Ordway's Mishap

modern painting of a large wooden boat sailing up a river

© 2001 by Michael Haynes. All rights reserved.

On June 4, 1804, William Clark recorded in his journal, "Our mast broke by the bout running under a tree." Sgt. John Ordway was more specific, "Our mast broke by my steering the boat (alone) near the shore . . . the mast got fast in a limb of a sycamore tree & broke it very easy." His readiness to accept responsibility seems to reflect the conscientious manner with which Sgt. Ordway executed all his duties—faithfully and fully.

This incident occurred very close to present-day Jefferson City, Missouri, and caused a delay as the necessary repairs were made. Clark commemorated the mishap by dubbing a small unnamed tributary they passed "Mast Creek."

Up until this emergency they seem to have been enjoying a rare moment of sailing. Usually the massive keelboat had to be poled or cordelled up the river, a feat we can only marvel at today.


Copies of this print are available direct from the artist.