewter mirrors, and a little paint, and told
Drewyer to request the woman to recall her companion, who had escaped to
some distance and, by alarming the Indians, might cause them to attack
him without any time for explanation. She did as she was desired, and
the young woman returned almost out of breath. Captain Lewis gave her an
equal portion of trinkets, and painted the tawny checks of all three
of them with vermilion,--a ceremony which among the Shoshonees is
emblematic of peace.

“After they had become composed, he informed them by signs of his wishes
to go to their camp, in order to see their chiefs and warriors; they
readily obeyed, and conducted the party along the same road down the
river. In this way they marched two miles, when they met a troop of
nearly sixty warriors, mounted on excellent horses, riding at full speed
toward them. As they advanced Captain Lewis put down his gun, and went
with the flag about fifty paces in advance. The chief, who with two
men was riding in front of the main body, spoke to the women, who
now explained that the party was composed of white men, and showed
exultingly the presents they had received. The three men immediately
leaped from their horses, came up to Captain Lewis, and embraced him
with great cordiality, putting their left arm over his right shoulder,
and clasping his back, applying at the same time their left cheek to
his, and frequently vociferating ah hi e! ah hi e! ‘I am much pleased, I
am much rejoiced.’ The whole body of warriors now came forward, and our
men received the caresses, and no small share of the grease and paint,
of their new friends. After this fraternal embrace, of which the motive
was much more agreeable than the manner, Captain Lewis lighted a pipe,
and offered it to the Indians, who had now seated themselves in a
circle around the party. But, before they would receive this mark of
friendship, they pulled off their moccasins: a custom, as we afterward
learned, which indicates the sacred sincerity of their professions
when they smoke with a stranger, and which imprecates on themselves
the misery of going barefoot forever if they prove faithless to their
words--a penalty by no means light for those who rove over the thorny
plains of this country. . . .

“After smoking a few pipes, some trifling presents were distributed
among them, with which they seemed very much pleased, particularly with
the blue beads and the vermilion. Captain Lewis then stated to the chief
that the object of his visit was friendly, and should be explained as
soon as he reached their camp; and that, as the sun was oppressive, and
no water near, he wished to go there as soon as possible. They now put
on their moccasins, and their chief, whose name was Cameahwait, made
a short speech to the warriors. Captain Lewis then gave him the flag,
which he informed him was among white men the emblem of peace; and, now
that he had received it, was to be in future the bond of union between
them. The chief then moved on; our party followed him; and the rest of
the warriors, in a squadron, brought up the rear.”

Arriving at the village, the ceremony of smoking the pipe of peace
was solemnly observed; and the women and children of the tribe were
permitted to gaze with wonder on the first white men they had ever seen.
The Indians were not much better provided with food than were their
half-famished visitors. But some cakes made of service-berries and
choke-berries dried in the sun were presented to the white men “on
which,” says Captain Lewis, “we made a hearty meal.” Later in the day,
however, an Indian invited Captain Lewis into his wigwam and treated
him to a small morsel of boiled antelope and a piece of fresh salmon
roasted. This was the first salmon he had seen, and the captain was now
assured that he was on the headwaters of the Columbia. This stream was
what is now known as the Lemhi River. The water was clear and limpid,
flowing down a bed of gravel; its general direction was a little north
of west. The journal says:--

“The chief informed him that this stream discharged, at the distance
of half a day’s march, into another (Salmon River) of twice its size,
coming from the southwest; but added, on further inquiry, that there
was scarcely more timber below the junction of those rivers than in
this neighborhood, and that the river was rocky, rapid, and so closely
confined between high mountains that it was impossible to pass down it
either by land or water to the great lake (Pacific Ocean), where, as he
had understood, the white men lived.

“This information was far from being satisfactory, for there was no
timber here that would answer the purpose of building canoes,--indeed
not more than just sufficient for fuel; and even that consisted of
the narrow-leaved cottonwood, the red and the narrow-leaved willow,
chokecherry, service-berry, and a few currant bushes, such as are common
on the Missouri. The prospect of going on by land is more pleasant, for
there are great numbers of horses feeding in every direction round the
camp, which will enable us to transport our stores, if necessary, over
the mountains.”

While Captain Lewis was thus engaged, his companions in the canoes were
slowly and laboriously ascending the river on the other side of the
divide. The character of the stream was much as it had been for several
days, and the men were in the water three-fourths of the time, dragging
the boats over the shoals. They had but little success in killing game,
but caught, as they had done for some days before, numbers of fine

“August 14. In order to give time for the boats to reach the forks of
Jefferson River,” proceeds the narrative, “Captain Lewis determined to
remain where he was, and obtain all the information he could collect
in regard to the country. Having nothing to eat but a little flour and
parched meal, with the berries of the Indians, he sent out Drewyer and
Shields, who borrowed horses from the natives, to hunt for a few hours.
About the same time the young warriors set out for the same purpose.
There are but few elk or black tailed deer in this neighborhood; and as
the common red deer secrete themselves in the bushes when alarmed, they
are soon safe from the arrows, which are but feeble weapons against any
animals which the huntsmen cannot previously run down with their horses.
The chief game of the Shoshonees, therefore, is the antelope, which,
when pursued, retreats to the open plains, where the horses have full
room for the chase. But such is its extraordinary fleetness and wind,
that a single horse has no possible chance of outrunning it or tiring it
down, and the hunters are therefore obliged to resort to stratagem.

“About twenty Indians, mounted on fine horses, and armed with bows
and arrows, left the camp. In a short time they descried a herd of ten
antelope: they immediately separated into little squads of two or three,
and formed a scattered circle round the herd for five or six miles,
keeping at a wary distance, so as not to alarm them till they were
perfectly enclosed, and selecting, as far as possible, some commanding
eminence as a stand. Having gained their positions, a small party rode
towards the animals, and with wonderful dexterity the huntsmen preserved
their seats, and the horses their footing, as they ran at full speed
over the hills, down the steep ravines, and along the borders of the
precipices. They were soon outstripped by the antelopes, which, on
gaining the other extremity of the circle, were driven back and pursued
by the fresh hunters. They turned and flew, rather than ran, in another
direction; but there, too, they found new enemies. In this way they
were alternately pursued backward and forward, till at length,
notwithstanding the skill of the hunters, they all escaped and the
party, after running for two hours, returned without having caught
anything, and their horses foaming with sweat. This chase, the greater
part of which was seen from the camp, formed a beautiful scene; but to
the hunters it is exceedingly laborious, and so unproductive, even when
they are able to worry the animal down and shoot him, that forty or
fifty hunters will sometimes be engaged for half a day without obtaining
more than two or three antelope.

“Soon after they returned, our two huntsmen came in with no better
success. Captain Lewis therefore made a little paste with the flour, and
the addition of some berries formed a very palatable repast. Having now
secured the good will of Cameahwait, Captain Lewis informed him of his
wish that he would speak to the warriors, and endeavor to engage them
to accompany him to the forks of Jefferson River; where by this time
another chief (Clark), with a large party of white men, was awaiting his
(Lewis’) return; that it would be necessary to take about thirty horses
to transport the merchandise; that they should be well rewarded for
their trouble; and that, when all the party should have reached the
Shoshonee camp, they would remain some time among them to trade for
horses, as well as concert plans for furnishing them in future with
regular supplies of merchandise. He readily consented to do so, and
after collecting the tribe together, he made a long harangue. In about
an hour and a half he returned, and told Captain Lewis that they would
be ready to accompany him in the morning.”

But the Indians were suspicious and reluctant to take the word of the
white man. Captain Lewis, almost at his wits’ end, appealed to their
courage. He said that if they were afraid of being led into a trap, he
was sure that some among them were not afraid.

“To doubt the courage of an Indian is to touch the tenderest string of
his mind, and the surest way to rouse him to any dangerous achievement.
Cameahwait instantly replied that he was not afraid to die, and mounting
his horse, for the third time harangued the warriors. He told them that
he was resolved to go if he went alone, or if he were sure of perishing;
that he hoped there were among those who heard him some who were not
afraid to die, and who would prove it by mounting their horses and
following him. This harangue produced an effect on six or eight only
of the warriors, who now joined their chief. With these Captain Lewis
smoked a pipe; and then, fearful of some change in their capricious
temper, set out immediately.”

The party now retraced the steps so lately taken by Captain Lewis and
his men. On the second day out, one of the spies sent forward by the
Indians came madly galloping back, much to the alarm of the white men.
It proved, however, that the spy had returned to tell his comrades that
one of the white hunters (Drewyer) had killed a deer. An Indian riding
behind Captain Lewis, fearful that he should not get his share of
the spoil, jumped off the horse and ran for a mile at full speed. The
journal says:--

“Captain Lewis slackened his pace, and followed at a sufficient distance
to observe them. When they reached the place where Drewyer had thrown
out the intestines, they all dismounted in confusion and ran tumbling
over each other like famished dogs. Each tore away whatever part he
could, and instantly began to eat it. Some had the liver, some the
kidneys--in short, no part on which we are accustomed to look with
disgust escaped them. One of them, who had seized about nine feet of the
entrails, was chewing at one end, while with his hand he was diligently
clearing his way by discharging the contents at the other. It was indeed
impossible to see these wretches ravenously feeding on the filth of
animals, the blood streaming from their mouths, without deploring how
nearly the condition of savages approaches that of the brute creation.
Yet, though suffering with hunger, they did not attempt, as they might
have done, to take by force the whole deer, but contented themselves
with what had been thrown away by the hunter. Captain Lewis now had the
deer skinned, and after reserving a quarter of it gave the rest of the
animal to the chief, to be divided among the Indians, who immediately
devoured nearly the whole of it without cooking. They now went toward
the (Prairie) creek, where there was some brushwood to make a fire, and
found Drewyer, who had killed a second deer. The same struggle for the
entrails was renewed here, and on giving nearly the whole deer to the
Indians, they devoured it even to the soft part of the hoofs. A fire
being made, Captain Lewis had his breakfast, during which Drewyer
brought in a third deer. This too, after reserving one-quarter, was
given to the Indians, who now seemed completely satisfied and in good

They now approached the forks of the Jefferson, where they had expected
to meet Clark and his party with the canoes. Not seeing any signs of
them, the Lewis party were placed in a critical position. The Indians
were again alarmed and suspicious. Here Captain Clark’s journal says:--

“As they went on towards the point, Captain Lewis, perceiving how
critical his situation had become, resolved to attempt a stratagem,
which his present difficulty seemed completely to justify. Recollecting
the notes he had left at the point for us, he sent Drewyer for them with
an Indian, who witnessed his taking them from the pole. When they were
brought, Captain Lewis told Cameahwait that, on leaving his brother
chief at the place where the river issues from the mountains, it was
agreed that the boats should not be brought higher than the next forks
we should meet; but that, if the rapid water prevented the boats from
coming on as fast as they expected, his brother chief was to send a note
to the first forks above him, to let him know where they were: that this
note had been left this morning at the forks, and mentioned that
the canoes were just below the mountains, and coming up slowly in
consequence of the current. Captain Lewis added that he would stay at
the forks for his brother chief, but would send a man down the river;
and that if Cameahwait doubted what he said, one of their young men
could go with him, while he and the other two remained at the forks.
This story satisfied the chief and the greater part of the Indians; but
a few did not conceal their suspicions, observing that we told different
stories, and complaining that their chief exposed them to danger by
a mistaken confidence. Captain Lewis now wrote, by the light of some
willow-brush, a note to Captain Clark, which he gave to Drewyer, with
an order to use all possible expedition in descending the river, and
engaged an Indian to accompany him by the promise of a knife and some

“At bedtime the chief and five others slept round the fire of
Captain Lewis, and the rest hid themselves in different parts of the
willow-brush to avoid the enemy, who, they feared, would attack them in
the night. Captain Lewis endeavored to assume a cheerfulness he did not
feel, to prevent the despondency of the savages. After conversing gayly
with them he retired to his mosquito-bier, by the side of which the
chief now placed himself. He lay down, yet slept but little, being
in fact scarcely less uneasy than his Indian companions. He was
apprehensive that, finding the ascent of the river impracticable,
Captain Clark might have stopped below Rattlesnake bluff, and the
messenger would not meet him. The consequence of disappointing the
Indians at this moment would most probably be that they would retire
and secrete themselves in the mountains, so as to prevent our having
an opportunity of recovering their confidence. They would also spread
a panic through all the neighboring Indians, and cut us off from the
supply of horses so useful and almost so essential to our success.
He was at the same time consoled by remembering that his hopes of
assistance rested on better foundations than their generosity--their
avarice and their curiosity. He had promised liberal exchanges for their
horses; but what was still more seductive, he had told them that one of
their countrywomen, who had been taken with the Minnetarees, accompanied
the party below; and one of the men had spread the report of our having
with us a man (York) perfectly black, whose hair was short and curled.
This last account had excited a great degree of curiosity, and they
seemed more desirous of seeing this monster than of obtaining the most
favorable barter for their horses.”

On the following day, August 17, the two parties of explorers finally
met. Under that date the journal has this interesting entry:--

“Captain Lewis rose very early and despatched Drewyer and the Indian
down the river in quest of the boats. Shields was sent out at the same
time to hunt, while M’Neal prepared a breakfast out of the remainder of
the meat. Drewyer had been gone about two hours, and the Indians were
all anxiously waiting for some news, when an Indian, who had straggled
a short distance down the river, returned with a report that he had seen
the white men, who were only a short distance below, and were coming on.
The Indians were transported with joy, and the chief, in the warmth of
his satisfaction, renewed his embrace to Captain Lewis, who was quite
as much delighted as the Indians themselves. The report proved most
agreeably true.

“On setting out at seven o’clock, Captain Clark, with Chaboneau and his
wife, walked on shore; but they had not gone more than a mile before
Captain Clark saw Sacajawea, who was with her husband one hundred yards
ahead, begin to dance and show every mark of the most extravagant joy,
turning round to him and pointing to several Indians, whom he now
saw advancing on horseback, sucking her fingers at the same time, to
indicate that they were of her native tribe. As they advanced, Captain
Clark discovered among them Drewyer dressed like an Indian, from whom he
learned the situation of the party. While the boats were performing the
circuit, he went toward the forks with the Indians, who, as they went
along, sang aloud with the greatest appearance of delight.

“We soon drew near the camp, and just as we approached it a woman made
her way through the crowd toward Sacajawea; recognizing each other, they
embraced with the most tender affection. The meeting of these two young
women had in it something peculiarly touching, not only from the ardent
manner in which their feelings were expressed, but also from the real
interest of their situation. They had been companions in childhood; in
the war with the Minnetarees they had both been taken prisoners in the
same battle; they had shared and softened the rigors of their captivity
till one of them had escaped from their enemies with scarce a hope of
ever seeing her friend rescued from their hands.

“While Sacajawea was renewing among the women the friendships of former
days, Captain Clark went on, and was received by Captain Lewis and
the chief, who, after the first embraces and salutations were over,
conducted him to a sort of circular tent or shade of willows. Here he
was seated on a white robe; and the chief immediately tied in his hair
six small shells resembling pearls, an ornament highly valued by these
people, who procure them in the course of trade from the seacoast.
The moccasins of the whole party were then taken off, and, after much
ceremony, the smoking began. After this the conference was to be opened;
and, glad of an opportunity of being able to converse more intelligibly,
Sacajawea was sent for: she came into the tent, sat down, and was
beginning to interpret, when in the person of Cameahwait she recognized
her brother. She instantly jumped up, and ran and embraced him, throwing
over him her blanket, and weeping profusely: the chief was himself
moved, though not in the same degree. After some conversation between
them she resumed her seat, and attempted to interpret for us; but
her new situation seemed to overpower her, and she was frequently
interrupted by her tears. After the council was finished, the
unfortunate woman learned that all her family were dead except two
brothers, one of whom was absent, and a son of her eldest sister, a
small boy, who was immediately adopted by her.”

The two parties, Indian and white, now went into a conference, the white
chiefs explaining that it would be needful for their Indian friends
to collect all their horses and help to transport the goods of the
explorers over the Great Divide. The journal says:--

“The speech made a favorable impression. The chief, in reply, thanked
us for our expressions of friendship toward himself and his nation, and
declared their willingness to render us every service. He lamented that
it would be so long before they should be supplied with firearms,
but that till then they could subsist as they had heretofore done. He
concluded by saying that there were not horses enough here to transport
our goods, but that he would return to the village to-morrow, bring all
his own horses, and encourage his people to come over with theirs.
The conference being ended to our satisfaction, we now inquired of
Cameahwait what chiefs were among the party, and he pointed out two of
them. We then distributed our presents: to Cameahwait we gave a medal of
small size, with the likeness of President Jefferson, and on the reverse
a figure of hands clasped with a pipe and tomahawk; to this was added an
uniform coat, a shirt, a pair of scarlet leggings, a carrot (or twist)
of tobacco, and some small articles. Each of the other chiefs received a
small medal struck during the presidency of General Washington, a shirt,
handkerchief, leggings, knife, and some tobacco. Medals of the same sort
were also presented to two young warriors, who, though not chiefs, were
promising youths and very much respected in the tribe. These honorary
gifts were followed by presents of paint, moccasins, awls, knives,
beads, and looking-glasses. We also gave them all a plentiful meal of
Indian corn, of which the hull is taken off by being boiled in lye; as
this was the first they had ever tasted, they were very much pleased
with it. They had, indeed, abundant sources of surprise in all they
saw--the appearance of the men, their arms, their clothing, the canoes,
the strange looks of the negro, and the sagacity of our dog, all in turn
shared their admiration, which was raised to astonishment by a shot from
the air-gun. This operation was instantly considered ‘great medicine,’
by which they, as well as the other Indians, mean something emanating
directly from the Great Spirit, or produced by his invisible and
incomprehensible agency. . . .

“After the council was over we consulted as to our future operations.
The game did not promise to last here for many days; and this
circumstance combined with many others to induce our going on as soon as
possible. Our Indian information as to the state of the Columbia was of
a very alarming kind; and our first object was, of course, to ascertain
the practicability of descending it, of which the Indians discouraged
our expectations. It was therefore agreed that Captain Clark should set
off in the morning with eleven men, furnished, besides their arms, with
tools for making canoes: that he should take Chaboneau and his wife
to the camp of the Shoshonees, where he was to leave them, in order to
hasten the collection of horses; that he should then lead his men
down to the Columbia, and if he found it navigable, and the timber in
sufficient quantity, begin to build canoes. As soon as he had decided
as to the propriety of proceeding down the Columbia or across the
mountains, he was to send back one of the men with information of it to
Captain Lewis, who by that time would have brought up the whole
party, and the rest of the baggage, as far as the Shoshonee village.
Preparations were accordingly made at once to carry out the
arrangement. . . .”

“In order to relieve the men of Captain Clark’s party from the heavy
weight of their arms, provisions, and tools, we exposed a few articles
to barter for horses, and soon obtained three very good ones, in
exchange for which we gave a uniform coat, a pair of leggings, a few
handkerchiefs, three knives, and some other small articles, the whole
of which did not, in the United States, cost more than twenty dollars;
a fourth was purchased by the men for an old checkered shirt, a pair
of old leggings, and a knife. The Indians seemed to be quite as well
pleased as ourselves at the bargain they had made. We now found that the
two inferior chiefs were somewhat displeased at not having received a
present equal to that given to the great chief, who appeared in a dress
so much finer than their own. To allay their discontent, we bestowed on
them two old coats, and promised them if they were active in assisting
us across the mountains they should have an additional present. This
treatment completely reconciled them, and the whole Indian party, except
two men and two women, set out in perfect good humor to return to their
home with Captain Clark.”

Chapter XIV -- Across the Great Divide

Captain Clark had now left the water-shed of the Missouri behind him,
and was pressing on, over a broken, hilly country, to the lands from
which issue the tributaries of the Columbia. The Indian village which
Captain Lewis had previously visited had been removed two miles up the
stream on which it was situated, and was reached by Clark on August 20.
The party was very ceremoniously received by Chief Cameahwait, and
all hands began to explain to the white men the difficulties of the
situation. How to transport the canoes and baggage over the mountains
to some navigable stream leading into the Columbia was now the serious
problem. The Indian chief and his old men dwelt on the obstacles in the
way and argued that it was too late in the season to make the attempt.
They even urged the white men to stay with them until another spring,
when Indian guides would be furnished them to proceed on their journey

On the twenty-first, Clark passed the junction of two streams, the
Salmon and the Lemhi, which is now the site of Salmon City, Idaho. As
Captain Lewis was the first white man who had seen these waters,
Clark gave to the combined water-course the name of Lewis’ River. The
mountains here assumed a formidable aspect, and the stream was too
narrow, rapid, and rock-bound to admit of navigation. The journal says
of Captain Clark:--

“He soon began to perceive that the Indian accounts had not been
exaggerated. At the distance of a mile he passed a small creek (on the
right), and the points of four mountains, which were rocky, and so high
that it seemed almost impossible to cross them with horses. The road lay
over the sharp fragments of rocks which had fallen from the mountains,
and were strewed in heaps for miles together; yet the horses, altogether
unshod, travelled across them as fast as the men, without detaining them
a moment. They passed two bold running streams, and reached the entrance
of a small river, where a few Indian families resided, who had not been
previously acquainted with the arrival of the whites; the guide was
behind, and the woods were so thick that we came upon them unobserved,
till at a very short distance. As soon as they saw us the women and
children fled in great consternation; the men offered us everything they
had--the fish on the scaffolds, the dried berries, and the collars of
elks’ tushes worn by the children. We took only a small quantity of the
food, and gave them in return some small articles which conduced very
much to pacify them. The guide now coming up, explained to them who we
were and the object of our visit, which seemed to relieve their fears;
still a number of the women and children did not recover from their
fright, but cried during our stay, which lasted about an hour. The
guide, whom we found a very intelligent, friendly old man, informed us
that up this river there was a road which led over the mountains to the

To add to their difficulties, game had almost entirely disappeared, and
the abundant fish in the river could not be caught for lack of proper
fishing-tackle. Timber from which canoes could be made, there was none,
and the rapids in the rivers were sharp and violent. With his Indian
guide and three men, Captain Clark now pressed on his route of survey,
leaving the remainder of his men behind to hunt and fish. He went down
the Salmon River about fifty-two miles, making his way as best he could
along its banks. Finding the way absolutely blocked for their purposes,
Captain Clark returned on the twenty-fifth of August and rejoined the
party that he had left behind. These had not been able to kill anything,
and for a time starvation stared them in the face. Under date of August
27, the journal says:--

“The men, who were engaged last night in mending their moccasins, all
except one, went out hunting, but no game was to be procured. One of the
men, however, killed a small salmon, and the Indians made a present of
another, on which the whole party made a very slight breakfast. These
Indians, to whom this life is familiar, seem contented, although they
depend for subsistence on the scanty productions of the fishery. But
our men, who are used to hardships, but have been accustomed to have
the first wants of nature regularly supplied, feel very sensibly their
wretched situation; their strength is wasting away; they begin to
express their apprehensions of being without food in a country perfectly
destitute of any means of supporting life, except a few fish. In the
course of the day an Indian brought into the camp five salmon, two of
which Captain Clark bought and made a supper for the party.”

Two days later, Captain Clark and his men joined the main party, having
met the only repulse that was suffered by the expedition from first to
last. Eluding the vigilance of the Indians, caches, or hiding-places,
for the baggage were constructed, filled, and concealed, the work being
done after dark. The weather was now very cold, although August had
not passed. Ink froze in the pen during the night, and the meadows were
white with frost; but the days were warm, even hot.

In the absence of Captain Clark, his colleague and party had been
visited by Cameahwait and about fifty of his band, with their women and
children. Captain Lewis’ journal says:--

“After they had camped near us and turned loose their horses, we called
a council of all the chiefs and warriors, and addressed them in a
speech. Additional presents were then distributed, particularly to
the two second chiefs, who had, agreeably to their promises, exerted
themselves in our favor. The council was then adjourned, and all the
Indians were treated with an abundant meal of boiled Indian corn and
beans. The poor wretches, who had no animal food and scarcely anything
but a few fish, had been almost starved, and received this new luxury
with great thankfulness. Out of compliment to the chief, we gave him
a few dried squashes, which we had brought from the Mandans, and he
declared it was the best food he had ever tasted except sugar, a small
lump of which he had received from his sister Sacajawea. He now declared
how happy they should all be to live in a country which produced so many
good things; and we told him that it would not be long before the white
men would put it in their power to live below the mountains, where they
might themselves cultivate all these kinds of food, instead of wandering
in the mountains. He appeared to be much pleased with this information,
and the whole party being now in excellent temper after their repast, we
began our purchase of horses. We soon obtained five very good ones, on
very reasonable terms--that is, by giving for each horse merchandise
which cost us originally about $6. We have again to admire the perfect
decency and propriety of the Indians; for though so numerous, they do
not attempt to crowd round our camp or take anything which they see
lying about, and whenever they borrow knives or kettles or any other
article from the men, they return them with great fidelity.”

Captain Lewis anxiously wished to push on to meet Clark, who, as we
have seen, was then far down on the Salmon River. Lewis was still at
the forks of Jefferson River, it should be borne in mind; and their
objective point was the upper Shoshonee village on the Lemhi River,
across the divide. While on the way over the divide, Lewis was greatly
troubled by the freaks of the Indians, who, regardless of their
promises, would propose to return to the buffalo country on the eastern
side of the mountains. Learning that Cameahwait and his chiefs had sent
a messenger over to the Lemhi to notify the village to come and join an
expedition of this sort, Captain Lewis was dismayed. His journal says:--

“Alarmed at this new caprice of the Indians, which, if not counteracted,
threatened to leave ourselves and our baggage on the mountains, or
even if we reached the waters of the Columbia, to prevent our obtaining
horses to go on further, Captain Lewis immediately called the three
chiefs together. After smoking a pipe he asked them if they were men
of their word, and if we could rely on their promises. They readily
answered in the affirmative. He then asked if they had not agreed to
assist us in carrying our baggage over the mountains. To this they also
answered yes. ‘Why, then,’ said he, ‘have you requested your people
to meet us to-morrow where it will be impossible for us to trade for
horses, as you promised we should? If,’ he continued, ‘you had not
promised to help us in transporting our goods over the mountains, we
should not have attempted it, but have returned down the river; after
which no white men would ever have come into your country. If you wish
the whites to be your friends, to bring you arms, and to protect you
from your enemies, you should never promise what you do not mean
to perform. When I first met you, you doubted what I said, yet you
afterward saw that I told you the truth. How, therefore, can you doubt
what I now tell you? You see that I divide amongst you the meat which
my hunters kill, and I promise to give all who assist us a share of
whatever we have to eat. If, therefore, you intend to keep your promise,
send one of the young men immediately, to order the people to remain at
the village till we arrive.’ The two inferior chiefs then said that they
had wished to keep their word and to assist us; that they had not sent
for the people, but on the contrary had disapproved of that measure,
which was done wholly by the first chief. Cameahwait remained silent
for some time; at last he said that he knew he had done wrong, but that,
seeing his people all in want of provisions, he had wished to hasten
their departure for the country where their wants might be supplied.
He, however, now declared that, having passed his word, he would never
violate it, and counter-orders were immediately sent to the village by
a young man, to whom we gave a handkerchief in order to ensure despatch
and fidelity. . . .

“This difficulty being now adjusted, our march was resumed with an
unusual degree of alacrity on the part of the Indians. We passed a spot
where, six years ago, the Shoshonees had suffered a very severe defeat
from the Minnetarees; and late in the evening we reached the upper part
of the cove, where the creek enters the mountains. The part of the cove
on the northeast side of the creek has lately been burned, most probably
as a signal on some occasion. Here we were joined by our hunters with a
single deer, which Captain Lewis gave, as a proof of his sincerity,
to the women and children, and remained supperless himself. As we came
along we observed several large hares, some ducks, and many of the cock
of the plains: in the low grounds of the cove were also considerable
quantities of wild onions.”

Arriving at the Shoshonee village on the Lemhi, Captain Lewis found a
note from Captain Clark, sent back by a runner, informing him of
the difficulty and impossibility of a water route to the Columbia.
Cameahwait, being told that his white friends would now need twenty more
horses, said that he would do what he could to help them. The journal
here adds:--

“In order not to lose the present favorable moment, and to keep the
Indians as cheerful as possible, the violins were brought out and our
men danced, to the great diversion of the Indians. This mirth was the
more welcome because our situation was not precisely that which would
most dispose us to gayety; for we have only a little parched corn to
eat, and our means of subsistence or of success depend on the wavering
temper of the natives, who may change their minds to-morrow. . . .

“The Shoshonees are a small tribe of the nation called the Snake
Indians, a vague appellation, which embraces at once the inhabitants of
the southern parts of the Rocky Mountains and of the plains on either
side. The Shoshonees with whom we now were amount to about one hundred
warriors, and three times that number of women and children. Within
their own recollection they formerly lived in the plains, but they have
been driven into the mountains by the Pahkees, or the roving Indians
of the Sascatchawan, and are now obliged to visit occasionally, and
by stealth, the country of their ancestors. Their lives, indeed, are
migratory. From the middle of May to the beginning of September they
reside on the headwaters of the Columbia, where they consider themselves
perfectly secure from the Pahkees, who have never yet found their way to
that retreat. During this time they subsist chiefly on salmon, and, as
that fish disappears on the approach of autumn, they are driven to seek
subsistence elsewhere. They then cross the ridge to the waters of the
Missouri, down which they proceed slowly and cautiously, till they are
joined near the Three Forks by other bands, either of their own nation
or of the Flatheads, with whom they associate against the common enemy.
Being now strong in numbers, they venture to hunt the buffalo in the
plains eastward of the mountains, near which they spend the winter, till
the return of the salmon invites them to the Columbia. But such is their
terror of the Pahkees, that, so long as they can obtain the scantiest
subsistence, they do not leave the interior of the mountains; and, as
soon as they have collected a large stock of dried meat, they again
retreat, thus alternately obtaining their food at the hazard of their
lives, and hiding themselves to consume it.

“In this loose and wandering life they suffer the extremes of want; for
two thirds of the year they are forced to live in the mountains, passing
whole weeks without meat, and with nothing to eat but a few fish and
roots. Nor can anything be imagined more wretched than their condition
at the present time, when the salmon is fast retiring, when roots are
becoming scarce, and they have not yet acquired strength to hazard an
encounter with their enemies. So insensible are they, however, to these
calamities, that the Shoshonees are not only cheerful, but even gay; and
their character, which is more interesting than that of any Indians
we have seen, has in it much of the dignity of misfortune. In their
intercourse with strangers they are frank and communicative; in their
dealings they are perfectly fair; nor have we, during our stay with
them, had any reason to suspect that the display of all our new and
valuable wealth has tempted them into a single act of dishonesty. While
they have generally shared with us the little they possess, they have
always abstained from begging anything from us. With their liveliness
of temper, they are fond of gaudy dresses and all sorts of amusements,
particularly games of hazard; and, like most Indians, delight in
boasting of their warlike exploits, either real or fictitious. In their
conduct towards us they have been kind and obliging; and though on one
occasion they seemed willing to neglect us, yet we scarcely knew how to
blame the treatment by which we were to suffer, when we recollected how
few civilized chiefs would have hazarded the comforts or the subsistence
of their people for the sake of a few strangers. . . . . . . . . .

“As war is the chief occupation, bravery is the first virtue among
the Shoshonees. None can hope to be distinguished without having given
proofs of it, nor can there be any preferment or influence among the
nation, without some warlike achievement. Those important events which
give reputation to a warrior, and entitle him to a new name, are:
killing a white (or grizzly) bear, stealing individually the horses
of the enemy, leading a party who happen to be successful either in
plundering horses or destroying the enemy, and lastly, scalping a
warrior. These acts seem of nearly equal dignity, but the last, that
of taking an enemy’s scalp, is an honor quite independent of the act of
vanquishing him. To kill your adversary is of no importance unless the
scalp is brought from the field of battle; were a warrior to slay any
number of his enemies in action, and others were to obtain the scalps
or first touch the dead, they would have all the honors, since they have
borne off the trophy. . . .”

“The names of these Indians vary in the course of their life. Originally
given in childhood, from the mere necessity of distinguishing objects,
or from some accidental resemblance to external objects, the young
warrior is impatient to change it by some achievement of his own. Any
important event--the stealing of horses, the scalping of an enemy, or
the killing of a brown bear--entitles him at once to a new name,
which he then selects for himself, and it is confirmed by the nation.
Sometimes the two names subsist together; thus, the chief Cameahwait,
which means ‘One Who Never Walks,’ has the war-name of Tooettecone, or
‘Black Gun,’ which he acquired when he first signalized himself. As each
new action gives a warrior a right to change his name, many of them have
several in the course of their lives. To give to a friend one’s own name
is an act of high courtesy, and a pledge, like that of pulling off the
moccasin, of sincerity and hospitality. The chief in this way gave his
name to Captain Clark when he first arrived, and he was afterward known
among the Shoshonees by the name of Cameahwait.”

On the thirtieth of August, the whole expedition being now reunited, and
a sufficient number of horses having been purchased of the Shoshonees,
the final start across the mountains was begun. The journal says:

“The greater part of the band, who had delayed their journey on our
account, were also ready to depart. We took leave of the Shoshonees,
who set out on their visit to the Missouri at the same time that we,
accompanied by the old guide, his four sons, and another Indian, began
the descent of the Lemhi River, along the same road which Captain Clark
had previously pursued. After riding twelve miles we camped on the south
bank of this river, and as the hunters had brought in three deer early
in the morning, we did not feel the want of provisions.”

Three days later, all the Indians, except the old guide, left them.
They now passed up Fish Creek, and finding no track leading over the
mountains they cut their way. Their journal says:--

“This we effected with much difficulty; the thickets of trees and brush
through which we were obliged to cut our way required great labor; the
road itself was over the steep and rocky sides of the hills, where the
horses could not move without danger of slipping down, while their
feet were bruised by the rocks and stumps of trees. Accustomed as these
animals were to this kind of life, they suffered severely; several of
them fell to some distance down the sides of the hills, some turned over
with the baggage, one was crippled, and two gave out, exhausted with
fatigue. After crossing the creek several times we at last made five
miles, with great fatigue and labor, and camped on the left side of the
creek in a small stony low ground. It was not, however, till after dark
that the whole party was collected; and then, as it rained and we had
killed nothing, we passed an uncomfortable night. The party had been
too busily occupied with the horses to make any hunting excursion; and
though, as we came along Fish Creek, we saw many beaver-dams, we saw
none of the animals themselves.”

The Indian guide appears here to have lost his way; but, not dismayed,
he pushed on through a trackless wilderness, sometimes travelling on
the snow that now covered the mountains. On the fourth of September, the
party came upon a large encampment of Indians, who received them with
much ceremony. The journal says:--

“September 5, we assembled the chiefs and warriors, and informed them
who we were, and the purpose for which we had visited their country. All
this was, however, conveyed to them through so many different languages,
that it was not comprehended without difficulty. We therefore proceeded
to the more intelligible language of presents, and made four chiefs by
giving a medal and a small quantity of tobacco to each. We received in
turn from the principal chief a present consisting of the skins of a
blaireau (badger), an otter, and two antelopes, and were treated by
the women to some dried roots and berries. We then began to traffic for
horses, and succeeded in exchanging seven and purchasing eleven, for
which we gave a few articles of merchandise.

“This encampment consists of thirty-three tents, in which were about
four hundred souls, among whom eighty were men. They are called
Ootlashoots, and represent themselves as one band of a nation called
Tushepaws, a numerous people of four hundred and fifty tents, residing
on the head-waters of the Missouri and Columbia rivers, and some of
them lower down the latter river. In person these Indians are stout, and
their complexion lighter than that common among Indians. The hair of
the men is worn in queues of otter skin, falling in front over the
shoulders. A shirt of dressed skin covers the body to the knee, and
over this is worn occasionally a robe. To these are added leggings and
moccasins. The women suffer their hair to fall in disorder over the face
and shoulders, and their chief article of covering is a long shirt of
skin, reaching down to the ankles, and tied round the waist. In other
respects, as also in the few ornaments which they possess, their
appearance is similar to that of the Shoshonees: there is, however, a
difference between the languages of these two people, which is still
farther increased by the very extraordinary pronunciation of the
Ootlashoots. Their words have all a remarkably guttural sound, and there
is nothing which seems to represent the tone of their speaking more
exactly than the clucking of a fowl or the noise of a parrot. This
peculiarity renders their voices scarcely audible, except at a short
distance; and, when many of them are talking, forms a strange confusion
of sounds. The common conversation that we overheard consisted of low,
guttural sounds, occasionally broken by a low word or two, after which
it would relapse, and could scarcely be distinguished. They seemed kind
and friendly, and willingly shared with us berries and roots, which
formed their sole stock of provisions. Their only wealth is their
horses, which are very fine, and so numerous that this party had with
them at least five hundred.”

These Indians were on their way to join the other bands who were hunting
buffalo on the Jefferson River, across the Great Divide. They set out
the next morning, and the explorers resumed their toilsome journey,
travelling generally in a northwesterly direction and looking for a pass
across the Bitter Root Mountains. Very soon, all indications of game
disappeared, and, September 14, they were forced to kill a colt, their
stock of animal food being exhausted. They pressed on, however, through
a savage wilderness, having frequent need to recur to horse-flesh. Here
is an entry under date of September 18, in the journal: “We melted some
snow, and supped on a little portable soup, a few canisters of which,
with about twenty pounds’ weight of bear’s oil, are our only remaining
means of subsistence. Our guns are scarcely of any service, for there is
no living creature in these mountains, except a few small pheasants,
a small species of gray squirrel, and a blue bird of the vulture kind,
about the size of a turtle-dove, or jay. Even these are difficult to

“A bold running creek,” up which Captain Clark passed on September 19,
was appropriately named by him “Hungry Creek,” as at that place they had
nothing to eat. But, at about six miles’ distance from the head of the
stream, “he fortunately found a horse, on which he breakfasted, and hung
the rest on a tree for the party in the rear.” This was one of the wild
horses, strayed from Indian bands, which they found in the wilderness,
too wild to be caught and used, but not too wild to shoot and eat.
Later, on the same day, this entry is made in the journal:

“The road along the creek is a narrow rocky path near the borders
of very high precipices, from which a fall seems almost inevitable
destruction. One of our horses slipped and rolled over with his load
down the hillside, which was nearly perpendicular and strewed with large
irregular rocks, nearly one hundred yards, and did not stop till he fell
into the creek. We all expected he was killed, but to our astonishment,
on taking off his load he rose, seemed but little injured, and in twenty
minutes proceeded with his load. Having no other provision, we took some
portable soup, our only refreshment during the day. This abstinence,
joined with fatigue, has a visible effect on our health. The men are
growing weak and losing their flesh very fast; several are afflicted
with dysentery, and eruptions of the skin are very common.”

Next day, the party descended the last of the Bitter Root range and
reached level country. They were at last over the Great Divide. Three
Indian boys were discovered hiding in the grass, in great alarm. Captain
Clark at once dismounted from his horse, and, making signs of amity,
went after the boys. He calmed their terrors, and, giving them some bits
of ribbon, sent them home.

“Soon after the boys reached home, a man came out to meet the party,
with great caution; but he conducted them to a large tent in the
village, and all the inhabitants gathered round to view with a mixture
of fear and pleasure these wonderful strangers. The conductor now
informed Captain Clark, by signs, that the spacious tent was the
residence of the great chief, who had set out three days ago with all
the warriors to attack some of their enemies toward the southwest; that
he would not return before fifteen or eighteen days, and that in
the mean time there were only a few men left to guard the women and
children. They now set before them a small piece of buffalo-meat, some
dried salmon, berries, and several kinds of roots. Among these last is
one which is round, much like an onion in appearance, and sweet to the
taste. It is called quamash, and is eaten either in its natural state,
or boiled into a kind of soup, or made into a cake, which is then called
pasheco. After the long abstinence this was a sumptuous treat. They
returned the kindness of the people by a few small presents, and then
went on in company with one of the chiefs to a second village in the
same plain, at the distance of two miles. Here the party were treated
with great kindness, and passed the night. The hunters were sent out,
but, though they saw some tracks of deer, were not able to procure

The root which the Indians used in so many ways is now known as camas;
it is still much sought for by the Nez Perces and other wandering tribes
in the Northwest, and Camas Prairie, in that region, derives its name
from the much-sought-for vegetable.

Captain Clark and his men stayed with these hospitable Indians several
days. The free use of wholesome food, to which he had not lately been
accustomed, made Clark very ill, and he contented himself with staying
in the Indian villages, of which there were two. These Indians called
themselves Chopunnish, or Pierced Noses; this latter name is now more
commonly rendered _Nez Perces_, the French voyageurs having given it that
translation into their own tongue. But these people, so far as known,
did not pierce their noses. After sending a man back on the trail to
notify Captain Lewis of his progress, Captain Clark went on to the
village of Chief Twisted-hair. Most of the women and children,
though notified of the coming of the white man, were so scared by
the appearance of the strangers that they fled to the woods. The men,
however, received them without fear and gave them a plentiful supply
of food. They were now on one of the upper branches of the Kooskooskee
River, near what is the site of Pierce City, county seat of Shoshonee
County, Idaho. The Indians endeavored, by means of signs, to explain to
their visitors the geography of the country beyond.

“Among others, Twisted-hair drew a chart of the river on a white
elk-skin. According to this, the Kooskooskee forks (confluence of its
North fork) a few miles from this place; two days toward the south
is another and larger fork (confluence of Snake River), on which the
Shoshonee or Snake Indians fish; five days’ journey further is a large
river from the northwest (that is, the Columbia itself) into which
Clark’s River empties; from the mouth of that river (that is, confluence
of the Snake with the Columbia) to the falls is five days’ journey
further; on all the forks as well as on the main river great numbers of
Indians reside.”

On the twenty-third of September, Captain Lewis and his party having
come up, the white men assembled the Indians and explained to them
where they came from and what was their errand across the continent. The
Indians appeared to be entirely satisfied, and they sold their visitors
as much provisions as their half-famished horses could carry. The
journal here says:--

“All around the village the women are busily employed in gathering and
dressing the pasheco-root, of which large quantities are heaped in piles
over the plain. We now felt severely the consequence of eating heartily
after our late privations. Captain Lewis and two of the men were taken
very ill last evening; to-day he could hardly sit on his horse, while
others were obliged to be put on horseback, and some, from extreme
weakness and pain, were forced to lie down alongside of the road for
some time. At sunset we reached the island where the hunters had been
left on the 22d. They had been unsuccessful, having killed only two deer
since that time, and two of them were very sick. A little below this
island is a larger one on which we camped, and administered Rush’s pills
to the sick.”

The illness of the party continued for several days, and not much
progress was made down-stream. Having camped, on the twenty-seventh of
September, in the Kooskooskee River, at a place where plenty of good
timber was found, preparations for building five canoes were begun. From
this time to the fifth of October, all the men capable of labor were
employed in preparing the canoes. The health of the party gradually
recruited, though they still suffered severely from want of food; and,
as the hunters had but little success in procuring game, they were
obliged on the second to kill one of their horses. Indians from
different quarters frequently visited them, but all that could be
obtained from them was a little fish and some dried roots. This diet was
not only unnutritious, but in many cases it caused dysentery and nausea.

Chapter XV -- Down the Pacific Slope

The early days of October were spent in making preparations for the
descent of the river,--the Kooskooskee. Here they made their canoes, and
they called their stopping-place Canoe Camp. This was at the junction
of the north fork of the river with the main stream; and all below that
point is called the Lower Kooskooskee, while that above is known as the
upper river. The latitude of the camp, according to the journal of the
explorers, was 46'0 34’ 56” north. Here they buried in a cache their
saddles, horse-gear, and a small supply of powder and musket balls for
possible emergencies. The Kooskooskee, it should be borne in mind, is
now better known as the Clearwater; it empties into the Snake River, and
that into the Columbia. As far as the explorers knew the water-course
down which they were to navigate, they called it Clark’s River, in honor
of Captain Clark. But modern geographers have displaced the name of that
eminent explorer and map-maker and have divided the stream, or streams,
with other nomenclature.

On the eighth of October the party set out on their long water journey
in five canoes, one of which was a small craft intended to go on ahead
and pilot the way (which, of course, was unknown) for the four larger
ones, in which travelled the main party with their luggage. They met
with disaster very soon after their start, one of the canoes having
struck a rock, which made a hole in its side and caused the sinking
of the craft. Fortunately, no lives were lost, but the voyage was
interrupted. The party went ashore and did not resume their journey
until their luggage was dried and the canoe repaired. On the ninth, says
the journal:--

“The morning was as usual cool; but as the weather both yesterday and
to-day was cloudy, our merchandise dried but slowly. The boat, though
much injured, was repaired by ten o’clock so as to be perfectly fit for
service; but we were obliged to remain during the day till the articles
were sufficiently dry to be reloaded. The interval we employed in
purchasing fish for the voyage, and conversing with the Indians. In the
afternoon we were surprised at hearing that our old Shoshonee guide and
his son had left us and had been seen running up the river several miles
above. As he had never given any notice of his intention, nor had even
received his pay for guiding us, we could not imagine the cause of his
desertion; nor did he ever return to explain his conduct. We requested
the chief to send a horseman after him to request that he would return
and receive what we owed him. From this, however, he dissuaded us, and
said very frankly that his nation, the Chopunnish, would take from
the old man any presents that he might have on passing their camp. The
Indians came about our camp at night, and were very gay and good-humored
with the men. Among other exhibitions was that of a squaw who appeared
to be crazy. She sang in a wild, incoherent manner, and offered to the
spectators all the little articles she possessed, scarifying herself
in a horrid manner if anyone refused her present. She seemed to be an
object of pity among the Indians, who suffered her to do as she pleased
without interruption.”

The river was full of rapids and very dangerous rocks and reefs, and
the voyagers were able to make only twenty miles a day for some distance
along the stream. At the confluence of the Kooskooskee and the Snake
River they camped for the night, near the present site of Lewiston,
Idaho. This city, first settled in May, 1861, and incorporated in 1863,
was named for Captain Lewis of our expedition. From this point the party
crossed over into the present State of Washington. Of their experience
at their camp here the journal says:--

“Our arrival soon attracted the attention of the Indians, who flocked in
all directions to see us. In the evening the Indian from the falls, whom
we had seen at Rugged rapid, joined us with his son in a small canoe,
and insisted on accompanying us to the falls. Being again reduced to
fish and roots, we made an experiment to vary our food by purchasing
a few dogs, and after having been accustomed to horse-flesh, felt no
disrelish for this new dish. The Chopunnish have great numbers of dogs,
which they employ for domestic purposes, but never eat; and our using
the flesh of that animal soon brought us into ridicule as dog-eaters.”

When Fremont and his men crossed the continent to California, in 1842,
they ate the flesh of that species of marmot which we know as the
prairie-dog. Long afterwards, when Fremont was a candidate for the
office of President of the United States, this fact was recalled to the
minds of men, and the famous explorer was denounced as “a dog-eater.”

The journal of the explorers gives this interesting account of the
Indians among whom they now found themselves:--

“The Chopunnish or Pierced-nose nation, who reside on the Kooskooskee
and Lewis’ (Snake) rivers, are in person stout, portly, well-looking
men; the women are small, with good features and generally handsome,
though the complexion of both sexes is darker than that of the
Tushepaws. In dress they resemble that nation, being fond of displaying
their ornaments. The buffalo or elk-skin robe decorated with beads;
sea-shells, chiefly mother-of-pearl, attached to an otter-skin collar
and hung in the hair, which falls in front in two cues; feathers, paints
of different kinds, principally white, green, and light blue, all of
which they find in their own country; these are the chief ornaments
they use. In the winter they wear a short skirt of dressed skins, long
painted leggings and moccasins, and a plait of twisted grass round the
neck. The dress of the women is more simple, consisting of a long shirt
of argalia (argali) or ibex (bighorn) skin, reaching down to the ankles,
without a girdle; to this are tied little pieces of brass, shells, and
other small articles; but the head is not at all ornamented.

“The Chopunnish have very few amusements, for their life is painful
and laborious; all their exertions are necessary to earn even their
precarious subsistence. During the summer and autumn they are busily
occupied in fishing for salmon and collecting their winter store of
roots. In winter they hunt the deer on snow-shoes over the plains, and
toward spring cross the mountains to the Missouri for the purpose of
rafficking for buffalo-robe. The inconveniences of their comfortless
life are increased by frequent encounters with their enemies from the
west, who drive them over the mountains with the loss of their horses,
and sometimes the lives of many of the nation.”

After making a short stage on their journey, October 11, the party
stopped to trade with the Indians, their stock of provisions being low.
They were able to purchase a quantity of salmon and seven dogs. They
saw here a novel kind of vapor bath which is thus described in the

“While this traffic was going on we observed a vapor bath or
sweating-house, in a different form from that used on the frontier of
the United States or in the Rocky Mountains. It was a hollow square six
or eight feet deep, formed in the river bank by damming up with mud the
other three sides and covering the whole completely, except an aperture
about two feet wide at the top. The bathers descend by this hole, taking
with them a number of heated stones and jugs of water; after being
seated round the room they throw the water on the stones till the steam
becomes of a temperature sufficiently high for their purposes. The baths
of the Indians in the Rocky Mountains are of different sizes, the
most common being made of mud and sticks like an oven, but the mode of
raising the steam is exactly the same. Among both these nations it is
very uncommon for a man to bathe alone; he is generally accompanied
by one or sometimes several of his acquaintances; indeed, it is so
essentially a social amusement, that to decline going in to bathe when
invited by a friend is one of the highest indignities which can be
offered to him. The Indians on the frontier generally use a bath which
will accommodate only one person, formed of a wicker-work of willows
about four feet high, arched at the top, and covered with skins. In this
the patient sits, till by means of the heated stones and water he
has perspired sufficiently. Almost universally these baths are in the
neighborhood of running water, into which the Indians plunge immediately
on coming out of the vapor bath, and sometimes return again and subject
themselves to a second perspiration. This practice is, however, less
frequent among our neighboring nations than those to the westward.
This bath is employed either for pleasure or for health, and is used
indiscriminately for all kinds of diseases.”

The expedition was now on the Snake River, making all possible speed
toward the Columbia, commonly known to the Indians as “The Great River.”
 The stream was crowded with dangerous rapids, and sundry disasters were
met with by the way; thus, on the fourteenth of October, a high wind
blowing, one of the canoes was driven upon a rock sidewise and filled
with water. The men on board got out and dragged the canoe upon the
rock, where they held her above water. Another canoe, having been
unloaded, was sent to the relief of the shipwrecked men, who, after
being left on the rock for some time, were taken off without any other
loss than the bedding of two of them. But accidents like this delayed
the party, as they were forced to land and remain long enough to dry
the goods that had been exposed to the water. Several such incidents are
told in the journal of the explorers. Few Indians were to be seen along
the banks of the river, but occasionally the party came to a pile of
planks and timbers which were the materials from which were built the
houses of such Indians as came here in the fishing season to catch
a supply for the winter and for trading purposes. Occasionally, the
complete scarcity of fuel compelled the explorers to depart from their
general rule to avoid taking any Indian property without leave; and they
used some of these house materials for firewood, with the intent to pay
the rightful owners, if they should ever be found. On the sixteenth of
October, they met with a party of Indians, of whom the journal gives
this account:--

“After crossing by land we halted for dinner, and whilst we were eating
were visited by five Indians, who came up the river on foot in great
haste. We received them kindly, smoked with them, and gave them a piece
of tobacco to smoke with their tribe. On receiving the present they set
out to return, and continued running as fast as they could while they
remained in sight. Their curiosity had been excited by the accounts of
our two chiefs, who had gone on in order to apprise the tribes of our
approach and of our friendly disposition toward them. After dinner we
reloaded the canoes and proceeded. We soon passed a rapid opposite the
upper point of a sandy island on the left, which has a smaller island
near it. At three miles is a gravelly bar in the river; four miles
beyond this the Kimooenim (Snake) empties into the Columbia, and at its
mouth has an island just below a small rapid.

“We halted above the point of junction, on the Kimooenim, to confer
with the Indians, who had collected in great numbers to receive us. On
landing we were met by our two chiefs, to whose good offices we were
indebted for this reception, and also the two Indians who had passed
us a few days since on horseback; one of whom appeared to be a man of
influence, and harangued the Indians on our arrival. After smoking with
the Indians, we formed a camp at the point where the two rivers unite,
near to which we found some driftwood, and were supplied by our two old
chiefs with the stalks of willows and some small bushes for fuel.

“We had scarcely fixed the camp and got the fires prepared, when a chief
came from the Indian camp about a quarter of a mile up the Columbia, at
the head of nearly two hundred men. They formed a regular procession,
keeping time to the music, or, rather, noise of their drums, which
they accompanied with their voices; and as they advanced, they ranged
themselves in a semicircle around us, and continued singing for some
time. We then smoked with them all, and communicated, as well as we
could by signs, our friendly intentions towards every nation, and our
joy at finding ourselves surrounded by our children. After this we
proceeded to distribute presents among them, giving the principal chief
a large medal, a shirt, and a handkerchief; to the second chief, a medal
of a smaller size; and to a third, who had come down from some of the
upper villages, a small medal and a handkerchief. This ceremony being
concluded, they left us; but in the course of the afternoon several of
them returned, and remained with us till a late hour. After they had
dispersed, we proceeded to purchase provisions, and were enabled to
collect seven dogs, to which some of the Indians added small presents of
fish, and one of them gave us twenty pounds of fat dried horse-flesh.”

The explorers were still in the country which is now the State of
Washington, at a point where the counties of Franklin, Yakima, and Walla
Walla come together, at the junction of the Snake and the Columbia. We
quote now from the journal:--

“From the point of junction the country is a continued plain, low near
the water, from which it rises gradually, and the only elevation to be
seen is a range of high country running from northeast to southwest,
where it joins a range of mountains from the southwest, and is on the
opposite side about two miles from the Columbia. There is on this plain
no tree, and scarcely any shrubs, except a few willow-bushes; even of
smaller plants there is not much more than the prickly-pear, which is
in great abundance, and is even more thorny and troublesome than any
we have yet seen. During this time the principal chief came down with
several of his warriors, and smoked with us. We were also visited by
several men and women, who offered dogs and fish for sale; but as
the fish was out of season, and at present abundant in the river, we
contented ourselves with purchasing all the dogs we could obtain.

“The nation among which we now are call themselves Sokulks; with them
are united a few of another nation, who reside on a western branch which
empties into the Columbia a few miles above the mouth of the latter
river, and whose name is Chimnapum. The languages of these two nations,
of each of which we obtained a vocabulary, differ but little from each
other, or from that of the Chopunnish who inhabit the Kooskooskee and
Lewis’ rivers. In their dress and general appearance they also much
resemble those nations; the men wearing a robe of deer- antelope-skin,
under which a few of them have a short leathern shirt. The most striking
difference is among the females, the Sokulk women being more inclined to
corpulency than any we have yet seen. Their stature is low, their faces
are broad, and their heads flattened in such a manner that the forehead
is in a straight line from the nose to the crown of the head. Their
eyes are of a dirty sable, their hair is coarse and black, and braided
without ornament of any kind. Instead of wearing, as do the Chopunnish,
long leathern shirts highly decorated with beads and shells, the Sokulk
women have no other covering but a truss or piece of leather tied round
the hips, and drawn tight between the legs. The ornaments usually worn
by both sexes are large blue or white beads, either pendant from their
ears, or round the neck, wrists, and arms; they have likewise bracelets
of brass, copper, and horn, and some trinkets of shells, fishbones, and
curious feathers.

“The houses of the Sokulks are made of large mats of rushes, and are
generally of a square or oblong form, varying in length from fifteen to
sixty feet, and supported in the inside by poles or forks about six feet
high. The top is covered with mats, leaving a space of twelve or fifteen
inches the whole length of the house, for the purpose of admitting the
light and suffering the smoke to escape. The roof is nearly flat, which
seems to indicate that rains are not common in this open country; and
the house is not divided into apartments, the fire being in the middle
of the enclosure, and immediately under the bole in the roof. The
interior is ornamented with their nets, gigs, and other fishing-tackle,
as well as the bow of each inmate, and a large quiver of arrows, which
are headed with flint.

“The Sokulks seem to be of a mild and peaceable disposition, and live in
a state of comparative happiness. The men, like those on the Kimooenim,
are said to content themselves with a single wife, with whom the
husband, we observe, shares the labors of procuring subsistence much
more than is common among savages. What may be considered an unequivocal
proof of their good disposition, is the great respect which is shown to
old age. Among other marks of it, we noticed in one of the houses an
old woman perfectly blind, and who, we were told, had lived more than
a hundred winters. In this state of decrepitude, she occupied the best
position in the house, seemed to be treated with great kindness, and
whatever she said was listened to with much attention. They are by no
means obtrusive; and as their fisheries supply them with a competent, if
not an abundant subsistence, although they receive thankfully whatever
we choose to give, they do not importune us by begging. Fish is, indeed,
their chief food, except roots and casual supplies of antelope, which
latter, to those who have only bows and arrows, must be very scanty.
This diet may be the direct or the remote cause of the chief disorder
which prevails among them, as well as among the Flatheads on the
Kooskooskee and Lewis’ rivers. With all these Indians a bad soreness
of the eyes is a very common disorder, which is suffered to ripen by
neglect, till many are deprived of one of their eyes, and some have
totally lost the use of both. This dreadful calamity may reasonably, we
think, be imputed to the constant reflection of the sun on the waters,
where they are constantly fishing in the spring, summer, and fall, and
during the rest of the year on the snows of a country which affords no
object to relieve the sight.

“Among the Sokulks, indeed among all the tribes whose chief subsistence
is fish, we have observed that bad teeth are very general; some have the
teeth, particularly those of the upper jaw, worn down to the gums, and
many of both sexes, even of middle age, have lost them almost entirely.
This decay of the teeth is a circumstance very unusual among Indians,
either of the mountains or the plains, and seems peculiar to the
inhabitants of the Columbia. We cannot avoid regarding as one principal
cause of it the manner in which they eat their food. The roots are
swallowed as they are dug from the ground, frequently covered with a
gritty sand; so little idea have they that this is offensive that all
the roots they offer us for sale are in the same condition.”

The explorers were now at the entrance of the mighty Columbia,--“The
Great River” of which they had heard so much from the Indians. We might
suppose that when they actually embarked upon the waters of the famous
stream, variously known as “The River of the North” and “The Oregon,”
 the explorers would be touched with a little of the enthusiasm with
which they straddled the headwaters of the Missouri and gazed upon the
snow-covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains. But no such kindling of
the imagination seems to have been noted in their journal. In this
commonplace way, according to their own account, Captain Clark entered
upon the mighty Columbia:--

“In the course of the day (October 17, 1805), Captain Clark, in a small
canoe with two men, ascended the Columbia. At the distance of five miles
he passed an island in the middle of the river, at the head of which
was a small but not dangerous rapid. On the left bank, opposite to this
island, was a fishing-place consisting of three mat houses. Here were
great quantities of salmon drying on scaffolds; and, indeed, from the
mouth of the river upward, he saw immense numbers of dead salmon strewed
along the shore, or floating on the surface of the water, which is so
clear that the fish may be seen swimming at the depth of fifteen or
twenty feet. The Indians, who had collected on the banks to observe him,
now joined him in eighteen canoes, and accompanied him up the river. A
mile above the rapids he came to the lower point of an island, where the
course of the stream, which had been from its mouth north eighty-three
degrees west, now became due west. He proceeded in that direction,
until, observing three house’s of mats at a short distance, he landed
to visit them. On entering one of these houses, he found it crowded with
men, women, and children, who immediately provided a mat for him to sit
on, and one of the party undertook to prepare something to eat. He began
by bringing in a piece of pine wood that had drifted down the river,
which he split into small pieces with a wedge made of elkhorn, by means
of a mallet of stone curiously carved. The pieces of wood were then
laid on the fire, and several round stones placed upon them. One of the
squaws now brought a bucket of water, in which was a large salmon about
half dried, and, as the stones became heated, they were put into the
bucket till the salmon was sufficiently boiled for use. It was then
taken out, put on a platter of rushes neatly made, and laid before
Captain Clark, while another was boiled for each of his men. During
these preparations he smoked with such about him as would accept of
tobacco, but very few were desirous of smoking, a custom which is
not general among them, and chiefly used as a matter of form in great

“After eating the fish, which was of an excellent flavor, Captain Clark
set out and, at the distance of four miles from the last island, came to
the lower point of another near the left shore, where he halted at two
large mat-houses. Here, as at the three houses below, the inhabitants
were occupied in splitting and drying salmon. The multitudes of this
fish are almost inconceivable. The water is so clear that they can
readily be seen at the depth of fifteen or twenty feet; but at this
season they float in such quantities down the stream, and are drifted
ashore, that the Indians have only to collect, split, and dry them on
the scaffolds. Where they procure the timber of which these scaffolds
are composed he could not learn; but as there is nothing but
willow-bushes to be seen for a great distance from this place, it
rendered very probable what the Indians assured him by signs, that they
often used dried fish as fuel for the common occasions of cooking. From
this island they showed him the entrance of the western branch of the
Columbia, called the Tapteal, which, as far as could be seen, bears
nearly west and empties about eight miles above into the Columbia, the
general course of which is northwest.”

The Tapteal, as the journal calls it, is now known as the Yakima,
a stream which has its source in the Cascade range of mountains,
Washington. The party tarried here long enough to secure from the
Indians a tolerably correct description of the river upon which they
were about to embark. One of the chiefs drew upon the skin-side of a
buffalo robe a sketch of the Columbia. And this was transferred to paper
and put into the journal. That volume adds here:--

“Having completed the purposes of our stay, we now began to lay in our
stores. Fish being out of season, we purchased forty dogs, for which we
gave small articles, such as bells, thimbles, knitting-needles, brass
wire, and a few beads, an exchange with which they all seemed perfectly
satisfied. These dogs, with six prairie-cocks killed this morning,
formed a plentiful supply for the present. We here left our guide
and the two young men who had accompanied him, two of the three being
unwilling to go any further, and the third being of no use, as he was
not acquainted with the river below. We therefore took no Indians but
our two chiefs, and resumed our journey in the presence of many of the
Sokulks, who came to witness our departure. The morning was cool and
fair, and the wind from the southeast.”

They now began again to meet Indians who had never before seen white
men. On the nineteenth, says the journal:--

“The great chief, with two of his inferior chiefs and a third belonging
to a band on the river below, made us a visit at a very early hour. The
first of these was called Yelleppit,--a handsome, well-proportioned
man, about five feet eight inches high, and thirty-five years of age,
with a bold and dignified countenance; the rest were not distinguished
in their appearance. We smoked with them, and after making a speech,
gave a medal, a handkerchief, and a string of wampum to Yelleppit, but a
string of wampum only to the inferior chiefs. He requested us to remain
till the middle of the day, in order that all his nation might come and
see us; but we excused ourselves by telling him that on our return we
would spend two or three days with him. This conference detained us till
nine o’clock, by which time great numbers of the Indians had come down
to visit us. On leaving them we went on for eight miles, when we came to
an island near the left shore, which continued six miles in length.
At its lower extremity is a small island on which are five houses, at
present vacant, though the scaffolds of fish are as usual abundant. A
short distance below are two more islands, one of them near the middle
of the river. On this there were seven houses, but as soon as the
Indians, who were drying fish, saw us, they fled to their houses, and
not one of them appeared till we had passed; when they came out in
greater numbers than is usual for houses of that size, which induced us
to think that the inhabitants of the five lodges had been alarmed at our
approach and taken refuge with them. We were very desirous of landing in
order to relieve their apprehensions, but as there was a bad rapid along
the island all our care was necessary to prevent injury to the canoes.
At the foot of this rapid is a rock on the left shore, which is fourteen
miles from our camp of last night and resembles a hat in shape.”

Later in the day, Captain Clark ascended a bluff on the river bank,
where he saw “a very high mountain covered with snow.” This was Mount
St. Helen’s, in Cowlitz County, Washington. The altitude of the peak is
nine thousand seven hundred and fifty feet. “Having arrived at the lower
ends of the rapids below the bluff before any of the rest of the party,
he sat down on a rock to wait for them, and, seeing a crane fly across
the river, shot it, and it fell near him. Several Indians had been
before this passing on the opposite side towards the rapids, and some
who were then nearly in front of him, being either alarmed at his
appearance or the report of the gun, fled to their houses. Captain Clark
was afraid that these people had not yet heard that the white men were
coming, and therefore, in order to allay their uneasiness before the
rest of the party should arrive, he got into the small canoe with three
men, rowed over towards the houses, and, while crossing, shot a duck,
which fell into the water. As he approached no person was to be seen
except three men in the plains, and they, too, fled as he came near the
shore. He landed in front of five houses close to each other, but no one
appeared, and the doors, which were of mat, were closed. He went towards
one of them with a pipe in his hand, and, pushing aside the mat, entered
the lodge, where he found thirty-two persons, chiefly men and women,
with a few children, all in the greatest consternation; some hanging
down their heads, others crying and wringing their hands. He went up
to them, and shook hands with each one in the most friendly manner; but
their apprehensions, which had for a moment subsided, revived on his
taking out a burning-glass, as there was no roof to the house, and
lighting his pipe: he then offered it to several of the men, and
distributed among the women and children some small trinkets which he
had with him, and gradually restored a degree of tranquillity among

“Leaving this house, and directing each of his men to visit a house, he
entered a second. Here he found the inmates more terrified than those in
the first; but he succeeded in pacifying them, and afterward went into
the other houses, where the men had been equally successful. Retiring
from the houses, he seated himself on a rock, and beckoned to some of
the men to come and smoke with him; but none of them ventured to
join him till the canoes arrived with the two chiefs, who immediately
explained our pacific intention towards them. Soon after the
interpreter’s wife (Sacajawea) landed, and her presence dissipated all
doubts of our being well-disposed, since in this country no woman
ever accompanies a war party: they therefore all came out, and seemed
perfectly reconciled; nor could we, indeed, blame them for their
terrors, which were perfectly natural. They told the two chiefs that
they knew we were not men, for they had seen us fall from the clouds. In
fact, unperceived by them, Captain Clark had shot the white crane, which
they had seen fall just before he appeared to their eyes: the duck which
he had killed also fell close by him; and as there were some clouds
flying over at the moment, they connected the fall of the birds with
his sudden appearance, and believed that he had himself actually dropped
from the clouds; considering the noise of the rifle, which they had
never heard before, the sound announcing so extraordinary an event. This
belief was strengthened, when, on entering the room, he brought down
fire from the heavens by means of his burning-glass. We soon convinced
them, however, that we were merely mortals; and after one of our chiefs
had explained our history and objects, we all smoked together in great

Chapter XVI -- Down the Columbia to Tidewater

The voyagers were now drifting down the Columbia River, and they found
the way impeded by many rapids, some of them very dangerous. But their
skill in the handling of their canoes seems to have been equal to the
occasion, although they were sometimes compelled to go around the more
difficult rapids, making a short land portage. When they had travelled
about forty miles down the river, they landed opposite an island on
which were twenty-four houses of Indians; the people, known as the
Pishquitpahs, were engaged in drying fish. No sooner had the white men
landed than the Indians, to the number of one hundred, came across the
stream bringing with them some firewood, a most welcome present in that
treeless country. The visitors were entertained with presents and a long
smoke at the pipe of peace. So pleased were they with the music of two
violins played by Cruzatte and Gibson, of the exploring party, that they
remained by the fire of the white men all night. The news of the arrival
of the white strangers soon spread, and next morning about two hundred
more of the Indians assembled to gaze on them. Later in the day, having
gotten away from their numerous inquisitive visitors, the explorers
passed down-stream and landed on a small island to examine a curious
vault, in which were placed the remains of the dead of the tribe. The
journal says:--

“This place, in which the dead are deposited, is a building about sixty
feet long and twelve feet wide, formed by placing in the ground poles
or forks six feet high, across which a long pole is extended the whole
length of the structure; against this ridge-pole are placed broad boards
and pieces of canoes, in a slanting direction, so as to form a shed.
It stands cast and west, and neither of the extremities is closed.
On entering the western end we observed a number of bodies wrapped
carefully in leather robes, and arranged in rows on boards, which were
then covered with a mat. This was the part destined for those who had
recently died; a little further on, bones half decayed were scattered
about, and in the centre of the building was a large pile of them heaped
promiscuously on each other. At the eastern extremity was a mat, on
which twenty-one skulls were placed in a circular form; the mode of
interment being first to wrap the body in robes, then as it decays to
throw the bones into the heap, and place the skulls together. From
the different boards and pieces of canoes which form the vault were
suspended, on the inside, fishing-nets, baskets, wooden bowls, robes,
skins, trenchers, and trinkets of various kinds, obviously intended
as offerings of affection to deceased relatives. On the outside of the
vault were the skeletons of several horses, and great quantities of
their bones were in the neighborhood, which induced us to believe that
these animals were most probably sacrificed at the funeral rites of
their masters.”

Just below this stand the party met Indians who traded with tribes
living near the great falls of the Columbia. That place they designated
as “Tum-tum,” a word that signifies the throbbing of the heart. One of
these Indians had a sailor’s jacket, and others had a blue blanket and
a scarlet blanket. These articles had found their way up the river from
white traders on the seashore.

On the twenty-first of October the explorers discovered a considerable
stream which appeared to rise in the southeast and empty into the
Columbia on the left. To this stream they gave the name of Lepage
for Bastien Lepage, one of the voyageurs accompanying the party. The
watercourse, however, is now known as John Day’s River. John Day was
a mighty hunter and backwoodsman from Kentucky who went across the
continent, six years later, with a party bound for Astoria, on the
Columbia. From the rapids below the John Day River the Lewis and Clark
party caught their first sight of Mount Hood, a famous peak of the
Cascade range of mountains, looming up in the southwest, eleven thousand
two hundred and twenty-five feet high. Next day they passed the mouth
of another river entering the Columbia from the south and called by
the Indians the Towahnahiooks, but known to modern geography as the Des
Chutes, one of the largest southern tributaries of the Columbia. Five
miles below the mouth of this stream the party camped. Near them was a
party of Indians engaged in drying and packing salmon. Their method of
doing this is thus described:--

“The manner of doing this is by first opening the fish and exposing it
to the sun on scaffolds. When it is sufficiently dried it is pounded
between two stones till it is pulverized, and is then placed in a
basket about two feet long and one in diameter, neatly made of grass and
rushes, and lined with the skin of a salmon stretched and dried for the
purpose. Here the fish are pressed down as hard as possible, and the top
is covered with fish-skins, which are secured by cords through the holes
of the basket. These baskets are then placed in some dry situation, the
corded part upward, seven being usually placed as close as they can be
put together, and five on the top of these. The whole is then wrapped
up in mats, and made fast by cords, over which mats are again thrown.
Twelve of these baskets, each of which contains from ninety to one
hundred pounds, form a stack, which is left exposed till it is sent to
market. The fish thus preserved keep sound and sweet for several years,
and great quantities, they inform us, are sent to the Indians who live
below the falls, whence it finds its way to the whites who visit the
mouth of the Columbia. We observe, both near the lodges and on the rocks
in the river, great numbers of stacks of these pounded fish. Besides
fish, these people supplied us with filberts and berries, and we
purchased a dog for supper; but it was with much difficulty that we were
able to buy wood enough to cook it.”

On the twenty-third the voyagers made the descent of the great falls
which had so long been an object of dread to them. The whole height of
the falls is thirty-seven feet, eight inches, in a distance of twelve
hundred yards. A portage of four hundred and fifty yards was made around
the first fall, which is twenty feet high, and perpendicular. By means
of lines the canoes were let down the rapids below. At the season of
high water the falls become mere rapids up which the salmon can pass. On
this point the journal says:--

“From the marks everywhere perceivable at the falls, it is obvious that
in high floods, which must be in the spring, the water below the falls
rises nearly to a level with that above them. Of this rise, which is
occasioned by some obstructions which we do not as yet know, the salmon
must avail themselves to pass up the river in such multitudes that this
fish is almost the only one caught in great abundance above the falls;
but below that place we observe the salmon-trout, and the heads of
a species of trout smaller than the salmon-trout, which is in great
quantities, and which they are now burying, to be used as their winter
food. A hole of any size being dug, the sides and bottom are lined with
straw, over which skins are laid; on these the fish, after being well
dried, are laid, covered with other skins, and the hole is closed with a
layer of earth twelve or fifteen inches deep. . . .

“We saw no game except a sea-otter, which was shot in the narrow channel
as we were coming down, but we could not get it. Having, therefore,
scarcely any provisions, we purchased eight small fat dogs: a food
to which we were compelled to have recourse, as the Indians were very
unwilling to sell us any of their good fish, which they reserved for the
market below. Fortunately, however, habit had completely overcome the
repugnance which we felt at first at eating this animal, and the dog, if
not a favorite dish, was always an acceptable one. The meridian altitude
of to-day gave 45'0 42’ 57.3” north as the latitude of our camp.

“On the beach, near the Indian huts, we observed two canoes of a
different shape and size from any which we had hitherto seen. One of
these we got by giving our smallest canoe a hatchet, and a few trinkets
to the owner, who said he had obtained it from a white man below the
falls in exchange for a horse. These canoes were very beautifully made:
wide in the middle, and tapering towards each end, with curious figures
carved on the bow. They were thin, but, being strengthened by crossbars
about an inch in diameter, tied with strong pieces of bark through
holes in the sides, were able to bear very heavy burdens, and seemed
calculated to live in the roughest water.”

At this point the officers of the expedition observed signs of
uneasiness in the two friendly Indian chiefs who had thus far
accompanied them. They also heard rumors that the warlike Indians below
them were meditating an attack as the party went down. The journal

“Being at all times ready for any attempt of that sort, we were
not under greater apprehensions than usual at this intelligence. We
therefore only re-examined our arms, and increased the ammunition to one
hundred rounds. Our chiefs, who had not the same motives of confidence,
were by no means so much at their ease, and when at night they saw the
Indians leave us earlier than usual, their suspicions of an intended
attack were confirmed, and they were very much alarmed.

“The Indians approached us with apparent caution, and behaved with more
than usual reserve. Our two chiefs, by whom these circumstances were not
observed, now told us that they wished to return home; that they could
be no longer of any service to us; that they could not understand the
language of the people below the falls; that those people formed a
different nation from their own; that the two people had been at war
with each other; and that as the Indians had expressed a resolution to
attack us, they would certainly kill them. We endeavored to quiet their
fears, and requested them to stay two nights longer, in which time we
would see the Indians below, and make a peace between the two nations.
They replied that they were anxious to return and see their horses.
We however insisted on their remaining with us, not only in hopes of
bringing about an accommodation between them and their enemies, but
because they might be able to detect any hostile designs against us,
and also assist us in passing the next falls, which are not far off, and
represented as very difficult. They at length agreed to stay with us two
nights longer.”

The explorers now arrived at the next fall of the Columbia. Here was a
quiet basin, on the margin of which were three Indian huts. The journal
tells the rest of the story:--

“At the extremity of this basin stood a high black rock, which, rising
perpendicularly from the right shore, seemed to run wholly across the
river: so totally, indeed, did it appear to stop the passage, that
we could not see where the water escaped, except that the current was
seemingly drawn with more than usual velocity to the left of the rock,
where was heard a great roaring. We landed at the huts of the Indians,
who went with us to the top of the rock, from which we had a view of
all the difficulties of the channel. We were now no longer at a loss to
account for the rising of the river at the falls; for this tremendous
rock was seen stretching across the river, to meet the high hills on
the left shore, leaving a channel of only forty-five yards wide, through
which the whole body of the Columbia pressed its way. The water, thus
forced into so narrow a passage, was thrown into whirls, and swelled and
boiled in every part with the wildest agitation. But the alternative
of carrying the boats over this high rock was almost impossible in our
present situation; and as the chief danger seemed to be, not from any
obstructions in the channel, but from the great waves and whirlpools, we
resolved to attempt the passage, in the hope of being able, by dexterous
steering, to descend in safety. This we undertook, and with great care
were able to get through, to the astonishment of the Indians in the
huts we had just passed, who now collected to see us from the top of the
rock. The channel continued thus confined for the space of about half a
mile, when the rock ceased. We passed a single Indian hut at the foot
of it, where the river again enlarges to the width of two hundred yards,
and at the distance of a mile and a half stopped to view a very bad
rapid; this is formed by two rocky islands which divide the channel, the
lower and larger of which is in the middle of the river. The appearance
of this place was so unpromising that we unloaded all the most valuable
articles, such as guns, ammunition, our papers, etc., and sent them by
land, with all the men that could not swim, to the extremity of these
rapids. We then descended with the canoes, two at a time; though the
canoes took in some water, we all went through safely; after which we
made two miles, stopped in a deep bend of the river toward the right,
and camped a little above a large village of twenty-one houses. Here
we landed; and as it was late before all the canoes joined us, we were
obliged to remain this evening, the difficulties of the navigation
having permitted us to make only six miles.”

They were then among the Echeloots, a tribe of the Upper Chinooks, now
nearly extinct. The white men were much interested in the houses of
these people, which, their journal set forth, were “the first wooden
buildings seen since leaving the Illinois country.” This is the manner
of their construction:--

“A large hole, twenty feet wide and thirty in length, was dug to the
depth of six feet; the sides of which were lined with split pieces of
timber rising just above the surface of the ground, and smoothed to the
same width by burning, or by being shaved with small iron axes. These
timbers were secured in their erect position by a pole stretched along
the side of the building near the eaves, and supported on a strong
post fixed at each corner. The timbers at the gable ends rose gradually
higher, the middle pieces being the broadest. At the top of these was a
sort of semicircle, made to receive a ridge-pole the whole length of the
house, propped by an additional post in the middle, and forming the top
of the roof. From this ridge-pole to the eaves of the house were placed
a number of small poles or rafters, secured at each end by fibres of the
cedar. On these poles, which were connected by small transverse bars
of wood, was laid a covering of white cedar, or arbor vitae, kept on by
strands of cedar fibres; but a small space along the whole length of
the ridge-pole was left uncovered, for the purpose of light, and of
permitting the smoke to pass out. The roof, thus formed, had a
descent about equal to that common among us, and near the eaves it was
perforated with a number of small holes, made, most probably, for the
discharge of arrows in case of an attack. The only entrance was by a
small door at the gable end, cut out of the middle piece of timber,
twenty-nine and a half inches high, fourteen inches broad, and reaching
only eighteen inches above the earth. Before this hole is hung a mat; on
pushing it aside and crawling through, the descent is by a small wooden
ladder, made in the form of those used among us. One-half of the inside
is used as a place of deposit for dried fish, of which large quantities
are stored away, and with a few baskets of berries form the only
family provisions; the other half, adjoining the door, remains for the
accommodation of the family. On each side are arranged near the walls
small beds of mats placed on little scaffolds or bedsteads, raised from
eighteen inches to three feet from the ground; and in the middle of the
vacant space is the fire, or sometimes two or three fires, when, as is
usually the case, the house contains three families.”

Houses very like these are built by the Ahts or Nootkas, a tribe of
Indians inhabiting parts of Vancouver Island and the adjacent mainland.
A Nootka calls his house an ourt.

The good offices of Lewis and Clark, who were always ready to make
peace between hostile tribes, were again successful here. The Echeloots
received the white men with much kindness, invited them to their houses,
and returned their visits after the explorers had camped. Lewis and
Clark told the Echeloot chiefs that the war was destroying them and
their industries, bringing want and privation upon them. The Indians
listened with attention to what was said, and after some talk they
agreed to make peace with their ancient enemies. Impressed with the
sincerity of this agreement, the captains of the expedition invested the
principal chief with a medal and some small articles of clothing.
The two faithful chiefs who had accompanied the white men from the
headwaters of the streams now bade farewell to their friends and allies,
the explorers. They bought horses of the Echeloots and returned to their
distant homes by land.

Game here became more abundant, and on the twenty-sixth of October the
journal records the fact that they received from the Indians a present
of deer-meat, and on that day their hunters found plenty of tracks of
elk and deer in the mountains, and they brought in five deer, four very
large gray squirrels, and a grouse. Besides these delicacies, one of
the men killed in the river a salmon-trout which was fried in bear’s oil
and, according to the journal, “furnished a dish of a very delightful
flavor,” doubtless a pleasing change from the diet of dog’s flesh with
which they had so recently been regaled.

Two of the Echeloot chiefs remained with the white men to guide them
on their way down the river. These were joined by seven others of their
tribe, to whom the explorers were kind and attentive. But the visitors
could not resist the temptation to pilfer from the goods exposed to dry
in the sun. Being checked in this sly business, they became ill-humored
and returned, angry, down the river.

The explorers noticed here that the Indians flattened the heads of
males as well as females. Higher up the river, only the women and female
children had flat heads. The custom of artificially flattening the heads
of both men and women, in infancy, was formerly practised by nearly all
the tribes of the Chinook family along the Columbia River. Various means
are used to accomplish this purpose, the most common and most cruel
being to bind a flat board on the forehead of an infant in such a way
that it presses on the skull and forces the forehead up on to the top of
the head. As a man whose head has been flattened in infancy grows older,
the deformity partly disappears; but the flatness of the head is always
regarded as a tribal badge of great merit.

“On the morning of the twenty-eighth,” says the journal, having dried
our goods, we were about setting out, when three canoes came from above
to visit us, and at the same time two others from below arrived for the
same purpose. Among these last was an Indian who wore his hair in a
que, and had on a round hat and a sailor’s jacket, which he said he had
obtained from the people below the great rapids, who bought them from
the whites. This interview detained us till nine o’clock, when we
proceeded down the river, which is now bordered with cliffs of loose
dark colored rocks about ninety feet high, with a thin covering of pines
and other small trees. At the distance of four miles we reached a small
village of eight houses under some high rocks on the right with a small
creek on the opposite side of the river.

“We landed and found the houses similar to those we had seen at the
great narrows; on entering one of them we saw a British musket, a
cutlass, and several brass tea-kettles, of which they seemed to be very
fond. There were figures of men, birds, and different animals, which
were cut and painted on the boards which form the sides of the room;
though the workmanship of these uncouth figures was very rough, they
were highly esteemed by the Indians as the finest frescos of more
civilized people. This tribe is called the Chilluckittequaw; their
language, though somewhat different from that of the Echeloots, has many
of the same words, and is sufficiently intelligible to the neighboring
Indians. We procured from them a vocabulary, and then, after buying five
small dogs, some dried berries, and a white bread or cake made of roots,
we left them. The wind, however, rose so high that we were obliged,
after going one mile, to land on the left side, opposite a rocky island,
and pass the day.”

On the same day the white chiefs visited one of the most prominent of
the native houses built along the river.

“This,” says the journal, “was the residence of the principal chief of
the Chilluckittequaw nation, who we found was the same between whom and
our two chiefs we had made a peace at the Echeloot village. He received
us, very kindly, and set before us pounded fish, filberts, nuts, the
berries of the sacacommis, and white bread made of roots. We gave, in
return, a bracelet of ribbon to each of the women of the house, with
which they were very much pleased. The chief had several articles, such
as scarlet and blue cloth, a sword, a jacket, and a hat, which must
have been procured from the whites, and on one side of the room were
two wide, split boards, placed together so as to make space for a rude
figure of a man cut and painted on them. On pointing to this, and asking
him what it meant, he said something, of which all that we understood
was ‘good,’ and then stepped up to the painting, and took out his bow
and quiver, which, with some other warlike instruments, were kept behind

“He then directed his wife to hand him his medicine-bag, from which he
drew out fourteen forefingers, which he told us had belonged to the same
number of his enemies, whom he had killed in fighting with the nations
to the southeast, in which direction he pointed; alluding, no doubt, to
the Snake Indians, the common enemy of the tribes on the Columbia. This
bag is usually about two feet in length, and contains roots, pounded
dirt, etc., which only the Indians know how to appreciate. It is
suspended in the middle of the lodge; and it is considered as a species
of sacrilege for any one but the owner to touch it. It is an object of
religious fear; and, from its supposed sanctity, is the chief place for
depositing their medals and more valuable articles. They have likewise
small bags, which they preserve in their great medicine-bag, from
whence they are taken, and worn around their waists and necks as amulets
against any real or imaginary evils. This was the first time we had been
apprised that the Indians ever carried from the field any other trophy
than the scalp. These fingers were shown with great exultation; and,
after an harangue, which we were left to presume was in praise of his
exploits, the chief carefully replaced them among the valuable contents
of his red medicine-bag. The inhabitants of this village being part
of the same nation with those of the village we had passed above, the
language of the two was the same, and their houses were of similar form
and materials, and calculated to contain about thirty souls. They were
unusually hospitable and good-humored, so that we gave to the place the
name of the Friendly village. We breakfasted here; and after purchasing
twelve dogs, four sacks of fish, and a few dried berries, proceeded on
our journey. The hills as we passed were high, with steep, rocky sides,
with pine and white oak, and an undergrowth of shrubs scattered over

Leaving the Friendly village, the party went on their way down the
river. Four miles below they came to a small and rapid river which they
called the Cataract River, but which is now known as the Klikitat. The
rapids of the stream, according to the Indians, were so numerous that
salmon could not ascend it, and the Indians who lived along its banks
subsisted on what game they could kill with their bows and arrows and on
the berries which, in certain seasons, were plentiful. Again we notice
the purchase of dogs; this time only four were bought, and the party
proceeded on their way. That night, having travelled thirty-two miles,
they camped on the right bank of the river in what is now Skamania
County, Washington. Three huts were inhabited by a considerable number
of Indians, of whom the journal has this to say:--

“On our first arrival they seemed surprised, but not alarmed, and we
soon became intimate by means of smoking and our favorite entertainment
for the Indians, the violin. They gave us fruit, roots, and root-bread,
and we purchased from them three dogs. The houses of these people are
similar to those of the Indians above, and their language is the same;
their dress also, consisting of robes or skins of wolves, deer, elk,
and wildcat, is made nearly after the same model; their hair is worn in
plaits down each shoulder, and round their neck is put a strip of some
skin with the tail of the animal hanging down over the breast; like the
Indians above, they are fond of otter-skins, and give a great price for
them. We here saw the skin of a mountain sheep, which they say lives
among the rocks in the mountains; the skin was covered with white hair;
the wool was long, thick, and coarse, with long coarse hair on the top
of the neck and on the back, resembling somewhat the bristles of a goat.
Immediately behind the village is a pond, in which were great numbers of
small swan.”

The “mountain sheep” mentioned here are not the bighorn of which we have
heard something in the earlier part of this narrative, but a species
of wild goat found among the Cascade Mountains. The “wildcat” above
referred to is probably that variety of lynx known in Canada and most
of the Northern States and the Pacific as the _loup-cervier_, or
vulgarly, the “lucifee.”

On the last day of October, the next of the more difficult rapids being
near, Captain Clark went ahead to examine the “shoot,” as the explorers
called the place which we know as the chute. In the thick wood that
bordered the river he found an ancient burial-place which he thus

“It consists of eight vaults made of pine or cedar boards closely
connected, about eight feet square and six in height; the top covered
with wide boards sloping a little, so as to convey off the rain. The
direction of all of these vaults is east and west, the door being on
the eastern side, partially stopped with wide boards decorated with rude
pictures of men and other animals. On entering he found in some of them
four dead bodies, carefully wrapped in skins, tied with cords of grass
and bark, lying on a mat, in a direction east and west. The other vaults
contained only bones, which were in some of them piled to the height
of four feet. On the tops of the vaults, and on poles attached to them,
bung brass kettles and frying-pans with holes in their bottoms, baskets,
bowls, sea-shells, skins, pieces of cloth, hair, bags of trinkets and
small bones--the offerings of friendship or affection, which have
been saved by a pious veneration from the ferocity of war, or the more
dangerous temptations of individual gain. The whole of the walls as well
as the door were decorated with strange figures cut and painted on them;
and besides were several wooden images of men, some so old and decayed
as to have almost lost their shape, which were all placed against the
sides of the vaults. These images, as well as those in the houses we
have lately seen, do not appear to be at all the objects of adoration;
in this place they were most probably intended as resemblances of those
whose decease they indicate; when we observe them in houses, they occupy
the most conspicuous part, but are treated more like ornaments than
objects of worship.”

The white men were visited at their camp by many Indians from the
villages farther up the stream. The journal says:--

“We had an opportunity of seeing to-day the hardihood of the Indians of
the neighboring village. One of the men shot a goose, which fell into
the river and was floating rapidly toward the great shoot, when an
Indian observing it plunged in after it. The whole mass of the waters of
the Columbia, just preparing to descend its narrow channel, carried the
animal down with great rapidity. The Indian followed it fearlessly
to within one hundred and fifty feet of the rocks, where he would
inevitably have been dashed to pieces; but seizing his prey he
turned round and swam ashore with great composure. We very willingly
relinquished our right to the bird in favor of the Indian who had thus
saved it at the imminent hazard of his life; he immediately set to work
and picked off about half the feathers, and then, without opening it,
ran a stick through it and carried it off to roast.”

With many hair’s-breadth escapes, the expedition now passed through the
rapids or “great shoot.” The river here is one hundred and fifty yards
wide and the rapids are confined to an area four hundred yards long,
crowded with islands and rocky ledges. They found the Indians living
along the banks of the stream to be kindly disposed; but they had
learned, by their intercourse with tribes living below, to set a high
value on their wares. They asked high prices for anything they had for
sale. The journal says:--

“We cannot learn precisely the nature of the trade carried on by the
Indians with the inhabitants below. But as their knowledge of the whites
seems to be very imperfect, and as the only articles which they carry to
market, such as pounded fish, bear-grass, and roots, cannot be an object
of much foreign traffic, their intercourse appears to be an intermediate
trade with the natives near the mouth of the Columbia. From them these
people obtain, in exchange for their fish, roots, and bear-grass, blue
and white beads, copper tea-kettles, brass armbands, some scarlet and
blue robes, and a few articles of old European clothing. But their great
object is to obtain beads, an article which holds the first place in
their ideas of relative value, and to procure which they will sacrifice
their last article of clothing or last mouthful of food. Independently
of their fondness for them as an ornament, these beads are the medium of
trade, by which they obtain from the Indians still higher up the river,
robes, skins, chappelel bread, bear-grass, etc. Those Indians in
turn employ them to procure from the Indians in the Rocky Mountains,
bear-grass, pachico-roots, robes, etc.

“These Indians are rather below the common size, with high cheek-bones;
their noses are pierced, and in full dress ornamented with a tapering
piece of white shell or wampum about two inches long. Their eyes are
exceedingly sore and weak; many of them have only a single eye, and
some are perfectly blind. Their teeth prematurely decay, and in frequent
instances are altogether worn away. Their general health, however, seems
to be good, the only disorder we have remarked being tumors in different
parts of the body.”

The more difficult rapid was passed on the second day of November, the
luggage being sent down by land and the empty canoes taken down with
great care. The journal of that date says:--

“The rapid we have just passed is the last of all the descents of the
Columbia. At this place the first tidewater commences, and the river
in consequence widens immediately below the rapid. As we descended we
reached, at the distance of one mile from the rapid, a creek under
a bluff on the left; at three miles is the lower point of Strawberry
Island. To this immediately succeed three small islands covered with
wood. In the meadow to the right, at some distance from the hills,
stands a perpendicular rock about eight hundred feet high and four
hundred yards around the base. This we called Beacon Rock. Just below is
an Indian village of nine houses, situated between two small creeks.
At this village the river widens to nearly a mile in extent; the low
grounds become wider, and they as well as the mountains on each side are
covered with pine, spruce-pine, cottonwood, a species of ash, and some
alder. After being so long accustomed to the dreary nakedness of the
country above, the change is as grateful to the eye as it is useful in
supplying us with fuel. Four miles from the village is a point of
land on the right, where the hills become lower, but are still thickly
timbered. The river is now about two miles wide, the current smooth and
gentle, and the effect of the tide has been sensible since leaving the
rapid. Six miles lower is a rock rising from the middle of the river to
the height of one hundred feet, and about eighty yards at its base.
We continued six miles further, and halted for the night under a high
projecting rock on the left side of the river, opposite the point of a
large meadow.

“The mountains, which, from the great shoot to this place, are high,
rugged, and thickly covered with timber, chiefly of the pine species,
here leave the river on each side; the river becomes two and one-half
miles in width; the low grounds are extensive and well supplied with
wood. The Indians whom we left at the portage passed us on their way
down the river, and seven others, who were descending in a canoe for the
purpose of trading below, camped with us. We had made from the foot of
the great shoot twenty-nine miles to-day. The ebb tide rose at our camp
about nine inches; the flood must rise much higher. We saw great numbers
of water-fowl, such as swan, geese, ducks of various kinds, gulls,
plovers, and the white and gray brant, of which last we killed

Chapter XVII -- From Tidewater to the Sea

Near the mouth of the river which the explorers named Quicksand River
(now Sandy), they met a party of fifteen Indians who had lately been
down to the mouth of the Columbia. These people told the white men that
they had seen three vessels at anchor below, and, as these must needs
be American, or European, the far-voyaging explorers were naturally
pleased. When they had camped that night, they received other visitors
of whom the journal makes mention:--

“A canoe soon after arrived from the village at the foot of the last
rapid, with an Indian and his family, consisting of a wife, three
children, and a woman who had been taken prisoner from the Snake
Indians, living on a river from the south, which we afterward found to
be the Multnomah. Sacajawea was immediately introduced to her, in hopes
that, being a Snake Indian, they might understand each other; but their
language was not sufficiently intelligible to permit them to converse
together. The Indian had a gun with a brass barrel and cock, which he
appeared to value highly.”

The party had missed the Multnomah River in their way down, although
this is one of the three largest tributaries of the Columbia, John Day’s
River and the Des Chutes being the other two. A group of islands
near the mouth of the Multnomah hides it from the view of the passing
voyager. The stream is now more generally known as the Willamette, or
Wallamet. The large city of Portland, Oregon, is built on the river,
about twelve miles from its junction with the Columbia. The Indian
tribes along the banks of the Multnomah, or Willamette, subsisted
largely on the wappatoo, an eatable root, about the size of a hen’s egg
and closely resembling a potato. This root is much sought after by the
Indians and is eagerly bought by tribes living in regions where it is
not to be found. The party made great use of the wappatoo after they had
learned how well it served in place of bread. They bought here all that
the Indians could spare and then made their way down the river to an
open prairie where they camped for dinner and found many signs of elk
and deer. The journal says:--

“When we landed for dinner, a number of Indians from the last village
came down for the purpose, as we supposed, of paying us a friendly
visit, as they had put on their favorite dresses. In addition to their
usual covering they had scarlet and blue blankets, sailors’ jackets and
trousers, shirts and hats. They had all of them either war-axes, spears,
and bows and arrows, or muskets and pistols, with tin powder-flasks.
We smoked with them and endeavored to show them every attention, but we
soon found them very assuming and disagreeable companions. While we
were eating, they stole the pipe with which they were smoking, and
the greatcoat of one of the men. We immediately searched them all, and
discovered the coat stuffed under the root of a tree near where they
were sitting; but the pipe we could not recover. Finding us determined
not to suffer any imposition, and discontented with them, they showed
their displeasure in the only way which they dared, by returning in an
ill-humor to their village.

“We then proceeded and soon met two canoes, with twelve men of the same
Skilloot nation, who were on their way from below. The larger of the
canoes was ornamented with the figure of a bear in the bow and a man in
the stern, both nearly as large as life, both made of painted wood
and very neatly fixed to the boat. In the same canoe were two Indians,
finely dressed and with round hats. This circumstance induced us to give
the name of Image-canoe to the large island, the lower end of which we
now passed at the distance of nine miles from its head.”

Here they had their first full view of Mt. St. Helen’s, sometimes called
Mt. Ranier. The peak is in Washington and is 9,750 feet high. It has
a sugar-loaf, or conical, shape and is usually covered with snow. The
narrative of the expedition continues as follows:--

“The Skilloots that we passed to-day speak a language somewhat different
from that of the Echeloots or Chilluckittequaws near the long narrows.
Their dress, however, is similar, except that the Skilloots possess
more articles procured from the white traders; and there is this farther
difference between them, that the Skilloots, both males and females,
have the head flattened. Their principal food is fish, wappatoo roots,
and some elk and deer, in killing which with arrows they seem to be very
expert; for during the short time we remained at the village, three deer
were brought in. We also observed there a tame blaireau, (badger).”

The journal, November 5, says:--

“Our choice of a camp had been very unfortunate; for on a sand-island
opposite us were immense numbers of geese, swan, ducks, and other wild
fowl, which during the whole night serenaded us with a confusion of
noises which completely prevented our sleeping. During the latter part
of the night it rained, and we therefore willingly left camp at an early
hour. We passed at three miles a small prairie, where the river is only
three-quarters of a mile in width, and soon after two houses on the
left, half a mile distant from each other; from one of which three men
came in a canoe merely to look at us, and having done so returned home.
At eight miles we came to the lower point of an island, separated from
the right side by a narrow channel, on which, a short distance above
the end of the island, is situated a large village. It is built more
compactly than the generality of the Indian villages, and the front
has fourteen houses, which are ranged for a quarter of a mile along the
channel. As soon as we were discovered seven canoes came out to see
us, and after some traffic, during which they seemed well disposed and
orderly, accompanied us a short distance below.”

The explorers now met Indians of a different nation from those whom they
had seen before. The journal says:--

“These people seem to be of a different nation from those we have just
passed; they are low in stature, ill shaped, and all have their heads
flattened. They call themselves Wahkiacum, and their language differs
from that of the tribes above, with whom they trade for wappatoo-roots.
The houses are built in a different style, being raised entirely above
ground, with the caves about five feet high and the door at the corner.
Near the end, opposite this door, is a single fireplace, round which are
the beds, raised four feet from the floor of earth; over the fire
are hung the fresh fish, which, when dried, are stowed away with the
wappatoo-roots under the beds. The dress of the men is like that of the
people above, but the women are clad in a peculiar manner, the robe not
reaching lower than the hip, and the body being covered in cold weather
by a sort of corset of fur, curiously plaited and reaching from the arms
to the hip; added to this is a sort of petticoat, or rather tissue of
white cedar bark, bruised or broken into small strands, and woven into
a girdle by several cords of the same material. Being tied round the
middle, these strands hang down as low as the knee in front, and to the
mid-leg behind; they are of sufficient thickness to answer the purpose
of concealment whilst the female stands in an erect position, but in any
other attitude form but a very ineffectual defence. Sometimes the
tissue is strings of silk-grass, twisted and knotted at the end. After
remaining with them about an hour, we proceeded down the channel with an
Indian dressed in a sailor’s jacket for our pilot, and on reaching the
main channel were visited by some Indians who have a temporary residence
on a marshy island in the middle of the river, where is a great
abundance of water-fowl.”

The tribe of Indians known as the Wahkiacums has entirely disappeared;
but the name survives as that of one of the counties of Washington
bordering on the Columbia. Wahkiacum is the county lying next west of
Cowlitz. When the explorers passed down the river under the piloting of
their Indian friend wearing a sailor’s jacket, they were in a thick fog.
This cleared away and a sight greeted their joyful vision. Their story

“At a distance of twenty miles from our camp, we halted at a village of
Wahkiacums, consisting of seven ill-looking houses, built in the same
form with those above, and situated at the foot of the high hills on the
right, behind two small marshy islands. We merely stopped to purchase
some food and two beaver skins, and then proceeded. Opposite to these
islands the hills on the left retire, and the river widens into a kind
of bay, crowded with low islands, subject to be overflowed occasionally
by the tide. We had not gone far from this village when, the fog
suddenly clearing away, we were at last presented with the glorious
sight of the ocean--that ocean, the object of all our labors, the reward
of all our anxieties. This animating sight exhilarated the spirits of
all the party, who were still more delighted on hearing the distant
roar of the breakers. We went on with great cheerfulness along the high,
mountainous country which bordered the right bank: the shore, however,
was so bold and rocky, that we could not, until at a distance of
fourteen miles from the last village, find any spot fit for an
encampment. Having made during the day thirty-four miles, we now spread
our mats on the ground, and passed the night in the rain. Here we were
joined by our small canoe, which had been separated from us during the
fog this morning. Two Indians from the last village also accompanied us
to the camp; but, having detected them in stealing a knife, they were
sent off.”

It is not very easy for us, who have lived comfortably at home, or who
have travelled only in luxurious railway-cars and handsomely equipped
steamers, to realize the joy and rapture with which these far-wandering
explorers hailed the sight of the sea,--the sea to which they had so
long been journeying, through deserts, mountain-passes, and tangled
wildernesses. In his diary Captain Clark thus sets down some indication
of his joy on that memorable day, November 8, 1805: “Great joy in camp.
We are in view of the Ocean, this great Pacific Ocean which we have
been so long anxious to see, and the roaring or noise made by the waves
breaking on the rocky shores (as I suppose) may be heard distinctly.”
 Later, same day, he says, “Ocean in view! O! the joy!” Fortunately, the
hardships to be undergone on the shores of the ocean were then unknown
and undreamed of; the travellers were thankful to see the sea, the
goal of all their hopes, the end of their long pilgrimage across the

That night they camped near the mouth of the river in what is now known
as Gray’s Bay, on the north side of the river, in the southwest corner
of Wahkiacum County. Before they could reach their camping-place,
the water was so rough that some of the men had an unusual
experience,--seasickness. They passed a disagreeable night on a narrow,
rocky bench of land. Next day they say:

“Fortunately for us, the tide did not rise as high as our camp during
the night; but being accompanied by high winds from the south, the
canoes, which we could not place beyond its reach, were filled with
water, and were saved with much difficulty. Our position was very
uncomfortable, but as it was impossible to move from it, we waited for a
change of weather. It rained, however, during the whole day, and at two
o’clock in the afternoon the flood tide set in, accompanied by a high
wind from the south, which, about four o’clock, shifted to the southwest
and blew almost a gale directly from the sea. The immense waves now
broke over the place where we were camped; the large trees, some of them
five or six feet thick, which had lodged at the point, were drifted over
our camp, and the utmost vigilance of every man could scarcely save
our canoes from being crushed to pieces. We remained in the water, and
drenched with rain, during the rest of the day, our only food being
some dried fish and some rain-water which we caught. Yet, though wet
and cold, and some of them sick from using salt water, the men were
cheerful, and full of anxiety to see more of the ocean. The rain
continued all night.”

This was the beginning of troubles. Next day, the wind having lulled,
the party set forth again, only to be beaten back and compelled to take
to the shore again. This was their experience for several days. For
example, under date of the eleventh the journal says:--

“The wind was still high from the southwest, and drove the waves against
the shore with great fury; the rain too fell in torrents, and not only
drenched us to the skin, but loosened the stones on the hillsides,
which then came rolling down upon us. In this comfortless situation we
remained all day, wet, cold, with nothing but dried fish to satisfy our
hunger; the canoes in one place at the mercy of the waves, the baggage
in another, and all the men scattered on floating logs, or sheltering
themselves in the crevices of the rocks and hillsides. A hunter was
despatched in hopes of finding some fresh meat; but the hills were so
steep, and so covered with undergrowth and fallen timber, that he could
not penetrate them, and he was forced to return.”

And this is the record for the next day:--

“About three o’clock a tremendous gale of wind arose accompanied with
lightning, thunder, and hail: at six it lightened up for a short time,
but a violent rain soon began, and lasted through the day. During the
storm, one of our boats, secured by being sunk with great quantities of
stone, got loose, but, drifting against a rock, was recovered without
having received much injury. Our situation now became much more
dangerous, for the waves were driven with fury against the rocks
and trees, which till now had afforded us refuge: we therefore took
advantage of the low tide, and moved about half a mile round a point to
a small brook, which we had not observed before on account of the thick
bushes and driftwood which concealed its mouth. Here we were more safe,
but still cold and wet; our clothes and bedding rotten as well as wet,
our baggage at a distance, and the canoes, our only means of escape from
this place, at the mercy of the waves. Still, we continued to enjoy good
health, and even had the luxury of feasting on some salmon and three
salmon trout which we caught in the brook. Three of the men attempted to
go round a point in our small Indian canoe, but the high waves rendered
her quite unmanageable, these boats requiring the seamanship of the
natives to make them live in so rough a sea.”

It should be borne in mind that the canoes of the explorers were poor
dug-outs, unfit to navigate the turbulent waters of the bay, and the men
were not so expert in that sort of seamanship as were the Indians whom
they, with envy, saw breasting the waves and making short voyages in the
midst of the storms. It continued to rain without any intermission,
and the waves dashed up among the floating logs of the camp in a very
distracting manner. The party now had nothing but dried fish to eat,
and it was with great difficulty that a fire could be built. On
the fifteenth of the month, Captain Lewis having found a better
camping-place near a sandy beach, they started to move their luggage
thither; but before they could get under way, a high wind from the
southwest sprung up and they were forced to remain. But the sun came out
and they were enabled to dry their stuff, much of which had been spoiled
by the rain which had prevailed for the past ten days. Their fish also
was no longer fit to eat, and they were indeed in poor case. Captain
Lewis was out on a prospecting trip, and the party set out and found a
beach through which a pleasant brook flowed to the river, making a very
good camping-place. At the mouth of this stream was an ancient Chinook
village, which, says the journal, “has at present no inhabitants but
fleas.” The adventurers were compelled to steer wide of all old Indian
villages, they were so infested with fleas. At times, so great was
the pest, the men were forced to take off all their clothing and soak
themselves and their garments in the river before they could be rid
of the insects. The site of their new camp was at the southeast end
of Baker’s Bay, sometimes called Haley’s Bay, a mile above a very high
point of rocks. On arriving at this place, the voyagers met with an
unpleasant experience of which the journal gives this account:--

“Here we met Shannon, who had been sent back to meet us by Captain
Lewis. The day Shannon left us in the canoe, he and Willard proceeded
till they met a party of twenty Indians, who, having never heard of us,
did not know where they (our men) came from; they, however, behaved with
so much civility, and seemed so anxious that the men should go with them
toward the sea, that their suspicions were excited, and they declined
going on. The Indians, however, would not leave them; the men being
confirmed in their suspicions, and fearful that if they went into the
woods to sleep they would be cut to pieces in the night, thought it best
to pass the night in the midst of the Indians. They therefore made a
fire, and after talking with them to a late hour, laid down with their
rifles under their heads. As they awoke that morning they found that
the Indians had stolen and concealed their guns. Having demanded them
in vain, Shannon seized a club, and was about assaulting one of the
Indians, whom he suspected as a thief, when another Indian began to
load a fowling-piece with the intention of shooting him. He therefore
stopped, and explained by signs that if they did not give up the guns
a large party would come down the river before the sun rose to such a
height, and put every one of them to death. Fortunately, Captain Lewis
and his party appeared at this time. The terrified Indians immediately
brought the guns, and five of them came on with Shannon. To these men we
declared that if ever any one of their nation stole anything from us,
he should be instantly shot. They reside to the north of this place, and
speak a language different from that of the people higher up the river.

“It was now apparent that the sea was at all times too rough for us to
proceed further down the bay by water. We therefore landed, and having
chosen the best spot we could select, made our camp of boards from
the old (Chinook) village. We were now situated comfortably, and being
visited by four Wahkiacums with wappatoo-roots, were enabled to make an
agreeable addition to our food.”

On the seventeenth Captain Lewis with a small party of his men coasted
the bay as far out as Cape Disappointment and some distance to the north
along the seacoast. Game was now plenty, and the camp was supplied with
ducks, geese, and venison. Bad weather again set in. The journal under
date of November 22 says:--

“It rained during the whole night, and about daylight a tremendous gale
of wind rose from the S.S.E., and continued through the day with great
violence. The sea ran so high that the water came into our camp, which
the rain prevents us from leaving. We purchased from the old squaw, for
armbands and rings, a few wappatoo-roots, on which we subsisted. They
are nearly equal in flavor to the Irish potato, and afford a very good
substitute for bread. The bad weather drove several Indians to our camp,
but they were still under the terrors of the threat which we made on
first seeing them, and behaved with the greatest decency.

“The rain continued through the night, November 23, and the morning was
calm and cloudy. The hunters were sent out, and killed three deer, four
brant, and three ducks. Towards evening seven Clatsops came over in a
canoe, with two skins of the sea-otter. To this article they attached an
extravagant value; and their demands for it were so high, that we were
fearful it would too much reduce our small stock of merchandise, on
which we had to depend for subsistence on our return, to venture on
purchasing it. To ascertain, however, their ideas as to the value
of different objects, we offered for one of these skins a watch, a
handkerchief, an American dollar, and a bunch of red beads; but neither
the curious mechanism of the watch, nor even the red beads, could tempt
the owner: he refused the offer, but asked for tiacomoshack, or chief
beads, the most common sort of coarse blue-colored beads, the article
beyond all price in their estimation. Of these blue beads we had but
few, and therefore reserved them for more necessitous circumstances.”

The officers of the expedition had hoped and expected to find here some
of the trading ships that were occasionally sent along the coast to
barter with the natives; but none were to be found. They were soon to
prepare for winter-quarters, and they still hoped that a trader might
appear in the spring before they set out on their homeward journey
across the continent. Very much they needed trinkets to deal with the
natives in exchange for, the needful articles of food on the route. But
(we may as well say here) no such relief ever appeared. It is strange
that President Jefferson, in the midst of his very minute orders and
preparations for the benefit of the explorers, did not think of sending
a relief ship to meet the party at the mouth of the Columbia. They would
have been saved a world of care, worry, and discomfort. But at that time
the European nations who held possessions on the Pacific coast were very
suspicious of the Americans, and possibly President Jefferson did not
like to risk rousing their animosity.

The rain that now deluged the unhappy campers was so incessant that they
might well have thought that people should be web-footed to live in such
a watery region. In these later days, Oregon is sometimes known as “The
Web-foot State.” Captain Clark, in his diary, November 28, makes this
entry: “O! how disagreeable is our situation dureing this dreadfull
weather!” The gallant captain’s spelling was sometimes queer. Under that
date he adds:--

“We remained during the day in a situation the most cheerless and
uncomfortable. On this little neck of land we are exposed, with a
miserable covering which does not deserve the name of a shelter, to
the violence of the winds; all our bedding and stores, as well as
our bodies, are completely wet; our clothes are rotting with constant
exposure, and we have no food except the dried fish brought from the
falls, to which we are again reduced. The hunters all returned hungry
and drenched with rain, having seen neither deer nor elk, and the swan
and brant were too shy to be approached. At noon the wind shifted to the
northwest, and blew with such tremendous fury that many trees were blown
down near us. This gale lasted with short intervals during the whole

Of course, in the midst of such violent storms, it was impossible to get
game, and the men were obliged to resort once more to a diet of
dried fish, This food caused much sickness in the camp, and it became
imperatively necessary that efforts should again be made to find game.
On the second of December, to their great joy an elk was killed, and
next day they had a feast. The journal says;

“The wind was from the east and the morning fair; but, as if one whole
day of fine weather were not permitted, toward night it began to rain.
Even this transient glimpse of sunshine revived the spirits of the
party, who were still more pleased when the elk killed yesterday was
brought into camp. This was the first elk we had killed on the west side
of the Rocky Mountains, and condemned as we have been to the dried
fish, it formed a most nourishing food. After eating the marrow of the
shank-bones, the squaw chopped them fine, and by boiling extracted a
pint of grease, superior to the tallow itself of the animal. A canoe of
eight Indians, who were carrying down wappatoo-roots to trade with
the Clatsops, stopped at our camp; we bought a few roots for small
fish-hooks, and they then left us. Accustomed as we were to the sight,
we could not but view with admiration the wonderful dexterity with which
they guide their canoes over the most boisterous seas; for though the
waves were so high that before they had gone half a mile the canoe was
several times out of sight, they proceeded with the greatest calmness
and security. Two of the hunters who set out yesterday had lost their
way, and did not return till this evening. They had seen in their ramble
great signs of elk and had killed six, which they had butchered and left
at a great distance. A party was sent in the morning.”

On the third of December Captain Clark carved on the trunk of a great
pine tree this inscription:--


U. STATES IN 1804 & 5.”

A few days later, Captain Lewis took with him a small party and set out
to find a suitable spot on which to build their winter camp. He did not
return as soon as he was expected, and considerable uneasiness was felt
in camp on that account. But he came in safely. He brought good news;
they had discovered a river on the south side of the Columbia, not far
from their present encampment, where there were an abundance of elk and
a favorable place for a winter camp. Bad weather detained them until the
seventh of December, when a favorable change enabled them to proceed.
They made their way slowly and very cautiously down-stream, the tide
being against them. The narrative proceeds:--

“We at length turned a point, and found ourselves in a deep bay: here we
landed for breakfast, and were joined by the party sent out three days
ago to look for the six elk, killed by the Lewis party. They had lost
their way for a day and a half, and when they at last reached the place,
found the elk so much spoiled that they brought away nothing but the
skins of four of them. After breakfast we coasted round the bay, which
is about four miles across, and receives, besides several small creeks,
two rivers, called by the Indians, the one Kilhowanakel, the other
Netul. We named it Meriwether’s Bay, from the Christian name of Captain
Lewis, who was, no doubt, the first white man who had surveyed it. The
wind was high from the northeast, and in the middle of the day it rained
for two hours, and then cleared off. On reaching the south side of the
bay we ascended the Netul three miles, to the first point of high land
on its western bank, and formed our camp in a thick grove of lofty
pines, about two hundred yards from the water, and thirty feet above the
level of the high tides.”

Chapter XVIII -- Camping by the Pacific

Next in importance to the building of a winter camp was the fixing of
a place where salt could be made. Salt is absolutely necessary for the
comfort of man, and the supply brought out from the United States by the
explorers was now nearly all gone. They were provided with kettles
in which sea-water could be boiled down and salt be made. It would be
needful to go to work at once, for the process of salt-making by boiling
in ordinary kettles is slow and tedious; not only must enough for
present uses be found, but a supply to last the party home again was
necessary. Accordingly, on the eighth of December the journal has this
entry to show what was to be done:--

“In order, therefore, to find a place for making salt, and to examine
the country further, Captain Clark set out with five men, and pursuing a
course S. 60'0 W., over a dividing ridge through thick pine timber,
much of which bad fallen, passed the beads of two small brooks. In the
neighborhood of these the land was swampy and overflowed, and they waded
knee-deep till they came to an open ridgy prairie, covered with the
plant known on our frontier by the name of sacacommis (bearberry). Here
is a creek about sixty yards wide and running toward Point Adams; they
passed it on a small raft. At this place they discovered a large herd of
elk, and after pursuing them for three miles over bad swamps and small
ponds, killed one of them. The agility with which the elk crossed the
swamps and bogs seems almost incredible; as we followed their track the
ground for a whole acre would shake at our tread and sometimes we sunk
to our hips without finding any bottom. Over the surface of these bogs
is a species of moss, among which are great numbers of cranberries;
and occasionally there rise from the swamp small steep knobs of earth,
thickly covered with pine and laurel. On one of these we halted at
night, but it was scarcely large enough to suffer us to lie clear of
the water, and had very little dry wood. We succeeded, however, in
collecting enough to make a fire; and having stretched the elk-skin to
keep off the rain, which still continued, slept till morning.”

Next day the party were met by three Indians who had been fishing for
salmon, of which they had a goodly supply, and were now on their way
home to their village on the seacoast. They, invited Captain Clark and
his men to accompany them; and the white men accepted the invitation.
These were Clatsops. Their village consisted of twelve families living
in houses of split pine boards, the lower half of the house being
underground. By a small ladder in the middle of the house-front, the
visitors reached the floor, which was about four feet below the surface.
Two fires were burning in the middle of the room upon the earthen floor.
The beds were ranged around the room next to the wall, with spaces
beneath them for bags, baskets, and household articles.

Captain Clark was received with much attention, clean mats were spread
for him, and a repast of fish, roots, and berries was set before him.
He noticed that the Clatsops were well dressed and clean, and that they
frequently washed their faces and hands, a ceremony, he remarked, that
is by no means frequent among other Indians. A high wind now prevailed,
and as the evening was stormy, Captain Clark resolved to stay all night
with his hospitable Clatsops. The narrative proceeds:--

“The men of the village now collected and began to gamble. The most
common game was one in which one of the company was banker, and played
against all the rest. He had a piece of bone, about the size of a large
bean, and having agreed with any individual as to the value of the
stake, would pass the bone from one hand to the other with great
dexterity, singing at the same time to divert the attention of his
adversary; then holding it in his hands, his antagonist was challenged
to guess in which of them the bone was, and lost or won as he pointed
to the right or wrong hand. To this game of hazard they abandoned
themselves with great ardor; sometimes everything they possess is
sacrificed to it; and this evening several of the Indians lost all
the beads which they had with them. This lasted for three hours; when,
Captain Clark appearing disposed to sleep, the man who had been most
attentive, and whose name was Cuskalah, spread two new mats near the
fire, ordered his wife to retire to her own bed, and the rest of the
company dispersed at the same time. Captain Clark then lay down, but
the violence with which the fleas attacked him did not leave his rest

Next morning, Captain Clark walked along the seashore, and he observed
that the Indians were walking up and down, examining the shore and the
margin of a creek that emptied here. The narrative says:--

“He was at a loss to understand their object till one of them came to
him, and explained that they were in search of any fish which might have
been thrown on shore and left by the tide, adding in English, ‘sturgeon
is very good.’ There is, indeed, every reason to believe that these
Clatsops depend for their subsistence, during the winter, chiefly on the
fish thus casually thrown on the coast. After amusing himself for some
time on the beach, he returned towards the village, and shot on his way
two brant. As he came near the village, one of the Indians asked him
to shoot a duck about thirty steps distant: he did so, and, having
accidentally shot off its head, the bird was brought to the village,
when all the Indians came round in astonishment. They examined the duck,
the musket, and the very small bullets, which were a hundred to the
pound, and then exclaimed, Clouch musque, waket, commatax musquet: Good
musket; do not understand this kind of musket. They now placed before
him their best roots, fish, and syrup, after which he attempted to
purchase a sea-otter skin with some red beads which he happened to have
about him; but they declined trading, as they valued none except blue or
white beads. He therefore bought nothing but a little berry-bread and a
few roots, in exchange for fish-hooks, and then set out to return by the
same route he had come. He was accompanied by Cuskalah and his brother
as far as the third creek, and then proceeded to the camp through a
heavy rain. The whole party had been occupied during his absence in
cutting down trees to make huts, and in hunting.”

This was the occupation of all hands for several days, notwithstanding
the discomfort of the continual downpour. Many of the men were ill from
the effects of sleeping and living so constantly in water. Under date of
December 12, the journal has this entry:--

“We continued to work in the rain at our houses. In the evening there
arrived two canoes of Clatsops, among whom was a principal chief, called
Comowol. We gave him a medal and treated his companions with great
attention; after which we began to bargain for a small sea-otter skin,
some wappatoo-roots, and another species of root called shanataque.
We readily perceived that they were close dealers, stickled much for
trifles, and never closed the bargain until they thought they had the
advantage. The wappatoo is dear, as they themselves are obliged to give
a high price for it to the Indians above. Blue beads are the articles
most in request; the white occupy the next place in their estimation;
but they do not value much those of any other color. We succeeded at
last in purchasing their whole cargo for a few fish-hooks and a small
sack of Indian tobacco, which we had received from the Shoshonees.”

The winter camp was made up of seven huts, and, although it was not so
carefully fortified as was the fort in the Mandan country (during the
previous winter), it was so arranged that intruders could be kept out
when necessary. For the roofs of these shelters they were provided with
“shakes” split out from a species of pine which they called “balsam
pine,” and which gave them boards, or puncheons, or shakes, ten feet
long and two feet wide, and not more than an inch and a half thick. By
the sixteenth of December their meat-house was finished, and their meat,
so much of which had been spoiled for lack of proper care, was cut up
in small pieces and hung under cover. They had been told by the Indians
that very little snow ever fell in that region, and the weather,
although very, very wet, was mild and usually free from frost. They did
have severe hailstorms and a few flurries of snow in December but the
rain was a continual cause of discomfort. Of the trading habits of the
Clatsops the journal has this to say:--

“Three Indians came in a canoe with mats, roots, and the berries of the
sacacommis. These people proceed with a dexterity and finesse in their
bargains which, if they have not learned it from their foreign visitors,
may show how nearly allied is the cunning of savages to the little arts
of traffic. They begin by asking double or treble the value of what they
have to sell, and lower their demand in proportion to the greater or
less degree of ardor or knowledge of the purchaser, who, with all his
management, is not able to procure the article for less than its real
value, which the Indians perfectly understand. Our chief medium of trade
consists of blue and white beads, files,--with which they sharpen their
tools,--fish-hooks, and tobacco; but of all these articles blue beads
and tobacco are the most esteemed.”

But, although their surroundings were not of a sort to make one very
jolly, when Christmas came they observed the day as well as they could.
Here is what the journal says of the holiday:--

“We were awaked at daylight by a discharge of firearms, which was
followed by a song from the men, as a compliment to us on the return of
Christmas, which we have always been accustomed to observe as a day of
rejoicing. After breakfast we divided our remaining stock of tobacco,
which amounted to twelve carrots (hands), into two parts; one of which
we distributed among such of the party as make use of it, making a
present of a handkerchief to the others. The remainder of the day was
passed in good spirits, though there was nothing in our situation to
excite much gayety. The rain confined us to the house, and our only
luxuries in honor of the season were some poor elk, so much spoiled that
we ate it through sheer necessity, a few roots, and some spoiled pounded

“The next day brought a continuation of rain, accompanied with thunder,
and a high wind from the southeast. We were therefore obliged to still
remain in our huts, and endeavored to dry our wet articles before the
fire. The fleas, which annoyed us near the portage of the Great Falls,
have taken such possession of our clothes that we are obliged to have a
regular search every day through our blankets as a necessary preliminary
to sleeping at night. These animals, indeed, are so numerous that they
are almost a calamity to the Indians of this country. When they have
once obtained the mastery of any house it is impossible to expel them,
and the Indians have frequently different houses, to which they resort
occasionally when the fleas have rendered their permanent residence
intolerable; yet, in spite of these precautions, every Indian is
constantly attended by multitudes of them, and no one comes into our
house without leaving behind him swarms of these tormenting insects.”

Although the condition of the exploring party was low, the men did not
require very much to put them in good spirits. The important and happy
event of finishing their fort and the noting of good weather are thus
set forth in the journal under date of December 30:--

“Toward evening the hunters brought in four elk (which Drewyer had
killed), and after a long course of abstinence and miserable diet, we
had a most sumptuous supper of elk’s tongues and marrow. Besides this
agreeable repast, the state of the weather was quite exhilarating. It
had rained during the night, but in the morning, though the high wind
continued, we enjoyed the fairest and most pleasant weather since our
arrival; the sun having shone at intervals, and there being only
three showers in the course of the day. By sunset we had completed the
fortification, and now announced to the Indians that every day at that
hour the gates would be closed, and they must leave the fort and not
enter it till sunrise. The Wahkiacums who remained with us, and who were
very forward in their deportment, complied very reluctantly with this
order; but, being excluded from our houses, formed a camp near us. . . .

“January 1, 1806. We were awaked at an early hour by the discharge of a
volley of small arms, to salute the new year. This was the only mode of
commemorating the day which our situation permitted; for, though we had
reason to be gayer than we were at Christmas, our only dainties were
boiled elk and wappatoo, enlivened by draughts of pure water. We were
visited by a few Clatsops, who came by water, bringing roots and berries
for sale. Among this nation we observed a man about twenty-five years
old, of a much lighter complexion than the Indians generally: his face
was even freckled, and his hair long, and of a colour inclining to red.
He was in habits and manners perfectly Indian; but, though he did not
speak a word of English, he seemed to understand more than the others
of his party; and, as we could obtain no account of his origin, we
concluded that one of his parents, at least, must have been white.”

A novel addition to their bill of fare was fresh blubber, or fat, from a
stranded whale. Under date of January 3 the journal says:--

“At eleven o’clock we were visited by our neighbor, the Tia or chief,
Comowool, who is also called Coone, and six Clatsops. Besides roots
and berries, they brought for sale three dogs, and some fresh blubber.
Having been so long accustomed to live on the flesh of dogs, the greater
part of us have acquired a fondness for it, and our original aversion
for it is overcome, by reflecting that while we subsisted on that food
we were fatter, stronger, and in general enjoyed better health than at
any period since leaving the buffalo country, eastward of the mountains.
The blubber, which is esteemed by the Indians an excellent food, has
been obtained, they tell us, from their neighbors, the Killamucks, a
nation who live on the seacoast to the southeast, near one of whose
villages a whale had recently been thrown and foundered.”

Five men had been sent out to form a camp on the seashore and go into
the manufacture of salt as expeditiously as possible. On the fifth of
January, two of them came into the fort bringing a gallon of salt, which
was decided to be “white, fine and very good,” and a very agreeable
addition to their food, which had been eaten perfectly fresh for some
weeks past. Captain Clark, however, said it was a “mere matter of
indifference” to him whether he had salt or not, but he hankered for
bread. Captain Lewis, on the other hand, said the lack of salt was a
great inconvenience; “the want of bread I consider trivial,” was his
dictum. It was estimated that the salt-makers could turn out three or
four quarts a day, and there was good prospect of an abundant supply
for present needs and for the homeward journey. An expedition to the
seashore was now planned, and the journal goes on to tell how they set

“The appearance of the whale seemed to be a matter of importance to all
the neighboring Indians, and as we might be able to procure some of it
for ourselves, or at least purchase blubber from the Indians, a small
parcel of merchandise was prepared, and a party of the men held in
readiness to set out in the morning. As soon as this resolution was
known, Chaboneau and his wife requested that they might be permitted
to accompany us. The poor woman stated very earnestly that she had
travelled a great way with us to see the great water, yet she had never
been down to the coast, and now that this monstrous fish was also to
be seen, it seemed hard that she should be permitted to see neither the
ocean nor the whale. So reasonable a request could not be denied; they
were therefore suffered to accompany Captain Clark, who, January 6th,
after an early breakfast, set out with twelve men in two canoes.”

After a long and tedious trip, the camp of the saltmakers was reached,
and Captain Clark and his men went on to the remains of the whale, only
the skeleton being left by the rapacious and hungry Indians. The whale
had been stranded between two shore villages tenanted by the Killamucks,
as Captain Clark called them. They are now known as the Tillamook
Indians, and their name is preserved in Tillamook County, Oregon. The
white men found it difficult to secure much of the blubber, or the oil.
Although the Indians had large quantities of both, they sold it with
much reluctance. In Clark’s private diary is found this entry: “Small
as this stock (of oil and lubber) is I prize it highly; and thank
Providence for directing the whale to us; and think him more kind to
us than he was to Jonah, having sent this monster to be swallowed by us
instead of swallowing us as Jonah’s did.” While here, the party had a
startling experience, as the journal says:--

“Whilst smoking with the Indians, Captain Clark was surprised, about ten
o’clock, by a loud, shrill outcry from the opposite village, on hearing
which all the Indians immediately started up to cross the creek, and the
guide informed him that someone had been killed. On examination one
of the men (M’Neal) was discovered to be absent, and a guard (Sergeant
Pryor and four men) despatched, who met him crossing the creek in great
haste. An Indian belonging to another band, who happened to be with the
Killamucks that evening, had treated him with much kindness, and walked
arm in arm with him to a tent where our man found a Chinnook squaw,
who was an old acquaintance. From the conversation and manner of the
stranger, this woman discovered that his object was to murder the white
man for the sake of the few articles on his person; when he rose and
pressed our man to go to another tent where they would find something
better to eat, she held M’Neal by the blanket; not knowing her object,
he freed himself from her, and was going on with his pretended friend,
when she ran out and gave the shriek which brought the men of the
village over, and the stranger ran off before M’Neal knew what had
occasioned the alarm.”

The “mighty hunter” of the Lewis and Clark expedition was Drewyer, whose
name has frequently been mentioned in these pages. Under date of January
12, the journal has this just tribute to the man:--

“Our meat is now becoming scarce; we therefore determined to jerk it,
and issue it in small quantities, instead of dividing it among the four
messes, and leaving to each the care of its own provisions; a plan by
which much is lost, in consequence of the improvidence of the men. Two
hunters had been despatched in the morning, and one of them, Drewyer,
had before evening killed seven elk. We should scarcely be able to
subsist, were it not for the exertions of this most excellent hunter.
The game is scarce, and nothing is now to be seen except elk, which for
almost all the men are very difficult to be procured; but Drewyer, who
is the offspring of a Canadian Frenchman and an Indian woman, has passed
his life in the woods, and unites, in a wonderful degree, the dexterous
aim of the frontier huntsman with the intuitive sagacity of the Indian,
in pursuing the faintest tracks through the forest. All our men,
however, have indeed become so expert with the rifle that we are never
under apprehensions as to food; since, whenever there is game of any
kind, we are almost certain of procuring it.”

The narrative of the explorers gives this account of the Chinooks:--

“The men are low in stature, rather ugly, and ill made; their legs being
small and crooked, their feet large, and their heads, like those of the
women, flattened in a most disgusting manner. These deformities are
in part concealed by robes made of sea-otter, deer, elk, beaver or
fox skins. They also employ in their dress robes of the skin of a cat
peculiar to this country, and of another animal of the same size, which
is light and durable, and sold at a high price by the Indians who bring
it from above. In addition to these are worn blankets, wrappers of red,
blue, or spotted cloth, and some old sailors’ clothes, which are very
highly prized. The greater part of the men have guns, with powder and

“The women have in general handsome faces, but are low and
disproportioned, with small feet and large legs, occasioned, probably,
by strands of beads, or various strings, drawn so tight above the ankles
as to prevent the circulation of the blood. Their dress, like that of
the Wahkiacums, consists of a short robe and a tissue of cedar bark.
Their hair hangs loosely down the shoulders and back; and their ears,
neck, and wrists are ornamented with blue beads. Another decoration,
which is very highly prized, consists of figures made by puncturing the
arms or legs; and on the arms of one of the squaws we observed the name
of J. Bowman, executed in the same way. In language, habits, and in
almost every other particular, they resemble the Clatsops, Cathlamahs,
and, indeed, all the people near the mouth of the Columbia, though they
appeared to be inferior to their neighbors in honesty as well as spirit.
No ill treatment or indignity on our part seemed to excite any feeling
except fear; nor, although better provided than their neighbors with
arms, have they enterprise enough either to use them advantageously
against the animals of the forest, or offensively against the
tribes near them, who owe their safety more to the timidity than the
forbearance of the Chinooks. We had heard instances of pilfering while
we were among them, and therefore gave a general order excluding them
from our encampment, so that whenever an Indian wished to visit us, he
began by calling out ‘No Chinook.’ It is not improbable that this first
impression may have left a prejudice against them, since, when we were
among the Clatsops and other tribes at the mouth of the Columbia, they
had less opportunity of stealing, if they were so disposed.”

The weeks remaining before the party set out on their return were passed
without notable incident. The journal is chiefly occupied with comments
on the weather, which was variable, and some account of the manners and
customs of the Indian tribes along the Columbia River. At that time,
so few traders had penetrated the wilds of the Lower Columbia that the
Indians were not supplied with firearms to any great extent. Their main
reliance was the bow and arrow. A few shotguns were seen among them,
but no rifles, and great was the admiration and wonder with which the
Indians saw the white men slay birds and animals at a long distance.
Pitfalls for elk were constructed by the side of fallen trees over which
the animals might leap. Concerning the manufactures of the Clatsops,
they reported as follows:--

“Their hats are made of cedar-bark and bear-grass, interwoven together
in the form of a European hat, with a small brim of about two inches,
and a high crown widening upward. They are light, ornamented with
various colors and figures, and being nearly water-proof, are much more
durable than either chip or straw hats. These hats form a small article
of traffic with the whites, and their manufacture is one of the best
exertions of Indian industry. They are, however, very dexterous in
making a variety of domestic utensils, among which are bowls, spoons,
scewers (skewers), spits, and baskets. The bowl or trough is of
different shapes--round, semicircular, in the form of a canoe, or cubic,
and generally dug out of a single piece of wood; the larger vessels have
holes in the sides by way of handles, and all are executed with great
neatness. In these vessels they boil their food, by throwing hot stones
into the water, and extract oil from different animals in the same way.
Spoons are not very abundant, nor is there anything remarkable in their
shape, except that they are large and the bowl broad. Meat is roasted on
one end of a sharp skewer, placed erect before the fire, with the other
end fixed in the ground.

“But the most curious workmanship is that of the basket. It is formed of
cedar-bark and bear-grass, so closely interwoven that it is water-tight,
without the aid of either gum or resin. The form is generally conic, or
rather the segment (frustum) of a cone, of which the smaller end is
the bottom of the basket; and being made of all sizes, from that of the
smallest cup to the capacity of five or six gallons, they answer the
double purpose of a covering for the head or to contain water. Some
of them are highly ornamented with strands of bear-grass, woven into
figures of various colors, which require great labor; yet they are made
very expeditiously and sold for a trifle. It is for the construction
of these baskets that the bear-grass forms an article of considerable
traffic. It grows only near the snowy region of the high mountains; the
blade, which is two feet long and about three-eighths of an inch wide,
is smooth, strong, and pliant; the young blades particularly, from
their not being exposed to the sun and air, have an appearance of great
neatness, and are generally preferred. Other bags and baskets, not
waterproof, are made of cedar-bark, silk-grass, rushes, flags, and
common coarse sedge, for the use of families. In these manufactures,
as in the ordinary work of the house, the instrument most in use is a
knife, or rather a dagger. The handle of it is small, and has a strong
loop of twine for the thumb, to prevent its being wrested from the band.
On each side is a blade, double-edged and pointed; the longer from nine
to ten inches, the shorter from four to five. This knife is carried
habitually in the hand, sometimes exposed, but mostly, when in company
with strangers, is put under the robe.”

Naturally, all of the Columbia River Indians were found to be expert
in the building and handling of canoes. Here their greatest skill was
employed. And, it may be added, the Indians of the North Pacific coast
to-day are equally adept and skilful. The canoes of the present race of
red men do not essentially differ from those of the tribes described by
Lewis and Clark, and who are now extinct. The Indians then living above
tide-water built canoes of smaller size than those employed by the
nations farther down the river. The canoes of the Tillamooks and other
tribes living on the seacoast were upwards of fifty feet long, and would
carry eight or ten thousand pounds’ weight, or twenty-five or thirty
persons. These were constructed from the trunk of a single tree, usually
white cedar. The bow and stern rose much higher than the gunwale, and
were adorned by grotesque figures excellently well carved and fitted
to pedestals cut in the solid wood of the canoe. The same method of
adornment may be seen among the aborigines of Alaska and other regions
of the North Pacific, to-day. The figures are made of small pieces of
wood neatly fitted together by inlaying and mortising, without any spike
of any kind. When one reflects that the Indians seen by Lewis and Clark
constructed their large canoes with very poor tools, it is impossible
to withhold one’s admiration of their industry and patience. The journal

“Our admiration of their skill in these curious constructions was
increased by observing the very inadequate implements which they use.
These Indians possess very few axes, and the only tool they employ, from
felling the tree to the delicate workmanship of the images, is a chisel
made of an old file, about an inch or an inch and a half in width.
Even of this, too, they have not learned the proper management; for the
chisel is sometimes fixed in a large block of wood, and, being held in
the right hand, the block is pushed with the left, without the aid of a
mallet. But under all these disadvantages, their canoes, which one
would suppose to be the work of years, are made in a few weeks. A canoe,
however, is very highly prized, being in traffic an article of the
greatest value except a wife, and of equal value with her; so that
a lover generally gives a canoe to the father in exchange for his
daughter. . . .

“The harmony of their private life is secured by their ignorance
of spirituous liquors, the earliest and most dreadful present which
civilization has given to the other natives of the continent. Although
they have had so much intercourse with whites, they do not appear to
possess any knowledge of those dangerous luxuries; at least they have
never inquired after them, which they probably would have done if once
liquors bad been introduced among them. Indeed, we have not observed any
liquor of intoxicating quality among these or any Indians west of the
Rocky Mountains, the universal beverage being pure water. They, however,
sometimes almost intoxicate themselves by smoking tobacco, of which they
are excessively fond, and the pleasures of which they prolong as much as
possible, by retaining vast quantities at a time, till after circulating
through the lungs and stomach it issues in volumes from the mouth and

A long period of quiet prevailed in camp after the first of February,
before the final preparations for departure were made. Parties were sent
out every day to hunt, and the campers were able to command a few days’
supply of provision in advance. The flesh of the deer was now very lean
and poor, but that of the elk was growing better and better. It was
estimated by one of the party that they killed, between December
1, 1805, and March 20, 1806, elk to the number of one hundred and
thirty-one, and twenty deer. Some of this meat they smoked for its
better preservation, but most of it was eaten fresh. No record was kept
of the amount of fish consumed by the party; but they were obliged at
times to make fish their sole article of diet. Late in February they
were visited by Comowool, the principal Clatsop chief, who brought them
a sturgeon and quantities of a small fish which had just begun to make
its appearance in the Columbia. This was known as the anchovy, but
oftener as the candle-fish; it is so fat that it may be burned like a
torch, or candle. The journal speaks of Comowool as “by far the most
friendly and decent savage we have seen in this neighborhood.”

Chapter XIX -- With Faces turned Homeward

The officers of the expedition had decided to begin their homeward march
on the first of April; but a natural impatience induced them to start
a little earlier, and, as a matter of record, it may be said that they
evacuated Fort Clatsop on the 23d of March, 1806. An examination of
their stock of ammunition showed that they had on hand a supply of
powder amply sufficient for their needs when travelling the three
thousand miles of wilderness in which their sole reliance for food must
be the game to be killed. The powder was kept in leaden canisters, and
these, when empty, were used for making balls for muskets and rifles.
Three bushels of salt were collected for their use on the homeward

What they needed now most of all was an assortment of small wares and
trinkets with which to trade with the Indians among whom they must
spend so many months before reaching civilization again. They had ample
letters of credit from the Government at Washington, and if they had met
with white traders on the seacoast, they could have bought anything that
money would buy. They had spent nearly all their stock in coming across
the continent. This is Captain Lewis’s summary of the goods on hand just
before leaving Fort Clatsop:--

“All the small merchandise we possess might be tied up in a couple
of handkerchiefs. The rest of our stock in trade consists of six blue
robes, one scarlet ditto, five robes which we made out of our large
United States flag, a few old clothes trimmed with ribbons, and one
artillerist’s uniform coat and hat, which probably Captain Clark will
never wear again. We have to depend entirely upon this meagre outfit for
the purchase of such horses and provisions as it will be in our power to
obtain--a scant dependence, indeed, for such a journey as is before us.”

One of their last acts was to draw up a full list of the members of
the party, and, making several copies of it, to leave these among the
friendly Indians with instructions to give a paper to the first white
men who should arrive in the country. On the back of the paper was
traced the track by which the explorers had come and that by which
they expected to return. This is a copy of one of these important

“The object of this list is, that through the medium of some civilized
person who may see the same, it may be made known to the informed
world, that the party consisting of the persons whose names are hereunto
annexed, and who were sent out by the government of the U’States in May,
1804, to explore the interior of the Continent of North America, did
penetrate the same by way of the Missouri and Columbia Rivers, to the
discharge of the latter into the Pacific Ocean, where they arrived on
the 14th of November, 1805, and from whence they departed the 23d day of
March, 1806, on their return to the United States by the same rout they
had come out.”

Curiously enough, one of these papers did finally reach the United
States. During the summer of 1806, the brig “Lydia,” Captain Hill,
entered the Columbia for the purpose of trading with the natives. From
one of these Captain Hill secured the paper, which he took to
Canton, China, in January, 1807. Thence it was sent to a gentleman in
Philadelphia, having travelled nearly all the way round the world.

Fort Clatsop, as they called the rude collection of huts in which they
had burrowed all winter, with its rude furniture and shelters, was
formally given to Comowool, the Clatsop chief who had been so kind
to the party. Doubtless the crafty savage had had his eye on this
establishment, knowing that it was to be abandoned in the spring.

The voyagers left Fort Clatsop about one o’clock in the day, and, after
making sixteen miles up the river, camped for the night. Next day, they
reached an Indian village where they purchased “some wappatoo and a
dog for the invalids.” They still had several men on the sick list in
consequence of the hard fare of the winter. The weather was cold and
wet, and wood for fuel was difficult to obtain. In a few days they found
themselves among their old friends, the Skilloots, who had lately been
at war with the Chinooks. There was no direct intercourse between
the two nations as yet, but the Chinooks traded with the Clatsops and
Wahkiacums, and these in turn traded with the Skilloots, and in this way
the two hostile tribes exchanged the articles which they had for those
which they desired. The journal has this to say about the game of an
island on which the explorers tarried for a day or two, in order to dry
their goods and mend their canoes:--

“This island, which has received from the Indians the appropriate name
of Elalah (Elallah), or Deer Island, is surrounded on the water-side by
an abundant growth of cottonwood, ash, and willow, while the interior
consists chiefly of prairies interspersed with ponds. These afford
refuge to great numbers of geese, ducks, large swan, sandhill cranes,
a few canvas-backed ducks, and particularly the duckinmallard, the most
abundant of all. There are also great numbers of snakes resembling our
garter-snakes in appearance, and like them not poisonous. Our hunters
brought in three deer, a goose, some ducks, an eagle, and a tiger-cat.
Such is the extreme voracity of the vultures, that they had devoured in
the space of a few hours four of the deer killed this morning; and one
of our men declared that they had besides dragged a large buck about
thirty yards, skinned it, and broken the backbone.”

The vulture here referred to is better known as the California condor, a
great bird of prey which is now so nearly extinct that few specimens
are ever seen, and the eggs command a great price from those who make
collections of such objects. A condor killed by one of the hunters of
the Lewis and Clark expedition measured nine feet and six inches from
tip to tip of its wings, three feet and ten inches from the point of the
bill to the end of the tail, and six inches and a half from the back of
the head to the tip of the beak. Very few of the condors of the Andes
are much larger than this, though one measuring eleven feet from tip to
tip has been reported.

While camped at Quicksand, or Sandy River, the party learned that food
supplies up the Columbia were scarce. The journal says that the Indians
met here were descending the river in search of food. It adds:--

“They told us, that they lived at the Great Rapids; but that the
scarcity of provisions there had induced them to come down, in the hopes
of finding subsistence in the more fertile valley. All the people living
at the Rapids, as well as the nations above them, were in much distress
for want of food, having consumed their winter store of dried fish, and
not expecting the return of the salmon before the next full moon,
which would be on the second of May: this information was not a little
embarrassing. From the Falls to the Chopunnish nation, the plains
afforded neither deer, elk, nor antelope for our subsistence. The
horses were very poor at this season, and the dogs must be in the same
condition, if their food, the dried fish, had failed. Still, it was
obviously inexpedient for us to wait for the return of the salmon,
since in that case we might not reach the Missouri before the ice would
prevent our navigating it. We might, besides, hazard the loss of our
horses, as the Chopunnish, with whom we had left them, would cross the
mountains as early as possible, or about the beginning of May, and take
our horses with them, or suffer them to disperse, in either of which
cases the passage of the mountains will be almost impracticable. We
therefore, after much deliberation, decided to remain where we were
till we could collect meat enough to last us till we should reach the
Chopunnish nation, and to obtain canoes from the natives as we ascended,
either in exchange for our pirogues, or by purchasing them with skins
and merchandise. These canoes, again, we might exchange for horses
with the natives of the plains, till we should obtain enough to travel
altogether by land. On reaching the southeast branch of the Columbia,
four or five men could be sent on to the Chopunnish to have our horses
in readiness; and thus we should have a stock of horses sufficient both
to transport our baggage and supply us with food, as we now perceived
that they would form our only certain dependance for subsistence.”

On the third of April this entry is made:--

“A considerable number of Indians crowded about us to-day, many of whom
came from the upper part of the river. These poor wretches confirm
the reports of scarcity among the nations above; which, indeed, their
appearance sufficiently proved, for they seemed almost starved, and
greedily picked the bones and refuse meat thrown away by us.

“In the evening Captain Clark returned from an excursion. On setting out
yesterday at half-past eleven o’clock, he directed his course along
the south side of the (Columbia) river, where, at the distance of eight
miles, he passed a village of the Nechacohee tribe, belonging to the
Eloot nation. The village itself is small, and being situated behind
Diamond Island, was concealed from our view as we passed both times
along the northern shore. He continued till three o’clock, when he
landed at the single house already mentioned as the only remains of a
village of twenty-four straw huts. Along the shore were great numbers
of small canoes for gathering wappatoo, which were left by the Shahalas,
who visit the place annually. The present inhabitants of the house are
part of the Neerchokioo tribe of the same (Shahala) nation. On entering
one of the apartments of the house, Captain Clark offered several
articles to the Indians in exchange for wappatoo; but they appeared
sullen and ill-humored, and refused to give him any. He therefore sat
down by the fire opposite the men, and taking a port-fire match from his
pocket, threw a small piece of it into the flame; at the same time he
took his pocket-compass, and by means of a magnet, which happened to be
in his inkhorn, made the needle turn round very briskly. The match now
took fire and burned violently, on which the Indians, terrified at this
strange exhibition, immediately brought a quantity of wappatoo and laid
it at his feet, begging him to put out the bad fire, while an old woman
continued to speak with great vehemence, as if praying and imploring
protection. Having received the roots, Captain Clark put up the compass,
and as the match went out of itself tranquillity was restored, though
the women and children still took refuge in their beds and behind the
men. He now paid them for what he had used, and after lighting his pipe
and smoking with them, continued down the river.”

The excursion from which Captain Clark had returned, as noted in this
extract, was up the Multnomah River. As we have already seen, the
explorers missed that stream when they came down the Columbia; and they
had now passed it again unnoticed, owing to the number of straggling
islands that hide its junction with the Columbia. Convinced that a
considerable river must drain the region to the south, Captain Clark
went back alone and penetrating the intricate channels among the
islands, found the mouth of the Multnomah, now better known as the
Willamette. He was surprised to find that the depth of water in the
river was so great that large vessels might enter it. He would have been
much more surprised if he had been told that a large city, the largest
in Oregon, would some day be built on the site of the Indian huts which
he saw. Here Captain Clark found a house occupied by several families
of the Neechecolee nation. Their mansion was two hundred and twenty-six
feet long and was divided into apartments thirty feet square.

The most important point in this region of the Columbia was named
Wappatoo Island by the explorers. This is a large extent of country
lying between the Willamette and an arm of the Columbia which they
called Wappatoo Inlet, but which is now known as Willamette Slough.
It is twenty miles long and from five to ten miles wide. Here is an
interesting description of the manner of gathering the roots of the
wappatoo, of which we have heard so much in this region of country:--

“The chief wealth of this island consists of the numerous ponds in the
interior, abounding with the common arrowhead (sagittaria sagittifolia)
to the root of which is attached a bulb growing beneath it in the mud.
This bulb, to which the Indians give the name of wappatoo,(1) is the
great article of food, and almost the staple article of commerce on the
Columbia. It is never out of season; so that at all times of the year
the valley is frequented by the neighboring Indians who come to gather
it. It is collected chiefly by the women, who employ for the purpose
canoes from ten to fourteen feet in length, about two feet wide and nine
inches deep, and tapering from the middle, where they are about twenty
inches wide. They are sufficient to contain a single person and several
bushels of roots, yet so very light that a woman can carry them with
ease. She takes one of these canoes into a pond where the water is as
high as the breast, and by means of her toes separates from the root
this bulb, which on being freed from the mud rises immediately to the
surface of the water, and is thrown into the canoe. In this manner these
patient females remain in the water for several hours, even in the depth
of winter. This plant is found through the whole extent of the valley in
which we now are, but does not grow on the Columbia farther eastward.”

     (1) In the Chinook jargon “Wappatoo” stands for potato.

The natives of this inland region, the explorers found, were larger
and better-shaped than those of the sea-coast, but they were nearly
all afflicted with sore eyes. The loss of one eye was common, and not
infrequently total blindness was observed in men of mature years, while
blindness was almost universal among the old people. The white men
made good use of the eye-water which was among their supplies; it was
gratefully received by the natives and won them friends among the people
they met. On the fifth of April the journal has this entry:--

“In the course of his chase yesterday, one of our men (Collins), who
had killed a bear, found the den of another with three cubs in it. He
returned to-day in hopes of finding her, but brought only the cubs,
without being able to see the dam; and on this occasion Drewyer, our
most experienced huntsman, assured us that he had never known a single
instance where a female bear, which had once been disturbed by a hunter
and obliged to leave her young, returned to them again. The young bears
were sold for wappatoo to some of the many Indians who visited us in
parties during the day and behaved very well.”

And on the ninth is this entry:--

“The wind having moderated, we reloaded the canoes and set out by seven
o’clock. We stopped to take up the two hunters who left us yesterday,
but were unsuccessful in the chase, and then proceeded to the Wahclellah
village, situated on the north side of the river, about a mile below
Beacon Rock. During the whole of the route from camp we passed along
under high, steep, and rocky sides of the mountains, which now close on
each side of the river, forming stupendous precipices, covered with
fir and white cedar. Down these heights frequently descend the most
beautiful cascades, one of which, a large creek, throws itself over
a perpendicular rock three hundred feet above the water, while other
smaller streams precipitate themselves from a still greater elevation,
and evaporating in a mist, collect again and form a second cascade
before they reach the bottom of the rocks. We stopped to breakfast at
this village. We here found the tomahawk which had been stolen from us
on the fourth of last November. They assured us they had bought it of
the Indians below; but as the latter had already informed us that the
Wahclellahs had such an article, which they had stolen, we made no
difficulty about retaking our property.”

The Columbia along the region through which the expedition was now
passing is a very wild and picturesque stream. The banks are high and
rocky, and some of the precipices to which the journal refers are of
a vast perpendicular height. On the Oregon side of the river are five
cascades such as those which the journal mentions. The most famous and
beautiful of these is known as Multnomah Falls. This cataract has a
total fall of more than six hundred feet, divided into two sections. The
other cascades are the Bridal Veil, the Horsetail, the Latourelle, and
the Oneonta, and all are within a few miles of each other.

On the ninth of April the voyagers reached the point at which they were
to leave tidewater, fifty-six miles above the mouth of the Multnomah, or
Willamette. They were now at the entrance of the great rapids which are
known as the Cascades of the Columbia, and which occupy a space on the
river about equal to four miles and a half. They were still navigating
the stream with their canoes, camping sometimes on the north side and
sometimes on the south side of the river. This time they camped on the
north side, and during the night lost one of their boats, which got
loose and drifted down to the next village of the Wahclellahs, some of
whom brought it back to the white men’s camp and were rewarded for their
honesty by a present of two knives. It was found necessary to make a
portage here, but a long and severe rainstorm set in, and the tents and
the skins used for protecting the baggage were soaked. The journal goes
on with the narrative thus:--

We determined to take the canoes first over the portage, in hopes that
by the afternoon the rain would cease, and we might carry our baggage
across without injury. This was immediately begun by almost the whole
party, who in the course of the day dragged four of the canoes to the
head of the rapids, with great difficulty and labor. A guard, consisting
of one sick man and three who had been lamed by accidents, remained with
Captain Lewis (and a cook) to guard the baggage. This precaution
was absolutely necessary to protect it from the Wahclellahs, whom we
discovered to be great thieves, notwithstanding their apparent honesty
in restoring our boat; indeed, so arrogant and intrusive have they
become that nothing but our numbers, we are convinced, saves us from
attack. They crowded about us while we were taking up the boats, and one
of them had the insolence to throw stones down the bank at two of our

“We now found it necessary to depart from our mild and pacific course of
conduct. On returning to the head of the portage, many of them met our
men and seemed very ill-disposed. Shields had stopped to purchase a dog,
and being separated from the rest of the party, two Indians pushed
him out of the road, and attempted to take the dog from him. He had no
weapon but a long knife, with which he immediately attacked them both,
hoping to put them to death before they had time to draw their arrows;
but as soon as they saw his design they fled into the woods. Soon
afterward we were told by an Indian who spoke Clatsop, which we had
ourselves learned during the winter, that the Wahclellahs had carried
off Captain Lewis’ dog to their village below. Three men well armed were
instantly despatched in pursuit of them, with orders to fire if there
was the slightest resistance or hesitation. At the distance of two miles
they came within sight of the thieves, who, finding themselves pursued,
left the dog and made off. We now ordered all the Indians out of our
camp, and explained to them that whoever stole any of our baggage, or
insulted our men, should be instantly shot; a resolution which we were
determined to enforce, as it was now our only means of safety.

“We were visited during the day by a chief of the Clahclellahs, who
seemed mortified at the behavior of the Indians, and told us that the
persons at the head of their outrages were two very bad men who belonged
to the Wahclellah tribe, but that the nation did not by any means wish
to displease us. This chief seemed very well-disposed, and we had every
reason to believe was much respected by the neighboring Indians. We
therefore gave him a small medal and showed him all the attention in our
power, with which he appeared very much gratified.”

The portage of these rapids was very difficult and tiresome. The total
distance of the first stage was twenty-eight hundred yards along a
narrow way rough with rocks and now slippery with rain. One of the
canoes was lost here by being driven out into the strong current, where
the force of the water was so great that it could not be held by the
men; the frail skiff drifted down the rapids and disappeared. They now
had two canoes and two periogues left, and the loads were divided among
these craft. This increased the difficulties of navigation, and Captain
Lewis crossed over to the south side of the river in search of canoes
to be purchased from the Indians, who lived in a village on that side of
the stream. The narrative continues:

“The village now consisted of eleven houses, crowded with inhabitants,
and about sixty fighting men. They were very well disposed, and we found
no difficulty in procuring two small canoes, in exchange for two robes
and four elk-skins. He also purchased with deer-skins three dogs,--an
animal which has now become a favorite food, for it is found to be a
strong, healthy diet, preferable to lean deer or elk, and much superior
to horseflesh in any state. With these he proceeded along the south side
of the river, and joined us in the evening.”

Above the rapids the party encountered two tribes of Indians from whom
they endeavored to buy horses, for they were now approaching a point
when they must leave the river and travel altogether by land. One of
these tribes was known as the Weocksockwillacurns, and the other was the
Chilluckittequaws. These jaw-breaking names are commended to those who
think that the Indian names of northern Maine are difficult to handle.
Trees were now growing scarcer, and the wide lowlands spread out before
the explorers stretched to the base of the Bitter Root Mountains
without trees, but covered with luxuriant grass and herbage. After being
confined so long to the thick forests and mountains of the seacoast, the
party found this prospect very exhilarating, notwithstanding the absence
of forests and thickets. The climate, too, was much more agreeable than
that to which they had lately been accustomed, being dry and pure.

Chapter XX -- The Last Stage of the Columbia

On the thirteenth of April the party reached the series of falls and
rapids which they called the Long Narrows. At the point reached the
river is confined, for a space of about fourteen miles, to narrow
channels and rocky falls. The Long Narrows are now known as the Dalles.
The word “dalles” is French, and signifies flagstones, such as are used
for sidewalks. Many of the rocks in these narrows are nearly flat on
top, and even the precipitous banks look like walls of rock. At the
upper end of the rapids, or dalles, is Celilo City, and at the lower end
is Dalles City, sometimes known as “The Dalles.” Both of these places
are in Oregon; the total fall of the water from Celilo to the Dalles
is over eighty feet. Navigation of these rapids is impossible. As the
explorers had no further use for their pirogues, they broke them up for
fuel. The merchandise was laboriously carried around on the river bank.
They were able to buy four horses from the Skilloots for which they paid
well in goods. It was now nearly time for the salmon to begin to run,
and under date of April 19 the journal has this entry:--

“The whole village was filled with rejoicing to-day at having caught a
single salmon, which was considered as the harbinger of vast quantities
in four or five days. In order to hasten their arrival the Indians,
according to custom, dressed the fish and cut it into small pieces,
one of which was given to each child in the village. In the good humor
excited by this occurrence they parted, though reluctantly, with four
other horses, for which we gave them two kettles, reserving only a
single small one for a mess of eight men. Unluckily, however, we lost
one of the horses by the negligence of the person to whose charge he
was committed. The rest were, therefore, hobbled and tied; but as the
nations here do not understand gelding, all the horses but one were
stallions; this being the season when they are most vicious, we had
great difficulty in managing them, and were obliged to keep watch over
them all night. . . .

“As it was obviously our interest to preserve the goodwill of these
people, we passed over several small thefts which they committed, but
this morning we learnt that six tomahawks and a knife had been stolen
during the night. We addressed ourselves to the chief, who seemed angry
with his people, and made a harangue to them; but we did not recover
the articles, and soon afterward two of our spoons were missing. We
therefore ordered them all from our camp, threatening to beat severely
any one detected in purloining. This harshness irritated them so much
that they left us in an ill-humor, and we therefore kept on our guard
against any insult. Besides this knavery, the faithlessness of the
people is intolerable; frequently, after receiving goods in exchange for
a horse, they return in a few hours and insist on revoking the bargain
or receiving some additional value. We discovered, too, that the horse
which was missing yesterday had been gambled away by the fellow from
whom we had purchased him, to a man of a different nation, who had
carried him off. We succeeded in buying two more horses, two dogs, and
some chappelell, and also exchanged a couple of elk-skins for a gun
belonging to the chief. . . . One of the canoes, for which the Indians
would give us very little, was cut up for fuel; two others, together
with some elk-skins and pieces of old iron, we bartered for beads, and
the remaining two small ones were despatched early next morning, with
all the baggage which could not be carried on horseback. We had intended
setting out at the same time, but one of our horses broke loose during
the night, and we were under the necessity of sending several men in
search of him. In the mean time, the Indians, who were always on the
alert, stole a tomahawk, which we could not recover, though several of
them were searched; and another fellow was detected in carrying off
a piece of iron, and kicked out of camp; upon which Captain Lewis,
addressing them, told them he was not afraid to fight them, for, if he
chose, he could easily put them all to death, and burn their village,
but that he did not wish to treat them ill if they kept from stealing;
and that, although, if he could discover who had the tomahawks, he would
take away their horses, yet he would rather lose the property altogether
than take the horse of an innocent man. The chiefs were present at this
harangue, hung their heads, and made no reply.

“At ten o’clock the men returned with the horse, and soon after an
Indian, who had promised to go with us as far as the Chopunnish, came
with two horses, one of which he politely offered to assist in carrying
our baggage. We therefore loaded nine horses, and, giving the tenth to
Bratton, who was still too sick to walk, at about ten o’clock left the
village of these disagreeable people.”

At an Indian village which they reached soon after leaving that of the
disagreeable Skilloots, they found the fellow who had gambled away
the horse that he had sold. Being faced with punishment, he agreed to
replace the animal he had stolen with another, and a very good horse was
brought to satisfy the white men, who were now determined to pursue a
rigid course with the thievish Indians among whom they found themselves.
These people, the Eneeshurs, were stingy, inhospitable, and overbearing
in their ways. Nothing but the formidable numbers of the white men saved
them from insult, pillage, and even murder. While they were here, one of
the horses belonging to the party broke loose and ran towards the Indian
village. A buffalo robe attached to him fell off and was gathered in by
one of the Eneeshurs. Captain Lewis, whose patience was now exhausted,
set out, determined to burn the village unless the Indians restored the
robe. Fortunately, however, one of his men found the missing article
hidden in a hut, and so any act of violent reprisal was not necessary.

So scarce had now become fuel, the party were obliged to buy what little
wood they required for their single cooking-fire. They could not afford
a fire to keep them warm, and, as the nights were cold and they lay
without any shelter, they were most uncomfortable, although the days
were warm. They were now travelling along the Columbia River, using
their horses for a part of their luggage, and towing the canoes with the
remainder of the stuff. On the twenty-third of April they arrived at the
mouth of Rock Creek, on the Columbia, a considerable stream which they
missed as they passed this point on their way down, October 21. Here
they met a company of Indians called the Wahhowpum, with whom they
traded pewter buttons, strips of tin and twisted wire for roots, dogs,
and fuel. These people were waiting for the arrival of the salmon. The
journal says:--

“After arranging the camp we assembled all the warriors, and having
smoked with them, the violins were produced, and some of the men danced.
This civility was returned by the Indians in a style of dancing, such as
we had not yet seen. The spectators formed a circle round the dancers,
who, with their robes drawn tightly round the shoulders, and divided
into parties of five or six men, perform by crossing in a line from one
side of the circle to the other. All the parties, performers as well as
spectators, sing, and after proceeding in this way for some time, the
spectators join, and the whole concludes by a promiscuous dance and
song. Having finished, the natives retired at our request, after
promising to barter horses with us in the morning.”

They bought three horses of these Indians and hired three more from a
Chopunnish who was to accompany them. The journal adds:--

“The natives also had promised to take our canoes in exchange for
horses; but when they found that we were resolved on travelling by land
they refused giving us anything, in hopes that we would be forced to
leave them. Disgusted at this conduct, we determined rather to cut them
to pieces than suffer these people to enjoy them, and actually began
to split them, on which they gave us several strands of beads for each
canoe. We had now a sufficient number of horses to carry our baggage,
and therefore proceeded wholly by land.”

Next day the party camped near a tribe of Indians known as the
Pishquitpah. These people had never seen white men before, and they
flocked in great numbers around the strangers, but were very civil and
hospitable, although their curiosity was rather embarrassing. These
people were famous hunters, and both men and women were excellent
riders. They were now travelling on the south side of the river, in
Oregon, and, after leaving the Pishquitpahs, they encountered the
“Wollawollahs,” as they called them. These Indians are now known as the
Walla Walla tribe, and their name is given to a river, a town, and a
fort of the United States. In several of the Indian dialects walla means
“running water,” and when the word is repeated, it diminishes the size
of the object; so that Walla Walla means “little running water.” Near
here the explorers passed the mouth of a river which they called the
Youmalolam; it is a curious example of the difficulty of rendering
Indian names into English. The stream is now known as the Umatilla.
Here they found some old acquaintances of whom the journal has this

“Soon after we were joined by seven Wollawollahs, among whom we
recognized a chief by the name of Yellept, who had visited us on the
nineteenth of October, when we gave him a medal with the promise of a
larger one on our return. He appeared very much pleased at seeing us
again, and invited us to remain at his village three or four days,
during which he would supply us with the only food they had, and furnish
us with horses for our journey. After the cold, inhospitable treatment
we have lately received, this kind offer was peculiarly acceptable; and
after a hasty meal we accompanied him to his village, six miles above,
situated on the edge of the low country, about twelve miles below the
mouth of Lewis’ River.

“Immediately on our arrival Yellept, who proved to be a man of much
influence, not only in his own but in the neighboring nations, collected
the inhabitants, and having made a harangue, the purport of which was
to induce the nations to treat us hospitably, he set them an example
by bringing himself an armful of wood, and a platter containing three
roasted mullets. They immediately assented to one part, at least, of the
recommendation, by furnishing us with an abundance of the only sort of
fuel they employ, the stems of shrubs growing in the plains. We then
purchased four dogs, on which we supped heartily, having been on short
allowance for two days past. When we were disposed to sleep, the Indians
retired immediately on our request, and indeed, uniformly conducted
themselves with great propriety. These people live on roots, which
are very abundant in the plains, and catch a few salmon-trout; but at
present they seem to subsist chiefly on a species of mullet, weighing
from one to three pounds. They informed us that opposite the village
there was a route which led to the mouth of the Kooskooskee, on the
south side of Lewis’ River; that the road itself was good, and passed
over a level country well supplied with water and grass; and that we
should meet with plenty of deer and antelope. We knew that a road in
that direction would shorten the distance at least eighty miles; and as
the report of our guide was confirmed by Yellept and other Indians, we
did not hesitate to adopt this route: they added, however, that there
were no houses, nor permanent Indian residences on the road and that it
would therefore be prudent not to trust wholly to our guns, but to lay
in a stock of provisions.

“Taking their advice, therefore, we next day purchased ten dogs. While
the trade for these was being conducted by our men, Yellept brought a
fine white horse, and presented him to Captain Clark, expressing at the
same time a wish to have a kettle; but, on being informed that we had
already disposed of the last kettle we could spare, he said he would be
content with any present we chose to make him in return. Captain Clark
thereupon gave him his sword, for which the chief had before expressed a
desire, adding one hundred balls, some powder, and other small articles,
with which he appeared perfectly satisfied. We were now anxious to
depart, and requested Yellept to lend us canoes for the purpose of
crossing the river; but he would not listen to any proposal of the kind.
He wished us to remain for two or three days; but, at all events, would
not consent to our going to-day, for he had already sent to invite his
neighbors, the Chimnapoos, to come down this evening and join his people
in a dance for our amusement. We urged in vain that, by setting out
sooner, we would the earlier return with the articles they desired;
for a day, he observed, would make but little difference. We at length
mentioned that, as there was no wind it was now the best time to cross
the river, and we would merely take the horses over and return to sleep
at their village. To this he assented; we then crossed with our horses,
and having hobbled them, returned to their camp.

“Fortunately, there was among these Wollwaollahs a prisoner belonging
to a tribe of Shoshonee or Snake Indians, residing to the south of the
Multnomah and visiting occasionally the heads of Wollawollah Creek.
Our Shoshonee woman, Sacajawea, though she belonged to a tribe near the
Missouri, spoke the same language as this prisoner; by their means we
were able to explain ourselves to the Indians, and answer all their
inquiries with respect to ourselves and the object of our journey. Our
conversation inspired them with much confidence, and they soon brought
several sick persons, for whom they requested our assistance. We
splintered (splinted) the broken arm of one, gave some relief to
another, whose knee was contracted by rheumatism, and administered what
we thought beneficial for ulcers and eruptions of the skin on various
parts of the body which are very common disorders among them. But our
most valuable medicine was eye-water, which we distributed, and which,
indeed, they required very much.

“A little before sunset the Chimnapoos, amounting to one hundred men
and a few women, came to the village, and, joining the Wollawollahs, who
were about the same number of men, formed themselves in a circle round
our camp, and waited very patiently till our men were disposed to dance,
which they did for about an hour, to the music of the violin. They then
requested the Indians to dance. With this they readily complied; and the
whole assemblage, amounting, with the women and children of the village,
to several hundred, stood up, and sang and danced at the same time.
The exercise was not, indeed, very violent nor very graceful; for the
greater part of them were formed into a solid column, round a kind
of hollow square, stood on the same place, and merely jumped up at
intervals, to keep time to the music. Some, however, of the more active
warriors entered the square and danced round it sideways, and some of
our men joined in with them, to the great satisfaction of the Indians.
The dance continued till ten o’clock.”

By the thirtieth of April the expedition was equipped with twenty-three
horses, most of which were young and excellent animals; but many of them
were afflicted with sore backs. All Indians are cruel masters and
hard riders, and their saddles are so rudely made that it is almost
impossible for an Indian’s horse to be free from scars; yet they
continue to ride after the animal’s back is scarified in the most
horrible manner.

The expedition was now in what we know as Walla Walla County,
Washington, and they were travelling along the river Walla Walla,
leaving the Columbia, which has here a general direction of northerly.
The course of the party was northeast, their objective point being that
where Waitesburg is now built, near the junction of Coppie Creek and
the Touchet River. They were in a region of wood in plenty, and for the
first time since leaving the Long Narrows, or Dalles, they had as much
fuel as they needed. On the Touchet, accordingly, they camped for the
sake of having a comfortable night; the nights were cold, and a good
fire by which to sleep was an attraction not easily resisted. The
journal, April 30, has this entry:--

“We were soon supplied by Drewyer with a beaver and an otter, of which
we took only a part of the beaver, and gave the rest to the Indians.
The otter is a favorite food, though much inferior, at least in our
estimation, to the dog, which they will not eat. The horse is seldom
eaten, and never except when absolute necessity compels them, as the
only alternative to dying of hunger. This fastidiousness does not,
however, seem to proceed so much from any dislike to the food, as from
attachment to the animal itself; for many of them eat very heartily of
the horse-beef which we give them.”

On the first day of May, having travelled forty miles from their camp
near the mouth of the Walla Walla, they camped between two points at
which are now situated the two towns of Prescott, on the south, and
Waitesburg, on the north. Their journal says:--

“We had scarcely encamped when three young men came up from the
Wollawollah village, with a steel-trap which had inadvertently been
left behind, and which they had come a whole day’s journey in order to
restore. This act of integrity was the more pleasing, because, though
very rare among Indians, it corresponded perfectly with the general
behavior of the Wollawollahs, among whom we had lost carelessly several
knives, which were always returned as soon as found. We may, indeed,
justly affirm, that of all the Indians whom we had met since leaving the
United States, the Wollawollahs were the most hospitable, honest, and

Chapter XXI -- Overland east of the Columbia

It was now early in May, and the expedition, travelling eastward along
Touchet Creek, were in the country of their friends, the Chopunnish. On
the third, they were agreeably surprised to meet Weahkootnut, whom
they had named Bighorn from the fact that he wore a horn of that animal
suspended from his left arm. This man was the first chief of a large
band of Chopunnish, and when the expedition passed that way, on their
path to the Pacific, the last autumn, he was very obliging and useful to
them, guiding them down the Snake, or Lewis River. He had now heard
that the white men were on their return, and he had come over across the
hills to meet them. As we may suppose, the meeting was very cordial, and
Weahkootnut turned back with his white friends and accompanied them to
the mouth of the Kooskooskee, a stream of which our readers have heard
before; it is now known as the Clearwater.

Captain Lewis told Weahkootnut that his people were hungry, their
slender stock of provisions being about exhausted. The chief told them
that they would soon come to a Chopunnish house where they could get
food. But the journal has this entry:--

“We found the house which Weahkootnut had mentioned, where we halted
for breakfast. It contained six families, so miserably poor that all
we could obtain from them were two lean dogs and a few large cakes of
half-cured bread, made of a root resembling the sweet potato, of all
which we contrived to form a kind of soup. The soil of the plain is
good, but it has no timber. The range of southwest mountains is about
fifteen miles above us, but continues to lower, and is still covered
with snow to its base. After giving passage to Lewis’ (Snake) River,
near their northeastern extremity, they terminate in a high level plain
between that river and the Kooskooskee. The salmon not having yet called
them to the rivers, the greater part of the Chopunnish are now dispersed
in villages through this plain, for the purpose of collecting quamash
and cows, which here grow in great abundance, the soil being extremely
fertile, in many places covered with long-leaved pine, larch, and
balsam-fir, which contribute to render it less thirsty than the open,
unsheltered plains.”

By the word “cows,” in this sentence, we must understand that the
story-teller meant cowas, a root eaten by the Indians and white
explorers in that distant region. It is a knobbed, irregular root, and
when cooked resembles the ginseng. At this place the party met some of
the Indians whom Captain Clark had treated for slight diseases, when
they passed that way, the previous autumn. They bad sounded the praises
of the white men and their medicine, and others were now waiting to
be treated in the same manner. The Indians were glad to pay for their
treatment, and the white men were not sorry to find this easy method of
adding to their stock of food, which was very scanty at this time. The
journal sagely adds, “We cautiously abstain from giving them any
but harmless medicines; and as we cannot possibly do harm, our
prescriptions, though unsanctioned by the faculty, may be useful, and
are entitled to some remuneration.” Very famous and accomplished doctors
might say the same thing of their practice. But the explorers did
not meet with pleasant acquaintances only; in the very next entry is
recorded this disagreeable incident:

“Four miles beyond this house we came to another large one, containing
ten families, where we halted and made our dinner on two dogs and
a small quantity of roots, which we did not procure without much
difficulty. Whilst we were eating, an Indian standing by, looking with
great derision at our eating dogs, threw a poor half-starved puppy
almost into Captain Lewis’ plate, laughing heartily at the humor of it.
Captain Lewis took up the animal and flung it with great force into the
fellow’s face; and seizing his tomahawk, threatened to cut him down if
he dared to repeat such insolence. He immediately withdrew, apparently
much mortified, and we continued our repast of dog very quietly. Here we
met our old Chopunnish guide, with his family; and soon afterward one
of our horses, which had been separated from the rest in charge of
Twisted-hair, and had been in this neighborhood for several weeks, was
caught and restored to us.”

Later in that day the party came to a Chopunnish house which was one
hundred and fifty-six feet long and fifteen feet wide. Thirty families
were living in this big house, each family having its fire by itself
burning on the earthen floor, along through the middle of the great
structure. The journal says:--

“We arrived very hungry and weary, but could not purchase any
provisions, except a small quantity of the roots and bread of the
cows. They had, however, heard of our medical skill, and made many
applications for assistance, but we refused to do anything unless they
gave us either dogs or horses to eat. We soon had nearly fifty patients.
A chief brought his wife with an abscess on her back, and promised
to furnish us with a horse to-morrow if we would relieve her. Captain
Clark, therefore, opened the abscess, introduced a tent, and dressed it
with basilicon. We also prepared and distributed some doses of flour of
sulphur and cream of tartar, with directions for its use. For these we
obtained several dogs, but too poor for use, and therefore postponed
our medical operations till the morning. In the mean time a number of
Indians, besides the residents of the village, gathered about us or
camped in the woody bottom of the creek.”

It will be recollected that when the expedition was in this region (on
the Kooskooskee), during the previous September, on their way westward,
they left their horses with Chief Twisted-hair, travelling overland
from that point. They were now looking for that chief, and the journal

“About two o’clock we collected our horses and set out, accompanied by
Weahkoonut, with ten or twelve men and a man who said he was the brother
of Twisted-hair. At four miles we came to a single house of three
families, but could not procure provisions of any kind; and five miles
further we halted for the night near another house, built like the rest,
of sticks, mats, and dried hay, and containing six families. It was now
so difficult to procure anything to eat that our chief dependence was
on the horse which we received yesterday for medicine; but to our great
disappointment he broke the rope by which he was confined, made his
escape, and left us supperless in the rain.”

Next day they met an Indian who brought them two canisters of powder,
which they at once knew to be some of that which they had buried last
autumn. The Indian said that his dog had dug it up in the meadow by the
river, and he had restored it to its rightful owners. As a reward for
his honesty, the captains gave him a flint and steel for striking fire;
and they regretted that their own poverty prevented them from being more
liberal to the man.

They observed that the Rocky Mountains, now in full sight, were still
covered with snow, and the prospect of crossing them was not very rosy.
Their Chopunnish guide told them that it would be impossible to cross
the mountains before the next full moon, which would be about the first
of June. The journal adds: “To us, who are desirous of reaching the
plains of the Missouri--if for no other reason, for the purpose of
enjoying a good meal--this intelligence was by no means welcome, and
gave no relish to the remainder of the horse killed at Colter’s Creek,
which formed our supper, as part of which had already been our dinner.”
 Next day, accordingly, the hunters turned out early in the morning, and
before noon returned with four deer and a duck, which, with the
remains of horse-beef on hand, gave them a much more plentiful stock
of provisions than had lately fallen to their lot. During the previous
winter, they were told, the Indians suffered very much for lack of food,
game of all sorts being scarce. They were forced to boil and eat the
moss growing on the trees, and they cut down the pine-trees for the sake
of the small nut to be found in the pine-cones. Here they were met by
an old friend, Neeshnepahkeeook and the Shoshonee, who had acted as
interpreter for them. The journal says:--

“We gave Neeshnepahkeeook and his people some of our game and
horse-beef, besides the entrails of the deer, and four fawns which we
found inside of two of them. They did not eat any of them perfectly raw,
but the entrails had very little cooking; the fawns were boiled whole,
and the hide, hair, and entrails all consumed. The Shoshonee was
offended at not having as much venison as he wished, and refused to
interpret; but as we took no notice of him, he became very officious in
the course of a few hours, and made many efforts to reinstate himself in
our favor. The brother of Twisted-hair, and Neeshnepahkeeook, now drew
a sketch, which we preserved, of all the waters west of the Rocky

They now met Twisted-hair, in whose care they had left their horses and
saddles the previous fall, and this was the result of their inquiries:--

“Between three and four o’clock in the afternoon we set out, in company
with Neeshuepahkeeook and other Indians, the brother of Twisted-hair
having left us. Our route was up a high steep hill to a level plain
with little wood, through which we passed in a direction parallel to the
(Kooskooskee) River for four miles, when we met Twisted-hair and six of
his people. To this chief we had confided our horses and a part of
our saddles last autumn, and we therefore formed very unfavorable
conjectures on finding that he received us with great coldness. Shortly
afterward he began to speak in a very loud, angry manner, and was
answered by Neeshnepahkeeook. We now discovered that a violent quarrel
had arisen between these chiefs, on the subject, as we afterward
understood, of our horses. But as we could not learn the cause, and were
desirous of terminating the dispute, we interposed, and told them we
should go on to the first water and camp. We therefore set out, followed
by all the Indians, and having reached, at two miles’ distance, a small
stream running to the right, we camped with the two chiefs and their
little bands, forming separate camps at a distance from each other. They
all appeared to be in an ill humor; and as we had already heard reports
that the Indians had discovered and carried off our saddles, and that
the horses were very much scattered, we began to be uneasy, lest there
should be too much foundation for the report. We were therefore anxious
to reconcile the two chiefs as soon as possible, and desired the
Shoshonee to interpret for us while we attempted a mediation, but be
peremptorily refused to speak a word. He observed that it was a quarrel
between the two chiefs, and he had therefore no right to interfere; nor
could all our representations, that by merely repeating what we said he
could not possibly be considered as meddling between the chiefs, induce
him to take any part in it.

“Soon afterward Drewyer returned from hunting, and was sent to invite
Twisted-hair to come and smoke with us. He accepted the invitation, and
as we were smoking the pipe over our fire he informed us that according
to his promise on leaving us at the falls of the Columbia, he had
collected our horses and taken charge of them as soon as he reached
home. But about this time Neeshnepahkeeook and Turmachemootoolt
(Broken-arm), who, as we passed, were on a war-party against the
Shoshonees on the south branch of Lewis’ River, returned; and becoming
jealous of him, because the horses had been confided to his care,
were constantly quarrelling with him. At length, being an old man and
unwilling to live in perpetual dispute with these two chiefs, he had
given up the care of the horses, which had consequently become very
much scattered. The greater part of them were, however, still in the
neighborhood; some in the forks between the Chopunnish and Kooskooskee,
and three or four at the village of Broken Arm, about half a day’s march
higher up the river. He added, that on the rise of the river in the
spring, the earth had fallen from the door of the cache, and exposed the
saddles, some of which had probably been lost; but that, as soon as he
was acquainted with the situation of them, he had them buried in another
deposit, where they now were. He promised that, if we would stay the
next day at his house, a few miles distant, he would collect such of the
horses as were in the neighborhood, and send his young men for those in
the forks, over the Kooskooskee. He moreover advised us to visit Broken
Arm, who was a chief of great eminence, and he would himself guide us to
his dwelling.

“We told him that we would follow his advice in every respect; that we
had confided our horses to his care, and expected he would deliver
them to us, on which we should cheerfully give him the two guns and the
ammunition we had promised him. With this he seemed very much pleased,
and declared he would use every exertion to restore the horses. We now
sent for Neesbnepahkeeook, or Cut Nose, and, after smoking for some
time, began by expressing to the two chiefs our regret at seeing a
misunderstanding between them. Neeshnepahkeeook replied that Twisted
Hair was a bad old man, and wore two faces; for, instead of taking care
of our horses, he had suffered his young men to hunt with them, so that
they had been very much injured, and it was for this reason that Broken
Arm and himself had forbidden him to use them. Twisted Hair made
no reply to this speech, and we then told Neeshnepahkeeook of our
arrangement for the next day. He appeared to be very well satisfied, and
said he would himself go with us to Broken Arm, who expected to see us,
and had TWO BAD HORSES FOR US; by which expression we understood that
Broken Arm intended to make us a present of two horses.”

Next day, the party reached the house of Twisted-hair, and began to
look for their horses and saddles. The journal gives this account of the

“Late in the afternoon, Twisted-hair returned with about half the
saddles we had left in the autumn, and some powder and lead which were
buried at the same place. Soon after, the Indians brought us twenty-one
of our horses, the greater part of which were in excellent order, though
some had not yet recovered from hard usage, and three had sore backs.
We were, however, very glad to procure them in any condition. Several
Indians came down from the village of Tunnachemootoolt and passed the
night with us. Cut-nose and Twisted-hair seem now perfectly reconciled,
for they both slept in the house of the latter. The man who had imposed
himself upon us as a brother of Twisted-hair also came and renewed his
advances, but we now found that he was an impertinent, proud fellow, of
no respectability in the nation, and we therefore felt no inclination to
cultivate his intimacy. Our camp was in an open plain, and soon became
very uncomfortable, for the wind was high and cold, and the rain and
hail, which began about seven o’clock, changed in two hours to a heavy
fall of snow, which continued till after six o’clock (May 10th), the
next morning, when it ceased, after covering the ground eight inches
deep and leaving the air keen and cold. We soon collected our horses,
and after a scanty breakfast of roots set out on a course S. 35'0 E.”

They were now following the general course of the Kooskooskee, or
Clearwater, as the stream is called, and their route lay in what is now
Nez Perce County, Idaho. They have passed the site of the present city
of Lewiston, named for Captain Lewis. They have arrived in a region
inhabited by the friendly Chopunnish, or Nez Perce, several villages
of which nation were scattered around the camp of the white men. The
narrative says:

“We soon collected the men of consideration, and after smoking,
explained how destitute we were of provisions. The chief spoke to the
people, who immediately brought two bushels of dried quamash-roots, some
cakes of the roots of cows, and a dried salmon-trout; we thanked them
for this supply, but observed that, not being accustomed to live on
roots alone, we feared that such diet might make our men sick, and
therefore proposed to exchange one of our good horses, which was rather
poor, for one that was fatter, and which we might kill. The hospitality
of the chief was offended at the idea of an exchange; he observed
that his people had an abundance of young horses, and that if we
were disposed to use that food we might have as many as we wanted.
Accordingly, they soon gave us two fat young horses, without asking
anything in return, an act of liberal hospitality much greater than any
we have witnessed since crossing the Rocky Mountains, if it be not in
fact the only really hospitable treatment we have received in this part
of the world. We killed one of the horses, and then telling the natives
that we were fatigued and hungry, and that as soon as we were refreshed
we would communicate freely with them, began to prepare our repast.

“During this time a principal chief, called Hohastillpilp, came from
his village, about six miles distant, with a party of fifty men, for the
purpose of visiting us. We invited him into our circle, and he alighted
and smoked with us, while his retinue, with five elegant horses,
continued mounted at a short distance. While this was going on, the
chief had a large leathern tent spread for us, and desired that we
would make it our home so long as we remained at his village. We removed
there, and having made a fire, and cooked our supper of horseflesh
and roots, collected all the distinguished men present, and spent
the evening in making known who we were, what were the objects of
our journey, and in answering their inquiries. To each of the chiefs
Tunnachemootoolt and Hohastillpilp we gave a small medal, explaining
their use and importance as honorary distinctions both among the whites
and the red men. Our men were well pleased at once more having made a
hearty meal. They had generally been in the habit of crowding into the
houses of the Indians, to purchase provisions on the best terms they
could; for the inhospitality of the country was such, that often, in
the extreme of hunger, they were obliged to treat the natives with
but little ceremony; but this Twisted Hair had told us was very
disagreeable. Finding that these people are so kind and liberal, we
ordered our men to treat them with the greatest respect, and not
to throng round their fires, so that they now agree perfectly well
together. After the council the Indians felt no disposition to retire,
and our tent was filled with them all night.”

As the expedition was here in a populous country, among many bands of
Indians, it was thought wise to have a powwow with the head men
and explain to them what were the intentions of the United States
Government. But, owing to the crooked course which their talk must needs
take, it was very difficult to learn if the Indians finally understood
what was said. Here is the journal’s account of the way in which the
powwow was conducted:--

“We collected the chiefs and warriors, and having drawn a map of
the relative situation of our country on a mat with a piece of coal,
detailed the nature and power of the American nation, its desire to
preserve harmony between all its red brethren, and its intention of
establishing trading-houses for their relief and support. It was not
without difficulty, nor till after nearly half the day was spent, that
we were able to convey all this information to the Chopunnish, much of
which might have been lost or distorted in its circuitous route through
a variety of languages; for in the first place, we spoke in English
to one of our men, who translated it into French to Chaboneau; he
interpreted it to his wife in the Minnetaree language; she then put it
into Shoshonee, and the young Shoshonee prisoner explained it to the
Chopunnish in their own dialect. At last we succeeded in communicating
the impression we wished, and then adjourned the council; after which
we amused them by showing the wonders of the compass, spy-glass, magnet,
watch, and air-gun, each of which attracted its share of admiration.”

The simple-minded Indians, who seemed to think that the white men could
heal all manner of diseases, crowded around them next day, begging for
medicines and treatment. These were freely given, eye-water being most
in demand. There was a general medical powwow. The journal adds:--

“Shortly after, the chiefs and warriors held a council among themselves,
to decide on an answer to our speech, and the result was, as we were
informed, that they had full confidence in what we had told them, and
were resolved to follow our advice. This determination having been made,
the principal chief, Tunnachemootoolt, took a quantity of flour of
the roots of cow-weed (cowas), and going round to all the kettles and
baskets in which his people were cooking, thickened the soup into a
kind of mush. He then began an harangue, setting forth the result of the
deliberations among the chiefs, and after exhorting them to unanimity,
concluded with an invitation to all who acquiesced in the proceedings
of the council to come and eat; while those who were of a different
mind were requested to show their dissent by not partaking of the feast.
During this animated harangue, the women, who were probably uneasy at
the prospect of forming this proposed new connection with strangers,
tore their hair, and wrung their hands with the greatest appearance of
distress. But the concluding appeal of the orator effectually stopped
the mouths of every malecontent, and the proceedings were ratified, and
the mush devoured with the most zealous unanimity.

“The chiefs and warriors then came in a body to visit us as we were
seated near our tent; and at their instance, two young men, one of whom
was a son of Tunnachemootoolt, and the other the youth whose father
had been killed by the Pahkees, presented to us each a fine horse. We
invited the chiefs to be seated, and gave every one of them a flag, a
pound of powder, and fifty balls, and a present of the same kind to the
young men from whom we had received the horses. They then invited us
into the tent, and said that they now wished to answer what we had
told them yesterday, but that many of their people were at that moment
waiting in great pain for our medical assistance.”

It was agreed, therefore, that Captain Clark, who seems to have been
their favorite physician, should attend to the sick and lame, while
Captain Lewis should conduct a council with the chiefs and listen to
what they had to say. The upshot of the powwow was that the Chopunnish
said they had sent three of their warriors with a pipe to make peace
with the Shoshonees, last summer, as they had been advised to do by the
white men. The Shoshonees, unmindful of the sacredness of this
embassy, had killed the young warriors and had invited the battle which
immediately took place, in which the Chopunnish killed forty-two of the
Shoshonees, to get even for the wanton killing of their three young men.
The white men now wanted some of the Chopunnish to accompany them to
the plains of the Missouri, but the Indians were not willing to go until
they were assured that they would not be waylaid and slain by their
enemies of the other side of the mountains. The Chopunnish would think
over the proposal that some of their young men should go over the range
with the white men; a decision on this point should be reached before
the white men left the country. Anyhow, the white men might be sure
that the Indians would do their best to oblige their visitors. Their
conclusion was, “For, although we are poor, our hearts are good.” The
story of this conference thus concludes:--

“As soon as this speech was concluded, Captain Lewis replied at some
length; with this they appeared highly gratified, and after smoking the
pipe, made us a present of another fat horse for food. We, in turn, gave
Broken-arm a phial of eye-water, with directions to wash the eyes of all
who should apply for it; and as we promised to fill it again when it
was exhausted, he seemed very much pleased with our liberality. To
Twisted-hair, who had last night collected six more horses, we gave a
gun, one hundred balls, and two pounds of powder, and told him he should
have the same quantity when we received the remainder of our horses. In
the course of the day three more of them were brought in, and a fresh
exchange of small presents put the Indians in excellent humor. On our
expressing a wish to cross the river and form a camp, in order to hunt
and fish till the snows had melted, they recommended a position a few
miles distant, and promised to furnish us to-morrow with a canoe to
cross. We invited Twisted-hair to settle near our camp, for he has
several young sons, one of whom we hope to engage as a guide, and he
promised to do so. Having now settled all their affairs, the Indians
divided themselves into two parties, and began to play the game of
hiding a bone, already described as common to all the natives of this
country, which they continued playing for beads and other ornaments.”

As there was so dismal a prospect for crossing the snow-covered
mountains at this season of the year, the captains of the expedition
resolved to establish a camp and remain until the season should be
further advanced. Accordingly, a spot on the north side of the river,
recommended to them by the Indians, was selected, and a move across
the stream was made. A single canoe was borrowed for the transit of the
baggage, and the horses were driven in to swim across, and the passage
was accomplished without loss. The camp was built on the site of an old
Indian house, in a circle about thirty yards in diameter, near the river
and in an advantageous position. As soon as the party were encamped, the
two Chopunnish chiefs came down to the opposite bank, and, with twelve
of their nation, began to sing. This was the custom of these people,
being a token of their friendship on such occasions. The captains sent
a canoe over for the chiefs, and, after smoking for some time,
Hohastillpilp presented Captain with a fine gray horse which he had
brought over for that purpose, and he was perfectly satisfied to receive
in return a handkerchief, two hundred balls, and four pounds of powder.

Here is some curious information concerning the bears which they found
in this region. It must be borne in mind that they were still west of
the Bitter Root Mountains:--

“The hunters killed some pheasants, two squirrels, and a male and a
female bear, the first of which was large, fat, and of a bay color; the
second meagre, grizzly, and of smaller size. They were of the species
(Ursus horribilis) common to the upper part of the Missouri, and might
well be termed the variegated bear, for they are found occasionally of
a black, grizzly, brown, or red color. There is every reason to believe
them to be of precisely the same species. Those of different colors are
killed together, as in the case of these two, and as we found the white
and bay associated together on the Missouri; and some nearly white were
seen in this neighborhood by the hunters. Indeed, it is not common to
find any two bears of the same color; and if the difference in color
were to constitute a distinction of species, the number would increase
to almost twenty. Soon afterward the hunters killed a female bear with
two cubs. The mother was black, with a considerable intermixture of
white hairs and a white spot on the breast. One of the cubs was jet
black, and the other of a light reddish-brown or bay color. The hair
of these variegated bears is much finer, longer, and more abundant than
that of the common black bear; but the most striking differences between
them are that the former are larger and have longer tusks, and longer as
well as blunter talons; that they prey more on other animals; that they
lie neither so long nor so closely in winter quarters; and that they
never climb a tree, however closely pressed by the hunters. These
variegated bears, though specifically the same with those we met on the
Missouri, are by no means so ferocious; probably because the scarcity
of game and the habit of living on roots may have weaned them from the
practices of attacking and devouring animals. Still, however, they are
not so passive as the common black bear, which is also to be found here;
for they have already fought with our hunters, though with less fury
than those on the other side of the mountains.

“A large part of the meat we gave to the Indians, to whom it was a real
luxury, as they scarcely taste flesh once in a month. They immediately
prepared a large fire of dried wood, on which was thrown a number of
smooth stones from the river. As soon as the fire went down and the
stones were heated, they were laid next to each other in a level
position, and covered with a quantity of pine branches, on which were
placed flitches of the meat, and then boughs and flesh alternately for
several courses, leaving a thick layer of pine on the top. On this heap
they then poured a small quantity of water, and covered the whole with
earth to the depth of four inches. After remaining in this state for
about three hours, the meat was taken off, and was really more tender
than that which we had boiled or roasted, though the strong flavor of
the pine rendered it disagreeable to our palates. This repast gave them
much satisfaction; for, though they sometimes kill the black bear, they
attack very reluctantly the fierce variegated bear; and never except
when they can pursue him on horseback over the plains, and shoot him
with arrows.”

Chapter XXII -- Camping with the Nez Perces

Soon after they had fixed their camp, the explorers bade farewell to
their good friend Tunnachemootoolt and his young men, who returned
to their homes farther down the river. Others of the Nez Perce, or
Chopunnish, nation visited them, and the strangers were interested in
watching the Indians preparing for their hunt. As they were to hunt the
deer, they had the head, horns, and hide of that animal so prepared
that when it was placed on the head and body of a hunter, it gave a very
deceptive idea of a deer; the hunter could move the head of the decoy
so that it looked like a deer feeding, and the suspicious animals were
lured within range of the Indians’ bow and arrow.

On the sixteenth of May, Hohastillpilp and his young men also left the
white men’s camp and returned to their own village. The hunters of the
party did not meet with much luck in their quest for game, only one deer
and a few pheasants being brought in for several days. The party were
fed on roots and herbs, a species of onion being much prized by them.
Bad weather confined them to their camp, and a common entry in their
journal refers to their having slept all night in a pool of water formed
by the falling rain; their tent-cover was a worn-out leathern affair
no longer capable of shedding the rain. While it rained in the meadows
where they were camped, they could see the snow covering the higher
plains above them; on those plains the snow was more than a foot deep,
and yet the plants and shrubs seemed to thrive in the midst of the snow.
On the mountains the snow was several feet in depth. The journalist
says: “So that within twenty miles of our camp we observe the rigors
of winter cold, the cool air of spring, and the oppressive heat of
midsummer.” They kept a shrewd lookout for the possibilities of future
occupation of the land by white men; and, writing here of country and
its character, the journalist says: “In short, this district affords
many advantages to settlers, and if properly cultivated, would yield
every object necessary for the comfort and subsistence of civilized
man.” But in their wildest dreams, Captains Lewis and Clark could not
have foreseen that in that identical region thrifty settlements of white
men should flourish and that the time would come when the scanty remnant
of the Chopunnish, whom we now call Nez Perces, would be gathered on a
reservation near their camping-place. But both of these things have come
to pass.

In describing the dress of the Chopunnish, or Nez Perces, the
journal says that tippets, or collars, were worn by the men. “That
of Hohastillpilp,” says the journal, “was formed of human scalps and
adorned with the thumbs and fingers of several men slain by him in
battle.” And yet the journal immediately adds: “The Chopunnish are among
the most amiable men we have seen. Their character is placid and gentle,
rarely moved to passion, yet not often enlivened by gayety.” In short,
the Indians were amiable savages; and it is a savage trait to love to
destroy one’s enemies.

Here is an entry in the journal of May 19 which will give the reader
some notion of the privations and the pursuits of the party while shut
up in camp for weary weeks in the early summer of 1806:--

“After a cold, rainy night, during a greater part of which we lay in the
water, the weather became fair; we then sent some men to a village above
us, on the opposite side, to purchase some roots. They carried with
them for this purpose a small collection of awls, knitting-pins, and
armbands, with which they obtained several bushels of the root of cows,
and some bread of the same material. They were followed, too, by a train
of invalids from the village, who came to ask for our assistance. The
men were generally afflicted with sore eyes; but the women had besides
this a variety of other disorders, chiefly rheumatic, a violent pain and
weakness in the loins, which is a common complaint among them; one of
them seemed much dejected, and as we thought, from the account of her
disease, hysterical. We gave her thirty drops of laudanum, and after
administering eye-water, rubbing the rheumatic patients with volatile
liniment, and giving cathartics to others, they all thought themselves
much relieved and returned highly satisfied to the village. We were
fortunate enough to retake one of the horses on which we (Captain Lewis)
had crossed the Rocky Mountains in the autumn, and which had become
almost wild since that time.”

A day or two later, the journal has this significant entry: “On
parcelling out the stores, the stock of each man was found to be only
one awl, and one knitting-pin, half an ounce of vermilion, two needles,
a few skeins of thread, and about a yard of ribbon--a slender means of
bartering for our subsistence; but the men have been so much accustomed
to privations that now neither the want of meat nor the scanty funds
of the party excites the least anxiety among them.” To add to their
discomfort, there was a great deal of sickness in the camp, owing to the
low diet of the men. Sacajawea’s baby was ill with mumps and teething,
and it is suggested that the two captains would have been obliged to
“walk the floor all night,” if there had been any floor to walk on; as
it was, they were deprived of their nightly rest. Here is an example
of what the doctors would call heroic treatment by Captain Clark, who
conducted all such experiments:--

“With one of the men (Bratton) we have ventured an experiment of a very
robust nature. He has been for some time sick, but has now recovered his
flesh, eats heartily, and digests well, but has so great a weakness in
the loins that he cannot walk or even sit upright without extreme pain.
After we had in vain exhausted the resources of our art, one of the
hunters mentioned that he had known persons in similar situations to
be restored by violent sweats, and at the request of the patient, we
permitted the remedy to be applied. For this purpose a hole about four
feet deep and three in diameter was dug in the earth, and heated well
by a large fire in the bottom of it. The fire was then taken out, and
an arch formed over the hole by means of willow-poles, and covered
with several blankets so as to make a perfect awning. The patient being
stripped naked, was seated under this on a beach, with a piece of board
for his feet, and with a jug of water sprinkled the bottom and sides
of the hole, so as to keep up as hot a steam as he could bear.
After remaining twenty minutes in this situation, he was taken out,
immediately plunged twice in cold water, and brought back to the hole,
where he resumed the vapor bath. During all this time he drank copiously
a strong infusion of horse-mint, which was used as a substitute for
seneca-root, which our informant said he had seen employed on these
occasions, but of which there is none in this country. At the end
of three-quarters of an hour he was again withdrawn from the hole,
carefully wrapped, and suffered to cool gradually. This operation was
performed yesterday; this morning he walked about and is nearly free
from pain. About eleven o’clock a canoe arrived with three Indians, one
of whom was the poor creature who had lost the use of his limbs, and
for whose recovery the natives seem very anxious, as he is a chief of
considerable rank among them. His situation is beyond the reach of our
skill. He complains of no pain in any peculiar limb, and we therefore
think his disorder cannot be rheumatic, and his limbs would have been
more diminished if his disease had been a paralytic affection. We had
already ascribed it to his diet of roots, and had recommended his living
on fish and flesh, and using the cold bath every morning, with a dose of
cream of tartar or flowers of sulphur every third day.”

It is gratifying to be able to record the fact that Bratton and the
Indian (who was treated in the same manner) actually recovered from
their malady. The journal says of the Indian that his restoration
was “wonderful.” This is not too strong a word to use under the
circumstances, for the chief had been helpless for nearly three years,
and yet he was able to get about and take care of himself after he had
been treated by Captain (otherwise Doctor) Clark. Two of his men met
with a serious disaster about this time; going across the river to trade
with some Indians, their boat was stove and went to the bottom, carrying
with it three blankets, a blanket-coat, and their scanty stock of
merchandise, all of which was utterly lost. Another disaster, which
happened next day, is thus recorded:--

“Two of our men, who had been up the river to trade with the Indians,
returned quite unsuccessful. Nearly opposite the village, their horse
fell with his load down a steep cliff into the river, across which he
swam. An Indian on the opposite side drove him back to them; but
in crossing most of the articles were lost and the paint melted.
Understanding their intentions, the Indians attempted to come over to
them, but having no canoe, were obliged to use a raft, which struck on a
rock, upset, and the whole store of roots and bread were destroyed.
This failure completely exhausted our stock of merchandise; but the
remembrance of what we suffered from cold and hunger during the passage
of the Rocky Mountains makes us anxious to increase our means of
subsistence and comfort, since we have again to encounter the same

But the ingenuity of the explorers was equal to this emergency. Having
observed that the Indians were very fond of brass buttons, which they
fastened to their garments as ornaments, and not for the useful purpose
for which buttons are made, the men now proceeded to cut from their
shabby United States uniforms those desired articles, and thus formed a
new fund for trading purposes. To these they added some eye-water, some
basilicon, and a few small tin boxes in which phosphorus had been kept.
Basilicon, of which mention is frequently made in the journal, was an
ointment composed of black pitch, white wax, resin, and olive oil; it
was esteemed as a sovereign remedy for all diseases requiring an outward
application. With these valuables two men were sent out to trade with
the Indians, on the second day of June, and they returned with three
bushels of eatable roots and some cowas bread. Later in that day, a
party that had been sent down the river (Lewis’) in quest of food,
returned with a goodly supply of roots and seventeen salmon. These
fish, although partly spoiled by the long journey home, gave great
satisfaction to the hungry adventurers, for they were the promise of a
plenty to come when the salmon should ascend the rivers that make into
the Columbia. At this time we find the following interesting story in
the journal of the expedition:--

“We had lately heard, also, that some Indians, residing at a
considerable distance, on the south side of the Kooskooskee, were in
possession of two tomahawks, one of which had been left at our camp on
Moscheto Creek, and the other had been stolen while we were with the
Chopunnish in the autumn. This last we were anxious to obtain, in order
to give it to the relations of our unfortunate companion, Sergeant
Floyd,(1) to whom it once belonged. We therefore sent Drewyer, with the
two chiefs Neeshnepahkeeook and Hohastillpilp (who had returned to us)
to demand it. On their arrival, they found that the present possessor
of it, who had purchased it of the thief, was at the point of death; and
his relations were unwilling to give it up, as they wished to bury it in
the grave with the deceased. The influence of Neeshnepahkeeook, however,
at length prevailed; and they consented to surrender the tomahawk on
receiving two strands of beads and a handkerchief from Drewyer, and
from each of the chiefs a horse, to be killed at the funeral of their
kinsman, according to the custom of the country.”

     (1) See page 23.

The Chopunnish chiefs now gave their final answer to the two captains
who had requested guides from them. The chiefs said that they could not
accompany the party, but later in the summer they might cross the great
divide and spend the next winter on the headwaters of the Missouri. At
present, they could only promise that some of their young men should go
with the whites; these had not been selected, but they would be sent on
after the party, if the two captains insisted on starting now. This
was not very encouraging, for they had depended upon the Indians for
guidance over the exceedingly difficult and even dangerous passages of
the mountains. Accordingly, it was resolved that, while waiting on the
motions of the Indians, the party might as well make a visit to Quamash
flats, where they could lay in a stock of provisions for their arduous
journey. It is not certain which of the several Quamash flats mentioned
in the history of the expedition is here referred to; but it is likely
that the open glade in which Captain Clark first struck the low country
of the west is here meant. It was here that he met the Indian boys
hiding in the grass, and from here he led the expedition out of the
wilderness. For “quamash” read “camass,” an edible root much prized by
the Nez Perces then and now.

While they lingered at their camp, they were visited by several bands of
friendly Indians. The explorers traded horses with their visitors,
and, with what they already had, they now found their band to number
sixty-five, all told. Having finished their trading, they invited the
Indians to take part in the games of prisoners’ base and foot-racing; in
the latter game the Indians were very expert, being able to distance
the fleetest runner of the white men’s party. At night, the games
were concluded by a dance. The account of the expedition says that the
captains were desirous of encouraging these exercises before they
should begin the passage over the mountains, “as several of the men are
becoming lazy from inaction.”

On the tenth of June the party set out for Quamash flats, each man well
mounted and leading a spare horse which carried a small load. To their
dismay, they found that their good friends, the Chopunnish, unwilling to
part with them, were bound to accompany them to the hunting-grounds. The
Indians would naturally expect to share in the hunt and to be provided
for by the white men. The party halted there only until the sixth of
June, and then, collecting their horses, set out through what proved to
be a very difficult trail up the creek on which they were camped, in
a northeasterly direction. There was still a quantity of snow on the
ground, although this was in shady places and hollows. Vegetation was
rank, and the dogtooth violet, honeysuckle, blue-bell, and columbine
were in blossom. The pale blue flowers of the quamash gave to the level
country the appearance of a blue lake. Striking Hungry Creek, which
Captain Clark had very appropriately named when he passed that way, the
previous September, they followed it up to a mountain for about three
miles, when they found themselves enveloped in snow; their limbs were
benumbed, and the snow, from twelve to fifteen feet deep, so paralyzed
their feet that further progress was impossible. Here the journal should
be quoted:--

“We halted at the sight of this new difficulty. We already knew that to
wait till the snows of the mountains had dissolved, so as to enable us
to distinguish the road, would defeat our design of returning to the
United States this season. We now found also that as the snow bore our
horses very well, travelling was infinitely easier than it was last
fall, when the rocks and fallen timber had so much obstructed our march.
But it would require five days to reach the fish-weirs at the mouth of
Colt (-killed) Creek, even if we were able to follow the proper ridges
of the mountains; and the danger of missing our direction is exceedingly
great while every track is covered with snow. During these five days,
too, we have no chance of finding either grass or underwood for our
horses, the snow being so deep. To proceed, therefore, under such
circumstances, would be to hazard our being bewildered in the mountains,
and to insure the loss of our horses; even should we be so fortunate as
to escape with our lives, we might be obliged to abandon all our papers
and collections. It was therefore decided not to venture any further;
to deposit here all the baggage and provisions for which we had no
immediate use; and, reserving only subsistence for a few days, to return
while our horses were yet strong to some spot where we might live
by hunting, till a guide could be procured to conduct us across the
mountains. Our baggage was placed on scaffolds and carefully covered, as
were also the instruments and papers, which we thought it safer to leave
than to risk over the roads and creeks by which we came.”

There was nothing left to do but to return to Hungry Creek. Finding a
scanty supply of grass, they camped under most depressing circumstances;
their outlook now was the passing of four or five days in the midst
of snows from ten to fifteen feet deep, with no guide, no road, and
no forage. In this emergency, two men were sent back to the Chopunnish
country to hurry up the Indians who had promised to accompany them over
the mountains; and, to insure a guide, these men were authorized to
offer a rifle as a reward for any one who would undertake the task. For
the present, it was thought best to return to Quamash flats.

Chapter XXIII -- Crossing the Bitter Root Mountains

Disasters many kept pace with the unhappy explorers on their way back
to Quamash flats after their rebuff at the base of the Bitter Root
Mountains. One of the horses fell down a rough and rocky place, carrying
his rider with him; but fortunately neither horse nor man was killed.
Next, a man, sent ahead to cut down the brush that blocked the path, cut
himself badly on the inside of his thigh and bled copiously. The hunters
sent out for game returned empty-handed. The fishermen caught no fish,
but broke the two Indian gigs, or contrivances for catching fish, with
which they had been provided. The stock of salt had given out, the
bulk of their supply having been left on the mountain. Several large
mushrooms were brought in by Cruzatte, but these were eaten without
pepper, salt, or any kind of grease,--“a very tasteless, insipid food,”
 as the journal says. To crown all, the mosquitoes were pestilential in
their numbers and venom.

Nevertheless, the leaders of the expedition were determined to press on
and pass the Bitter Root Mountains as soon as a slight rest at Quamash
flats should be had. If they should tarry until the snows melted from
the trail, they would be too late to reach the United States that winter
and would be compelled to pass the next winter at some camp high up on
the Missouri, as they had passed one winter at Fort Mandan, on their way
out. This is the course of argument which Captain Lewis and Clark took
to persuade each other as to the best way out of their difficulties:--

“The snows have formed a hard, coarse bed without crust, on which the
horses walk safely without slipping; the chief difficulty, therefore, is
to find the road. In this we may be assisted by the circumstance that,
though generally ten feet in depth, the snow has been thrown off by the
thick and spreading branches of the trees, and from round the trunk;
while the warmth of the trunk itself, acquired by the reflection of the
sun, or communicated by natural heat of the earth, which is never frozen
under these masses, has dissolved the snow so much that immediately at
the roots its depth is not more than one or two feet. We therefore hope
that the marks of the baggage rubbing against the trees may still be
perceived; and we have decided, in case the guide cannot be procured,
that one of us will take three or four of our most expert woodsmen,
several of our best horses, and an ample supply of provisions, go on two
days’ journey in advance, and endeavor to trace the route by the marks
of the Indian baggage on the trees, which we would then mark more
distinctly with a tomahawk. When they should have reached two days’
journey beyond Hungry Creek, two of the men were to be sent back to
apprise the rest of their success, and if necessary to cause them to
delay there; lest, by advancing too soon, they should be forced to halt
where no food could be obtained for the horses. If the traces of the
baggage be too indistinct, the whole party is to return to Hungry Creek,
and we will then attempt the passage by ascending the main southwest
branch of Lewis’ River through the country of the Shoshonees, over to
Madison or Gallatin River. On that route, the Chopunnish inform us,
there is a passage not obstructed by snow at this period of the year.”

On their return to Quamash flats the party met two Indians who, after
some parley, agreed to pilot them over the mountains; these camped where
they were, and the party went on to the flats, having exacted a promise
from the Indians that they would wait there two nights for the white men
to come along. When the party reached their old camp, they found that
one of their hunters had killed a deer, which was a welcome addition
to their otherwise scanty supper. Next day, the hunters met with
astonishing luck, bringing into camp eight deer and three bears. Four of
the men were directed to go to the camp of the two Indians, and if these
were bent on going on, to accompany them and so mark, or blaze, the
trees that the rest of the party would have no difficulty in finding the
way, later on.

Meanwhile, the men who had been sent back for guides returned, bringing
with them the pleasing information that three Indians whom they brought
with them had consented to guide the party to the great falls of the
Missouri, for the pay of two guns. Accordingly, once more (June 26),
they set out for the mountains, travelling for the third time in twelve
days the route between Quamash flats and the Bitter Root range. For the
second time they ran up against a barrier of snow. They measured the
depth of the snow at the place where they had left their luggage at
their previous repulse and found it to be ten feet and ten inches deep;
and it had sunk four feet since they had been turned back at this point.
Pressing on, after they reached their old camp, they found a bare spot
on the side of the mountain where there was a little grass for their
horses; and there they camped for the night. They were fortunate in
having Indian guides with them; and the journal says:--

“The marks on the trees, which had been our chief dependence, are much
fewer and more difficult to be distinguished than we had supposed. But
our guides traverse this trackless region with a kind of instinctive
sagacity; they never hesitate, they are never embarrassed; and so
undeviating is their step, that wherever the snow has disappeared, for
even a hundred paces, we find the summer road. With their aid the snow
is scarcely a disadvantage; for though we are often obliged to slip
down, yet the fallen timber and the rocks, which are now covered, were
much more troublesome when we passed in the autumn. Travelling is indeed
comparatively pleasant, as well as more rapid, the snow being hard and
coarse, without a crust, and perfectly hard enough to prevent the horses
sinking more than two or three inches. After the sun has been on it for
some hours it becomes softer than it is early in the morning; yet they
are almost always able to get a sure foothold.”

On the twenty-ninth of June the party were well out of the snows in
which they had been imprisoned, although they were by no means over the
mountain barrier that had been climbed so painfully during the past few
days. Here they observed the tracks of two barefooted Indians who had
evidently been fleeing from their enemies, the Pahkees. These signs
disturbed the Indian guides, for they at once said that the tracks were
made by their friends, the Ootlashoots, and that the Pahkees would
also cut them (the guides) off on their return from the trip over the
mountains. On the evening of the day above mentioned, the party camped
at the warm springs which fall into Traveller’s-rest Creek, a point
now well known to the explorers, who had passed that way before. Of the
springs the journal says:--

“These warm springs are situated at the foot of a hill on the north side
of Traveller’s-rest Creek, which is ten yards wide at this place. They
issue from the bottoms, and through the interstices of a gray freestone
rock, which rises in irregular masses round their lower side. The
principal spring, which the Indians have formed into a bath by stopping
the run with stone and pebbles, is about the same temperature as the
warmest bath used at the hot springs in Virginia. On trying, Captain
Lewis could with difficulty remain in it nineteen minutes, and then was
affected with a profuse perspiration. The two other springs are much
hotter, the temperature being equal to that of the warmest of the hot
springs in Virginia. Our men, as well as the Indians, amused themselves
with going into the bath; the latter, according to their universal
custom, going first into the hot bath, where they remain as long as they
can bear the heat, then plunging into the creek, which is now of an icy
coldness, and repeating this operation several times, but always ending
with the warm bath.”

Traveller’s-rest Creek, it will be recollected, is on the summit of the
Bitter Root Mountains, and the expedition had consequently passed from
Idaho into Montana, as these States now exist on the map; but they were
still on the Pacific side of the Great Divide, or the backbone of
the continent. Much game was seen in this region, and after reaching
Traveller’s-rest Creek, the hunters killed six deer; great numbers of
elk and bighorn were also seen in this vicinity. On the thirtieth of
July the party were at their old camp of September 9 and 10, 1805,
having made one hundred and fifty-six miles from Quamash flats to the
mouth of the creek where they now camped. Here a plan to divide and
subdivide the party was made out as follows:--

“Captain Lewis, with nine men, is to pursue the most direct route to the
falls of the Missouri, where three of his party (Thompson, Goodrich, and
McNeal) are to be left to prepare carriages for transporting the baggage
and canoes across the portage. With the remaining six, he will ascend
Maria’s River to explore the country and ascertain whether any branch
of it reaches as far north as latitude 50'0, after which he will descend
that river to its mouth. The rest of the men will accompany Captain
Clark to the head of Jefferson River, which Sergeant Ordway and a party
of nine men will descend, with the canoes and other articles deposited
there. Captain Clark’s party, which will then be reduced to ten men and
Sacajawea, will proceed to the Yellowstone, at its nearest approach to
the Three Forks of the Missouri. There he will build canoes, go down
that river with seven of his party, and wait at its mouth till the rest
of the party join him. Sergeant Pryor, with two others, will then take
the horses by land to the Mandans. From that nation he will go to the
British posts on the Assiniboin with a letter to Mr. Alexander Henry,
to procure his endeavors to prevail on some of the Sioux chiefs to
accompany him to the city of Washington. . . .

“The Indians who had accompanied us intended leaving us in order to seek
their friends, the Ootlashoots; but we prevailed on them to accompany
Captain Lewis a part of his route, so as to show him the shortest road
to the Missouri, and in the mean time amused them with conversation and
running races, on foot and with horses, in both of which they proved
themselves hardy, athletic, and active. To the chief Captain Lewis gave
a small medal and a gun, as a reward for having guided us across the
mountains; in return the customary civility of exchanging names passed
between them, by which the former acquired the title of Yomekollick, of
White Bearskin Unfolded.”

Chapter XXIV -- The Expedition Subdivided

On the third of July, accordingly, Captain Lewis, with nine of his men
and five Indians, proceeded down the valley lying between the Rocky
and the Bitter Root ranges of mountains, his general course being due
northwest of Clark’s fork of the Columbia River. Crossing several small
streams that make into this river, they finally reached and crossed the
Missoula River from west to east, below the confluence of the St. Mary’s
and Hell-gate rivers, or creeks; for these streams hardly deserve the
name of rivers. The party camped for the night within a few miles of the
site of the present city of Missoula, Montana. Here they were forced to
part from their good friends and allies, the Indians, who had crossed
the range with them. These men were afraid that they would be cut off by
their foes, the Pahkees, and they wanted to find and join some band
of the Indian nation with whom they were on terms of friendship. The
journal gives this account of the parting:--

“We now smoked a farewell pipe with our estimable companions, who
expressed every emotion of regret at parting with us; which they felt
the more, because they did not conceal their fears of our being cut off
by the Pahkees. We also gave them a shirt, a handkerchief, and a small
quantity of ammunition. The meat which they received from us was dried
and left at this place, as a store during the homeward journey. This
circumstance confirms our belief that there is no route along Clark’s
River to the Columbian plains so near or so good as that by which we
came; for, though these people mean to go for several days’ journey
down that river, to look for the Shalees (Ootlashoots), yet they intend
returning home by the same pass of the mountains through which they have
conducted us. This route is also used by all the nations whom we know
west of the mountains who are in the habit of visiting the plains of
the Missouri; while on the other side, all the war-paths of the
Pahkees which fall into this valley of Clark’s River concentre at
Traveller’s-rest, beyond which these people have never ventured to the

During the next day or two, Captain Lewis kept on the same general
course through a well-watered country, the ground gradually rising as he
approached the base of the mountains. Tracks of Indians, supposed to
be Pahkees, became more numerous and fresh. On the seventh of July, the
little company went through the famous pass of the Rocky Mountains, now
properly named for the leaders of the expedition. Here is the journal’s
account of their finding the Lewis and Clark Pass:--

“At the distance of twelve miles we left the river, or rather the
creek, and having for four miles crossed two ridges in a direction north
fifteen degrees east, again struck to the right, proceeding through
a narrow bottom covered with low willows and grass, and abundantly
supplied with both deer and beaver. After travelling seven miles we
reached the foot of a ridge, which we ascended in a direction north
forty-five degrees east, through a low gap of easy ascent from the
westward; and, on descending it, were delighted at discovering that this
was the dividing ridge between the waters of the Columbia and those of
the Missouri. From this gap Fort Mountain is about twenty miles in a
northeastern direction. We now wound through the hills and mountains,
passing several rivulets which ran to the right, and at the distance
of nine miles from the gap encamped, having made thirty-two miles. We
procured some beaver, and this morning saw tracks of buffalo, from which
it appears that those animals do sometimes penetrate a short distance
among the mountains.”

Next day the party found themselves in clover, so to speak. Game was
plenty, and, as their object now was to accumulate meat for the three
men who were to be left at the falls (and who were not hunters), they
resolved to strike the Medicine, or Sun, River and hunt down its banks.
On that river the journal, July 10, has this to say:--

“In the plains are great quantities of two species of prickly-pear now
in bloom. Gooseberries of the common red kind are in abundance and just
beginning to ripen, but there are no currants. The river has now widened
to one hundred yards; it is deep, crowded with islands, and in many
parts rapid. At the distance of seventeen miles, the timber disappears
totally from the river-bottoms. About this part of the river, the wind,
which had blown on our backs, and constantly put the elk on their guard,
shifted round; we then shot three of them and a brown bear. Captain
Lewis halted to skin them, while two of the men took the pack-horses
forward to seek for a camp. It was nine o’clock before he overtook them,
at the distance of seven miles, in the first grove of cottonwood. They
had been pursued as they came along by a very large bear, on which they
were afraid to fire, lest their horses, being unaccustomed to the gun,
might take fright and throw them. This circumstance reminds us of
the ferocity of these animals, when we were last near this place, and
admonishes us to be very cautious. We saw vast numbers of buffalo below
us, which kept up a dreadful bellowing during the night. With all our
exertions we were unable to advance more than twenty-four miles, owing
to the mire through which we are obliged to travel, in consequence of
the rain.”

The Sun, or Medicine, River empties into the Missouri just above the
great falls of that stream; and near here, opposite White Bear Islands,
the expedition had deposited some of their property in a cache dug
near the river bank, when they passed that way, a year before. On the
thirteenth of the month, having reached their old camping-ground here,
the party set to work making boat-gear and preparing to leave their
comrades in camp well fixed for their stay. The journal adds:--

“On opening the cache, we found the bearskins entirely destroyed by the
water, which in a flood of the river had penetrated to them. All the
specimens of plants, too, were unfortunately lost: the chart of the
Missouri, however, still remained unhurt, and several articles contained
in trunks and boxes had suffered but little injury; but a vial of
laudanum had lost its stopper, and the liquid had run into a drawer
of medicines, which it spoiled beyond recovery. The mosquitoes were
so troublesome that it was impossible even to write without a mosquito
bier. The buffalo were leaving us fast, on their way to the southeast.”

One of the party met with an amusing adventure here, which is thus

“At night M’Neal, who had been sent in the morning to examine the cache
at the lower end of the portage, returned; but had been prevented from
reaching that place by a singular adventure. Just as he arrived near
Willow run, he approached a thicket of brush in which was a white bear,
which he did not discover till he was within ten feet of him. His horse
started, and wheeling suddenly round, threw M’Neal almost immediately
under the bear, which started up instantly. Finding the bear raising
himself on his hind feet to attack him, he struck him on the head with
the butt end of his musket; the blow was so violent that it broke the
breech of the musket and knocked the bear to the ground. Before he
recovered M’Neal, seeing a willow-tree close by, sprang up, and there
remained while the bear closely guarded the foot of the tree until late
in the afternoon. He then went off; M’Neal being released came down,
and having found his horse, which had strayed off to the distance of
two miles, returned to camp. These animals are, indeed, of a most
extraordinary ferocity, and it is matter of wonder that in all our
encounters we have had the good fortune to escape. We are now
troubled with another enemy, not quite so dangerous, though even more
disagreeable-these are the mosquitoes, who now infest us in such myriads
that we frequently get them into our throats when breathing, and the dog
even howls with the torture they occasion.”

The intention of Captain Lewis was to reach the river sometimes known as
Maria’s, and sometimes as Marais, or swamp. This stream rises near the
boundary between Montana and the British possessions, and flows into the
Missouri, where the modern town of Ophir is built. The men left at the
great falls were to dig up the canoes and baggage that had been cached
there the previous year, and be ready to carry around the portage of
the falls the stuff that would be brought from the two forks of the
Jefferson, later on, by Sergeant Ordway and his party. It will be
recollected that this stuff had also been cached at the forks of the
Jefferson, the year before. The two parties, thus united, were to go
down to the entrance of Maria’s River into the Missouri, and Captain
Lewis expected to join them there by the fifth of August; if he failed
to meet them by that time, they were to go on down the river and meet
Captain Clark at the mouth of the Yellowstone. This explanation is
needed to the proper understanding of the narrative that follows; for we
now have to keep track of three parties of the explorers.

Captain Lewis and his men, having travelled northwest about twenty miles
from the great falls of the Missouri, struck the trail of a wounded
buffalo. They were dismayed by the sight, for that assured them that
there were Indians in the vicinity; and the most natural thing to expect
was that these were Blackfeet, or Minnetarees; both of these tribes are
vicious and rascally people, and they would not hesitate to attack a
small party and rob them of their guns, if they thought themselves able
to get away with them.

They were now in the midst of vast herds of buffalo, so numerous that
the whole number seemed one immense herd. Hanging on the flanks were
many wolves; hares and antelope were also abundant. On the fourth day
out, Captain Lewis struck the north fork of Maria’s River, now known as
Cut-bank River, in the northwest corner of Montana. He was desirous
of following up the stream, to ascertain, if possible, whether its
fountain-head was below, or above, the boundary between the United
States and the British possessions. Bad weather and an accident to
his chronometer prevented his accomplishing his purpose, and, on the
twenty-sixth of July, he turned reluctantly back, giving the name of
Cape Disappointment to his last camping-place. Later in that day,
as they were travelling down the main stream (Maria’s River), they
encountered the Indians whom they had hoped to avoid. Let us read the
story as it is told in the journal of the party:--

“At the distance of three miles we ascended the hills close to the
river-side, while Drewyer pursued the valley of the river on the
opposite side. But scarcely had Captain Lewis reached the high plain
when he saw, about a mile on his left, a collection of about thirty
horses. He immediately halted, and by the aid of his spy-glass
discovered that one-half of the horses were saddled, and that on the
eminence above the horses several Indians were looking down toward
the river, probably at Drewyer. This was a most unwelcome sight. Their
probable numbers rendered any contest with them of doubtful issue; to
attempt to escape would only invite pursuit, and our horses were so bad
that we must certainly be overtaken; besides which, Drewyer could not
yet be aware that the Indians were near, and if we ran he would most
probably be sacrificed. We therefore determined to make the most of our
situation, and advance toward them in a friendly manner. The flag which
we had brought in case of any such accident was therefore displayed, and
we continued slowly our march toward them. Their whole attention was so
engaged by Drewyer that they did not immediately discover us. As soon
as they did see us, they appeared to be much alarmed and ran about in
confusion; some of them came down the hill and drove their horses within
gunshot of the eminence, to which they then returned, as if to await
our arrival. When we came within a quarter of a mile, one of the Indians
mounted and rode at full speed to receive us; but when within a hundred
paces of us, he halted. Captain Lewis, who had alighted to receive him,
held out his hand and beckoned to him to approach; he only looked at
us for some time, and then, without saying a word, returned to his
companions with as much haste as he had advanced. The whole party now
descended the hill and rode toward us. As yet we saw only eight, but
presumed that there must be more behind us, as there were several horses
saddled. We however advanced, and Captain Lewis now told his two men
that he believed these were the Minnetarees of Fort de Prairie, who,
from their infamous character, would in all probability attempt to
rob us; but being determined to die rather than lose his papers and
instruments, he intended to resist to the last extremity, and advised
them to do the same, and to be on the alert should there be any
disposition to attack us. When the two parties came within a hundred
yards of each other, all the Indians, except one, halted. Captain Lewis
therefore ordered his two men to halt while he advanced, and after
shaking hands with the Indian, went on and did the same with the others
in the rear, while the Indian himself shook hands with the two men. They
all now came up; and after alighting, the Indians asked to smoke with
us. Captain Lewis, who was very anxious for Drewyer’s safety, told them
that the man who had gone down the river had the pipe, and requested
that as they had seen him, one of them would accompany R. Fields, to
bring him back. To this they assented, and Fields went with a young man
in search of Drewyer.”

Captain Lewis now asked them by signs if they were Minnetarees of the
north, and he was sorry to be told in reply that they were; he knew
them to be a bad lot. When asked if they had any chief among them, they
pointed out three. The captain did not believe them, but, in order to
keep on good terms with them, he gave to one a flag, to another a medal,
and to the third a handkerchief. At Captain Lewis’ suggestion, the
Indians and the white men camped together, and in the course of the
evening the red men told the captain that they were part of a big
band of their tribe, or nation. The rest of the tribe, they said, were
hunting further up the river, and were then in camp near the foot of the
Rocky Mountains. The captain, in return, told them that his party had
come from the great lake where the sun sets, and that he was in hopes
that he could induce the Minnetarees to live in peace with their
neighbors and come and trade at the posts that would be established in
their country by and by. He offered them ten horses and some tobacco if
they would accompany his party down the river below the great falls. To
this they made no reply. Being still suspicious of these sullen guests,
Captain Lewis made his dispositions for the night, with orders for the
sentry on duty to rouse all hands if the Indians should attempt to steal
anything in the night. Next morning trouble began. Says the journal:--

“At sunrise, the Indians got up and crowded around the fire near which
J. Fields, who was then on watch, had carelessly left his rifle, near
the head of his brother, who was still asleep. One of the Indians
slipped behind him, and, unperceived, took his brother’s and his own
rifle, while at the same time two others seized those of Drewyer and
Captain Lewis. As soon as Fields turned, he saw the Indian running off
with the rifles; instantly calling his brother, they pursued him for
fifty or sixty yards; just as they overtook him, in the scuffle for
the rifles R. Fields stabbed him through the heart with his knife. The
Indian ran about fifteen steps and fell dead. They now ran back with
their rifles to the camp. The moment the fellow touched his gun,
Drewyer, who was awake, jumped up and wrested it from him. The noise
awoke Captain Lewis, who instantly started from the ground and reached
for his gun; but finding it gone, drew a pistol from his belt, and
turning saw the Indian running off with it. He followed him and ordered
him to lay it down, which he did just as the two Fields came up, and
were taking aim to shoot him; when Captain Lewis ordered them not to
fire, as the Indian did not appear to intend any mischief. He dropped
the gun and was going slowly off when Drewyer came out and asked
permission to kill him; but this Captain Lewis forbade, as he had
not yet attempted to shoot us. But finding that the Indians were now
endeavoring to drive off all the horses, he ordered all three of us to
follow the main party, who were chasing the horses up the river, and
fire instantly upon the thieves; while he, without taking time to
run for his shot-pouch, pursued the fellow who had stolen his gun and
another Indian, who were driving away the horses on the left of the
camp. He pressed them so closely that they left twelve of their horses,
but continued to drive off one of our own.

“At the distance of three hundred paces they entered a steep niche in
the river-bluffs, when Captain Lewis, being too much out of breath
to pursue them any further, called out, as he had done several times
before, that unless they gave up the horse he would shoot them. As he
raised his gun one of the Indians jumped behind a rock and spoke to the
other, who stopped at the distance of thirty paces. Captain Lewis shot
him in the belly. He fell on his knees and right elbow; but, raising
himself a little, fired, and then crawled behind a rock. The shot had
nearly proved fatal; for Captain Lewis, who was bareheaded, felt the
wind of the ball very distinctly. Not having his shot-pouch, he could
not reload his rifle; and, having only a single charge also for his
pistol, he thought it most prudent not to attack them farther, and
retired slowly to the camp. He was met by Drewyer, who, hearing the
report of the guns, had come to his assistance, leaving the Fields to
follow the other Indians. Captain Lewis ordered him to call out to them
to desist from the pursuit, as we could take the horses of the Indians
in place of our own; but they were at too great a distance to hear him.
He therefore returned to the camp, and while he was saddling the horses
the Fields returned with four of our own, having followed the Indians
until two of them swam the river and two others ascended the hills, so
that the horses became dispersed.”

The white men were gainers by this sad affair, for they had now in their
possession four of the Indians’ horses, and had lost one of their own.
Besides these, they found in the camp of the Indians four shields, two
bows and their quivers, and one of their two guns. The captain took
some buffalo meat which he found in the camp, and then the rest of their
baggage was burned on the spot. The flag given to one of the so-called
chiefs was retaken; but the medal given to the dead man was left
around his neck. The consequences of this unfortunate quarrel were
far-reaching. The tribe whose member was killed by the white men never
forgave the injury, and for years after there was no safety for white
men in their vicinity except when the wayfarers were in great numbers or
strongly guarded.

A forced march was now necessary for the explorers, and they set out as
speedily as possible, well knowing that the Indians would be on their
trail. By three o’clock in the afternoon of that day they had reached
Tansy River, now known as the Teton, having travelled sixty-three miles.
They rested for an hour and a half to refresh their horses, and then
pushed on for seventeen miles further before camping again. Having
killed a buffalo, they had supper and stopped two hours. Then,
travelling through vast herds of buffalo until two o’clock in the
morning, they halted again, almost dead with fatigue; they rested until
daylight. On awaking, they found themselves so stiff and sore with much
riding that they could scarcely stand. But the lives of their friends
now at or near the mouth of Maria’s River were at stake, as well as
their own. Indeed, it was not certain but that the Indians had, by hard
riding and a circuitous route, already attacked the river party left at
the falls. So Captain Lewis told his men that they must go on, and,
if attacked, they must tie their horses together by the head and stand
together, selling their lives as dearly as possible, or routing their
enemies. The journal now says:--

“To this they all assented, and we therefore continued our route to
the eastward, till at the distance of twelve miles we came near the
Missouri, when we heard a noise which seemed like the report of a gun.
We therefore quickened our pace for eight miles farther, and, being
about five miles from Grog Spring, now heard distinctly the noise of
several rifles from the river. We hurried to the bank, and saw with
exquisite satisfaction our friends descending the river. They landed
to greet us, and after turning our horses loose, we embarked with our
baggage, and went down to the spot where we had made a deposite. This,
after reconnoitring the adjacent country, we opened; but, unfortunately,
the cache had caved in, and most of the articles were injured. We took
whatever was still worth preserving, and immediately proceeded to the
point, where we found our deposits in good order. By a singular good
fortune, we were here joined by Sergeant Gass and Willard from the
Falls, who had been ordered to come with the horses here to assist in
procuring meat for the voyage, as it had been calculated that the canoes
would reach this place much sooner than Captain Lewis’s party. After a
very heavy shower of rain and hail, attended with violent thunder and
lightning, we started from the point, and giving a final discharge to
our horses, went over to the island where we had left our red pirogue,
which, however, we found much decayed, and we had no means of repairing
her. We therefore took all the iron work out of her, and, proceeding
down the river fifteen miles, encamped near some cottonwood trees, one
of which was of the narrow-leafed species, and the first of that kind we
had remarked in ascending the river.

“Sergeant Ordway’s party, which had left the mouth of Madison River on
the thirteenth, had descended in safety to White Bear Island, where he
arrived on the nineteenth, and, after collecting the baggage, had left
the falls on the twenty-seventh in the white pirogue and five canoes,
while Sergeant Gass and Willard set out at the same time by land with
the horses, and thus fortunately met together.”

Sergeant Ordway’s party, it will be recollected, had left Captain Clark
at the three forks of the Missouri, to which they had come down the
Jefferson, and thence had passed down the Missouri to White Bear
Islands, and, making the portage, had joined the rest of the party just
in time to reinforce them. Game was now abundant the buffalo being in
enormous herds; and the bighorn were also numerous; the flesh of these
animals was in fine condition, resembling the best of mutton in flavor.
The reunited party now descended the river, the intention being to reach
the mouth of the Yellowstone as soon as possible, and there wait for
Captain Clark, who, it will be recalled, was to explore that stream and
meet them at the point of its junction with the Missouri. The voyage of
Captain Lewis and his men was without startling incident, except that
Cruzatte accidentally shot the captain, one day, while they were out
hunting. The wound was through the fleshy part of the left thigh, and
for a time was very painful. As Cruzatte was not in sight when the
captain was hit, the latter naturally thought he had been shot by
Indians hiding in the thicket. He reached camp as best he could, and,
telling his men to arm themselves, he explained that he had been shot by
Indians. But when Cruzatte came into camp, mutual explanations satisfied
all hands that a misunderstanding had arisen and that Cruzatte’s unlucky
shot was accidental. As an example of the experience of the party about
this time, while they were on their way down the Missouri, we take this
extract from their journal:--

“We again saw great numbers of buffalo, elk, antelope, deer, and wolves;
also eagles and other birds, among which were geese and a solitary
pelican, neither of which can fly at present, as they are now shedding
the feathers of their wings. We also saw several bears, one of them the
largest, except one, we had ever seen; for he measured nine feet from
the nose to the extremity of the tail. During the night a violent
storm came on from the northeast with such torrents of rain that we had
scarcely time to unload the canoes before they filled with water. Having
no shelter we ourselves were completely wet to the skin, and the wind
and cold air made our situation very unpleasant.”

On the twelfth of August, the Lewis party met with two traders from
Illinois. These men were camped on the northeast side of the river;
they had left Illinois the previous summer, and had been coming up the
Missouri hunting and trapping. Captain Lewis learned from them that
Captain Clark was below; and later in that day the entire expedition was
again united, Captain Clark’s party being found at a point near where
Little Knife Creek enters the Missouri River. We must now take up the
narrative of Captain Clark and his adventures on the Yellowstone.

Chapter XXV -- Adventures on the Yellowstone

The route of Captain Clark from the point where he and Captain Lewis
divided their party, was rather more difficult than that pursued by
the Lewis detachment. But the Clark party was larger, being composed of
twenty men and Sacajawea and her baby. They were to travel up the main
fork of Clark’s River (sometimes called the Bitter Root), to Ross’s
Hole, and then strike over the great continental divide at that point by
way of the pass which he discovered and which was named for him; thence
he was to strike the headwaters of Wisdom River, a stream which this
generation of men knows by the vulgar name of Big Hole River; from this
point he was to go by the way of Willard’s Creek to Shoshonee Cove and
the Two Forks of the Jefferson, and thence down that stream to the
Three Forks of the Missouri, up the Gallatin, and over the divide to the
Yellowstone and down that river to its junction with the Missouri, where
he was to join the party of Captain Lewis. This is the itinerary that
was exactly carried out. The very first incident set forth in the
journal is a celebration of Independence Day, as follows:--

“Friday, July 4. Early in the morning three hunters were sent out.
The rest of the party having collected the horses and breakfasted, we
proceeded at seven o’clock up the valley, which is now contracted to the
width of from eight to ten miles, with a good proportion of pitch-pine,
though its low lands, as well as the bottoms of the creeks, are strewn
with large stones. We crossed five creeks of different sizes, but of
great depth, and so rapid that in passing the last several of the horses
were driven down the stream, and some of our baggage was wet. Near
this river we saw the tracks of two Indians, whom we supposed to be
Shoshonees. Having made sixteen miles, we halted at an hour for
the purpose of doing honor to the birthday of our early country’s
independence. The festival was not very splendid, for it consisted of a
mush made of cows and a saddle of venison; nor had we anything to tempt
us to prolong it. We therefore went on till at the distance of a mile we
came to a very large creek, which, like all those in the valley, had
an immense rapidity of descent; we therefore proceeded up for some
distance, in order to select the most convenient spot for fording. Even
there, however, such was the violence of the current that, though the
water was not higher than the bellies of the horses, the resistance made
in passing caused the stream to rise over their backs and loads. After
passing the creek we inclined to the left, and soon after struck the
road which we had descended last year, near the spot where we dined on
the 7th of September (1805). Along this road we continued on the west
side of Clark’s River, till at the distance of thirteen miles, during
which we passed three more deep, large creeks, we reached its western
branch, where we camped; and having sent out two hunters, despatched
some men to examine the best ford across the west fork of the river. The
game to-day consisted of four deer; though we also saw a herd of ibex,
or bighorn.”

Two days later they were high up among the mountains, although the
ascent was not very steep. At that height they found the weather very
cool, so much so that on the morning of the sixth of July, after a cold
night, they had a heavy white frost on the ground. Setting out on that
day, Captain Clark crossed a ridge which proved to be the dividing line
between the Pacific and the Atlantic watershed. At the same time he
passed from what is now Missoula County, Montana, into the present
county of Beaver Head, in that State. “Beaver Head,” the reader will
recollect, comes from a natural elevation in that region resembling the
head of a beaver. These points will serve to fix in one’s mind the
route of the first exploring party that ever ventured into those wilds;
descending the ridge on its eastern slope, the explorers struck Glade
Creek, one of the sources of the stream then named Wisdom River, a
branch of the Jefferson; and the Jefferson is one of the tributaries of
the mighty Missouri. Next day the journal has this entry:--

“In the morning our horses were so much scattered that, although we sent
out hunters in every direction to range the country for six or eight
miles, nine of them could not be recovered. They were the most valuable
of all our horses, and so much attached to some of their companions that
it was difficult to separate them in the daytime. We therefore presumed
that they must have been stolen by some roving Indians; and accordingly
left a party of five men to continue the pursuit, while the rest went
on to the spot where the canoes had been deposited. We set out at ten
o’clock and pursued a course S. 56'0 E. across the valley, which we
found to be watered by four large creeks, with extensive low and
miry bottoms; and then reached (and crossed) Wisdom River, along the
northeast side of which we continued, till at the distance of sixteen
miles we came to its three branches. Near that place we stopped for
dinner at a hot spring situated in the open plain. The bed of the spring
is about fifteen yards in circumference, and composed of loose, hard,
gritty stones, through which the water boils in great quantities. It is
slightly impregnated with sulphur, and so hot that a piece of meat about
the size of three fingers was completely done in twenty-five minutes.”

Next day, July 8, the party reached the forks of the Jefferson River,
where they had cached their goods in August, 1805; they had now
travelled one hundred and sixty-four miles from Traveller’s-rest Creek
to that point. The men were out of tobacco, and as there was some among
the goods deposited in the cache they made haste to open the cache. They
found everything safe, although some of the articles were damp, and a
hole had been made in the bottom of one of the canoes. Here they were
overtaken by Sergeant Ordway and his party with the nine horses that had
escaped during the night of the seventh.

That night the weather was so cold that water froze in a basin to a
thickness of three-quarters of an inch, and the grass around the camp
was stiff with frost, although the month of July was nearly a week old.
The boats taken from the cache were now loaded, and the explorers were
divided into two bands, one to descend the river by boat and the other
to take the same general route on horseback, the objective point being
the Yellowstone. The story is taken tip here by the journal in these

“After breakfast (July 10) the two parties set out, those on shore
skirting the eastern side of Jefferson River, through Service (-berry)
Valley and over Rattlesnake Mountain, into a beautiful and extensive
country, known among the Indians by the name of Hahnahappapchah, or
Beaverhead Valley, from the number of those animals to be found in it,
and also from the point of land resembling the head of a beaver. It (the
valley) extends from Rattlesnake Mountain as low as Frazier’s Creek, and
is about fifty miles in length in direct line; while its width varies
from ten to fifteen miles, being watered in its whole course by
Jefferson River and six different creeks. The valley is open and
fertile; besides the innumerable quantities of beaver and otter with
which its creeks are supplied, the bushes of the low grounds are a
favorite resort for deer; while on the higher parts of the valley are
seen scattered groups of antelopes, and still further, on the steep
sides of the mountains, are observed many bighorns, which take refuge
there from the wolves and bears. At the distance of fifteen miles the
two parties stopped to dine; when Captain Clark, finding that the river
became wider and deeper, and that the canoes could advance more rapidly
than the horses, determined to go himself by water, leaving Sergeant
Pryor with six men to bring on the horses. In this way they resumed
their journey after dinner, and camped on the eastern side of the river,
opposite the head of Three-thousand-mile Island. The beaver were basking
in great numbers along the shore; there were also some young wild geese
and ducks. The mosquitoes were very troublesome during the day, but
after sunset the weather became cool and they disappeared.”

Three-thousand-mile Island was so named by the explorers, when they
ascended these streams, because it was at a point exactly three thousand
miles from the mouth of the Missouri. But no such island exists now; it
has probably been worn away by the swift-rushing current of the river.
The route of Captain Clark and his party, up to this time had been a few
miles west of Bannock City, Montana. As the captain was now to proceed
by land to the Yellowstone, again leaving the canoe party, it is well to
recall the fact that his route from the Three Forks of the Missouri to
the Yellowstone follows pretty nearly the present line of the railroad
from Gallatin City to Livingston, by the way of Bozeman Pass. Of this
route the journal says:--

“Throughout the whole, game was very abundant. They procured deer in
the low grounds; beaver and otter were seen in Gallatin River, and elk,
wolves, eagles, hawks, crows, and geese at different parts of the route.
The plain was intersected by several great roads leading to a gap in the
mountains, about twenty miles distant, in a direction E.N.E.; but the
Indian woman, who was acquainted with the country, recommended a gap
more to the southward. This course Captain Clark determined to pursue.”

Let us pause here to pay a little tribute to the memory of “the Indian
woman,” Sacajawea. She showed that she was very observant, had a good
memory, and was plucky and determined when in trouble. She was the guide
of the exploring party when she was in a region of country, as here,
with which she was familiar. She remembered localities which she had
not seen since her childhood. When their pirogue was upset by the
carelessness of her husband, it was she who saved the goods and helped
to right the boat. And, with her helpless infant clinging to her, she
rode with the men, guiding them with unerring skill through the mountain
fastnesses and lonely passes which the white men saw for the first time
when their salient features were pointed out to them by the intelligent
and faithful Sacajawea. The Indian woman has long since departed to the
Happy Hunting-Grounds of her fathers; only her name and story remain
to us who follow the footsteps of the brave pioneers of the western
continent. But posterity should not forget the services which were
rendered to the white race by Sacajawea.

On the fifteenth of July the party arrived at the ridge that divides
the Missouri and the Yellowstone, nine miles from which they reached
the river itself, about a mile and a half from the point where it
issues from the Rocky Mountains. Their journey down the valley of the
Yellowstone was devoid of special interest, but was accompanied with
some hardships. For example, the feet of the horses had become so sore
with long travel over a stony trail that it was necessary to shoe them
with raw buffalo hide. Rain fell frequently and copiously; and often,
sheltered at night only by buffalo hides, they rose in the morning
drenched to the skin. The party could not follow the course of the river
very closely, but were compelled often to cross hills that came down to
the bank, making the trail impassable for horses. Here is the story of
July 18 and 19:--

“Gibson, one of the party, was so badly hurt by falling on a sharp point
of wood that he was unable to sit on his horse, and they were obliged
to form a sort of litter for him, so that he could lie nearly at full
length. The wound became so painful, however, after proceeding a short
distance, that he could not bear the motion, and they left him with two
men, while Captain Clark went to search for timber large enough to form
canoes. He succeeded in finding some trees of sufficient size for small
canoes, two of which he determined to construct, and by lashing them
together hoped to make them answer the purpose of conveying the party
down the river, while a few of his men should conduct the horses to the
Mandans. All hands, therefore, were set busily to work, and they were
employed in this labor for several days. In the mean time no less than
twenty-four of their horses were missing, and they strongly suspected
had been stolen by the Indians, for they were unable to find them,
notwithstanding they made the most diligent search.”

“July 23. A piece of a robe and a moccasin,” says the journal, “were
discovered this morning not far from the camp. The moccasin was worn out
in the sole, and yet wet, and had every appearance of having been left
but a few hours before. This was conclusive that the Indians had taken
our horses, and were still prowling about for the remainder, which
fortunately escaped last night by being in a small prairie surrounded by
thick timber. At length Labiche, one of our best trackers, returned from
a very wide circuit, and informed Captain Clark that he had traced
the horses bending their course rather down the river towards the open
plains, and from their tracks, must have been going very rapidly. All
hopes of recovering them were now abandoned. Nor were the Indians the
only plunderers around our camp; for in the night the wolves or dogs
stole the greater part of the dried meat from the scaffold. The wolves,
which constantly attend the buffalo, were here in great numbers, as this
seemed to be the commencement of the buffalo country. . . .

“At noon the two canoes were finished. They were twenty-eight feet long,
sixteen or eighteen inches deep, and from sixteen to twenty-four inches
wide; and, having lashed them together, everything was ready for setting
out the next day, Gibson having now recovered. Sergeant Pryor was
directed, with Shannon and Windsor, to take the remaining horses to the
Mandans, and if he should find that Mr. Henry (a trading-post agent)
was on the Assiniboin River, to go thither and deliver him a letter, the
object of which was to prevail on the most distinguished chiefs of the
Sioux to accompany him to Washington.”

On a large island near the mouth of a creek now known as Canyon Creek,
the party landed to explore an extensive Indian lodge which seems to
have been built for councils, rather than for a place of residence. The
lodge was shaped like a cone, sixty feet in diameter at the base and
tapering towards the top. The poles of which it was constructed were
forty-five feet long. The interior was strangely decorated, the tops of
the poles being ornamented with eagles’ feathers, and from the centre
hung a stuffed buffalo-hide. A buffalo’s head and other trophies of
the chase were disposed about the wigwam. The valley, as the explorers
descended the river, was very picturesque and wonderful. On the north
side the cliffs were wild and romantic, and these were soon succeeded by
rugged hills, and these, in turn, by open plains on which were descried
herds of buffalo, elk, and wolves. On the twenty-seventh of July, having
reached the Bighorn, one of the largest tributaries of the Yellowstone,
the party have this entry in their journal:--

“They again set out very early, and on leaving the Bighorn took a last
look at the Rocky Mountains, which had been constantly in view from the
first of May. The (Yellowstone) river now widens to the extent of from
four hundred to six hundred yards; it is much divided by islands and
sandbars; its banks are generally low and falling in; it thus resembles
the Missouri in many particulars, but its islands are more numerous,
its waters less muddy, and the current is more rapid. The water is of
a yellowish-white, and the round stones, which form the bars above the
Bighorn, have given place to gravel. On the left side the river runs
under cliffs of light, soft, gritty stone, varying in height from
seventy to one hundred feet, behind which are level and extensive
plains. On the right side of the river are low extensive bottoms,
bordered with cottonwood, various species of willow, rose-bushes,
grapevines, redberry or buffalo-grease bushes, and a species of sumach;
to these succeed high grounds supplied with pine, and still further on
are level plains. Throughout the country are vast quantities of buffalo,
which, as this is the running-season, keep up a continued bellowing.
Large herds of elk also are lying on every point, so gentle that they
may be approached within twenty paces without being alarmed. Several
beaver were seen in the course of the day; indeed, there is a greater
appearance of those animals than there was above the Bighorn. Deer,
however, are by no means abundant, and antelopes, as well as bighorns,
are scarce.”

It is noticeable that the explorers, all along their route, gave to
streams, rocks, mountains, and other natural features of the country
many names that appear to us meaningless and trifling. It would appear
that they used up all the big names, such as Jefferson, Gallatin,
Philosophy, Philanthropy, and the like, and were compelled to use,
first, the names of their own party, and then such titles as were
suggested by trifling incidents. For example, when they reached a
difficult shoal on the Yellowstone River, they named that Buffalo Shoal
because they found a buffalo on it; and Buffalo Shoal it remains unto
this day. In like manner, when they reached a dangerous rapid, twenty
miles below that point, they saw a bear standing on a rock in the
stream; and Bear Rapid the place was and is named. Bear and buffalo
were pretty numerous all the way along that part of the river which they
navigated in July. They had now rejoined the boats, and on the last day
of July, when camped at a point two miles above Wolf Rapid (so called
from seeing a wolf there), the buffalo were continually prowling about
the camp at night, exciting much alarm lest they should trample on the
boats and ruin them. In those days, buffalo were so numerous that they
were a nuisance to travellers; and they were so free from fear of man
that they were too familiar with the camps and equipage. On the first of
August we find this entry in the journal of the party:--

“The buffalo now appear in vast numbers. A herd happened to be on their
way across the river. Such was the multitude of these animals that,
though the river, including an island over which they passed, was a mile
wide, the herd stretched, as thickly as they could swim, from one
side to the other, and the party was obliged to stop for an hour. They
consoled themselves for the delay by killing four of the herd; and then
having proceeded for the distance of forty-five miles (in all to-day)
to an island, below which two other herds of buffalo, as numerous as the
first, soon after crossed the river.”

Again, on the very next day, we find this entry:--

“The river was now about a mile wide, less rapid, and more divided by
islands, and bars of sand and mud, than heretofore; the low grounds,
too, were more extensive, and contained a greater quantity of
cottonwood, ash, and willows. On the northwest was a low, level plain,
and on the southeast some rugged hills, on which we saw, without being
able to approach them, some bighorns. Buffalo and elk, as well as their
pursuers, the wolves, were in great numbers. On each side of the
river there were several dry beds of streams, but the only one of any
considerable size was one to which they gave the name of Ibex River,
on the right, about thirty yards wide, and sixteen miles from their
encampment of the preceding night. The bear, which had given them so
much trouble at the head of the Missouri, they found equally fierce
here. One of these animals, which was on a sand-bar as the boat passed,
raised himself on his hind feet, and after looking at the party for a
moment, plunged in and swam towards them; but, after receiving three
balls in the body, he turned and made for the shore. Towards evening
they saw another enter the water to swim across; when Captain Clark
directed the boat towards the shore, and just as the animal landed shot
it in the head. It proved to be the largest female they had ever seen,
and was so old that its tusks were worn quite smooth. The boats escaped
with difficulty between two herds of buffalo that were crossing the
river, and came near being again detained by them. Among the elk of this
neighborhood they saw an unusual number of males, while higher up the
herds consisted chiefly of females.”

It is almost incredible that these wild animals should have been so
nearly exterminated by hunters and other rovers of the plains, very soon
after travel set in across the continent. The writer of these lines, who
crossed the plains to California so lately as 1856, saw buffalo
killed for the sake of their tongues, or to give rifle practice to
the wayfarers. After the overland railroad was opened, passengers shot
buffalo from the car-windows, well knowing that they could not get their
game, even if they should kill as they flew by a herd. There are no
buffalo nor elk where millions once roamed almost unmolested.

Early in the afternoon of August 3, the party reached the junction of
the Yellowstone and the Missouri, and camped on the same spot where they
had pitched their tents on the 26th of April, 1805. They were nearing
the end of their long journey.

But their troubles thickened as they drew near the close of their many
miles of travel. The journal for August 4 has this record:--

“The camp became absolutely uninhabitable in consequence of the
multitude of mosquitoes; the men could not work in preparing skins for
clothing, nor hunt in the timbered low grounds; there was no mode of
escape, except by going on the sand-bars in the river, where, if the
wind should blow, the insects do not venture; but when there is no wind,
and particularly at night, when the men have no covering except their
worn-out blankets, the pain they suffer is scarcely to be endured. There
was also a want of meat, for no buffalo were to be found; and though elk
are very abundant, yet their fat and flesh is more difficult to dry in
the sun, and is also much more easily spoiled than the meat or fat of
either deer or buffalo.

“Captain Clark therefore determined to go on to some spot which should
be free from mosquitoes and furnish more game. Having written a note to
Captain Lewis, to inform him of his intention, and stuck it on a pole
at the confluence of the two rivers, he loaded the canoes at five in the
afternoon, proceeded down the river to the second point, and camped on
a sand-bar; but here the mosquitoes seemed to be even more numerous
than above. The face of the Indian child was considerably puffed up
and swollen with their bites; the men could procure scarcely any sleep
during the night, and the insects continued to harass them next morning,
as they proceeded. On one occasion Captain Clark went on shore and
ascended a hill after one of the bighorns; but the mosquitoes were in
such multitudes that he could not keep them from the barrel of his rifle
long enough to take aim. About ten o’clock, however, a light breeze
sprung up from the northwest, and dispersed them in some degree. Captain
Clark then landed on a sand-bar, intending to wait for Captain Lewis,
and went out to hunt. But not finding any buffalo, he again proceeded in
the afternoon; and having killed a large white bear, camped under a high
bluff exposed to a light breeze from the southwest, which blew away the
mosquitoes. About eleven o’clock, however, the wind became very high and
a storm of rain came on, which lasted for two hours, accompanied with
sharp lightning and loud peals of thunder.

“The party rose, next day, very wet, and proceeded to a sand-bar below
the entrance of Whiteearth River. Just above this place the Indians,
apparently within seven, or eight days past, had been digging a root
which they employ in making a kind of soup. Having fixed their tents,
the men were employed in dressing skins and hunting. They shot a number
of deer; but only two of them were fat, owing probably to the great
quantities of mosquitoes which annoy them while feeding.”

On the eleventh of August the Clark party came up with the two white
traders from Illinois, of whom we have already made mention as having
been met by the Lewis party on their way down the river. These were the
first white men they had seen (except themselves) since they parted with
the three French trappers, near the Little Missouri, in April, 1805,
From them the wayworn voyagers received the latest news from the United
States. From them they also had some unfavorable tidings. The journal

“These men had met the boat which we had despatched from Fort Mandan,
on board of which, they were told, was a Ricara chief on his way to
Washington; and also another party of Yankton chiefs, accompanying Mr.
Durion on a visit of the same kind. We were sorry to learn that the
Mandans and Minnetarees were at war with the Ricaras, and had killed two
of them. The Assiniboins too are at war with the Mandans. They have,
in consequence, prohibited the Northwestern Company from trading to the
Missouri, and even killed two of their traders near Mouse River; they
are now lying in wait for Mr. McKenzie of the Northwestern Company, who
has been for a long time among the Minnetarees. These appearances are
rather unfavorable to our project of carrying some of the chiefs to the
United States; but we still hope that, by effecting a peace between the
Mandans, Minnetarees, and Ricaras, the views of our Government may be

Next day, August 12, 1806, the party, slowly descending the river, were
overjoyed to see below them the little flotilla of Captain Lewis and his
men. But they were alarmed when they discovered that Lewis was not with
them; as the boats landed at the shore, the captain was not to be seen.
Captain Clark’s party, on coming up with their friends, were told that
Lewis was lying in the pirogue, having been accidentally wounded. The
whole party were now happily reunited, and they were soon joined by the
two Illinois traders whom they had met up the river; these men wished to
accompany the expedition down the river as far as the Mandan nation,
for the purpose of trading; they were more secure with a large party of
white men than they would be if left to themselves.

Chapter XXVI -- The End of a Long Journey

The reunited party now set out for the lower river and proceeded rapidly
down-stream, favored with a good wind. They made eighty-six miles on
the first day, passing the mouth of the Little Missouri early in the
forenoon, and camping at Miry River, on the northeast side of the
Missouri. On the second day they arrived at the principal village of the
Minnetarees, where they were received with cordial welcome by their old
friends. The explorers fired their blunderbuss several times by way of
salute, and the Indian chiefs expressed their satisfaction at the safe
return of the white men. One of the Minnetaree chiefs, however, wept
bitterly at the sight of the whites, and it was explained by his friends
that their coming reminded him of the death of his son, who had been
lately killed by the Blackfoot Indians.

Arriving at the village of the Mandans, of which Black Cat was the
chief, a council was called, and the chiefs of the expedition endeavored
to persuade some of the leading men of the tribe to accompany them to
Washington to see “the Great Father.” Black Cat expressed his strong
desire to visit the United States and see the Great Father, but he was
afraid of the Sioux, their ancient enemies, through whose territory they
must pass on their way down to the white man’s country. This chief, it
will be recollected, was given a flag and a medal by the two captains
when they passed up the river on their way to the Rocky Mountains and
the Pacific coast. The flag was now brought on and hoisted on the lodge
of Black Cat. On that occasion, also, the commanders of the expedition
had given the Indians a number of useful articles, among them being a
portable corn-mill. But the Indians had other uses for metal, and they
had taken the mill apart and used the iron for the purpose of making
barbs for their arrows. From the Omahas, who were located here, the
white men received a present of as much corn as three men could carry.
Black Cat also gave them a dozen bushels of corn.

Their days of starvation and famine were over. They were next visited
by Le Borgne, better known as One-eye, the head chief of all the
Minnetarees, to whom Lewis and Clark also extended an invitation to go
to Washington to see the Great Father. The journal says:--

“Le Borgne began by declaring that he much desired to visit his Great
Father, but that the Sioux would certainly kill any of the Mandans who
should attempt to go down the river. They were bad people, and would not
listen to any advice. When he saw us last, we had told him that we had
made peace with all the nations below; yet the Sioux had since killed
eight of his tribe, and stolen a number of their horses. The Ricaras too
had stolen their horses, and in the contest his people had killed two
of the Ricaras. Yet in spite of these dispositions he had always had
his ears open to our counsels, and had actually made a peace with
the Chayennes and the Indians of the Rocky Mountains. He concluded by
saying, that however disposed they were to visit the United States, the
fear of the Sioux would prevent them from going with us.”

The truth was that One-eye had no notion of going to Washington; he was
afraid of nobody, and his plea of possible danger among the Sioux
was mere nonsense to deceive the white men. Captain Clark visited the
village of Black Cat, and that worthy savage made the same excuse that
Le Borgne (One-eye) had already put forth; he was afraid of the Sioux.
The journal adds:--

“Captain Clark then spoke to the chiefs and warriors of the village.
He told them of his anxiety that some of them should see their Great
Father, hear his good words, and receive his gifts; and requested them
to fix on some confidential chief who might accompany us. To this they
made the same objections as before; till at length a young man offered
to go, and the warriors all assented to it. But the character of
this man was known to be bad; and one of the party with Captain Clark
informed him that at the moment he (this Indian) had in his possession
a knife which he had stolen. Captain Clark therefore told the chief of
this theft, and ordered the knife to be given up. This was done with
a poor apology for having it in his possession, and Captain Clark then
reproached the chiefs for wishing to send such a fellow to see and hear
so distinguished a person as their Great Father. They all hung down
their heads for some time, till Black Cat apologized by saying that
the danger was such that they were afraid of sending any one of their
chiefs, as they considered his loss almost inevitable.”

Although there was so much reluctance on the part of the Indians to
leave their roving life, even for a few months, there were some white
men among the explorers who were willing to give up their home in “the
States.” The journal says:--

“In the evening Colter applied to us for permission to join the two
trappers who had accompanied us, and who now proposed an expedition up
the river, in which they were to find traps and to give him a share of
the profits. The offer was a very advantageous one; and as he had
always performed his duty, and his services could be dispensed with, we
consented to his going upon condition that none of the rest were to ask
or expect a similar indulgence. To this they all cheerfully assented,
saying that they wished Colter every success, and would not apply for
liberty to separate before we reached St. Louis. We therefore supplied
him, as did his comrades also, with powder and lead, and a variety of
articles which might be useful to him, and he left us the next day. The
example of this man shows how easily men may be weaned from the habits
of civilized life to the ruder, though scarcely less fascinating,
manners of the woods. This hunter had now been absent for many years
from the frontiers, and might naturally be presumed to have some
anxiety, or at least curiosity, to return to his friends and his
country; yet, just at the moment when he was approaching the frontiers,
he was tempted by a hunting scheme to give up all those delightful
prospects, and to go back without the least reluctance to the solitude
of the wilds.”

The two captains learned here that the Minnetarees had sent out a
war-party against the Shoshonees, very soon after the white men’s
expedition had left for the Rocky Mountains, notwithstanding their
promise to keep peace with the surrounding tribes. They had also sent a
war-party against the Ricaras, two of whom they killed. Accordingly, the
white chiefs had a powwow with the Indian chiefs, at which the journal
says these incidents occurred:--

“We took this opportunity of endeavoring to engage Le Borgne in our
interests by a present of the swivel, which is no longer serviceable, as
it cannot be discharged from our largest pirogue. It was loaded; and the
chiefs being formed into a circle round it, Captain Clark addressed them
with great ceremony. He said that he had listened with much attention
to what had yesterday been declared by Le Borgne, whom he believed to be
sincere, and then reproached them with their disregard of our counsels,
and their wars on the Shoshonees and Ricaras. Little Cherry, the
old Minnetaree chief, answered that they had long stayed at home and
listened to our advice, but at last went to war against the Sioux
because their horses had been stolen and their companions killed; and
that in an expedition against those people they met the Ricaras, who
were on their way to strike them, and a battle ensued. But in future he
said they would attend to our words and live at peace. Le Borgne added
that his ears would always be open to the words of his Good Father, and
shut against bad counsel. Captain Clark then presented to Le Borgne the
swivel, which he told him had announced the words of his Great Father
to all the nations we had seen, and which, whenever it was fired, should
recall those which we had delivered to him. The gun was discharged, and
Le Borgne had it conveyed in great pomp to his village. The council then

After much diplomacy and underhand scheming, one of the Mandan chiefs,
Big White, agreed to go to Washington with the expedition. But none of
the Minnetarees could be prevailed upon to leave their tribe, even for
a journey to the Great Father, of whose power and might so much had been
told them. The journal, narrating this fact, says further:--

“The principal chiefs of the Minnetarees now came down to bid us
farewell, as none of them could be prevailed on to go with us. This
circumstance induced our interpreter, Chaboneau, to remain here with his
wife and child, as he could no longer be of use to us, and, although we
offered to take him with us to the United States, he declined, saying
that there he had no acquaintance, and no chance of making a livelihood,
and preferred remaining among the Indians. This man had been very
serviceable to us, and his wife was particularly useful among the
Shoshonees: indeed, she had borne with a patience truly admirable the
fatigues of so long a route, encumbered with the charge of an infant,
who was then only nineteen months old. We therefore paid him his wages,
amounting to five hundred dollars and thirty-three cents, including
the price of a horse and a lodge purchased of him, and soon afterward
dropped down to the village of Big White, attended on shore by all the
Indian chiefs, who had come to take leave of him.

“We found him surrounded by his friends, who sat in a circle smoking,
while the women were crying. He immediately sent his wife and son, with
their baggage, on board, accompanied by the interpreter and his wife,
and two children; and then, after distributing among his friends some
powder and ball which we had given him, and smoking a pipe, he went with
us to the river side. The whole village crowded about us, and many of
the people wept aloud at the departure of their chief.”

Once more embarked, the party soon reached Fort Mandan, where they had
wintered in 1804. They found very little of their old stronghold left
except a few pickets and one of the houses. The rest had been destroyed
by an accidental fire. Eighteen miles below, they camped near an old
Ricara village, and next day, as they were about to resume their voyage,
a brother of Big White, whose camp was farther inland, came running down
to the beach to bid Big White farewell. The parting of the two brothers
was very affectionate, and the elder gave the younger a pair of leggings
as a farewell present. The Indian chief was satisfied with his treatment
by the whites, and interested himself to tell them traditions of
localities which they passed. August 20 they were below the mouth of
Cannon-ball River, and were in the country occupied and claimed by the
Sioux. Here, if anywhere, they must be prepared for attacks from
hostile Indians. At this point, the journal sets forth this interesting

“Since we passed in 1804, a very obvious change has taken place in the
current and appearance of the Missouri. In places where at that time
there were sandbars, the current of the river now passes, and the former
channel of the river is in turn a bank of sand. Sandbars then naked are
now covered with willows several feet high; the entrance of some of
the creeks and rivers has changed in consequence of the quantity of mud
thrown into them; and in some of the bottoms are layers of mud eight
inches in depth.”

The streams that flow into the Missouri and Mississippi from the
westward are notoriously fickle and changeable. Within a very few years,
some of them have changed their course so that farms are divided into
two parts, or are nearly wiped out by the wandering streams. In at least
one instance, artful men have tried to steal part of a State by changing
the boundary line along the bed of the river, making the stream flow
many miles across a tract around which it formerly meandered. On this
boundary line between the Sioux and their upper neighbors, the party
met a band of Cheyennes and another of Ricaras, or Arikaras. They held
a palaver with these Indians and reproached the Ricara chief, who was
called Gray-eyes, with having engaged in hostilities with the Sioux,
notwithstanding the promises made when the white men were here before.
To this Gray-eyes made an animated reply:--

“He declared that the Ricaras were willing to follow the counsels we had
given them, but a few of their bad young men would not live in peace,
but had joined the Sioux and thus embroiled them with the Mandans. These
young men had, however, been driven out of the villages, and as the
Ricaras were now separated from the Sioux, who were a bad people and the
cause of all their misfortunes, they now desired to be at peace with the
Mandans, and would receive them with kindness and friendship. Several of
the chiefs, he said, were desirous of visiting their Great Father; but
as the chief who went to the United States last summer had not returned,
and they had some fears for his safety, on account of the Sioux, they
did not wish to leave home until they heard of him. With regard to
himself, he would continue with his nation, to see that they followed
our advice. . . . . . . . . .

“After smoking for some time, Captain Clark gave a small medal to the
Chayenne chief, and explained at the same time the meaning of it. He
seemed alarmed at this present, and sent for a robe and a quantity of
buffalo-meat, which he gave to Captain Clark, and requested him to take
back the medal; for he knew that all white people were ‘medicine,’ and
was afraid of the medal, or of anything else which the white people gave
to the Indians. Captain Clark then repeated his intention in giving
the medal, which was the medicine his great father had directed him
to deliver to all chiefs who listened to his word and followed his
counsels; and that as he (the chief) had done so, the medal was given
as a proof that we believed him sincere. He now appeared satisfied and
received the medal, in return for which he gave double the quantity of
buffalo-meat he had offered before. He seemed now quite reconciled to
the whites, and requested that some traders might be sent among the
Chayennes, who lived, he said, in a country full of beaver, but did
not understand well how to catch them, and were discouraged from it by
having no sale for them when caught. Captain Clark promised that they
should be soon supplied with goods and taught the best mode of catching

“Big White, the chief of the Mandans, now addressed them at some length,
explaining the pacific intentions of his nation; the Chayennes observed
that both the Ricaras and Mandans seemed to be in fault; but at the end
of the council the Mandan chief was treated with great civility, and
the greatest harmony prevailed among them. The great chief, however,
informed us that none of the Ricaras could be prevailed on to go with us
till the return of the other chief; and that the Chayennes were a wild
people, afraid to go. He invited Captain Clark to his house, and gave
him two carrots of tobacco, two beaver-skins, and a trencher of boiled
corn and beans. It is the custom of all the nations on the Missouri to
offer to every white man food and refreshment when he first enters their

Resuming their voyage, the party reached Tyler’s River, where they
camped, on the twenty-seventh of August. This stream is now known as
Medicine River, from Medicine Hill, a conspicuous landmark rising at a
little distance from the Missouri. The voyagers were now near the
lower portion of what is now known as South Dakota, and they camped in
territory embraced in the county of Presho. Here they were forced to
send out their hunters; their stock of meat was nearly exhausted. The
hunters returned empty-handed.

“After a hunt of three hours they reported that no game was to be found
in the bottoms, the grass having been laid flat by the immense number of
buffaloes which recently passed over it; and, that they saw only a few
buffalo bulls, which they did not kill, as they were quite unfit for
use. Near this place we observed, however, the first signs of the wild
turkey; not long afterward we landed in the Big Bend, and killed a fine
fat elk, on which we feasted. Toward night we heard the bellowing of
buffalo bulls on the lower island of the Big Bend. We pursued this
agreeable sound, and after killing some of the cows, camped on the
island, forty-five miles from the camp of last night.” . . . . . . . . .

“Setting out at ten o’clock the next morning, at a short distance they
passed the mouth of White River, the water of which was nearly of the
color of milk. As they were much occupied with hunting, they made but
twenty miles. The buffalo,” says the journal, “were now so numerous,
that from an eminence we discovered more than we had ever seen before
at one time; and though it was impossible accurately to calculate their
number, they darkened the whole plain, and could not have been, we were
convinced, less than twenty thousand. With regard to game in general,
we have observed that wild animals are usually found in the greatest
numbers in the country lying between two nations at war.”

They were now well into the Sioux territory, and on the thirtieth of
August they had an encounter with a party of Indians. About twenty
persons were seen on the west side of the river, proceeding along a
height opposite the voyagers. Just as these were observed, another band,
numbering eighty or ninety, came out of the woods nearer the shore. As
they had a hostile appearance, the party in the canoes made preparations
to receive them; they were suspected to be Teton-Sioux, although they
might be Yanktons, Pawnees, or Omahas. The journal adds:--

“In order, however, to ascertain who they were, without risk to the
party, Captain Clark crossed, with three persons who could speak
different Indian languages, to a sand-bar near the opposite side, in
hopes of conversing with them. Eight young men soon met him on the
sand-bar, but none of them could understand either the Pawnee or
Maha interpreter. They were then addressed in the Sioux language, and
answered that they were Tetons, of the band headed by Black Buffaloe,
Tahtackasabah. This was the same who had attempted to stop us in 1804;
and being now less anxious about offending so mischievous a tribe,
Captain Clark told them that they had been deaf to our councils, had
ill-treated us two years ago, and had abused all the whites who had
since visited them. He believed them, he added, to be bad people, and
they must therefore return to their companions; for if they crossed over
to our camp we would put them to death. They asked for some corn, which
Captain Clark refused; they then requested permission to come and
visit our camp, but he ordered them back to their own people. He then
returned, and all our arms were prepared, in case of an attack; but when
the Indians reached their comrades, and informed their chiefs of our
intention, they all set out on their way to their own camp; though
some of them halted on a rising ground and abused us very copiously,
threatening to kill us if we came across. We took no notice of this for
some time, till the return of three of our hunters, whom we were afraid
the Indians might have met. But as soon as they joined us we embarked;
and to see what the Indians would attempt, steered near their side of
the river. At this the party on the hill seemed agitated; some set out
for their camp, others walked about, and one man walked toward the boats
and invited us to land. As he came near, we recognized him to be the
same who had accompanied us for two days in 1804, and was considered a
friend of the whites.

“Unwilling, however, to have any intercourse with these people, we
declined his invitation, upon which he returned to the hill, and struck
the earth three times with his gun, a great oath among the Indians,
who consider swearing by the earth as one of the most solemn forms
of imprecation. At the distance of six miles we stopped on a bleak
sand-bar, where we thought ourselves secure from any attack during the
night, and also safe from the mosquitoes. We had made but twenty-two
miles, but in the course of the day had killed a mule-deer, an animal
we were very anxious to obtain. About eleven in the evening the wind
shifted to the northwest, and it began to rain, accompanied by thunder
and lightning, after which the wind changed to the southwest, and blew
with such violence that we were obliged to hold fast the canoes, for
fear of their being driven from the sand-bar: still, the cables of two
of them broke, and two others were blown quite across the river; nor was
it till two o’clock that the whole party were reassembled, waiting in
the rain for daylight.”

The party now began to meet white men in small detachments coming up the
river. On the third of September, for example, they met the first men
who were able to give them news of home. This party was commanded by a
Mr. James Airs (or Ayres), from Mackinaw, by the way of Prairie du Chien
and St. Louis. He had two canoes loaded with merchandise which he was
taking up the river to trade with the Indians. Among the items of news
gathered from him, according to the private journal of one of the Lewis
and Clark party, was that General James Wilkinson was now Governor
of Louisiana Territory, and was stationed at St. Louis. This is the
Wilkinson who fought in the American Revolution, and was subsequently to
this time accused of accepting bribes from Spain and of complicity with
Aaron Burr in his treasonable schemes. Another item was to this effect:
“Mr. Burr & Genl. Hambleton fought a Duel, the latter was killed.”
 This brief statement refers to the unhappy duel between Aaron Burr
and Alexander Hamilton, at Weehawken, New Jersey, July 11, 1804. This
interesting entry shows with what feelings the long-absent explorers met
Mr. Airs:--

“After so long an interval, the sight of anyone who could give us
information of our country was peculiarly delightful, and much of the
night was spent in making inquiries into what had occurred during our
absence. We found Mr. Airs a very friendly and liberal gentleman; when
we proposed to him to purchase a small quantity of tobacco, to be paid
for in St. Louis, he very readily furnished every man of the party with
as much as he could use during the rest of the voyage, and insisted
on our accepting a barrel of flour. This last we found very agreeable,
although we have still a little flour which we had deposited at the
mouth of Maria’s River. We could give in return only about six bushels
of corn, which was all that we could spare.”

Three days later, the voyagers met a trading-boat belonging to Mr.
Augustus Chouteau, the founder of a famous trading-house in St. Louis.
From this party the captains procured a gallon of whiskey, and with this
they served out a dram to each of their men. “This,” says the journal,
“is the first spirituous liquor any of them have tasted since the Fourth
of July, 1805.” From this time forward, the returning explorers met
trading parties nearly every day; and this showed that trade was
following the flag far up into the hitherto unexplored regions of the
American continent.

The explorers, hungry for news from home, would have tarried and talked
longer with their new-found friends, but they were anxious to get
down to civilization once more. Their journal also says: “The Indians,
particularly the squaws and children, are weary of the long journey, and
we are desirous of seeing our country and friends.” This quotation from
the journal gives us our first intimation that any Indians accompanied
Big White to the United States. He appears to have had a small retinue
of followers men, women, and children--with him.

Below the mouth of the Platte, September 12, Lewis and Clark met
Gravelines, the interpreter who was sent to Washington from Fort Mandan,
in 1805, with despatches, natural history specimens, and a Ricara chief.
The chief had unfortunately died in Washington, and Gravelines was now
on his way to the Ricaras with a speech from President Jefferson and the
presents that had been given to the chief. He also had instructions to
teach the Ricaras in agriculture.

It is interesting to note how that the explorers, now tolerably well
acquainted with the Indian character since their long experience with
the red men, had adopted a very different bearing from that which they
had when coming up the river, in 1805. Here is an extract from their
journal, September 14:--

“We resumed our journey. This being a part of the river to which the
Kansas resort, in order to rob the boats of traders, we held ourselves
in readiness to fire upon any Indians who should offer us the slightest
indignity; as we no longer needed their friendship, and found that a
tone of firmness and decision is the best possible method of making
proper impressions on these freebooters. However, we did not
encounter any of them; but just below the old Kansas village met three
trading-boats from St. Louis, on their way to the Yanktons and Mahas.”

Thirty miles below the island of Little Osage village, the party met
Captain McClellan, formerly of the United States army. He informed
Captain Lewis that the party had been given up for lost, people
generally believing that they would never again be heard from; but,
according to the journal of one of the party, “The President of the U.
States yet had hopes of us.” The last news received in “the U. States”
 from the explorers was that sent from Fort Mandan, by Gravelines, in

Scarcity of provisions once more disturbed the party, so that, on the
eighteenth of September, the journal sets forth the fact that game was
very scarce and nothing was seen by the hunters but a bear and three
turkeys, which they were unable to reach. The men, however, were
perfectly satisfied, although they were allowed only one biscuit
per day. An abundance of pawpaws growing along the banks sufficed as
nutritious food. The pawpaw is native to many of the Western States
of the Republic. It is a fruit three or four inches long, growing on
a small tree, or bush. The fruit is sweet and juicy and has several
bean-shaped seeds embedded in the pulp. The voyagers now began to see
signs of civilization on the banks of the river. Near the mouth of the
Gasconade, above St. Louis, they beheld cows grazing in the meadows. The
journal says: “The whole party almost involuntarily raised a shout of
joy at seeing this image of civilization and domestic life.” Men who
have been wandering in pathless wildernesses, remote from man, for more
than two years, might well be moved by the sights of a homelike farm
and a settled life. Soon after this the party reached the little French
village of La Charette which they saluted with four guns and three
hearty cheers. Then, according to the journal, they landed and were
warmly received by the people, who had long since abandoned all hope
of ever seeing these far-voyaging adventurers return. Here are the
last entries in the journal that has been our guide so long across the
continent and back again to the haunts of men:--

“Sunday, September 21st, we proceeded; and as several settlements have
been made during our absence, we were refreshed with the sight of men
and cattle along the banks. We also passed twelve canoes of Kickapoo
Indians, going on a hunting-excursion. At length, after coming
forty-eight miles, we saluted, with heartfelt satisfaction, the
village of St. Charles, and on landing were treated with the greatest
hospitality and kindness by all the inhabitants of that place. Their
civility detained us till ten o’clock the next morning.

“September 22d, when the rain having ceased, we set out for Coldwater
Creek, about three miles from the mouth of the Missouri, where we found
a cantonment of troops of the United States, with whom we passed the
day; and then,

“September 23d, descended to the Mississippi, and round to St. Louis,
where we arrived at twelve o’clock; and having fired a salute, went on
shore and received the heartiest and most hospitable welcome from the
whole village.”

The two captains were very busily employed, as soon as they arrived in
St. Louis, with writing letters to their friends and to the officers
of the government who were concerned to know of their safe return to
civilization. Captain Lewis’ letter to the President of the United
States, announcing his arrival, was dated Sept. 23, 1806. President
Jefferson’s reply was dated October 20 of that year. In his letter the
President expressed his “unspeakable joy” at the safe return of the
expedition. He said that the unknown scenes in which they had been
engaged and the length of time during which no tidings had been received
from them “had begun to be felt awfully.” It may seem strange to modern
readers familiar with the means for rapid travel and communication that
no news from the explorers, later than that which they sent from the
Mandan country, was received in the United States until their return,
two years and four months later. But mail facilities were very scanty
in those far-off days, even in the settled portions of the Mississippi
Valley, and few traders had then penetrated to those portions of the
Lower Missouri that had just been travelled by Lewis and Clark. As we
have seen, white men were regarded with awe and curiosity by the natives
of the regions which the explorers traversed in their long absence. The
first post-office in what is now the great city of St. Louis was not
established until 1808; mails between the Atlantic seaboard and that
“village” required six weeks to pass either way.

The two captains went to Washington early in the year following their
arrival in St. Louis. There is extant a letter from Captain Lewis,
dated at Washington, Feb. 11, 1807. Congress was then in session, and,
agreeably to the promises that had been held out to the explorers, the
Secretary of War (General Henry Dearborn), secured from that body
the passage of an act granting to each member of the expedition a
considerable tract of land from the public domain. To each private
and non-commissioned officer was given three hundred acres; to Captain
Clark, one thousand acres, and to Captain Lewis fifteen hundred acres.
In addition to this, the two officers were given double pay for their
services during the time of their absence. Captain Lewis magnanimously
objected to receiving more land for his services than that given to
Captain Clark.

Captain Lewis resigned from the army, March 2, 1807, having been
nominated to be Governor of Louisiana Territory a few days before. His
commission as Governor was dated March 3 of that year. He was thus
made the Governor of all the territory of the United States west of the
Mississippi River. About the same time, Captain Clark was appointed a
general of the territorial militia and Indian agent for that department.

Originally, the territory acquired from France was divided into the
District of New Orleans and the District of Louisiana, the first-named
being the lower portion of the territory and bounded on the north by
a line which now represents the northern boundary of the State of
Louisiana; and all above that line was known as the District of
Louisiana. In 1812, the upper part, or Louisiana, was named the
Territory of Missouri, and Captain Clark (otherwise General), was
appointed Governor of the Territory, July 1, 1813, his old friend and
comrade having died a few years earlier.

The end of Captain (otherwise Governor) Lewis was tragical and was
shadowed by a cloud. Official business calling him to Washington, he
left St. Louis early in September, 1809, and prosecuted his journey
eastward through Tennessee, by the way of Chickasaw Bluffs, now Memphis,
of that State. There is a mystery around his last days. On the eleventh
of October, he stopped at a wayside log-inn, and that night he died
a violent death, whether by his own hand or by that of a murderer, no
living man knows. There were many contradictory stories about the sad
affair, some persons holding to the one theory and some to the other.
He was buried where he died, in the centre of what is now Lewis County,
Tennessee. In 1848, the State of Tennessee erected over the last
resting-place of Lewis a handsome monument, the inscriptions on which
duly set forth his many virtues and his distinguished services to his

The story of the expedition of Lewis and Clark is the foundation of the
history of the great Northwest and the Missouri Valley. These men
and their devoted band of followers were the first to break into the
world-old solitudes of the heart of the continent and to explore
the mountain fastnesses in which the mighty Columbia has its birth.
Following in their footsteps, the hardy American emigrant, trader,
adventurer, and home-seeker penetrated the wilderness, and, building
better than they knew, laid the foundations of populous and thriving
States. Peaceful farms and noble cities, towns and villages, thrilling
with the hum of modern industry and activity, are spread over the vast
spaces through which the explorers threaded their toilsome trail, amid
incredible privations and hardships, showing the way westward across the
boundless continent which is ours. Let the names of those two men long
be held in grateful honor by the American people!



     Alkali, natural deposits of, 60.
     Antelope, first seen, 29, how hunted, 69.
     Assiniboins, at war with Sioux, 49.


     Beaver, hunted as game, 70,
     Beaver Head, 143.
     Big Dry River, 75.
     Bismarck, N. D., 44.
     Bitter Root Mountains, 147.
     Black Cat, a Mandan chief, 342.
     Boone, Daniel, 14.
     Buffalo, first signs of, 16; hunt, 51; curious adventure with, 87;
     extermination of, 338.


     Caches, how built, 98.
     Calumet bird, 43.
     Camas, edible root, 179.
     Cameahwait, a Shoshonee chief, 157.
     Camp, first winter, 48; departure from, 57.
     Candle-fish, 252.
     Cannonball River, N. D-, 43.
     Captain Cook, 3.
     Captain Gray, 3.
     Captain Vancouver, 3.
     Carroll, Mont., 83.
     Carver, Jonathan, 5.
     Cascades of the Columbia, 262.
     Cathedral Rocks, 90-92.
     Cheyenne River, 40.
     Chinook Indians, 208, some account of, 246.
     Chouteau, a St. Louis trader, 355.
     Christmas (1804), 52. (1805), 240-
     Clark, Captain, biographical notice Of, 7.
     general of militia, 359.
     Clark’s Fort, 48.
     river, 180-63.
     party overtaken by disaster, 142.
     Clatsop Indians, some account Of, 248.
     Clearwater River, 183.
     Cloudburst, 116.
     Columbia River, discovery Of, 4.
     portage to, 108;
     at the headwaters of, 148.
     at the entrance to, 194.
     great falls of, 202;
     the great chute Of, 21.
     et seq.  Comowol, a Columbia River Indian
     chief, 239.
     Condor, a California variety, 256.
     Council Bluffs, 19.
     Cowas, an edible root, 278.
     Coyote, described, 72.
     Crow Indians, 24.


     Dalles, the, 266.
     Dearborn River, 130.
     Divide, on the great, 148;
     across the, 179.
     Dog’s flesh as an article of food, 24.


     Echeloot Indians, 210.
     Elk, hunting of, 251.
     Ermine, first seen, 49.
     Expedition, Lewis and Clark’s, 7.
     Organization of, 8.
     route of, 10;
     sets sail, 14.
     “Experiment,” failure of the boat, 124


     Falls of the Missouri, 101.
     description of, 11. et seq.
     Flathead Indians, 211.
     Floyd’s River, why so named, 23.
     Forks of the Missouri, 135.
     Fort Clark, 48.
     Clatsop, 255.


     Gallatin’s fork of the Missouri, 135.
     Gates of the Rocky Mountains, 132.
     Goose-nests in trees, 61.
     gray, Capt., discoverer of the Columbia, 3.
     Grizzly bear, first seen, 40.
     thrilling encounters with, 72, 76, 77, 105, 115, 315-


     Horse-flesh eaten by the expedition, 77.
     Hungry Creek, 178, 303-


     Independence Day, celebration of (1805), 123.
     (180(i), 327.
     Iowa Indians, 16.
     Islands, White Bear, 110.


     Jefferson, President Thomas, 2-4.
     his letters to Capt. Lewis, 12.
     presents to,
     from Lewis and Clark, 55.
     welcome to Capt. Lewis on return, 358.
     name given
     to fork of the Missouri, 135.
     John Day’s River, 203-


     Klikitat River, 214.
     Kooskooskee River, 180.


     Lewis, Capt., biographical notice of, 6, 7.
     accidentally wounded, 341;
     announces his return, 358.
     Governor of Louisiana Territory, 359;
     his tragical death, 360.
     Lewis and Clark, pursue separate routes across
     the Divide, 140.
     also on their return, 310.
     Lewis’s River, 165.

     Lewiston, Idaho, 185.
     Ledyard, John, 4.
     Lemhi River, 152.
     Little Devils, hill Of, 23.
     Louisiana Purchase, the, 1-2;
     divided into two territories, 360.


     Madison, fork of the Missouri, 135.
     Mandan Indians, 4. et seq.;
     religion of, 50.
     Maria’s River, 97.
     Medicine River, 106.
     Meriwether’s Bay, 234.
     Milk River, 74.
     Minnetarees, at war
     with Sioux, 49.
     expedition has an encounter with, 31. et seq,
     Missouri River, Little, 60.
     Missouri, the Upper, So; great falls of, 101;
     forks of, 135.
     at the headwaters Of, 147.
     Mosquitoes, the great
     plague of, 126, 339.
     Mount St. Helen’s, 198.
     Hood, 203.
     Mouse River, source of, 60.
     Multnomah (Willamette) River, 221.
     Musselshell River, 81.


     Nez Perce Indians (Chopunnish), 180.
     some account of the, 186.
     Noises, mysterious, 122.


     Osage Indians, traditions of, 15.
     Ottoes, council with, 20.


     Pacific Ocean, first sight of the, 225.
     Pawpaw fruit, 357.
     Pemmican, 33.
     Platte River as a boundary, 17.
     Porcupine River, 70.
     Prairie dog, 29.

     Q Quamash flats, 302.
     Quicksand River, 220.


     Rat, peculiar variety of, 121.
     Rickarees, in the country
     of the, 40.
     River, Little Missouri, to; Mouse, source of, 60;
     Yellowstone, 65.
     Porcupine, 70.
     Saskatchewan, 74.
     Milk, 74;
     Big Dry, 75.
     Upper Missouri, 80.
     Musselshell, 81.
     Slaughter, 88;
     Maria’s, 97.
     Madison, 106.
     Columbia, portage to, 108.
     Smith’s, 129;
     Dearborn, 130.
     Salmon, 152.
     Lemhi, 152.
     Lewis’s, 165.
     Kooskooskee, 180;
     Clark’s, 180.
     Clearwater, 183.
     Snake, 188.
     Yakima, 196.
     John Day’S, 203;
     Klikitat, 21.
     Quicksand, 220.
     Multnomah.  220.
     Rocky Mountains,
     first sight of, 85.
     sheep, 85.
     gates of the, 132.
     farewell to
     the mountains, 335.
     Rocks, Cathedral, 90-92.


     St. Louis, village of, 11.
     first post-office in, 359.
     Sacajawea, joins the expedition, 4.
     stream named for her, 82;
     story of her capture, 138.
     finds her own people, 160.
     a tribute to
     her memory, 332.
     Sage-brush, first seen, 62.
     Saline County, Mo., 16.
     Salmon River, 152.
     City, Idaho, 165.
     abundance of fish, 194.
     Salt, made from sea-water, 23.
     et seq.  Saskatchewan River, 74.
     Shannon, the lost hunter, 143.
     Shoshonees, first meeting with, 14.
     among the, 15.
     et seq.; some account of the, 17.
     et seq.
     Sioux Indians, 27.
     Slaughter River, 88.
     Smith’s River, 128.

     Snake River, 188.
     junction of the with Columbia, 190.
     Sokulk Indians, some account of, 19.
     et seq.  Spirit Mound, 24.
     Spring River, S. D-; 42.
     Stone-Idol Creek, legend Of, 42.
     Sweat baths, Indian, 187, 298.


     Tetons, in the country of, 33-38.
     Three-thousand-mile Island, 331.
     Tillamook Indians, 244.
     Traveller’s-rest Creek, 309.
     Twisted-hair, an Indian chief, adventures with, 28. et seq.

     U Umatilla, 271-


     Vancouver, Capt-y 3-


     Wahkiacum Indians, 224.
     Walla Walla, 271.
     Wappatoo, edible root, 23.
     description of, 260.
     Weocksockwillacums, 265.
     Wharfington, commands return party to the U. S., 58.
     White Bear Islands, 110.
     camp at, 114.
     Whisky, Indian rejection
     of, 42.
     Winter camp, first, 48.
     departure from, 57-


     Yakima River, 196.
     Yankton, S. D., 24.
     Yellowstone River, 65;
     Capt. Clark’s descent of the, 327.
     York, a negro servant, 41. 159.

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