Reuben Lewis (February 14, 1777 – February 17, 1844)
Reuben was the second son of Capt. William Lewis and Lucy Thornton Lewis. He was only two years of age when his father died in 1779. After his mother’s marriage to Capt. John Marks, he accompanied his parents and brother Meriwether (age nine) in 1784 to the Broad River community in Georgia. It is thought that his sister Jane (age fourteen) did not go with them as she was about to married to Edmund Anderson the next year. Along with the Marks’ family, many relatives accompanied them on their long trek through North Carolina and onto their new home. Along with Meriwether, Reuben enjoyed the fishing and hunting opportunities in Georgia, but as with Meriwether, he was eventually sent back to Albemarle County to further his education. He studied with the noted teacher, Rev. Mr. Robertson. In a 1791 letter to his mother, Meriwether wrote that he was “sorry to hear that his brother was not in school” and that he “did not want that postponed.” Another source, Peachy Ridgeway Gilmer, refers to Rev. John Robertson as “a Scotchman of good, classical learning, but a sot.” (Speed & Minor, p.73)
Reuben started west to St. Louis with his brother, Meriwether, in 1807, arriving in March, 1808. There he took a major role in fur trading expeditions up the Missouri River (Dahl, p. 3). From 1810 to 1820, he was a government agent to the Mandan, Osage and Cherokee Indians on the Arkansas River. He returned to Virginia where he handled many of the families’ land sales and other legal affairs. From letters, it appears that Reuben and his half-brother, John Hastings Marks, settled Meriwether Lewis’ estate and that Reuben then settled the estate of John Hastings Marks.
In some accounts of the Meriwether and Lewis families, Reuben is referred to as a “doctor”, but there is no mention of where he might have received formal medical training. It is likely that he was a practitioner of folk medicine like his mother and grandfather (Thomas Meriwether) before him. An 1842 merchant’s statement of items purchased by Reuben included sassafras and turpentine, both of which had medical uses, as well as packages of commercial pills (University of Virginia Library, Special Collections).
In 1822, after marrying his first cousin, Mildred Dabney, the daughter of Jane Lewis, Lucy’s sister, Reuben received acreage from the original “Locust Hill” tract and created his own farm “Valley Point.” Mildred is quoted as saying that “she had an emotional response to the new religions” (probably referring to Methodism). (Lewis, p. 63)
Sometime during the 1820’s, it seems that Reuben suffered financial problems. There are several letters from people to whom he owed money. In one instance, he transferred ownership of some slaves to settle a debt. Another letter asked him to honor two debts of $980 each. These financial difficulties may have been an effect of a downturn in agricultural markets during the United States’ the first major financial crisis. Reuben died at “Valley Point,” at the age of 67 in 1844 - one year before his older sister, Jane Anderson. His wife Mildred died in 1851. They had no children.
Patricia Zontine, April 2009