University Relations and Communications

April lecture series examines William Clark's time in the Yellowstone Valley

March 16, 2015



Brent Roberts, MSUB Library, 657-1655
Carmen Price, University Relations & Communications, 657-2266


Free and open to the public, lectures will be held April 7, 14 and 21, all beginning at 6:30 p.m., in room 148 of the Library Building.


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — The incredible 3,700-mile expedition of the Corps of Discovery led by Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark generated a gold mine of information about the West and the water route to its coast.


Most of the information lies in their journals, but there are some wonderful pieces of information—and some unsolved mysteries—in the great map of the West that Lewis and Clark produced.


A charge from then-President Thomas Jefferson in 1804, the journey is still being felt two centuries later, particularly in the Yellowstone Valley where Clark chronicled the exploration along the Yellowstone River.


Montana State University Billings will host a lecture series in April titled, “Clark on the Yellowstone” featuring MSUB faculty from the history department and Friends of Pompeys Pillar examining Clark’s two-week journey through the Yellowstone Valley during the return voyage of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the mid-summer of 1806.


Beginning April 7, history professor and department chair Keith Edgerton will provide an overview of Captain Clark and his small contingent of the Corps of Discovery’s exploration of the Yellowstone, which has “often been overlooked as a result of his fellow co-commander’s, Meriwether Lewis’s, exploits in northern Montana during the same period.”


“However, Clark’s journey provided invaluable information about the geography, topography and commercial possibilities of the Yellowstone Valley used by fur traders and voyagers in the ensuing years, hastening both white settlement in the region and the disruption of indigenous cultures who had long-inhabited Yellowstone country,” Edgerton said.


The following Tuesday, history professor Tom Rust will recount a three-year project that explored a possible site where Clark built tow canoes that descended the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. Rust will show how the technology and excavations produced intriguing and promising results regarding the site.


The last of the series on April 21, John LeVar, Friends of Pompeys Pillar board member, and Jeff Kitchens, manager of Pompeys Pillar National Monument, will discuss the history of the national site and “Whatever Happened to Baby Pomp?”


Sponsored by the MSUB Library, the Office of the Provost and the Friends of Pompey’s Pillar, all lectures are free and open to the public, with presentations beginning at 6:30 p.m., in the Library building room 148.


April 7: Dr. Keith Edgerton, MSUB History Department: “Clark’s 1806 Summer Odyssey on the Yellowstone: Two weeks that altered Montana’s history for the next two centuries”


April 14: Dr. Tom Rust, MSUB History Department: “A ‘…tolerably good…’ Campsite: The Clark Canoe Camp”


April 21: John LeVar, Friends of Pompeys Pillar Board of Directors and Jeff Kitchens, manager of Pompeys Pillar National Monument: “History of the Pompeys Pillar Site & ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Pomp?’”


Bios of each presenter:


Dr. Keith Edgerton is the chair of the Department of History at MSU Billings where he teaches courses on the history of Montana and the American West. He has long been a student of the impact of the Lewis and Clark expedition on subsequent American history.


Dr. Tom Rust is an Associate Professor of History and a native Montanan who started his undergraduate career at MSU Billings’ satellite campus in Bozeman, but transferred to the University of Minnesota, graduating with a B.A. in history in 1992. He received his M.A. in history from the University in Denver in 1995 where his work in American military history, more specifically the 19th century west, has been published in the journal “Military History of West.” Sensing that one master's degree wasn't enough, he went on to receive a M.Ed. from MSUB in 1999 before completing his Ph.D. at the University of Leicester in 2006. He has conducted and published both historical and archaeological research in a variety of areas from ancient Rome to the American West. Rust has taught at MSUB since 1999.


Jeff Kitchens is the manager of Pompeys Pillar National Monument, which is administered by the Bureau of Land Management. He coordinates the management of the monument as well as all adjacent public lands. Prior to his current position, Kitchens was the National Landscape Conservation Program lead for the BLM in Colorado.  He has also worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a forester, the National Park Service as a firefighter and ecologist, and for the Forest Service in forestry and wildfire management. Kitchens received a double B.A. in psychology and environmental science from Gettysburg College in 1998 and a Master of Science in forestry from Colorado State University in 2001.  He has almost 20 years of experience in natural resources and public land management, his career taking him to Montana, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Oregon and Washington D.C.  Along with his resource management experience, Kitchens has been actively involved in environmental education, mostly through volunteer work, for more than a decade.  He has a passion for history, educating youth and managing public lands through partnerships and collaboration. He resides in the Billings area with his family where he is an avid outdoor enthusiast.


John LeVar grew up in north central Illinois and received a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from the University of Illinois. He later received a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Denver.  He worked as a math teacher and school administrator in the Denver Public Schools for 28 years.  Before he started teaching he served five years active duty in the United States Air Force and, while teaching school, served 15 years in the Colorado National Guard retiring as a lieutenant colonel.  He has volunteered at Pompeys Pillar since 2000 and received the volunteer of the year award for 2002. LeVar is a member of the Rochejhone Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation as well as The Friends of Pompeys Pillar and has served on the boards of both organizations.


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