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Meriwether Lewis

Born in 1774 - Died in 1809

Meriwether Lewis<BR>
Meriwether Lewis was born on the family plantation in Virginia. He had an older sister, Jane, and later a little brother, Reuben, would be born into the family.

His father fought in the Revolutionary War and died when Meriwether was only five years old.

As a young boy Meriwether enjoyed hunting in the woods, and sometimes he would go out alone at night in all kinds of weather to explore.

His mother remarried and Captain John Marks became his stepfather. The family left the plantation in the care of a relative and moved to Georgia. When he was 13 years old he returned to Virginia for schooling and to learn how to manage the 2,000 acre plantation his father had willed to him.

When he was 18 his stepfather died and his mother moved back to Virginia. Meriwether had come of age and could now manage the plantation himself.

Later he enlisted in the Virginia Volunteer Corps and served well. He was promoted to lieutenant and then to captain.

He had a friend and neighbor who had been watching Meriwether grow up. This friend became President of the United States. His name was Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson liked the qualities he saw in Meriwether and asked him to come to Washington to become his personal secretary. He paid him $500 a year and gave him room and board in the White House. What an opportunity for young Meriwether!

Jefferson had a plan to send an expedition to explore the land from the Mississippi River westward to the Pacific Ocean. He asked Congress for $2,500 to fund* the project. A year earlier in 1803 the United States had bought over 800,000 square miles of land from France for $15,000,000. It was called the Louisiana Purchase. Lewis and Clark would cross this land on their expedition.

The President groomed Meriwether for the job by letting him study with great teachers. He studied botany,* fossils,* astronomy, and mathematics.

Will Clark, his long-time friend, had been chosen to accompany him. Lewis insisted the two of them would each be referred to as captains of the expedition.

Meriwether prepared three boats; a large 55 foot keelboat and two smaller ones. They had to carry a lot of supplies and ammunition; six tons, 12,000 pounds in all. He prepared the gunpowder in lead containers. When the gunpowder was used up from a container they could melt it down to make bullets for their guns.

Included in the supplies were trinkets, beads, and mirrors which would be gifts to the Indians.

Two important people who joined them at the Mandan Indian villages were Touissant Charbonneau ( too SAN SHAR buh no) and his Shoshone wife Sacagawea (SAK uh juh WEE uh or suh KAH guh we uh). He had bought her as a slave from the Blackfoot Indians who had kidnapped her from her people.

Sacagawea Gold Coin

Sacagawea was the interpreter* for the group, and when the Indians saw her with her tiny baby, they felt they had nothing to fear from these strangers. The baby was only two months old when her journey with them began.

The members of the expedition suffered many hardships as they navigated the Missouri River, crossed the Stony (Rockie) Mountains, and followed the Columbia River to the west coast of the country to their first view of the Pacific Ocean. The trip had taken them a year and a half. During that time Meriwether had kept a detailed journal of events, drawn maps, collected plant specimens, and managed to pass peacefully through the Indian territory.

Now they had to retrace their steps back over the mountains and return.

When they got back home each man who had accompanied them was paid in cash, and a record was made of each man's name. The government would give each one of them a gift of land.

Congress gave Meriwether 1,500 acres of land and made him governor of all the Louisiana Territory. Will Clark was given 1,000 acres of land. They made him Indian Agent and gave him the title Brigadier General.*

The end of the story, however, is different for the two men. Three years after their return Meriwether Lewis died tragically from gunshot wounds. Will Clark married, had a family, became governor of the Missouri Territory, and lived to be sixty-eight years old.

This biography by Patsy Stevens, a retired teacher, was written in 2005.

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From Word Central's Student Dictionary
by Merriam - Webster

(Pronunciation note: the schwa sound is shown by ə)

Pronunciation: 'baht-ən-e, 'baht-ne
Function: noun
a branch of biology dealing with plant life

Function: noun
a trace or print or the remains of a plant or animal of a past age preserved in earth or rock

Pronunciation: in-'tər-prət-ər
Function: noun
one that interprets; especially : a person who translates orally
for people speaking different languages

brigadier general
Pronunciation: 'brig-ə-'di(ə)r-
Function: noun
a military commissioned officer with a rank just below major general

Function: verb
to supply funds for as a program funded by the state

Research Links

Links to The Lewis and Clark Journey of Discovery
National Park Service

Discovering Lewis and Clark

Links to Lewis and Clark Expedition
Corps of Discovery, United States Army

Lewis and Clark

Lewis and Clark (audio)
Engines of Our Ingenuity.

Lewis and Clark Biography

Meriwether Lewis
includes copies of lists and receipts

"Lewis and Clark"
video 16 minutes
(Picture can be enlarged to full screen)

Living History
listen to audio clips at PBS as experts answer questions about the expedition

"Conquest, The True Story of Lewis and Clark"
online book

Lewis and Clark
video lesson (be sure volume is turned up )

End of the Frontier
video lesson
(Click on the topics "Interactive Media Files")

At search for Meriwether Lewis.
Scroll the panel for the "Video & Audio Results".

Lesson Plans at Lesson Snips
put "Lewis and Clark" in the search box


Press "Go" to search for books about Meriwether Lewis


Order the following books from Amazon.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark:
the Corps of Discovery and the Exploration of the American Frontier

by Michael D. Fox, Suzanne G. Fox (selected pages) Order here

Meriwether: A Novel of Meriwether Lewis and the Lewis & Clark Expedition
Fiction by David Nevin (selected pages) Order here

Lewis and Clark
by Jason Glaser (selected pages) Order here

Lewis and Clark
by Kristin Petrie (selected pages) Order here

Lewis and Clark
by Christy Devillier (selected pages) Order here

Streams to the river, river to the sea: a novel of Sacagawea
by Scott O'Dell (selected pages) Order here

by Barbara Witteman (selected pages) Order here

Sacagawea: Indian Guide
by M. J. Cosson (selected pages) Order here

A Picture Book of Sacagawea
by David A. Adler (selected pages) Order here

Sacagawea, Native American Biographies
by Rachel A. Koestler-Grack (selected pages) Order here

Meriwether Lewis, American Lives
by Elizabeth Raum (selected pages) Order here

U.S. Facts & Fun, Grades 4-6
by Joanne Mattern (selected pages) Order here

Lewis and Clark for Kids: Their Journey of Discovery with 21 Activities
by Janis Herbert (selected pages)

Lewis and Clark, Bio Graphics
by Rod Espinosa (selected pages)

Lewis and Clark, History Maker Bios
by Candice F. Ransom, Tim Parlin (selected pages)

Meriwether Lewis: Boy Explorer
by Charlotta M. Bebenroth, Al Fiorentino (selected pages)

Sacagawea: Journey Into the West, Graphic Library
by Jessica Sarah Gunderson (selected pages)

A Picture Book of Lewis and Clark
by David A. Adler (selected pages)

Credits and Solutions

Jigsaw puzzle image by Hans Anderson

Map courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (GNU license).

Puzzles on these pages courtesy of
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* Word Match Solution

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whattup shorty dis page helped me so much on my webquest thanks bbg
oreo terry
Wow, this sight helped me so much with a big research
paper I'm working on. Thank you so much garden of praise!
Samantha Hartig
great helps alot for my bibliography go to this sight and you'll get what you NEED. thanks
I can't believe this doesn't have William Clark
Meriwether Lewis was a great person!
very good but why don't you have William Clark?
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