Friday, October 3, 2003

Lewis and Clark come alive at Kentucky's Big Bone Lick

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Re-enactor Ron Louderback of Felicity is aided by Tichenor Middle pupil Matt Luken in demonstrating how a "tooth key" like one carried on the original journey was used to remove a tooth.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
Keep an eye out today for a man dressed like a cross between Daniel Boone and a Revolutionary War soldier and riding a horse along a Northern Kentucky road today.

It's Meriwether Lewis on his way to Big Bone Lick.

"It's still a pretty decent way to get around," said Lewis, who is really Scott Mandrell portraying Lewis in the bicentennial re-enactment of Lewis and William Clark's exploration of the West.

The re-enactors are traveling the same route, following the same timetable and staying as true to what happened in 1803 as possible.

So today, Mandrell, who wears an early military hat with bear fur and a white deer tail, will hop on a horse and ride from Covington, where the crew had been camped, toward Union - just as Lewis described in a letter to President Thomas Jefferson on Oct. 3, 1803.

Where: Big Bone Lick State Park, 3380 Beaver Road, Union
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; 12:30 p.m.: arrival of Meriwether Lewis, welcoming ceremony
Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Monday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Price: $5 for general admission; $4 for seniors; $1 for children
For a complete listing of events go to: Web site
Of course, Lewis didn't have to deal with traffic, highways and people honking their horns.

Mandrell, 37, plans to use back roads rather than the interstate and arrive at the lick Saturday, the same day Lewis did 200 years ago, on a mission to collect bones for Jefferson.

To celebrate, Big Bone Lick State Park is holding a four-day festival. The annual Salt Festival at the park was turned into Discovery Days.

In addition to period camps, music and food, visitors will be able to help with an archaeological dig, said Jonathan Barker, naturalist at Big Bone.

Though the dig will be for artifacts, rather than bones, visitors will be "digging in the same place, doing the same thing that Lewis and his crew were doing," Barker said.

There will also be characters portraying George Rogers Clark, William Clark and his slave York, the only African-American on the journey.

Historian Jim Holmberg will talk about Big Bone's connection to the Lewis and Clark journey at 11 a.m. Saturday. Anthropologist Ken Tankersley will discuss and sign his book In Search of Ice Age Americans at 11 a.m. Sunday.

There also be will demonstrations of buffalo hair spinning, trapping, surveying tools, and making fire with flint and steel.

The re-enactors' boats will be docked at Big Bone Landing, about three miles from the park. A TANK shuttle bus will take visitors between the sites, Barker said.

In 1803, Lewis sent the boats ahead because it was only 17 miles to Big Bone by land. He then met up with his crew at the landing. Jefferson, who commissioned the expedition, asked Lewis to stop at Big Bone and collect bones of the giant mammals that were preserved in the salt lick.

"Jefferson had heard about finds at Big Bone, he knew there were some strange things there," said R.A. Davis, who teaches biology and geology at Mount Saint Joseph College in Cincinnati.

The bones of mastodons and mammoths had been found there, but no one had ever seen one.

"That was one of the reasons for sending them," Davis said, "to see whether (the animals) still existed somewhere out west in the wilderness."

Lewis apparently collected a lot of bones.

A collector who came soon after complained: "Lewis is taking all the best bones," said Holmberg, the Lewis and Clark historian. "But they all ended up at the bottom of the Mississippi anyway," he said.

The bones Lewis collected later sank while they were being shipped to New Orleans.

After the expedition in 1807, Jefferson asked Clark to collect more bones. Those made it back to Jefferson, who kept some, sent some to France and shipped some to Philadelphia.

After leaving Big Bone, Lewis made his way to Louisville, where he met up with Clark.

The re-enactors will leave Wednesday and stop in Warsaw, Carrollton, and Bethlehem, Ind., before reaching Louisville Oct. 14.


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