WARREN - The body servant of one of the leaders of the famed expedition that opened up the American West has not been remembered too much by history.
Marvin Jefferson hopes to change that.
Jefferson will be portraying "York," the servant of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, in a downtown Warren presentation later this month.
The event is being featured as part of a five-day historical festival, Ohio Chautauqua, under a tent near Warren's Courthouse Square.
The event is presented by the Ohio Humanities Council. It is co-sponsored by the Tribune Chronicle, Warren-Trumbull County Public Library and Trumbull 100 in partnership with Ohio Humanities Council and Trumbull Tourism Bureau. It is part of the Tribune Chronicle's year-long anniversary celebration marking 200 years of publishing in the Western Reserve and Trumbull County.
The theme this year is "When Ohio Was The Western Frontier."
If you go
When: July 24 to 28; music at 6:30 p.m., performances at 7:30 p.m., daily workshop at the public library
Where: Kinsman House, Warren
Performances: Jeremy Meier as Oliver Hazard Perry on July 24; Dan Cutler as Chief John Logan on July 25; Debra Conner as Margaret Blennerhassett on July 26; Marvin Jefferson as York on July 27; and Hank Fincken as John "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman on July 28
Jefferson said he has portrayed Paul Robertson and Martin Luther King in other presentations and said he was intrigued by York's story because so little is known about him.
York was about 12 years old when he became the body servant of Clark, and he became Clark's official "property" when his father died in 1799.
Sometime between 1801 and 1803, York was married and he then accompanied Clark and Meriwether Lewis on their famous expedition to explore the west from 1803 to 1806. York risked his life at one point searching for Clark.
However, Clark did not seem to return the favor when York asked for his freedom to be with his wife. He was denied by Clark. He eventually was granted his freedom in 1816, but his life after that point remains a mystery.
Jefferson said he prepared for the role by reading books about the expedition and also tried to find as many sources as he could that mention York. In addition, he studied slavery and what life was like on the frontier.
"You're constantly looking and researching," Jefferson said recently. "You keep learning and growing."
Jefferson said he wants to show audiences the disappointment York certainly felt when he was denied his freedom by Clark.
"It was very painful for him," Jefferson said.
Jefferson stressed that he did not want to paint Clark as a villain, but rather as someone who was acting the way the times dictated.
Jefferson said he does not think York held grudges toward Clark when he died because Clark had given him a taste of what it is like to be free when he accompanied him on the expedition.
"That's where he learned how to be free," Jefferson pointed out. "I think he held onto that particular moment in his life."