William and Rose is the story of William Clark’s love for a Nez Perce woman, who he met while he and the Corps of Discovery stayed with the Indians, both going to and returning from the far west.
Although it is a fictional account of the love between William and the Nez Perce Indian woman named Rose (her native name was Tom-sis), the story has been passed down for generations of Nez Perce oral history.
William and the Corps of Discovery met the Nez Perce after they came across the Bitterroot Mountains in the fall of 1805 on their way to the Pacific Ocean. They were half starved and the Nez Perce people gave them food. Later they helped them build canoes to go down the various rivers of whatare now the states of Idaho and Oregon to reach the Big Water.
Rose brought trade goods to the white men’s camp so she could become acquainted with "the red-haired chief," who she later called Daytime Smoker. During a storm, she stayed overnight at his camp and they consummated their relationship.
Afterward, Clark was filled with remorse. He had intended to stay unattached to Rose because he knew that at some point he would be leaving her forever. He wrestled with his conscience until the day he left for the west.
After a long winter spent at Fort Clatsop, William arrived back at the Nez Perce encampment in the spring. This time the Corps stayed nearly two months with the Nez Perce, who had kept their horses for them. The romance between William and Rose flourished. When William left for the last time in July of 1806, after the snow had sufficiently melted in the mountain passes, he wasn’t aware that Rose was pregnant with his child.
Rose was so distraught after he left that she tried to follow him over the mountains. However, after crossing the Bitterroots, Lewis and Clark and Sergeant Ordway had split the Corps into three groups, each trying to find a faster route back to the east. None of the friendly Salish Indians knew which way Clark had gone so Rose was forced to stay with them in what is now Montana. It was too late for her to travel back across the mountains by herself. In February she gave birth to a son she called "Father Is Daytime Smoker."
While staying with the Salish, she fell in love with one of the young men there. He accompanied her in the spring to her home with the Nez Perce and stayed as her husband.
As time passed, Clark married a white woman and fathered five children with her. But he never forgot his Rose of the Rockies. And she thought about him every time she looked into the smoky blue eyes of her son.