Bill would make Lewis, Clark 'legacy trail'

Friday, September 21, 2007

In December 1803, the Corps of Discovery set up winter camp in Illinois across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. Officially, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail begins at that campground, stretching to the Pacific Coast.

But legislation being introduced by U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Cape Girardeau aims to extend the trail to include preliminary travels in a "legacy trail."

"Right now, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail only tells half the story of their exploration of the West," Emerson said in a prepared statement.

In the spring of 1803, President Thomas Jefferson named his 29-year-old secretary, Merriwether Lewis, as commander of an expedition to explore the Missouri River. The first task for Lewis: Travel to Lancaster, Pa., and Philadelphia for training in celestial navigation, botany and zoology.

Over the ensuing months, Lewis enlisted William Clark as a co-commander, visited the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va. (now in West Virginia), for arms and traveled down the Ohio River, pausing to construct boats in Pittsburgh and enlist recruits at Louisville, Ky., and Fort Massac, Ill., among other locations.

On Nov. 23, 1803, the company stopped at Cape Girardeau, attending a horse race with Louis Lorimier. Lewis commented in his journals on the beauty of Lorimier's daughter.

The trail extension would also cover the 1806 return journey from St. Louis to Washington, D.C.

Emerson will speak about her proposal at 4 p.m. today at the Red House Interpretive Center in Cape Girardeau. She has enlisted the support of Republicans and Democrats alike to support the legislation, which directs the National Park Service to conduct a feasibility study for establishing the trail, said Jeff Connor, spokesman for Emerson.

Emerson will be joined by Jane Randol Jackson, a member of the Lewis and Clark Heritage Trail Foundation Board of Directors, chairwoman of the Red House and Cape Girardeau County archivist.

By extending the trail, Jackson said, historic tourists tracing the footsteps of the famous explorers will be drawn to exhibits like the Red House, which displays a slice of early 19th-century frontier life, including a commemoration of that November 1803 visit.

The announcement will come just before a fund-raising event designed to help increase the endowment of the Red House.

335-6611, extension 126

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