A Handsome Situation

It must have been the morning of June 3, 1805, as they stood on the point west of Maria's River, looking over the land, that the two captains agreed the promontory opposite them would make "a proper and handsome situation" for a trading post. On his sketch-map of the vicinity, Clark made note of it for future reference.

But why did they even bother with the thought, since they had no evidence that any Indians—at least none they had talked to—seemed to know of the place? Simply because they were routinely observant, and in topographic terms alone this appeared to be a prime location.

Thirteen months later, Lewis was to capitalize on the idea. Returning to Maria's River for a second and more extensive look, he and his three companions had an "interview" one evening with eight Piegan men. That was 195 miles upstream on the south fork of the Marias, now known as the Two Medicine River. On the defensive, but still in possession of his diplomatic savvy, he allowed himself the advantage of a couple of little white lies.

I told these people...that I had come in surch of them in order to prevail on them to be at peace with their neighbours particularly those on the West side of the mountains and to engage them to come and trade with me when the establishment is made at the entrance of this river.

The first attempt to build a post at the mouth of the Marias was made in 1831, at the height of the fur-trade era. The last attempt was made in 1866, when Missouri River commerce was at its peak.