Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Index Inside the Corps The Native Americans The Archive Living History Into the Unknown Forum with Ken Burns Classroom Resources Related Products Interactive Trail Map Search Lewis and Clark navigation Introduction The Corps To Equip an Expedition Circa 1803 Lewis and Clark navigation
 
Newfoundland Dog
Newfoundland Dog

In preparing for the expedition, Lewis visited President Jefferson’s scientific friends in Philadelphia for instructions in natural sciences, astronomical navigation and field medicine. It is believed that it was during this period that Lewis, for “20$” purchased Seaman, his “dogg of the newfoundland breed” to accompany him to the Pacific.

Although Lewis left unsaid his reason for selecting a Newfoundland, he may have been impressed with the breed of dog first publicized in British Quadrupeds, a 1790 work authored by Sir Thomas Bewick. Honoring its place of origin, the breed was appropriately named Newfoundland. Lewis may have been influenced in selecting Seaman by the breed’s reputation of size, strength and swimming abilities, together with Bewick’s mention of “the great sagacity of this new member of the dog world.” Bewick accompanied his commentary with an engraving that represented the breed as black and white, later to be known as a Landseer.

The dog is mentioned frequently in the journals, including Lewis’s praise of the “sagacity” of Seaman, but nowhere in any of the explorers’ original manuscript journals is the color of Lewis’s dog given. Nevertheless, scholarly and fictional post-expedition literature alike mention the dog unequivocally as “black.” It is uncertain when today’s preferred solid colors of Newfoundlands were developed.

In 1916, the dog’s name, Seaman, through historian error in deciphering the journalists’ poorly formed words in their longhand manuscript journals, resulted in the popular but erroneous name, Scannon. It was not until 1987 when the late Donald Jackson, a leading research historian, published his documentary findings in his Among the Sleeping Giants that the dog’s name was proved rightly to be Seaman. This matter is treated in detail under Captain Lewis’s journal entry for July 5, 1806, below.

The dog appears in Captain Meriwether Lewis’s journal virtually from the outset of the explorer’s departure from Pittsburgh, August 30, 1803. Navigating down the Ohio River, Lewis, wrote on September 11, “[T]he squirrell appears in great abundance on either side of the river. I made my dog take as many each day as I had occasion for, they wer fat and I thought them when fryed a pleasent food.” On November 16, near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, Lewis mentioned that an encampment of Shawnee and Delaware Indians were encountered. “[O]ne of the Shawnees a respectable looking Indian offered me three beverskins for my dog with which he appeared much pleased...I prised much for his docility and qualifications generally for my journey and of course there was no bargain.”

The dog is not listed in the roster of the party that embarked up the Missouri River from its 1803-1804 winter staging area at Camp Dubois, May 14, 1804. The only documentary clue that he was present at the time is contained in an existing scrap of an interleaf page, preceding the May 14, 1804 ,first entry in Sergeant Charles Floyd’s tattered longhand journal. The note states cryptically, “[O]ur dog”

Seaman next appears in Captain Clark’s journal entry dated August 25, 1804, “Capt Lewis & my Self Concluded to go and See the Mound which was viewed with Such turrow [terror] by all the different Nations in this quarter...which the Indians Call Mountain of little people or Spirits . . . at six miles our Dog was So Heeted & fatigued we was obliged Send him back to the Creek.”

The dog was not mentioned during the Fort Mandan winter. He next enters the scenario on April 22, 1805, during the continuation of the Pacific bound explorers. Lewis recorded: “[W]alking on shore this evening I met with a buffaloe calf which attached itself to me and continued to follow close at my heels untill I embarked [board a boat] and left it. it appeared allarmed at my dog which was probably the cause of it’s so readily attaching itself to me.” April 25, Lewis expressed his attachment to Seaman. “We set out at an early hour. the water friezed on the oars this morning as the men rowed...my dog had been absent during the last night, and I was fearfull we had lost him altogether, however, much to my satisfaction he joined us at 8 Oclock this morning.”

On May 19, Lewis had more cause for concern over his dog: “One of the party wounded a beaver, and my dog as usual swam in to catch it; the beaver bit him through the hind leg and cut the artery; it was with great difficulty that I could stop the blood; I fear it will yet prove fatal to him.”

Fortunately, Seaman regained his vigor rapidly. Ten days later, on May 29, he was performing guard duty. Clark wrote: “In the last night we were alarmed by a Buffalow which Swam from the opposit Shore landed [by] the Perogue [next to the tipi] in which Capt Lewis & my Self were [sleeping]...and Crossed the perogue...our Dog flew out & he changed his course & passed without doeing more damage than bend a rifle & brakeing hir Stock and injureying one of the blunder busts in the perogue as he passed through.”

On June 27, while the explorers were portaging 18 miles overland around the Great Falls of the Missouri, Lewis wrote that “a bear came within thirty yards of our camp last night and eat up about thirty weight of buffaloe suit [suet] which was hanging on a pole. my dog seems to be in a constant state of alarm with these bear and keeps barking all night.”

On July 15, beyond the falls, Seaman’s strength as a swimmer was demonstrated. Lewis recorded that “Dreywer [Drouillard] wounded a deer which ran into the river. my dog pursued caught it drowned it and brought it to shore at our camp.” On July 26, Lewis wrote that the party encountered a “...species of grass, the dry seeds of which are armed with a barb [that] penetrate our mockersins and leather legings and give us great pain untill they are removed. my poor dog suffers with them excessively, he is constantly binting and scratching himself in a rack of pain.”

By August 17, the explorers had reached the Missouri system’s upper limit of navigation on a tributary they named “Jefferson’s River, in honor of that illustrious personage, Thomas Jefferson, the author of our enterprise.” Lewis, with three of his men, had crossed the Continental Divide at modern Lemhi Pass, and made contact with Sacagawea’s people, identified today as the Lemhi Shoshoni. At a site they named “Camp Fortunate,” they assembled the Indians, and opened discussions to trade for horses and obtain a guide to pass through the Rocky and Bitterroot Mountains. Lewis remarked, “[E]very article about us appeared to excite astonishment in ther minds; the apperance of the men, their arms, the canoes, our manner of working them, the black man york and the segacity of my dog.”

Between August 17, 1805, and July 5, 1806, the journals are silent as to the activities of Seaman, even over the 1805-1806 Fort Clatsop winter. During the return journey, Lewis, enroute to the Great Falls of the Missouri, explored a shortcut that the captains had learned about from Indians. Lewis’ route would extend from near modern Missoula, Montana, east through the Continental Divide of the Rockies at present Lewis and Clark pass, then on to the falls. On July 5 he “saw two swan in this beautiful Creek...” and proceeded on “3 miles to the entrance of a large creek 20 yds. wide [which I] Called Seamans’ Creek.”

In discovering this spelling of the dog’s name, Dr. Jackson, commenting in his book, Among the Sleeping Giants, wrote: “No person named Seaman is known to have been associated with the lives of either captain, and as a common term the word seems strangely nautical in view of its location. When it became necessary for Lewis and Clark to name a creek, river, or other geographical feature, they were predictably direct and simple in their choices...They usually went straight to the heart of the matter and chose a sound, reasonable name for the simplest of reasons: to commemorate a member or sponsor of the expedition.”

“It occurred to me that the name might be a garbled version of Scannon’s Creek, in honor of the faithful dog. The dog had been with Lewis on that side trip, and no geographical feature had yet been named for him during the entire expedition. I consulted microcopies of the journals held by the American Philosophical Society, half suspecting I would find that Seaman’s Creek was actually Scannon’s Creek. What I learned instead was mildly startling. The stream was named Seaman’s Creek because the dog’s name was Seaman.” Today, the stream is named Monture Creek.

Proceeding on to the Great Falls, Lewis remarked on July 7, “Reubin Fields wounded a moos deer this morning near our camp. my dog much worried.” On July 15, Lewis recorded the last words to be found the journals concerning Seaman. “[T]he musquetoes continue to infest us in such manner that we can scarcely exist; for my own part I am confined by them to my bier at least 3/4 th of the time. my dog even howls with the torture he experiences from them.” It is unclear whether Seaman traveled the last leg of the journey down the Missouri River to St. Louis. No post-expedition primary documentation has been found linking a Newfoundland dog to the exploring enterprise.


  GM