History of Jefferson County
Lewis & Clark
President Thomas Jefferson had a great vision to find a principal waterway across
America for the purpose of commerce. He chose his secretary, Meriwether Lewis, to
command an army expedition, known as the Corps of Discovery. Lewis picked William Clark
to co-lead the mission. Prior to going to St. Louis to start the trip, Meriwether Lewis
was sent to Harpers Ferry for his supplies. In Harpers Ferry, he met with officials of
the federal arsenal to give them the list of items he needed to take along -- including
bullet molds and gun parts. He also had them build a collapsible boat. The staves of
the boat were attached by screws and bolts. It was intended to stick hides of animals
to the staves of the boats with the sticky sap from trees.
The boat was designed to be carried in a box to the mouth of the Missouri River and then
carried over the mountains. On the other side of the mountain, it was Lewis' intent to
reconstruct the boat. To his great disappointment, the sap of the trees in that area did
not have the stickiness of the trees in the Harpers Ferry area, and the experimental boat
failed. The men buried the boat in the ground. In his memoirs, Lewis says the failure of
his idea, the collapsible boat, was one of his biggest disappointments.
Lewis spent six weeks at Harpers Ferry while workers completed his projects. He took the
items to Pittsburgh where his boats awaited him. He then floated down the Ohio River to the
Mississippi, and then the men paddled the boats upstream to St. Louis to start the Expedition.