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Joseph DeSmet Lewis documents

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Surname/tag: Lewis, Virginia, Native_americans, South Dakota
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This page is intended as a landing site for facts, documents, and/or records relating to Joseph DeSmet Lewis and the possibility that his father was Meriwether Lewis. Please post in chronological order and only direct quotes (even if it's from an undocumented web site) with links to the original if it's digitized.

An examination of the possibility that Meriwether Lewis was the father of Joseph DeSmet Lewis is laid out in a 2000 article by Harry F. Thompson, Meriwether Lewis and His Son: The Claim of Joseph DeSomet Lewis and the Problem of History, North Dakota History, 2000, pp. 24-37, published by the North Dakota State Archives.

It's listed in an index of the Society's journal. Jillaine Smith purchased (for $4) a copy of this article. Smith-32867 and has summarized its key findings here.
Side by side images of Meriwether Lewis and son, Joseph

18 August 1774 Meriwether Lewis born in Virginia[citation needed]

1797 "In 1797, after the Spanish had evacuated the area near Memphis, Lewis commanded a company occupying Fort Pickering at that site. This was Chickasaw Indian Territory and here Lewis showed his great ability by learning the Chicasaw language and their customs, knowledge that would stand him in good stead in later years."[1]

1800 Reuben Lewis was living at District of Fredericksville Parish, Albermarle County, Virginia. He was a slave owner, and he was a Retailing Merchant.[2]

18 Jan 1803 Corps of Discovery is commissioned: "Both Jefferson and Lewis had long harbored a desire to locate a land route to the Pacific. It was on January 18, 1803, that Jefferson requested from Congress an appropriation of $2,500, for this project. Congress readily concurred."[3]

Winter 1803-1804 "The expedition assembled in Illinois, near the mouth of the Missouri River. The winter of 1803-1804, was spent recruiting and training the men who enlisted for the expedition."[4]

Journals of Corps members digitized in full at: journals

1803-05 Birth of Joseph DeSmet Lewis

  • When he received his adult baptism in 1872, he listed his age as 68, calculating back to a birth year of 1804.[5]
  • "I will say that assuming that my Grand father died at the age of 86, then he would be born in 1803, and then the relationship to Meriwether Lewis would have some bearing... " quoting Samuel Charger, grandson of Joseph, in a letter to Doane Robinson, 1946. at letter
  1. Birth date given in Find A Grave profile as 1805. [6]

27 August 1804 Corps seeks encounter with Sioux tribal leaders: "we Set the Prarie on fire, to let the Soues Know we wished to see them at two oClock an Indian Swam to the Perogue, we landed & two other Came they were boys, they informed us that the Souex were Camped near, on the R Jacke one Maha boy informed us his nation was gorn to make a peace with the Pania's [Pawnee] "[7]

17 Dec 1805 Meriwether Lewis was in Oregon.[8]

1807-1808 "After his mother’s marriage to Capt. John Marks, he accompanied his parents and brother Meriwether (age nine) in 1784 to the Broad River community in Georgia. ...as with Meriwether, he was eventually sent back to Albemarle County to further his education. ...Reuben started west to St. Louis with his brother, Meriwether, in 1807, arriving in March, 1808. There he took a major role in fur trading expeditions up the Missouri River (Dahl, p. 3). From 1810 to 1820, he was a government agent to the Mandan, Osage and Cherokee Indians on the Arkansas River."[9]

This indicates that Meriwether made multiple trips back and forth across the country and traveled widely on a regular basis, as he would have had to return to Virginia in order to ride out again with his brother. Both had already traveled to Georgia, and back to Virginia, in their early youth, and were already acquainted with long distance travel.

11 October 1809 Meriwether Lewis dies in Tennessee.There is some evidence of dementia; some scholars hypothesize this was from syphilis; there are conflicting opinions about whether he was murdered or died of a self-inflicted gunshot.

  • Thomas Jefferson provides a biographical sketch of Meriwether's life including his skills and personal issues. [10]

1817 Reuben Lewis appointed agent to Cherokee and Osage in Arkansas

"18 July 1817 Secretary of War to Governor Clark Appointment of Reuben Lewis, Esq. as Assistant Agent of Indian Affairs at Arkansas Enclosure, Secretary of War to Reuben Lewis, “You are hereby appointed….”[11]

1820 Reuben Lewis resigns "24 March 1820" Gov. Miller to Secretary of War "Major Lewis has resigned his office in consequence of ill health and the peculiarly distressed condition of his family, and is compelled to leave here in the month of April... " [12]

1820 Joseph visits white relatives. The year of 1824 is given in the narrative below, but so also is the birth year for Joseph given in the letters, which is 1803. The narrative also states that he was 17 years old when he went to see his "father." Thus, the event would have actually occurred in 1820, and the 1824 date would be in error. The rest of the narrative, particularly in the January 30th letter to Mr. Robinson, makes it clear that Joseph was a young man when receiving the horses. If the 1824 date were correct, then Joseph would have had to have been born in 1807, for which there is no record.

Letter from Samuel Charger to Doane Robinson, November 20, 1915:

"... and in this history it says Martin Charger a grandson of Meriwether Lewis now I want to know where you got this information, because I asked my mother who is about 87 years of age and still living and this is what she told me, that in the year 1824 my grand father with some white men who was going down the river in a boat he went with them and visited his father and he got two horses from his father but did not like to stay with them so in the year 1825 he ran away from his father's house for he was raised amongst the Indians and so could not speak the English very good this was done when he was seventeen years of age." [13]>

It is significant that the party went "down the river." This implies the location where the meeting took place was near the river. St Louis is near the river, and St. Louis is where Reuben Lewis lived.[14]

Robinson replied on Dec. 6, 1915:

"...I met your father [Martin Charger] many times and greatly admired him. He told me himself, through Mr. Barney Travesses, interpreter, that he understood that he was descended from Captain Lewis, and Lewis LaPlant told me it was generally understood when he came to this region in 1855.

Captain Lewis died in 1809. Consequently if your grandfather actually visited his father and secured horses from him, he must have been some other person than Lewis." [15]

and a second letter from Sam, written in 1946: ".... he spent much of his life with the Traders and the story runs something like this. One day one of the traders told, my grandfather, that he has a relative that is well to do, and this man is my grand fathers, father, and that the next time the post traders go down the river, after supplies, he should go along with them and probably his father would help him, he was convinced, and so he went with them down the river, and some where down south, they came to a House, where he was introduced to his father, who was a white man and had two daughters.... As you probably know, that amongst the indians, we would call an uncle a father, so long as they are full brothers, so according to the above story, it might his uncle, if not a father," [16]

Another reference to the visit of Joseph DeSomet Lewis to his father, from the book That Dream Shall Have a Name, by David L. Moore: [2] in an excerpt from the endnotes:

"NOTES Introduction 1. In Lewis’s journal entry of August 19, 1805, written in what is now Montana, as he was describing the Shoshones he reflected back on the Corps’ sexual experiences among the Sioux during the previous travels of 1804. Other archival material suggests ambiguity in Martin Charger’s patrimony. There was a nineteenth-century St. Louis trader, Reuben Lewis (brother of Meriwether Lewis), whose name might have become confused with the more famous Lewis in this story. See correspondence dated November 20 and December 6, 1915, between Samuel Charger of LaPlant, South Dakota, son of Martin, and Doane Robinson, secretary of the South Dakota Historical Association in Pierre (Doane Robinson Collection, Alphabetical Correspondence, folder 58: “Charger, Martin,” South Dakota State Historical Society). Sam indicates that his grandfather, who would be the son of a “Lewis,” traveled to St. Louis in 1824 to receive a horse from his father there. Meriwether Lewis died in 1809, so the later trader is the more likely the father of Zomie and grandfather of Martin."

3 September 1855 Lt. G. K. Warren "One of the Indian guides Desmet who went out with the Dragoons armed with my shot gun had a most narrow escape with his life. The infantry took him for an enemy and charged upon him he laid down the gun to show he was a friend (he could not speak English)” [17]

It is unclear if the above is referring to Joseph Desmet Lewis, but it is the only reference in Warren's two published reports to anyone by this or a similar name. Warren's papers are extant, but only his two reports to the government seem to be digitized.

1856 "Joseph DeSomet Lewis made somewhat of a name for himself during his lifetime. With Jim Bridger, he guided and hunted for the U.S. Army Warren surveys between 1855 and 1857. Lt. Warren's assistant wrote in 1856 that Lewis was 'a hunter (a half-breed Sioux who says that his father was Lewis & Clarke [sic]).'";[18]

18 Jun 1872

Sixty-eight years after the Corps of Discovery ascended the Missouri River through the Dakotas, a Yankton (or possibly Teton) Sioux man, claiming to be the son of Meriwether Lewis, was baptized at St. Philip the Deacon Chapel, White Swan, Dakota Territory. As recorded in the Yankton Mission registers of the Diocese of South Dakota (Episcopal), Joseph DeSomet Lewis (also spelled "DeSomit" in the register) and his wife, Annie Tamakoce, their sons, Francis S. Lewis, Joseph W. Lewis, and two of their grandchildren by another son, John DeSomit Lewis, presented themselves for baptism on June 18, 1872. Joseph DeSomet Lewis (age 68), gave as his place of birth Yankton Agency, his father's name as "Capt. Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark's Exp.)," and his mother's name as "Winona."[19]

Possible DNA Evidence

Martin Charger Sep 7, 2016 at 1:14pm: Post by crashsmashley on Sep 7, 2016 at 1:14pm

"I have a interesting note to add to this thread. I took a DNA test from ancestry.com and did my family tree I am a descendent of Joseph DeSmet Lewis so I added Meriwether Lewis in my tree as my 4th great grandfather. After about 6 months I was looking at the program and noticed it had a shared in the DNA matches a Shared Ancestor hints. Basically if you and another member share a common ancestry and your family trees match it will show you how you are related to other members. Going through the matches I got into the distant cousin and found I have several that are from Meriwether Lewis family line. So I had my Great Aunt tested and it is showing the same thing. I have called Ancestry and asked if it could be a false hit they have assured me that it is not a false hit. I'm going to continue to test family members and I'm going to try and get members of the Martin Charger to take the test. We are also connecting to members that are descendants of Basil Clement - Claymore which confirms we all share the same Great Grandmother Anna Tamakoce Waste Win (Good Ground Woman). She has left a unique genetic lineage being first married to Thomas Sarpy a member of the Chouteau family the to Joseph Desmet Lewis the son of Meriwether."
David Thomson has reached out to Joseph DeSmet Lewis descendants who claim to have DNA evidence. Results will be posted if received. David Thomson has also reached out to a distant nephew of Meriwether Lewis to also receive DNA results from the Lewis family who are not direct descendants of Meriwether Lewis.


  1. The Trowel
  2. Personal Property Tax Lists, 1799, Part 2 [Virginia State Library]; Call Number: FHL Film 2024443; Page Number: 19; Family Number: 23 Ancestry Record 2234 #4523
  3. The Trowel
  4. The Trowel
  5. Harry F. Thompson, Meriwether Lewis and His Son: The Claim of Joseph DeSomet Lewis and the Problem of History, North Dakota History, 2000, pp. 24-37, citing Yankton Mission Register, Vol.1, p 10-11; see also Vol. 2 pp 48-49
  6. Find A Grave - Joseph DeSmet Lewis
  7. Aug 27 Journal entry
  8. Oregon Historical Society; Portland, OR; Index Collection: Pioneer Index Ancestry Record 9056 #176081
  9. Patricia Zontine, April 2009, Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies
  10. Genealogy of the Lewis Family in America page 26
  11. Vol. 15 of the U.S. Territorial papers digitized at appointment
  12. Vol. 19 of the U.S. Territorial papers digitized at resignation
  13. handwritten letter digitized at 1915 letter
  14. Territorial Papers of the US; Volume Number: Vol 15; Page Number: 275; Family Number: 16 Ancestry Record 2234 #44580
  15. letter digitized at doane December
  16. digitized at [1]; a transcription of the entire letter is available on Wikitree.
  17. Exploring The Black Hills,1855-1875:Reports of the Government Expeditions : The Dacota Explorations of Lieutenant Gouverneur Kemble Warren, 1855-1856-1857. McLaird, James D. and Turchen, Lesta V. South Dakota State Historical Society, 1973. p. 372
  18. Find A Grave - Joseph DeSmet Lewis BETTER SOURCE SOUGHT
  19. Harry F. Thompson, Meriwether Lewis and His Son: The Claim of Joseph DeSomet Lewis and the Problem of History, North Dakota History, 2000, pp. 24-37

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I find it very odd that this man had no mention of who his father was until he was 68 years old, there were many people named Meriwether Lewis,as he was a well known figure in history. Even if this man's father was named that, there s no documentation of whom the man's family was. DNA can indicate a common ancestor, however it does not say who that ancestor is, to many people take a DNA match and apply it to anyone they want to in their records, DNA match does not indicate who the common ancestor is. to many errors have been copied online, and mixed into the trees of the dna "matches" that are claimed. This relationship cannot ever be proven, It is only a theory. Genealogy is based on provable relationship.
posted by Wendy Browne
A Brief Biography of Martin Charger written by Samuel Charger is within the correspondence and holds quite a bit info genealogically bout the family, ..Zoomie and his wife, her name, their burial locations etc, also contains names of the Bands, maternal and paternal, children, which died, how, when, where, why, etc


posted by Arora (G) Anonymous