Can you find George Shannon? Follow his trail in northeast Nebraska by David Lias Can you find Private George Shannon?
Communities located on the Shannon Trail, across the Missouri River from the Clay County area, have devised a unique way to hopefully attract a strong contingent of Lewis and Clark buffs to northeast Nebraska.
They're hoping that people who are interested in the Corps of Discovery's adventures in this part of the country will be especially interested in Shannon, a Corps member.
Shannon's claim to fame isn't that of a great explorer. He rather did one of the most human things one could do when taking part in an expedition across uncharted territory.
He got lost.
Shannon was the youngest member of the Corps of Discovery expedition, and had his share of misfortune while accompanying Lewis and Clark.
On Aug. 26, 1804, Shannon and interpreter George Drouillard were sent out to round up the expedition's horses near present day Wynot, NE, near Goat Island.
They were instructed to stay on the high lands and follow the expedition upstream. The following day, Drouillard returned saying he couldn't find the horses or Shannon.
For several days, men were sent to look for him, with no result. It was during this time that Shannon was exploring northeast Nebraska.
On Sept. 11, the keelboat crew spotted him on the shore, barely alive, waiting for a trade boat to pass and pick him up.
He had nothing to eat for 16 days but wild berries and a rabbit.
Shannon's misadventures have drawn the attention of area historians and leaders. A group called Follow the Pvt. George Shannon Trail Promoters recently formed to cultivate tourism in extreme northeast Nebraska.
"We are all not located directly on the Lewis and Clark Trail ? but still in the corridor explored by the Corps of Discovery expedition," said Laurie Larsen of Bloomfield, NE, the group's chairwoman. "It is well-documented in the journals that they scouted and hunted on both sides of the Missouri River as far away as 40 miles."
Ten communities in Knox County and two in Cedar County have committed to promote a "trail" with stops in each community featuring a different carved wooden statue of Shannon. Each town also is selling T-shirts with its name and a representative animal.
The Nebraska towns are Bloomfield, Lindy, Center, Winnetoon, Wausa, Niobrara, Santee, Crofton, Creighton, Verdigre, Hartington and Wynot.
In Lindy, the statue of Shannon features him standing in a patch of prickly pear cactus with his hand to his brow, scanning the horizon.
The town of Wynot has Shannon sitting in front of a campfire. Winnetoon's Shannon holds the rabbit he finally killed in his quest for food to stay alive while lost the first time.
"Other towns will have the statue portraying different portions of the trip that were documented in the journals," Larsen said.
Brochures have also been printed that have a passport section for travelers to locate the statue of Shannon in each community. Joe Serres, a wood carver from Creighton, NE, has designed and created the statues.
Visitors to each community can have their brochures marked with 12 unique stamps by visiting all 12 communities on the Shannon Trail.
After 12 stamps have been collected, an individual may collect a limited edition print of Shannon from participating businesses.
Shannon got lost a second time when the Corps of
Discovery was in the Three Forks area of the Missouri River in 1805.
He also was wounded in South Dakota in 1807 while trying to return Chief Big White to his people after a trip to see the "Great White Father" in Washington, DC.
He later lost a leg in a battle with the Arikara Indians and became known as "Peg Leg" Shannon.
Shannon's life was not all misfortune. He assisted Nicholas Biddle in preparing the first edition of the Lewis and Clark Journals.
He also became a lawyer and later a senator from Missouri. He died in a courtroom while sitting as a judge.