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MERIWETHER LEWIS: - Suicide Or Murder? - BIOGRAPHY

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Bianca
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« on: June 18, 2009, 03:24:07 pm »



             










                                       Family keeps digging for centuries-old truth



                                           Meriwether Lewis: suicide or murder?






By Clay Carey
• THE TENNESSEAN
• June 18, 2009
HOHENWALD, Tenn.

— The small band of travelers rode north on the Natchez Trace, winding through the Tennessee wilderness en route to Washington, D.C.

 
Leading them was Meriwether Lewis, who just three years earlier had helped blaze a trail to the Pacific Ocean, cementing his fame and power in a young America.

On this journey in October 1809, Lewis' heart was heavy with problems. He was sick and in financial straits. The task of completing his Lewis and Clark Expedition journals weighed on the 35-year-old explorer, as did the politics of the day.

He and a pair of servants stopped at a two-room inn made of logs, on the trace about 60 miles from Nashville. Hours after they settled in, two shots rang out in the night.

By morning, Lewis was dead, and a 200-year mystery was born: Did he take his own life, or did thieves or political enemies murder him?

Lewis' modern-day relatives have spent years seeking permission from a reluctant federal government to remove his body from its Tennessee grave, examine it and answer the question once and for all.

Now they're pushing even harder — hiring a publicist, launching a Web site and opening new lines of dialogue with the National Park Service, the agency that would permit the exhumation.

"What we want is the truth," said Howell Lewis Bowen, 73, Lewis' great-great-great-great nephew. "We've had one roadblock after another. It's very frustrating — every time we take a step forward, we have to take two steps back."

Some historians have criticized the effort, and how much evidence is in Lewis' grave is a matter of debate.

Several archeologists have signed on to help the family, including James Starrs, a professor of law and forensic sciences at George Washington University who has worked with the family since the mid-1990s, and anthropologists at Middle Tennessee State University.

Larry McKee, senior archeologist with the archeology and preservation firm TRC, said there's a chance that the true story of Lewis' death might still be etched on his bones.

But after 200 years, odds are slight.


"I would say there's a pretty low percentage chance that there is going to be any evidence one way or another," he said.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2009, 10:24:46 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2009, 03:31:00 pm »



Monument to Meriwether Lewis







Family united in query



On the day Lewis died, a traveling companion buried his body near the stable of the Grinder's Stand inn, far from the family cemetery in Virginia. His grave was covered with chestnut fence rails and remained unmarked until 1848.

Today, it is the centerpiece of a tiny cemetery in a clearing at the Meriwether Lewis National Monument, along the Natchez Trace Parkway near Hohenwald.

Nearly 200 distant nieces, nephews and cousins have signed a petition seeking permission to exhume the remains in hopes of learning what really killed him and, if nothing else, giving him a proper Christian burial.

Earlier this year, researchers backed by the family filed a petition with the Park Service to exhume Lewis' body. Bill Reynolds, a spokesman for the agency's regional office in Atlanta, said the government has decided to move forward with a barrage of hearings, meetings and paperwork that accompany it.
"Whenever we need to disturb the earth in any of our parks, it is a meticulous process," Reynolds said.
The park service refused a similar request filed in 1997, saying it went against a policy that prohibits the disturbance of graves in national parks unless they are threatened by development or natural forces.

A federal court ruled that without the permit, the exhumation could not go forward. Family members hope the request will be viewed differently today.

"The family feels like the truth should be known," Bowen said. The explorer had no children, and thus no direct descendants.

Bowen wants questions about Lewis' last days put to rest — some historical accounts paint him as a syphilitic, a drug addict and an alcoholic. Others have said he was a hypochondriac and that he had tried to kill himself at least once on the trip to Washington.

Personally, Bowen believes Lewis was murdered, but he insists the family's effort isn't aimed at proving that point.

"No matter how he died, we will accept it. If it was suicide, that's fine," said Bowen, a retired businessman from Charlottesville, Va. "If it is not the case, fourth-graders (who study the explorer) should know."
« Last Edit: June 18, 2009, 03:47:12 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2009, 03:32:45 pm »











Who wants to know?



The explorer's death put Lewis County on the map, literally. In 1843, state officials carved the county out of parts of its neighbors and named it in his honor.

German immigrants founded Hohenwald, its modern-day county seat, nearly 70 years after his death. Along today's Main Street, folks know the story of Meriwether Lewis, and many know of renewed efforts to open his grave.

"Part of me says just let him rest in peace," local shopkeeper Kathy Sanders said. "But if I was part of his family, I'd probably like to know, too."

Many residents are skeptical that the exercise would really solve anything. A few think it might be better for the town if the mystery remained just that. But they say the prevailing opinion in Hohenwald seems to be this: If the family really wants answers, they should be allowed to dig for them.

"I don't really see what the big deal is. Even if it's frivolous, they still should be allowed to do it," said David Bilanzich, 62. "Unless the government can prove there's some sort of environmental danger in doing it, I don't think they have any ground to stand on."

The mystery intrigues townsfolk, especially older Lewis Countians, said Patty Choate, director of the local library.

"You want to know, and you don't want to know," she said. "That's human nature."

No promise of proofFew locals know Meriwether Lewis better than Choate, president of Tennessee's chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. She believes he was murdered — he had written to friends about things he wanted to accomplish after the Washington trip. Those aren't the sorts of plans suicidal men make.

In the mid-1990s, she was fascinated by the idea that modern science could solve the riddle of Lewis' death. Today, she still believes the family should have the right to pursue answers, but she is less excited about the prospects of disturbing Lewis' grave.


"As time marches on, you think maybe it's not as important after all," she said. "His accomplishments, his memory — that's what is important."
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« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2009, 03:34:31 pm »











"If he did kill himself, Choate said, "it wouldn't diminish his place in history."



Historians like Larry E. Morris agree, but they say there is little to gain by exhuming the remains.
"If you could determine there were gunshot wounds at close range," Morris said, "what would that mean, really? … Evidence can be viewed different ways by different parties."

If there were a way of proving that the wounds weren't self-inflicted, it would be a significant historic matter, Morris said.

"I'm inclined to say let him rest in peace," Morris said. "There's something that is a little disturbing to me about exhuming a body 200 years later when no murderer could be brought to justice."

Historian Thomas Danisi doubts there's much left to study. He worries that the analysis might lead to a conclusion that could still be wrong.

"It is an unwarranted desecration. … I really don't see what they are going to be able to determine," Danisi said. "It's better for it to be a mystery. It's better left alone."

Family members say they've received a lot of opposition from the historical community; they chalk it up to fears that theories on Lewis' death could be proved wrong.

"We'd like to put the mystery to rest," Bowen said.

"All historians should be interested finding the truth. The truth is available to us now — we just have to go get it."
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« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2009, 03:52:37 pm »











Since the death of heroic explorer Meriwether Lewis in October 1809, more than three dozen men have served as president of the United States, our nation has survived at least half a dozen major wars, and inventions like the telephone, the airplane and the computer have profoundly altered our lives.

But one thing that has remained constant since 1809 is the ceaseless speculation about the cause of Gov. Lewis’ death. Now, nearly 200 years later, collateral descendants of Gov. Lewis hope to put that speculation to rest—once and for all.

For more than 10 years, descendants of Gov. Lewis have been requesting exhumation and scientific study of his remains in order to solve the mystery about his death. Furthermore, the descendants simply want to give Gov. Lewis the proper Christian burial he was denied.

However, none of this can happen without permission from the federal government, since Gov. Lewis is buried on land controlled by the National Park Service. The government repeatedly has failed to grant that permission. And the truth-seeking campaign of the Lewis family repeatedly has been stalled.



http://www.solvethemystery.org/
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« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2009, 03:53:58 pm »








This is a photo of the original Masonic apron that belonged to the famous American explorer Meriwether Lewis.

It is said he carried it with him on his journey West.

It is permanently displayed in the Library of the Grand Lodge of Montana.

However, for the bicentennial celebration of his and Brother Wm. Clark's  journey, the Montana Grand Lodge loaned it to the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Commission to tour with their exhibit.
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« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2009, 04:01:50 pm »

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« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2009, 04:04:11 pm »

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« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2009, 04:06:49 pm »

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« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2009, 10:24:11 am »










Lewis was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, to Colonel John Lewis (1735 – 1777), who was of Welsh ancestry, and Lucy Meriwether (4 February 1752 – 8 September 1837), daughter of Thomas Meriwether and wife Elizabeth Thornton, in turn daughter of Francis Thornton and wife Mary Taliaferro.

He moved with his mother and stepfather Captain John Marks to Georgia in May of 1780. They settled along the Broad River in the Goosepond Community within the Broad River Valley in Wilkes County (now Oglethorpe County).



                         

During his time in Georgia, Lewis enhanced his skills as a hunter and outdoorsman. He would often venture out in the middle of the night in the dead of winter with only his dogs to go hunting. Even at his early age he was interested in natural history, which would develop into a lifelong passion. His mother taught him how to gather wild herbs for medicinal purposes.



It was also in the Broad River Valley that Lewis first dealt with a native Indian group. The Cherokee lived in antagonistic proximity to the white settlers, but Lewis seems to have been a champion for them amongst his own people.

It was in Georgia that he met Eric Parker, who was the first to introduce him to the idea of traveling.

At thirteen, he was sent back to Virginia for education by private tutors. One of these was Parson Matthew Maury, an uncle of Matthew Fontaine Maury. Parson Maury was a son of Charles Goodyear Maury who was Thomas Jefferson's teacher for two years. In 1793, Lewis graduated from Liberty Hall (now Washington and Lee University), joined the Virginia militia, and in 1794 he was sent as part of a detachment involved in putting down the Whiskey Rebellion.

In 1795, he joined the regular U.S. Army, as a Lieutenant, where he served until 1801, at one point in the detachment of William Clark, who would later become his companion in the Corps of Discovery.

On April 1, 1801, he was appointed as an aide by President Thomas Jefferson, whom he knew personally through Virginia society in Albemarle County. Lewis resided in the presidential mansion, and frequently conversed with various prominent figures in politics, the arts and other circles.

Originally, he was to provide information on the politics of the United States Army, which had seen an influx of Federalist officers as a result of John Adams's "midnight appointments." When Jefferson began to formulate and to plan for an expedition across the continent, he chose Lewis to lead the expedition.
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« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2009, 10:28:33 am »










Jefferson selected Captain Meriwether Lewis to lead the proposed expedition, afterwards known as the Corps of Discovery.

Lewis became intimately involved in planning the expedition and was sent by Jefferson to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for additional instruction in cartography and other skills for making scientific observations. In June 1803, Jefferson provided Lewis with basic objectives for the mission, focusing on the exploration of the Missouri river and any related streams which might provide access to the Pacific Ocean.

Lewis suggested that the expedition would benefit from a co-commander and, with Jefferson's consent, offered the assignment to his friend and former commanding officer, William Clark. Clark and Lewis were both relatively young and adventurous and had shared experience as woodsmen-frontiersmen and Army officers.

However the two men were quite different in education and temperament. Lewis was introverted and moody while Clark was extroverted, even-tempered and gregarious. Lewis, who had a better education, possessed a philosophical and speculative outlook and was at home with abstract ideas. Clark was more pragmatic and practical.

Because of bureaucratic delays in the U.S. Army, Clark officially only held the rank of Second Lieutenant at the time, but Lewis concealed this from expedition members and shared the leadership of the expedition, always referring to Clark as "Captain".

Lewis departed St. Louis for the Louisiana Purchase—via the Ohio River in the summer of 1803, gathering supplies, equipment, and personnel along the way. Between 1804 and 1806, the Corp of Discovery explored thousands of miles of the Missouri and Columbia River watersheds, searching for an all-water route to the Pacific Ocean.

Generally sharing leadership responsibilities with William Clark, although technically the leader, Lewis led the expedition safely across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific and back, with the loss of just one man, Charles Floyd, who died of apparent appendicitis.



                     

In the course of the journey, Lewis observed, collected, and described hundreds of plants and animal species previously unknown to science.



The expedition was the first point of Euro-American contact for several Native American tribes; through translators and sign language, Lewis conducted rudimentary ethnographic studies of the peoples he encountered, even as he laid the groundwork for a trade economy to ensure American hegemony over its vast new interior territory.

On August 11, 1806, near the end of the expedition, Lewis was shot in the left thigh by Pierre Cruzatte, a near-blind man under his command, while both were hunting for elk. His wound hampered him for the rest of the journey. At first, Pierre blamed Blackfeet Indians for the injury, but after the Corps found no sign of Indians, he admitted the accident. Clark bandaged and treated Lewis's wound, and the Corps continued the long way back to St. Louis.
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« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2009, 10:30:12 am »









After returning from the expedition, Lewis received a reward of 1,600 acres of land. In 1807, Jefferson appointed him governor of the Louisiana Territory; he settled in St. Louis.

Lewis was a good administrator, but due to quarreling local political leaders, approval of trading licenses, land grant politics, Indian depredations, and a slow-moving mail system, it appeared that Lewis was a poor administrator who failed to keep in touch with his superiors in Washington.

Lewis was a Freemason, initiated, passed and raised in Door To Virtue Lodge No. 44 in Albemarle, VA, between 1796 and 1797.  On August 2, 1808, Lewis and several of his acquaintances submitted a petition to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in which they requested a dispensation to establish a lodge in St. Louis. Lewis was nominated and recommended to serve as the first Master of the proposed Lodge, which was warranted as Lodge No. 111 on September 16, 1808.

On September 3, 1809, Lewis set out for Washington D.C. to answer complaints about his actions as governor.

On the way, he stopped at an inn called Grinder's Stand, about 70 miles (110 km) from Nashville, Tennessee on
the Natchez Trace on October 10, 1809. Lewis requested a glass of whiskey almost as soon as he climbed down from his horse. After he excused himself from dinner, he went to his bedroom. In the predawn hours of October 11, the innkeeper heard gunshots. Servants found Lewis badly injured from multiple gunshot wounds. He died shortly after sunrise.

While modern historians generally accept his death as a suicide, there is some debate.  Mrs. Grinder, the tavern-keeper's wife, claimed Lewis acted strangely the night before his death. She said that during dinner Lewis stood and paced about the room talking to himself in the way one would speak to a lawyer. She observed his face to flush as if it had come on him in a fit. After he retired for the evening, Mrs. Grinder continued to hear him talking to himself. At some point in the night she heard multiple gunshots, and what she believed was someone asking for help. She claimed to be able to see Lewis through the slit in the door crawling back to his room. She never explained why, at the time, she didn't investigate further concerning Lewis's condition or the source of the gunshots. The next morning, she sent for Lewis's servants, who found him weltering in his blood but alive for several hours.

When Clark and Jefferson were informed of Lewis' death, both accepted it as suicide, but his family contended it was murder. In later years a court of inquiry explored whether they could charge the tavern-keeper with Lewis' death. They dropped the inquiry for lack of evidence or motive.

The explorer was buried not far from where he died, honored today by a memorial along the Natchez Trace Parkway. During a ceremony on Oct. 7, 2009, marking the 200th anniversary of his death, a bronze bust of Lewis will be dedicated to the Natchez Trace Parkway for a planned visitor center. The Meriwether Lewis Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation will host the event, called “Courage Undaunted—The Final Journey.”

On June 4, 2009, colleteral descendants of Lewis launched a Web site aimed at garnering public support for exhumation and scientific study of the explorer's remains to determine—once and for all—the cause of his death. The Web site is SolvetheMystery. The National Park Service, which controls the land where Lewis is buried, repeatedly has stalled the Lewis family's efforts to exhume the remains for scientific examination and to provide
a proper Christian reburial.
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« Reply #12 on: June 26, 2009, 10:37:09 am »











Lewis never married. Although he died without legitimate heirs, he does have the putative DNA model haplotype for his paternal ancestors' lineage, which was that of the Warner Hall.

He was also related to Robert E. Lee and Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, among others.  He was related to George Washington by marriage: his first cousin once removed was Fielding Lewis, Washington's brother-in-law.  He was also a second cousin once removed of Washington's on his father's side.

For many years, Lewis' legacy was overlooked, inaccurately assessed, and even tarnished by his alleged suicide. Yet his contributions to science, the exploration of the Western U.S., and the lore
of great world explorers, are considered incalculable.




Four years after Lewis' death, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

"Of courage undaunted, possessing a firmness and perseverance of purpose which nothing but impossibilities could divert from its direction, ... honest, disinterested, liberal, of sound understanding and a fidelity to truth so scrupulous that whatever he should report would be as certain as if seen by ourselves, with all these qualifications as if selected and implanted by nature in one body for this express purpose, I could have no hesitation in confiding the enterprise to him."

Jefferson also stated that Lewis had a "luminous and discriminating intellect."



       

The alpine plant Lewisia (family Portulacaceae), popular in rock gardens, is named after Lewis, as is Lewis's Woodpecker.





Geographic names that honor him include Lewis County, Idaho, Lewis County, Tennessee; Lewisburg, Tennessee; Lewiston, Idaho; Lewis County, Washington; the U.S. Army fort Fort Lewis, Washington, the home of the US Army 1st Corps (I Corps), and especially Lewis and Clark County, Montana, the home of the capital city, Helena. A day use campground at Gates of the Mountains Wilderness, north of Helena, Meriwether Picnic site. A cave, Lewis and Clark Caverns between Three Forks and Whitehall, Montana.

The US Navy Polaris nuclear submarine USS Lewis and Clark was named for him and William Clark.
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« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2009, 10:39:52 am »




             










References



1.^ Corps of Discovery > The Leaders > Meriwether Lewis, National park Service website, accessed 5/29/08.

2.^ a b c Ambrose, Stephen. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. Simon & Schuster: 15 February 1996. ISBN 0-684-81107-3.

3.^ a b PBS - THE WEST - Meriwether Lewis

4.^ Undaunted Courage, Stephen Ambrose, pg.385

5.^ Dunslow's 10,000 Famous Freemasons Missouri Lodge of Research, 1959.

6.^ Pa Freemason May 03 - Treasures of the Temple

7.^ John D. W. Guice, James J. Holmberg, and Jay H. Buckley, By His Own Hand? The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis. University of Oklahoma Press, 2006.

8.^ Moses, Grace McLean. The Welsh Lineage of John Lewis (1592-1657), Emigrant to Gloucester, Virginia. Baltimore, MD, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2002

9.^ The Meriwether Lewis Connection, Historic Kenmore, George Washington Foundation.

10.^ Jefferson, Thomas, Paul Allen, 18 August 1813, in "Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Related Documents: 1783–1854," edited by Donald Dean Jackson. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1962, pp. 589–590.






Bibliography



Fisher, Vardis Suicide or Murder?: The Strange Death of Governor Meriwether Lewis Chicago: The Swallow Press, Inc. - Sage Books, c1962. Illustrated. ISBN 0-8040-0616-4

Danisi, Thomas C. and Jackson, John C. Meriwether Lewis. New York: Prometheus Books, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59102-702-7 424 pages







External links



Works by Meriwether Lewis at Project Gutenberg

Meriwether Lewis at Find A Grave Retrieved on February 20, 2008

 "Lewis, Meriwether". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.



RETRIEVED FROM

wikipedia.org
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« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2009, 11:11:13 am »




           

             SS MERIWETHER LEWIS
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