BY LEIGH YOCHUM
Quite by accident, Jeffrey Smith stumbled across a historical gem – the personal diaries of Major George Sibley, who helped his wife, Mary, found Lindenwood University 175 years ago.
Smith, a Lindenwood history professor for the past seven years, actually had been researching William Clark in the Missouri Historical Society when the diaries were found. The University has since decided to have the diaries published.
The 10 diaries cover the dates between 1808-1819. The first of the diaries includes documented personal accounts of George Sibley’s life and communications during this period. It describes his interactions with Native Americans and accounts of his trade operation.
When Smith found the diaries, he knew they were a treasure and an interest to a national audience.
“It’s a privilege to have these journals,” said Smith. “It’s a very exciting project for this institution.”
This journal provides a window to the changing and emerging relationship of Native Americans in the Missouri area in the early 1800s. Sibley became the link between Native Americans and the government during this time.
“He [Sibley] was a big authority involving Native American diplomacy,” said Smith.
Along with student helper, Derek Herbert, Smith will be doing the research for the book, The Sibley Diaries. Smith’s job includes writing a lengthy introduction and footnotes within the diary, which is no small task.
“This is really good stuff,” Smith Said. “These are eyewitness accounts of a time that also helped shape the development of the west.”
The book will be marketed through bookstores and electronically. Also, students in Lindenwood marketing classes will have an opportunity to help promote the book as an assignment. The Sibley Diaries could also be useful to high school history and social studies teachers who wish to teach students our local history.
The first journal of The Sibley Diaries will be released before Christmas and be roughly 200 pages. After this project, Smith anticipates the next publication will be about the Santa Fe Trail.
Leigh Yochum is an intern in the Lindenwood University public relations office.