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HISTORY & PREHISTORY

Seaman

Statue of Seaman

For twenty dollars, quite a sum of money in those days, Meriwether Lewis purchased a dog of Newfoundland breed, which he named Seaman. Seaman provided constant companionship and entertainment for the crew throughout the 4,000-mile journey to the Pacific Ocean. Though Lewis purchased the dog, he really belonged everyone, and was referred to in at least one journal account as "our dog." a sketch of Seaman

On the journey Seaman caught squirrels, retrieved game, and guarded the camp against animal intruders at night. Lewis and his companions were undoubtedly thankful and proud that Seaman was particularly good at guarding their camps against grizzly bears. Newfoundlands are a breed of dog known for their natural lifesaving abilities. In addition, Newfoundlands are strong swimmers, in part because they have a water-resistant coat of fur and webbed feet! Repeatedly, Seaman saved members of the Corps from drowning in rough waters. In the spring of 1805, a wounded beaver bit Seaman on the leg. The bite severed an artery, and Lewis wrote, “It was with great difficulty that I could stop the blood; I fear it will yet prove fatal to him.” Seaman did eventually recover, however.

Seaman’s courage, hard work, and fortitude must have impressed the Indians who lived along the Columbia River because one Indian offered Lewis three beaver pelts for the dog and another Indian tried to steal Seaman. Of course, Lewis could not part with his beloved dog. He uncharacteristically threatened to burn down their village unless the dog was returned. A Newfoundland puppy

The last entry in Lewis's journal regarding Seaman was written on July 15, 1806. No one is certain what happened to Seaman after that, but an interesting clue has been found in a book published in 1814 by educator Timothy Alden. Alden writes that he visited a museum in Alexandria, Virginia, and while there he viewed a dog collar that read:

"The greatest traveller of my species. My name is SEAMAN, the dog of captain Meriwether Lewis, whom I accompanied to the Pacifick ocean through the interior of the continent of North America."

Outside present-day Missoula in Montana, Lewis named a creek after Seaman. Today, the creek is known as Monture Creek.

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