Withington Creek Camp

Lemhi Valley

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clark's withington creek campsite

© 2001 Airphoto, Jim Wark. All rights reserved.

The azimuth of this cloud-dappled scene is 183° from true north, or three degrees west of south.

Lewis was still at Camp Fortunate at the Forks of the Jefferson on 20 August, directing the digging of a cache and the making of packs and pack-saddles for the portage across the divide. Meanwhile, Clark and his contingent of eleven men including Charbonneau, plus Sacagawea, Jean Baptiste, and a few Shoshones, left their camp on Pattee Creek, crossed the Lemhi River and headed toward the Salmon River, to see whether it was as bad as Cameahwait had said.

Sergeant Gass was among the eleven men in Clark's contingent who had spent the night of the 19th on Pattee Creek. He was stunned by his first impression of the upper Shoshone village near today's settlement of Tendoy, Idaho.

A fine cool frosty morning. We set out early and travelled about 4 miles, to a village of the Indians on the bank of a branch of the Columbia river, about ten yards and very rapid.1 At this place there are about 25 lodges made of willow bushes. they are the poorest and most miserable nation I ever beheld; having scarcely any thing to subsist on, except berries and a few fish, which they contrive by some means, to take. They have a great many fine horses, and nothing more; and on account of these they are much harassed by other nations.

Clark's slant on the Shoshones' plight was less emotional than Gass's, and his discussions with them focused on more businesslike matters.

I was introduced to the only Lodge they had which was pitched in the Center for my party all the other Lodges made of bushes, after a fiew Indian Seremonies I informed the Indians the object of our journey our good intentions towards them my consern for their distressed Situation, what we had done for them in makeing a piece with the Minitarras Mandans Rickara &c. for them —. and requested them all to take over their horses & assist Capt Leiwis across &c. also informeing them the o[b]ject of my journey down the river and requested a guide to accompany me, all of which was repeited by the Chief to the whole village.

Those pore people Could only raise a Sammon & a little dried Choke Cherris for us

They asked the Indians for travel advice, wrote Gass, and were given "very unfavourable accounts with respect to the rivers," so it seemed they would most likely have to thread their way through the mountains by land. But Clark preferred to see for himself, so he hired a guide, a man known to history only as Old Toby.2

After giving them "a fiew Small articles as presents" he and his men went on down the river, crossed back to the east side of the valley, and "encamped on a small run"—possibly today's Withington Creek.

1. Missionaries of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, who settled in the valley in 1855, symbolically named the the river after King Limhi, "the son of Noah," and his people, whose history is recounted in the Book of Mosiah, of the Book of Mormon. The river originates in the Lemhi Mountains near Gilmore, Idaho, at abou the 7,000-foot elevation, and flows rapidly northward for 75 miles to join the Salmon River at 3,290 feet above sea level—a descent averaging almost 50 feet per mile. Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration, The Idaho Encyclopedia (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1938), 58.

2. The single reference to him by name in the journals was on 12 May 1806, when Lewis recalled, "our old guide Toby and his son each took a horse of ours when they returned last fall." One authority believes his real name was Pi-kee queen-a, or "Swooping Eagle," and that "Toby" or "Tobe," his nickname, was a contraction of Tosa-tive koo-be, meaning "furnished white [as opposed to Clark's black slave, York] white-man's brains." Lewis referred to Tobe as "an elderly man." Moulton, Journals, 5:128, 131n. John E. Rees, "The Shoshoni Contribution to Lewis and Clark," Idaho Yesterdays, 2 (Summer 1958), 11.