July 6, Beautiful Plain

"level beautifull plain"

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Lewis's detachment pitched camp on July 7 on the bank of Beaver Creek, two miles west of the small (pop. 1,100) town of Lincoln, Montana. Lincoln began as a mining town and stagecoach station in 1865, after the discovery of gold in nearby Abe Lincoln Gulch.

It was in Lincoln that the 20th-century outlaw, the Unabomber, Ted Kazinski, survived in virtual isolation while nursing his deep hatred of technological progress, and sowing terror nationwide for nearly eighteen years, until his capture there in 1996.

Ominous signs

The warning that their Nez Perce guides had given them on the morning of the fourth was always on their minds. Lewis and his nine men were becoming more aware by the hour that they were in hostile territory. At the western border of this "beautifull plain"--a short distance out of the photo, at left--they counted the remains of 32 Indian lodges. They were dogging the tracks of what they surmised to be a war-party of "the Minnetares of Fort de prarie," and the tracks were looking fresher by the hour. Nevertheless, they proceeded on, prepared for the worst. "We expect to meet with the Minnetares and are therefore much on our guard both day and night."

Even though they knew their guns would alert any potential foe within earshot, the hunters worked hard and bagged five deer and a beaver. The party had plenty to eat that night, and was well provisioned for the next few days. There was "much sign of beaver in this extensive bottom," and they're still fairly plentiful today.

Heading east early the next morning they saw some signs of bison in the valley not far from their camp, which showed that those herds sometimes penetrated the mountains at least a few miles. Sometime that morning Reubin Field wounded a "moos deer" near camp. Lewis remarked, "my dog much worried."


Funded in part by a grant from the Montana Cultural Trust.