Map of Lewis and Clark’s Track, Across the Western Portion of North America, published 1814
Thought by some to be suffering from illness and fever, Governor Lewis began the long journey to Washington to clear his name and meet with President Madison. In company with Major James Neelly, Chickasaw Indian agent, and a few servants, Lewis joined the Natchez Trace near modern Houston, Alabama. The trail extended from Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi winding through Chocktaw and Chickasaw lands, interrupted occasionally by rude log-cabin “stands” where shelter and food could be gotten for modest price. The Trace, known by some as “the Devil’s Backbone,” harbored masterless men hidden in thickets, renegades from regions which had laws, and frontier-dwellers of all sorts.
A replica of Grinder’s Stand at the Meriwether Lewis Park on the Natchez Trace
What is known for sure of the fate of Meriwether Lewis is that he stopped by a place known as “Grinder’s Stand,” seventy-two miles from Nashville, and was armed with a rifle, two pistols and a tomahawk. According to Mrs. Grinder (her husband was working elsewhere), she furnished the Governor some supper and later heard him pacing and talking to himself. In the early morning hours of October 11, Mrs. Grinder heard the loud report of a firearm, a loud thud, and a second shot. She heard her guest crying out for water, which she was too frightened to give him. In the morning it was discovered that Meriwether Lewis had been shot in the side and in the head, according to Mrs. Grinder, by his own hand.