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The 2013 Ozark Trail
Connector
BY STEVE COATES
OF
H
enry Rowe Schoolcraft was a pioneer
explorer of the Missouri Ozarks. In
the winter of 1818, he and Levi Pettibone
set out to explore the Ozarks and to record
what they observed. As an account of their
trip, Schoolcraft published
A View of the
Lead Mines of Missouri
in 1819 and
Journal
of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri and
Arkansaw
in 1821 to document the climate,
landscape, settlers and natives, antiquities
and natural resources.
Unlike Meriwether Lewis and Wil-
liam Clark, who were commissioned
by the U.S. government, Schoolcraft
financed his own expedition. His
exploration began on November
5, 1818 at Potosi MO. He traveled
more than 900 miles before return-
ing to Potosi on February 4, 1819.
Schoolcraft was interested in the
rivers, springs and caves of the
Ozarks. He was also searching for
commercial opportunities in lead
mining and correctly predicted the
successful expansion of lead produc-
tion in southeast Missouri.He also
described the mountains, forests
and prairies that make up this area
and the flora and fauna that inhabit-
ed the region. Schoolcraft’s detailed
reports of the Ozarks were the first
of their kind.
Along with his description of natu-
real resources, Schoolcraft created
the earliest representations of Ozarks
inhabitants. He didn’t paint a flatter-
ing picture of their “savage state,”
even though area settlers helped him
and Pettibone many times when their
supplies and hunting skills proved
inadequate. Although he wasn’t the
first European to explore the area,
Schoolcraft was the first to document
his observations in detail. Sadly, his
depiction of the people he encoun-
tered left a lasting impression.
Figure 1 – Schoolcraft’s Route (Approximate), November 8, 1818
Schoolcraft’s expedition crossed
location of the modern-day Ozark
Trail in several locations. On just the
second day of his 90-day journey, he
very likely crossed what is now the
very northern end of the Trace Creek
section near what is now Palmer
MO. Very early on the third day of
his journey, November 8
th
,
he crossed Courtois Creek and later
on that same day, he crossed Huzzah
Creek before setting up camp. A map
of his route in
this area can be
seen in Figure 1.
Over the next
several days,
Schoolcraft went
on to cross the
Meramec River
probably very
near Highway
19. He then
crossed the
Figure 2 – Schoolcraft’s Route (Approximate), N