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Page 1 of 1 pages

Monday, January 28, 2008

What happened to Sacagawea’s children?

“The court appoints William Clark Guardian to the infant children of Toussaint Charbonneau deceased, to wit, Toussaint Charbonneau a boy about the age of ten years old and Lisette Charbonneau a girl about one year old.”—Orphans Court record, St Louis, August 11, 1813

The earliest probate court records of St. Louis were discovered in an old safe at the courthouse last fall, containing guardianship proceedings regarding Sacagawea’s children.The story made the Fox News broadcast in St Louis on January 21, 2008. The record, shown here, is of an Orphans Court hearing held on August 11, 1813. William Clark’s name is added to the document, substituted for the name of the original guardian, John Luttig, who was the company clerk of the Missouri Fur Company.

What’s the story behind this? Lewis and Clark fans know that Toussaint, also known by his nickname “Pompey,” or as Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, was born on February 11, 1805 at Fort Mandan near Bismarck, North Dakota. This would make him 8 ½ years old. However, William Clark was not in St Louis at the time the hearing was held. He would have known the precise age of his adopted son, who was already living in St Louis and attending a boarding school.The father, Toussaint Charbonneau, Sr. was also not “deceased” though he was believed to be so at the time. He lived until about 1840.

Toussaint and Sacagawea and their son Pompey came to St. Louis in 1809 with Manuel Lisa and Pierre Chouteau, who had successfully delivered the Mandan Chief, Sheheke, or Big White, back to his village in North Dakota where the Charbonneau family was living. William Clark had requested they bring Pompey to St Louis where he would provide for his education when he was old enough to go to school. The Charbonneau family lived in Florissant, the town next to St Charles, for a year or more before returning home. They went back up river with Manuel Lisa in 1811, leaving their six year old son in William’s Clark’s care.

Sacagawea’s Death at Fort Manuel in 1812

Sacagawea died on Fort Manuel in Kenel, South Dakota on December 20, 1812. The Orphan Court record confirms that it was Sacagawea, rather than Charbonneau’s other Shoshone wife, who died at Fort Manuel. John Luttig wrote in his journal on Sunday, December 20, 1812: "this evening the wife of Charbonneau a Snake Squar, died of a putrid fever, she was a good and the best Women in the fort, aged abt 25 years she left a fine infant girl."

The little baby girl, Lisette, and an Indian woman to care for her, must have been brought down to St Louis by Lisa’s men as they retreated back to St Louis after Fort Manuel was attacked by Indians allies of the British during the War of 1812.The attack occurred sometime after March 5, 1813, the last date of entry in Luttig’s Journal. According to Richard Oglesby’s biography of Manuel Lisa, fifteen men of the Missouri Fur Company died in the attack. Was Lisette named for Manuel Lisa? It’s a possibility.

Luttig’s Journal of a Fur Trading Expedition 1812-13 is very interesting to read. The 1920 version is available on the internet. Here’s the link:

The Missouri Fur Company expedition retreated down river to St Louis, stopping to build Fort Lisa near the site of Council Bluffs, where Fort Atkinson was later built, north of Omaha, Nebraska. Fort Lisa became the westernmost fort defending the American frontier during the War of 1812. Lisa returned and made his headquarters there in 1814, appointed as a special Indian Agent by William Clark.

I published a booklet, Defending the Western Frontier: Manuel Lisa and the War of 1812 in the Omaha-Council Bluffs Area, based on a paper I gave at the Missouri Valley History Conference in 1999. I will blog at other times about the children, and also about the War of 1812 out west.

Posted by Kira Gale on 01/28/2008 at 04:51 PM

GEOGRAPHY/PLACESForts/Trading PostsMissouriNorth DakotaPEOPLENATIVE AMERICANPomp/Jean Baptiste CharbonneauSacagaweaSheheke/Big WhiteWar of 1812 • (6) CommentsPermalinkDigg ItAdd to

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