41st Annual Meeting

200th Anniversary Commemoration

“Undaunted Courage ... The Final Journey of Meriwether Lewis”

3-7 October 2009

Olive Branch, Mississippi

Hohenwald, Tennessee

Grinder’s Stand, Natchez Trace, Tennessee


The Meaning of the


held at Grinder’s Stand, Natchez Trace, Tennessee

October 7, 2009

The commemoration of the two-hundredth anniversary of Meriwether Lewis' death on October 7, 2009 took on the deep significance the occasion demanded.  An oversight of history was set right as people from across the United States gathered at his grave for the first time to consider Lewis' life as a whole.   Rather than a one-dimensional figure from the history books, Lewis was seen as a real person who overcame the challenges of his day to accomplish much for the young nation, but also as a man who suffered for his sacrifices and who died while serving his country.

There was never a funeral for Meriwether Lewis, at least none recorded.  Despite the fact that Governor Lewis was one of the most powerful office holders in the country at the time, there was no public memorial service.  Perhaps his supporters were so stunned by the reports of the manner of his death and the stigma associated with it in his day, that they remained silent in the face of negative stories immediately told by his political enemies.  Other than appointing Lewis' replacement, the federal government never even acknowledged his death until 1925, when his grave was designated one of the first national monuments in the South.  Only one friend is recorded as having gone to his unmarked grave to mourn him.  Through most of the 1800's, Lewis' grave was described as abandoned, lonely and overgrown.

Tennesseans have assembled at the grave to honor the hero who rests in their state.  In 1843, the state created Lewis County as a perpetual memorial and appropriated funds to erect a monument over Lewis' grave.  The Tennessee Meriwether Lewis Memorial Association successfully petitioned President Coolidge to designate the grave a national monument and hosted several regional events at his grave to honor him.  In 1991, the Lewis County Historical Society held a local event to lay wreaths and provide a military salute.  Another local ceremony was held by the Park Service in 2001 to rededicate a reconstructed monument.  In 2006, the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a marker near Grinder's Stand.  Those events were all local or regional to Tennessee and to the Natchez Trace Parkway states.

On October 7, 2009, Meriwether Lewis received the memorial service he was due two centuries earlier.  For the first time, members of the Lewis family and Clark family, a representative of the Jefferson Foundation, government officials, members of the military, Masons - all representatives of people who were important to his life- gathered at his grave along with his scholars, Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Re-enactors and people from across the country who respected him.  Lewis was seen in both human and heroic terms.  The tragedy of his short life was mourned and his timeless achievements celebrated.  It was an honor any fellow citizen is due - certainly one who contributed so much.  For the first time, the ceremony at his grave was national in scope and the focus was solely upon Lewis the man.

Too much of the end of Lewis' life has remained unsettled and to some extent that has detracted from the story of his achievements.  Bestowing this honor after all these years is one thing the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, with the help of its partners, was able to do for Meriwether Lewis.  This national memorial service was the most appropriate way to observe the two-hundredth anniversary of his death.

Adapted from a letter written by Tony Turnbow associated with the 41st Annual Meeting.

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(updated 11/15/18)

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The 41st Annual Meeting of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation commemorated the life of Meriwether Lewis and the bond between Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.  The Meriwether Lewis Chapter hosted the meeting and provided a gracious welcome to meeting attendees.

Meeting attendees took an in-depth look at the Jefferson and Captains’ connection with the “Old Southwest”, as well as the mystery surrounding the death of Governor Lewis via excellent panel discussions with Lewis and Clark scholars.  We also learned about the mysteries of “The Devil’s Backbone” and The Natchez Trace.  

The meeting took place in the Whispering Woods Hotel and Conference Center located on the Chickasaw Trail in Olive Branch, Mississippi.  It included three “field trips” - a cruise aboard the Memphis Queen III riverboat to meet Governor Lewis as he descended the Mississippi River on his way to Fort Pickering; a welcome ceremony for Governor Lewis and lunch at Fort Pickering; and a memorial service at Grinder’s Stand which honored Meriwether Lewis’ life and his contributions to our young nation.  During the re-enactment of Governor Lewis’ arrival at Fort Pickering, Governor Lewis was portrayed by Clay Jenkinson.

For more information about the meeting and ceremony at Grinder’s Stand, see the article by Clay featured in our January 2010 newsletter by clicking here.

To download an event timeline for the period of Meriwether Lewis’ last days and the years immediately following his death, on October 11, 1809, at the age of 35, click here.  For a map of the Natchez Trace and Lewis’ route from Fort Pickering (Chickasaw Bluffs/Memphis) to Grinder’s Stand click here.

To download a bibliography related to the controversy surrounding the manner by which Lewis died click here.