San Rafael Valley, AZ ~~ Photo by Bill Haas

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Did Meriwether Lewis take his own life, or did he die by the hand of a murderous scoundrel? It's pretty much accepted as fact that Meriwether Lewis committed suicide, but nagging questions among historians and his family persist. Could it be they "persist" because it makes a tantalizing story and an engrossing mystery? Or because there truly are quite a few unresolved questions?

Just prior to his death, Lewis embarked on a journey to Washington to straighten out issues concerning reimbursement of drafts he had submitted as the Governor of the Louisiana Purchase. (He had requested repayment for medicine he had purchased for Native Americans that he had personally paid for; Washington had refused to pay the drafts.)
To get to the nation's capitol, Lewis chose the dangerous overland route along the Natchez Trace and stopped for the night at Grinders' Stand, an inn/tavern in Western Tennessee. It was here he met his death by multiple gunshot wounds -- under grisly, suspicious circumstances that continue to puzzle modern day historians. Was his strange, deranged behavior that night the result of drunkenness or perhaps the laudanum he took for a relapse of malaria, or was he simply ill with a digestive ailment? Was there a conspiracy, an assassination plot?
We may never know the truth, but a 2009 application to exhume the body of Meriwether Lewis is being processed right now. He is buried here, on the Natchez Trace in Western Tennessee.
If you're interested in developing a theory, you might start with this lively recounting of testimony and events leading up to Lewis' death, and the history and characters involved:

Many books, publications, comments and ideas describing the conflicting theories of this unabated mystery can be found at: