An academic weblog exploring the interpretation of the Lewis and Clark expedition and bicentennial in museums, historic sites, interpretive centers, and popular media.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Burial Place of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau

I know I was going to start discussing the "Legacies" symposium, but a fortuitous thing happened. In the process of organizing and scanning photographs for Pick and Shovel, I keep coming across Lewis and Clark-related pictures, including some photos I took of the gravesite of Charbonneau fils, Sacagawea's son. I was preparing a blog entry about his burial place, to be posted at some future time, when I got an email from a man in South Carolina who is traveling to this region and wanted information about the location of Pomp's grave. I'm sure that's a sign I should submit this post now!

Some new fencing and an older interpretive sign mark the location of Jean Baptiste's gravesite in the southeastern corner of Oregon, near Danner (not all maps are detailed enough to include Danner).

Jean Baptiste Charbonneau (1805-1866) lived into his sixties, which is pretty good for a mountain man and gold-rusher on the frontier at that time. He certainly had an amazing life, being educated as a boy in St. Louis, courtesy of William Clark, and traveling throughout Europe as a young man. He spoke several European and Native American languages. I'm sure it's pretty difficult for historians and biographers to discern which aspects of his life are true and which are now mythical.

Close-up of the interpretive sign, detailing Pomp's dramatic story.

The decorated grave of Sacagawea's son. This corner of Oregon is within the Great Basin ecosystem, a far cry from the lush environment to the north along much of the Lewis and Clark Trail.

He died from some illness--different sources suggest different causes--and was buried in a tiny, lonely cemetery in what is now southeastern Oregon, about 20 miles southwest of Jordan Valley, counting three miles of gravel road. His burial site was spruced up and rededicated just before the L&C bicentennial. I visited it a couple years ago and took these pictures.

Bronze plaque on Charbonneau's stone marker, provided by a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1971.

Pomp's burial place is actually a small cemetery with a few other graves, including that of a little girl who lived less than two years, and nameless individuals identified only as "Emigrant Child" and "James Doe." If you're a frequenter of pioneer cemeteries, you know that the West is liberally sprinkled with these graves of babies and the unknown.

[All photos by K. Dahl, copyright 2006.]