PARKVILLE, Mo. — A group of men, recreating an expedition from the 1800s, spent Thursday evening docked along the Missouri River in Parkville.
Gerry Messmer and six other mountain men are on a 2,000-mile journey that William Ashley, a St. Louis entrepreneur who started the rendezvous system, took in 1825.
“We want to see if we can do what they did,” Messmer said. “It’s a very long journey.”
Like Ashley, their trip started on horseback in Wyoming. From there, they floated the Bighorn and Yellowstone rivers before hitting the Missouri River. It was at the confluence of the Missouri River where Ashley met Gen. Henry Atkinson, who had a fleet of boats.
“He threw his beaver hides and men onto the flotilla and floated down in the keelboats into St. Louis where he sold his furs and made quite a bit of significant money and then went into politics,” Messmer said.
Messmer and his men began their trip in July. They’re in an “exact half-scale replica of the original Muskrat” Atkinson welcomed Ashley and his men aboard.
“It is 100%-dimensional lumber. There is no fiberglass or steel or aluminum in this boat,” Messmer said of the replica keelboat. “It is built the exact the way it would’ve been built in 1825.”
The group has no support vehicles following them. They only eat what they can carry.
“We’ve been living on the ground for over 2 months, so sleeping on the ground and eating dried food, and our substitute for not being able to hunt is people along the way have given us elk and antelope meat,” Messmer said.
He said the toughest part of the trip has been staying ahead of Mother Nature.
“We’ve had tornadoes overhead, 80 mile per hour winds, torrential rain and then being on the Missouri River, this is a very dangerous river with it being so high,” Messmer said.
Scott “Amish” Staggs is one of the other men on the boat. He said he now has a greater respect for the men who came before him.
“We take a lot for granted back home,” Staggs said. “We know that we’re going home shortly. Those guys, this was every day for them.”
The group is expected to reach the end of their journey in St. Charles, Missouri, on Oct. 8.