In this season 202 years ago Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, the Corps of Discovery and some native guests spent a damp gray Christmas at Fort Clatsop. It was their second winter on the trail. They had long since drunk all their liquor. For clothing they wore the shreds of their original uniforms supplemented with rotting elk skin jackets and breeches. Food was scarce (as the passage below illustrates) and all the trade goods they had left could be bundled in a single handkerchief. The better part of a continent lay between the party and their homes. And yet they made merry. William Clark's journal entry for the day reads:
"Christmas Wednesday 25th December 1805 at day light this morning we we[re] awoke by the discharge of the fire arm of all our party & a Selute, Shoute and a Song which the whole party joined in under our windows, after which they retired to their rooms were Chearfull all the morning— after brackfast we divided our Tobacco which amounted to 12 carrots one half of which we gave to the men of the party who used tobacco, and to those who doe not use it we make a present of a handkerchief, The Indians leave us in the evening all the party Snugly fixed in their huts— I recved a presnt of Capt L. of a fleece hosrie Shirt Draws and Socks—, a pr. mockersons of Whitehouse a Small Indian basket of Gutherich, two Dozen white weazils tails of the Indian woman, & Some black root of the Indians before their departure— Drewyer informs me that he Saw a Snake pass across the parth to day. The day proved Showerey wet and disagreeable.
"we would have Spent this day the nativity of Christ in feasting, had we any thing either to raise our Sperits or even gratify our appetites, our Diner concisted of pore Elk, So much Spoiled that we eate it thro' mear necessity, Some Spoiled pounded fish and a fiew roots."
The text is from the UNL site, Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The photo on the left is myself, my wife Renee and our youngest son Sam at Fort Clatsop in the summer of 2004. (I kept a photoblog of our trip along the Lewis and Clark Trail that summer--scroll down about 1/4 of the way for the trail pictures.
Thanks to everyone for visiting this blog in 2007! We are getting 30-80 visitors a day and many nice emails. And my main goal in blogging--to learn more myself about the possibilities of history online--has been richly realized. In the coming year watch for more "proof-of-concept" posts about how to harness the new information technologies to do real history research, and to bring that research to new audiences.
Happy holidays to all!