Our Red-Haired Revolutionary: A Funny Family Man

Welcome to the second part in the series, “Our Red-Haired Revolutionary”, which focuses on stories and facts about George Rogers Clark that are a little more obscure and might not get mentioned on your tour of Locust Grove. For this installment, I turned to our wonderful docents to find out what they admired most about this complicated, curmudgeonly gentleman.

The man, the legend.

The man, the legend.

Docent Jeannie V. loves the story of our own GRC and his brother William helping Thomas Jefferson acquire mammoth bones from Big Bone Lick. As the story goes, Jefferson was fascinated by the extinct species, and wrote to GRC, “were it possible to get a tooth of each kind, that is to say a foretooth, grinder &c it would particularly oblige me.” (Susan N. really likes GRC’s correspondence with Jefferson–perhaps in the future we’ll have to take a look at those letters!) GRC first visited Big Bone Lick in 1776, while William Clark excavated Big Bone Lick in 1807, and sent specimens back to Jefferson. Some of these can be found on display at Monticello! (I think we should all take a field trip to see them–who’s with me?)

Like many of our docents, Jeanne appreciates GRC’s sense of humor. As one of the Indian commissioners of the Western territories, GRC had many native friends, particularly Delaware chief Buckongahelas. Once, when traveling down the Wabash River, GRC spotted Buckongahelas and some of his men in the woods on the side of the river. Wanting to scare Buckongahelas, GRC betrayed no evidence that he had seen his friend, but made a gesture as if indicating that other boats should follow him. Unbeknownst to Buckongahelas, GRC and his men were traveling the river in one boat, but the natives quickly left the area just in case they were outnumbered. GRC’s sense of humor and pageantry was also on display in 1809, when his leg was amputated at the Louisville home of his sister Fanny Clark Thruston. During the operation, a fifer and drummer stood outside the door playing music to keep his spirits up, while GRC kept time with his fingers.

After his amputation, GRC lived in this room at Locust Grove. Come take a tour to find out why the wallpaper is also an allegorical tip of the hat to GRC's funny bone.

After his amputation, GRC lived in this room at Locust Grove. Come take a tour to find out why the wallpaper is also an allegorical tip of the hat to GRC’s funny bone.

Docent and woodworker George is impressed with GRC’s leadership. Not only did he lead the Illinois regiment all over this region, he convinced his family, including his mother and father, to move from Virginia to the wilds of Kentucky.John and Ann Rogers Clark moved to Mulberry Hill in 1783.  It takes a truly charismatic man to persuade his family to uproot their lives and make their way in a new territory. Of course, this is the man described by his aunt as “a very interesting boy, always ready to go to anything that was to do”.

Speaking of leadership, the Illinois Regiment will be in residence at Locust Grove during the Market Fair! Mark your calendars–October 25 and 26 from 10-4:30. Entertainment, refreshments, historical interpreters–who could ask for anything more?

The Illinois Regiment at the 2013 Market Fair.

The Illinois Regiment at the 2013 Market Fair.

Be sure to leave a comment and let me know what you’d like to see on the blog or your favorite story about GRC! Let’s have a conversation about history!

I remain as ever your faithful blogger,


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