MERIWEATHER LEWIS, American explorer (Lewis & Clark) died (b. 1774) Lewis was appointed private secretary to President Thomas Jefferson in 1801. He died under mysterious circumstances of two gunshot wounds in 1809 at a tavern called Grinder’s Stand, about 70 miles from Nashville, Tennessee, on the Natchez Trace, while in route to Washington to answer complaints about his actions as governor. Whether Lewis committed suicide or was murdered remains a mystery to this day. Jefferson believed the former, while his family continually maintained the latter. Lewis never married due to his shy personality, we’re told. A case could also be made that he was a same-sex loving man. For many years, Lewis’s legacy was overlooked, inaccurately assessed, and even tarnished by his alleged suicide. Yet his contributions to science, the exploration of the Western U.S., and the lore of great world explorers, are incalculable. Several years after Lewis’s death, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

Of courage undaunted, possessing a firmness and perseverance of purpose which nothing but impossibilities could divert from its direction, … honest, disinterested, liberal, of sound understanding and a fidelity to truth so scrupulous that whatever he should report would be as certain as if seen by ourselves, with all these qualifications as if selected and implanted by nature in one body for this express purpose, I could have no hesitation in confiding the enterprise to him. He had a luminous and discriminating intellect.”

For more discussion of the Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discover Expedition see GayWisdom SEPTEMBER 23