On May 14, 1804, two of America’s most courageous heroes, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark left St. Louis leading a group of about four dozen men to begin what was to be called the Corps of Discovery.
Following a directive by President Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis, who had served Jefferson as a secretary, was commissioned to explore the unknown territory west and north of St. Louis. Jefferson specifically challenged Lewis to find navigable waters to the mouth of the Columbia River where it met the Pacific Ocean. Jefferson made it clear that Lewis was to pave the way for further exploration and settlement of the lands recently acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. His directives included interacting with Native American tribes, determining lands which could be suitable for farming, and keeping scientific notations on animals, plants, and the terrain in each region.
Lewis contacted a valued friend and comrade who he had served with in the Army – William Clark and asked him to join him as a co-captain on this incredibly dangerous adventure.
Imagine the courage of setting out on a journey of more than 8,000 miles without a map and into unknown territories where you knew your life would, undoubtedly, be in peril.
The Corps of Discovery faced fierce challenges as the months wore on until, 18 months from the day they departed St. Louis, the explorers would finally arrive in what would become Oregon in November of 1805. The journey of Lewis & Clark did not end at the Pacific. They would not complete their journey until the return trip to St. Louis in September of 1806.
It has been widely reported that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were brave, courageous and natural leaders. They trusted each other implicitly and were respected by the men they led on this journey. One historical fact that is less known is that both Lewis and Clark were Freemasons.