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Lewis & Clark Bicentennial

Kentuckiana to welcome re-enactors

Corps of Discovery expedition
to encourage education via interaction


By Don Ward
Editor

(October 2003) – On Aug. 31 in Elizabeth, Pa., members of the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, Mo., launched a 55-foot keelboat replica on the Monongahela River, beginning their re-creation of Meriwether Lewis’ 1803 voyage west.

Keelboat

Photo provided

Keelboat with re-enactors

A nonprofit organization that each year re-enacts a portion of Lewis and Clark’s historic voyage, the group was chosen as official re-enactors for the national 2003-2006 Lewis and Clark bicentennial commemoration. Over the next three years, the expedition will trace the entire waterway portion of the original Corps of Discovery, from Elizabeth to Great Falls, Mont., beyond which the original boats could not proceed. They will follow as closely as possible the original time frame of the 200-year-old expedition.
From Elizabeth, where Lewis’ keelboat was built in 1803, the modern-day expedition crew followed the Monongahela River for 22.5 miles to its confluence with the Ohio River in Pittsburgh. They have navigated the Ohio for the past month and will remain on the river through the latter part of November before taking to the Mississippi River near Charleston, Mo. The group will end the 2003 segment of their journey around Dec. 12 at Camp DuBois near St. Louis, according to the expedition’s president, Darold Jackson.
During their nearly 1,000-mile voyage on the Ohio, the re-enactors will make more than a dozen stops in Kentucky and Indiana, including a 14-day layover in the Louisville, Ky. and Clarksville, Ind. areas for the Falls of the Ohio National Signature Event.
“We’re very appreciative of them,” said Jim Keith, executive director of the Southern Indiana Clark-Floyd Counties Convention and Tourism Bureau who also serves as chairperson of the Indiana Lewis and Clark Commission. Keith’s office will play host to the expedition beginning on Oct. 11 in Bethlehem, Ind., where the crew will camp for three days and participate in local activities before heading to Louisville.
The signature event, the second of 15 across the country, will begin Oct. 14 at Louisville’s Waterfront Park with a re-enactment of the historic meeting between Lewis and Clark. It will close on Oct. 26 with a re-enactment at the Falls of the Ohio State Park of the expedition’s departure from Clarksville.

Re-enactors in uniform

Photo provided

Re-enactors in uniform

Crawfordsville, Ind., native Robert Durrett plans to join up with the crew prior to Bethlehem during their Oct. 9-11 stop in Carrollton, Ky., where they will be featured in the river town’s Lewis and Clark commemoration at Point Park. Activities planned include a welcome reception at 1 p.m., on Oct. 9, tours of the re-enactors boats and campsite, the Army Corps of Engineers’ history barge, displays and entertainment by local school children, and a re-enactment of York by Hasan Davis sponsored by the Carroll County Public Library. The group will depart Carrollton at 9 a.m. on Oct. 11.
Durrett, 63, said he hopes to re-enact the role of Pvt. William Bratton, but will otherwise fill in where he is needed. He will remain with the expedition through Oct. 16.
A Hanover College graduate, Durrett was born in Louisville and moved to Martinsville, Ind., at age 3. His interest in Lewis and Clark was piqued last year when he attended “The Native American in History and Myth,” a seminar conducted by Hanover College’s Crowe Academy that included information about the Native Americans’ interaction with Lewis and Clark.
Durrett admitted that, before attending the academy, he didn’t know that much about the history of the explorers. But since then, “I’ve read just about everything,” he said.
Besides reading a plethora of books, Durrett browsed the Internet, where he found information about the St. Charles Discovery Expedition. He decided almost immediately to do something to support the expedition, and “the further I got into it, I guess I really got hooked,” he said. After attending the St. Charles, Mo., Heritage Days last May, Durrett decided to re-enact a crew member’s role during part of the journey.
Bringing Lewis and Clark to life, Durrett and approximately 270 re-enactors will rotate as crew members during the three-year expedition. All volunteers, the re-enactors represent at least 25 states and run the gamut of age and occupation; as many as 40 will be part of the crew at one time.
These include nationally recognized living history presenter Scott Mandrell, who will portray Meriwether Lewis; two descendants of William Clark, Peyton (Bud) Clark of Dearborn, Mich., and Charles Clark of St. Louis, Mo.; and two descendants of George Shannon (the youngest member of the original expedition), Bob Anderson of Maryville, Ohio, and his grandson Josh Loftis. The expedition’s youngest member is a 10-month-old Newfoundland trained in water rescue named Seaman, in honor of Lewis’ dog, also a Newfoundland that accompanied the captain through the entire expedition.
Not only will the re-enactors dress the parts of their historic counterparts, they will also perform routine tasks, such as setting up period campsites, cooking over open campfires and sleeping in tents, just like the original members of the Corps of Discovery. Additionally, they will a maneuver authentically replicated boats along swiftly moving rivers and through unpredictable weather, a task that required some training, Jackson said.
The boats of the expedition are of particular interest. Having begun the journey from Pittsburgh in a keelboat replica, the crew acquired a red Pirogue in Wheeling, W.Va. A white Pirogue will be added when the crew reaches Ft. Kaskaskia on the Mississippi River. The larger keelboat, which required roughly 10,000 man hours and almost two years to complete, is 55-feet long and weighs approximately seven tons without cargo or crew.
The two smaller white and red pirogues are 39-feet and 41-feet, six-inches long, respectively, and weigh nearly three tons each. Also hand-built, the pirogues each took 3,000 hours to build. The boats will be at times sailed, rowed or pulled, as they were by the original crew. But they will include motors due to U.S. Coast Guard regulations.
The bicentennial commemoration will not be the maiden voyage for many of the Discovery Expedition crew. Some have been members since the group was officially founded in 1995 by the late Glen Bishop.
Education is the primary focus of the Discovery Expedition, and the public is encouraged to visit the group at any of the many river town stops they will make along their journey.
“One thing that we do emphasize is that the motivation for all of this is education,” said Jackson. “We want to teach the public and particularly young people.”

More information about the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, Mo., including an itinerary of their bicentennial trek and journal entries, can be found on their official website: www.lewisandclark.net. Several other Internet websites provide additional details about the original voyage and this year’s re-enactment voyage.

 

 

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