York in the Journals

References to York in The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, ed. Gary Moulton (12 vols., Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983–99. (most duplicate entries omitted):

1804: Camp River Dubois to Fort Mandan

Proud Hunter

york as a hunter on the expedition

© 2000 Michael Haynes

York is depicted here as a proud hunter during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Clark, in his journal entry for August 24, 1804, recorded that he carried a small deer on his back and killed another one for the stew pot.

York is dressed primarily in civilian clothing typically work by hunters of the era. His buckskin breeches are left open at the knees, a look often shown in contemporary prints. Woolen stockings (dyed green) protect his legs from briers and insects, as do his tarred linen gaiters. He wears one piece center seam deerskin moccasins, the nearly universal footwear of the expedition by this point in the journey. His civilian "round hat" has obviously seen much use, whereas his elegant crimson est is edged with silver, and evident hand-me-down from his master. His shirt of white linen has a replacement collar button of deer's antler. York carries a 1792 contract rifle, one of the weapons issued by the U.S. Army to the enlisted men on the expedition.

—Michael Haynes

April 7, 1804, Clark [at Camp River Dubois]:

"Set out at 7 oClock in a Canoo with Cap Lewis my servant york, & one man    at ½ past 10 arrived at St. Louis, Dressed & Dined with Capt Stoddard, & about 50 Gentlemen, a Ball Succeeded, which lasted untill 9 oClock on Sunday. no business to day—"

June 5, 1804, Clark:

"York Swam to the Isd. to pick greens, and Swam back with his greens"

June 20, 1804, Clark:

"York verry near looseing his Eyes by one of the men throwing Sand at him in fun & recved into his eyes—"

August 19, 1804, Clark:

[Floyd is sick] "nature appear exosting fast in him     every man is attentive to him <york prlly> [York principally?]"

August 24, 1804, Clark:

"I killed a Deer which york Packed on his back     In the evening I Killed two Buck Elk and wounded two others which I could not pursue by the Blood as my ball was So Small . . . to bleed them well, my boys each Shot an elk—" [Note: Moulton says, 506n "The first of several indications that York, in spite of his status as a slave, carried a gun."]

August 25, 1804, Clark:

"This morning Capt Lewis & my Self G D. Sjt. Ouderway Shields J. Fields colter Bratten Cane Labeeche corp Wovington Frasure & York Set out to Visit this mountain of evel Spirits." [Spirit Mound, Clay County, South Dakota. See August 24, 1804] . . . we returned to the boat at Sunset, my Servent nearly exosted with heat thurst and fatigue, he being fat and un accustomed to walk as fast as I went was the Cause—"

September 9 1804, Clark:

"Derected my Servent York with me to kill a Buffalow near the boat from a number. then Scattered on the plains . . . . I Kiled a Buffalow     Y. [York] 2"

September 19, 1804, Clark:

"I Killed a fat Buffalow Cow, and a fat Buck elk, york my Servent Killed a Buck"

October 9, 1804, Clark:

"the Indians much astonished at my Black Servent and Call him the big medison, this nation never Saw a black man before"

October 10, 1804, Clark:

"the Inds. much astonished at my black Servent, who made him Self more turrible in thier view than I wished him to Doe as I am told telling them that before I cought him he was wild & lived upon people, young children was verry good eating    Showed them his Strength &c. &c.—"

October 15, 1804, Clark:

"Those people are much pleased with my black Servant—"

October 15, 1804, Ordway:

"the Greatest Curiosity to them was York Capt. Clarks Black Man. all the nation made a Great deal of him. the children would follow after him, & if he turned towards them they would run from him & hollow as if they were terreyfied, & afraid of him."

October 18, 1804, Clark:

"we made up the presents and entertained Several of the Curious Cheifs whome, wished to See the Boat which was verry Curious to them viewing it as great medison [Note: (whatever is mysterious or unintelligible is called great medicine)] as they also viewed my black Servent."

October 26, 1804, Clark:

"they appeared delighted with the Steel Mill which we were obliged to use, also with my black Servent"

December 8, 1804, Clark:

"This day being Cold Several men returned a little frost bit; one of men with his feet badly frost bit     my Servents feet also frosted & his P—s a little."

December 26, 1804, Clark:

"Corpl White house & York Comce [commenced] sawing with the whip Saws—"

1805: Fort Mandan to Fort Clatsop

January 1, 1805, Clark:

"I ordered my black Servent to Dance which amused the Croud verry much, and Some what astonished them, that So large a man Should be active &c."

January 20, 1805, Clark:

"a miss understanding took place between the two inturpeters on account of their Squars, one of the Squars of Shabownes Squars being Sick, I ordered my Servent to, give her Some froot Stewed and tee at dift Tims which was the Cause of the misundstd."

May 29, 1805, Lewis:

"The next morning we found that the buffaloe in passing the perogue had trodden on a rifle, which belonged to Capt. Clark's black man, who had negligently left her in the perogue, the rifle was much bent, he had also broken the spindle, pivit, and shattered the stock of one of the bluntderbushes on board"

June 3, 1805, Lewis:

"Capt. Clark also selected Reubin & Joseph Fields, Sergt. Gass, Shannon and his black man York, to accompany him."

June 4, 1805, Clark:

"those who accompanied me were Serjt. Gass Jos: & Ruben Fields G. Shannon & my black man York, and we Set out to examine the South fork,"

June 22, 1805, Ordway:

"large gangs of buffalow all around the lower Camp to day.    one gang Swam the river near the camp    Capt. Clarks Servant York killed one of them"

June 29, 1805, Clark:

"Sarbono lost his gun shot pouch, horn, tomahawk, and my wiping rod; Capt. Clark his Umbrella and compas or circumferenter. they fortunately arrived on the plain safe, where they found the black man, York, in surch of them; york had seperated from them a little while before the storm, in pursuit of some buffaloe and had not seen them enter the rivene; when this gust came on he returned in surch of them & not being able to find them for some time was much allarmed."

July 7, 1805, Lewis:

Capt. "Clarks black man York is very unwell today and he gave him a doze of tartar emetic which operated very well and he was much better in the evening. this is a discription of medecine that I nevr have recourse to in my practice except in cases of the intermittent fever."

July 7, 1805, Clark:

"my man York Sick, I give him a dosh of Tarter."

July 18, 1805, Lewis:

"we thought it better for one of us either Capt. C. or myself to take a small party & proceed on up the river, some distance before the canoes, in order to discover them, should they be on the river before the daily discharge of our guns, which was necessary ij procuring subsistence for the party, should allarm and cause them to retrest to the mountains and conceal themselves, supposing us to be thenir enemies who visit them usually by the way of this river. accordingly, Capt. Clark set out this morning after breakfast with Joseph Fields, Pots and his servant York."

July 18, 1805, Gass:

"In the forenoon we passed two small creeks on the north side, and in the afternoon a small river on the same side; above the mouth of which we got a deer skin, that Captain Clarke's man had hung up."

Clark's map:

"Yorks 8 Islands . . . [Broadwater County, south of Townsend" (see Atlas map 63).

August 16, 1805 (on Beaverhead), Lewis:

"some of the party had also told the Indians that we had a man with us who was black and had short curling hair, this had excited their curiossity very much. and they seemed quite as anxious to see this monster as they wer the merchandize which we had to barter for their horses."

August 17, 1805, Lewis:

"every article about us appeared to excite astonishment in their minds; the appearance of the men, their arms, the canoes, our manner of working them, the back man york and the segacity of my dog were equally objects of admiration."

September 1, 1805, Gass:

"About the middle of the day Capt. Clarke's blackman's feet became so sore that he had to ride on horseback."

October 26, 1805, Clark:

"They deturmined to Stay with us all night, we had a fire made for them & one played on the violin which pleased them much     my Servent danced—"

November 16, 1805, Clark:

"my Servt. York killed 2 Geese & 8 white, black and Speckle Brants"

"my man York killed 2 geese and 8 Brant, 3 of them white with a part of their wings black and much larger than the Grey brant which is a Sise larger than a Duck."

November 17, 1805, Clark:

"the following men expressed a wish to accompany me i'e' . . . Shabono & my Servant York."

November 18, 1805, Clark:

"I Set out with 10 men and my man York to the Ocian by land."

November 24, 1805, Clark:

York voted to "Examn other side; lookout [look up river for camp site]; Sacagawea got a vote also."

December 2, 1805, Clark:

"I despatched 3 men to hunt and 2 and my Servent in a Canoe to a Creek above to try & Catch Some fish"

"I Send out three men to hunt & 2 & my man york in a Canoe up the Ke-ke-mar-que Creek in Serch of fish and fowl"

December 7, 1805, Clark:

"york was left behind by Some accident which detained us Some time eer he Came up"

"here all the party of Serjt Pryors joined us except my man york, who had Stoped to rite his load and missed his way."

December  7, 1805, Ordway:

"the men who had been out to take care of the meat joined us with 4 Elk hides but no meat    the distance so great and the weather so bad that they brought no meat. Capt. Clarks servant did not come up with the rest. Capt. Clark Stayed with one canoe and waited for him a Short time"

December 14, 1805, Clark:

"my man York Sick with Cholick & gripeing"

December 22, 1805, Clark:

"Sergt. ordway, Gibson & my Servent Sick"

December 28, 1805, Clark:

"my boy york verry unwell from violent Colds & Strains Carrying in meet and lifting logs on the huts to build them"

December 29, 1805, Clark:

"My Servent better"

"my man Y. [York] better."

1806: Fort Clatsop to St. Louis

Fort Clatsop Miscellany, Clark:

"to Yorks 8 Islands . . . 2768 miles to mouth of Missouri. "W C on land     York tired"—

Weather remarks for March 7, 1806:

"a bird of a scarlet colour as large as a common pheasant with a long tail has returned, one of them was seen today near the fort by Capt. Clark's black man, I could not obtain a view of it myself."

April 2, 1806, Clark:

"I deturmined to take a Small party and return to this river [the Willamette] and examine its Size and Collect as much information of the nativs on it or near its enterance into the Columkbia of its extent, the Country which it waters and the nativs who inhabit its banks &c. I took with me Six men . . . . & my man York in a large Canoe, with an Indian whome I hired for a Sun glass to accompany me as a pilot."

May 15, 1806, at Camp Chopunnish, Clark:

"Howard and York are allicted with the cholic."

"Frazur Jo. Fields and Peter Wizer Complain of a violent pain in their heads. Howard and York with violent Cholicks. the Cause of those disorders we are unable to account for. their diet and the Sudin Change of Climate must contribute"

May 26, 1806, at Camp Chopunnish, Clark:

"we permitted Sergt. Pryor and four men to pass the river tomorrow morning with a view to visit this village     we also directed Charbono York and Lepage to set out early for the same place and procure us some roots."

"we also directed Shabono & york to proceed on to the Same Village and precure Some roots for our Selves if possible"

May 27, 1806, Clark:

"Shabono Lapage & Yourk whome we had Sent to purchase roots for ourselves remained at the Village all night."

May 28, 1806, Lewis:

"at Noon Charbono, York and Lapage returned; they had obtained four bags of the dryed roots of Cows and some bread."

June 2, 1806, Lewis:

"Our traders McNeal and York were furnished with the buttons which Capt. C. and myself cut off our coats, some eye water and Basilicon which we made for that purpose and some Phials and small tin boxes which I had brought out with Phosporus. in the evening they returned with about 3 bushels of roots and some bread having made a suffessfull voyage, not much less pleasing to us than the retur of a good cargo to an East India Merchant.—"

July 1, 1806, Lewis:

[From the Three Forks] Capt C., with the remaining ten including Charbono and York will proceed to the Yellowstone river at it's nearest approach to the three forks of the missouri, here he will build a canoe and decend the Yellowstone river with Charbono the indian woman, his servant York and five others to the Missouri where should he arrive first he will wait my arrival.

Weather Remarks for July 14, 1806, Clark:

"Saw a Tobaco worm shown me by York [hornworm]"

July 20, 1806, Clark:

"Shields killed a Deer & Buffalow & Shannon a faun and a Buffalow & York an Elk"

July 24, 1806, Clark:

"my man York killed a Buffalow Bull, as he informed me for his tongue and marrow bones."

July 30, 1806, "Clark:

. . . a river which is nearly dry . . . its Chanel is 88 yards and in this there is not more water than could pass through an inch auger hole. I call it Yorks dry R. [Custer Creek]"

August 3, 1806, Clark:

The distance from the Rocky Mountains at which place I struck the River Rochejohne to its enterance into the Missouri 837 Miles 636 Miles of this distance I decended in 2 Small Canoes lashed together in which I had the following Persons, John Shields, Geoirge Gibson, William Bratten, W. Labeech, Toust. Shabono his wife & child & my man York."