Lewis & Clark class will mark 200 years since great trek <BR>
John Quinley, Gary Lester and Paul Ewing dress the part when greeting students to create some excitement about the 1803-06 journey that forever changed people's perception of the American West.
Ewing especially draws attention with a coyote skin hat plus mink and coyote pelts slung around his shoulders. He is quick to mention that he didn't kill any animals, but borrowed the furs to show what explorers used when their own clothes wore out. He maintained that some expedition members carried uniforms but donned them only to impress Native Americans they met along their route.
The expedition began with President Thomas Jefferson's confidential letter to Congress asking for $2,500 to pay for the project. (Total cost would later come to nearly $40,000.)
According to Quinley, Jefferson told Congress that exploring a line to the Pacific Ocean would expand America's trade, including that in lucrative furs, with native tribes. Further, it would stifle other nations' claims on territories that he believed were part of America's destiny.
The U.S. population was just over 5 million at the time. Most people lived within 50 miles of the East Coast. Good roads were nearly non-existent, and it took six weeks to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River.
A few hearty souls had settled on Mississippi's West Bank, but nobody was sure what lay beyond that.
"We knew more about the moon when preparing for the Apollo expeditions in the 1960s than we knew about the vast western landscape in 1800," said Quinley. "Thinkers speculated that there was a mountain of salt, great volcanoes, heights of land where rivers flowed in all directions, tribes with fierce giant warriors, and the blue-eyed lost tribe of Prince Modoc from Wales."
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the 46 men and a dog that made an 8,000-mile trek. They explored the territory of the Louisiana Purchase and the country beyond stretching to the Pacific Ocean.
Leading scientists of the time were along to record information about new people, flora and fauna. Rugged terrain and inclement weather made the way perilous. Sometimes hunger, sickness, injury and unfriendly natives plagued explorers.
"Lewis and Clark were to carefully survey and map the land so others could follow," said Quinley. "Most of all, they were to discover the Northwest Passage, a water route across the continent to the Pacific."
Although that proved to be a myth, Clark developed a map of the territory and with Lewis discovered and named more than 200 landmarks, including rivers and creeks. They encountered 52 tribes, some of which had never seen a white man before. Among the 122 new animals and 178 plants they discovered were the grizzly bear and the Pacific yew.
While they successfully completed their monumental mission, many of their artifacts and scientific discoveries were lost for about 70 years.
Enter Elliott Coues, who rediscovered the scientific materials in the basement of the Philosophical Society in Pennsylvania. As editor of a new edition of the Lewis and Clark journals, he was instrumental in re-establishing the expedition's scientific contributions.
Quinley maintained that Coues worked for a few years in the mid 1860s and 1880s as a naturalist and physician for the U.S. Army at Fort Whipple just outside of Prescott. He was also the first honorary president of the Prescott Historical society.
Another Prescott connection Quinley mentioned was that the children of Private Willard (a New Hampshire resident and Lewis and Clark member) later settled in the Prescott area.
This fall, Yavapai College is offering four sessions of this five-week, one-credit-hour course, LSC 101AN. It explores the philosophical, scientific, political, economic, ecological and social forces that shaped the expedition and examines its impact on subsequent development of the West.
For more information, call Quinley at 776-2204 or e-mail at email@example.com. To register by phone, call 776-2199 or register on line at www.yc.edu.
Also, Quinley will give talks on Lewis and Clark to service clubs and other specific groups. For information, call 776-2204.