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The Mason County Hoo Doo War, 1874-1902
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One of Us
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Born in the U.S.A.

The Unknown Travels and Dubious Pursuits of William ClarkThe Unknown Travels and Dubious Pursuits of William Clark

Jo Ann Trogdon

Narrator to be announced

Book published by University of Missouri Press

In 1798—more than five years before he led the epic western journey that would make him and Meriwether Lewis national heroes—William Clark set off by flatboat from his Louisville, Kentucky home with a cargo of tobacco and furs to sell downriver in Spanish New Orleans. He also carried with him a leather-trimmed journal to record his travels and notes on his activities.

In this vivid history, Jo Ann Trogdon reveals William Clark’s highly questionable activities during the years before his famous journey west of the Mississippi. Delving into the details of Clark’s diary and ledger entries, Trogdon investigates evidence linking Clark to a series of plots—often called the Spanish Conspiracy—in which corrupt officials sought to line their pockets with Spanish money and to separate Kentucky from the United States. The Unknown Travels and Dubious Pursuits of William Clark gives readers a more complex portrait of the American icon than has been previously written.

Jo Ann Trogdon lives in Columbia, Missouri, the same city where the 1798-1801 journal of William Clark has been housed, virtually overlooked, in the State Historical Society of Missouri since 1928. She was led to the journal by her research in Spanish archives for her book, St. Charles Borromeo: 200 Years of Faith. Her articles on history have appeared in publications including Arizona Highways and We Proceeded On, a publication of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation.


“This study by Jo Ann Trogdon is refreshing because it goes beyond the repeated details of the Lewis and Clark famous exposition of America from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, and instead asks, who was William Clark before this point and why Meriwether Lewis chose him for this adventurous journey when he probably had the funding to attract almost any of the experienced explorers from the period. And instead of running through Clark’s life, a feat that has already been attempted, Trogdon chose a little-explored voyage that holds intriguing mysteries.”

Pennsylvania Literary Journal

“At times reading like a complex spy novel, this is an excellent book on an obscure event in the early history of the Republic.”

The NYMAS Review

“A serious reference for any scholar of American history.”


“For anyone who loves historical detection, this is truly a stellar read and a worthy addition to the bookshelf for continued reference.”

Historia Obscura

“With Meriwether Lewis, William Clark led an epic expedition that captured the young nation’s imagination and prompted talk of its expansion across the continent. That was in 1804. Six years earlier, however, Clark had been associating with those who sought to diminish the United States.”

The Kansas City Star

“Thanks to Wilkinson’s and the Spanish administrations’ skillful cover-ups after Wilkinson’s betrayal of Aaron Burr, and the obscurity of William’s 1798 journal, the young hero seems to have dodged a scandal that could have ruined his career.”

Indiana Magazine of History

“Trogdon provides a splendid context of the swirling complexities and intrigues permeating Spanish Louisiana and New Orleans a few years before Jefferson’s diplomats arranged for the purchase of the Louisiana Territory.”

We Proceeded On

“Well-written, referenced, and researched. The book is an invaluable text for scholars and is one of the most detailed examinations of William Clark’s life during the 1790s to date. Moreover, because the Spanish payoff and the other machinations involved are so foreign to today’s readers, this book is also a history of Spanish-American relations from the period, and other historical events, personages, and locations relevant to the story are also fully explored.”

Le Journal, Center for French Colonial Studies

“Trogdon is especially generous with minute details, ranging from the effects of a yellow-fever outbreak on the street lighting in Philadelphia and the techniques of land surveying, to the array of creature comforts available in a swank Baltimore hotel.”

Gateway, the magazine of the Missouri History Museum

“Imaginative historical detection and good writing will make this a widely read and much discussed book. Trogdon’s surprising discoveries point to Clark’s apparent involvement in a tangled web of conspiracy involving a foreign power. This thought-provoking book illustrates the potential rewards of curiosity and painstaking research in out-of-the-way places.”

—William E. Foley, author of Wilderness Journey: The Life of William Clark

“William Clark became famous for the journey he co-led to the Pacific. But his New Orleans journey of 1798 is important in its own right. Not only did it hone his travel and cartography skills for the epic Lewis and Clark Expedition and play an important part in its success, but it placed the explorer on the historical stage as a player in a turbulent time in American history with schemes and shifting alliances that potentially threatened the stability, growth, and very future of the young United States. Did fortune smile on William Clark that he was never identified as part of the cabal scheming to separate Kentucky from the Union? Was he ever a party to such scheming and possible treason?”

—James J. Holmberg, author of Dear Brother: Letters of William Clark to Jonathan Clark

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