Hi folks! It’s been a busy month for us here at the History Center, what with recovering from the 7th Annual Cottage Tour, writing lots of grant applications, putting together the newest newsletter and dedicating the new exhibit – not to mention the concerts and lectures we’ve hosted! Whew!
Winter will be a season for planning and organizing and remembering the history that makes our town so great. To emphasize the importance of our regional history in the grand scheme of things, we are honoring the anniversary of Lewis and Clark’s arrival on the Pacific Coast in November of 1805. The Corps of Discovery visited Cannon Beach in 1806, to trade with Native Americans for 300 pounds of blubber and oil from a whale that had washed ashore. While we have all heard of Lewis, Clark, and even York and Sacajawea, little is mentioned about the other members of the Corps. We wanted to take the time to tell the stories of the unsung heroes of the Corps of Discovery on this 205th anniversary of their arrival to the Coast.
Join us for a lecture on Lewis and Clark in Cannon Beach on Wednesday, November 10 at 7:30 p.m. Read more below!!!
Lewis and Clark set out in 1804 with a score of companions, commissioned as the Corps of Discovery, to explore the vast wilderness of the recently acquired Louisiana Purchase. Lewis was in charge of much of the recruiting of additional members for the Corps.
He wrote in a letter to Clark: “It shall be my duty to find out and engage some good hunters, stout, healthy, unmarried, accustomed to the woods and capable of bearing bodily fatigue to a considerable degree.”
Clark was also busy recruiting, and when Lewis arrived in Ohio in1803, Clark had already recruited seven men from the Kentucky area. Two of Lewis’s recruits were also from the bluegrass state, and this group of mountain men became known as the “nine young men from Kentucky.”
Charles Floyd, one of the Kentucky nine, was the only member of the expedition to die during the trip. Lewis and Clark described Floyd as having “bilious cholic” which has since been defined by medical historians to be a ruptured appendix.
While death only visited the expedition once, other Corps members, like John Collins, had problems of their own. One of five chief hunters in the group, Collins was known for his various disciplinary infractions during his initial service. Drunkenness, disobedience and theft did not do too much damage to the recruit’s reputation though, as Collins was later selected to be a member of the permanent party and given the rank of private.
George Drouillard, a half-Shawnee Native who led prospective recruits to Camp Dubois, where they wintered from 1803 to 1804, was an invaluable member of the Corps.
Four of the eight recruits that wintered at Camp Dubois were not selected for the expedition, but Drouillard was hired on for $25 a month as an interpreter, five times more than a private’s salary.
Drouillard soon established himself as the Corps’ most skillful hunter and scout. He also knew sign language, was able to interpret among the several tribes the Corps encountered, and in 1804 shot a bear that was chasing Sacajawea’s husband, Charbonneau.
It was his interpreting skills, though, that came in most handy, especially with the Shoshone Natives, who explained that the Salmon River was not navigable and that the Corps would have to take a land route over Lemhi Pass.
“He understood perfectly the common language of gesticulation or signs which seems to be universally understood by all the Nations we have yet sent,” Lewis explains in his journal.
While Lewis was unsuccessful, Drouillard was able to convince the Shoshone’s to lead the expedition over the pass, proving his worth to the Corps yet again.
The hunter and trapper continued a life of adventure after the Corps disbanded. He traveled through the Big Horn Mountains, helping to add to Clark’s map of the West, and worked with the Missouri Fur Company, trading with the Sioux, Blackfoot, Ricaras and Mandans.
Unfortunately for Drouillard, in 1809 some of the members of the fur company made enemies of a group of Blackfoot Natives, and the former Corps member was attacked.
“Druyer [Drouillard] and his horse lay dead,” Thomas James, a member of the company said. “His head was cut off, his entrails torn out, and his body hacked to pieces.”
Drouillard may have died more suddenly than some of the other members of the Corps, but his contribution to the expedition will always be an important part of the Lewis and Clark story, no matter how overlooked.
As the anniversary of this epic journey nears, remember that no man is an island, and that Lewis and Clark couldn’t have done it alone.
To learn more about George Drouillard and hear the untold tales of the Corps of Discovery, attend a free lecture by author and expert Roger Wendlick, who holds the largest known library of literature on the Lewis and Clark expedition. The lecture will be held Wednesday, November 10 from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum. For more information call 503-436-9301.
Also, see famous paintings by R.L. Rickards of the Lewis and Clark expedition during Stormy Weather Arts Festival at the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum. Paintings are donated for viewing by Primary Elements Gallery, and a concert will accompany the art show on Saturday, November 6 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Call for more information.