Following the death of Meriwether Lewis on Oct. 11, 1809, at Grinder’s Stand, an inn along the Natchez Trace in middle Tennessee, his body was buried near the inn’s stable—with no formal ceremony—and his grave was covered with wooden fence rails.
For more than 30 years, Gov. Lewis’ grave remained abandoned and unmarked. Tennessee lawmakers established Lewis County as a memorial to Gov. Lewis in 1843 and allocated $500 to erect a monument over his grave. The monument, built in 1848, still stands along the National Park Service’s Natchez Trace Parkway. It is about eight miles southeast of Hohenwald, Tenn.
The monument features a broken column, symbolizing Lewis’ early and tragic death.
Unfortunately, the grave was abandoned once more and became overgrown with vegetation until the 1920s, when the Meriwether Lewis Memorial Association was formed. Through the association’s work, President Calvin Coolidge designated the gravesite a national monument in 1925. That same year, the U.S. War Department assumed maintenance of the gravesite. Maintenance was transferred to the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1933.
President John F. Kennedy brought the gravesite under the management of Natchez Trace Parkway in 1961, and the site was renamed Meriwether Lewis Park.
The site features the grave and monument, along with a 1930s reproduction of Grinder’s Stand, a pioneer cemetery, a campground, picnic tables, exhibits and trails. The site, at milepost 385.9 on the parkway, is about 70 miles southwest of Nashville.
During a ceremony on Oct. 7, 2009, marking the 200th anniversary of his death, a bronze bust of Gov. Lewis will be dedicated to the Natchez Trace Parkway for a planned visitor center. The Meriwether Lewis Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation will host the event, called “Courage Undaunted—The Final Journey.” This will be the first national memorial service ever held to honor Lewis’ life and achievements.
To view a map of the burial site, visit http://www.classbrain.com/artmonument/uploads/natrmap2a.pdf.
Sources: National Park Service, Meriwether Lewis Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, Tennessee Historical Society