Winneshiek on Byrd’s South Pole Expedition

I don’t know how I overlooked this but I must have. Two newspaper articles both state that William Winneshiek was along with Richard Byrd on his Second Antarctic Expedition. One article, dated October 14, 1939 announced his marriage to Estella Winters of Reading, Pennsylvania. The article mentioned, among other things, that Winneshiek had been a member of Byrd’s expedition. The second article, dated October 7, 1940, was about a talk he gave in Circleville, Ohio on its annual History Day. Again, his involvement with Byrd’s trip to the South Pole was mentioned. This was something new to me as I had previously heard nothing about Winneshiek’s involvement in anything like this.

Hoping to learn more, I contacted the Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program at The Ohio State University (don’t forget the The). Linda Kissel, the Polar Curator, dug through their files using several ingenious spellings of Winneshiek’s name—one of the problems researching him is that his name is often misspelled—and came up dry. I noted that the information about this was most likely given to both reporters by Winneshiek himself. She told me that she is constantly getting similar requests about other people who claimed to have been on the expedition. So, I figured that he just made it up.

Until I found something else. The September 5, 1973 edition of Lebanon Daily News, Winneshiek’s adopted home town’s newspaper, included a 40-years-ago column in which was stated, “William P. Winnishiek[sic], local Indian, was chosen a member of Admiral Richard Byrd’s expedition to the Antarctic.” Bill died 20 years before this was printed, so he could have had no involvement in a false memory and his son was estranged from him, so he didn’t do it. This was likely a direct quote from the September 5, 1933 paper. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a copy of it—yet.

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