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8/25/2004

The Pathfinder

Since I got started tellin’ a little of the early Ellsworth County history I figure I might as well keep going. There’s plenty to tell. We’ve gone way back to the earliest villages and worked our way up through Coronado and Bourgmont. Each of these Europeans “discovered” the people that were already living here. With the purchase of Louisiana by the United States a whole new era of exploration was set in motion. 
Lewis and Clark’s expedition in 1804 did not come anywhere near these central plains, but their mission spelled the end for the ancient culture of the Native American on the plains. Soon, that European culture would not just influence as the Spanish and French had done, but would take great strides to alter the course of history over this great sea of grass.  
Others would follow Lewis & Clark. Pike made a grand foray over the plains reporting his findings of the Great American Desert. “The Pathfinder”, John C. Fremont found an exciting land that yielded flora and fauna for his research. As he traveled toward home on his 1844 expedition he followed the Smoky Hill River undoubtedly marching along the primeval Native American footpath that became known as the Smoky Hill Trail. By this time Indians were well aware of the Europeans, but still knew little of their culture and the immeasurable number of people that were waiting to cover the land.  
A inquisitive group of Indians followed along behind Fremont’s expedition as they traveled through the central plains. A short few miles after leaving the Smoky Hill River the expedition came upon a hill standing as a solitary sentinel along the trail. Approaching the hill Fremont could see that the western slope leveled off in a way suggesting a platform or stage on which he could address these curious tribesmen. With an air of spectacle and ceremony Fremont had the Indians brought forth so that he could address them from the zenith of his “stage”. There, “The Pathfinder” addressed this “subjects” about the Great Father in Washington. He described the greatness of the European culture that was about to be bestowed upon them and introduced the concept of Christianity. I like to call it Fremont’s Sermon On The Mount. For a naïve and ancient society the end was near. 
Fremont’s Hill is stop #17 of the Kanopolis Lake Legacy Trail Self-Guided Auto Tour. You can view the brochure at http://www.nwk.usace.army.mil/kanopolis/legacy.htm/ 
So Long, 
The Cowboy 

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