& Clark Bicentennial
to welcome re-enactors
of Discovery expedition
to encourage education via interaction
(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.
A nonprofit organization that each year re-enacts a portion
of Lewis and Clarks 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 expeditions
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.
Were 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. Keiths 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 Louisvilles 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 expeditions
departure from Clarksville.
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 towns
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 Colleges Crowe
Academy that included information about the Native Americans interaction
with Lewis and Clark.
Durrett admitted that, before attending the academy, he didnt
know that much about the history of the explorers. But since then, Ive
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 members role during part of
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 expeditions 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
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 years re-enactment voyage.