Discovery made about Lewis, Clark history

Saturday, March 5, 2005

The Red House Interpretive Center opens its 2005 season today as Cape Girardeau gains new prominence in the history of the Corps of Discovery.

Research by Jane Randol Jackson, chairwoman of the Red House board, has revealed that the city played a larger role in Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's Corps of Discovery voyage than first thought. Following the expedition's return from the Pacific Ocean, four of its members settled in the area around Cape Girardeau.

This is new research never published before, Jackson said. Her findings were printed in an article titled "Cape Girardeau and the Corps of Discovery" in the February edition of We Proceeded On, the journal of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. The journal is read by Lewis and Clark historians across the country.

Jackson found this insight on Cape Girardeau's history in her capacity as director of the county archives in Jackson.

"I studied a lot of Lewis and Clark, I've read I don't know how many books, so the names are familiar to me," said Jackson. "So I started going through our early records and our indexes to see what would jump out at me."

Jackson found the names of George Drouillard, nephew of city founder Louis Lorimier and chief hunter on the expedition; Alexander Willard, blacksmith, gunsmith and hunter on the voyage; John Ordway, a sergeant in the Corps of Discovery; and Rueben Field, expedition scout.

The group stopped here on its way to a winter camp at River Dubois, Ill., across the river from St. Louis, before starting its voyage to the Pacific.

"I thought, 'You know, this is something I know but nobody else in the Lewis and Clark world knows about this,'" Jackson said of the four explorers' return to Cape Girardeau. "That needs to be written up."

Jackson's find is a one-of-a-kind, said Dr. Frank Nickell, director of the Center for Regional History at Southeast Missouri State University.

"It's important to Cape Girardeau in that it tells a story that has always been there, but that we did not know," Nickell said. "And it's a new insight to Cape Girardeau's early history. It's one of those pieces that help us come closer to telling the whole story.

"Here are four people who were part of the greatest adventure in early American history. They saw Cape Girardeau twice. They saw it once and came back to it."

The article also details the experiences of the corps during its time here by using journal entries of Lorimier.

Information on the Cape Girardeau-area settlers from the Corps of Discovery is on display at the Red House, which will be open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from now until November. The Red House is named for Lorimier's trading post and home, built in the 1790s. The interpretive center is a full-sized reconstruction of Lorimier's home.

Several activities are planned for this season, said Jackson, including demonstration of life in early Cape Girardeau throughout the season, the Red House Ball at the Brase Arena Building June 25 and Native American days in October.

Tours are also available for scheduling on days other than Saturday. For more information contact the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau at 335-1631.

335-6611, extension 182

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