December 24, 2008

Christmas with Lewis and Clark

by Susan Page Davis

As I look out the window this morning and see powdery snow falling thick and fast, I’m extremely thankful for my warm home and loving family all around me. What was Christmas like for the ultimate pioneers—those who paved the way westward? Let me share with you how Lewis and Clark spent Christmas in 1805. This excerpt is taken from The Journals of Lewis and Clark, edited by Bernard do Voto.

William Clark wrote in his journal on December 25 at Fort Clatsop, the little log garrison the party had erected on the Oregon coast:

“At daylight this morning we [were] awoke by the discharge of the fire arm[s] of all our party & a Selute [salute], Shouts and a Song which the whole party joined in under our windows, after which they retired to their rooms

“were chearfull all morning. After brackfast we divided our Tobacco which amounted to 12 carrots one half of which we gave to the men of our party who used tobacco [a note says the rest was saved for trading purposes], and to those who doe not use it we make a present of a handkerchief. The Indians leave us in the evening

“all of the party snugly fixed in their huts. I recvd a presnt of Capt. L. of a fleece hosrie [hosiery] Shirt Draw and Socks, a pr. Mockersons of Whitehouse a Small Indian basket of Gutherich, two Dozen white weazils tails of the Indian woman, & some black root of the Indians before their departure. Drewyer informs me that he saw a Snake pass across the path today. The day proved Showerey wet and disagreeable.

“we would have spent this day the nativity of Christ in feasting, had we any thing either to raise our Sperits or even gratify our appetites, our Diner concisted of pore Elk, so much Spoiled that we eate it thro’ mear necessity, Some Spoiled pounded fish and a fiew roots.”

And that’s not all, folks. Wet, cold rain blew in and soaked everything from blankets to powder horns that night, and Clark reported that the fleas were so bad he had hardly slept in two nights. Another trial: “hut smokes very bad.” They were still constructing Fort Clatsop during this time. The stockade was fifty feet square, with a row of three log cabins facing another row of four, and a “parade ground” twenty feet wide between them. It rained every day while they built it, but they finished at last on January 1, 1806.

So be thankful for your warm, dry, flealess beds, for the gifts under your tree, for the plentiful “diner” on your Christmas table.

Here’s my question for today: What is the name of my New Hampshire historical series, now available from Heartsong Presents?

You can find the answer on my Web site: Leave your answer here in your comment, with a way to contact you, and you may win a copy of my three-book collection, Wyoming Brides.

While you’re at my site, sign up for my monthly drawing over there, too. You may win something to distract you from the spoiled elk meat and fleas!


Maureen said...

I believe the answer is White Mountain Brides. Merry Christmas!

Barbara said...

Thanks Susan for reminding us how much we have to be thankful. As you shared the conditions in 1805 for Lewis and Clark, it just got worse and worse, and then the fleas showed up, yuke!

White Mountain Brides is the answer to the question, I think.
Merry Christmas

Cheri2628 said...

White Mountain Brides

I enjoyed your interesting article. It makes me doubly glad for the Christmases that I have had!


Molly Noble Bull said...

Thanks for great info on Lewis and Clark. They were such manly men, and they were real -- not fictional.

Sylvia said...

White Mountain Brides is the name of this series. I have never read any of your Heartsong Presents novels, but have read Frasier Island and Finding Marie. These were both good books.

Vickie McDonough said...

I'm scratching just thinking about sleeping with fleas. We seriously don't realize how easy we have things. Thanks for helping me to realize that again.

Pamela J said...

Contests are generally hard for me, especially when I get to go search for the answer. This answer I did definitely search for, and found one place that gave me a clue in all the pages of the site. (not saying I didn't miss many places where it could have been and I didn't see) Great question, Susan!
The answer I'm going to give is:
White Mountain Brides
Pam Williams
cepjwms at wb4me dot com

Susan Page Davis said...

Thanks for coming by, ladies! Yes, personally I'm glad I live NOW, but it sure is fun learning about conditions back then! I'll pick the winner of this book tomorrow (Friday, Dec. 26).

Susan Page Davis said...

Great work, ladies! Maureen is the winner. White Mountain Brides is the series. Maureen, I'll contact you personally. Susan