On Saturday, November 3, 2012, at 3:00 pm, Botetourt County will officially become a national Meriwether Lewis & William Clark community. This historical distinction is rooted in the many, varied connections the two Expedition-famed explorers had to Botetourt County both before and after their westward venture. Their history and connections to Botetourt County will be signified forever by the placement of an NOAA Lewis & Clark disk on the front lawn of the Botetourt Courthouse.
And, it’s not just any disk; rather, the second one known to be installed in the Commonwealth, the first being at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. It is a shared gift, funded 50 % by the national organization, The Lewis & Clark Trust, Inc., and remaining balance equally paid by Botetourt County, Town of Fincastle, Botetourt Historical Society and Historic Fincastle, Inc.
Activities that eventually led to honoring Botetourt County’s distinguished connection to Lewis & Clark began 44 years ago. In 1968, U.S. Congress enacted The National Trails System Act that provided for the development of scenic, historic, and recreational trails. The Act states its purpose is to “…provide for ever-increasing outdoor recreation needs of an expanding population…to promote the preservation of, public access to, travel within, and enjoyment and appreciation of the open-air, outdoor areas and historic resources of the Nation..” This act was amended ten years later with the passage of the1978 National Parks & Recreation Act that “officially” established the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail. Since then, thousands upon thousands of people world-wide have visited The Expedition Trail, visiting communities along a path that begins in Woods River, Illinois and ends at Cape Disappointment, Oregon.
In 1996, author Stephen Ambrose wrote “Undaunted Courage,” a compelling factual account of the lives and mission of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. A large part of the story focuses on Lewis’ upbringing in Virginia, and the book, itself, is thought to have spurred a growing interest in the “whole story.” Little by little, from 1996 to 2006, momentum increased for learning more about the two men and their lives before and after the Expedition. In fact, part of the preparations for the 2003 – 2006 Expedition Bicentennial Commemoration involved identifying and documenting possible Lewis & Clark sites of interest located east of the Mississippi River. In 2007, only a year after the Bicentennial celebration, an Eastern Legacy Trail National Historic Landmarks “theme study” was conducted. The movement to continue and complete a coast-to-coast Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail had officially begun! Eastern sites were listed and recommendations regarding the sites were made. Eighteen of these were in Virginia, and three of these are in Botetourt County – Greenfield Plantation, Santillane, and the Fincastle Historic District. A recommendation for the town stated, “… the connection of William Clark to the town and celebration held there in 1807 should be documented; and 2) a historical marker placed in the vicinity of the courthouse would be appropriate.”
Such a marker is now a reality. With expertise provided by Botetourt County, two county employees – David Lalush and AJ Kyle – have installed the NOAA Lewis & Clark disk. Under the leadership of Pete Peters, Director, Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, and Botetourt Lewis & Clark Project volunteers, Kip Burton and George Sydnor, much time was given to installation details to ensure the disk was placed exactly as required by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.
All citizens of Botetourt and surrounding counties are invited to attend the dedication ceremony. The ceremony will begin at 3:00 pm on the front lawn of the Botetourt courthouse. Two nationally renowned Lewis & Clark historians will be guest speakers for this historical event – Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs, daughter of author, Stephen Ambrose (referenced above), and Peyton C. (Bud) Clark, 3rd. Great Grandson of General William Clark. The VMI Color Guard and the VMI Pipe Band will also participate as well as Local Boy and Girl Scout Troops, the Botetourt Kiwanis Club, and others. Master of Ceremony will be the Honorable Judge Malfourd (Bo) Trumbo. Following the dedication, there will be an unveiling of the disk, and the Botetourt Historical Society will host a reception for the public at the Botetourt Museum.
– submitted by Peggy Crosson