By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Allison Babka
By Lindsay Toler
By Lindsay Toler
By Ray Downs
As members of the Discovery Expedition lecture schoolchildren and retirees on the finer points of leeching 250 yards away, Clark settles in at a picnic table and recounts his first meeting with Mandrell, who used to play Lewis for the Discovery Expedition and now plays the same role for First Squad.
"There was a huge re-enactment in 2004 with eight or ten regiments. Scott came in on horseback and commanded the regiments like a general," says Clark. "He rocked me."
Tall, thin and clean-shaven, 40-year-old Scott Mandrell parts his graying hair in a sweep to the left. He has been involved in re-enacting the Lewis & Clark expedition since 1996, when he rode on horseback from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh. He was also a close friend of Glen Bishop.
Among the ranks of the Discovery Expedition, Bishop is a figure of near-mythic importance. A retired general contractor, Bishop built the first keelboat, a 55-foot replica of Lewis & Clark's original keelboat, by himself. In 1996 Bishop and a dozen re-enactors, Mandrell among them, traveled in the boat from St. Louis to St. Joseph, Missouri, re-creating the first seven weeks of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
The trip was an unmitigated success. Part of the journey was filmed for Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery, a film by Ken Burns. In 1997 Bishop received the Missouri Division of Tourism's "Wake Up" Award at the Governor's Conference on Tourism. But not long after, a warehouse fire destroyed the keelboat.
Unbowed, Bishop and his fellow re-enactors incorporated the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles as a nonprofit. Volunteers began rebuilding the keelboat, plus replicas of the original expedition's two pirogues and a boathouse. Donations began pouring in, and Discovery's board of directors solicited grants from government agencies to fund a complete re-enactment.
But Bishop never completely realized his dream. He died of cancer in October 2001, before the boathouse and re-enactment were completed.
"Glen was the rock," Mandrell says. "After he died there were disagreements about what the vision should be. We muddled along for a few more years. The boathouse became more important than the re-enactment. Glen never wanted that. Glen was a beer-drinking, chain-smoking, boat-building river rat. He wanted a $300,000 pole barn where we could build boats. But then we woke up, and all of a sudden we were supposed to raise money to pay off a $3.5 million boathouse that was no longer even designed to build boats. It became a $3.5 million gift shop."
Mandrell had been tapped to play Meriwether Lewis (who'd left no descendants). But finding someone to play Clark, who'd left many heirs, was more complicated. In the end, Peyton "Bud" Clark, a retired automotive engineer from Dearborn, Michigan, and the captain's great-great-great grandson, got the role.
Discovery launched its boats up the Missouri in May 2004. Almost immediately the journey encountered adversity. Three hundred miles outside St. Louis, in the town of Waverly, the crew's dog, Seaman, died. There was speculation the 20-month-old Newfoundland had been poisoned, but the town's police chief ruled out foul play after toxicology tests proved inconclusive.
Rifts also began to appear within the corps.
"You make a deal with the Devil when you take money from anyone," Mandrell says. "There were a lot of people who mysteriously had become board members. While we were out trying to maintain the boats and execute this trip, there were people in St. Charles who had no understanding of the mechanics of moving this operation. So they'd tell the lady with the clipboard in Town A that we could wait until 4 p.m. so the mayor could give his speech and cut the ribbon, and then they'd guarantee the woman in Town B that we'd be 50 miles upriver by nine the next morning, standing tall with the boats for the school kids. It was impossible."
Mandrell says he began to complain to board members in St. Charles that the Discovery Expedition was so heavily scheduled that they had to pull the boats from the water just to make their public commitments. Meanwhile, the relationship between Bud Clark, Scott Mandrell and Churchill Clark was beginning to fall apart.
"Bud hated Churchill," Mandrell says. "He hated him because he was another Clark, and you can't own the spotlight if there's another Clark. What really got him was when Church and I would get on horses. There'd inevitably be a photo in the local paper saying that Church was a direct descendant of William Clark. Bud just hated it."
Nor was Bud Clark a big fan of Mandrell.
"Bud hated me," Mandrell says. "He would have preferred that this was the 'Clark Expedition.' He was the heir-apparent of the Lewis & Clark expedition. He was genetically endowed by his ancestry, and Lewis was superfluous."
The Lewis & Clark expedition spent the winter of 1804 at Fort Mandan, North Dakota. The first season on the trail had been marred by insubordination, and the leaders frequently resorted to lashing their mutinous troops. But over that first winter the crew bonded, and discipline problems rarely flared up the rest of the way. It was also during that first winter that the explorers encountered Sacagawea, a pregnant young Shoshone woman. When the corps set out again in the spring of 1805, Sacagawea, along with her husband and their newborn infant, would accompany the corps all the way to the Pacific.