Henry Schoolcraft

Twenty years ago, when Milton Rafferty republished Henry Rowe Schooclraft's 1820 Ozarks journal, Rafferty introduced the explorer Schooclraft to a new generation of scholars. Schoolcraft's journal is unique in that he describes flora and fauna in the pre-statehood Missouri Territory in a way that no one else had to date.

Henry Rowe Schooclraft explored the Ozarks in 1818 before many whites had settled the region. The journal he published the following year details what animals and plants he saw. Now, 200 years after Schoolcraft took the grand tour of southern Missouri by foot, we look at the forces that have altered the landscapes he saw. 

In 1818, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft walked across the Ozarks. His curiosity and search for lead deposits are what drove him and travel companion Levi Pettibone to cover almost 900 miles in 90 days. Schoolcraft's journal recounted intact landscapes largely unmolested by humans. A new KBIA series looks at Schoolcraft's changing landscapes.


Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s journey through the Ozarks was just a “blip” in his lengthy exploration career, explains Trevor Harris, a journalist who’s hosting a program this week and producing an upcoming radio series on the 19th Century voyager.

Yet the journal written by Schoolcraft documenting his trip from Potosi, Missouri down through what is now Springfield in the winter of 1818 and 1819 has revealed a lot about the history of this region.

Smallin Cave
Scott Harvey / KSMU

Standing under a tin-roof pavilion in rural Christian County, several historians and I watch closely as Dr. Milton Rafferty thumbs through a series of topographic maps. Laid out over a picnic table, the retired emeritus professor of geography at Missouri State University is retracing the steps of the famous explorer whose geologic survey helped map much of the Ozarks.

“Well we’re looking at Schoolcraft’s destination when he came out to find the lead mines which were near present day Springfield. And he’s at the mouth of Pearson Creek on the James River,” Rafferty explains.