||Meriwether Lewis was involved in the westward expansion of the USA.|
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1st Territorial Governor
of Louisiana Territory
3rd Territorial Governor
Meriwether Lewis born in Albemarle County, Virginia August 18,1774.         He was the second child and first son of William and Lucy Meriwether Lewis.      Their other children included Jane Meriwether Lewis (later Anderson), Reuben Lewis, and Lucinda Lewis (who died as an infant). Meriwether's father, who served in the Continental Army, died after his horse fell into an icy stream in 1779. Six months later, his mother married another Army officer, Captain John Marks, who raised Meriwether and his two siblings while managing a 1,000 acre plantation about 10 miles from Monticello. Captain John and Lucy had two children as well, John Hastings Marks and Mary Garland Marks.
As a young boy, Lewis showed an interest and skill in plant knowledge. His mother, an herbalist, encouraged that interest, which would later be useful in his expeditions.
Meriwether was not known to have married (though he apparently considered it at one point). Some family traditions holds that Meriwether Lewis and a Teton Sioux woman named Ikpsapewin (Winona) conceived a child. The boy, known both as Turkey Head and as Joseph Lewis DeSmet, lived until the age of 84. His baptismal record, which was written when he was an elderly man, lists Meriwether as his father.
The standard history of the county in which Joseph DeSomet Lewis's descendants live, Early Settlers in Lyman County, identifies Mamie DeSmet Thompson and Amy DeSmet Carpenter as the great granddaughters of Meriwether Lewis and their grandfather as the son of Meriwether Lewis.
On January 30th, 1946, Samuel Charger, a grandson of Joseph DeSmet Lewis, wrote a letter to Doane Robinson, in which he recounted a story told to him by his aging uncle John Lewis Desmet (Joseph's son). In the letter, Samuel stated that his grandfather, Joseph, was invited to visit an uncle, who was an Indian agent. That uncle gave Joseph two horses, a gun, and ammunition so that he may train the horses to chase and hunt buffalo. The uncle also offered young Joseph the opportunity to live with the family, but Joseph decided, instead, to live with his Indian family in South Dakota. Some surmise the uncle may have been Merwether's brother, Reuben.
According to other traditions, Meriwether fathered a man named Martin Charger when among the Sioux. Other sources list Joseph Lewis DeSmet as the father of Martin Charger. Martin Charger is, in fact, the son of Joseph.
To date, no DNA research has been able to confirm any of the familial traditions surrounding Meriwether's possible children.
|Side by side images of Meriwether Lewis and Joseph Lewis DeSmet|
Meriwether was described as a lean man of six feet in stature. He was considered fiercely loyal, disciplined, and flexible, while also prone to being moody, speculative, and melancholic. His developed sense of observation and detailed written accounts of what he observed would prove to be ideal as a leader of the important Discovery expedition. 
"Lewis was a member of Door to Virtue Lodge, No. 44, Albemarle Co., Virginia, having petitioned the Lodge on December 31, 1796. He also received the Royal Arch Degree in Staunton Lodge, No. 13 but the exact date is unknown, however, a diploma in the Library of Congress is dated October 31, 1799. Lewis was one of the petitioners to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania for authorization to form St. Louis Lodge No. 111 and this Lodge was constituted on November 8, 1808, with Meriwether Lewis as its first Master."
Meriwether joined the Army in 1794 and served six years in the Frontier Army, serving during the "Whiskey Rebellion". In 1801, he was appointed personal secretary to President Jefferson. Jefferson had mentored Meriwether in his youth and was a friend, as well as appreciative of Meriwether's unique skills. His party affiliation didn't hurt, either. It was at Jefferson's suggestion that the Corps of Discovery expedition was undertaken and Meriwether put in charge.
The mission of the Corps of Discovery was to explore the territory of the Louisiana Purchase, establish trade and sovereignty over the natives near the Missouri River, and claim the Pacific Northwest and Oregon territory for the United States before European nations. The expedition also collected scientific data, and information on indigenous nations. The expedition was approved by Congress in 1803.
Following the Louisiana Purchase, it was clear that the expedition was more important than previously understood. Meriwether needed someone else to help him lead the expedition. Both President Jefferson and Meriwether showed support in adding William Clark to the group, the president offering Lewis and Clark both a permanent rank of Captain as part of his proposal. Clark graciously accepted, having remembered his time spent with Meriwether during their Army service.
In addition to his role as naturalist, Meriwether also served to represent the new government which had purchased the area to the native peoples living there. The trip had many perilous moments for Meriwether, who managed to survive falls, gun shot wounds, and accidental poisoning. The group returned to St. Louis in 1806 to start reporting their findings and accomplishments.
President Thomas Jefferson appointed Lewis governor of Upper Louisiana in 1807, as part of his payment for successfully completing the expedition, in addition to 1600 acres of land and double pay.
Meriwether's life degraded, as did his relationships, as he aged. He attempted marriage but never followed through, and started drinking excessively, which negatively affected his relationship with Jefferson. Conflicting information from sources indicate he was either rather ill (possibly from the drinking) or had trouble with hypochondria and visited his mother in hopes of some care. He didn't even make it to St. Louis, the Upper Louisiana Territory capitol, to take his position as Governor, until a year after being named as such.
Meriwether was overcome by the rapid changes happening in St. Louis, and fled to Washington to plead his case to the administration there.. On the riverboat, he twice attempted to take his own life. Meriwether Lewis died of gunshot wounds in what was either a murder or suicide, at a roadhouse near Natchez Trace, October 11, 1809.           He was buried next to the tavern, where a monument now stands in his honor.
Counties in six U.S. states have been named in Meriwether Lewis's honor: Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Tennessee, and Washington.
|The page from the Lyman County History|
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