MASONRY IN NORTH DAKOTA
LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION - 1804, 1805, 1806
THROUGHOUT THE HISTORY of the world civilization has moved from east to west, and for centuries Masonry has moved forward with the pioneers and has found its place in the forefront of progress everywhere.
So it has been in North Dakota. Without question, the most important event in the early history of this area was the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804, 1805 and 1806, from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Pacific Coast and back, via the Missouri and Columbia Rivers.
The purposes of the expedition are well known and a detailed description of them is not necessary. On the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory for the United States, April 30, 1803, by President Thomas Jefferson, the attention of the government was early directed toward exploring and improving the new territory. Accordingly, in the summer of the same year, an expedition was planned by the President, "for the purpose of discovering the courses and sources of the Missouri River and the most convenient water communication thence to the Pacific Ocean." His private secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis, and Captain William Clark, both officers of the United States Army, were associated in the command of this enterprise. A band of thirty-two Army officers and soldiers, young men, watermen, an interpreter, a hunter and a negro servant formed the personnel of the group and they set out from the mouth of the Missouri River on May 14, 1804, in a 55-foot sailing barge and two pirogues, or open boats. Two horses were led along the river bank to assist in hunting for game.
The expedition entered the present state of North Dakota on October 13, 1804, after an uneventful trip up the Missouri River, through what is now Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota, and then began a new experience which was to bring them in contact with new people, new surroundings and new concepts of life, which were to become invaluable to them in meeting the difficulties which lay ahead. A brief chronicle of their experiences in North Dakota during the winter of 1804-1805 may be interesting and informative.
Although a considerable food supply was carried with them, as well as clothing, bedding and gifts for barter, they realized that a large part of their food would have to be gathered along the way and nowhere did they find it in greater abundance than in North Dakota. Huge herds of bison roamed the plains, and there were numerous big horn sheep, elk, white-tailed and black-tailed deer, antelope, beaver and game birds of every kind known to North America. Much of their time was devoted to the stalking and preparing of game for food and nowhere did the expedition fare as well.
As they traveled up the river, the weather became colder and colder and on October 27, 1804, they realized that they could go no further until spring. The expedition had reached a point west of the present site of Washburn and east of Stan-ton, on the Missouri River, and they decided to build a winter camp on the north shore in a large grove of cottonwood trees. There they built a fort of logs, which they named Fort Mandan, and several sturdy log cabins and storehouses, adjoining the fort, which were ready for occupancy November 16, 1804.
Most important of all, they found themselves in the center of a friendly Indian community, consisting mostly of Mandans, Arikaras and Hidatsas, living in villages all around them. These Indians were friendly, as well as thrifty, and all through the winter brought them corn and other supplies, for which they received tobacco and other gifts from the expedition's storehouse. The Sioux Indians from the east continually led marauding parties against the villages, stealing horses and food supplies, harassing the natives and keeping them in a state of unrest. Captains Lewis and Clark promised protection throughout the winter and thus strengthened the bond of friendship between them.
A valuable addition to the expedition at this time was that of Toussaint Charbonneau, a Frenchman, who was an Indian interpreter, and his Indian wife, Sakakawea, or Bird-woman, who had been captured when a girl, from her Shoshone tribe, by the Hidatsas, and sold by them to the trader Charbonneau. Her people lived far to the west in what is now Montana and Wyoming. Her skill as a guide was invaluable to the travelers as they crossed the passes in the Rocky Mountains.
Their son, Baptiste, was born in camp the winter of 1804-1805 and an interesting account is given in Clark's journal, as follows: "About five o'clock, Feb. 11, 1805, the wife of Charbonneau was delivered of a boy, this being her first child, she was suffering considerable, when Mr. Jessaume, a French interpreter with the expedition, told Captain Lewis that he had frequently administered to persons in her situation, a small dose of the rattle of the rattlesnake, which never failed to hasten the delivery. Having some of the rattle, Captain Lewis gave it to Mr. Jessaume, who crumbled two rings of it between his fingers, and mixing it with a small quantity of water, gave it to her. What effect it may really have had might be difficult to determine, but Captain Lewis was informed that she had not taken it more than ten minutes before the delivery took place."
The Charbonneaus accompanied the expedition to the Pacific Coast and back to their old home on the Knife River in North Dakota. They had performed remarkable services as interpreter and guide and in dealing with the Shoshone Indians, and Sakakawea is revered as one of the greatest Indian women of her time. A beautiful statue of Sakakawea carrying the boy, Baptiste, adorns the State Capitol grounds at Bismarck, North Dakota. In 1810 Baptiste was taken to St. Louis where Captain Clark introduced him to Paul Wil-helm, Duke of Wurtenburg, who took him to Germany and gave him a complete education. He was later associated with General John C. Fremont on the Platte River in 1842.
The expedition wintered well in spite of deep snow which sometimes hindered their hunting operations and cold weather such as they had never before experienced. December 17 the thermometer dropped to forty-five degrees below zero, which was the coldest of the winter, but no ill effects were experienced and, aside from a few amputated toes and fingers due to frost-bite, the men suffered little from exposure.
Hardly a day passed that they did not visit back and forth with the Indians, exchanging amenities of one kind or another, and before they knew it, warm weather was on the way and they must think of moving on.
During the winter the sailing barge and two pirogues had been frozen fast in the river and it was not until February 26 that they were able to free them from the ice and haul them up on the bank. The barge had sprung a leak and they realized that it would be increasingly hard to navigate as the water upstream became more and more shallow, so they decided to replace it with six more pirogues, built from cottonwood logs on the spot, and the men set to work accordingly. On March 20 the task was completed and the preparations for leaving began. The first rain since October 15 fell on March 31 and April 1, taking the last of the ice from the river. The barge had been repaired and was sent back down river in charge of a small crew and laden with gifts and dispatches.
On April 7, 1805, Captains Lewis and Clark bade farewell to their Indian friends after promising to take a delegation of their chiefs to visit the President on their return voyage, and set off up stream. It had been an unforgettable experience for all concerned and their sojourn in North Dakota has been a lasting example of Masonic-like friendship and brotherly love between men of different races and creeds.
Their trip was uneventful to the junction of the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers where they arrived on April 27, 1805, and passed on up the Missouri. In Captain Lewis' Journal for that date we find the following: "About 400 yards from the Missouri and twice that distance from the Yellowstone is a situation highly eligible for a trading establishment; it is on the high plain which extends back three miles in width and seven or eight miles in length along the Yellowstone, where it is bordered by an extensive body of woodland and along the Missouri with less breadth, etc. A sufficient quantity of limestone for building may easily be procured near the junction of the rivers."
What could have been more prophetic than this? In the years that followed, two or three trading posts were established there, and in 1829 Fort Union was erected on the tongue of land described above. It became the most important trading post in the west, serving the vast water-shed of the Yellow-stone and Missouri Rivers, as well as the adjacent territory in the United States and Canada. Even the limestone was used in building and the old powder house still stands.
Here again, by coincidence, Captains Lewis and Clark return to our Masonic story. In 1866 the materials used at Fort Union were used in building Fort Buford nearby, and in 1871 a dispensation was issued by the Grand Lodge of Minnesota to Yellowstone Lodge to hold Masonic meetings at the fort. Their subsequent building became the first Masonic lodge hall in the present state of North Dakota. Surely, these patriarchs became patron saints of Masonry in North Dakota in more ways than one!
On April 27, 1805, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left the present confines of North Dakota and pursued their way northwest up the Missouri River, through the Rocky Mountain passes, led by the capable and trustworthy Sakakawea, until they reached the Columbia River and went on down to its mouth, past Portland, Oregon, to the small seaport town of Astoria which they reached November 8, 1805.
Here they built Fort Clatsop, in honor of a neighboring tribe of Indians, and erected much the same kind of shelter as during the previous winter in Dakota, but their winter was not a happy one. Game had been scarce in the mountains; here fish was the main source of food and they soon tired of that. It rained much of the time and the men preferred the cold of the prairies to the dampness of the sea-coast.
On March 23, 1806, one week earlier than expected, the order was given to break camp for the return journey and everyone was overjoyed. For the return trip the party was divided east of Missoula, Montana; Captain Clark took ten men, including Sakakawea, Charbonneau and the colored servant, and proceeded to the Yellowstone River where they built a large pirogue and followed its course to the junction of the Missouri River in northwestern North Dakota, arriving there August 3, 1806. Captain Lewis divided the rest of the party into several groups, all of whom were to investigate different Missouri River headwaters, and converge at the Missouri, meeting Captain Clark as near August 1 as possible. It is remarkable that Captain Lewis' entire party rejoined Captain Clark on August 7, 1806.
Rough and rugged as the trip had been out through the mountains and back again, beset by unfriendly Indians, lack of food, and hardships on every side, it is interesting to note that the first words in Captain Clark's Journal, on August 3, 1806, upon arriving back in North Dakota, supposedly nature's wonderland, were: "Last night the mosquitoes were so troublesome that none of the party slept half the night; for my part, I did not sleep one hour." Is it just human nature to grumble, or is a persistent mosquito just a little more horrible than any other torture known to man ? Sometimes we think so.
Their progress down the Missouri in North Dakota was uneventful, except that each day's journal recorded the steady onslaught of mosquitoes and that it rained. Methinks the boys were getting homesick and morale was low, as well it might be. They had accomplished a gigantic task and by their sturdiness and devotion to duty had opened up a quarter of a nation to civilization. How grateful we are and how proud of the spirit of Masonry which dwelled among them.
After leaving Charbonneau and Sakakawea at the Mandan village near the Knife River on August 17, they met with the old Indian chiefs, who had befriended them on the journey upstream, smoked the pipe of peace together and received their pledge to wage no war with anyone except in self-defense against the marauding Sioux. Keeping their promise to arrange a council with the Great White Father in Washington, they took Chief Big White with them to St. Louis and ultimately to Washington, where he was well received. Some difficulty was encountered however, on his return, and it was not until 1809 that an expedition of 125 men escorted him safely from St. Louis to his people in North Dakota.
It was on August 17, 1806, that the Lewis and Clark Expedition took sorrowing leave of their Indian brethren, realizing that nowhere in this great land had they encountered truer friends with kindlier and more generous hearts. Surely, the American Indian could have been handled far differently than he was had it not been for the selfish greed of mankind. The expedition passed out of the present bounds of North Dakota on August 20, 1806, arriving in St. Louis on September 23, 1806.
How well they had fulfilled the purposes for which they were sent forth: 1) To explore the course of the Missouri River to its headwaters; 2) To proceed westward and to determine whether the Columbia River or some other might offer a direct and practical water route across the continent; 3) To make studies of the Indian tribes encountered; and 4) To report on the soil and topography of the country, as well as the flora and fauna it supported, is amply demonstrated by the records they kept. Both Captain Lewis and Captain Clark kept daily journals of the entire journey which were complete in every detail. On their return they were immediately pressed into government service and so turned their journals over to Nicholas Biddle, a young lawyer of Philadelphia, to edit and prepare them for publication.
LEWIS AND CLARK MARKER
May 21, 1935
Scarcely one hundred years have passed, since the first white settler came to the present site of North Dakota, and it seems incredible that one hundred and thirty years crept over the prairies, from the time the Lewis and Clark Expedition went into winter quarters on the Missouri River at Fort Mandan, until the Masons of this jurisdiction paid them the tribute long past due and dedicated a marker to their memory, at the site of their winter vigil in 1804-5.
It was while M.'. W.'. Brother Mark I. Forkner of Langdon was Grand Master in 1934-5, that a committee of M.'. W.'. Brother John W. Robinson (90), W. Brothers Gustave A. Lindell (122) and Henry J. Taylor (5) was appointed to make all the necessary preparations for the installation and dedication of such a marker, a task which was magnificently accomplished by them.
The McLean County Historical Society had already received a deed to 30 acres of land in the area, from a Mrs. Hans C. Nelson, in order that it might be set aside as an historical spot. The society deeded sufficient land to the Grand Lodge A.'. F.'. & A.'. M.'. of North Dakota, on which to place the marker.
The marker was built of small granite stones, an appropriate inscription was placed on the west side and the dedication took place at the site, on May 21, 1935.
Present were: Governor (W.'. Brother) Walter Welford, of North Dakota; Grand Master Mark I. Forkner; Grand Secretary Walter L. Stockwell, P.G.M.; John W. Robinson, P.G.M.; District Deputy Grand Masters Byron E. Robinson and John A. Graham; W.'. Brothers (Major) Frank L. An-ders, Gustave A. Lindell, Henry J. Taylor and hundreds of others.
*The work from which all of the above was taken: "Lewis and Clark in North Dakota" by Russell Reid, Bismarck, North Dakota, Curator of the State Historical Museum, uses entirely the original manuscript Journals and the text of the Biddle edition, printed side by side for comparison. Nothing could be more accurate or interesting. The book is one of the Lewis and Clark collection in the Masonic Grand Lodge Library, at Fargo, North Dakota.
Following is the report of the Committee on Lewis and Clark Marker, to the Grand Lodge on Wednesday morning, June 19, 1935, and the address of M.'. W.'. Brother Walter L. Stockwell at the dedication on May 21, 1935, all of which speak for themselves, as they tell the story first-hand.
W. Brother Gustave A. Lindell (122) presented this report which on his motion was adopted. The committeereceived the thanks of the Grand Lodge and was continued.
To the Most Worshipful Grand Master, Wardens and Members of the Grand Lodge A.'. P.'. & A.'. M.'. of North Dakota:
Your special committee on Lewis and Clark Camp Site begs leave to submit the following report:
That by means of contributions taken at various Masonic meetings in the central portion of the state, your committee has erected upon the hundred feet square tract of land acquired for this purpose by the Grand Lodge of Masons of North Dakota, a monument. The monument is built of native granite, erected in a pyramidal figure, superimposed upon a concrete base. It is five feet square at the base, tapering upward to a height of eight feet and is two feet square at the top. The total height of the monument is nine feet.
Inlaid on the west side of the marker is a bronze plate furnished by the Grand Lodge, bearing the following inscription:
The marker Is situated on a high bluff overlooking the Missouri River. Some thirty acres of beautifully scenic North Dakota badlands surrounding the small tract owned by the Grand Lodge have been acquired by the North Dakota State Historical Society to be preserved as a State Historical Park.
On May 21st, 1935, this monument was appropriately dedicated by the Most Worshipful Grand Master after having opened Grand Lodge in due and ample form. This dedication was a part of the district meeting of the second district lodges. A lodge of Master Masons was opened by Fellowship Lodge No. 122 under authority of a special dispensation on a high steep butte overlooking the campsite. The District Deputy Grand Master was properly admitted and received and in due turn the Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, Grand Secretary and other Grand Lodge Officers were received and given the Grand Honors of Masonry.
From this open air lodge on top of this butte where the scenery was most beautiful and striking, the Grand Lodge Officers, escorted by the brethren of the second district and visiting sojourners, marched to the site where the dedicative services took place. These consisted of the formal dedication by Grand Master Mark I. Forkner, brief addresses by Mrs. James T. McCulloch, secretary of the McLean County Historical Society, Governor Walter Welford, Past Master of Pembina Lodge No. 2, and Brother (Major) Frank L. Anders and the dedicatory address by the Grand Secretary Walter L. Stockwell. The exercises were most impressive and in themselves have afforded a great stimulus and inspiration to Masonry in central North Dakota.
Your committee trusts that this memorial monument may stand throughout the years as a tribute to the great service of our renowned brothers, Lewis and Clark, and as an inspiration, not only to Masons, but to all people, toward greater courage, loyalty and service to humanity.
WALTER LINCOLN STOCKWELL
Lewis & Clark Site
May 21, 1935
M.'. W.'. Grand Master, His Excellency the Governor, Brethren, Ladies and Gentlemen:
This is a most auspicious and eventful occasion, one of great and Masonic importance. We desire to congratulate heartily the brethren of Fellowship Lodge No. 122 for their patient persistence in carrying through to successful completion the erection of the Marker with its Memorial tablet.
It has taken a little time to accomplish this happy result but Masonry is not a passing institution. It has existed more than two centuries in this beloved land of ours. It is now 130 years since the Lewis & Clark expedition left their winter camp near this spot and continued their journey to the upper reaches of the Missouri River, and so this marker and tablet will endure for generations to come, long after those who participate here have been gathered to their fathers. Time is long and we do well as individuals and as a Masonic fraternity to build not for the present but for this long future.
The Masonic fraternity is an historic institution, its background is full of interest to the student of history, so it is eminently fitting that its members should be interested in the preservation of all historical data and with the identification and marking of places which have to do with, not only Masonic but other important events with our state and national life.
In speaking today at this dedication there are many things which crowd in upon our mind, and because of the time limitation go into some of the details as we would like, but we cannot refrain from directing your attention to the leaders of this expedition.
Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark, tic, 29 years of age when he was commissioned by President Jefferson for this very important task—the other 34 years of age, when they began their journey. Lewis, at the time was a Master Mason, and the other was raised after his return to St. Louis. Recently we spoke before Lodge on "The Young Man in Masonry". Here is a concrete example of the same and before his tragic and untimely death in 1809, he had made for himself an undying name and fame and ,we today are here to pay tribute to those qualities of manhood and leadership, which are more necessary today in a confused world than ever before.
The Grand Lodge of North Dakota has done well during the past year to devote so much of time and effort upon Youth Service. We expect on Tuesday evening, June 18th, to demonstrate that this effort has not been unavailing, when five young men and one young woman from the six divisions of the state, will appear before the Grand Lodge and speak upon "The American Ideal in Free Government." Freemasonry has always made an appeal to youth and always will so long as we magnify the great ideals of brotherly love and service. Yes, the leaders of this historic, epoch-making expedition were young men, and the great fraternity of Freemasonry is proud to have numbered them in its membership.
What, perchance, is the significance of this Lewis & Clark expedition? We shall try not to weary you with details, but we cannot refrain from directing your attention to the fact that that great philosopher, statesman and Freemason, Benjamin Franklin, was largely responsible for the provision in the treaty with Great Britain, following the Revolutionary War, fixing the western boundary of the United States at the Mississippi River. This brought us into contact with Spain and later with France in the Louisiana territory. Napoleon Bonaparte, at the time of Thomas Jefferson's administration, was in control of the destinies of France. Slowly but surely the powers of Europe were being arrayed against us. It was vital to the development of the United States that the outlet of the Mississippi to the Sea be not in the control of a foreign nation. Jefferson, though theoretically an ardent believer in the doctrine of states' rights and opposed to a strong central government, was in practice imperial in his conception of territorial United States, so he committed what was called Jefferson's folly. He purchased Louisiana territory from France.
The northwestern boundary of this territory was indefinite. There was much of dispute over the Oregon country, and so to clear up on President Jefferson's recommendation an exploring party was authorized in 1803, and Captain Meriwether Lewis, then his private Secretary, was named as its head, and the President's statement concerning Captain Lewis is one of the finest characterizations of a young man we have ever been privileged to read. On July 14, 1803, President Jefferson in his own handwriting wrote a general letter of credit and gave it to Lewis. It authorized him to draw on the Secretaries of State, of the Treasury, of War and of the Navy, and he pledged the faith of the United States that such drafts would be paid punctually on the date they were made payable. Never before or since has such a thing been done.
Captain William Clark, second in command, was a younger brother of General George Rogers Clark.
On May 14, 1804, the party left St. Louis returning some two years later with their mission fulfilled. Late in October of that year the expedition reached a point on the Missouri River near here and a camp was established. It would be most interesting if time permitted to go into many details touching upon the villages of the Mandans and recounting the numerous incidents having to do with the various Indian tribes, the hunting expeditions for deer, buffalo, antelope, goats and bear; but these can be read in the annals of the expedition edited by Dr. Hosmer.
It is interesting to know that the relations with the various Indian tribes were quite friendly and the leaders were able to do much to bring about more peaceful relations among them. We cannot refrain from reproducing here the account of Tuesday, November 20th.
"Tuesday, 20th. We this day moved into our huts, which are now completed. This place, which we call Fort Mandan, is situated in a point of low ground on the north side of the Missouri, covered with tall and heavy cottonwood. The works consist of two rows of huts or sheds, forming an angle where they joined each other, each row containing four rooms of fourteen feet square and seven feet high, with plank ceiling, and the roof slanting so as to form a loft above the rooms, the highest part of which is eighteen feet from the ground; the backs of the huts formed a wall of that height, and opposite the angle, the place of the wall was supplied by picketing; in the area were two rooms for stores and provisions. The latitude by observation is 47° 21' 47", and the computed distance from the mouth of the Missouri sixteen hundred miles."
Life went on. Record is made of temperature of twenty degrees below zero. Christmas Day was celebrated as a great Medicine Day with no little festivity. New Year, 1805, was welcomed with two shots from the Swivel and a round of small arms. It is also noted that a Frenchman delighted the Indians by dancing on his head. The winter passed. Sunday, April 7th, 1805, the party, consisting of thirty-two persons, left the fort. One of the party was a young Indian woman, the wife of Toussaint Charbonneau. She was of the Snake Indian tribe, one of the Shoshones, but had been captured by the Minnetarees, of whom the Hidatsas were a part. She was sold by them to Charbonneau, first as a slave, but later he married her. She, as we understood it was Sacajawea, or Sakakawea, the Bird Woman, whose name and services have been perpetuated by a heroic bronze statue on the Capitol grounds at Bismarck. This enterprise was sponsored by the Women's Clubs of North Dakota under the leadership of Mrs. Mattie M. Davis, then County Superintendent of Schools of Cass County.
(The annals seem to indicate that Sacajawea was not at all moved when she returned to the place where she had been captured several years before, that her philosophy did not suffer feelings to extend beyond the anxiety of having plenty to eat and a few trinkets to wear.)
The exploits of these men were those of seemingly supermen. When one considers the hazards of such a journey today it seems miraculous that these men could have done what they did with the loss of one man only. The portage around the Great Falls taking as it did a month, then coming as they did August 12th, 1805, to the head of the Jefferson River, then over the Bitter Root Range to Clearwater branch of the Columbia and then on to the Pacific two months later. They were the first explorers to reach the Pacific north of Mexico. Spending the winter at Fort Clatsop they began their return journey March 23rd, 1806. Crossing the Rockies again, it was decided to divide into two parties. This division resulted in a pretty thorough exploration of Montana. The parties came together near the present city of Williston and on September 23rd the party reached St. Louis.
While Lewis was officially in command he recognized Clark as his equal and be it said to the everlasting credit of these men, their affection and respect for each other not only endured every test but was stronger in the end, exemplifying most fully the Masonic lesson of brotherly love, and that noble contention or rather emulation of who best can work and best agree.
What was accomplished? For the first time definite knowledge was available concerning this vast region, the Indian tribes which inhabited it, the vast resources of animal and vegetable life, its rivers and lakes, its majestic mountains and fertile valleys. It laid the foundation of our claim to the Oregon country and proved conclusively that President Jefferson had acted more wisely than he probably knew when he consummated the purchase of Louisiana.
A century and nearly a third has passed since Captain Meriwether Lewis and his friend and colleague, Captain William Clark, received their commission. We doubt if there is anywhere to be found in the annals of history a more remarkable development than that which has taken place in what was known as the Louisiana purchase, Today west of the Mississippi River, twenty-two states of the Union are to be found. It is traversed by seven trans-continental lines of railway. Highways lead into every corner of this vast region. It is a veritable paradise for those who seek, as only Americans do, to enjoy the beauties with which nature has so bountifully provided us.
And so today, 130 years after they left this winter camp here on the upper Missouri, we as the representatives of a great Fraternity and as loyal citizens of this Commonwealth and of this Nation, have dedicated a Marker and Tablet as a lasting tribute to the courage, the heroism and the fidelity to trust and enduring service to country, of these distinguished Masons.
May we express the hope that we of this day and our successors, may be motivated by the same ideals and the same spirit. Let us not weaken under the tests of adversity. Let us prove worthy of the great heritage which is ours. Let us be willing to sacrifice, if need be, to maintain the high principles of democracy and free government. Let us understand that it is the citizen's duty always to support his government and those servants chosen by us to act for us.
May we do our part to insure that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.