Meriwether Lewis (1774 - 1809)
William Clark (1770 - 1838)
William Clark and Meriwether Lewis are the most famous explorers in U.S. history. In 1804, at the request of President Thomas Jefferson, the men led a two-year overland expedition from Missouri to the Pacific Ocean.
Early Years and Education
William Clark was born on August 1, 1770, in Caroline County, Virginia. He was the ninth of ten children born to John and Ann Rogers Clark. Although too young to have served during the American Revolution, five of his older brothers fought against the British, one of whom was famed frontiersman and brigadier general George Rogers Clark.
After the end of the war, William and his family moved to a farm near Louisville, Kentucky. Unlike his brothers, who had attended school in Virginia, William was home-schooled. Although he could read and write, Clark struggled with spelling errors and inconsistent capitalization throughout his life. In 1789 Clark joined the militia and fought in several campaigns against Native Americans. Finding military life to his liking, Clark earned a commission as an officer in the regular army.
Meriwether Lewis was born on August 18, 1774, at Locust Hill plantation in Albemarle County, Virginia. Coincidentally, Lewis was born within riding distance of President Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. He was the son of William and Lucy Meriwether Lewis. William Lewis passed away when Meriwether was only five years old.
After Lucy Lewis married John Marks, the family moved to Georgia. Meriwether soon returned to Virginia where he received a basic education. He spent his spare time outdoors and enjoyed studying natural history. Like Clark, he joined the militia and later became an officer in the regular military. The two men met while in the military and struck up a lifelong friendship. In 1801 Lewis was selected by Thomas Jefferson to serve as his private secretary shortly before Jefferson was elected president.