Library begins Lewis and Clark series

Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Arrow Rock Historic Site Administrator Mike Dickey explains how members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition fought to push and pull their boat up the Missouri River, fighting against currents, trees and other obtacles. Dickey was the presenter for the Marshall Public Library's first Lewis and Clark discussion session Tuesday night in the library's meeting room.

When Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set off on their momentous trek through the West 200 years ago, their party included approximately 45 men. Coincidentally, a group of residents numbering in the mid-40s gathered at the Marshall Public Library Tuesday evening to begin a yearlong process of learning about and discussing aspects of the Corps of Discovery.

The journey that made such an impact on a young United States and the world two centuries ago continues to play a role in America's history, said Arrow Rock State Historic Site Administrator Mike Dickey, the evening's presenter. Dickey was the first presenter in the series of bi-weekly meetings scheduled through December.

Ties to trek

Led by volunteer program coordinator Jean Gaddy Wilson of Marshall, the crowd contained two women who believe they are relatives of expedition members.

Evelyn Laxson of Marshall said her family record books lead her to believe she is related to John Colter, one of the Kentucky mountain men recruited for the journey by Lewis.

Jean Gaddy Wilson, volunteer coordinator for the new Lewis and Clark discussion group program at the Marshall Public Library, shows a series of maps displayed on the walls of the library's meeting room. The maps trace the journey of the 40-some explorers who made the journey that had such an impact on the world 200 years ago.

"He was my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, I think," Laxson said. "Some literature we got from a family reunion said that. But I want to go all the way back, clear to the start and then come right back through to now. There are probably a lot of things I can pick up here and add to the book."

Laxson said she has read many stories about the expedition, but the journals and reference books often tell the story so differently she feels challenged to find out what she really believes.

"Even if we didn't have family involved, I'd probably still find it just as interesting," Laxson said.

The other Marshall woman with a more personal connection to the Corps of Discovery present was Dorothy Monroe, who said her family is believed to be related to a man she only knows as "Uncle Doug," an explorer who wasn't along for the entire journey.

Holding a polished rock made into a necklace and another stone in her hand, Monroe said her mother found the treasures in a box her grandfather had owned. Those rocks were said to be found somewhere along Lewis and Clark's journey and she said they must have been special to her late grandfather, although she doesn't know how he came to own them.

Dorothy Monroe of Marshall, who believes she is distantly related to a man on the expedition referred to as "Uncle Doug," holds a necklace containing a rock her grandfather had labeled as one found on the Lewis and Clark expedition and another stone from the journey he also kept in a special box.

In addition to recognizing the two women, Wilson read a letter she received from Stan Hinnah, whose family owns land near County Road 135. Hinnah, who was present at the discussion, had said if people were interested he would open up pastureland, near where it is believed the corps camped in 1804 on its way up the Missouri River, to allow visitors there this summer.

Expedition overview

According to Dickey's reading of the more than 8,000-mile journey, the expedition stopped at the site near Glasgow, describing it as rolling and open and rich with great quantities of deer.

As Dickey read portions of the journals composed by Lewis and Clark and other expedition members, several listeners began coming up with additional information they would like to discover about the journey. In hopes of planning future discussions and expanding the study, Gaddy made a list of several ideas and questions posed. She also welcomed anyone with additional resources or information to attend future discussions in the series.

In closing, Dickey explained some of his own beliefs about the importance of studying about the Lewis and Clark expedition. He said this year's bicentennial celebration is not just for learning about the explorers but about many other opportunities.

"It's a unique time to examine where we've come from," he said. "We're using it as a springboard to learn about a wide variety of cultures and viewpoints and to learn about issues among people, international geopolitices and where Americans fit in. It's a chance for us to learn about the ecosystems at that time and how they've changed, how the Missouri River has changed."

The next discussion will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27, in the library meeting room and will be lead by Chuck Holland, who will focus on the "getting ready" portion of the journey and display some keelboat replicas.

Contact Naomi Campbell at