Learn about Lewis and Clark in Jefferson City, Mo.

A June 12 event in Jefferson City, Mo., will be an opportunity for Missourians to learn about their state capital’s connection with the historic 1803-06 Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The story of the expedition, its members, and a glimpse into frontier life at the time will be told by two Jefferson City re-enactors who portray members of the expedition. Also to be told will be the story of the expedition’s encampment in early June 1804 on wild riverside land that eventually became Jefferson City.

Lewis and Clark monument in Jefferson City, Mo. From left to right: York, Meriwether Lewis, Seaman, William Clark, and George Drouillard.
Lewis and Clark monument in Jefferson City, Mo. From left to right: York, Meriwether Lewis, Seaman, William Clark, and George Drouillard. Photo from the website of the sculptor, Sabra Tull Meyer.

The free event will begin at 11 a.m. at the Lewis and Clark monument at Trailhead Plaza, Jefferson Street and Capitol Avenue, near the capitol building. The plaza is the site of a world-class Lewis and Clark monument composed of larger-than-life bronze statues of the expedition’s captains, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark; George Drouillard, French-Canadian-Shawnee hunter and interpreter; York, Clark’s slave; and Seaman, Lewis’ Newfoundland dog.

The event is hosted by three Missouri volunteer chapters of the non-profit Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage FoundationManitou Bluffs, which covers the area from Jefferson City to Hermann, Mo.; Missouri-Kansas Riverbend in the Greater Kansas City Area; and Greater Metro St. Louis—in cooperation with the Lewis and Clark Task Force in Jefferson City.

Reenactment: Dewayne Knott will be the first reenactor, playing the role of Corporal Richard Warfington, who, like many of his comrades on the journey, was a U.S. soldier.

About four months after the expedition departed from the St. Louis area, Warfington’s 5-year military hitch was up in August 1804 and he could have easily caught a ride back to St. Louis with passing flotillas of fur traders on the Missouri River. Instead, he remained with the expedition throughout its 1804-05 winter camp among Manda-Hidatsa natives in North Dakota.

In April 1805, he was assigned to lead a small party that returned the expedition’s keelboat to St. Louis. The boat was loaded with the expedition’s precious journals, botanical specimens and preserved animal specimens, including a live prairie dog and six live magpies. Many of the specimens had never been previously recorded by science. Lewis noted that Warfington displayed “cheerfulness” amid the fatigue, labor and dangers of the expedition.

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Lunch and a second Reenactment: Following the conclusion of Knotts’ reenactment at 12:15 p.m., attendees will be invited to nearby Prison Brews Microbrewery and Restaurant, 305 Ash St., where they can buy their own lunch. Masks are suggested but not required.

At 1:30 p.m., Steve Meyer will portray Private Peter Weiser, who was from a prominent Pennsylvanian family and easily took to the rough life of the frontier. He was one of the expedition’s best shots.

Weiser had a rough start with the expedition when he was restricted to Camp Dubois, where the expedition stayed near St. Louis in the winter of 1803-04, for using, as the expedition’s journals noted, “hunting and other business as a pretext to cover their design of visiting a neighboring whiskey shop.” Nonetheless, he proved himself as a valuable hunter and expedition member during the rest of the journey.

Meyer, president of the Manitou Bluffs Chapter, played the role of Weiser in an expedition during the national 2003-06 bicentennial celebration of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. At the time, the Lewis & Clark Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, Mo., built full-scale replicas of the boats used by the explorers and followed their route to the Pacific Ocean and back to St. Charles.

A hike: At 2 p.m., people can remain in the restaurant to chat or leave to visit the Clark’s Hill/Norton State Historic Site where the expedition camped from June 1 to June 3, 1804. The site is north of Osage City, a short driving distance. A 0.5-mile hike to an overlook will begin there at about 2:30 p.m.

Clark surveyed the confluence of the Missouri and Osage rivers from the hilltop. Although the view of the two rivers is blocked by vegetation at this time of year, there is still, in Clark’s words, “a delightful prospect” of the landscape. The hike to the hilltop passes by two native American burial mounds. Linda Vogt, a Jefferson City resident and member of the Riverbend Chapter, will be the guide. The hike is of medium difficulty, so appropriate shoes are suggested.

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The Lewis and Clark monument: Serving as a backdrop for the start of the ceremonies, the Lewis and Clark monument at Trailhead Plaza is a tangible reminder of the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s valuable contributions to the nation, as well as Missouri and Jefferson City, said Vogt, who along with Janise Manchester of the Manitou Bluffs chapter, organized the event.

“The monument also offers a sense of the immense array of our heritage,” Vogt noted. Drouillard, for example, was of duo-heritage and York was a slave. Both were extremely important expedition members.

The monument was dedicated in 2008 on grounds that overlook the Missouri River. It was created to commemorate the expedition’s encampment in the area where the capitol building was constructed after Jefferson City was designated the state capital in 1826.

The monument was created by Sabra Tull Meyer, a noted Missouri sculptor who has worked in bronze for more than three decades. The works of Meyer, who lives in Columbia, Mo., are displayed in public locations and found in private collections around the nation.

She designed the monument with what are called “heroic statues”—larger-than-life figures that represent their heroic deeds. Lewis’ statue, for example, is 9 feet six inches tall while Seaman, whose warning barks and boldness once saved expedition members, is 4 feet 2 inches tall. Items such as Lewis and Clark’s journal, telescope, guns and hats are portrayed within the monument. The monument is located atop a manmade bluff. More than 50 tractor-trailer loads of 1,100 tons of Missouri limestone were brought in to create the bluff. The surrounding area includes waterfalls, walkways and benches, creating a beautiful, user-friendly landscape.

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Other statuaries to view: If your time allows, visit other nearby statues related to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. You will be within an easy walk to the capitol grounds that feature statues related to the expedition.

A James Earle Fraser 13-foot-tall stature of President Thomas Jefferson, who originated Lewis and Clark’s exploration, dominates the grounds’ south entrance. Nearby are allegorical bronze figures by Robert Aitken that depict Missouri’s two historically great rivers: the Mississippi and Missouri.

The capitol’s north grounds feature a Karl Bitter bronze relief that depicts the 1803 signing of the Louisiana Purchase, which allowed the United States to gain 828,000 square miles of land along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and to the northwest as far as today’s northern Idaho. A significant goal of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was to explore the territory and report back to Jefferson about the land, natives, minerals, vegetation, and other opportunities that could encourage Americans to move west.

The Missouri State Museum, located on the first floor in the capitol building, has a grand staircase flanked by heroic statues of Lewis and Clark.

 

For any information you may ever want to know about the Lewis and Clark explorers and their times, go to lewis-clark.org. Operated by the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, it is the world’s most comprehensive online site about the expedition. The site also goes by the name Discovering Lewis & Clark.

 

Questions about this article or the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation? Please fill out the contact form below. To leave comments about this article, write them in the “Leave A Reply” form at the bottom of this page. Thank you!

 

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