The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Other Plays


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Lewis himself was well protected with a rifle, brace of pistols, tomahawk, and a dirk. On the morning of October 10, the men rose to find some of the horses missing. Instead of remaining together, they decided to split with Lewis riding ahead and Neelly agreeing to meet him at the next inn or "stand. Lewis left Neelly to search for horses. In one story, the servants accompanied Lewis. In another, they followed some time later. That afternoon Governor Lewis came to a pair of roughly hewn log cabins with a passageway between.

He rode up and inquired of the mistress if it was a public house. She affirmed this and he asked for lodging which she provided in the cabin across from hers. Grinder was there alone with her children because her husband was away depending on which version of the story, at another farm of theirs or hunting. She cooked dinner for the governor who ate with her and her family and, according to one account, the servants were there too. Grinder later commented that his behavior was odd for he would pace and then sit and talk "like a lawyer.

Pernier and Neelly's servant appeared sometime or were already there and bedded down in the stable or in Lewis's cabin. Later that night shots rang out two, or was it three? A short time later Mrs. Grinder heard a noise outside as though someone were crawling. Then Lewis's voice cried begging for water. Fearful that danger lurked in the dark, Mrs. Grinder refused his request and kept the door closed. She did, though, peer between the chinks in her door and witness the Governor of Upper Louisiana pitifully scraping the empty water bucket then painfully dragging himself back to his cabin.

Once day broke Mrs. Grinder said she went to visit him presumably finally to give him some water and found him wounded in the head and chest. The servants one or both of whom may or may not have been present in the cabin or asleep in the barn claimed he had said, "I have done the business. Lewis breathed his last early that morning. Some time later James Neelly arrived. The only contemporary written account of this tragic event comes from his pen.

Of course he was not present at the time, but gives the servants and Mrs. Grinder as the source. Neelly wrote the news to Jefferson and apparently, to others, as well. He announced that Lewis's death was a suicide. Both Clark and Jefferson readily accepted the verdict citing their friend's melancholy frame of mind.

One who disputed Neelly's word was Captain Russell, who insinuated that Neelly may have been responsible for the governor's death. Further, each time Mrs. Grinder related the story, it changed a bit. However, regardless of which version of the story you believe at the very least, Meriwether Lewis appears as one of the most inept suicides ever. Here is an expert in firearms who bumbles along, shooting his head "grazing" it or blowing away a "piece of his forehead" then his chest side, back, or abdomen and possibly stopping to reload since Mrs.

Grinder said there were three shots from his two single-shot pistols. He then crawls to the next cabin to beg for water, and crawls back to his cabin before lingering for several more hours in agony. Incredibly, some stories depict the medical officer of the Lewis and Clark expedition now unable to locate any vital artery as he slashes himself wildly with his razor before he finally perishes. This is the version that many claim is the most plausible explanation for Lewis's death.

On the other hand, the list of possible murder suspects can be readily shortened. Those who allege this to be a typical murder along the Trace must explain why any highwaymen would simply kill Lewis but fail to relieve him of his fine set of pistols, his watch and other personal effects. Only his money was taken, but no one knows by whom. Those pointing the finger to John Pernier, Lewis's servant described as a mulatto, Creole or Spaniard , must attempt to reconcile the commission of such a hideous act with his decision to make the long journey to Virginia to personally inform Lewis's mother Lucy Marks.

Her tough, no-nonsense frontier spirit was legendary. She declared he must have murdered her son and chased him away with her rifle. The motive for the Grinders most likely would be robbery. Years later the Grinders managed to acquire an attractive property, although no one knew where the money originated. It is interesting to note that of the many graves at this isolated site, at least two immediately adjacent to Lewis's grave are unmarked.

Perhaps Grinder's Stand was a popular suicide spot? Neelly himself was suspected of robbery by members of Lewis's family. Moreover, conspiracy theorists jump at his name since Neelly worked for the notorious General Wilkinson. Was this a political assassination? Had Lewis gained knowledge which could prove fatal to Wilkinson's already checkered career? Prior to Lewis's departure from St. Louis, the governor learned that someone most likely Wilkinson was spreading rumors.

Just as earlier during the Burr affair, Wilkinson was again the subject of inquiry, and some historians have posited that he may have decided to escape suspicion by claiming Governor Lewis was intent on creating an insurrection, using St. Louis as his base. People suffering from depression or recurrences of malaria are not immune to murder, and in their brochure of the Natchez Trace Parkway, the National Park Service states the one fact not in dispute.

It describes Grinder's Stand as the site where Meriwether Lewis "died of gunshot wounds. It can be found on the web by clicking here. Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus. He was steadily losing his mind, he was arguing at himself, losing memory, and steadily pacing the night of his death. I am guessing that he realized that he was steadily dieing and he was ready to get it over with by committing suicide.

From: Austin Lawrence. Is facinating, I am researching the possibilties of Lewis' having fathered a child Zomie circa The decendants of Zomie or Turkey Head as he was sometimes called, have been very influential in South Dakota history. My point is that inconsideration of these decendants, as well as statements made by Louis LaPlant and others living at the time of the expedition, as documented by Doane Robinson.

I am to some extent on the question of exhumations a purist, or to put it differently I respect the rights of the dead and the relatives of the dead and I do not think Testimony of James E. Starrs 27 exhumation should be conducted frivolously or unnecessarily or without regard to the rights of other persons who may be buried in the area and therefore, I testified against the exhumation of John Wilkes Booth so called in Baltimore. And Elvis Presley? There was no opportunity to do DNA analysis. There was no opportunity to do anything but facial superimposition and that is still in its infancy scientifically speaking and therefore, I felt that was not suitable.

In addition, there were six other unidentified graves in the area that we would have to look for John Wilkes Booth. Therefore, I felt that it was not justified particularly since there was the considerable 28 The Death of Meriwether Lewis percolation of water in the site from — Q. That would affect the remains? And the remains would altogether likely to be in poor condition. Starrs what would you—if you were allowed to take the remains out of its location, what would you do with them, where would they go?

The remains would in first instance be x-rayed, radiographically x-rayed at the site before moving them away. We would not want anything to be lost by reason of moving the remains. Bass could speak to the question of the availability of his laboratory at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville for that purpose and of course, for Dr. Bass could conduct the microscopic and other analyses on the bones. Have you solicited the opinion of people with experience and knowledge about this case about what they think about it think about— A. I have solicited a number of opinions from persons of prominence and note both in scientific fields and historical fields on the question, one on the death of Meriwether Lewis; two, the value of an exhumation.

I am prepared to submit along with the Richard Dillon letter an endorsement of this proposal for exhumation from the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation; from the Lewis County itself, an endorsement from the Lewis County Historical Society, a more detailed and exact scientific appraisal and endorsement of Dr. BesantMatthews, private pathologist from Texas; the coroner Joshua Perper from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania also specifying their particular detailed endorsement and approvals of a proposal to go forward. Starrs 29 here, Mrs.

Tate if that is all right with you Mr. Exhibit 1-Letters were marked. I have just a couple if things I would like to ask you, Professor Starrs. I have not gone into the particular details with respect to this gun. There were only very few high caliber weapons but they were all high caliber at that time. They were all high caliber. I can not precisely say this is the weapon or one of the two weapons that he would have had at the time, but we do know this that when Mrs. Grinder reported according to Major Neelly that she heard two pistols there is no way she could know, absent from seeing, that Meriwether Lewis or anyone else was firing two pistols, it could just as well have been one 30 The Death of Meriwether Lewis pistol reloaded and fired the second time.

Also concerning the exhumation of the remains in , do you have any kind of indication as to what was the extent of the examination of those remains at that time? Unfortunately a very close and detailed review of all of the records both the archives of Tennessee as well as the public library historical society comes up with no further information than this report that I showed you on the overhead transparency.

What was available at that time as far as scientific ways of examining the remains, was there very much? Bass and a few, a very few of his fellows, came on the scene in the early s and made their mark on the science of forensic anthropology by establishing a subsection within the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Consequently, or more years before that, there literally was not an organized profession of forensic anthropologists; and, in addition, there is no indication from the local or Maury County records that anyone with anthropological training was called to give was called to give any scientific evidence at that time.

What was the purpose for that exhumation? The purpose at that time one can only presume was to identify the location of the remains so that the monument would be properly placed at that site where the remains were located. If there was no interest in locating the monument on the remains, there would have been no need to expose the grave Testimony of James E.

The Supposed Suicide note of Meriwether Lewis by Matthew Dodd

Starrs 31 and to identify the remains, they could simply have put it any place in that pioneer cemetery. A few. After viewing the record of , are you satisfied that they found the remains of Meriwether Lewis? Bass will testify about later on, as to what we can find from the skeletal remains. My particular forte, I am canvassing the question of whether we, have living relatives today who have the same 32 The Death of Meriwether Lewis mitochondrial DNA that could be found in those bones so we can do for Meriwether Lewis what I did for that scoundrel Jesse James and identify the remains within the narrowest range of scientific probability as being those of Meriwether Lewis.

If you were able to locate the remains of Meriwether Lewis what would those remains tell you that might relate to whether he committed suicide or murdered? So that if we find, for example, there is no evidence at all of black powder, the residues of black powder on well preserved remains where they should be for a close in shooting, then there is a question as to whether or not it was suicide or not.

But these are items that will be testified more specifically and with more scientific acumen by other scientists speaking after me. Starrs, going back to before Meriwether arrived on the Trace, do you have any indication or any record of what took place at Fort Pickering? Guice and other historians could better speak to that question if I may defer to them, if that would be okay. No response. Thank you. Professor Starrs. Large, if you would raise your right hand, Mr. Tate is going to swear you in please. Would you state your name for purpose of the records and spell your first and last name, please?

Arlen J. You might need to speak up just a little bit louder if you would. Where do you live, sir? In Washington, D. I am a retired newspaper reporter Q. Who did you report for? Wall Street Journal for 30 years Q. You were with the Wall Street Journal for 30 years; is that correct? What interest do you have in Meriwether Lewis?

A broader interest actually in western exploration. The Lewis and Clark Expedition probably was the most important of those explorations. The Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation has about 1, members, people who are similarly interested in western exploration in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I was president in Have you written any articles about western exploration, and specifically the Lewis and Clark Expedition?

Large 35 A.

Primary Sources

The Foundation publishes a quarterly magazine and I have written something like 30 articles for them. How has—how have historians treated the Lewis and Clark Expedition and specifically—well Meriwether Lewis specifically his death? In a great variety of ways. There are historians who are absolutely sure that Lewis went crazy, was constantly drinking at the end of his life, and killed himself.

Who Were Lewis and Clark?

There are other historians who take great offense at the idea that a national hero could do such a thing and believed that he instead was murdered. It should be I think. But as Dr. Starrs mentioned, the very first full length biography of Meriwether Lewis was written 30 years ago. The first one the author said murder.

The most recent one the author said suicide. Because I think many of these authors want to have the last word. For example, Olin Wheeler writing in , in said that the time has come to clear Lewis of this great stain on his reputation and —and absolve him from the sin of suicide. Do you have a personal opinion about whether it was suicide or homicide or accidental? Yes, I think it was suicide. Why do you think that? That is based on conjecture, on—on supposition partly on the actions of William Clark who was a close friend of governor of the upper Louisiana territory.

Clark believed immediately that Lewis had killed himself and that was based on recent personal contact. Both of them had jobs in Saint Louis. What makes you think Jefferson thought he killed himself? Jefferson wrote in a short biography of Lewis in which he pointed out that the Lewis family had been subject to fits of depression in various of its branches and he claimed that he saw this in Lewis a little bit while Lewis was working for him as his private secretary in the White House prior to the expedition, and that Jefferson said this depression symptom returned after that.

Pernier was at the site although he may not have actually seen the shooting. Was there anybody that actually saw the shooting that you are aware of from history? If it was murder then the murderer was the only surviving eyewitness. If it was suicide there were no eyewitnesses surviving. Have you read the various versions and public journals about Lewis and Clark and accounts of the assertions of the people that were around Lewis at the time of his death?

What period of time before Lewis came here to Lewis County had Russell seen him and how? I think a couple of weeks prior to that time. Where did Russell first see him? In Memphis at Fort Pickering. How long a period of time did Russell have to see him, do you know that? It was about ten days I think. What about Major Neelly? Large 37 Q. Was Nee ly an Indian agent? Yes, he was for the Chickasaw tribe.

Where is Fort Pickering located by the way? At the present site of Memphis. Did any of these men accompany Lewis here to Lewis County? Major Neelly did. Was he with him at the time he was shot? He was not. He had stayed behind on the trail to try to find a couple of horses that had strayed away. So is there anything in these journals that indicates to you that Lewis had a tendency to be suicidal. Major Russell wrote a report, a statement it was called, saying that when Lewis came down from St.

Louis on a boat on the Mississippi River that the crew of that boat when they arrived at Fort Pickering had told him, Major Russell that Lewis twice had tried to kill himself. This is one statement. As far as I know it is not corroborated by anybody. I mean, it was the only report on the scene. Have you—in reading these journals have you seen indications that Lewis may have been suffering from some physical disease, such as malaria, neurosyphilis, something otherwise that could have affected his disposition other than perhaps depression?

Yes, he did. On the way down the river to recuperate? Nobody has ever seen that letter; nobody knows what was it in. But Clark apparently interpreted it as something — Q. Yes, it does. Who has that letter? The Filson Club in Louisville, Kentucky. Did Jonathan live in Louisville? Yes, sir. William Clark. Lewis knew that Clark was en route to the east, that letter intercepted William Clark in Louisville while he was staying with his brother Jonathan. Why was Clark going east? Clark also had some business to conduct with the government.

Lewis thought he had to defend himself against that, but I think Clark wanted to do other kinds of government business, and he had relatives in Virginia and probably had to stop off and see them. Well, so what, if this is suicide why exhume him? Large 39 an interest in the whole expedition from beginning to end, from the planning phases in There are volumes and volumes of handwritten manuscripts describing all of the planning leading up to the expedition, events during the expedition itself, and historians really are in luxury in being able to read through all this documented stuff.

Documentation for the death of the leader of that expedition three years later is much skimpier and it has been chewed over, it has been woven in and out by anybody with a theory. The documents have led to a dead end. Let me give an example of the kind of evidence that is needed.

Now here is Dawson Phelps writing— Q. Dawson Phelps. A historian for the Natchez Trace Parkway writing 40 years ago, Reading: In the absence of direct and pertinent contemporary evidence to the contrary—which not a scintilla exists—the verdict of suicide must stand. Phelps was a big suicide man. This is going to be my last question so you might prepare for any questions you have for Mr. If he had had the slightest inkling that Lewis had been murdered by some kind of assassin or robber, and remember that Clark was the head of the militia, he was general of the militia of the Upper Louisiana Territory, Clark was governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory sic.

You mean Lewis was? Yes, Lewis was governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory. Clark could have claimed all kind of jurisdiction to lead his militia into Tennessee to catch the murderer. Clark never throughout the rest of his life gave the slightest indication that there was a murderer to be caught. Large, if your opinion is that Meriwether Lewis committed suicide and realizing that is your opinion based on history, can you give me a brief line up of the events that you would think contribute to you having that opinion from history records?

Well, I think Lewis was in or thought he was in difficulty with the government over the contested bills. There are people I think other than Russell, I think Jefferson believed it very quickly that Lewis had developed a drinking problem. He showed no signs of it really on the expedition. The documents for the expedition show no signs of Lewis having problems with drinking. But after the expedition and after Lewis began to run into difficulties, political difficulties in St. Louis, and governor of the territory then he got busier. A significant reason I think is for Lewis being extremely depressed and riddled with guilt Testimony of Arlen J.

Large 41 was his failure to produce the narrative book, the description of the expedition that he had promised Jefferson from the outset. He was three years late. My question again, is do we have any indication that he was so called treated at Fort Pickering and if so, in how would they have treated him at the outpost for a mental disorder?

Well, according to Major Russell he simply dried him out. Was he taken off a boat, was not his intention to go to New Orleans and catch a ship there and sail around to Chesapeake, between St. Louis and Fort Pickering he was actually taken off the boat and put as you said drying out at Fort Pickering? Then decided to walk to Washington instead of sail to Washington? At Fort Pickering he changed his plans and decided to go over land on the Natchez Trace. Why did he do that, do you think? Well there are conflicting explanations about that.

He had his journals with him? Large BY MR. Was there any reason given; does anyone know why Pernier committed suicide? Not that I know of. There are members of the Lewis family who continue to think that Pernier was the killer. So there are many, many theories. There are many, many murder suspects other than— than the suicide. They were on extremely friendly terms. I think the best proof of that, early in while they were both in St. The statute of limitations was running all of the time in a case of murder and Clark at any point had he thought that his friend had been murdered could have started making a lot of trouble.

You said that there was some indication that Lewis may have had trouble with alcohol while governor in St. Is there any historical record that documents any alcoholism prior to the time he left St. Louis on his way to Washington? York was a slave of Clark, William Clark. Pernier was a hired free servant of Lewis. As far as I know York was still in St. According to Mrs. Grinder which is only the account that has reached the record, there were two shots, both apparently from a pistol, either one pistol or two pistols, two shots.

If Lewis had been traveling the area on his journey from St. Louis to Washington, would—was it the common practice that someone could give him alcohol as a treatment for malaria? Large 45 A. Thank you, Mr. Guice, if you will raise your right hand, the coroner will place you under oath. Thank you, Dr. Where do you live? All right, sir. Welcome to Tennessee. What position do you hold with the University of Southern Mississippi? Professor, have you also served at the University of Southern Mississippi in the position of director of their American Studies Program?

Professor Guice, we appreciate you being here today and as understand it you are not being compensated for being here? Nor are any of these witnesses. Is that your understanding? As far as I know. This is not being done at public expense. You all are volunteers here with your services? Guice 47 A. Not only did I volunteer, I convinced my department chairman to take my classes today so I could be here. Professor Guice, could you tell us what academic preparation you have had to prepare yourself for your job as a history professor?

Well my baccalaureate is from Yale University. And Professor, have you had occasion to specialize to some extent in matters involving the Natchez Trace? For the last 15 years I have been researching on what some people call the southern frontier, some of them call it old southwest because it was the south west during the early days of our republic. And I have—I have written a book, Frontiers In Conflict, which gives the history of that portion of the country, that is from Tennessee to the Gulf, and from central Georgia over to the Mississippi River.

Prior to that, I had a publication in another journal dealing specifically with violence on the Natchez Trace. Professor, in addition to the books and articles which you have published, have you also written entries for various encyclopedias dealing with historical matters? Not particularly having to do with this topic. I understand. But I have a number of entries in encyclopedias.


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Yes, sir, your curriculum vitae would you object to our filing 48 The Death of Meriwether Lewis it as an exhibit? Yes, I just referred to that Q. Yes, sir, that is true.

Meriwether Lewis

And professor now, more specifically to the point at issue here today, could you address when and why did you become interested in the death of Meriwether Lewis and how long have you studied this question? Well I first became interested in the death of Meriwether Lewis in the mid s when I was writing this book Frontiers in Conflict which has a chapter on Natchez Trace.

I must confess that, you know, my previous scholarship it all dealt with the Rocky Mountain area and as I was moving into the old southwest, I felt kind of stupid. I had forgotten that Meriwether Lewis had died on Natchez Trace. So I entered into this project sort of with a lot of innocence, I mean, I had no preconceived notions about — Q. You were open-minded? Very open-minded, yes, sir. Almost vacant minded? Guice 49 Q. She is very lovely. You obviously are a man of great taste. Doctor—professor, could you give us your views, now after your extensive research that you have published in the Southern Quarterly and in these books, would you give us your view of the historical controversy surrounding this issue?

First I want to back up a minute, my early scholarship was on the territorial history of the Rocky Mountains published by Yale University Press and that has given me a certain background to look at some of the problems that Meriwether Lewis encountered as a territorial governor. Very few have dealt with it as much—as extensively as you have?

Well, Professor, give us your view then of this historical controversy? When I first started writing a chapter which will appear in the History of the Natchez Trace, I was sort of astounded that historians were so willing with such scanty evidence to come to such firm conclusions about suicide. The evidence that they had was highly suspect, blatantly circumstantial and of the faintest kind of hearsay.

Most of their decisions were made on the basis of—pardon me, of letters, which purported to report the words of Mrs. Grinder, I understand it was Griner, but everybody calls it Grinder and the jury has these documents, several of these documents before you, the Neelly letter, the Wilson letter, Russell letter and there are such obvious discrepancies in those letters.

Grinder attributed to herself in the letter which she dictated to Mr. And please forgive me if I tend to lecture to you but I need to explain. Professor, we can expect no less than a lecture from you. Let me say that to my knowledge there have been few frontiers in the history of the United States that had greater violence on them than Tennessee. In terms of problems between the native Americans and European Americans and it was just a rather violent frontier. And the Natchez Trace was quite violent, particularly in its early years.

And anyway Mrs. Grinder was a frontier lady. She was used to staying here some by herself. Her husband would go to another farm. Her behavior as described in the account to Mr. Well if Natchez Trace was so dog gone safe, you know, why was she so afraid. So you reached that conclusion yourself as a historian before you ever heard of Professor Starrs of George Washington University? Long before I ever heard of him. What is your opinion of the existence of evidence sufficient to reach a conclusion on the question of suicide or homicide?

Guice 51 examination of the scene of the remains. What are some of the biases that you have observed in the writing of historians or why do you feel that their conclusions regarding the suicide are flawed? Well there are several reasons. His word was sort of taken as impeccable, unimpeachable, unchallengeable, authoritative, and, of course, I venerate this man. I talk about him a lot in my lectures. The Louisiana Purchase occurred almost kind of as an accident but he had been interested in this project long before he became president. He had begun to—a plan for it before the Louisiana Purchase and of course, the Louisiana Purchase legitimized his project and made it possible for him to do it openly, and above board.

This was his greatest thing. It just does not make sense. So then you ask yourself a question why would Jefferson have responded to the death of Meriwether Lewis as he did. It was a clean way to deal with it. One of my nephews who was a, you know, one of these Vietnam veterans who came back with great emotional problems killed himself. But in the 19th Century suicide was 52 The Death of Meriwether Lewis certainly considered, you know, in a bad light.

I might even use the word disgraceful. Now, some historians, you know, approach a project from a particular philosophical disposition or background. I have the utmost respect for Dawson Phelps as an—as a researcher. But Dawson Phelps was trying to prove a point. He and one of his colleagues, named William D. Every time Hamilton could knock the frontier, he knocked it. This book had the greatest impact on writing of history of the Natchez Trace of any book ever written and it is a book fraught with errors.

It is true that the Natchez Trace was terribly violent in its earlier years with the Hawk Brothers, Mason and Hair and these people from to Natchez Trace was a dreaded place to be. It was not quite that violent after Guice 53 But Dawson Phelps to suggest that the Natchez Trace was safe in just does not stack up with what I find in my research over 15 years. So Phelps had a little axe to grind, if I might say—He had two axes to grind. He wanted to go along with his buddy, William B. Hamilton and disapprove the theories of Frederick Jackson Turner and he wanted to put down the work of Coates and these outlaw years.

So he did have a predisposition to try to—to act like Natchez Trace was safe in when it certainly was not. Based upon your own research and your survey of all historians on this issue, do you recommend further investigation concerning the death of Meriwether Lewis? I surely do because most of the historians have written on this start over here with this premise, it was suicide. And then they go look for the salient quote that backs them up, you see. And I can take a lot of the same things that they say are so salient and turn them around and say, guys this shows Lewis was a very sensible man.

So the fact that he writes a Will on the way down the river enhances him in my view. In Memphis, he writes a letter to his old army buddy, Amos Stoddard. Incidentally, did he have good reason to change his plans and not travel to New Orleans? Surely he did. As we all recall our high school history and college history, you know, our relationship with Great Britain at this time was leading up towards the War of and the 54 The Death of Meriwether Lewis British were interfering with our shipping on the high seas and he did indeed I think have—if he wanted to kill himself he might have gone on and let the British do it for him.

I mean, the fact that he changes his route shows he is a pretty sensible person.

He had all these journals with him, did he not, that he had painstakingly compiled? We have almost no evidence. Russell writes a letter that some guys on the boat said that Lewis tried to take his life. Surely if those gentlemen on the boat had watched him try to kill himself two or three times as they floated down the river as they stopped in Natchez and were drinking at Natchez under the hill they would have talked about this, as they got down to New Orleans hanging around the wharf, they would talk about this.

We would hear some more, you would know a little bit more about his attempt to kill himself on the boat in my opinion if, in fact, he did do that. It would be talk of the wharf. It would get in the New Orleans newspaper. And you say he was the greatest hero of the day? He surely was. He was of the Neal Armstrong of the day? You can say that. I think he might have even in the eyes of Americans, we have so many heroes today, I think in the eyes of Americans he might have even been on a higher pedestal because they had so few. He was described by President Jefferson as being that hero of undaunted courage?

Guice 55 and dined and feted, they had celebrations. The national—the Poet Laureate of America wrote this big poem about him. Do I have time to address some of the things that an earlier witness said? Yes, sir please say — MR. Professor Guice, prior to the break you were about to address some comments you would like to make concerning matters indicated by other witnesses. Would you do that, please? Thank you, sir. Meaning Meriwether Lewis, How much time did he spend in Philadelphia before he reported to his position as governor? But I think that we could surmise that Meriwether Lewis may have been having a big time in Philadelphia, just a little R and R.

So but specifically I want to talk briefly about what was going on during his governorship and this is often used by people who argue suicide as a reason for his purported despair. Guice 57 First of all, compared to most territorial governors and this is something I do know something about, he performed very well. He was particularly successful in dealing with Indian relations after he got there. He did get into some financial trouble with some land speculation but basically, this was par for the course. This is not just something that Meriwether Lewis did.

Virtually all of the territorial official ships, why do you think that people wanted to be appointed to a territorial position, they got paid very, very little and you had to go live out in the territory under the worse possible conditions. I mean, one of the reasons many people wanted a territorial appointment was to get out there and make bucks on speculation, good old American activity.

But he did have a cash flow problem toward the end but he was not facing bankruptcy. He did—he did have a problem dealing with the bureaucracy in Washington. Every territorial official did. Russell wrote that letter from Fort Pickering. He wanted to go to Washington with Meriwether Lewis to resolve a very similar question about the challenging of some of his expenses but his bosses would not let him leave Fort Pickering. Frederick Bates was about as much of a pain-in-the-neck as anyone could have been for Meriwether Lewis.

I hate to use the words, he despised Meriwether Lewis. He was jealous of him. He was envious of him. He did everything he could to hurt Meriwether Lewis, but yet no where can we find any evidence that Frederick Bates accused Meriwether Lewis of incompetence nor can we find that Meriwether Lewis was accused of being an alcoholic by Frederick Bates. And if your worse political enemy, if your worse political enemy is not going to bring to the attention your mental incapacity, who in the world is. Guice, I want to ask you to address now briefly two other scholars who I think may share your view or have shared your view that further investigation is warranted and would be historically significant.

First Vardis Fisher, would you address him? And Vardis Fisher was much maligned after publication of this book by the great scholar Donald Jackson and Julian Boyd, who had together written the Jefferson Davis papers and when I first got interested in this subject I read his book and then read where people put him down. Then I read it again and then I went up to Yale University and researched in the letters that Vardis Fisher donated to Yale University, you know, after as he finished each project he would donate all his letters and work to Yale University.

I suspect that one reason they did was that he was a Ph. Could you address the work of Dr. I would like to point to you Dr. Chuinard was an orthopedic surgeon. Grinder said he behaved having been wounded as she said he was wounded. And he also brings out he was raised had on the frontier.

He also brings out the behavior of a frontier lady. Now let me ask you this, this question is probably in the minds of many good citizens of Lewis County, and that question is: Why bother after all these years, why bother about this death that occurred in the early 19th century? What in the blank difference does it make? So I think we owe it to his image as a great American hero. I think we owe it to his descendants. I think we owe it to our nation. I think this is a national—this is a national issue.

I think we owe it to our nation to try to have as truthful history as we can write. Starrs is hoping for is not asking you to do anything more than provide the opportunity to gather some physical evidence. You have listened to me and I know that if you are on the spot right here in town, I know you walk around town probably passing one and I do want to thank you as an American and historian.

Thank you very much, Dr. Coroner may have questions or members of the jury? Guice, I think we need to base our opinion on the evidence that exists. Could you very briefly go over the reasons that have been given for suicide and tell us what evidence exists for those, for example, Lewis was distraught over not finding a girlfriend or wife, what evidence — A. Well the evidence that is given for that are the letters that he wrote in which he does say, you know, I forget his exact words, I was never good at memorizing things like that but he does in a letter express disappointment that he had not yet found a wife.

Was there any indication in the letter that he was so upset over that that he thought of taking his life? Not to my way of thinking about it, depends on how—what you think his predisposition is when we read the letter. If you start with the conclusion, you know, as does the author named Allen Goodson wrote a treatise on this, you know, and he starts with suicide and finds all sorts of little things in his life and later today or tomorrow you are going to hear, from a psychologist who I suspect will tell you that we could find in the life of anyone who had committed suicide that could point to it in the background.

When was that letter written in relation to his death? Somebody help me. It was written before he reported to St. I would guess it was written a year or two before his death, am I right? It was about—it was year and a half, or two years before his death. It was written from Virginia before he headed back—before he reported to—to St. Were there any letters written near the time of his death that indicated he was distraught over that?

The other — A. The other thing you mentioned was that he was having financial problems. You are going to have opportunity I believe to talk to Ms. Frick who knows more about that than I do. He had overextended himself in land purchases. This land speculation again in the United States of America land speculation was the number one activity for getting rich quick, ever since they landed in Jamestown at Plymouth we were a people of speculation. Someone else can address this question more directly? About the amount of money he had and owed. Let me ask one final question. Because I would resolve that it was not a problem in my experience from observing other territories.

Would it not have been customary or appropriate for the government in St. Louis, the federal government to get involved? Last night the car in front of me ran into an entire herd of cattle. The Rangers were out doing whatever they do on Sunday night. We called the emergency number. Certainly Clark was in no position as I see it to initiate any kind of inquest. Doctor, does anyone besides Mr. Ambrose bring up the problem of syphilis?

Ravenholt about that particular area. I have a question as far as this jurisdiction comes about, where in conjunction to the place where Meriwether Lewis died, where—who did have jurisdiction, what territory was that, who would have had jurisdiction there? It was just across the line from the Indian boundary. It was not? Frick knows the answer to this, there were Indian territories within this state that were under the jurisdiction of men like Mr. Thank you, Professor. Coroner, we call Ruth Frick. Frick has provided us concerning her qualifications.

Ruth Frick, who is before now and will be sworn in just a moment, is a descendent of John Colter of Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery. She has researched John Colter and the men of the expedition since She is the author of a book soon to be finished concerning her ancestor, John Colter.

The jury may recall that this is the John Colter who is credited with discovering the area of Yellowstone National Park I believe. Of course, we all know that the Native Americans discovered Yellowstone so I guess it would be the European Americans who discovered Yellowstone. She does this at the national park there. Now regarding this other lady whose papers this lady is an expert on, Grace Lewis Miller, spent 40 years, virtually her entire life studying and collecting information about Meriwether Lewis.

Unfortunately, she was a perfectionist and although she wrote extensive drafts concerning the collection she had amassed, she never submitted them for publication, never having been sufficiently satisfied with it. This lady, Ruth Frick, has had the opportunity to study this collection of documents, letters and manuscripts and to organize and write the finding aid for this collection.

So Ms. Frick is here today for two reasons, first because she has researched Meriwether Lewis herself because of her interest in her ancestor John Colter, another explorer who is associated with Meriwether Lewis; and secondly, because Ms. Frick is Testimony of Ruth Frick 67 conversant, perhaps the most conversant, with the voluminous papers of this perfectionist lady Grace Lewis Miller who dedicated her life to collecting and organizing information concerning Meriwether Lewis and his death.

With that Ms. Frick, where do you live? I live in Washington, Missouri. Is that near some larger city? Welcome to Tennessee A.


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Could you tell us, first of all, whether or not you have an opinion based upon your research and your knowledge of the Grace Lewis Miller materials concerning the death of Meriwether Lewis? Yes, I have. Are you of the opinion that that death merits further investigation? Yes, I do. Is that an opinion that Grace Lewis Miller also had?

Yes, it is. Did she commit that to writing at various times? Now Ms. Frick, why are you of the opinion that this death merits further investigation and may very well not have been suicide? I would like to show by the records that Meriwether Lewis was planning on living in the Louisiana Territory and was planning on returning from Washington. Go ahead. The first letter that I would quote from was written December the 1st, when Meriwether Lewis wrote to his mother. He told his mother that he had bought 5, acres of land. He described the land and the buildings that he had planned for her residence and the only thing he asked of her was that she relinquishes her dowry in the plantation that she owed at Ivy creek.

You must realize also that Meriwether Lewis being the oldest son owned this plantation in Virginia. The piece of land that he bought with the thought of having his mother come to live on was a thousand acres. Now you have to remember that he was writing this December 1st, He also described some land that he was renting out to someone, I think his name was Mr. But in this letter he specified how high the fences were supposed to be, also that the man would be allowed to tap the trees but he specified in what method he could use to tap the trees.

He was tapping maple trees for sugar and he could only bore two holes in each tree. Testimony of Ruth Frick 69 On August the 21st, , this is going to be just week before his fatal journey, Lewis and Clark settled their accounts agreeably. He was making arrangements for his book to be published. He was paying people to have portraits done, to study the mathematics so they could do the maps; he was busy doing these things. Lewis had some bills that were, protested, but Clark also had bills that were protested, and also as you heard Mr. Russell had bills that were protested, so this was not unusual.

I have not checked Mr. But according to Mr. Clark, was in worse financial shape than Meriwether Lewis. Is that the point? Thank you, Ms. And the assets of Mr. So the assets that William Clark calculated for Mr. He also owned approximately a thousand, acres of land in Kentucky. Antoine Saugrain, moneys which may be remitted to them by me or to be paid from a sale of his land but it sounds to me that if they were not paid he was still going to be responsible for them.

On August the 25th, just days before his leaving on his trip, he gives William Clark a receipt for the land warrant number two which William Clark had for 1, acres with the promise that he will try to sell the land in New Orleans or deliver it to Daniel Clark, who I think was in New Orleans. Apprehension of the climate in the lower country and the fear of his original papers falling into the hands of the British endured me to change my route and proceed by land through the state of Tennessee, to the city of Washington.

August the 24th, , he agrees to pay Mr. And in his memorandum book, quote, Reading: Gave Judge Steward a deed for or 7 Also quote, in the memorandum book, Reading: Directed my letters to be returned to City of Washington. Meriwether for the benefit of my creditors.

See a Problem?

In the memorandum book he also writes that he is confident—who is this letter too, excuse me, looking for my notes and his letter to Amos Stoddard. In any event Ms. Is that your opinion? Is there any evidence of him being hounded by creditors? The question was is there any evidence that he was hounded by creditors?

I have not found any evidence. I have not found any evidence that there was a long overdue debt. Thank you very much, Ms. Coroner, we call George Stephens. Coroner, prior to Mr. Stephens being sworn, in the interest of time, I would like to present to you Dr. George C. He has a Ph. He is as we said here earlier today, a full professor at George Washington University as well as being chairman of the Department of Geology at George Washington University. He has a curriculum vitae, Mr.

He has received numerous grants from societies such as the National Geographic Society. The role of geology is — Q. You have had lunch? The role of geology in historical exhumation is really four fold as I see it. The second role is to do a physical description of the topography in the area because the topography or the landscape to some extent controls the soil moisture content in the subsurface and that in turn has a lot of bearing on preservation of human remains.

The third major role of geology in exhumation would be to do a detailed soil analysis, including soil mineralogy, soil textures, soil acidities, and so forth, because the soil chemistry and the soil structure again has a great bearing on preservation of human remains. And then the last step for a geologist in an exhumation is to aid in guiding the exhumation, proper guiding, to help guide the excavation of the remains and we do this in several different ways.

One geological tool that we can bring to bear on this problem is geophysics, like magnetic surveys, metal detector surveys or ground penetrating radar surveys; we try in some way to remotely sense the location of the remains before we do any excavation at all. Stephens, have you looked at the site of the grave of Meriwether Lewis here in Lewis County? I have. Testimony of George Stephens 75 Marked on this topological map are the paths of the original Natchez Trace on the left, and the modern Natchez Trace Parkway on the right.

George Stephens and James E. Have you conducted—have you given some professional attention to that site? Now can you tell us from your standpoint as a geologist are the prospects good for the skeletal remains of Meriwether Lewis being in good enough shape to be examined if there were to be an exhumation? Why is that? Why is it a good prospective site for looking at skeletal remains? Let me—let me try to illustrate that with one slide if I can.

Slide Presentation.

Suicide or Murder? The Strange Death of Governor Meriwether Lewis

Here is a piece of a topographic map from this area from Lewis County. This series of roads is a series of Park Service Roads. The soil pH is slightly acidic but not overly so. The other two very favorable conditions have already been mentioned by Professor Starrs, one is the presence of the monument itself. At the monument itself we know that fill is about four feet thick. Stephens, on one of the occasions that you were at the site of the monument were you present when ground penetrating radar was done? Yes, I was. Was there an indication on the ground penetrating radar that there may well be something under the monument, something other than soil under the monument?

Meriwether Lewis & William Clark - Meet Amazing Americans | America's Library - Library of Congress

There was. And so we use the radar to try to look obliquely beneath the monument, not an ideal situation geophysica1ly but the person in charge, Dr. James Mellet from Subsurface Consulting Limited was fairly confident that he had detected some sort of anomalous condition beneath the monument which we imagine would be the burial itself. Stephens, on occasion when you were at the site was Dr. Yes, he was. Do you know who that is, know Dr. He has a big orange heart. Do you say as a geologist say that him as a forensic anthropologist that the condition, that the geological conditions at that site are favorable for him finding a skeleton that would be good enough for examination purposes, is that your opinion?

Coroner, I submit him to you and the jury for further questions. Stephens, in the tests that were done there at the park, is there anyway of having any kind of indication as to the type container or anyway that Meriwether Lewis might have been buried and placed there? From the radar? No, sir. The radar at best gives you kind of a shadowy ambiguous photograph of what might be present in some occurrences.

Probably need to break that down to where I could understand it, what is your opinion of what that object is, what would that be? Let me digress a little bit and tell that you Dr. Mellet, who was radar operator on site thought that this situation was analogous to some sort of a void or a vault based on his experience.

The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Other Plays The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Other Plays
The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Other Plays The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Other Plays
The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Other Plays The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Other Plays
The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Other Plays The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Other Plays
The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Other Plays The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Other Plays
The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Other Plays The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Other Plays
The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Other Plays The Death of Meriwether Lewis and Other Plays

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