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Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
No 256, Saturday, Sept 6, 2014

Tennessee Williams Festival, Oct 3-4 in downtown Clarksdale Mississippi. Full Schedule Below.

Hear ye! Hear ye!

Last Call! Last Call!

Huck & Jim Search for the Healthy City Mississippi River Seminar Oct 2-7 is pulling up the gangplank with several seats still open!

For the Full Huck & Jim Search for the Healthy City Mississippi River Seminar:

Also, there are only two rooms left at the Clark House.

If you think you are coming Oct 2-7th, and want a room with all of us Huck & Jim River Rats reading and discussing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, camping on the river and staying in the beautiful and historic Clark House in Clarksdale during Tennessee Williams Festival, get online and book your room today! You can take care of all other business later. But getting a reservation at the Clark is your first step!

Clark House

*The Clark House figures significantly in the Tennessee Williams story, as it was the house built for his daughter Blanch Clark (AKA Blanche DuBois of Streetcar Named Desire). Full history below from Clark House website.

Tennessee Williams Festival, Oct 3-4

For Full Schedule go to website:

John Clark and Clarksdale

In 1839, sixteen-year-old John Clark, a native of Ashford England, arrived in Coahoma County in search of lumber for his New Orleans employer. Inspired by the fertile Delta farmland, he purchased 101 acres of land near the Sunflower River in 1848 - a purchase that would later become the business district of Clarksdale. Already a prosperous lumberman, Clark soon became a successful landowner, farmer, and investor. In 1854, he married Eliza Jane Alcorn, sister of James Lusk Alcorn, a wealthy attorney who later became the governor of Mississippi and served in the U.S. Senate. John and Eliza lived in a two-room log house for the first few years of their marriage and started a family, which grew to include ten or twelve children, of whom eight survived to adulthood (seven sons and one daughter).

After the Civil War, Clark was better off financially than most plantation owners. This allowed him to continue purchasing large amounts of land. By 1891, he owned 5,000 acres, of which 2,000 were being cultivated.

In 1868, Clark set aside some of his land and sold 76 uniform 50-feet by 100-feet lots to residents, creating the community first known as Clarksville. Thirteen years later, when it became evident that a railroad would pass through the area, Clark had the town chartered and incorporated as Clarksdale in 1882.

Clark’s relationship with Governor Alcorn, his brother-in-law, assured that the new railroad would pass through Clarksdale instead of along the Mississippi River. As a result, the newly incorporated town grew rapidly.

Aside from founding Clarksdale, Clark operated a sawmill, a brick manufacturing company, a lumberyard, a general store, and two steam gins. He also founded Clarksdale's first bank, the Clarksdale Bank and Trust Company. Although he was only briefly involved in politics, he took an active role in shaping the Clarksdale community throughout his life.

Clark died in 1893 and was subsequently buried in the family plot in Grange cemetery located at the corner of Sunflower Avenue and Martin Luther King Blvd. Descendants of Clark have lived in the Clark House and have remained in the area over the years.

The Clark Mansion

In 1859, John Clark hired an architect from his hometown of Philadelphia to design his new home. Clark then hired Northern workers to construct the home, as the Clarks refused to use slave labor. When the Civil War broke out, these workers fled to the North and the home was not completed until after the war.

The two-story, five-bedroom main house is the oldest existing building in Clarksdale. The home is a fine example of Colonial Revival architecture, a prevalent style in Mississippi. Colonial Revival architecture involved remodeling antebellum Greek Revival houses into more fashionable, period homes.

In the fall of 1916, J.W. Cutrer and his wife Blanche, the daughter of John and Eliza Clark, decided to build their home on the site of the Clark Mansion. Cutrer had the Clark Mansion lifted up on logs and pulled eastward by mules to its present location. The original front of the house still faces west towards the Sunflower River, but its modern entrance faces Clark Street, in what is now the Clarksdale Historic District.

The Cutrer Mansion, still standing on the original site of the Clark Mansion, was a favorite mention in several of Tennessee William’s plays. It was recently saved from a planned demolition and has been renovated by Delta State University in conjunction with Coahoma Community College. Tennessee Williams used Blanche Clark Cutrer as a model for Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire and Carol Cutrere in Orpheus Descending, and the house is said to have been the model for Belle Reve in Streetcar and for Big Daddy's house in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

The Clark Mansion remained in the hands of Clark descendants for almost 150 years, until it was purchased from the family and extensively reconstructed and restored in 2001. Though the home had fallen into disrepair, many of the original building materials survived, including the original foundation of walnut and cypress, original pine floors and doors, massive crown moldings and a handsome walnut staircase.

The home was placed on the United States Department of the Interior Register of Historic Places in 1992.

Huck & Jim

by Thomas Hart Benton

For Immediate Release: October 2-7, 2014
Huck ‘n’ Jim Mississippi River Great Books Seminar
Contact: John Ruskey
or Paul Cooley

In the mid 1800s Huck and Jim departed Hannibal, Missouri, in search of better place to live. Huck was escaping an abusive father, and Jim was fleeing slavery. Together they began a timeless journey down the river, on a raft, searching for a home. Searching for a healthy home. Did they ever locate the freedom they so passionately sought?

On October 2-7, 2014, Quapaw Canoe Company and Search for the Healthy City will join forces to follow Huck ‘n’ Jim’s quest for freedom on the muddy Mississippi River. The full description can be seen at

Mark Twain’s book will be our road guide, or better said our river guide. Using the St. John’s College Great Books Program for a model, we will embark upon an entirely new kind of journey on the Lower Mississippi River with several great works of American Literature as our teachers. A 30 foot long cypress-strip voyageur canoe and serene sandbar islands will be our classroom. Seminars will be held en plein aire under the shady leaves of giant cottonwood trees and by the dancing light of the campfire. Back in town we’ll continue the conversation at the Cutrer Mansion and the Clark House.

In addition to Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, we’ll also be enjoying selections from Life on the Mississippi, Charles Bell’s poetry (Millennial Harvest), the Rivergator’s Wreck of the Raft (from I Am Coyote) as well as TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, and selections from Melville’s Confidence Man.

St John alums Jim Bailey, Paul Cooley and John Ruskey will lead the trip. Jim conducts Search for the Healthy City travels/seminars in exotic all over the world, most notably Tuscany and Venice. Paul is the assistant to the Dean’s Office, and a master of arts graduate from the Eastern Classics Program of St. John’s College, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Paul was Charles Bell’s personal secretary in the sunset of his long fruitful life. John is a canoe builder and guide on the Lower Mississippi River.

Seminars will be held from October 2 to 7, 2014, starting and ending at the Cutrer Mansion Center for Continuing Education in Clarksdale. All other seminars will take place on the river. There will be a Tennessee Williams Festival party on Friday the 3rd, and live blues performance with final supper at Bluesberry Cafe on Monday, Oct 6th.

Does freedom ring? Will Huck ‘n’ Jim find a healthy city in the 21st Century? Join us October 2-7th and help us shed light on the lingering questions. Help us discover the dialogue leading towards the healthy city. It’s just around the bend!

For more information Please contact John Ruskey 662-627-4070, Jim Bailey 901-278-9453 or Paul Cooley

Lower Mississippi River Dispatch
brought to you courtesy of the:
Lower Mississippi River Foundation
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