It’s interesting what can be learned from fiction, or at least from some fictional writers who strive to include facts around which they weave their fictional stories.
One such author, James Rollins, included in his relatively new book, The Devil Colony, comments about Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis.
We remember the history of the Lewis and Clark expedition into the Louisiana Purchase and westward to the Pacific Ocean during the years of 1804 into 1806.
In 2004, the US Mint recognized their efforts with the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commemorative silver dollar coin.
For everyday remembrance, the US Mint produced four nickels, two in 2004 and two in 2005, to recognize the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
The 2004 Westward Journey Keelboat nickel:
The 2004 Westward Journey Peace Medal Nickel:
The 2005 Westward Journey American Bison Nickel:
The 2005 Westward Journey Ocean In View Nickel:
In addition, the US Mint developed a Lewis and Clark Coin and Currency Collectible set to not only showcase the commemorative coin and two of the nickels but also to remember the history via stamps, currency and the Sacagawea dollar for her contributions to the expedition. The collectible set included two historical booklets highlighting the journey and the Louisiana Purchase.
But, did you know that Meriwether Lewis died at the age of 35 just a few years after their trek across the country and back?
And, did you know that his initial cause of death was noted as suicide, yet today there are many forensic historians who claim he was murdered?
The suicide theories:
– He was subject to bouts of depression
– He suffered from a recurring and debilitating disease that made him kill himself
But, since he supposedly died of gunshot wounds and he was shot twice – once in the head and once in the torso, suicide seems unlikely.
The murder theories:
– Victim of armed robbery – either from an attack on the dangerous Natchez Trace Trail or from the innkeeper, though they only stole money not his other valuables
– Attacked by the innkeeper who thought Lewis was taking liberties with the innkeeper’s wife
– Assassinated by the orders of the General of the Army
– Killed by either servants or so-called friends
That’s not a history lesson found in the recognition of the famous Lewis and Clark journey.
In addition to the mention in the book, The Devil Colony, several web sites exist to discuss the murder versus suicide issue and put forth their arguments in the debate.
His descendents have a web site called Solve the Mystery where they discuss the issues and their efforts to have the body exhumed for 21st century science to study the evidence remaining after all of these years.
Another site, The Death of Meriwether Lewis, discusses the book and argues for the murder theories. A subsequent blog adds more detail to the murder theory.
The Smithsonian included an article, Meriwether Lewis’ Mysterious Death, near the 200th anniversary of his death commenting on both sets of theories. In addition, the Wall Street Journal had an article roughly a year ago, Meriwether Lewis’s Final Journey Remains a Mystery, describing the efforts of the family to learn the truth.
A couple of other sites include similar discussions and add further conspiracy theories:
This has been an interesting trip back in time even though a definitive cause of death has yet to be determined.
Regardless, in his short 35 years of life, Meriwether Lewis contributed much to exploration, to science at the time and to his relatively new country.
Meanwhile, our pocket change of the 2004 and 2005 nickels reminds us of the team’s accomplishments while the Lewis and Clark Commemorative silver dollar highlights the two men who guided the team through the long and successful journey.