Explorer's descendant helps bring Lewis and Clark expedition to life

By CHARLES PEARL State Journal Staff Writer Published:

His clear radio voice emits contentment. On a warm autumn afternoon in a park of open green space at the edge of the Ohio River, he feels at home in the little town of Warsaw.

Peyton C. "Bud" Clark Jr., 59, of Dearborn, Mich., is on a three-year journey called the Lewis and Clark 2003 Corps of Discovery Expedition. The trip in a keelboat began in late August at Elizabeth, Pa., near Pittsburgh. But truthfully, Clark, a retired engineer from Ford Motor Co., has been on this historic Lewis and Clark Trail all his adult life.

He's the great-great-great grandson of William Clark, who met Meriwether Lewis in Louisville on Oct. 14, 1803, to form one of history's most famous partnerships.

Bud Clark is a member of The Discovery Expedition of St. Charles, Mo. In authentic period clothing, they portray members of Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery while traveling in replicas of the keelboat and pirogue. They are retracing the entire waterway portion of the journey east of the Rocky Mountains, to Great Falls, Mont., beyond which the original boats could not proceed.

When the re-enactors arrive in Louisville Tuesday, Bud Clark will begin portraying his ancestor William Clark, youngest brother of Revolutionary War Gen. George Rogers Clark.

A native of St. Louis, Bud Clark later lived two years in Paducah, Ky., before his family moved to Michigan when he was about 13.

"Louisville and Clarksville (Indiana) are very special to me," he says. "My family founded Louisville, then founded Clarksville. A lot of Clark history is there. I have a lot of friends there, on both sides of the river."

He looks forward to 13 days of programs at the Falls of the Ohio in Louisville and Clarksville - the second of 15 national signature events for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commemoration. Opening ceremonies begin at noon Tuesday in Louisville Waterfront Park.

Joining Bud Clark in Louisville will be two children, three grandchildren, a cousin from St. Louis and possibly some other cousins.

After Louisville, the third signature event will be March 12-14, 2004, in St. Louis, and the final one is in St. Louis on Sept. 23, 2006.

Thursday in Gallatin County, Bud Clark confesses that places like Warsaw are where they love to camp. Along their river journey, they are educating school children and people of all ages through living history programs at their 1803 encampments.

"The small communities have a magic about them that the big urban centers don't have," Clark says. "Each town has its own personality. That's been one of the most enjoyable things for us."

As they stop at the smaller river communities, the welcome and turnouts have been overwhelming, he says.

"People have been so gracious and generous. They open up their hearts and in many cases their homes, inviting us to use their shower and laundry room."

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