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Local Members of the Corps of Discovery


Meriwether Lewis asked William Clark to "find out and engage some good hunters, stout, healthy, unmarried men, accustomed to the woods, and capable of bearing bodily fatigue in a pretty considerable degree: should any young men answering this description be found in your neighborhood I would thank you to give information of them on my arivall at the falls of the Ohio."

The nucleus of the Corps of Discovery, recruited by William Clark in Louisville, Kentucky and Clarksville, Indiana became known as the "Nine Young Men from Kentucky" even though not all of the men were from Kentucky. Lewis and Clark departed for the West from Clarksville with these first members of the Corps of Discovery on October 26, 1803.

Sergeant Charles Floyd, who was the first constable of Clarksville Township, was the only member to die on the expedition, suffering a ruptured appendix. By the fall of 1799, the Floyd family had moved from Louisville to Clarksville. In 1801, Clark County, Indiana was formed and Charles Floyd, at the young age of 18 or 19, was named the first constable of Clarksville Township, and he carried the mail between Louisville and St. Louis. He was one of the first three men to be recruited by William Clark for the expedition and entered the Army on August 1, 1803. Floyd is buried in Sioux City, Iowa, near where he died on August 20, 1804. Floyd County, Indiana bears the name of this important family.

Private John Shields, at the age of 34, was the Corps of Discovery's oldest enlisted member. Even though Lewis had earlier called for only unmarried men, Shields was married. His skills as a blacksmith, gunsmith, craftsman, and hunter were invaluable to the expedition's success. There are at least 70 references in the journals to Shields' hunting accomplishments. After the expedition, he spent a year in Missouri with Daniel Boone who was apparently related to him some way. Shields then returned to the Falls of the Ohio and settled near Corydon, perhaps being part of the Squire Boone party that located there. He died in December of 1809 and is buried in Little Flock Cemetery in Harrison County.

William Bratton became a member of the expedition to the Pacific on October 20, 1803. His family had migrated from Virginia to Kentucky around 1790. Bratton was a blacksmith, as well as gunsmith and hunter. After the expedition, Bratton lived in Kentucky, Missouri, and Ohio before settling in Indiana. He served in the War of 1812. By 1822, Bratton and his wife were in Waynetown, Indiana, and became the parents of eight sons and two daughters. In June 1824, he was appointed the first justice of the peace in Wayne Township. On November 6, 1824, he was appointed the first superintendent of schools in section 16T 20N R6 where he built a log school. He died on November 11, 1841 at the age of 63 and is buried in The Old Pioneer Cemetery at Waynetown. In April, 2002, an Indiana state historical marker was dedicated at the cemetery.

York, William Clark's slave, contributed to the success of the expedition and was the first African-American to cross what is today the United States from coast to coast, and the North American continent north of Mexico. He was born in Caroline County, Virginia where the Clarks lived at the time. He was chosen to serve as William Clark's "body servant" when he was young. York was about 11 years old when he migrated with the Clarks to Kentucky. After the expedition, York returned to his life as a slave. After repeated pleas, York was granted his freedom in 1815 when he was around 42 years old. He operated a freight service between Nashville, Tennessee and Richmond, Kentucky. When the business failed, he began traveling to St. Louis, but died in Tennessee after contracting cholera. However, one legend has York living out his years among the Crow Indians in the Rocky Mountains.

After the Expedition ended, Lewis, Clark, York and others returned to the Falls of the Ohio on November 5, 1806.