Lewis and Clark Forums | The Mystery of Teresa de Leyba

The relevant portions of the post:

The National Park Service brochure at the George Rogers Clark historical site in Vincennes probably says it best: that Clark lived his life like a swashbuckling character in a romantic novel, rather than like someone you would ever encounter in real life. By all accounts, the young Revolutionary War hero was tall, rugged, and very physically attractive. It seems a certainty that women would have fallen at his feet.

Yet Clark never married. Ruined by his wartime service and in debt for thousands of dollars, he had nothing to offer to a society woman of his own station. The only portraits of him done from life show him as a bitter, decrepit elderly man ravaged by alcohol and ill health, a mere shadow of the Viking god he once was.

According to Clark’s family, George carried a lifelong torch for a woman he met in his prime. He once told a niece “if I had been properly treated, you would have had an elegant aunt whom I would have loved very much.” Who was the mysterious woman and whatever happened to her? Did Clark ever love again?

In 1778, Clark had cultivated a close personal relationship and military alliance with Fernando de Leyba, the highest ranking Spanish official in the West. De Leyba was based in St. Louis, and he was apparently the guardian of his teenage sister, Teresa. The legend persists that Clark (who was only 26 at the time) and Teresa fell in love. Some letters from Clark’s friends hint that the relationship was intense and passionate. However, no direct evidence, such as letters between the two of them, has ever come to light.

Perhaps it just seems right. Clark was such a charismatic figure that often the men he worked with, such as Father Pierre Gibault and the trader Francis Vigo seem almost infatuated with him. How could such a man have failed to have a powerful love? And at the time, Fernando de Leyba would have had every reason to encourage a romance between his sister and Colonel Clark. Not only were he and Clark friends and allies against the British, but Clark was the scion of a prominent Virginia family, and likely to win large land grants as a result of his exploits in the West.

Tragically, Clark was ruined, and a marriage between him and Teresa was never to be. Again, indirect evidence suggests that Teresa waited for him for some time, living in New Orleans and hoping that George’s fortunes would somehow turn around. Romantically, she is supposed to have entered a convent rather than marry another.

Disappointingly, the story of George Rogers Clark and Teresa de Leyba is based on fairly flimsy historical evidence. Teresa left little documentary evidence of her life behind. Some historians have suggested that she was too young to have been a love interest for Clark, that she never lived in the New World, or that she didn’t exist at all.

George Rogers Clark:

George Rogers Clark - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fernando de Leyba:

Fernando de Leyba - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

It's been well-documented that Clark and Don Fernando were good friends but was there ever a Theresa?