|Pvt. Hugh McNeal
joined Meriwether Lewis on a scouting trip in August 1805
near Lemhi Pass, above, when he came upon the beginnings of
a stream that Lewis determined was the headwaters of the Missouri.
For a man
fortunate enough to be the first white explorer to stand astride
the headwaters of the Missouri River on the Continental Divide,
Pvt. Hugh McNeal remains a mystery outside his appearance in the
journals of Lewis and Clark.
We know that
McNeal was born in Pennsylvania and joined the permanent party
of the Corps of Discovery in 1804. On Clarks 1825-1828 "List
of Men on Lewis and Clarks Trip, McNeal is listed as deceased.
And that pretty much covers the information on McNeal outside
the expedition. Still, he appeared enough times in the captains
journals to show that he was considered a valuable member of the
stand out, though. First, Lewis chose McNeal to accompany him
in August 1805 along with John Shields and George Drouillard on
a scouting trip to find the Shoshone Indians. On Aug. 10 Lewis
named McNeals Creek, which enters todays Beaverhead
River at Dillon, MT.
On Aug. 12
Lewis wrote one of his more famous journal entries, describing
his excitement at having found the headwaters of the Missouri.
McNeal accompanied the captain and made Lewis journal: "
two miles below McNeal had exultingly stood with a foot on each
side of this little rivulet and thanked his god that he had lived
to bestride the mighty & heretofore deemed endless Missouri."
|Grizzly bears proved
dangerous and troublesome to the entire Lewis and Clark expedition.
One of the bears treed Hugh McNeal.
other claim to fame came with those troublesome grizzly bears.
On the return trip in 1806, McNeal was directed to the lower portage
camp to check on the cache. Near the Willow Run camp, McNeal surprised
a grizzly. His horse, spooked by the bear, threw McNeal. As the
bear lurched at McNeal, the private swung his musket. The stock
whacked the bear in the head, breaking the stock and stunning
the bear. McNeal used the opening to scurry up a willow tree.
McNeal eventually outwaited the bear, which left in the evening,
allowing McNeal to get on his horse and return to Lewis. As the
captain reported, "There seems to be a sertain fatality attached
to the neighbourhood of these falls, for there is always a chapter
of accedents prepared for us during our residence at them."
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