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Harrison County Iowa Genealogy

Lewis & Clark Explorers and Kearny

Extracted from the 1915 History of Harrison County, Iowa, by Hon. Charles W. Hunt, Logan; published by B. F. Bowen & Co., Inc.

Transcribed and submitted by Mona Sarratt Knight

It has not been known, until recent research, that Lewis and Clark, the great northwestern explorers sent out by the United States government, in 1803, visited one portion of Harrison County in 1804 - one hundred and ten years ago. Such is the historic fact. We prove this by quoting from "Episodes in the Early History of the Western Iowa Country," published in 1913, by authority of the Historical Society of Iowa, at Iowa City, which has the following concerning that famous expedition and its bearing on Harrison and adjoining counties of Pottawattamie and Monona:

"Beginning with the year 1803 the United States government seriously turned its attention to the West by fitting out an expedition under Lewis and Clark to explore the new trans-Mississippi purchase. Starting from St. Louis in that memorable year in two pirogues and a keel boat fifty-five feet long, equipped with a large square sail and twenty-two oars, the party of forty-five men slowly journeyed northwestward up the muddy Missouri. At one place, they met five pirogues loaded with furs and peltries from the Sioux country, stopped the little trading fleet and engaged an old Frenchman, Dorion, to act as Indian interpreter. What is now western Iowa came under the observation of the exploring party from July 18 to August 21, 1804, and of the twenty-one camping places selected during that time, eleven were upon the Iowa shore. On the 22nd of July, they pitched their camp at a point somewhere near the present boundary between Mills and Pottawattamie Counties. Here the leaders intended to send to the neighboring tribes to tell them of the recent change of government and the wish of the United States to cultivate their friendship. Here upon Iowa soil, Lewis and Clark remained five days; provisions were dried, new oars made, and despatches and maps prepared for the President. The men also hunted and fished, crossed the river to search for the Otoes and the Pawnees, and returned without success.

On July 28, 1804, the party disembarked just north of the mouth of Indian Creek (now called Pigeon Creek), some eight or ten miles north of the present city of Council Bluffs, at a spot where the Ayuway Indians formerly lived before emigrating to the Des Moines River. A few days later, Lewis and Clark held a council with the Otoes on the west side of the Missouri River and called the place Council Bluffs. Lewis and Clark reported that the tribes west of the Missouri River traded with the merchants of St. Louis and were on friendly terms with the Indians east of the river, the Ayouways and the Saukees and Foxes, all of whom laid claim to the western Iowa country. The former were said to be a turbulent race, frequently abuse their traders and commit depradations on those ascending and descending the Missouri; their trade can't be expected to increase much. They were reported to have one village of possibly eight hundred souls, including two hundred warriors, forth leagues up the River Des Moines, on the southeast side. They traded with Mr. CRAWFORD and other merchants from Michilimackinac, at their village and hunting camps, and supplied deer skins principally, also skins of black bear, beaver, otter, grey fox, raccoon, muskrat and mink. It was asserted that with encouragement, they might be induced to furnish elk and deer's tallow and bear's oil.

Lewis and Clark also ordered their men to pitch camp just below Soldier River (Harrison County today) and a few miles above the Little Sioux River (Monona County). Here the interpreter told all he knew about the river's sources, also of the Des Moines River. On the 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th of August, the party again tarried in what later became Monona County. Then, at noon on August 20th, the party put to shore just below the site of Sioux City, Iowa. "Here we had the misfortune to lose one of our sergeants, Charles FLOYD. Died of billious colic. Buried on top of bluff with the honors due to brave soldiers; the place of his interment was marked by a cedar post, on which his name and the date of his death was inscribed. We called this place Floyd, also a small river about thirty yards wide, where we camped." (Note: It should be stated in this connection that the citizens of Sioux City, aided by the state appropriation, about twenty years ago, erected a fine, costly monument on the site of Sergeant Floyd's grave, and it may now be seen at the right hand as one goes by rail from Missouri Valley to Sioux City.)

CAMPS: This expeditionary party had for their camping places within Harrison County, as now known, the following locations, as shown by records in the hands of Mr. WATTLES, civil engineer at Missouri Valley, and who obtained the same from the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C., a few years since, the same being certified by the government:

August 4, 1804, they camped and made journal entries on the section line between what is now 29 and 30, of township 78, range 45.

August 5, 1804, they selected a camping place in section 29, township 79, range 45.

August 6, 1804, they camped in section 9, township 80, range 45. These camping places are better described to the reader by stating that they were in civil townships Cincinnati, Clay, and Morgan townships. This was mostly a river expedition, hence the party did not get far back from the banks of the Missouri River. It may be of interest to know that in 1804, the main channel of the Missouri River was exactly where the village of River Sioux now stands. The river is now a mile to the west.

In 1811, BRECKENRIDGE and his trading party passed Floyd's Bluff and made the following sentimental entry in their journal: The grave occupies a beautiful rising ground, now covered with grass and wildflowers. The pretty little river which bears his name is neatly fringed with willow and shrubbery. Involuntary tribute was paid the spot, by the feeling even of the most thoughtless, as we passed by. It is several years since he was buried here; no one has disturbed the cross which marks the grave; even the Indians who pass venerate the place, and often leave a present or offering near it. Brave, adventurous youth! thou art not forgotten, for although thy bones are deposited far from thy native home, in the desert waste, yet the eternal silence of the plain shall mourn thee, and memory will dwell upon thy grave!"

Another journal account of the coming and going of white men in the vicinity of Harrison County reads as follows: On Sunday, the 2d of July, 1820, five army officers, including Captain Stephen W. KEARNY, fifteen soldiers, four servants, an Indian guide with his wife and pappoose, and eight mules and seven horses, were ferried from Council Bluffs across the Missouri to the mouth of the Boyer and landed on Iowa soil. They were dispatched as a government expedition to discover a practicable route for the passage of United States troops between Camp Missouri and Camp Cold Water (later called Fort St. Anthony, on the St. Peter River, Minnesota). After traveling northward about 30 miles, they celebrated the fourth of July to the extent of our means; an extra gill of whiskey was issued to each man and we made our dinner on pork and biscuit and drank to the memory of our forefathers in a mint julep. Following the course of the Boyer and Little Sioux Rivers, then east and northeast to Lake Pepin, and then northwest, the party arrived at the northern post, where Captain KEARNY declared the officers "were a little astonished at the sight of us, we having been the first whites that ever crossed at such a distance from the Missouri to the Mississippi River." For various reasons, Captain Kearny reported that the circuitous route was impracticable and almost impassable throughout the entire year, for more than very small military forces, and hence troops seem never again to have traversed this particular region."

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