Biography of Meriweather Lewis
Prominent Persons in Virginia, Biographies





Lewis, Meriwether, was born near Charlottesville, Virginia, August 18, 1774, youngest son of Captain William and Lucy (Meriwether) Lewis. His uncle on the death of Meriwether' father became his guardian. Meriwether attended a Latin school, and conducted his mother's farm. He enlisted in the state militia called out by President Washington to suppress the opposition to the excise taxes in Western Pennsylvania, and then joined the regular service as lieutenant. He was promoted to captain in 1797. and became paymaster of the First United States Infantry. In 1797 the American Philosophical Society, through the suggestion of Thomas Jefferson, undertook to secure some competent person to ascend the Missouri river, cross the Stony Mountains. and descend the nearest river to the Pacific. Captain Lewis, then stationed at Charlottesville on recruiting duty, solicited Mr. Jefferson to be allowed to make the journey. but Andre Michaux, the botanist, was appointed and proceeded as far as Kentucky, when he was recalled by the French minister, then in Philadelphia. and the attempt was abandoned. Captain Lewis served as private secretary to President Jefferson, 1801-03, and when congress voted the money to carry out the President's project of crossing the continent to the Pacific. he was entrusted with the command of the enterprise with Captain William Clark. as second in command. He pursued a course in the natural sciences and astronomical observations at Philadelphia and at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. preparatory to the undertaking. The instructions, signed by President Jefferson, January 20, 1803, detailed the scientific. geographical, commercial and diplomatical purposes of the expedition and provided for all contingencies likely to arise. The treaty of Paris. April 13, 1803. had meantime transferred the territory of Louisiana to the United States, and the information reached Washington about the first day of July. On July 5. 1803, Captain Lewis left Washington for Pittsburgh, where he was to select his stores, outfit and men. Delays retarded the journey down the Ohio and the expedition could not enter the Missouri until the ice had broken up in the spring of 1804. They ascended the Missouri to its sources, crossed the Rocky Mountains, struck the headwaters of the Columbia river, floated down that river to its mouth and explored much of the Oregon country. They started East, March 23. 1806, and reached Washington, February 14, 1807. Congress granted to the two chiefs and their followers the donation of lands which had been promised as a reward for their toil and dangers. Captain Lewis was soon after appointed governor of Louisiana and Captain Clark commissioned a general in the militia and agent in the United States for Indian affairs in the territory of Louisiana. On reaching St. Louis, Governor Lewis found much confusion in public affairs, and in September, 1809, set out to Washington to carry valuable vouchers of accounts and his journal of the expedition to and from the Pacific. While at the home of a Mr. Gruider, in Kentucky, in a fit of hypochondria, Governor Lewis killed himself. He died October 8, 1809.

Also see [William Clark]

FROM:
Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography
Volume II
By: Lyon Gardiner Tyler, LL. D.
Lewis Historical Publishing Company
New York 1915



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