The ‘other’ Lewis, Clark explorers

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – With the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase approaching in 2003, people will begin to celebrate the Lewis and Clark expedition.

But scholars at the University of Arkansas say to remember that, in that vast wilderness of new territory, Lewis and Clark were not the lone explorers.

A new documentary film resurrects the story of two nearly forgotten adventurers, who set out to explore the southern reaches of the Louisiana Territory, while their more famous counterparts trekked west and north.

Like Lewis and Clark, William Dunbar and George Hunter were gentlemen scholars with an adventurous streak, scholars say.

In 1804, after much correspondence, President Thomas Jefferson charged the pair with instructions to undertake a journey that would rival the Lewis and Clark expedition, already underway.

Tracking history. In The Forgotten Expedition the disappointments of the Hunter-Dunbar journey are tracked – from the Indian hostilities that cut their expedition short to the considerable shadow cast by Lewis and Clark, who usurped the spotlight of history, scholars said.

But the documentary also records their triumphs – the fact that Hunter and Dunbar offered the first reports on Louisiana and Arkansas, traced the Ouachita River and discovered the natural hot springs that would become one of the country’s first national parks.

“These men could have been every bit as famous as Lewis and Clark if Jefferson hadn’t scaled back their journey out of fear of the Osage [Indians],” said Larry Foley, co-producer.

“Even then, because Hunter and Dunbar kept such detailed journals, they were quite well known and published right after the voyage. It wasn’t until Lewis and Clark returned that history started to forget them.”

Downright details. Those detailed journals represented a key element in discovering the expedition anew and developing the documentary, according to Foley.

Reaching two centuries back in time, the filmmakers depended on historical documents – diaries, letters, scarce newspaper clippings – to piece together their script.

In addition, they called upon scholars from multiple fields to fill in the details of the journey.

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