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Monday, September 27, 2010

Meriwether Lewis: Not So Merry, or Murdered? Family Wants Explorer's Body Exhumed

Posted By on Mon, Sep 27, 2010 at 8:26 AM

For most people the story of Lewis and Clark ends in September 1806 when the explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark returned from their two-and-a-half year expedition of the Louisiana Purchase.

But the story continues -- albeit much longer for Clark who went on to govern the Missouri Territory and die at the ripe old age (for the time, anyway) of 68.

Lewis wouldn't live past the age of 35.

Appointed governor over the entire Louisiana Purchase upon his return from the expedition, Lewis proved to be a much better pioneer than statesman. From the onset of his governorship, Lewis was besieged in battles with local politicians over how to administer the land and -- according to legend -- succumbed to depression.

It was while traveling to Washington D.C. over the Natchez Trace trail in 1809 that Lewis was found shot in the head and chest in his bed at an inn near Hohenwald, Tennessee. Clark's death was officially ruled a suicide, though questions have always lingered. Now his distant relatives (he never married or had children but did have a sister), want to dig up his remains.

They believe he was murdered and hope that modern-day ballistics will prove that he didn't kill himself. The only problem? The site where he is buried is now federal property and the National Park Service forbids the unearthing of graves unless they face the threat of destruction from development or natural forces. Another obstacle: Lewis is buried under several feet of concrete and rock.

His descendants remain resolute, saying they'll continue to fight the government to exhume the body.

William Clark, btw, lies buried -- sans mystery -- at St. Louis' Bellefontaine Cemetery where a giant obelisk marks his grave. 

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