The Historical West

The Historical WestThe Verendrye Brothers’ journey to the Rocky Mountains

The Verendrye brothers were the first Europeans to cross the northern Great Plains and see the Rocky Mountains in 1742.

It is believed they were near Writing on Stone Provincial Park, in Southern Alberta Canada, when they first saw the majestic mountain range.

Most of what we know about the Verendrye’s travels from Quebec through the historical west of the Northern States and Western Canada comes from a journal found in the French government archives in 1851, and a lead plate found buried near Pierre, South Dakota. The journal is difficult to interpret, but offers a fascinating glimpse into the early exploration of northern North America.

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daniel booneDaniel Boone

Is one of the legendary early names in American history. Boone was an explorer and frontiersman and was born on November 2, 1734, in a log cabin on the Boone Homestead, in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania.

His father taught him wilderness survival skills and Daniel quickly proved himself a talented woodsman and a dead shot.  At age 15, Boone moved with his family to Rowan County, North Carolina, where he started his own hunting business.

At first Boone found himself content with what he described as the perfect ingredients to a happy life: “A good gun, a good horse and a good wife.” But adventure stories Boone had heard from a Mule Skinner while on a march ignited Boone’s interest in exploring west into the American frontier.

In 1767, Daniel Boone led his own expedition for the first time and in May of 1769, he led another expedition with a friend, John Finley and four other men. Under Boone’s leadership, the team of explorers discovered a trail to the far west though the Cumberland Gap.

boone-tvThe trail would prove to be of immense importance to anyone heading west through Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee to the unknown lands of the historical west.

An action-adventure television series starring Fess Parker as Daniel Boone aired from September 24, 1964 to September 10, 1970 on NBC.

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lewis and clarkLewis and Clark

American explorers move into the western half of North America, as a prelude to settlement.

In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson, through the U.S. Senate, purchased the Louisiana territory from France.

After the Louisiana Purchase Treaty was signed, Jefferson knew his new country needed to know what exactly they had just bought. Knowledge of the lands between the great rocky mountains and the small grouping of states on the eastern quarter of North America was almost non-existent in those days.

Jefferson chose his personal secretary, Meriwether Lewis, to lead the expidition, a smart fella who also happened to be an accomplished frontiersman. Lewis in turn sought the help of William Clark, whose abilities as map maker and frontiersman were even more impressive and together they made a formidable team.

Lewis so respected Clark that he made him co-captain of the Expedition, even though Clark was never recognized as such by the government. Together they collected a diverse group that would be able to make the two year journey to the great ocean. Jefferson hoped that Lewis and Clark would find a water route linking the Columbia and Missouri rivers.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition paddled its way down the Ohio and when the spring of 1805 brought high water and favorable weather, the Lewis and Clark Expedition set out on the next leg of its journey. With journals in hand, Lewis, Clark, and the other members of the Expedition returned to St. Louis by September 1806 to report their findings to Jefferson.

The expedition was received with the full  pomp and ceremony the President could muster, because they fulfilled many of Jefferson’s wishes for the Expedition. And perhaps the greatest gift to history were the fabulous maps that William Clark drew that were remarkably detailed. Clark painstakingly noted and named rivers and creeks, significant points in the landscape, the shape of river shores, and spots where the expedition had overnighted or portaged for longer periods of time. Later explorers and frontiersmen found these maps invaluable as the movement west gained momentum in the following decades.

The Historical West


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