Meriwether Lewis National Monument
The Meriwether Lewis National Monument, located along the Natchez Trace Parkway in Lewis County, was designated in 1925 by the federal government to mark the grave of Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809), a Virginian who was one of the coleaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-6) and governor of Louisiana Territory (1806-9). In 1924 Tennessee State Archaeologist P. E. Cox wrote the National Park Service about the site of Lewis’s grave and the old Grinder’s Inn, where Lewis allegedly either committed suicide or was murdered on October 11, 1809. The National Park Service, however, did not want to set a precedent of acquiring the gravesites of famous Americans. Even after a favorable response to the proposal of a national monument from President Calvin Coolidge, the Park Service passed the proposal to the War Department, which formally accepted deed to the property on February 6, 1925, and created the Meriwether Lewis National Monument. Later that year, President Coolidge presided at the dedication of the monument, which features a broken column, symbolizing Lewis’s early and tragic death.
The War Department, however, made few significant park improvements at the grave site. When the Natchez Trace Parkway was established in 1938, the Lewis property was included in the new park’s boundaries, and development of the property as a historic site along the Trace began. Today the monument site includes a visitor center, a 1930s reproduction of Grinder’s Inn, walking trails, and picnic areas.