Pontotoc plans historical markers on Lewis trek

Meriwether Lewis

PONTOTOC – Pontotoc County wants to remember Meriwether Lewis.

Officials told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal the county wants to put up historic markers that trace Lewis’ last steps in Mississippi.

The markers would show the trail of the famous explorer en route to Washington, D.C., who was killed at Grinders Stand in Tennessee before making it to the nation’s capital.

Historian Bryant Boswell of Jackson says the trail in Pontotoc would follow Mississippi Highway 15 to Houlka, which was the southernmost point Lewis traveled before he turned north again toward Tennessee.

Jim Mallory with the Lewis and Clark Trust says markers would follow existing highways and waterways.

Lewis, who was born in Albermarle County, Virgnia, on Aug. 18, 1774, was an American explorer, soldier and public administrator, although he was best known for his role as the leader of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

(l to r) Lewis and Clark

The mission of Lewis and William Clark 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.

They also collected scientific data, and information on indigenous nations. President Thomas Jefferson appointed Lewis governor of Upper Louisiana in 1806.

On Sept. 3, 1809, Lewis set out for Washington D.C., where he’d hoped to resolve issues regarding the denied payment of drafts he had drawn against the War Department while serving as the first American governor of the Louisiana Territory. Some accounts say he carried his journals with him for delivery to his publisher. Lewis intended to travel to Washington by ship from New Orleans, but changed his plans while en route down the Mississippi from St. Louis. He decided to make an overland journey via the Natchez Trace and then east to Washington.

The Natchez Trace was the old pioneer road between Natchez, Miss., and Nashville, Tenn. On Oct. 10, 1809 Lewis stopped at an inn on the Natchez Trace called Grinder’s Stand, about 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Nashville.

After leaving dinner, he went to his bedroom.

In the predawn hours of Oct. 11, the innkeeper heard gunshots. Servants found Lewis badly injured from multiple gunshot wounds, including one to the head. He died shortly after sunrise.

While modern historians generally accept Lewis’ death as a suicide, there has been some debate. The only doctor to examine Lewis’ body did so in 1848 and he concluded that Lewis appeared to have died “by the hand of an assassin”.

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