Did you catch that clue?
The blurb doesn’t say a lot about it, but Unclaimed Legacy features Lewis and Clark. I’ve always been fascinated by them partly because I knew the explorers spent the winter of 1803 at Hartford, Illinois, near where I grew up in Woodburn.
They chose that site for the camp they called Camp River Dubois, because it was near the mouth of the Missouri River, which they would ascend the next spring. The captains spent the winter laying in supplies and training their men. I decided it would be fun to let Abby “time-surf” back to see Camp River Dubois.
A reproduction of Camp River Dubois at the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site in Hartford, Illinois. I hope you’ll get the chance to visit it some day.
I loved doing the research for the book and was delighted to learn that on their way to Hartford, Lewis and Clark took a side trip to Bellefontaine, today known as Waterloo, the town where I now live—45 miles south of Hartford. It’s a small world.
I uncovered another interesting tidbit, which I included in Unclaimed Legacy. A local pioneer woman—a widow—was hired to wash clothes for the men at the camp that winter. Three of Lewis and Clark’s young soldiers were ordered to build her a wash hut. They would have rather been assigned more heroic tasks, but this was punishment for sneaking off to get drunk. (The local population was fewer than 100 and yet they already had a liquor store! )
I learned lots of other interesting things about about Lewis and Clark’s time in the Illinois country that I won’t get into now. History buffs may read more about it HERE.
Lewis and Clark took along Peace medals with Jefferson’s image to give to Indian chiefs as a good will gesture. (This is a huge clue in Unclaimed Legacy, so pay attention.)
Two Historical Loopholes
I didn’t want to write about any of the actual heroes of the Expedition. It would be too easy to get it wrong, and besides, others have already written about them. And I didn’t think it would be fair to invent an explorer if the historians were definite about the Expedition roster. And so I was happy to discover that historians do not know exactly how many men went on the trip.
“Even after assembling all the military records and journals, and with diligent work of historians, there never has been a precise roster of the full company that traveled from the Illinois country to Fort Mandan.” –Robert Hartley
Experts also don’t know how many of the men kept journals of their experiences. Everyone knows about the Lewis and Clark journals, but according to historian Robert Hartley, President Jefferson encouraged all the men to keep journals. And we know that least six members did.
So there. It could have happened!
Knowing these two historical loopholes, I felt like I had permission to invent my hero Nathan Buchanan, son of the Camp River Dubois washer woman. And without giving away the whole story, let me just say that Abby and her friends discover some artifacts while they’re “time-surfing” that Nathan Buchanan left behind—an unclaimed legacy, as it were.
I was born not far from the setting of Every Hill and Mountain and grew up “just down the road” from the setting of Time and Again and Unclaimed Legacy. Today I live with my husband in Waterloo, Illinois, where I enjoy reading, gardening, and learning about regional history. We have three grown children, four grandchildren, and two canine buddies Digger and Scout. I love to interact with my readers, so please leave comments on any of the blog posts.