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Meriwether Lewis is buried in Pioneer Cemetery. His large monument dominates this small, peaceful lawn. Around his grave are buried 120 others in graves that date from the early 1800s to 1925. A surprisingly large number of the stones have the word "infant" rather than a name. All of the original stones were replaced with small flat stones by the National Park Service.
Updated Jun 12, 2009
Shortly after Meriwether Lewis returned from the two year Lewis and Clark Expedition to the Pacific Ocean, he was appointed as the governor of the Louisiana Territory. Lewis struggled with the stress of the job, unpaid bills, and numerous political enemies. In October 1809 he decided to travel to Washington DC to speak directly with President James Madison. He decided to take the difficult overland route via the Natchez-Trace, despite his declining health. With rain falling, he chose to spend the night of October 10th at the house of John Grinder, who operated a travelers' inn about 75 miles south of Nashville. Sometime during the night, two gun shots rang out and by sunrise Meriwether Lewis was dead, probably suicide, but possibly murder. He was buried near the cabin at the Pioneers Cemetery.
Today all that remains of the original Grinder house is a small stone square that was probably a fireplace. This foundation is marked by a simple white sign. Nearby is a replica of the Grinder House with a handful of maps and photos documenting Meriwether Lewis' life.
Updated Jun 12, 2009
The Gordon House, near the northern end of the Natchez Trace Parkway, was constructed in 1818 as the home of Captain John Gordon. Born in Virginia, Gordon gained his fame as an Indian fighter in Tennessee. Gordon acquired some 640 acres of land on this site after negotiating a truce with the local Chickasaw Indian chief. While the house was completed in 1818, Gordon died just a year later. Gordon and his family operated a ferry over the nearby Duck River; the ferry ran for almost 100 years.
This is one of the few remaining structures from the peak era of the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Updated Jun 3, 2009
The original Natchez Trace route, commonly called the Old Trace, is an ancient trail used by animals and native people that connected the southern Mississippi River to valuable salt deposits in Tennessee. Indians from the Natchez, Choctaw, and Chickasaw tribes were the first people to use the trail, and it was later used by slaves, soldiers, and settlers. According to the National Park Service, the Old Trace was most heavily used from 1800 to 1825 by men who floated cargo down the Mississippi then return to their Ohio River Valley homes via the Old Trace. The trip back on the Old Trace was about 500 miles and took 35 days on foot, but was done by some 10,000 people a year during the trail's heyday.
Today the Old Trace trail is a hiking trail that parallels and crosses the modern Natchez Trace Parkway in the narrow park. The trail is well-maintained and easy to spot on many park maps and by looking for small brown signs that read "Old Trace."
Written May 28, 2009
Phone: (800) 305-7417
Meriwether Lewis National Monument includes the cabin where Lewis died, a Pioneer Cemetery, and a historic marker all located alongside the Natchez Trace Parkway. Part of this site is Meriwether Lewis' grave site, which is comprised of a small pyramid of granite topped with a broken stone column said to symbolize his early and tragic death.
Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) was one of the leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) then governor of Louisiana Territory (1806-1809) at the time of his death. Lewis died of a gunshot wound, and it was never determined if it was suicide or murder.
The monument was created February 6, 1925 and was added to the Natchez Trace Parkway in 1961.
Written May 27, 2009
This 444-mile scenic route stretches across three states from Nashville, TN, to Natchez, MS, via Alabama. It began as an Indian trade route, then in the 1800s, it became a return route for Ohio Valley traders who floated a ship down the river, sold it and the cargo, then returned home overland. Today this excellently preserved byway is full of culture, history and nature from Indian burial grounds to hosting 22 threatened or endangered species.
This is a great route to take if you are out for a relaxing journey with plenty of stops. If you are in a hurry, find another route. The posted speed limit is 45 in most areas if I remember right, meaning it will take at least 10 hours to drive the length of the trail.
Written May 27, 2009