Jean Baptiste Charbonneau

Four and a half year old Jean Baptiste Charbonneau was brought to St. Louis by his parents in 1809 to be educated. Although Toussaint Charbonneau and Sacagawea originally planned to be with their boy, they did not like the lifestyle of a Missouri farm family and returned to North Dakota in 1811. Jean Baptiste stayed behind, with William Clark as his official guardian. He learned French and English, classical literature, history, mathematics, and science. In June 1823, 18 year old Jean Baptiste met Paul Williams, Prince of Württemberg, on the Kaw River in Kansas. The Prince convinced Toussaint Charbonneau to allow the young man to travel to Europe with him. Jean Baptiste lived for six years as a member of the royal household, receiving a classical education in Germany.

Jean Baptiste returned to Missouri in 1829, worked as a trapper in Idaho and Utah, traveled with Jim Bridger, Jim Beckwourth, and Joe Meek, and was a guide for the Mormon Battalion from Santa Fe to San Diego in 1846 during the War with Mexico. He was briefly the Alcalde (mayor) of Mission San Luis Rey in California, and spent many years in the gold fields on the American River near Sacramento. Baptiste probably did poorly in the California goldfields, for he was listed as a clerk in the Orleans Hotel in Auburn, California by 1861. He headed for the newly opened Montana goldfields in 1866, but died of pneumonia while traveling on May 16 of that year in Inskip Station, Oregon. He is buried there today. The site is located in Danner, Oregon, 3 miles north of Interstate Route 95.


Last updated: April 10, 2015

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