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Three Forks & the Osage

February 21, 2001

Historian's Notes

This week's Almanac was a stretch. Lewis and Clark didn't go through Oklahoma and not much of the Almanac actually dealt with Oklahoma. Still, Jefferson did read a plea to Congress asking for the development of what is now basically Muskogee. The area around modern-day Muskogee was highly prized by the local inhabitants for its trade and shipping value and it continues to be valued so today. We've gotten so used to thinking that the Euro-American history began with the land runs that we forget such things as Jefferson considering developing the area in 1806!


The Angie Debo Papers are held at OSU's Special Collections & University Archives.

Almanac Transcript

Hello, I'm Steven Kite welcoming you to the Oklahoma Audio Almanac where we turn the pages of history to bring you the stories of our state's past.

In 1804, eager to take advantage of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson sent out the now famous expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Journeying westward the explorers met with, studied and took copious notes on the Native Americans living along their route.

In one message sent back to President Jefferson, the expedition leaders comment on the current affairs of the Osage Tribe. Once located primarily in Missouri, a large band of Osage had apparently migrated into what is now Oklahoma and set up an extremely successful hunting and trading camp near the convergence of the Grand, Verdigris and Arkansas rivers, near present day Muskogee. Because three rivers came together there the site was known as Three Forks, and although they never visited the area Lewis and Clark noted in their message to Jefferson that the area seemed particularly ripe with possibilities. Eager to see a return on his investment, Jefferson noted the location of the Three Forks site and prepared a message to Congress.

It was in this week of February in 1806, February 19th to be exact, that the message from Jefferson recommending the building of a government trading post at Three Forks was read before Congress. The politicians took little note of Jefferson’s recommendation, but the ears of entrepreneurial citizens were wide open. In 1806, just scant weeks after Jefferson’s suggestion and rejection, Joseph Bogy, a merchant by trade, loaded up several tons of goods on barges and headed up the Arkansas to the mouth of the Verdigris. Once at the Three Forks area Bogy and his men set up simple log cabins and began trade with the Osage. Although brisk at first, Bogy’s operation was abruptly halted when a raiding party of Choctaws attacked the post taking any and everything that could be carried. It took Bogy over thirty years to receive a $6,000.00 compensation check from the government for the losses accrued during the Choctaw raid, but he used to time to rebuild his trading post.

Other traders and entrepreneurs seeing the success, or possible success, of Bogy’s idea soon followed in his footsteps. Hugh Glenn of Cincinnati, Nathaniel Pryor from the Louis and Clark expedition and Colonel A. P. Chouteau from St. Louis all followed Bogy to the Three Forks area and established successful ventures, and in some cases actual towns, such as Pryor, that remain to this day a testament to early day trade in the Indian Territory.

I'm Steven Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a production of the OSU Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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