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Lewis and Clark

National, regional events planned
to mark historic 1803 journey

Clarksville to join Louisville
in staging ‘signature’ activities

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

April 2003) - Events commemorating the Bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition began Jan. 18 with an inaugural ceremony at Monticello, the home of President Thomas Jefferson, outside Charlottesville, Va. Monticello was the first of 15 sites designated by the National Council of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial for national heritage signature events to be held through 2006.

Map of Historic Trail

The sites, which spread across the country along Lewis and Clark’s now famous trail, were chosen based on their place in the expedition’s chronology, historical relevance, cultural diversity, tribal involvement, geographic locations and sponsoring organizations’ capacity, according to the Bicentennial Council.
A significant part of the Bicentennial Commemoration is inclusion of the eastern half of the country with national signature event sites in Monticello and the Falls of the Ohio area in Louisville, Ky., and Clarksville, Ind. The Falls of the Ohio Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Committee was chosen to play host to the second national signature event, which is scheduled for Oct. 24-26 to commemorate the departure of the expedition from Clarksville.
The committee formed in 1997 when a group of individuals from both sides of the Ohio River began meeting to explore ways in which communities in Indiana and Kentucky could commemorate the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial in 2003-2006.
“We worked hard to get the designation of the second national signature event,” said committee president Dani Cummins. In addition to securing the designation, which signifies the areas importance in the Lewis and Clark legacy, the committee has also achieved other initiatives.
Among them were the production of a regional brochure titled, “Lewis and Clark at the Falls of the Ohio,” production of a 20-minute educational video called “Spirit of the Land,” and the successful addition of both Falls of the Ohio State Park in Indiana and Locust Grove, Ky., as certified sites on the national Lewis and Clark Trail.
Locust Grove is the only verified remaining structure west of the Appalachians known as a Lewis and Clark stopping point. Both men visited the home on Nov. 8, 1806, for a family celebration after returning from the expedition.
Southern Indiana and north central Kentucky community leaders are excited about the area’s inclusion in the national Bicentennial Commemoration, especially considering the hard work that went in to making sure it was.
“It’s an opportunity for the state to tell the story of the role that we played in the greatest expedition that ever happened,” said Jim Keith, executive director of Clark-Floyd Counties Convention and Tourism Bureau and chair of the Indiana Lewis and Clark Committee.
Keith said the whole state, not just Clarksville, has embraced the Bicentennial Commemoration, including the state government, which has produced Lewis and Clark license plates, an idea Keith said was borrowed from Montana. “I’m amazed at the way people have embraced this story,” Keith said.
In addition to the Bicentennial signature event, a number of programs have been planned around the area, including a 13-day commemoration beginning Oct. 14, the day Lewis arrived in Louisville.

Photo provided

Re-enactors in Clarksville, Ind.,
are planning to take part in the
Lewis and Clark Bicentennial
Commemoration activities in southern
Indiana and Louisville in October.

A reenactment of Lewis’ arrival and meeting with Clark will take place at noon that day at Louisville’s Waterfront Park. It will close with the reenactment of the Corps of Discovery’s historic departure from Clarksville on Oct. 26.
Between those dates, several additional events are planned throughout the region. These include Native American and African American programs, educational programs, a symposium with renowned speakers, Corps of Discovery II exhibits and programs, St. Charles Expedition programs, special exhibits and programs at area institutions, arts exhibits and performances, and the expanded annual Lewis and Clark River Festival. The festival will showcase the role that the Falls of the Ohio and its residents played in the success of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Historical sites, galleries and educational institutions around southern Indiana and north central Kentucky plan to celebrate the Bicentennial by offering special events or attractions throughout the year. In Clarksville, Falls of the Ohio State Park has two permanent exhibits, including a 20-minute movie about the local Lewis and Clark connection, and an exhibit featuring local people who were part of the expedition. Park officials will add temporary exhibits in commemoration of the Bicentennial.
Beginning Oct. 1, the first of their temporary exhibits, “Lewis and Clark: the Adventure Begins,” will go up. It focuses on the planning of the expedition and includes cutouts of important figures to the expedition. The cutouts will be part of a traveling exhibit available for loan to schools and other institutions after winter 2004, according to Alan Goldstein, interpretive naturalist for the park and a member of the education committee of the Bicentennial Committee.
Beginning May 1, the Filson Historical Society in Louisville will display a collection of letters written by William Clark to his brother Jonathan, five of which date during the time of the expedition and their collection of surveying equipment, related artwork, portraits, weapons and the horn of a bighorn sheep that was given to Clark’s sister, Fanny, and is believed to be the only verified animal artifact from the expedition, according to Filson Curator of Special Collections, James J. Holmberg.
Beginning Oct. 5, the Louisville Science Center’s IMAX Theatre will show “Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West,” a portrayal of the physical challenges faced during the 8,000-mile trek across a vast wilderness.
More information regarding Lewis and Clark Bicentennial activities are listed in the calendar of events. To learn more, visit or call one of the sources listed below.

Lewis & Clark’s easternmost travels,
preparation added to the celebration.

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

After the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from the French in 1803, U.S. Congress authorized an expedition that would become one of the most significant in U.S. history – the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery.
The primary objective of the expedition, necessary for expansion into newly acquired territory, was to locate and map all navigable water route across the continent. While the eastern section of the country was widely settled, the region west of the Mississippi, including 828,000 square miles of new U.S. territory, remained an unfamiliar and uncharted frontier.

Photo provided

Re-enactors in
Clarksville, Ind., are
planning to takepart in
the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial
Commemoration.

To lead the expedition, President Thomas Jefferson personally appointed and trained Capt. Meriwether Lewis. Lewis was born in 1774 in Albermarle County, Va. His father, a Revolutionary War officer, died when Lewis was a boy. Lewis became a militia officer and later joined the regular Army. He served as President Jefferson’s personal secretary from 1801-1802. Lewis invited William Clark to join him as co-leader of the expedition. Clark was born in Virginia in 1770 and at age 14 moved with his family to Louisville, Ky. Clark served in the Kentucky militia and then as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
On August 31, 1803, according to his personal journal, Lewis departed from Pittsburgh, Pa., with a crew of 11. Thick fog and low water made the travel slow and arduous at times, and it wasn’t until Oct. 14 that Lewis connected with Capt. Clark. It is not known definitively on which side of the river, north or south, the two first met, but historians agree about the importance of the meeting.
“Steven Ambrose and others say that when Lewis and Clark shook hands, the expedition began,” said historian and author Carl E. Kramer.
Past historical accounts of Lewis and Clark’s journey have focused upon the expedition west of the Mississippi River. But in recent years, new emphasis has been placed on preparation and travel in the east. Now called “The Eastern Legacy,” the trail traveled by Meriwether Lewis from President Jefferson’s home in Virginia to the Louisville area, where he met up with Clark and continued on toward St. Louis, is recognized as an important part of the expedition’s history.
“We are basically changing a hundred year tradition. Most history books start in St. Louis,” said Jim Keith, executive director of the Clark-Floyd Counties Convention and Tourism Bureau and chair of the Indiana Lewis and Clark Commission.
The reason the eastern segment of the journey was formerly disregarded was primarily due to the nature of the mission, according to Kramer. “The purpose for which they were sent out didn’t begin until they got to St. Louis, since their mission was to explore the Missouri River and find a water route to the Pacific coast,” he said.
However, many historians, including Kramer, concur that the eastern legacy, particularly events that occurred in the Falls of the Ohio area, are more significant than previously recognized. “What we’re doing is engaging in a certain kind of historical revisionism in the sense that we are casting old events into new light based upon new information and new perspectives,” Kramer said.
Kramer’s soon-to-be-published book, “The Corps of Discovery and the Falls of the Ohio,” will detail some of the new information about the role of the Louisville-Clarksville area and the people recruited here to participate in the expedition.
According to Kramer, the Falls of the Ohio’s historical significance goes beyond being a mere meeting place of the two captains. Not only was the area Clark’s homeplace, it was also where he recruited several expedition members while waiting for Lewis to arrive.
“He came up with about seven men from this general area that became the ‘core of the Corps,’ ,” said Kramer. These men included individuals who would become some of the most significant to the journey. Among them were Sgt. Charles Floyd and his cousin, Sgt. Nathaniel Pryor; brothers Joseph and Reubin Field; John Shields; William Bratton; and George Gibson, all privates.
After Lewis arrived, he and Clark spent 12 days in the Louisville-Clarksville, Ind. area making final preparations for the expedition and training the men Clark had recruited. “For all practical purposes, the Falls of the Ohio is where the expedition took shape,” said Kramer. More than one-third of the expedition party had ties to the area.
Finally, on Oct. 26, 1803, the expedition set out from Clarksville toward St. Louis. It was from St. Louis that the group entered into the unfamiliar Louisiana Territory.
In addition to Capts. Lewis and Clark, 35 enlisted men and 15 civilians made the expedition. Among the civilians were George Drouillard, the son of a French-Canadian father and a Shawnee mother who had been hired as an interpreter; Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trader hired as a guide; Charbonneau’s Shoshone wife, Sacagawea; and York, Clark’s slave and the first African-American to cross from coast to coast of what is now the United States.
The only female member, Sacagawea, earned a place of honor among the party and in history as an interpreter and ambassador between the explorers and her native Shoshone.
During the journey, Lewis and Clark not only were successful in mapping a route beyond the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, they also recorded flora and fauna, made scientific astronomical observations and peacefully met with many Indiana groups along the way. Surprisingly, only one casualty, the death of Sgt. Floyd of an appendicitis, occurred during the expedition – quite remarkable considering the length and difficulty of journey. Covering nearly 8,000 miles, the group traveled in boats, on horses and on foot across plains and mountains, and after three years, returned to the Ohio River Valley in 1806.
When possible during their journey, Clark wrote letters to his brother, Jonathan, in Louisville detailing events of the trip. In 1988, five of those letters were recovered from an attic in the Louisville home of one of Clark’s descendants. The letters were donated to the Filson Historical Society of Louisville, along with 46 others written by Clark to his brother at other times.
According to Filson’s Curator of Special Collections, James J. Holmberg, two of the letters are especially descriptive. One, said Holmberg, was written shortly after leaving the Falls of the Ohio area and details two illnesses suffered by Clark. Another, written in 1805, was sent just before the party left the last outpost before descending into unknown territory. It was the last letter sent back during the journey before the party reappeared in the St. Louis area in 1806.
“Many gave them up for dead,” said Holmberg, because they had no way to communicate. Clark’s letters were compiled in a book by Holmberg titled, “Dear Brother: Letters of William Clark to Jonathan Clark.” The letters will be on display beginning in May at the Filson Club, 1310 S. Third St., Louisville.
Following their historic journey, Lewis and Clark went their separate ways. Clark settled in St. Louis, where he served as Indiana agent for the Louisiana Territory and superintendent of Indiana Affairs until 1838. He also served as governor of the Missouri territory from 1813-1820. He died in 1838 and is buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis.
Lewis died just three years after the expedition on October 11, 1809, at an inn along the Natchez Trace in Tennessee on his way to Washington, D.C. Speculation of his untimely death, the result of gunshot wounds, has not been verified, but most historians believe his wounds were self-inflicted.

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