Christmas Day, 1804

Ever wonder what Christmas was like for the Lewis & Clark Expedition? The Corp of Discovery spent the winter of 1804-1805 along the Missouri River in what is now North Dakota. One of the most notable events was the completion of the fort on Christmas Eve. Patrick Gass, the expedition's principal carpenter, recorded the date as such:

"Monday 24th

Some snow fell this morning; about 10 it cleared up, and the weather became pleasant. This evening we finished our fortification. Flour, dried apples, pepper and other articles were distributed in the different messes to enable them to celebrate Christmas in a proper and social manner."


Four members of the expedition wrote about Christmas Day. This excerpt is taken from the writings of John Ordway, known as the most consistent journalist of the expedition:

"Tuesday 25th Decr: 1804.

cloudy. we fired the Swivels at day break & each man fired one round. our officers Gave the party a drink of Taffee. we had the Best to eat that could be had, & continued firing dancing & froclicking dureing the whole day. the Savages did not Trouble us as we had requested them not to come as it was a Great medician day with us. we enjoyed a merry cristmas dureing the day & evening until nine oClock-all in peace & quietness."

Find more about the writings and travels of the expedition in A Vast and Open Plain by Clay Jenkinson.