Meriwether Lewis was born August 18, 1774, near Charlotte, Virginia. He was a boyhood neighbor of Thomas Jefferson; he was well educated and then served in the Virginia militia and the Northwestern campaign. William Clark was born August 1, 1770, in Caroline County, Virginia, and was tutored at home. The two men apparently became acquainted when Lewis joined a militia unit commanded by Lieutenant Clark and developed the bonds of an enduring friendship.
When Thomas Jefferson was elected as President of the United States, he appointed Meriwether Lewis to be his private secretary. Then President Jefferson appointed Lewis to command an expedition to the Pacific Ocean. Lewis asked William Clark to join the expedition, and the two of them, with a group of forty men, left Washington, D.C., on July 5, 1803. The group endured numerous hardships before reaching the Pacific Ocean on November 2, 1805; there they made camp at Fort Clatsop on the Columbia River. They began their trip home the next spring, arriving in St. Louis on September 23 after an absence of two years and four months. President Jefferson acclaimed their journey, and Congress granted a piece of land to each member of the expedition.
Meriwether Lewis was appointed governor of Missouri in 1807 and died on October 11, 1809. William Clark died many years later on September 1, 1838.