Search billions of records on


From the March 1, 1828 edition of the Baton Rouge Gazette


(Everyone has heard of Capt. Lewis, the companion of Clark's in the expeditions sent by President Jefferson to explore our territory west of the Mississippi‚--but perhaps few are aware that he perished by suicide, in a miserable log cabin, far away from the seats of civilization where his name was so familiar. The following account is contained in a letter from Wilson, the ornithologist, written from Natchez in the year 1810.)

"Next morning (Sunday) I rode six miles, to a man's of the name of Grinder where our friend Lewis perished. In the same room where he expired I took down from Mrs. Grinder the particulars of that melancholy event, which affected me most extremely. This house or cabin is twenty-two miles from Nashville, and is the last white man's as you enter the Indian country. --Governor Lewis, she said, came hither at about sunset alone, and inquired if he could stay for the night---and alighting brought his saddle into the house. --He was dressed in a gown, white striped with blue. On being asked if he came alone, he replied that there were two servants behind who would soon come up. He called for some spirits, and drank very little. When the servants arrived, one of whom was a negro, he inquired for his powder, saying he was sure he had some powder in a canister. The servant made no distinct reply, and Lewis in the meanwhile, walked to and fro before the door, talking to himself. Sometimes she said he would seem as if he were walking up to her--and he would suddenly wheel around and walk back as fast as he could. Supper being ready, he sat down, but he had only ate a few mouthfuls, when he started up speaking to himself in a violent manner. At these times she said she observed his face to flush, as if it had come to a fit. He lighted his pipe, and drawing his chair to the door sat down saying to Mrs. Grinder in a kind tone of voice--madam, this is a very pleasant evening.

He smoked for some time, but quitted his seat and traversed the yard as before. He again sat down to his pipe, seemed again composed and casting his eyes wistfully towards the west, observed what a sweet evening it was. Mrs. Grinder was preparing a bed for him, but he said he would sleep on the floor--and desired the bearskins and buffalo robe, which were immediately spread for him‚--it now being dusk, the woman went off to the kitchen and the two men to the barn which is about two hundred yards distant. The kitchen is only a few paces from the room where Lewis was, and the woman being considerably alarmed, could not sleep but listened to him walking backwards and forwards several hours, and talking aloud as she said, like a lawyer. She then heard the report of a pistol and something fall heavily on the floor, and the words "Oh Lord!--Immediately afterwards, she heard another pistol, and in a few moments she heard him calling out--"O madam, give me some water, and heal my wounds." The logs being open and unplastered, she saw him stagger back and fall against a stump that stands between the kitchen and the room. He crawled for some distance, and raised himself by the side of a tree, where he sat about a minute. He once more got to the room--afterwards he came to the kitchen door but did not speak--she then heard him scraping the bucket with a gourd for water‚Äîbut it appears this cooling element was denied him!

As soon as the day broke, and not before (the terror of the woman having permited him to remain for two hours in the most deplorable situation) she sent two of her children to the barn, her husband not being at home, to bring the servants--and on coming in, they found him lying on the bed. He uncovered his side, and shewed them where the bullet had entered--a piece of his forehead was blown off and had exposed the brains, without having bled much. He begged they would take his rifle and blow out his brains, and he would give them all the money he had in his trunk. He often said--"I am no coward--but I am so strong, so hard to die!" He begged the servant not to be afraid of him, for he would not hurt him. He expired in about two hours, or just as the sun rose above the trees. He lies buried close by the common path, with a few loose rails thrown over his grave. gave Grinder money to put a fence round it to shelter it from the hogs and wolves--and he gave me his written promise he would do it.--I left the place in a very melancholy mood, which was not much allayed by the prospect of the gloomy and savage wilderness, which I was just entering along.