Monday, November 26, 2018

"Lewis & Clark Through South Dakota" by Larry Reuppel

Larry Reupple presented "Lewis & Clark through South Dakota" on Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018 to ninety attendees for the Spearfish Area Historical Society at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center.
Larry Reuppel at the Spearfish Area Historical Society Nov 13, 2018 presenting "Lewis & Clark through South Dakota"

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson became the third President of the United States.   Spain owned the western land mass in North America and in 1801 signed a secret treaty to transfer it to France.  The United States had no port south in the gulf and was eager to gain a port in New Orleans.  Instead of just the gulf area, France offered the entire land mass of 828,000 sq miles for $15 million.  And so in Dec 1803 America bought the Louisiana Purchase for just 3 cents per acre. 

Jefferson commissioned Merriweather Lewis to explore the new territory.  Lewis offered William Clark the chance to team up with him.  The mail was so slow that Clark was within 24 hours of missing out on the job.  Lewis & Clark   They obtained a 55' x 8' keelboat that could be sailed, rowed, and pulled to venture west, starting from Pittsburg down the Ohio River to camp north of St Louis in the winter of 1803-'04.  From there, they hired 44 men to join their "Corps of Discovery".

On May 14, 1804, Clark and the Corps joined Lewis in St. Charles, Missouri and headed upstream on the Missouri River in the keelboat and two smaller boats at a rate of about 15 miles per day. Heat, swarms of insects and strong river currents made the trip arduous at best.

The day before they made it to Dakota Territory, On August 20, 22-year-old Corps member Sergeant Charles Floyd died of an abdominal infection, possibly from appendicitis. He was the only member of the Corps to die on their journey.
Lewis & Clark map (photo of Larry Rueppel's map)

Their journey into Dakota Territory started on August 21, 1804 with a buffalo hunt and Lewis becoming ill of arsenic poisoning.  They ventured to Spirit Mound north of Vermillion and the James River where they met three Yankton Sioux Indian boys.  They Yankton Sioux were peaceful and accepted the Jefferson Peace Medals - a coin stamped with the image of a handshake.  They were warned of the Teton Sioux further north on the Missouri River.

Lewis & Clark logged new animals into their journals in South Dakota such as a "barking squirrel" (prairie dog) and a "prairie wolf" (coyote).

Near the middle (south to north) of South Dakota, they encountered the Teton Sioux, who were not friendly but a large group agreed to met with the Corps.  There were four chiefs and Lewis thought one was the head chief so offered a coat and hat to him.  This very much angered the other chiefs and the Corp barely made it out on the river, with the Teton Sioux yelling and taunting them along the banks for a long while.   

In early October, the first reference to the Black Hills was made in Lewis & Clark journals as the "Black Mountain".   By late October, they met a friendly Indian tribe the Arikara.  And on Oct 24, they made it to what is now the  North Dakota border.

A little less than two years later, on Aug 20, 1806, they arrived on the northern border of South Dakota on the return journey down the Missouri River.   Going north they had averaged 10 miles a day to journey through South Dakota.  On the return trip they made anywhere from 43 to 81 miles per day.   Going up river through South Dakota took 64 days while the return took 15 days.