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Who killed Meriwether Lewis?

Posted Saturday, February 27, 2010, at 11:58 AM

I never fail to be amazed at the mysteries which go unsolved over the ages. Whether historians are exploring an ancient Egyptian tomb, trying to use modern forensics tools to discover how King Tut died, or searching the bottom of the ocean to find out why the Titanic sank, there are so many things we still don't know about the past. Who says history is dead?

When my 36-year-old son Todd was a little boy, he loved dinosaurs, and together we read everything we could find on that subject, pouring over the difficult-to-pronounce names: Archaeopteryx, Diplodicus.. All the books included an enormous, long-necked herbivore they called "Brontosaurus." I assumed this creature was a FACT. Imagine my surprise a few short years ago, when the news came out that there was NO SUCH CREATURE as a Brontosaurus! What??? Turns out that someone mixed up the BONES of a Diplodicus and a Brachiosaurus!!

That's the way it goes with history: There's always a mystery to solve.

This morning when I checked my email, I discovered my notification from the Southeast Missourian that James Baughn had posted a new "Pavement Ends" blog on their site. Low and behold, our friend has branched off from his fascinating roads-around-Missouri study to delve into the field of historical mystery!

It seems that there is some debate about whether Meriwether Lewis - of Lewis & Clark fame - committed suicide back in 1809. In fact, the National Park Service is currently reviewing the exhumation request from the descendants, who believe that Lewis was murdered.

Baughn gives a link to a very interesting article in the Smithsonian: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-ar..., where you can read about the entire controversy.

My friend Paul Corbin happened to pop in to the office this morning, and he was telling me some details about Meriwether Lewis - namely, that he had an explosive nature.

"Someone stole his dog once, and he threatened to burn down an entire village, if he didn't get it back," Paul said.

Of course, if we're talking about that big, beautiful Newfoundland named "Seaman," I can understand why he would be rather upset that the dog was stolen. In the accounts of his trip, Lewis relates several incidents in which Seaman saved the men from disaster.

Anyway, the author of the book pictured on this page is giving a presentation at the Cape Girardeau Public Library tomorrow: Thomas Danisi will present a program at the Cape Girardeau Public Library on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 1 PM, where he will discuss his research into the role malaria may have played in the death of Meriwether Lewis. He will sign copies of the book Meriwether Lewis, a biography he co-authored with John C. Jackson.

If you'd like a diversion from our continuing study of the Old Bloomfield Road, take a little trip north up Highway 25, along the old route to Cape and meet us at the Cape Library. I don't believe we will be stopping at the duck pond on Bloomfield Road to eat lunch, however.

If I do, in fact, make it to the library, I will do a story on it for next week - to be posted after I finish the account of our Stoddard County Historical Society meeting Monday night. (Yes, Jim, I know that I should have done that on Tuesday!)

To read Baugh's newest blog, click here: http://www.southeastmissourian.com and scroll down to the blogs on the lower left.

Saturday morning postscript: I'm not going to be able to make it to the Cape library by one o'clock! Mr. Corbin can't make it, either. Let me know if any of you do. I've talked to James Baughn on Facebook, and he says he's going to write another blog on the Meriwether Lewis issue -- He has a theory!

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Very interesting read Mrs. D! I had no idea Lewis committed suicide? The article at the Smithsonian was of interest as well, made me realize I am not well versed in two very famous Americans.

-- Posted by 20/20 on Sat, Feb 27, 2010, at 12:11 AM

It sounds as if there is much we don't know about some of our American heroes. Lewis certainly qualifies as a hero, and it's sad to think that he may have fallen to pieces so early in life. I can't imagine that such an adventurer and explorer could have been content to sit at a desk the rest of his life.

Paul Corbin says that he had asked several women to marry him, but none would accept. It's definitely an intriguing story!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Feb 27, 2010, at 8:24 AM

GL, did Mr Corbin ask several ladies to marry him, or were you referring to Mr Lewis?????

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Sat, Feb 27, 2010, at 10:31 AM

Oh, dear! I just reread that last sentence of mine, and it DOES sound like I'm referring to Mr. Corbin!! No - I think you know that I'm talking about Merriweather Lewis, Dexterite, you rascal!

Mr. Corbin doesn't HAVE to ask the ladies to marry him -- They track him down and do the proposing themselves!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Feb 27, 2010, at 11:47 AM

I think I shall get on Amazon.com and order Thomas Danisi's biography of Lewis. Maybe it'll get me off my computer for awhile!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, Feb 27, 2010, at 11:50 AM

I knew that, just wanted to rattle your cage. I need to read this article about poor Mr. Merriweather.

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Sat, Feb 27, 2010, at 3:31 PM

New word of the day MD,, "flagrante", referring to Mr Lewis 'flagrante' with Mrs Grinder. Wonder why there are always mysteries concerning the ladies?

And also Hohenwald Tennessee is on Highway 412, we could be there to exhume the body in 2 hours.

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Sun, Feb 28, 2010, at 8:51 AM

Haha! New field trip for the historical society: We'll band together in a caravan and go watch the exhumation of Meriwether Lewis!!

-- Posted by goat lady on Sun, Feb 28, 2010, at 8:57 AM

It's just across the river. My dear wife and I traveled the Natchez Trace before,so pretty trips.

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Sun, Feb 28, 2010, at 1:46 PM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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