"Florence Mill" Story Telling
- Each year during the past few years of Florence Days, the Florence Mill has hosted a Historic Storytelling Program featuring a historic figure retelling tales from a bygone era. For the years 2002 and 2003, the storyteller was from the Corps of Discovery expedition led by Lewis and Clark. For 2002, the storyteller was Darrel Draper, playing the part of George Drouillard, the half French-half Shawnee native scout that accompanied Lewis & Clark on their expedition to the west coast and back. For 2003, Dale Clark portrayed Patrick Gass. Photos of the 2003 event.
- For 2004, Darrel Draper returned but this year he performed Colonel Peter A. Sarpy (1805-1865), the legendary frontiersman and fur trader, for which Sarpy County is named for. Mr. Sarpy arrived in the Bellevue area (1829?) long before the area was open to settlers, and is often credited with having been the first white settler in the area, which could not be the case as the American Fur Trading Company, which Peter Sarpy took over in 1835*, had been established since 1810. The American Fur Company trading post was located in a place known as "Trading Point" (a.k.a. "Trader's Point"), the place that later became known as Bellevue. Later on, Mr. Sarpy was one of the proprietors of the "Old Town Company" that planned out the future Belleview (Bellevue), formed in 1854 following the Kansas-Nebraska Act that made the territory available for settlement. Mr. Sarpy was friendly to and respected by the natives (calling him "White Chief"), even making Ni-co-mi*, an Omaha native woman his wife. Mr. Sarpy was from the founding fathers of St. Louis, the Chouteau family, also known for operating the largest number of fur trading posts throughout the frontier.
If you think that Peter Sarpy having lived the majority of his time in Bellevue (and parts of Sarpy County) seems out of place for Florence, you don't know the full story. Mr. Sarpy was operating a small dingy type ferry when the Mormons arrived in 1846, too small for moving the numbers across the Missouri that was needed. After preliminary planning for a bigger ferry, Brigham Young approached Mr. Sarpy to see if he would be interested in a joint effort; he was and became part owner of the first Mormon ferry built around L Street (sometimes referred to as Sarpy's ferry). Later on that ferry was moved upstream to near the Mormon Bridge's location, right next to the current location of the Florence Mill. At the time, the mill was slightly west of its current location (approximately 400 feet) and was a center of activity every day. It seems plausible that Mr. Sarpy would visit the new ferry location, and visit the Grist Mill that Brigham Young had built. Mr. Sarpy, may very well have stood inside the original Florence Mill when it was operated by the Mormons.
Mr. Sarpy's relationship with the Mormons continued throughout his life, and up in his later years, he announced plans to visit his friends in Salt Lake City. The announcement created quite a stir, going so far as a Council Bluffs newspaper accusing Mr. Sarpy of abandoning Bellevue. Mr. Sarpy's swift response with a quill explaining otherwise was poetic justice at its best. It turned out that Mr. Sarpy, although placing ads for accompaniment and raising funds for the trip, never actually made the journey. He died in 1865, was buried near Plattsmouth where he resided at the time, and his body was later moved back to St. Louis to be buried with the rest of his family.
- For the year 2003, Dale Clark portrayed Patrick Gass from the Corps of Discovery expedition led by Lewis and Clark. Click on the images to see an enlarged view.
- For the year 2002, Darrel Draper played George Drouillard, the half Shawnee-half French scout that accompanied the Corps of Discovery expedition led by Lewis and Clark.
- For the year 2001, Native American, Matt Sitting Bear Jones told the Otoe/Missouria Nation story, "The Forgotten Tribe." This was the first year of the story telling at the mill.
- If you missed any of the past years of story telling, the archives are still floating in time, although they will not pass through our time again. Next time make plans early; they are the times you will never forget.