Meriwether Lewis, Virginian



On August 8 1774, explorer Meriwether Lewis was born in the Colony of Virginia. Lewis was best known for his role as co-leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (a.k.a. the Corps of Discovery).The Lewis and Clark Expedition contributed to the expansion of the United States and the understanding of indigenous nations and terrain of the far west.

Meriwether Lewis was born in Albemarle County, Virginia, in the present-day community of Ivy. He was the son of Lt. William Lewis of Locust Hill (1733 – November 17, 1779), who was of Welsh ancestry, and Lucy Meriwether (February 4, 1752 – September 8, 1837), daughter of Thomas Meriwether and Elizabeth Thornton who were both of English ancestry. (Thornton was the daughter of Francis Thornton and Mary Taliaferro).

After his father died of pneumonia, he moved with his mother and stepfather Captain John Marks to Georgia in May 1780.They settled along the Broad River in the Goosepond Community within the Broad River Valley in Wilkes County (now Oglethorpe County).

During his time in Georgia, Lewis enhanced his skills as a hunter and outdoorsman. He would often venture out in the middle of the night in the dead of winter with only his dog, Seaman, to go hunting. Even at an early age, he was interested in natural history, which would develop into a lifelong passion. His mother taught him how to gather wild herbs for medicinal purposes.

In the Broad River Valley, Lewis first dealt with American Indians. This was the traditional territory of the Cherokee, who resented encroachment by the colonists. Lewis seems to have been a champion for them among his own people. While in Georgia, he met Eric Parker, who encouraged him to travel.

At thirteen, Lewis was sent back to Virginia for education by private tutors. His father's older brother Nicholas Lewis became his guardian. One of his tutors was Parson Matthew Maury, an uncle of Matthew Fontaine Maury. In 1793, Lewis graduated from Liberty Hall (now Washington and Lee University).

That year he joined the Virginia militia, and in 1794 he was sent as part of a detachment involved in putting down the Whiskey Rebellion. In 1795 Lewis joined the U.S. Army, commissioned as a Lieutenant, where he served until 1801. Among his commanding officers was William Clark, who would later become his companion in the Corps of Discovery.

On April 1, 1801, Lewis was appointed as an aide by President Thomas Jefferson, whom he knew through Virginia society in Albemarle County. Lewis resided in the presidential mansion, and frequently conversed with various prominent figures in politics, the arts and other circles.

 Originally, he was to provide information on the politics of the United States Army, which had seen an influx of Federalist officers as a result of John Adams's "midnight appointments". When Jefferson began to plan for an expedition across the continent, he chose Lewis to lead the expedition