Schoolcraft's 1857 De Soto Trail

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft,  1793-1864, glassmaker, explorer, politician, Indian Agent & author
Compiled by Donald E. Sheppard

Born in New York in 1793, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft became one of America's earliest writers on Native American culture and history. He had learned his father's trade of glassmaking, that of firing sand, seaweed and lime, during his early years. Between ages 17 and 24 he managed factories in New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire, then wrote a treatise on glassmaking. At age 25 he headed west in pursuit of other mineral interests.

Henry Rowe SchoolcraftHis View of the Lead Mines of Missouri (1819) established his name. He joined an expedition to the native copper mines of Lake Superior and made known this adventure in Travels through the Northwestern Regions of the United States at age 28. Writing voluminously on Native Americans, he was appointed Territorial Indian Agent. In 1857 Congress published his History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes. In it he described Hernando de Soto's route between places similar in name to those he had visited. Unbeknownst to him and the sciences of his day, most of those names came from displaced Midwesterners. They had been "moved" south and west by foreign diseases, encroachment and war after DeSoto's visit - long before Schoolcraft reported them.

Today's Official De Soto Trail MapThe effect on Schoolcraft's De Soto trail positioning was, of course, a south and west displacement from reality. Unfortunately, Dr. John R. Swanton's 1939 Final Report of the United States DeSoto Expedition Commission (mapped at left) had accepted much of Schoolcraft's De Soto route (mapped below). Today's students are taught misinformation about Inland America's first written history. Few contemporary scholars trust in Schoolcraft's virtues: Dr. Swanton's Commission must have!

Schoolcraft's 1857 De Soto Trail Theory

Schoolcraft's DeSoto Writings     DeSoto's Actual Trail

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