Progress in Kansas

First Fourth of July
Celebration in Kansas
132 Years Ago

by Harold C. Place

     IT was 132 years ago that the first Fourth of July celebration occurred in Kansas. The date was 1804 or 57 years before Kansas was admitted to statehood; the location, in what is now Atchison county; the participants, members of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition.

     History records that it was a very quiet and very informal observance of the nation's birthday. Even so, it was accompanied by the ceremonial booming of firearms; was featured by the naming of two creeks in honor of the day; and, ironically enough, in view of the state's later prohibition tendencies, was made the occasion for a special issue of an extra ration of whiskey to each member of the party.

     The Lewis and Clark expediion followed quickly on the heels of the Louisiana Purchase. Headed by Captain Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, it was dispatched by President Jefferson for the purpose of securing added information about the government's newly acquired domain; finding the sources of the Missouri river and a route to the Pacific; the possibility of commerce with the Indians and their background; and, to establish the claims of the United States to the West. The party left St. Louis on May 14, 1804. It required a month and 12 days to reach the mouth of the Kansas river, arrival there being on June 26. Here, three days later, on an angle of land at the juncture of the Missouri and Kansas rivers where a part of Kansas City, Kansas, now stands, the first Kansas court was held -- indeed, the first American Court in the Missouri Valley.

     The culprit was John Collins who was charged with deserting sentry duty, while 43 members of the expedition slept on the night of June 28, and getting drunk, along with a fellow soldier, Hugh Hall, on the party's whiskey supply. He was tried by a jury of his companions, found guilty and sentenced to 100 lashes on the bare back. Hall, likewise found guilty, was sentenced to 50 lashes. Both penalties were carried out on the afternoon of the 29th.

     While camped at this point on Kansas soil the journals of the party record that wild game was plentiful including deer, wolves, and wild fowl of all descriptions. Measurements revealed the Kansas river here as 340 1/4 yards wide and the Missouri, 500 yards wide.

     Proceeding north, the expedition reached Kickapoo Island on July 2. Here, on the west bank of the river an old Kansas Indian Village was discovered and, about a mile inland, the remains of a French fort, although no record has ever been fournd of the existence of the fort. It was undoubtedly the first trading post in Kansas history.

     The morning of July 4 found the party in what is now Atchison county. The day opened with a gun salute and ended in the same manner. Early in the day the expedition landed on the site of the present city of Atchison at the mouth of a stream, which they named Fourth of July Creek. A few hours later the party camped on the site of the present town of Doniphan within 30 yards of a stream which they called Independence Creek, a name it still bears. Here, each man was issued an "extra gill of whiskey" in recognition of the day.

     At Doniphan they found the remains of another old Kansas Indian Village and the journals praise the diversified scenery of the northeastern section of the state.

     The Lewis and Clark party passed beyond the northern boundary of Kansas on July 11, after spending 15 days exporing the west bank of the Missouri river and, says one authority, "its record was the beginning of Kansas history so far as official records are concerned."

From A Journal of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

     USSURED in the day by a discharge of one shot from our Bow piece, proceeded on, passed the Mouth of a (1) Bayeau l(e)ading from a large Lake on the S. S. which has the appearance of being once the bend of the river and reaches parrelel for Several Miles. Came to on the L. S. to refresh ourselves and Jos. Fields got bit by a Snake, which was quickly doctored with Bark by Captain Lewis*. (2) Passed a creek 12 yds. wide on L. S. comeing out of an extensive Prarie reching within 200 yards of the river, as this Creek has no name, and this being the 4th of July the day of the Independence of the U. S. call it 4th of July 1804 Creek, we dined (on Corn) Capt. Lewis walked on Shore above this Creek and discovered a high Mound from the top of which he had an extensive View , 3 paths Concentering at the Mound. Saw great numbers of Goslings to day which Were nearly grown, the before mentioned Lake is Clear and contain great quantities of fish and Gees and Goslings. The great quantity of the fowl in this Lake induced me to Call it the Gosling Lake, a small Creek and several Springs run in to the Lake on the East side from the hills the land on that Side verry good. (3) We came to an champed in the lower edge of a Plain where the 2d. old Kanzas village formerly Stood, above the mouth of a Creek 30 yds. wide this Creek we call Creek Independence as we approached this place the Prarie had a most butifull appearance Hills and Valies interspsd. with Coops (Copses) of Timber gave a pleasing deversity to the Senery. the right fork of Creek Independence Meandering thro; the Middle of the Plain a point of high Land near the river givs an ellivated Situation. at this place the Kanzas Indians formerly lived, this Town appears to have covd. a large Space, the Nation must have been noumerous at the time they lived here, the cause of their moveing to the Kanzas River, I have never heard, nor can I learn; war with their neghbors must have reduced this nation and Compelled them to retire to a Situation in the plains better Calculated for their defence, and one where they may make use of their horses with good effect, in persueing their enemy, we closed the (day) by a Descharge from our bow piece, an extra Gill of whiskey.

*A poultice of bark and gunpowder was sufficient to cure the wound.

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