Sergeant Floyd, the only person to die during the Lewis and Clark Expedition, is honored outside of Sioux City

September 13, 2018

After the United States finalized the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore and document this newly obtained real estate. Thus, the Corps of Discovery was born. 

 

Beginning in 1804 and lasting until 1806, the Corps of Discovery would travel thousands of miles and make many discoveries. Because of what was learned, it jump-started a period of decades where millions of immigrants and early Americans would head west in search of their own American dream.

 

One of the first men to join the Corps of Discovery was a native Kentuckian named Sergeant Charles Floyd. According to sources online, he appeared to have been the relative of some famous politicians of the day and served as a quartermaster in the Corps.

 

Only weeks into the journey, Floyd, who was probably only in his early 20's, got sick. He lingered on but eventually passed away on August 20, 1804 of bilious colic. By today's definition, it is thought to have been something like appendicitis. 

 

At the time of his passing, The Corps was on the Missouri River near what is today known as Sioux City. Without the ability to communicate to his family or preserve his remains, they buried him on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. Looking back at history, he was the only member of the Corps of Discovery to pass away during the entire multi-year expedition.

 

Today, that young native Kentuckian has a significant monument on the south edges of Sioux City in Woodbury County and is the namesake for Floyd County, which is located in north central Iowa. The community of Sergeant Bluff is named in his honor. Not to mention, he's got a river, numerous streets, and a bridge bearing his name too.

 

On a recent Sunday afternoon, I stopped in Sioux City to have coffee with a friend and thought I would stop by the Floyd Monument before heading back to West Des Moines. The monument is easy to see from the I-29 as you are heading either north into Sioux City or south out of Sioux City toward Omaha. Once you arrive, you are greeted by a couple of different signs before you head up to a sizable parking lot area.

 

After you park, there's a walkway which includes a guest book and a couple of different signs about his life, the monument, and the Expedition itself.

 

 

 

The actual monument is a concrete base with a large obelisk shooting up toward the sky. It looks a lot like a miniature Washington Monument. There is kind of a metal cage around the base as well.

 

 

There are a number of plaques and other insignia at the base of the monument. A couple of them are a little difficult to read but they either recognize a notable local person who helped champion the monument or honor Floyd or denote it's addition to the National Register of Historic Places, among others.

 

 

 

 

 

If you walk a little further toward the edge of the bluff, you can see some great views of the Missouri River, Sioux City, and the traffic on I-29.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At night, there are a few different banks of lights that ensure it is seen for miles.

 

I stayed for about 15 minutes but you could spend a lot more time there if you wanted. There are plenty of benches and obviously some great views. The signs have lots of great history to appreciate. I noticed this sign advertising the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. I'll have to add that to a future adventure stop in Woodbury County.

Charles Floyd, growing up in Kentucky, probably never dreamed his greatest impact would be in some far off place named Iowa - and only in death. That's a great reminder that you never quite know what is in store or who or what you might impact. He set off on an adventure and it ended, too soon, near Sioux City, Iowa. All of us should head out on as many adventures as possible because, not to sound grim, you just never know when it'll be your last.

 

As always, I welcome your suggestions on places to visit and profile whether in Woodbury County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good suggestion or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through my website.

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