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The Historic Newfoundland

Seaman- Companion to the Corps of Discovery

Purchased for $20 in 1803, Seaman was a loyal and devoted member of the Corps of Discovery. From the journals of Meriwether Lewis:

" a bear came within thirty yards of our camp last night and eat up about thirty weight of buffaloe suit which was hanging on a pole, my dog seems to be in a constant state of alarm with these bears and keeps barking all night" – June 27, 1805

Some were curious "last night we were all allarmed by a large buffaloe bull, when he came near the tent, my dog saved us by causing him to change his course" – May 29, 1805

And other guests desired to travel with the Corps " walking on shore this evening I met with a buffaloe calf which attached itself to me and continued to follow close at my heels untill I embarked and left it. It appeared allarmed at my dog which was probably the cause of it’s so readily attaching itself to me" – April 22, 1805

Seaman Statue at Ft MandanSeaman Statue in Danger - Flooding threatens Ft. Mandan sculpture

By early June, Fort Mandan – the Lewis & Clark wintering post on the banks of the Missouri River in Washburn, North Dakota – was prepared for the tens of thousands for seasonal visitors; but not prepared for the US Army Corps of Engineers warning that Fort Mandan could face complete inundation due to unprecedented flooding that threatened the Fort and Seaman’s Overlook (see Newf Tide, 3rd qtr., 2006).

Seaman Statue being moved

Staff and volunteers sandbagged Fort Mandan and the 1400 lb. Seaman was moved, via crane, temporarily to the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center two miles from Fort Mandan.

Seaman in place at the interpretive center

The Fort is closed for the entire season and donations are requested to restore Fort Mandan and return Seaman to Seaman’s Overlook when the floodwaters recede. Donations may be sent to the Lewis & Clark Fort Mandan Foundation, PO Box 607, Washburn, ND 58577. Or call 877-462-8535 to use a credit card.

The NCA has donated $1000.00 to help restore Seaman to his place at Seaman's Overlook.

Read More about modern Newfs celebrating the heritage of Lewis and Clark

Lights, Camera, Action-
Newf has a role in Lewis & Clark Movie

Re-Enactment of the Lewis & Clark Expidition's Portage of the Great Falls in Montana


The Mystery of a Name: Scannon or Seaman?

Based on an article that appeared in Newf Tide written by Mary Jane Spackman

Many Newfoundlands are named Scannon in honor of the Newf that accompanied Captain Lewis on the Lewis and Clark western expedition. Captain Lewis himself identified the dog as being "of the Newfoundland breed" in his journals.

Historical interest in the dog was peaked by the 1916 publication of Sergeant John Ordway’s journal of the expedition. In Ordway’s journal, there are many references to the Newf and his contributions as a fishing and hunting dog. Historians began to take notice, and the Newf’s likeness began to appear in artwork about Lewis and Clark. It is speculated that Scannon was a last minute addition to the group as a mascot, and was apparently acquired in Philadelphia.

When historian Donald Jackson was doing a study of Lewis and Clark place-names in Montana, he found that Captain Lewis, on the return trip in 1806, had named a northern tributary of the Blackfoot River "Seaman’s Creek." Mr. Jackson’s research on names had found that the explorers had been very direct and simple in the names they had chosen. Often they would select names that related to expedition supporters or participants, or perhaps names that dealt with incidents during the expedition. Mr. Jackson could find no reason for the selection of the name "Seaman." He then sought to solve the mystery of the name.

Mr. Jackson first believed that the name was misspelled and that it should instead be "Scannon’s Creek," named in honor of the Newfoundland mascot. Instead, after requesting that the American Philosophical Society research the original journals of the expedition, he found that the creek was correctly named and that the true name of the Newfoundland was Seaman. Once the error was identified, it was apparent throughout the various journals that the name Scannon was incorrect. An "m" can easily be read as two "n’s", and both Clark and Ordway contributed to the confusion by writing the dog’s name as Seamon. In addition, ink has a tendency to spread over time, allowing some letters such as an "e" to appear years later as a "c."

The name Scannon could have continued on for years if Mr. Jackson had not been a man of detail. It is a credit to Mr. Jackson that we now know the correct name for one of the most famous members of the Newfoundland breed.

The basis for this article is "Among Sleeping Giants: Occasional Pieces on Lewis and Clark" by Donald Jackson. My thanks to Lou Palmisano for forwarding this information to me.


Learn More:

Seaman on the Lewis & Clark Trail

Inside the Corps of Discovery presented by PBS

Lewis and Clark Center at the Interior Department

Saga of Seaman: The Story of the Dog Who Went With Lewis and Clark (Lewis & Clark Expedition)

Lewis & Clark Meet the American Indians: As Told by Seaman the Dog

Call him a good old dog, but don't call him Scannon (WPO publication)

Ballad of Seaman: Dog of the Lewis and Clark expedition



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