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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas

1844
2012

 

 

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The Story of Kansas City, Kansas

"Lewis and Clark"

On June 26, 1804, an Indian boy or girl standing on a hill at about where Third and Nebraska is now, would have seen a strange-looking party advancing toward a wooded point below.  Two boats and a barge were approaching the river bank.  The boats were filled with men, and the barge was loaded with horses and piles of crates and boxes.  The boats and the barge were soon tied to trees at the river's edge.  The men set about making camp on a point of land extending into the water.

You have probably already guessed who it was that the puzzled Indians were watching that summer day.  It was Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark, with their French guides and forty-five soldiers.  They had stopped to rest for a few days at this inviting spot, known to us as Kaw Point.  Lewis and Clark were on their way to explore the vast unknown country to the north and west.  President Jefferson had sent them to find out everything they could about the territory recently bought from France, now known as the Louisiana Purchase.

Lewis and Clark feared that wolves or other animals might be lurking in the dark woods or unfriendly Indians peering at them from among the trees.  Captain Clark wrote in his diary that night:

We took care first to build a brestwork from (one) river to the other, of logs and bushes six feet high.

On another evening he recorded that some of the men went hunting and brought back seven deer and roasted them.

For three days the Indians watched the men as they repaired their boats and dried out supplies.  On June 29, 1804, the party made ready to depart, but not before two soldiers had become involved in serious trouble.  The trial held for these soldiers was the first court martial ever held on Kansas territory.  The two men (Collins and Hall) were accused of stealing and drinking whiskey.  It was necessary on a trip such as this to carry a supply of whiskey for use as medicine when the men were sick or extremely tired.  It was dealt out in small amounts as needed.  Rules absolutely forbade any man from touching it without permission.  

One night a soldier on watch so far forgot his duty as to become drunk at his post and to permit another soldier to draw whiskey from the barrel.  Then penalty was severe - one hundred lashes on the bare back for the one soldier and fifty for the other.  The punishment seems harsh, but we must remember that these men had placed all of the party in danger of their lives from sudden Indian attack.  The punishment under such circumstances had to be severe.

Lewis and Clark had been warned about the Kansas Indians who climbed into boats going up the Missouri and helped themselves to whatever they wanted.  Captain Clark warned, "We'll shoot them if they do anything like that to us!"

Evidently Clark did not have to shoot the Indians, for he makes no mention in his diary of such a happening.  Maybe word had reached the Indian village of the whipping given to the soldiers, or it may have been that the size of the party frightened away the would-be thieves.

Other brave adventures followed Lewis and Clark.  If you have visited in Colorado, you have seen Pike's Peak near Colorado Springs.  This famous mountain was named for Captain Zebulon Pike who led an expedition through here in 1806 on his way to the Rocky Mountains.

In 1819 Major Stephen H. Long frightened the Indians along the Missouri by bringing the first steamboat past the month of the Kaw.  He was the leader of a group of engineers on their way to Yellowstone.

The Chouteau Brothers

Return to Index for "The Story of Kansas City, Kansas" by Nellie McGuinn

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Contact the History Webmaster - Patricia Adams

History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 02-Jan-2012

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