Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Utah Historical Quarterly






University of Oklahoma Press

Publication Date

Spring 2009

First Page


Last Page



WILLIAM CLARK IS BEST KNOWN for his role in the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition. Meriwether Lewis died two years after that trek-in 1808, but William Clark settled in Missouri and lived on for more than three decades, serving as Indian agent, territorial governor, and later, Superintendent of Indian Affairs at St. Louis. Post-expedition America (1806-1840) was a time when the country looked inside itself for definition, a time when starry-eyed Argonauts peered out through the misty landscape of dreams that many times cloaked fear, reality, and propriety. They looked to settlenlent in the West, where opportunities based in land ownership were facilitated by dispersal of cheap federal lands. It was an era filled with vision and enthusiasm on the part of white Americans and fraught with nightmares for Native Americans, whose land fell to white settlement. While Anglo-Americans poured over the Appalachians and into the then West, previous denizens of French and Spanish stock also struggled to hold onto land claims held by their families for almost a hundred years. The West was a mishmash of socio-political workings that at times ran silent and deep and other times hot and red on the very land itself. This was a time when Aaron Burr fomented treason in an attempt to make of the West a new, independent nation; an era in which America reasserted its will before the world by fighting Great Britain in the War of 1812; a time of growth, of the advent of steamships on her inner rivers and commerce reaching beyond the Rocky Mountains. This was a time when the antebellum South pressed to have slavery in northern territories and Black Hawk and his people, among other native tribes, fought to hold onto ancestral lands. To study the life ofWilliam Clark is to revisit all this and more.


Originally Published by the Utah State Historical Society in Utah Historical Quarterly.

PDF available for download.