The Romance of William Clark

In Fincastle, nestled in the mountains of Virginia’s Botetourt County and once considered the “jumping off” spot for people traveling to the frontier, they tell a story about William Clark. Prior to his journey west with Capt. Meriwether Lewis and the Corps of Discovery, William Clark was in the village of Fincastle one day when, it is said, he spied two young girls on horseback. They were both pretty young things, the story goes, but Clark’s fancy was captured by only one of them.

William Clark

Her name was Julia Hancock; Clark called her “Judith”. She was the teenage daughter of former United States Congressman George Hancock of Santillane; one of Botetourt County’s most distinguished families.

Julia Hancock

The story goes that Clark, who was twice her age, pledged his heart to the lass; it was his intention to marry her. While on his journey to the “western ocean’, Clark named a river in Montana in her honor. It was dubbed the Judith.

The Judith River

Upon his return to Fincastle, Clark was as good as his word and conducted the beautiful Miss Hancock to the alter.

Among the historical documents that can still be found in the Botetourt County Circuit Court is the marriage bond for the two, signed by William Clark. The couple married on January 5, 1808.

William Clark’s Signature
Marriage Bond

Sadly, after 12 years of marriage and 5 children, Julia Hancock Clark died in 1820. Not long after however, in St. Louis, Clark happened to meet up with another Fincastle girl. She was a widow named Harriet Kennerly Radford. Needing a mother for his children, Clark would marry Harriet Radford on November 28, 1821. But still, there was a connection; Clark had known his new bride back in Virginia. Not only was Harriet Kennerly Radford a first cousin of Julia Hancock, she was also the other young girl Clark had first seen on horseback in Fincastle all those years before!! They tell the story in Fincastle.

Harriet Kennerly Radford

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