Thomas Jefferson Papers

Gilbert C. Russell to Thomas Jefferson, 31 January 1810

From Gilbert C. Russell

Fort-Pickering Chickasaw Bluffs 31st January 1810.


I have lately been inform’d that James Neely the Agt to the Chickasaws with whom Govr Lewis set off from this place has detain’d his pistols & perhaps some other of his effects for some claim he pretends to have upon his estate—He can have no just claim for any thing more than the expences of his interment unless he makes a charge for packing his Two Trunks from the Nation—And for that he can not have the audacity to make a charge after tendering the use of a loose horse or two which he said he had to take from the Nation & also the aid of his Servant—He seem’d happy to have it in his power to serve the Govr & but for his makeing the offer which was accepted I should have employ’d the man who packed the Trunks to the Nation to have taken them to Nashville & accompanyed the Govr—Unfortunately for him this arrangement did not take place, or I hesitate not to say he would this day be living— The fact is which you may yet be ignorant of that his untimely death may be attributed Solely to the free use he made of liquor, which he acknowledged verry candidly to me after he recovered & expressed a firm determination never to drink any more Spirits or use Snuff again both of which I deprived him of for Several days & confined him to Claret & a little white wine—But after leaving this place by some means or other his resolution left him & this Agt being extremely fond of liquor, instead of preventing the Govr from drinking or puting him under any restraint, advised him to it, & from every thing I can learn gave the man every chance to seek an opportunity to destroy himself—And from the Statement of Grinders wife where he Killed himself I can not help beleiving that Purney was rather Aiding & abeting in the murder than otherwise—

This Neely also says he lent the Govr money which cannot be so for he had none himself & the Govr had more than One hund $ in Notes & Specia besides a Check I let him have of 99⁵⁸⁄₁₀₀ none of which it is said could be found—I have wrote to the Cashier of the branch bank of Orleans on whom the Check was drawn in favour of myself or order to stop payt when presented. I have this day authorised a Gentleman to pay the pretended Claim of [. . .] Neely & take the Pistols which will be held Sacrad to the Order of any of the friends of M. Lewis free from encumberance—

I am Sir with great respect Your Obdt Servt

Gilbert. C. Russell

RC (DLC); edge chipped; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello near Charlotts Ville Virginia”; stamped and postmarked 19 Feb. 1810 at Chickasaw; endorsed by TJ as received 15 Apr. 1810 and so recorded in SJL but described as received a day later in TJ’s 18 Apr. 1810 reply.

In a 26 Nov. 1811 statement regarding the death of Meriwether Lewis, Russell did not repeat the above accusations against James Neelly and Lewis’s servant John purney (Pernier). Russell’s check drawn on the branch bank of orleans did eventually reach Washington and was forwarded from there to TJ (Jackson, Letters of Lewis and Clark description begins Donald Jackson, ed., Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Related Documents, 1783–1854, 2d ed., 1978, 2 vols. description ends , 2:471–3, 573–5).

Index Entries

  • alcohol; abuse of search
  • Bank of Orleans search
  • claret (wine) search
  • Grinder, Mrs. Robert search
  • health; alcohol abuse search
  • Lewis, Meriwether; and J. Neelly search
  • Lewis, Meriwether; death of search
  • Lewis, Meriwether; J. Pernier’s claim against estate of search
  • Lewis, Meriwether; personal belongings of search
  • Neelly, James; and M. Lewis’s death search
  • Neelly, James; and M. Lewis’s effects search
  • Orleans Territory; banks in search
  • Pernier (Purney), John; and M. Lewis’s death search
  • Russell, Gilbert Christian; and M. Lewis’s belongings search
  • Russell, Gilbert Christian; and M. Lewis’s death search
  • Russell, Gilbert Christian; letters from search
  • suicide; and M. Lewis search
  • wine; claret search
  • wine; white search