Lewis Family Seeks to Know the Truth

By | October 21, 2013

Meriwether Lewis by Charles Willson PealeIn September, 2013 I attended the 20th annual reunion of Lewis family descendants at the private graveyard established by Meriwether Lewis’s mother in 1810, and made a video of the reunion called “Picnic in a Graveyard.” His mother had hoped to bring her son’s remains back home from his unmarked grave on the Natchez Trace in Tennessee. She erected a stone fence and iron gate behind Locust Hill, the family home on the outskirts of Charlottesville, Virginia. The home is gone and all that remains is the graveyard (which is no longer owned by the family and is not open to visitors). Meriwether Lewis was born at Locust Hill in 1774. He died on October 11, 1809 on the Natchez Trace under mysterious circumstances. He was only 35 years old and Governor of Louisiana Territory. He was traveling from St. Louis to Washington to get reimbursement for bills he had paid on behalf of the territory.
Almost 200 members of the Lewis family have signed a petition requesting the government to allow the exhumation of Lewis’s remains in order to determine the cause of his death. They do not wish to have him reburied at the family graveyard—they only want to “solve the mystery,” as their website, www.solvethemystery.org, asks. They are collateral descendants of Lewis’s siblings, as he never had any children.
There is precedent for exhuming his remains. In 1848 the State of Tennessee established a commission to erect a monument at Lewis’s gravesite. In the process, his remains were exhumed, and commission members reported: “The impression has long prevailed that under the influence of disease of body and mind—of hopes based upon long and valuable services—not merely deferred, but wholly disappointed—Governor Lewis perished by his own hands. It seems to be more probable that he died by the hands of an assassin.” The most logical explanation is that the commission, which included a physician, found an entry wound of a bullet in the back of Lewis’s head, or something similar.
In 2008, the Department of Interior granted the family’s request for exhumation, and the permit process was started. In 2010, permission was revoked. In light of new evidence revealed in the latest edition of our book, the family plans to renew its request to “solve the mystery.” To learn more about it, read The Death of Meriwether Lewis: A Historic Crime Scene Investigation, New Evidence Edition, by James E. Starrs and Kira Gale, published in 2012.

3 thoughts on “Lewis Family Seeks to Know the Truth

  1. John L Pappan

    Dear Kira,
    so good to see you are still active in writing sorry to lost touch but been busy Please attend our 200th anniversary Treaty commeration at Fontenelle Forest on July 20 Monday from 10am to 2pm come early limited parking or take shuttle Look forward to seeing ya again Iam on Facebook use my full name to find me

    1. kiragale1 Post author

      Hi John,
      We should get together. Heard about your plans for a school in Bellevue for preschool.


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