Lewis and Clark discussion highlights 'handsome' prairies, challenges

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark had no idea people of the future would be reviewing their expedition, anticipating and celebrating the days the corps spent in and around what is now Saline County.

But as the Marshall Public Library's discussion group continues reading the corps' 200-year-old journals, Saline County residents are considering the explorers' descriptions of the Missouri "prairies." They are also contemplating the way the land must have looked to the corps and how treacherous the travels up the Missouri River must have been.

Delores Sadewhite of Marshall led the discussion Tuesday evening, reading journal entries made from June 11 to June 24. During that two-week period, the explorers are said to have either camped at or traveled near various Saline County areas, including what is known as Bear Creek and the Cambridge area.

"Probably most of these sites have been removed by the movement of the river," said Marvin Wilhite, one of the group's most informed members as far as the journals are concerned.

However, it was commonly noted by those writing the journals that this area of Missouri contained some of the "handsomest" lands they'd ever seen.

And those descriptions were made despite the treachery of the river and overbearing annoyance of mosquitoes.

Sadewhite said ailments most likely caused by infected mosquito bites, dirty river water and spoiled meat probably had a lot to do with how slowly the men made their way up the river, but sickness wasn't the only thing they fought.

Wilhite said the description of river flow translates to a movement of 23.6 mph next to the bank of the river, where the men were traveling, compared to 6.6 mph in the middle of the river.

"They only went six miles that day," Sadewhite said, referring to journals dated June 14. "They weren't making very many miles because the current was so strong."

According to records Wilhite relayed to the group, the corps only traveled 106.5 miles during the two weeks covered in the discussion. In sharp contrast, they went 52 miles in one day on their return trip, which was downstream.

Contact Naomi Campbell at

marshallfaith@socket.net