Almost 200 years ago, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft and his travel companion Levi Pettibone set off on a walk. In the winter of 1818-1819, the two men walked and rode on horseback across 900 miles of hills and grasslands in what would soon become the state of Missouri. The landscapes they saw are - depending on who you talk with - either radically altered or barely changed.
Two years before Missouri became the 24th state in the United States, Schoolcraft walked through on his way to find lead deposits worth exploiting. He wrote about what he saw on his trip. His Ozark journal notes plants and animals and landforms he saw and walked amongst. He encountered two Osage Indian summer hunting camps abandoned for the winter. He visited no towns, because there weren't any large white settlements at that point. He found lead.
The journal Schoolcraft published about his walk is the best account we have of the state of the natural world in what was soon to become Missouri. Also, soon to come, were white settlers who brought enslaved blacks along to work their newly established farms. A logging boom brought migrants in search of work harvesting the climax forests of southern Missouri.
How these settlers changed the landscapes upon which they lived and worked is the topic of an upcoming KBIA radio series, 'The Landscapes of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft'. Thanks to a $4,000 grant from The Missouri Humanities Council and with clutch support from Missouri Life magazine, Trevor Harris is producing the three-part series. The grant funding also supports the creation of a map of Schoolcraft's route as he traversed the St. Francis, White and James River watersheds. This map - produced by historic landscape geographer and MU professor Jim Harlan - will be available as a poster at a trio of Schoolcraft-centric community events. These events are planned for Springfield on April 7, West Plains on April 9 and Potosi. The date for the Potosi event is not yet determined.
In this special series, you'll hear from a range of voices that include a native Missouri rancher, a transplanted forest activist and an intrepid Ozarks geoprapher. Starting in April, listen for the series The Landscapes of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft during Thinking Out Loud, which airs on KBIA each Tuesday evening at 6:30.