Lewis and Clark in Kentucky: Danville

Historical Marker #2216 in Danville commemorates the visit from Lewis and Clark. Being on a major highway has its advantages. It is true today and was true more than two hundred years ago. Danville's location on the famed Wilderness Road brought many people to this early Kentucky town. Known for its leadership role in Kentucky's statehood movement and education, Danville hosted many prominent visitors, including two of the most famous travelers in history--Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, leaders of the epic journey to the Pacific Ocean and back from 1803 to 1806.

With documentation from that period being scattered at best, it is not known how often the two explorers and some of their fellow travelers visited Danville. Clark, having lived in Kentucky since 1785, and having traveled through the area any number of times, certainly visited Danville more often than his partner in discovery. Late 1806, however, witnessed visits by both. On their journey eastward to Washington, D.C., to report on their successful expedition, Lewis and Clark stayed together as far as Louisville. Clark, wanting to spend more time with family after an absence of three years, remained in Louisville until mid-December. Lewis, with several expedition veterans, including Mandan chief Sheheke, interpreter Rene Jesseaume, and their families, continued on to Washington in mid-November. They took the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap. While there is no known record of them visiting Danville, they almost certainly traveled through town, given their route.

When Clark left for Washington about a month later he stated he was stopping in Danville to visit nephews in school there (attending Joshua Fry's noted academy). While not definitely known, Clark almost certainly was accompanied by his enslaved African American and fellow expedition veteran York. Danville's historic Grayson's Tavern (First and Walnut Streets) and the first post office west of the Alleghenies (on Constitution Square) date back to that period and may have been visited by the famous explorers.