On the 200th Anniversary of the Lewis & Clark expedition's passage through what is now Jefferson City on June 4, 1804, former Mayor John Landwehr created this fictional entry in Merriweather Lewis' journal reporting his progress to President Jefferson.
My dearest friend and honourable President:
It is with my sincerest devotion and respect that I report to you with this missive that our progress to date is as planned and without serious adverse insident of any kind.
Now, just a few days into our journie, we have started up again after a very productive respite at the mouth of the first major tributary where we took measurements with the vantage point of the outcropping we named Clark's Bluff near a lesser tributary we named Cubboard Creek.
As we camped last evening between yet two smaller creeks just a short distance downriver from another outcropping we have named Bull Rock, we experienced one of the more unusual events of our journie to date, and perhaps of any to come. There were broad plains to the north of the river and a more hilly terrain to the south. We hunted all day in the plains where there were abundant feasant and antelop, and we made our night's camp on the north shore, protected by the hills and blufs surrounding us.
By this time we had become somewhat accustomed to sleeping with clouds of mosqitoes which descended routinely at dusk and deprived us of any comfort after our daily labours, but shortly after nitetfall we were awaken'd by a stranger sound — whoops and cries of several of the first indigenous people of the region — initially concentrated on the southern bank. We had not expected such an encounter until we would reach the Mandan villages some weeks hence, and we strove to observe and record their customs and practices since they may be the first that a more substantial settling party may meet in the coming years.
The tribes last nite were of two different families or sects, but they spoke in similar tongues. They had different animal costumes in which they paraded and preened. One group had adopted the donkey or ass as their theme; the other an elefant. This was curious in itself since the elefant is not, as far as I have able to research, native to this region.
Both groups, or tribes, were initially unwilling to talk except among themselves except to murmur or gesticulat without much substance. They were not interested in beads or trinkets at all, which concerned us greatly since we had brought along many such items in the hope of initiating good relations. Finally, somewhat by accident, we discover'd that both these tribes were very enamour'd with our national currency, although I have no idea where they might hope to spend it. And they took great delite in their own game of running to each of us and poking in our pockets in the hope of finding still more of our money.
We shared a little of our medicinal whiskey and that too pleased them greatly, As the evening wore on we found that the two tribes were less hostile to each other. At points they even traded garb, the donkeys cavorting like elefants and vice versa. The entire episode seemed to be choreograffed to some extent by yet a third group that remained hidden in the bushes. We found later that this third group was the most powerful in this region. They were called the "Guchis" and we later learned a small ravine was named after them — "Guchi Gulch." I believe among themselves they are known as the Lobbyist tribe.
We learned that these groups camp at this location from January to May and at other times of the year they disperse to parts unknown. The only exception is a small group of ten called the "Council" which stays through the year, meeting twice monthly at a place they call "the Council Chambers." We were told these meetings are sometimes very lively as well. There is a chief of this council, but they look upon him as a figurehead only and somewhat of a nuisance. He appears at ceremonial events and welcomes visiting tribes. He is charged with keeping the council meetings orderly, but I sense that he has not been very successful in that regard, and in truth this disorder is not something the Council seems at all concern'd about. They accept it as part of the ritual.
I will close now as we pack our camp and continue our journie. I would like to state, however, this site seems particularly suited to become a place of commerce and communication in light of the experience of last night with these three tribes and the Council of locals. Although we will likely see many interesting places in the coming weeks and months, I suggest with all humility and respect that this site may be one aptly named after you, sir. It could become a seat of government for whatever territory or protectorate you deem appropriate after we fully recount to you our findings about the lands recently purchased at your insistence from France.
As I lay awake at night some times so far from the civility of home and your routine encouragment, and soberd by the uncertainie of our task, I dare to wonder whether perhaps one or even two hundred years from now your statue, and daresay even Captain Clark's and mine, might appear somewhere admidst these scenic bluffs — a memorial to your visionary leadership and our meagr efforts on your behalf.
It is now daybreak and we will continue our westward corse. The weather is fair and we should make good time. The men are in good spirits.
With stedfast devotion to your service, I am, humbly,