“Ocian in view! O! the joy,” wrote William Clark in his journal, but the next day, Nov. 8, 1805, Lewis and Clark realized they were still only at Gray’s Bay, 20 miles from the Pacific.
Clark wrote: “We found the swells or waves so high that we thought it imprudent to proceed. … The seas rolled and tossed the canoes in such a manner this evening that several of our party were sea sick.”
The journal continued: “We at length turned a point, and found ourselves in a deep bay. … We coasted round the bay, which is about four miles across … called by the Indians … Kilhowanakel. … We named it Meriwether’s Bay, from the Christian name of Captain Lewis, who was, no doubt, the first white man who had surveyed it.”
Pinned down by drenching, cold storms for three weeks, Lewis and Clark let the members of the expedition decide where to build winter camp. They even allowed Clark’s slave “York” and the woman Indian guide “Sacagawea” to vote.
Sacagawea had a son was named Jean Baptiste Charbonneau. The Oregon Historical Society erected a maker: “This site marks the final resting place of the youngest member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Born to Sacagawea and Toussaint Charbonneau at Fort Mandan (North Dakota), on February 11, 1805, Baptiste and his mother symbolized the peaceful nature of the ‘Corps of Discovery.’ … Educated by Captain William Clark at St. Louis (St. Louis Academy, in 1924 renamed St. Louis University High School), Jean Baptiste Charbonneau at 18 traveled to Europe where he spent six years becoming fluent in English, German, French and Spanish. … Returning to American in 1829, he ranged the far west for nearly four decades as mountain man, guide, interpreter, magistrate, and forty-niner. In 1866, he left the California gold fields for a new strike in Montana, contracted pneumonia en route, reached ‘Inskips Ranche’ here, and died on May 16, 1866.”
In 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition celebrated a humble Christmas in their humble new Fort Clatsop, near present-day Astoria, Oregon.
Their journal stated: “We were awaked at daylight by a discharge of firearms, which was followed by a song from the men, as a compliment to us on the return of Christmas, which we have always been accustomed to observe as a day of rejoicing. … The remainder of the day was passed in good spirits, though there was nothing in our situation to excite much gayety. The rain confined us to the house, and our only luxuries in honor of the season were some poor elk, so much spoiled that we ate it through sheer necessity, a few roots, and some spoiled pounded fish. … We … endeavored to dry our wet articles before the fire. The fleas … have taken such possession of our clothes that we are obliged to have a regular search every day through our blankets as a necessary preliminary to sleeping at night. … Every Indian is constantly attended by multitudes of them, and no one comes into our house without leaving behind him swarms of these tormenting insects.”
President Thomas Jefferson had informed Congress, Feb. 19, 1806: “Captain Meriwether Lewis, of the First Regiment of infantry, was appointed, with a party of men, to explore the river Missouri from its mouth to its source, and, crossing the highlands by the shortest portage, to seek the best water communication thence to the Pacific Ocean; and Lieutenant Clarke was appointed second in command.”
By Clark’s estimate, their journey had taken them 4,162 miles from the mouth of the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean.
Three months earlier, on Aug. 12, 1805, Meriwether Lewis with three companions, George Drouillard, Private John Shields and Private Hugh McNeal, reached the headwaters of the Missouri.
Lewis recorded: “The road took us to the most distant fountain of the waters of the Mighty Missouri. … Private McNeal had exultingly stood with a foot on each side of this little rivulet and thanked his God that he had lived to bestride the mighty and heretofore deemed endless Missouri. … They had now reached the hidden sources of that river, which had never yet been seen by civilized man.”
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