As anyone who has read this blog for a while knows, I enjoy American history. Late last month I visited the Clark cabin at the Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville, Indiana. Clarksville sits on the Indiana side of the Ohio River, looking across at Louisville, Kentucky. I thought I would briefly share the experience and some pictures I took with my blog readers. I would have taken more and better pictures, but there were too many people milling around the front of the cabin. This site is an Indiana state park, and thus is overseen by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The city of Clarksville is named for George Rogers Clark. The life and accomplishments of George Rogers Clark (1752-1818) have interested me since I was a teenager, and I have read several books about him. I am in the research process of writing an unabashedly pro-Clark and pro-white biography of him, one which will be unapologetic in its defense of the worldview of his generation. Clark was a Virginian by birth, a redhead, and probably about 6’2” tall. Clark was a frontiersman, Brigadier General of Virginia militia during the American Revolution, Indian fighter, surveyor, grist mill owner, and friend of Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. Clark’s most celebrated victory was his rugged winter march to and capture of the British fort at Vincennes, Indiana. There is an elaborate memorial to Clark at Vincennes, which I have visited several times. After the Revolution, Clark spent the remainder of his life near the mighty Ohio River, in the area of Clarksville and Louisville. For those unfamiliar with him, here is a link to a brief bio of George Rogers Clark from the state park website: http://www.fallsoftheohio.org/george_rogers_clark.html .
After the American Revolution, Clark was granted a large tract of land in Indiana as payment of services. Being short on cash, the new country paid many of its soldiers in land. The Falls of the Ohio State Park contains a small tract of land that George Rogers Clark once owned.
Clark built a cabin and a grist mill on the edge of the Ohio River. That little tract of land is today preserved in the Falls of the Ohio park. According to a brochure at the Falls site, Clark’s original cabin was built in 1803, was two story, and was 20×30 feet. It was torn down in 1854. The replacement is a cabin of 1820-30 vintage, and was moved to the Falls site and reconstructed along the lines of what Clark’s original cabin probably looked like. The current cabin has three rooms, two downstairs and a loft bedroom; the DNR guy told me that originally the loft was a full loft with two rooms, but they did not rebuild it that way to allow physically handicapped people to be able to see upstairs from the lower floor. The reconstruction has a very nice rock fireplace. One can hear the river roar from Clark’s cabin. I could live in a cabin like this.
The Lewis and Clark expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase, the Corps of Discovery, was led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (George’s little brother). Further, the expedition began at G.R. Clark’s cabin, here in southern Indiana. One of G.R.C.’s Negro servants, a male named York, accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition. Because of the changing of laws between territory and statehood periods, I am unsure if York was a slave or an indentured servant at this time.
One can visit the cabin on the bluff, often called Clark’s Point, and look down at the Ohio River from the front porch. Looking up river, one sees a bridge and the skyline of Louisville. The view from the window slit/gunport of the loft looks across the river, perhaps ¼ mile wide, facing the hydroelectric dam (which is causing the Indiana side of the river bank to erode away). The cabin interior is open to visitors during summer. There are various historical markers around the site.
Behind the cabin is a very small log cabin, to represent where Clark’s Negro servants lived. The original site of the Negro cabin is not known, but was probably not a just a stone’s throw from Clark’s cabin (as the present display one is).
As one walks down from the cabin site past the parking lot they can walk down to a ramp for boat launching, and can get their feet wet in the Ohio if they chose. There was a bit of driftwood and trash washed up there the day I visited.
If one walks on, there are some outdoor memorials to the Lewis and Clark expedition, including a large limestone monument in the shape of a keelboat. There are also three large millstones displayed in a grassy area, with a placard indicating that the small one on the left is the upper stone from Clark’s circa 1784 grist mill. Very cool. Further on there is an indoor visitors center, which I did not take time to go to.
One sad fact about the Falls of the Ohio River is the change that it has been subjected to over the past 200 years. Between deforestation for agriculture reasons, limestone extraction, a series of government dams on the Ohio River, and dynamite to remove rock for easier river navigation -Corn Island has eroded and is no longer visible. Between the destruction of Corn Island, and the erosion of the Indiana river bank by discharge water from the Louisville hydroelectric dam, the river at Clark’s home site has changed in the almost two centuries since Clark’s death.
George Rogers Clark was certainly one of the most important men in early Indiana, and deserves to be remembered.
(c) Copyright 2017 by Joseph Charles Putnam of Orange County, Indiana.All rights reserved.