Last night, we slept near a grave. The clouds lay thick over the night sky. Even the moon could not penetrate the blanket of mist. Leafless trees stretched skeletal limbs dimly etched against the night. A bitterly cold wind searched for any gap in our truck camper and the campground bathrooms were heated! We were camping at the Meriwether Lewis Monument.
Perhaps you have heard of Meriwether Lewis? He was part of a little known duo called Lewis and Clark. They had this small band called the Corps of Discovery. I believe they were searching for the northwest passage and were quite buddy-buddy with Jefferson, the president of the time. Yes, we are talking about that Meriwether Lewis.
After returning from Oregon and many accommodations, Meriwether Lewis was rewarded with 1,600 acres and the position of governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory. Unfortunately, he was quite adventurous with the expenses of the territory and awarded major contracts to advantageous businesses. Unlike many other cases of governmental graft, Lewis was stuck with the check when the War Department refused to cover the expenses. Lewis’s friend, Jefferson was no longer in office and Lewis’s regional subordinates were regularly working to undermine him. Lewis faced ruinous debt and launch on a journey up the Natchez Trace to defend the expenses in Washington. Sadly, he never survived the trek.
During the time of Meriwether Lewis, the Trace was dotted with stands. A stand was the term used to describe an inn. Many of these stands were little more than a family home that offered food and a bed to the occasional traveler. On October 10, 1809, Lewis arrived at Grinder’s Stand where he arranged to stay the night. In the early morning of October 11, the innkeeper’s wife heard gunshots. Lewis was discovered bleeding from a shot to the head and another to the gut. The event was determined to be suicide.
Learning from Lewis
While there continues to be conjecture as to whether Lewis might have been killed by some other party, there also continues to be conjecture weather the US faked the moon landing. After all these years and with as much documentation there is of the latter, one would have that that that joke of a conspiracy theory would have been put to bed. As it is, any major historic event will always be exposed to excessive scrutiny. Suicide is often considered a sign of weakness and many don’t want to see a national icon as weak.
But this is particularly unfortunate, because there is an important lesson to be learned from Lewis and many others who have left this world is such a tragic manner. Lewis’s depression was nothing new. And, unlike then, we have a better developed system to help people like Lewis. In this holiday season when a sense of isolation and helplessness is often most acute, It is important to remember that there is support. If you or anyone you know is experiencing depression, don’t hesitate to reach out. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.