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Local History

French fiddle player remembered

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/frenchfidd_546.mp3

The story of a one-eyed French fiddle player who, during the famed Lewis and Clark Expidition, accidently shot Merriwether Lewis, will be told at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center Friday, January 29th at 7pm. Mike Smith has the story:

His name is Pierre Cruzatte. He was half French and half Native North American. He was a fur trapper by trade and knew the Missouri River like the back of his hand. He would take pelts collected from the banks of the Missouri down river to St. Louis, and that's where his skills as a trepper and boatman caught the attention of Merriwether Lewis who recruited Cruzatte to be a member of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery.

Cruzatte's story will be told Friday night at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center when Mo. Department of Conservation Education Consultant Mike Fraser, in a living history portrayal, becomes Pierre Cruzatte. The program is one of several included in the Nature Center's Nature and the Arts series.

Fraser says Cruzatte's day job with Lewis and Clark was to drive the expidition's 52X8 foot keel boat. Cruzatte's after hours job though, was in part, to entertain the travelers with his fiddle playing. According to Mike Fraser, Cruzatte's fiddle playing was mentioned in the expidition's journal no less than 15 times.

According to Mike Fraser, a fiddle player himself, Cruzatte was "blind in one eye and couldn't see very well in the other, and it's ironic that he was chosen to drive the keel boat". Fraser also says Cruzatte accidently shot Merriwether Lewis after mistaking him for an elk. The wound was not serious.

Fraser says Cruzatte's music impressed his fellow travelers and the native North Americans encountered on the journey.

For KSMU News, I'm Mike Smith.