Episode 1

February 23, 2022


S3E1: More Voices From The Road- The Story of York

S3E1: More Voices From The Road- The Story of York
Common Mystics
S3E1: More Voices From The Road- The Story of York

Show Notes

On this episode of Common Mystics the sisters honor yet another voice from their 2021 road trip to the Midwest. The spirit of York came through then, and has been with them ever since. York was an important member of Lewis and Clark's epic expedition of 1804-1806. Strong, skilled and capable, he contributed in major ways to their success. But while the other men earned double pay and land as compensation, York received nothing in return. Why? Because he was enslaved by William Clark. And even though the end of York's life remains a mystery, Jennifer and Jill present a narrative of his life based on historical clues and psychic intuition. Listen in now to the first episode of Common Mystics' "More Voices From the Road" series. Transcripts of this episode can be found here Transcript S3E1_ More Voices From The Road- The Story of York Link not working? Find transcripts to our pods and more at https://commonmystics.net/  Thanks for listening! Support us on Patreon and get exclusive bonus content and monthly video calls with Jen & Jill!!! https://www.patreon.com/commonmystics
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Episode Transcript

Common Mystics Podcast Season 3 Episode 1: More Voices From The Road- The Story of York www.commonmystics.net 00:00:09 On this episode of Common Mystics, we revisit one of our past adventures to give voice to another spirit who we believe deserves to be heard. I'm Jennifer James. I'm Jill Stanley. We’re psychics. We’re sisters. We are Common Mystics. We find extraordinary stories in ordinary places, and today we're telling the story of York, an important member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Jennifer? Talk to me. You know what we do. We drive around. We use our spidey senses to feel out stories, and then we have to determine who is the voiceless that we are trying to give voice to, right? Right. But sometimes when we do the research, there can be multiple people that need a voice. So we have to make a decision intuitively, right? That is a hundred percent accurate. But sometimes, sometimes the spirit that we're like, not this time, won't leave us. They’re not done with us. 00:01:06 And that had been the case with the spirit we are giving voice to today. Absolutely. No. Well put. Well put. So, tell me a little bit about York and why we decided to have him be our very first “More Voices from the Road.” Well, you might remember that we did our road trip out west last year. I do. And we were in Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Dakota. Illinois. Yes. When we were out that way, we discovered the story of James Beckwourth. Do you remember? Um, I know I remember. What do you remember? Um, well, I remember he was in season two, episode 10. Do you remember speed dating him in spirit? You know, you're very funny. He came on very strongly. He had a strong, confident energy. His voice was charismatic and clear. No, seriously. You were like, playing with your hair in the car, like I am totally having a mediumship experience right now. No, really. I know. I really was. You really were. He made me feel special. 00:02:26 Did he not talk to all the mediums like this? He doesn’t. He does not talk to all the mediums that way, okay? Okay. I was, I was very special to him. Anyway, so, um, no seriously, but his voice was so clear and he was such a self promoter. And even though I was feeling like a slave energy, remember, and I, and I kept asking him like, are you a slave? And he kept telling me no. Like it’s cool if you are. It's cool if you are, right? Like we can still talk. Right, right, right, right. But he was all, no, I am important. I am important. You know? So, anyway. So we went with James Beckwourth. There's a whole episode about him, a really interesting person. Huge ego. Self promoter. Even at the time he was thought to be a bragger and a liar. Right? I'm going to stop you there because this episode is about York. 00:03:20 So, let me just bring her back. So you're right. We were, you were feeling that you had that whole date with James Beckwourth, but we were also feeling other energies. Like you said, slave energy. And then I was feeling a marginalized person that was used as a pawn in dangerous situations. Mm hmm. And that it's not James Beckwourth. No, no, not at all. Yeah. When we did the research, we discovered York. We did, and he is a pretty fascinating character who was a part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Like during the trip, Lewis and Clark were all like, apparently we were like traveling the same route. Like in Illinois there was Lewis and Clark. In Missouri. In Arkansas.. Like it was just so weird. It was almost like everywhere we went, there was something about Lewis and Clark. 00:04:12 There was an obelisk on the side of the highway. That was like, Lewis and Clark's friend died here. And we're like, who, what is happening? Yeah, yeah, you're right. That was super weird. And we kept following the spirits. You know, we never know where we're going to end up or even where we're going. And in this case, we kept running into signs and signals that Lewis and Clark was there or that we were on their route. Like throughout the entire road trip. Exactly. Like we could not get away to the point where we both said, okay, we have a story that has something to do with Lewis and Clark. We don't know what it is, but we got you. You can stop now. Exactly. You're kind of monopolizing the energy. You're right. You're absolutely right. Yes. That was very true. 00:04:56 Thank you for reminding me of that. A hundred percent. Tell me a little bit about their expedition. Well, you might remember Thomas Jefferson in 1803 had this great deal where he purchased something called the Louisiana Territory from France. It was a huge, huge area over 800,000 square miles, and it effectively doubled the size of the United States overnight. Literally. Didn't Napoleon give Thomas Jefferson like, clearance price for this land? Like it was like, the best land deal? Like still, it was crazy. It was like 3 cents an acre. But yeah, it was a great deal. So the French owned this land? Well, they claimed it, but they didn't actually control a lot of it. Like there were French settlements here and there, but it's not like they controlled it at all because of course, there are Native Americans living on this vast expanse of land that by the way, was west of the Mississippi and also stretched from modern day Louisiana up to Montana and into modern day Canada. 00:06:05 So,a huge, huge area. Yeah. So when Napoleon like, quote unquote, “sold the land to Jefferson,” what he was really saying is like, if you want to use this land or have this land be a part of America, you can either fight us and the Natives for it or you can just pay me and then you can just fight the Natives. Right? Right. Like because essentially he was just buying off- like, cause otherwise we're gonna have to get in the fight and might as well just give me money for it. Right. The United States really just bought the right to be the ones to push the, uh, Native Americans off the land, to put it very bluntly. Yeah. Very. So you have Thomas Jefferson, right? And he just buys this immense piece of property. The first thing he wants to do is explore it. All right. 00:06:47 Let's see what's out there. Yeah. Now what do we do with it? Like yeah, exactly. Exactly. So, President Jefferson has a personal secretary by the name of Merriweather Lewis. Great name, by the way. I don't like the name, and I knew you were going to say that. Great name. No, it’s a terrible, stupid name. Merriweather. I would name my dog Merriweather. No, you wouldn’t. I would. You would not stand at the back door and say, “Merriweather.” Yes, I would. You don’t know me. No, I do know you and I know you wouldn’t do that. I would probably shorten it to “Merri”, but whatever. We can agree to disagree. It should be the name of a street or a lake. It should come back into fashion. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. So, Merriweather Lewis became in charge of this massive undertaking to basically go explore this area and bring back information about, you know, what's there and also find the Northwest Passage. Literally, I have to tell you something. 00:07:43 I just did the research. I was trying to figure out why people thought that there was a Northwest Passage. Remember I told you yesterday that I was researching it? Yeah. Well, as it turns out, the reason why people believed it was because Columbus believed it. Columbus. The idea of the Northwest Passage came with Columbus and I have never– it is awe inspiring to think of a man, so celebrated, and who has been so wrong throughout history. Like everything he's known for is he is completely wrong about. Yeah. He is like the poster boy for misinformation. Yes. Yeah. Poor Columbus. Poor Columbus? He's no longer celebrated today. I kind of feel bad, but this is not about Columbus. So let's get back to Merriweather. 00:08:32 He was really, really wrong though. That's all I'm saying. I know. I know a hundred percent. Yes. Like I said, poster child. Okay. So, um, yeah. So Merriwether Lewis, I'm just going to call him Lewis, even though I love his first name. He was in charge of this project, right? And the first thing he does is he's like, okay, I need a secondhand man. Kind of like Danny Zuko needs, um… What's his name? Kenicki. Kenicki is his second. Right. He's a wing man. Well, I do not know. Check the yellow pages. I don't know. Go on. 00:09:07 So, he chooses as a second, Clark. William Clark. And they knew each other in the army. He really respected him. And he's like, I had this big job and I need you, will you be my second? And they were like, okay, cool. So they have to decide, um, how to recruit a bunch of men who are willing to go and do this extremely dangerous, exciting kind of adventure. What kind of men were they looking for? They were looking for first of all, unmarried men, who wouldn't be leaving behind wives and families, healthy men who were good hunters and had some survival skills since they were going to be literally out in the middle of nowhere. Mandatory. And also they chose military men for the most part, but they would end up with 45 people in total who would go along, including Lewis, Clark, 27 unmarried soldiers, a French and Indian interpreter. 00:10:05 They contracted a boat crew and also an enslaved man owned by Clark by the name of York. I love York. I know. I do, too. I really do. Tell me a little bit about York. Do you want me to skip over this part and just talk about your York? No, I just like him. All right. I'll tell you a little about him in a minute, but before I tell you about York, I just want to tell you that this excursion lasted for two years and it was super hard, as you might imagine. It was super, super demanding. They had harsh weather along the way, unforgiving terrain, and they were in treacherous waters. There was injury. There was starvation. There was disease and they met tribal people, some were friendly and some were hostile. I was watching the Ken Burns documentary. About Lewis and Clark? Yes, it's great, by the way. It is great. I saw it, too. 00:11:03 Sam Waterson? His voice. He can do no wrong. Oh my gosh! Right up there with Morgan Freeman. Okay. But in the documentary to put context to what you're saying, even astronauts that went to the moon had some idea of what the moon was like. They had seen pictures of it before going there. Like these people had absolutely no clue. They were thinking about mountains the way they were thinking about the Appalachian mountains or the Smoky mountains. They were thinking bears like little baby bears and not grizzly bears. Like there's a lot that they were like, oh, [inaudible] And there was one part where they're like, a native was like, hey guys are mountains over there. You guys are going to have to go through some mountains, cause they were kind of giving them a timetable of what their expectation was. 00:11:50 And Louis was like, I think we'll be, I dunno, to the Pacific, like in a month. And the native was like, there are mountains. And then Louis was like, yeah, I know mountains. And then they saw the mountains. They are rocky. They’re rocky. Yes and they noticed that it was snowing at the peaks in July. And they were like, [inaudible] Yeah, we didn't prepare for that. Yeah. I would have turned back. I would've been like, catch y'all later. Well, good thing that you were not in charge because they did not turn back. And actually they got back and they were celebrated. It was a huge success. Although they did not identify a Northwest passage because spoiler alert one did not exist. They did bring back a lot of information about animal species, botanical samples, maps, geographical information. They initiated peace with a lot of the tribal peoples. 00:12:50 They only lost one person through death, and that was because of appendicitis and that might've happened at home. So we went past that burial site, like twice. Do you remember? I do. I do. I know that was crazy. We couldn't get away from it. Anyway, it was a huge success. I have to tell you something else. So before going on the expedition, Lewis studied medicine and like astrology. Yeah, he crammed. He pulled some overnighters. Yeah, for sure. But one of the things that he studied was medicine with like this famous Dr. Russ, Rush, in Philadelphia and Dr. Ross, Rush. I can't say his name. He had created a pill that was like a cure-all for everything called the “Thunderbolt.” Yes, and it was a laxative. It was like, every time you were sick, like you had a cramp or something, they would be like, here you go there. Can you imagine? Can you imagine having the shits, in like, the plains? Having that be your cure. And it's called the “Thunderbolt.” Wow. That is funny AF. I'd be like, no, no, no, I'm fine. I'm fine. I would never. I’d be like, no, I'm good. 00:14:09 I am so good right now. I don't need any of that. “Thunderbolt.” That's great. The worst case scenario. So, the men were paid well by modern standards for their efforts on this. What was it? 36 months. That is a goddamn lie. Hold on. They were not paid well. Hold on. So Lewis and Clark. I mean, they were the leaders, so they got the most compensation. Louis earned over $2,700 dollars. Okay. I have a calculator on my phone right now. Let's plug it in. We're going to. In $2,776 and 22 cents in the year 1809. It was 1806 when they returned. Okay. In today's money, that would be how much? It's embarrassing? $63,980. That's how much Merriweather was paid for 36 months of his life. Not to mention the cramming he did beforehand. That is a joke-ity joke. Yeah. I mean, when you put it that way, it doesn't seem like enough. Like he should have at least, yeah. That's not enough. 00:15:29 $64,000 in today's money, that’s not enough. But I mean, 36 months. But Jill, that wasn't everything because he earned that paycheck, but he also earned 1600 acres of land, west of the Mississippi. Thomas Jefferson was manipulative AF because no one wants that land. That land like, in the middle of nowhere. Who's gonna? [Land is valuable] Oh, you mean I can pick up and move to nowhere. Land is valuable. To nowhere, Jennifer. To nowhere. [Clark also got-] So, you have 1600- so what if someone’s like here I'll give you a mountain. That mountain could be yours, if you spend 36 months of your life. Like that's not enough, I'm sorry. That's a joke. Clark also got over $2,000 plus 1600 acres of land. I'm sorry, that is a lot of land. And the men were all double paid, too. So the Sergeants received $16 a month or $192 annually plus 320 acres of land west of the Mississippi. 00:16:36 So what you just told me, is that the men, [the Sergeants] the Sergeants, excuse me, had been paid $370 a month. That's nice. Oh wait, and then the Privates, not dirty, but it sounds dirty. The Privates earn $10 a month. Plug this in my little handy app. Oh, $230 a month? Okay. Plus 320 acres of land. I can panhandle more money than that. Literally I can stand at a McDonald's get like with my hat and get more money than that. They were on an adventure of a lifetime. And, um, they were reimbursed, unlike York. What did he get? He got absolutely nothing. Now that $65,000 does sound- or the $63,000 does sound a lot better. Poor York. Tell me how did he get himself in this situation? I know you said that he was a slave to Clark. Tell me what does it mean? 00:17:40 Cause I'm thinking when I think slave, I thinking of like, tilling the fields and like, you know. Honestly. How did he get chosen? All right. Let me tell you a little bit about York. He was born around 1770 or 1775. Nobody knows because they didn't really keep records on the birth of enslaved people. And he died as far as researchers can tell sometime after 1815. So there's a lot unclear about his life. What we do know is that he was the only African American member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He participated in the entire exploration and made significant contributions to its success. He was the first African-American to cross the continent and see the Pacific Ocean. That's huge. Yes. A hundred percent. York was born enslaved. He was the son of Old York and Rose. I love that we know his parents’ names. I know. That makes me feel good. 00:18:42 Old York and Rose were owned by William Clark's father. So, they were in the family. William inherited York from his father around 1799. And what we know about York personally is that he was a large man. His weight has been estimated to be about 200 pounds. That's my goal weight. That is like prime Jill weight, right there. For real.Jill, I know it doesn't sound like a lot in today's standards, but in the early 1800s, people were a lot smaller. So the fact that he was 200 pounds meant that he was a massive, massive figure at the time. So by that same logic. You’re not fat, you were just born too early. I’m the Jillie of the future. Very futuristic. In about a couple hundred years, I am going to be the right size. Exactly. Exactly. Anyway. So, York was about the same age as Clark, and he was naturally strong and his skin was really dark. 00:20:09 And this, this is important later because it would come into play and part of his success, that he was quote unquote, black as a bear, is a quote that people like, wrote about him. I like the bear reference. That's cute. I know, it is kinda cute. So William Clark called York his playmate early on because they kind of grew up together and they were about the same age, but later York would become Clark's quote, unquote, body servant. Now I didn't know what that meant. So I looked it up and it's like a personal servant or valet. So he was someone who was enslaved, but worked inside the house. Jill, he wasn't someone who was working out in the fields to answer your question earlier. It sounds like a horrible job to be honest. Well, I say job in general. To be someone's servant, it would suck. 00:21:03 Yeah, personal servant. I know. Literally, body servant. Yeah. I don't even. That's a terrible title. Well, that was his title. That's a terrible title. So, here's another thing. York had a wife. I thought they were only taking unmarried men? They were, but apparently they did not recognize the marriage of an enslaved person because he had a wife. Aw. That means that they didn't recognize his humanity. Like they didn't think that it would be heartbreaking to take families apart. Which I guess is, I mean, that's consistent with what they did, right? Yeah. I don't know why that surprises me. Right. Now, his wife was another enslaved person. She lived in Louisville, Kentucky with her, obviously with her owner. Clark had lived in Louisville as well with York. So we think that they, you know, met each other there and fell in love. Got married. Might have had children. 00:22:00 Nobody knows. But yeah. So it's unfortunate that Clark took York with him and didn't recognize that he was leaving loved ones behind. I think York is a much better name than Merriweather. I'm just going to say that. York is a great name. It is a great name. So you said that he contributed greatly to the expedition. What does that look like? Tell me what he did. He had skills. He could swim. He used a rifle, which would have been unheard of for an enslaved person to be given the liberty to carry a rifle. He was a good hunter. He brought back samples of animal life and botanical life. Botanicals. Yeah, botanicals. And when the members of the expedition needed to make a decision, Lewis and Clark actually took a vote and York's vote meant just as much as everybody else’s. Oh my gosh. 00:23:00 So he had the opportunity to live as an equal, like a man among men. On this expedition, it certainly appears that way. And this is an expedition that was well-documented. Like everybody on it, kept a journal. So we know exactly what he was doing. Thomas Jefferson was very clear. He was like, every day you need to tell me the climate, you need to tell me how you're feeling and what's going on. You need to document every day. Right. So there you go. He brought a lot of skills and he was really important because of his strength. He helped, you know, with paddling upstream, portaging, building shelters, navigating trails and waterways. He was an important member that way, but there's more. And this is where he actually stands out. Tell me. Okay. Even maybe more important than some of the other people on this expedition, and that's because he was pivotal in the interactions that the expedition team had with natives that they met. 00:24:03 Tell me. Because of his stature and specifically his blackness, he was a celebrity. Like they were in awe. Like when you say blackness, what do you mean? I mean, the physical color of his skin was astounding to the natives who had never seen an African-American, um, or at least one with that black [dark] skin. Yes, and so some of them, there are accounts of some of the Natives, even the Chiefs, like trying to rub it off of him. Like giving him his arm and like trying to rub the color off of his skin. Like they couldn't believe that someone would be that dark. The other thing that I love, love, love about him is that the Native children were also curious about him, and so they would follow him around and he would turn around and be like “rawr” and pretend to chase them, and so he had that sweet playful side too. 00:24:58 I love that so, so much. I do, too. And there's this quote that somebody wrote down about this whole kind of situation with Lewis and Clark and having York with them. This guy, Richard Betts wrote that “York was the main attraction and Lewis and Clark's traveling magic show. He was a sensation.” Wow. Wow. Yeah, wow. I mean, can you kind of see that realistically like happening to them? Seeing, you know, these strange Native people and being like, oh, send York first. A hundred percent. Oh, a hundred percent. And I just love thinking that they were curious more than frightened. You know what I mean? Like it just seems like they knew he was a man, but they were like, I've never seen a man like this before. Right, and he must've seemed approachable because he didn't elicit fear. 00:25:53 And I'll tell you something else that I love too, that the memory of York and the oral tradition of the quote unquote, “the black man who came to the villages with Lewis and Clark” passed down an oral tradition until the 20th century in some of these tribal communities. That is adorable. So, they were talking about him. Yes, like the day that the black man came to town. He was a legend. Yes. As a part of their stories. Yes. That's crazy. I know. That's really special. It's amazing. I love that. So they get back, everyone gets, you said double pay, with those ridiculously low numbers that were double pay. Yeah. And a lot of land. And a lot of land, and it’s arguable if they would want it or not or how valuable it would be. But York got nothing. Not a thing. So what happened? So now this enslaved man goes on a trip, becomes a part of society as an equal, and now has to go back to wherever the hell, to be a man servant again? 00:26:57 There is evidence from some of Clark's own writings, because he wrote to his brother that York expected to be freed after he came back and Clark refused to free him. According to his own letters to his brother, he was not going to free him. Okay. Tell me. Give me a quote from his letters. Okay. So they get back in 1806 they're living in St. Louis, and remember York has a wife who's living in Louisville. So, York keeps asking Clark for his freedom. So, they didn’t go back to where they lived? Right. They were like, no, we're gonna to live in St. Louis now. Exactly. And York is making it very clear that one, he thinks he deserves this freedom for the immeasurable services that he provided. 00:27:44 And so York starts asking fine, if you're not going to free me, then please sell me down to Louisville. So I can at least be with my wife or near my wife. Because right now he's not seeing his wife. So he keeps asking, and this is in Clark's letter, he keeps asking to be sold. I mean, can you imagine, can you imagine? No, I can’t. No, I can't even like, my heart hurts even saying this. So, what does he do? Well, Clark finally is like, all right, I'm not going to sell you to Louisville, but I will lease you. So I'm going to rent you down to Louisville, so you can spend some time with your wife and then you're going to come back. And so here's what Clark wrote to his brother. He said quote, ”I decided to permit him to stay a few weeks with his wife. He wishes to stay there altogether and hire himself, which I have refused. He prefers being sold to returning here. He is serviceable to me at this place, and I am determined not to sell him, to gratify him and have directed him to return.” 00:28:46 Do you believe that? It sounds like a pissing match. It totally does. Literally, the thing that bothers me so much about it is that he is obviously looking at him like a property, a piece of property, and not as a man who loves his wife. What he's doing is exerting his power over York and putting him in his place. Yeah, he’s flexing. You worked for me. Like you did some good on the expedition, but let's be clear. I own you. And you do what I tell you to do. This is reality. Right. What a dick. Yeah. This is reality. This is my house. Right, but he does lease York to Louisville for a number of months, but when York comes back, guess what? What? York still isn't happy. Well, no, he has to come back. He's quote,” insolent and sulky,” according to Clark. So to mend, quote, unquote, “mend his attitude,” he has him whipped and imprisoned. 00:29:57 I know. You can’t. You can’t whip [I know] someone’s humanity out of them. You can't imprison someone, so they would stop loving their wife and want to be with their family. That is so crazy. It's heartbreaking. Okay. So by July of 1809, Clark writes to his brother that he is finally done with York and he has decided to hire or sell him. And this is the last mention of York in the letters written by William Clark. In 1811, there is another letter from a Louisville relative of the Clark's, who mentions that York's wife moved from the Louisville area into Natchez, Mississippi. So eventually he gets to go back, but she leaves, so they can't be together anyway. She leaves. Right, because they're not in control of their own destinies and they just have to follow along their masters. I know. This is heartbreaking. 00:31:05 So what happens to York? Who was he sold to? What happens? Well, nobody knows, but does the name Washington Irving ring a bell? Not at all. He was a famous author. Um, he did “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” I do not know that man. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Oh, yes. That headless horseman. Right. So he was a famous author and in 1832, he met with Clark to talk about this amazing expedition that Clark was on and was a leader of, right? Because this is like almost 30 years now afterwards. Well, he was the second. He was Kenickie, right? He was the wing man. He was the Kenickie to the Danny Zuko. But unfortunately Merriweather Lewis, he had some emotional issues and his life is tragic. He ended up committing suicide a few years after the expedition. So yeah. So, anyway, Merriweather Lewis wasn't around. Clark was around. 00:32:08 And so this famous author wants to interview him because it's 30 years later and he's like a legend, right? William Clark is a legend. So during this interview, York comes up and Clark discusses him with this famous author who then writes down the account of this meeting and the conversation. And Clark reports to Washington Irving that he freed York. That he freed York, and not only that, he set him up in business and gave him six horses and a wagon to start a business, moving goods between Nashville and Richmond. However, according to Clark, York was lazy and didn't take care of the horses and his business failed. And in the end, he longed to return to slavery and ended up dying of cholera. Like that is the story of York's life as told by Clark to this author, Washington Irving. Okay. I have some thoughts. 00:33:15 First, if you think that you're not being an asshole, you don't lie about the things that you've done. Right. To cover up the truth. Mmhmm. So obviously, Clark knew he was a prick. Secondly. Right? Cause you don't lie if you think that you’re all good. Right, because you don’t have to. You don't have to lie. Yeah. Right. I did what I did, but that's not what Clark did. He was like, oh. And then, and then can you imagine if you really, really did free York and like, set them up in a business? Just the thought of that, because that's all York wanted. He just wanted to be free. He just wanted to be free. I know it adds to injury to insult, to say after that, like this whole lie that he made up and then say after he was free and had his own business, he was just lazy and longed to be under Clark's household again as a slave. 00:34:09 That is so not plausible. Right. Just not. Right. Well, let me see, say that historians don't buy it either. And that there's no evidence that he ever freed York. And also that what historians think Clark was doing was he was telling a narrative that supported the pro-slavery stance politically in the 1830s. Okay. Because the whole pro-slavery argument was that the African-American and slaved people were better off being enslaved and couldn't make it on their own if they were free. So that's what this narrative is doing for him and for his political affiliations in 1832. Yeah. I want to beat up William Clark’s spirit. I think you could take him. He was like a street fighter, whereas Merriweather was more like, hootie tootie and educated. Like Clark was rolling up his sleeves [is that right?] like, going at it. I mean, yeah. Well, according to Ken Burns. I still think you could take him.. 00:35:15 So what happens to York? Well, nobody really knows what happened to York. We don't know when he died. We don't know where he lived, but there is evidence that he might have started a new life out west. Tell me. There was this fur trader named Zenas Leonard. I'm going to call him Leonard because I don't know if I'm saying his first name right. Zenas Leonard. Leonard published a memoir of his travels in 1839. Now modern scholars consider Leonard to be super reliable. Like he was a truth teller and he reported meeting not once, but twice, a quote unquote “negro man” living with the Crow people in what is today Wyoming. So nobody questions that Leonard really met this man, but rather who he was. And Leonard was credible? Very credible. And the black man told Leonard himself that he had returned from St. Louis to the area, after first visiting it with Lewis and Clark. 00:36:30 He never gave Leonard his name. He never gave Leonard his name. I really, really, really hope that that's York. Did Leonard have any indication of how he was living among the Crows? Like were they besties? Well, I'm going to read from his 1832 journal entry. How do you like that? Is that impressive [Tell me] that I have that? Mm Hmm. In this village, [1832, huh?] “In this village, we found a negro man who informed us that he first came to this country with Lewis and Clark with whom he also returned to the state of Missouri. And a few years returned again with a Mr. McKinney, a trader on the Missouri river and has remained here ever since, which is about 10 or 12 years. He has acquired a correct knowledge of their manner of living and speaks their language fluently. 00:37:24 He has rose to be quite a considerable character or Chief in their village. At least he assumes all the dignities of a Chief, for he has four wives with whom he lives alternately. This is the custom of many of the Chiefs.” So he was living as a Chief, as a sisterwife’s husband? Right, as a polygamist, apparently. Right, right, right. I hope so. I really hope that that's York. Do you think it's your York, like intuitively? I do, but you know, historians looked coincidentally at whether or not it could have been James Beckwourth. Isn't that interesting? Why would they even put those two together? This is a major bread crumb for us, by the way. That we're supposed to be talking about York because yeah. So, you know, James Beckwourth also reported. You're always bringing it back to Beckwourth. We had a thing. It was real, Jill. It was real. Okay. . 00:38:22 So, Beckwourth also reported living with the Crow people as a Chief. Wearing the Crow leggings. Wearing the Crow leggings, exactly. But historians don't think this was Beckwourth even though Beckwourth reported living as a Crow Chief, too, because one Beckwourth was younger than York. Two, Beckwourth was not especially dark skinned. That's right. He was half white. That's exactly right. His daddy, if you remember, was the master, his master. And also, um, the fact that this negro man never told Leonard his name is completely out of character for Beckwourth. Beckwourth was a major self promoter. He would have been telling everybody what his name was and the fact that York didn't share his name meant that maybe he had freed himself. Right? Because he would probably want to keep that under wraps, you know, just in case. Yeah. So yeah. Isn't that crazy? It makes sense. Like, I can see James Beckwourth being in like a bar and someone being and someone being like, oh, there's a black person living among the natives and he'd be like, oh yeah, that was me. You didn’t know? 00:39:36 Right, and totally take credit. Yeah, I could so see that. Uh huh. Uh huh. And by the way, um, I will tell you this, that James Beckwourth reported in his autobiography about doing some of the accomplishments of the Chief of the Crows, that kind of mimic what Leonard says that his negro friend did, like 20 years before. Shut your mouth. Do you know what I'm saying now? So like 20 years later. Yeah, because in James Beckwourth’s autobiography, right? That we talked about in season two, episode 10, he said that he described himself doing some of the things that were very parallel, if not a hundred percent similar to what Leonard said York did. Bingo. Or at least the black man living among the Crow. And, you know, to be honest, I feel like that's kind of what happened when we were out on the road. Swear to God. 00:40:40 I feel like we were picking up on the man, the African-American man living like a Chief, being the first, being an explorer, you know. Having positive relations with the tribal people, and I think Beckwourth was so loud in my ears saying, “that was me. I was important.” Wow. Let me sit with that. And yet this quieter and slave type energy would not leave us alone. Would not leave us alone. And was more consistent. Right. Exactly. Throughout the entire trip, he wouldn’t let us go. He kept bringing us back to Lewis and Clark. Lewis and Clark. And that's why I think he needs a voice. I love it. When this morning, just this morning, I was Googling “York,” I found out that there was a bust created in the image of York in Oregon. Oh, and that's nice. Yeah. Yeah. There's also a big statue in Louisville, which makes sense. 00:41:45 That was his hometown. But the same year that we were doing our season two road trip, a white supremacy group destroyed it. That's awful. That's awful. Well, how timely for us to be talking about York and you know what we have not mentioned by the way, Sacagawea because Sacagawea was also a very important figure on this expedition. She was a big deal. She was the 16 year old mother of an infant who basically came along and saved all their asses more than once. Louis wrote that her manner and her courage were that of like, 10 men and compared her specifically to her husband who was like, a hot mess. I love that. That she was 16 and she was so poised and capable and smart, and she literally saved them again and again. And had a newborn baby on her back. 00:42:41 I know. I know. She also got nothing. She got nothing for her efforts. She is celebrated though. She is celebrated today and we know the name, Sacagawea and she's on, you know, dollar coins. And she has a dollar coin and she is adorable. And monuments, you know. She is celebrated and she was amazing. And she's another reason, another minority, by the way, who like saved this entire expedition. And I think it's time that York also gets a voice. He was just as important. When I think about York, like in spirit. When he comes to us in spirit, because he's been with us, like I said, this whole time. He like, he won't leave us alone. He feels so loving and calm and jovial, you know what I mean? And just like a bright spirit. Oh, I love him so much. I know it feels like we know him. 00:43:32 He's been with us a lot. That's amazing. Well, I hope we satisfied his spirit. Thank you for being with us, but now you can rest. We talked about you. All right. Um, Jill, do you want to tell our listeners where they can find us or get in contact with us? Sure, sure. You can look us up on our Facebook page, Common Mystics Pod and our Instagram account, Common Mystics Pod. You can find us on our website, common mystics.net. Anywhere you're listening to your favorite podcasts, we're there, but if you tune in to Apple podcasts, leave us a positive review, so your friends can find us. But wait, Jen. What? We have to say hello to our new listeners that found us because we've been getting so much feedback about how people appreciate the show. And we just want to say, hi, thank you for listening. And we're so glad that we found you. Thank you so much. Keep listening, keep reaching out. We love your messages and see you soon. Thank you. Thank you. Bye-bye. Bye.

Other Episodes

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Episode 2

March 17, 2022

S3E2: More Voices From The Road- Tecumseh's Message

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Episode 7

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Episode 49

June 30, 2022

49: The Legacy of Samuel Wolfman Mason in Natchez, MS

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