The Portage Route Chapter is working with Historical Research Associates of Missoula, MT to complete a pilot project for Lewis and Clark sites in the Great Falls area. We will develop five locations to show what is available to the tourist in Great Falls when they download a free mobile app.
HRA has partnered with the University of West Florida to offer NextExitHistory, a website and mobile media program supported by iphone and android apps that identify and display site specific information about historic locations and events. Each identified site is geotagged by longitude and latitude using Google Maps. NextExitHistory offers a dynamic way to showcase Lewis and Clark history and facilitate both public education and heritage tourism. Each site can display multiple photos (slide show) audio, video and graphics.
The Chapter will provide researach material, photos and video footage to HRA who will assemble the final product and update the database. There are many mobile apps and websites availabale for a variety of historic locations, but NextExit History brings a wide range of history together with a single entry point instead of a separate app for each specific topic. There are currently in excess of 50,000 locations on this website, but very few are Lewis and Clark related.
The plan is to have the five location pilot completed for demonstrations at the National fuondation's annual meeting in Bismarck the end of July. If all goes well the next step will be to complete the entire trail and the eastern legacy locations.
In this age of rapidly changing technology newer is better and yesterday is outdated the often-used advertising term "new and improved" sums it up.
But this is not necessarily a new phenomenon. Two hundred years ago as the Corps of Discovery was making its way upriver from Fort Mandan, Lewis was confident any encounters with grizzly bears would see favorable results for his men. Although various Indian tribes had great problems with these fearsome brutes Lewis knew he had the latest technology in the weapons they carried and they were far superior to the old weapons used by the Plains Indians.
Several members of the Lewis and Clark Honor Guard are spending some time re-visiting that 200 year old technology. Weapons the Corps of Discovery carried were essential to their survival, primarily for securing adequate food. The men were skilled in the care and use of what they had. Honor Guard members have gained a certain skill level with this now-ancient technology. They decided to put their weapons through some rigorous tests to see what could be learned about Lewis' new technology. Just what kind of technology was it that Lewis was so proud of?
The group believes in mixing business with pleasure, as the saying goes, so the first day of testing the weapons in the field saw some of each. The group quickly saw the were rank amateurs as far as knowing about their guns. There were many difficulties in keeping weapons clean so they would fire, even after only a few shots. These old guns that fired a very large, slow moving ball of lead behaved much differently than the modern rifles they were more accustomed to.
The Honor Guard will need several more days of field work before then can assemble the final report on their analysis of these black powder weapons. Details of the ballistics; care and cleaning in the field; reliability and effectiveness; similarities and differences between muskets, rifles, pistols etc etc.
Of course there will also be a full range of stories. One individual reported he had discovered why dueling with these pistols was so popular with gentlemen, but why it lost favor in later years.
At a distance greater than a few feet these pistols were extremely inaccurate. If the duelists were more than 25 feet apart the probability of being hit by a bullet was quite remote. In later years when technological advances made these weapons accurate and injury a real possibility, dueling ceased.
A Cause for Celebration!
What a difference a year makes. Yesterday marked one year since I had major surgery. I was on the operating table for a little over 5 hours while the doctors went in and patched up some of my arteries.
I tell my Honor Guard associates that I was cut open like a field dressed deer except I wasn't hung upside down.
If only the doctors of 1800 would have been able to to what is now routine and remove Sgt. Floyd's appendix. Maybe we would be reading "Nobody Died" rather than "Only One Died."
But considering how little the medical community of that time knew about surgery as compared to today, it still is one of the marvels of the expedition that more medically related deaths wern't recorded.
Accidents and injuries were common and people were prepared to deal with them; Lewis' shot in the hind end is a good example. And some of the illnesses were remedied with herbal medicine that was widely used. However those maladies requiring cutting into the body cavity were at nature's mercy. Doctors in the United States didn't get that knowledge until several years later.
Clark's Portage Blend
We have discovered Captain Clark's secret!
Through diligent searching by several members of the Portage Route Chapter the roast Clark liked most for his coffee has been duplicated and, after thorough testing, is now available to the general public. Get yours at the Portage Cache store or other locations Morning Light coffee is available.
Clark's journals show the Corps of Discovery had 50 lbs of coffee beans with them when they left Camp Dubois. He must have been the coffee drinker for only he makes comment on drinking coffee, recording two times he had some. On June 25, 1805 while portaging the Great Falls of the Missouri Clark says he had a little coffee. He adds that it was the first he had since leaving Fort Mandan.
The initial discovery and preliminary testing was completed with the unfailing assistance of Morning Light Coffee Roasters in Great Falls.
Beta testing was then completed at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in conjunction with their 15th anniversary celebration on May 5. Approximately 100 cups of this new coffee (minus what I drank) were handed out to the eager crowd for their tasting and comment. All were delighted.
The last of the Corps' grog was consumed at the Great Falls on July 4, 1805 and duly recorded by all the journal keepers. However the last of the coffee is not so clear. Was June 25th when the last was drunk?
More research. Always more research.
At the bottom of my last post I put a photo with a reference to Clark's camp for 6/4/05 being somewhere in the area. This camp location has been a curosity of mine since back in the early '70s when our group in Fort Benton was planning the state memorial to Lewis and Clark. We knew Clark camped on the Teton River in the area, but we could not determine where in relation to the bridge on the highway. We just assumed it was upriver, as we are viewing in the photo in my last post.
We know much detail of the 1805 trip from the mouth of the Marias and portage of the Great Falls because the two Captains kept detailed records. We know only scanty information of the 1806 reportage because the only journalists were two sgts who gave us minimal detail. We can not determine the locations of the campsites they used much of the time, including where Gass and Willard camped on the Teton 7/27/06 except to surmise that the information points us to the same location and say it was near where Clark--and Gass--had camped the year before.
The main indicators we have from Clark are his distances and compass directions that put him on the Teton at the "notch" in the ridge where the river turns north. He then says they proceeded a few miles and camped. The next day they struggled over hills etc., (and took time to shoot and skin seven deer) and made it back to their main camp on the Marias by 5 pm.
Clark's and Gass' journal entries for 6/5/05 conflict on distances. The reader can't really be sure just what relevance "the ridge where the little river breaks thro" plays. Did they camp there or reach the river there?
Us "Lewis and Clarkers" want great detail about the Expedition and the journals deliver, most of the time. But sometimes we go wanting.
The Teton River valley. Clark camped somewhere close by here.
Downriver view from the Teton River bridge
The ridge where the little river breaks thro
While I was making some updates to the Chapter's "Coming Events" page I was struck by the fact that we are getting much closer to an event every month. It looks like only three months this year will not include something. Some months have several events.
With summer coming I'm hoping we will see several tours again this year. These somewhat spontaneous outings are a fun way to see our area and learn a bit more of our history, geology, etc etc. I am still hoping to get over to Lost Lake and maybe to the top of Barn Mountain--aka Square Butte (the one by Geraldine).
When you add all the events out at the Lewis ande Clark Center a person soon realizes they could spend quite a bit of time on Lewis and Clark. Anyone up for a road trip to Fort Benton for the spring opening of the Fort for the season? How about a tour to the mouth of the Marias to see decision point and several other points Lewis and Clark talked about in that area as they figured out which river to follow?
Anyone want to venture a guess as to where this photo was taken?
It is on the Teton River looking west from the bridge on the Chester road. A few miles up the river is where Clark camped on his return from exploring the South Fork in June of 1805. Sgt Gass who traveled overland with the horses from the re-portage of the Great Falls in 1806 camped in the same area.
In the last while I have had some extended phone conversations with Mike Howard. They were primarily focused on my early activities creating the "Explorers at the Marias" bronze statue in Fort Benton. He encouraged me to write it all down for the record so it doesn't get lost as time passed.
I came away from those conversations not very interested in writing all the details that would go into a book, as Mike suggested as a possibility. The statue has sat on its rock base on the river levee in Fort Benton for 37 years now. I am perfectly content to go visit it from time to time and know deep inside the good feeling of having been a part in getting this statue to a place the public could see and enjoy it.
Recently I was digging through my files. I can't remember what exactly I was looking for, but I came across a file of notes where I had once upon a time been working on some documenting of the statue. I scanned the notes then decided there may be some good stories to be told.
My plan is to write a series of articles for the Portage Chapter website page "Featured Article" based on these notes. We'll see how it goes. I probably will get 5 or 6 articles.
The Sherman Breakfast was a hit. This annual Portage Route Chapter event is one of the mainstays of the chapter's activities. A few years back the Sherman Fellow Award was instituted to recognize those folks who have devoted a good part, if not all, of their lives to promote Lewis and Clark and the Portage Chapter (Check out the Sherman Award page under the Portage Chapter on this site).
This year two long time chapter members were selected for our recognition, Harry Mitchell and Bob Bergantino. This will get a bit lengthy, but here is the nomination for each of these two gentlemen.
--for sharing his incredible knowledge and talents as a geographer and hydrogeologist as our own personal mapmaker.
--for his tireless efforts while working with Gary Moulton in preparation of the basic texts for the geologic and geomorphic footnotes used in the Journals of the Expedition of the Corps of Discovery.
--for his incredibly accurate mapping and location of the Portage Route of the Expedition around the Falls of the Missouri and his 30 years of membership in the Portage Route Chapter.
--for his lifelong interest in development of the campsite coordinates from Wood River, IL to Fort Clatsop, OR and return and completing the GIS-compatible data base of the entire Lewis and Clark expedition route through Montana for the continuing education program of the University of Montana to be used as a resource for teaching map interpretation and as a basis for use in further scholarly research.
--for his support of the Traveler's Rest Chapter's efforts to locate and obtain National Park Service Historical Site designation for the traveler's rest campsite of the Expedition.
--for his scholarship and service as a member of the State of Montana Governor's Lewis and Clark bicentennial committee and for his willingness to travel far and wide providing scholarly and informative lectures to the public in support of a broad and accurate history of the expedition.
--for his untiring effort and continuing devotion in supporting the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and his leadership in making sure the Compass Rose fund raising program was successful.
--for his unwavering efforts in developing two important interpretive sites on his land and preserving free public access to the Upper Portage Camp.
--for his work in developing interpretive sites at Salem Bridge, Cascade, Tower Rock, Prewett Creek, Dearborn River, Spite HIll, Wolf Creek and several other sites in northcentral Montana.
--for his many years of dedication and service to the community through his involvement with the Portage Route Chapter as member, board member, vice president, and president. He participated in planning two national foundation meetings, supported the multi-year bicentennial, and hosted numerous scholars and national figures.
--for his lifeling service to the preservation and sharing the story of the Trail, insuring that a greater knowledge of our history and the Corps of Discovery's time at the Great Falls was forever at the forefront of our heritage.
Lewis and Clark in Bronze
Throughout the ages art has been closely associated with recording history. Many of the great works of art are treasured because of the historical story they tell. That link is very evident with Lewis and Clark history. Many statues and paintings have been rendered by artists to visually record the Expedition's legacy. It has been said that more statues depicting Sacajawea have been done than any other woman in the entire nation.
In the Great Falls area three sculptors have created four larger than life size bronzes that pay tribute to that story and preserve its history. Joe Halco produced "Seaman" while Carol Grende did "Sacajawea: arduous journey". Bob Scriver created "The Explorers at the Marias" and "The Explorers at the Portage".
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The Explorers at the Marias
Creating this statue was a nationally recognized project during the American Revolutionary Bicentennial in 1976. It is the official Montana memorial to the Lewis and Clark Expedition as designated by the 1929 state legislature and re-affirmed by the 1975 state legislature.
The project to create and place this statue on the river levee in Fort Benton was done entirely with private funding. About 15,000 people attended the dedication ceremonies in a town with a population of about 2,000.
The Explorers at the Portage
This was a major project done during the Montana statehood centennial in 1989. It is a tribute to the Corps of Discovery and their time and work as they portaged the Great Falls of the Missouri in June of 1805 and re-portaged those same waterfalls in July of 1806.
This statue stands on a hill overlooking the confluence of the Sun (Medicine) River on the Missouri. Just below this statue is where Clark and his portage survey crew stopped for supper on June 18, 1805.
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Sacajawea: arduous journey
This statue was done during the Lewis and Clark bicentennial. Three of these 9 1/2 foot tall statues were cast with one being placed in Lewiston, Idaho; one in Dayton, Washington; and one in Great Falls, Montana. The Portage Route Chapter owns the one in Great Falls, pictured here.
This statue of Lewis' faithful companion resides at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center overlooking the Missouri River. The last journal entry that mentions Seaman was penned by Captain Lewis at the Great Falls of the Missouri in July of 1806, giving rise to the question of whether or not Seaman actually made it all the way back to St. Louis with the rest of the Corps of Discovery.
Better than Shannon: when technology fails
In this day and age of high-tech everything, it is hard to imagine anything from 200 years ago as high-tech. But there were innovations that clearly set some things apart from others in those bygone days. Consider the gun.
One of the things we frequently talk about in our Honor Guard "camps" is that Lewis had rifles made at Harper's Ferry Arsenal. These were rifles, not muskets, and had interchangeable parts. These facts made Lewis' rifles some of the most accurate rifles of that day and more useful because of the ability to repair them in the field. But what happens when technology fails?
When Shannon became separated from the group in August of 1804, he flirted with starvation even though he had one of Lewis' high-tech rifles with him. Clark commented that the young man had "shot away what few bullets he had with him and in a plentiful country liked to have starved." Shannon could well have taken lessons from my mother.
The summer after I was born my folks moved their growing family out to the farm my dad was working on. There was an old homestead that was still liveable, at least to my dad, that became our new home. This was temporary until my dad could get a real house built.
Those early years just after WW II were tough economically for us. What little money dad got when he was discharged from the Army he had spent moving the family from the west coast to Montana the previous fall. The idea of moving to the farm was to save money with no rent and raise most of our food. But it would take time to get the food planted harvested, etc.
`When my mother saw there were many rabbits running around the homestead she knew she could contribute to the meat supply. As a kid growing up she loved to play baseball. She had to play with the boys because the girls all said she threw too hard and it hurt their hands to catch the ball. She was a pitcher so she got to be very accurate with her throuwing.
After we moved out to our new, temporary home in the old homestead she would go out in the yard and select a few rocks that were just right. Armed with those rocks she would stalk rabbits until she got close enough for a good, quick, deadly throw. After several such throws she would have enough rabbits for a good meal.
Dad had an almost new .22 caliber rifle that he showed my mother how to use, but she refused to touch it. Throwing rocks was easier. Besides, she finally admitted years later, she was very much afraid of guns and couldn't hit anything she aimed at with them because she always closed her eyes then yanked on the trigger.