Portrait of George Rogers Clark
Image courtesy of Locust Grove
In June of 1778, George Rogers Clark, older brother of William
Clark, led a military expedition from the Falls of the Ohio
to attack British garrisons in the Old Northwest. In a series
of bold strikes, Clark's forces captured Kaskaskia, in Illinois,
some smaller forts near there, and Fort Sackville at Vincennes
(Indiana). Because of the American presence in the Old Northwest
at the end of the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin, during
peace negotiations with the British, could assert boundaries
for the new country stretching west to the Mississippi and north
to the Great Lakes.
Even before leaving on this
expedition Clark was familiar with the Kentucky and Ohio Valley
having traveled, surveyed and claimed land there since 1775.
It was in the area around the Falls of the Ohio that Clark was
to spend his life after the American Revolution. He divided
his time between trying to press his claims for payment of debts
he had incurred during his march and administrating the land
that has come to be known as Clark's Grant.
On January 2, 1781, the general assembly of Virginia passed
a resolution that not more than 150,000 acres of land northwest
of the Ohio River be granted to officers and men in Clark's
force. This land, known as the Illinois Grant, was selected
at a meeting of the officers on February 1, 1783, at Louisville.
Probably chosen on Clark's recommendation, it ran from below
the Falls of the Ohio to a spot up the river at a distance as
would make the width not exceed the breadth. At an early meeting
the commission chosen to distribute and administer this land
set aside 1000 acres for a town that came to be known as Clarksville.
George Roger Clark preferred Clarksville to all others as a
place of business and residence. In 1803, Clark grew tired of
living with his sister and brother-in-law at Locust
Grove across the river in Kentucky and moved to his cabin
on a rocky point above Clarksville. Clarksville failed to thrive
and Clark moved back to Locust Grove in 1809.
William Clark was living in Clarksville while gathering recruits
to form the Corps of Discovery. In October 14, 1803, George Rogers
Clark hosted Lewis when he arrived in Clarksville and the two
explorers made final preparations for their historic journey.
On October 26, Lewis and Clark left Clarksville with their chosen
men, heading down the Ohio River for their westward journey. Today,
the Old Clarksville Site includes the site of George Rogers Clark's
two-room cabin which he occupied from 1803 until 1809, the site
of a mill that he built on Mill Run, and the sites of the cabins
that once composed Clarksville--the first American town in what
was to become the Northwest territory. The best description of
Clarksville as a town is provided by several travelers and observers
who visited early in the 19th century. In 1805 Josiah Espy wrote
in his journal, which was later quoted in Ross F. Lockridge's
1927 book, George Rogers Clark, that "At the lower end
of the falls is the deserted village of Clarksburg (Clarksville)
in which General Clark himself resides. I had the pleasure of
seeing this celebrated warrior at his lonely cottage seated on
Clark's Point. This point is situated at the upper end of the
falls, particularly the lower rapid, commanding a full and delightful
view of the falls particularly the zigzag channel which is only
navigable at high water. The general has not taken much pains
to improve this commanding and beautiful spot, having only raised
a small cabin but it is capable of being made one of the handsomest
seats in the world."
Looking up the Ohio River
from a spot near where Clark's mill was probably located
Photo from National Register collection, Eric Gilbertson
photographer, Indiana State Museum
The Old Clarksville Site is located in Clarksville, Indiana.
The site is not accessible to the public. For information on
visiting the nearby Falls of the Ohio State Park, location of
one the Lewis and Clark Bicenninal signature events, visit the