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Famed explorer is center of attention in Harpers Ferry

July 09, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - He was following the trail taken by the Western explorer Meriwether Lewis, but it would be a different trip this time.

Scott Mandrell, the horseback rider playing the part of Lewis, said the trickiest thing Lewis had to deal with on his expedition in 1803 was an approaching stage coach.

Mandrell, of Alton, Ill., said he's keeping an eye out for Camaros.

"I have to take serious precautions," Mandrell said before he started his leg of the trip from Harpers Ferry Tuesday afternoon.

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In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Lewis to explore the country from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean and return. Lewis picked William Clark to join him in the journey.

To start his trip, Lewis traveled approximately 250 miles on horseback from Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh. He stopped in Harpers Ferry to check on supplies for the trip.

Mandrell, who has been retracing the 250-mile trip in honor of Lewis, arrived in Harpers Ferry on Monday, the 200th anniversary of Lewis' arrival in Harpers Ferry.

Before departing for Pittsburgh Tuesday, Mandrell talked to groups of tourists in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park about Lewis' adventure.

It was one of many living history displays and demonstrations to celebrate the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Before Mandrell headed out of town, a new state historical marker was unveiled that describes Lewis' arrival in the town 200 years ago.

Park Superintendent Donald Campbell made comments in a small courtyard before a black covering was lifted from the marker along Potomac Street.

Also taking part in the unveiling was Harpers Ferry Mayor Jim Addy, Harpers Ferry Main Street director Charlotte Thompson, and Thomas C. McSwain Jr., a great-great-great-grandnephew of Lewis.

"It's neat. It's really an honor to be able to participate," said McSwain, who lives near Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Given the modern highways that have been built since Lewis' trip, Mandrell will follow the explorer's trail "the best he can," said Harpers Ferry National Historical Park spokeswoman Marsha Starkey Wassel.

After Tuesday's ceremony in the lower town, Mandrell climbed atop his black horse, waved to the crowd and told them "God Bless the United States."

Then he proceeded up High Street toward Bolivar for his trip to Pittsburgh.

Heading through Jefferson County, Mandrell said he planned to travel along U.S. 340 into Charles Town, then follow W.Va. 51 west.

He hopes to take back roads to a point north of Winchester, Va., then head northwest, using roads like Scenic Highway 40 through the Pennsylvania countryside to Pittsburgh.

He was scheduled to reach Pittsburgh July 15.

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