William Clark

Born: 1770

Birthplace: Virginia

Died: 1838


William Clark is most noted for being part of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition of the 1800s.

This group explored all of the land west of the Mississippi River and was responsible for returning to Thomas Jefferson with information, land descriptions, and a catalog of plants, animals, and Natives in the vast expanse.

The journey took the team and their crew over two years, and they covered and mapped around 8,000 miles by foot, boat, and horseback.

  • William Clark was born in 1770 in Virginia to parents who were both of English and Scottish ancestry. Clark had a large family with ten brothers and sisters. His brothers served in the American Revolutionary War. Clark was 19 when he joined the military, and it was during this time that he met and became friends with Meriwether Lewis in 1795. Clark had to leave the army the next year to take care of his family’s estate.
  • In 1803, Lewis had been offered the chance to lead an expedition across the west, and he sent his friend Clark a letter asking him if he wanted to share the command. Lewis was an experienced outdoorsman, and Clark was an experienced soldier as well as a mapmaker. Along with a few other members, the two set off in St. Louis, Missouri, to begin the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
  • The journey was incredibly treacherous as they experienced exhaustion, bad weather, hunger, and horrible never-before-seen terrain. They met a number of Native Indians on their trip and were helped out by the Mandan village their first winter. They added a Shoshone Indian named Sacagawea and her husband Toussaint Charbonneau to act as interpreters.
  • The group on the expedition was called the “Corps of Discovery,” and in 1805, they finally arrived at the Pacific Coast in what is known today as Oregon. They had a rough winter ahead of them, so they decided to build a fort for protection. They called it Fort Clatsop, and when winter was over, they started preparations for their return trip. In July, Lewis and Clark split up to see if they could find a faster route back.
  • Clark took some of the group with him to explore along the Yellowstone River. When Clark arrived at a rock formation he decided to name it after Sacagawea’s son and called it “Pompy’s Tower” This rock is in what is known today as Billings, Montana. The rock has the only trace that Clark was ever there with a carving on it that says “W Clark July 25, 1806.”
  • Lewis and Clark met up at the Missouri River, and it took them a month to get to St. Louis. The entire trip had taken them two years, covering over 8,000 miles. When they reached Washington, they were met with celebrations and called national heroes. Clark was appointed as the Indian Affairs agent in the west and was given the military title of brigadier general of the militia.
  • In 1808 Clark married Julia Hancock. In addition to his own family, he took care of Sacagawea’s children after she had died in 1812. He served as the Missouri governor for seven years, and when it became an official state, he ran for the governor’s office and lost. His work with Indian affairs was hailed, and he was known for his fairness and good treatment of Native Indians.
  • Clark died on September 1, 1838, in St. Louis, Missouri. The maps that he was responsible for drawing while he was on the expedition assisted the U.S. government and other expedition in understanding the American West geography. Both he and Lewis kept journals that offered information into the west’s lands, animal life, and the Native peoples.


Where did Clark first meet Meriwether Lewis?
In the military

How did Lewis invite William Clark to be part of the westward expedition?
In a letter

What was the name of the Shoshone Indian that Lewis and Clark had on their trip as a translator?

What talent did Clark have that was of great benefit for the expedition?

What job was Clark given after his return from the expedition?
Indian Affairs agent in the west

What is the only land-based physical proof of the Lewis and Clark expedition?
A carving on a rock in Billings, Montana