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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.

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

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."

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 park's website.

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