Archive for the ‘Sacagawea’ Category

On a cold, rainy Sunday in December 1805, William Clark was dealing with sick men, hard-bargaining Indians, and spoiled elk.  However, he was quick to note in his journal that a welcome bit of novelty had crept into the dreary routine at Fort Clatsop. “We were informed day before yesterday that a whale had foundered on the coast to the S. W. near the Kil a mox [Tillamook] N. and that the greater part of the Clat Sops were gorn for the oile & blubber,” Clark wrote. “The wind proves too high for us to proceed by water to See this monster, Capt Lewis has been in readiness Since we first heard of the whale to go and see it and collect Some of its Oil, the wind has proved too high as yet for him to proceed.”

Beached blue whale carcass

Beached blue whale carcass

The sight of a whale would indeed have been a novelty. In 1805, the ascent of the New England whaling industry was still 15 years away, and Lewis and Clark would have known whales mostly as a source for lamp oil and candle wax.

One week after first hearing about the whale, Lewis and Clark got their first taste of the big fish from a couple of their own men who were employed at the Salt Camp. On January 5, 1806, Clark noted, “At 5 p. m. Willard and Wiser returned, they had not been lost as we expected.    they informd us that it was not untill the 5th day after leaveing the fort, that they Could find a Convenient place for makeing Salt; that they had at length established themselves on the Sea Coast about 15 miles S. W. from this, near the houses of Some Clat Sop & Kil a mox families; that the Indians were very friendly and had given them a considerable quantity of the blubber of the whale which perished on the Coast Some distance S. E. of them.”

Willard and Wiser had brought some of the whale blubber to Fort Clatsop. Ever the epicurean, Lewis was anxious to sample the whale meat. “It was white & not unlike the fat of Poark, tho’ the texture was more spongey and somewhat coarser,” he wrote. “I had a part of it cooked and found it very pallitable and tender, it resembled the beaver or the dog in flavor.”


“the Indian woman was very impotunate to be permited to go”

His curiosity piqued, Clark determined “to Set out early tomorrow with two canoes & 12 men in quest of the whale or at all events to purchase from the indians a parcel of the blubber.” The next day, he picked up one additional passenger. Sacagawea had heard about the whale and was not about to be left behind. Lewis recorded, “Capt Clark set out after an early breakfast with the party in two canoes as had been concerted the last evening; Charbono and his Indian woman were also of the party; the Indian woman was very impotunate to be permited to go, and was therefore indulged; she observed that she had traveled a long way with us to see the great waters, and that now that monstrous fish was also to be seen, she thought it very hard she could not be permitted to see either (she had never yet been to the Ocean).”

By Tuesday, January 7, Clark’s party had reached the sea coast, about 35 miles from Fort Clatsop. Clark hired an Indian guide to pilot them to the location of the beached whale. On the way, he noted that “we met 14 Indians loaded with blubber.” Unfortunately, the Corps of Discovery was a johnny-come-lately to the party. When they reached the Tillamook Nation on Wednesday the 8th, the Indians were busily boiling blubber and siphoning the whale oil into a canoe. The whale itself, called E cu-la by the natives, was lying on “a very large Rock” and had been dead for more than a week. It was “nothing but a Sceleton.”

Clark estimated the skeleton’s length to be 105 feet. According to Private Whitehouse, the head was shaped “like the bow of a Vessell nearly.” Based on that description, it could have been a blue whale, the largest mammal on the planet.

Makah Indians cutting up a whale, 1910

Makah Indians cutting up a whale, 1910

Finding no blubber left on the carcass, Clark’s next task was to try to strike a bargain. “We tok out a few bones and returned to the Cabins at the mouth of the Creek, and attempted to trade with thos people who I found Close and Capricious, would not trade the Smallest piece except they thought they got an advantage of the bargain,” Clark complained. Clark and the men were finally able to purchase about 300 pounds of blubber and a few gallons of whale oil. Clark wrote testily, “Finding they would not trade I Deturmined to return home with what we have.”

The next day, Clark divided the load among the men in his party and set out on the return trip to Fort Clatsop. They found it tough going until they chanced upon a party of Indians, also transporting a heavy load of blubber.  “On the Steep decent of the Mountain I overtook five men and Six womin with emence loads of the Oil and blubber of the Whale,” Clark recorded. “One of the women in the act of getting down a Steep part of the mountain her load by Some means had Sliped off her back, and She was holding the load by a Strap which was fastened to the mat bag in which it was in, in one hand and holding a bush by the other, as I was in front of my party, I endeavored to relieve this woman by takeing her load untill She Could get to a better place a little below, & to my estonishment found the load as much as I Could lift and must exceed 100 wt.” He added, “Estonishing what custom will do.”

Jonah and the whale

Jonah and the whale

Clark’s weary party returned home to Fort Clatsop on Friday, January 10 with their precious oil and whale meat. Clark reflected in his journal, “Small as this Stock is I prise it highly; and thank providence for directing the whale to us; and think him much more kind to us than he was to jonah, having Sent this monster to be Swallowed by us in Sted of Swallowing of us as jonah’s did.”

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Three Forks area, Montana

Three Forks area, Montana

It was August 11, 1805, and Meriwether Lewis was getting desperate. Since leaving Fort Mandan in April 1805, the Corps of Discovery had navigated the twists and turns of the Upper Missouri, run their canoes through the Missouri Breaks, and portaged their boats and equipment on a grueling 18-mile land route around the Great Falls of the Missouri River. As July wore on into August, the Corps pressed on into what is now western Montana, searching for the Shoshone Indians. The Shoshone’s formidable horse herds were critical to the success of Lewis and Clark’s plan for reaching the Pacific Ocean. If they could only barter for horses, they believed they could swap their increasingly grueling river travel for an easy horseback ride across the Continental Divide.

There was only one problem. The Shoshone were nowhere to be found. In many places along the Upper Missouri, Lewis and Clark saw signs of Indian camps, hunting expeditions, cook fires, and smoke signals. But they did not encounter any people. In any case, they could not be sure whether these deserted camps belonged to the Shoshone, or indicated the unwelcome presence of hostile Assiniboine or Blackfeet.

By late July the party had reached the Three Forks, and Sacagawea began to recognize landmarks from the area in which she lived prior to being kidnapped as a child. While Lewis wrangled the boats up the river, Clark led a party by land, suffering blistered feet and prickly pear punctures. But they still saw no Indians. The explorers simply did not realize that the Shoshone were still hunting and fishing west of the Divide and typically did not cross the mountains until early fall.

Beaverhead Rock

Beaverhead Rock (courtesy NPS)

By the first week of August, Lewis and Clark’s party was exhausted, demoralized, and hungry. The river was barely navigable, Clark was sick and his feet painful and infected. If they could not find horses, the expedition would have to attempt the Rocky Mountains on foot, carrying only a fraction of their supplies and relying on finding scarce game in the mountains in winter. It was a bleak prospect indeed. Then, a ray of hope: Sacagawea recognized Beaverhead Rock. She was certain that her people would be camped along the river nearby.

Clark still being too ill to lead a scouting party, Lewis set out with George Drouillard, John Shields, and Hugh McNeal. On the morning of August 11, he finally found the man he was looking for:

after having marched in this order for about five miles I discovered an Indian on horse back about two miles distance coming down the plain toward us.    with my glass I discovered from his dress that he was of a different nation from any that we had yet seen, and was satisfyed of his being a Sosone; his arms were a bow and quiver of arrows, and was mounted on an eligant horse without a saddle, and a small string which was attatched to the underjaw of the horse which answered as a bridle. I was overjoyed at the sight of this stranger and had no doubt of obtaining a friendly introduction to his nation provided I could get near enough to him to convince him of our being whitemen. I therefore proceeded towards him at my usual pace.    when I had arrived within about a mile he mad a halt which I did also and unloosing my blanket from my pack, I mad him the signal of friendship known to the Indians of the Rocky mountains and those of the Missouri, which is by holding the mantle or robe in your hands at two corners and then throwing up in the air higher than the head bringing it to the earth as if in the act of spreading it, thus repeating three times.    this signal of the robe has arrisen from a custom among all those nations of spreading a robe or skin for ther gests to set on when they are visited.    this signal had not the desired effect, he still kept his position and seemed to view Drewyer an Shields who were now comiming in sight on either hand with an air of suspicions, I wold willingly have made them halt but they were too far distant to hear me and I feared to make any signal to them least it should increase the suspicion in the mind of the Indian of our having some unfriendly design upon him. I therefore haistened to take out of my sack some b[e]ads a looking glas and a few trinketes which I had brought with me for this purpose and leaving my gun and pouch with McNeal advanced unarmed towards him.    he remained in the same stedfast poisture untill I arrived in about 200 paces of him when he turn his hose about and began to move off slowly from me; I now called to him in as loud a voice as I could command repeating the word tab-ba-bone, which in their language signifyes white man.

Shoshone on horseback

Shoshone on horseback

Lewis advanced slowly, repeatedly shouting the word “tab-ba-bone,” a word which he had undoubtedly gotten from Sacagawea as the best way to describe white men to her people. Seeing the Indian glancing nervously over his shoulder, Lewis frantically motioned for Drouillard and Shields to halt their advance so as not to spook the man, but Shields failed to see the signal and continued forward. Lewis continued in his journal: “whe I arrived within about 150 paces I again repepeated the word tab-ba-bone and held up the trinkits in my hands and striped up my shirt sleve to give him an opportunity of seeing the colour of my skin and advanced leasure towards him but he did not remain untill I got nearer than about 100 paces when he suddonly turned his hose about, gave him the whip leaped the creek and disapeared in the willow brush in an instant and with him vanished all my hopes of obtaining horses for the present.”

Lewis was mortified, disappointed, and furious at Shields and the other men. He confessed that he “could not forbare abraiding them a little for their want of attention and imprudence on this occasion.” In other words, Shields got a good old-fashioned army ass-chewing.

Still hoping to make contact, Lewis and his men tracked the Shoshone for two more days. On the morning of August 13, Lewis again had a close encounter:

we had proceeded about four miles through a wavy plain parallel to the valley or river bottom when at the distance of about a mile we saw two women, a man and some dogs on an eminence immediately before us.    they appeared to vew us with attention and two of them after a few minutes set down as if to wait our arrival we continued our usual pace towards them.    when we had arrived within half a mile of them I directed the party to halt and leaving my pack and rifle I took the flag which I unfurled and avanced singly towards them the women soon disappeared behind the hill, the man continued untill I arrived within a hundred yards of him and then likewise absconded.    tho’ I frequently repeated the word tab-ba-bone sufficiently loud for him to have heard it. I now haistened to the top of the hill where they had stood but could see nothing of them.

Shoshone women and children

Shoshone women and children

A short time later, however, Lewis finally hit paydirt:

we had not continued our rout more than a mile when we were so fortunate as to meet with three female savages.    the short and steep ravines which we passed concealed us from each other untill we arrived within 30 paces.    a young woman immediately took to flight, an Elderly woman and a girl of about 12 years old remained. I instantly laid by my gun and advanced towards them.    they appeared much allarmed but saw that we were to near for them to escape by flight they therefore seated themselves on the ground, holding down their heads as if reconciled to die which the expected no doubt would be their fate; I took the elderly woman by the hand and raised her up repeated the word tab-ba-bone and strip up my shirt sleve to sew her my skin; to prove to her the truth of the ascertion that I was a white man for my face and hads which have been constantly exposed to the sun were quite as dark as their own. they appeared instantly reconciled, and the men coming up I gave these women some beads a few mockerson awls some pewter looking-glasses and a little paint.

After calling back the young woman who had run away, Lewis “painted their tawny cheeks with some vermilion” as a sign of friendship and bestowed trinkets on the women to convince them of his good intentions. The women agreed to lead him to their camp. Lewis recorded in  his journal that after walking with the women another two miles, “we met a party of about 60 warriors mounted on excellent horses who came in nearly full speed,  when they arrived I advanced towards them with the flag leaving my gun with the party about 50 paces behid me.    the chief and two others who were a little in advance of the main body spoke to the women, and they informed them who we were and exultingly shewed the presents which had been given them    these men then advanced and embraced me very affectionately in their way which is by puting their left arm over you wright sholder clasping your back, while they apply their left cheek to yours and frequently vociforate the word âh-hi’-e, âh-hi’-e  that is, I am much pleased, I am much rejoiced.    bothe parties now advanced and we wer all carresed and besmeared with their grease and paint till I was heartily tired of the national hug.”

Charlie Russell's Captain Lewis Meeting the Shoshones

“Captain Lewis Meeting the Shoshones” by Charles Russell

Lewis might not have been a “huggy” person, but he was a most fortunate one. Having never encountered white people before, the Shoshone were friendly and eager to embrace their new “tab-ba-bone” friend. According to the notes in Moulton’s Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, sources disagree on the translation of this word. Some say it meant “alien” or “stranger,” which would not have reassured the Shoshone upon repeated shoutings. Some say that Lewis meant to say Ti-yo bo-nin, meaning “I’m a white man! See!” deriving from Ti-you, meaning “one originating from the sun” (i.e., the east). Having no experience with whites, it is quite possible that tab-ba-bone meant nothing to the Shoshone at all.  Perhaps they just saw Lewis as a tired and desperate human being, and took him in.

Lewis met the principal chief, Cameahwait, who regretfully told Lewis the Shoshone had nothing to eat but berries. Lewis accepted them gratefully, and he and his famished men “made a hearty meal.” Lewis wrote that later, “an indian called me in to his bower and gave me a small morsel of the flesh of an antelope boiled, and a peice of a fresh salmon roasted; both which I eat with a very good relish.”He added with evident satisfaction: “This was the first salmon I had seen and perfectly convinced me that we were on the waters of the Pacific Ocean.”

More interesting reading: Lewis and Clark Among the Shoshones

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Thanks to our reader John Orthmann, who was kind enough to comment on additional Lewis & Clark sculptures in his neck of the woods, we have more sculptures to add to our blogs about statuary featuring Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the whole Corps of Discovery gang.

First of all, some sad news:

Lewis and Clark monument along Washington Highway 101 near the Oregon state line

This terrific chainsaw statue is no more. Wah. But some great news:

I missed a terrific statue by the great Stanley Wanlass. Located in Long Beach, Washington, this statue commemorates the day when William Clark recorded on a sturdy tree what must have been a deeply satisfying moment: William Clark. Nov. 19, 1805. By land from the U. States.

In our novel, To the Ends of the Earth, we described Clark’s memory of that day:

He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and, taking care not to stumble in the darkness, went down to the sand spit and found a place to sit near the water. He looked at the blanket of gray mist covering the river, but he wasn’t really seeing it. In his mind’s eye, he saw instead the fog hovering in the giant, tangled trees along the Columbia River as the Expedition took their canoes through the river channels, coming ever closer to the Pacific Ocean they were so anxious to see. He could almost feel their heavy dugouts quiver in awe of the rough tidewater.

When they’d finally reached the great Pacific, he and Lewis had walked alone a short distance, leaving the men behind to whoop out their pleasure in the achievement. From a towering basalt cliff, they’d stood together in their ragged buckskins, drizzle dripping off their beards, watching enormous waves crash against the rocky shoreline. Clark’s heart was so full he couldn’t even speak. He would never forget the way Lewis faced down the great ocean with a challenging stare, as if to say I made it, you sonofabitch. Then he’d given Clark that defiant, crinkle-eyed smile, and a slow, satisfied nod.

Sacagawea and Jean-Baptist by Alice Cooper (1905)

Sacagawea is said to have been immortalized in statue more than any other American woman. Portland is home to one of the earliest monuments, a tremendous bronze by Alice Cooper. The sculpture was dedicated for the Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, a ceremony that was attended by feminist dignitaries including as Susan B. Anthony, and by Eve Emery Dye, feminist and author of The Conquest (1902), the historical novel that gave rise to many of the myths about Sacagawea that are still cherished today.

Sacagawea and Jean-Baptiste, by Glenna Goodacre (2004)

Not content with one statue of Sacagawea and little Pomp, in 2003, Portland added another, this time at Lewis & Clark College. Glenna Goodacre, who also designed the Sacagawea dollar, created the work, which was donated to the school by college trustee Richard Bertea and his wife Hyla.

Bronze artist Heather Heather Söderberg with her Sacagawea (2011)

One of the newest sculptures can be found at the Cascade Locks Visitor Center in Oregon, where a sultry Sacagawea is now on hand with the Expedition’s faithful dog Seaman. Heather Söderberg was commissioned to create the bronzes as a permanent memorial to the struggle faced by the Corps in navigating the rapids and the events of April 13, 1806, when Sacagawea and Seaman accompanied Captain Lewis on a mission to trade deer and elk skins for canoes and dogs (for eating) with the local people.

This video shows the casting of Sacagawea’s head:

Meriwether Lewis and Seaman by John Jewell (2005)

Sergeant John Ordway, by John Jewell (2006)

Located near Tacoma, Fort Lewis (now named Joint Base Lewis-McChord due to an operations merger with the adjacent Air Force base), was named after Meriwether Lewis in 1917. Home of the Army I Corps, it is a huge and vital base. In a landmark choice, Major General John Hemphill, who spearheaded the project to bring these oversized bronzes to the base, commissioned a bronze of Sergeant John Ordway along with that of Lewis and his dog. Ordway’s statue is one of the few statues in the United States of a non-commissioned officer and the only one honoring one of the non-coms of the Corps of Discovery.

We wrote more about Ordway and his critical role in leading the Corps in our blog The Four Sergeants of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

Lewis & Clark at Patit Creek, by George Touchette (2005)

Near Dayton, Washington, an impressive collection of more than 80 — count ’em, 80 — life-sized steel silhouettes give visitors a sweeping impression of the scene at Patit Creek, where the Corps of Discovery camped on May 2, 1806, during the Expedition’s return journey. The full-scale scene was conceptualized and designed by local history buff and funeral director George Touchette, and the town of Dayton obtained a $108,000 grant from the Washington State Historical Society to complete the project. The sculptures were cut by Northwest Art Casting in Umapine, Oregon.

Thanks again, John, for all the great additions! Readers, let us know about other Lewis & Clark sculptures in your neck of the woods!

Previous installments:

Lewis and Clark in Sculpture (Part 1) – Virginia to Missouri

Lewis and Clark in Sculpture (Part 2) – Great Plains

Lewis and Clark in Sculpture (Part 3) – Rocky Mountains to the Sea

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To conclude our tour through the Lewis & Clark Expedition in public art, let’s take a look at the sculptures of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark that adorn the trail from the Rocky Mountains to the sea. As with earlier installments, please let us know if we missed any. This is a part of the trail we have traveled very lightly and I am dying to go back.

Hospitality of the Nez Perce, by Douglas Hyde (1993), is on the campus of Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho

This beautiful bronze by Doug Hyde, a Santa Fe-based sculptor of Native American descent, was commissioned for the centennial of Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, a pretty town at the confluence of the Snake River and the Clearwater River. It depicts Lewis and Clark meeting with Twisted Hair of the Nez Perce as his young son Lawyer, later to play a major role in the conflict between the Nez Perce and American settlers, plays at their feet.

Hospitality of the Nez Perce by Doug Hyde (2006) on the grounds of the Idaho State Capitol

Look familiar? If not, consult your doctor about short-term memory loss. In 2006, historian Carol MacGregor commissioned a replica of Hyde’s Lewiston statue to be placed on the campus of the Idaho state capitol in Boise.

An Indian guide joins William Clark and York on the bluff at the University of Portland

I have not been able to discover much about this statue and would love to hear any further information about it.

Lewis and Clark monument along Washington Highway 101 near the Oregon state line

Talk about a terrific old statue! This is another one about which I have been able to learn next to nothing. I am not even sure of its exact location, but it appears to be in the Cape Disappointment area, where Meriwether Lewis explored before he and Clark settled the Corps of Discovery at Fort Clatsop near Astoria in the winter of 1805-06. Please post in the comments if you know anything about this gem.

Lewis and Clark monument by Stanley Wanlass (1980). This statue stands inside the Visitors' Center at Fort Clatsop near Astoria, Oregon.

For the most part I have skipped some indoor statuary for this series of blog posts, but Stanley Wanlass’s bronze is the show-stopper at the Fort Clatsop Visitors’ Center. It is indoors due to the extreme rainfall in the area, which is so much a part of the Lewis & Clark story at Fort Clatsop. Clark and Seaman take a look at a fish being offered by a Native American, while Lewis, the gourmet of the group, is busy being visionary.

Clark's Sturgeon, by Jim Demetro (2005) in Long Beach, Washington

What a fun statue. This sculpture by Jim Demetro depicts a real-life incident from the journals in which Clark records finding a 10-foot sturgeon on the beach. The statue adorns the Lewis & Clark Discovery Trail, which I have not yet gotten to visit. It sounds like an amazing project which features other Lewis & Clark interpretive displays including a whale skeleton and a 19-foot bronze tree by Stanley Wanlass that marks the spot where Clark carved the historic inscription “William Clark. Nov. 19, 1805. By land from the U. States.”

"End of the Trail" by Stanley Wanlass (1990) in Seaside, Oregon

This beautiful bronze by Stanley Wanlass marks the official end of the Lewis & Clark trail, the westernmost point reached by the intrepid pair. For more about Wanlass, check out his very interesting website, which includes photos of his fascinating automotive sculptures.

Again, please leave information in the comments about other Lewis and Clark sculptures or further information about these fascinating memorials to the leaders of the Corps of Discovery.

For more reading:

Lewis and Clark Among the Nez Perce
Lewis and Clark Among the Clatsops

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Continuing our sculpture tour of the Lewis & Clark trail, let’s take a look at the Lewis & Clark monuments to be found in the Great Plains states.

"First Council" Monument at Fort Atkinson State Park, Nebraska, by Oreland C. Joe (2003)

This interesting monument depicts the first meeting between Meriwether Lewis and William Clark with the Native Americans. The captains, along with their dog Seaman and an interpreter (whose name was recorded by Clark as “Fairfong”), met with Shon-go-ton-go and We-the-e of the Missouria-Oto tribes. The sculptor, Oreland C. Joe, is himself a Native American of Navajo and Ute descent.

"Spirit of Discovery" by Pat Kennedy (2002) stands in front of the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Sioux City, Iowa

Does this imposing statue look familiar? It should if you read Lewis & Clark in Sculpture, Part 1. It is identical to the statue that stands on the waterfront in St. Charles, Missouri. I read on the Internet (so it must be true) that there were three castings of this sculpture. Where is the other one? Let me know in the comments!

"Pointing the Way" by Tom Palmerton at the entrance of the Missouri River Basin Visitors' Center in Nebraska City.

I can’t seem to discover much about this monument. Anyone who knows more about its story and when it was dedicated is cordially invited to comment!

Mary poses with Tom Neary's "Mandan Winter" (2004) at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn, North Dakota

This is truly one of my favorite Lewis & Clark sculptures. When we first arrived at the Interpretive Center (gateway to Fort Mandan and a huge milestone on our Lewis & Clark travels), it was raining lightly, and the powerful impression of the sculpture of the two captains with Sheheke of the Mandans (Big White), brought to mind some lyrics from a favorite song:

I could almost see them standin’ in the rain
Their brown and blinded faces reflecting all the pain
And all the cars and people, passing by
And all the ringing memories that can make a banjo cry

Also, visit sculptor Neary’s site for some great photos of the fabrication of this statue and a separate one of Seaman that is near the replica fort.

Explorers at the Marias, by Bob Scriver (1976). This statue stands along the Missouri River in Fort Benton, Montana.

The sculpture at left by Bob Scriver depicts Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea at “Decision Point,” as they make the critical decision at a huge fork in the river as to which branch is the true Missouri and will lead them further to the west. There is some interesting history behind this monument. The site was selected as Montana’s official state memorial to the Lewis & Clark Expedition in 1925. However, no money was ever appropriated to proceed. In 1972, the community of Fort Benton began a fundraising project that resulted in $400,000 and a commission to Bob Scriver, a sculptor mostly known for his western bronzes. The research for the Fort Benton work led Scriver to a life-long obsession with Lewis & Clark.

York, Seaman, Lewis & Clark gaze westward in Bob Scriver's "Explorers at the Portage" (1989) in Great Falls

Scriver’s prominence only grew with the passing years, and in 1989 he created this bronze for the city of Great Falls in honor of the centennial of Montana statehood.

If anyone has any additional details about these statues, or I have missed any in the Great Plains states (South Dakota, where are you?), please let me know. I’d also welcome any comments on how the summer floods affected these sites. In the final installment of this series, we will visit the statues from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific.

For more reading:

Lewis & Clark road trip: The Nebraska Trail
Lewis & Clark road trip:  The Sioux City Interpretive Center
Lewis & Clark road trip: Fort Mandan
Lewis & Clark road trip: Fort Benton, Montana

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The Lewis and Clark expedition is somewhat underrepresented in U.S. philately. The expedition has been the subject of U.S. stamps twice.

1954 Lewis and Clark Commemorative Stamp

1954 Lewis and Clark Commemorative Stamp

In February 1954, the sesquicentennial year of the expedition’s departure, Congressman Charles Hoeven of Iowa introduced a bill authorizing a Lewis and Clark commemorative stamp. Although the bill never got out of committee, it did vault Lewis & Clark to the top of the list of subjects under consideration. In June 1954, Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield announced that a Lewis and Clark stamp would be issued on July 28 at Sioux City, Iowa, which happened to be in Hoeven’s district. When other cities along the trail protested the choice of location, the postmaster justified his choice by stating, “Sergeant Charles Floyd, a member of the Expedition, died and was buried” at Sioux City. However, Floyd is not believed to be pictured on the stamp, which includes Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea, and three unidentified members of the Corps of Discovery.

Charles R. Chickering

Charles R. Chickering, the “dean of American stamp designers”

The image on the 3-cent stamp was designed by Charles R. Chickering, a book and magazine illustrator who worked as a designer at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving from 1947 to 1962. Known as the “dean of American stamp designers,” Chickering is credited with the sole design of 66 U.S. stamps and joint credit for the design of 11 others during his 15-year career at the BPD. Bernard DeVoto, famed historian of the American West and an expert on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was a consultant in the design.

Meriwether Lewis stamp by Michael Deas, 2004

Meriwether Lewis stamp by Michael Deas, 2004

Fast-forward fifty years to the next Lewis and Clark stamp issue. To commemorate the bicentennial of the official launch of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the postal service issued a set of three 37-cent stamps on May 14, 2004. Perhaps to make up for the Floyd imbroglio, the stamps were released simultaneously in the following cities: Astoria, Oregon; Atchison, Kansas; Great Falls, Montana; Hartford, Illinois; Ilwaco, Washington; Orofino, Idaho; Omaha, Nebraska; Pierre, South Dakota; Sioux City, Iowa; St. Charles, Missouri; and Washburn, North Dakota.

William Clark stamp by Michael Deas, 2004

William Clark stamp by Michael Deas, 2004

The stamp set featured individual portraits of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, painted by Michael J. Deas in a style reminiscent of the Peale portraits, with a dash of smoldering romance-novel cover art thrown in. Deas is an experienced stamp designer whose other subjects include movie stars, politicians, and literary figures. In addition to the portrait stamps, Deas also designed a commemorative stamp of Lewis and Clark standing on a promontory surveying the countryside. The stamps were also issued in a 32-page prestige booklet that included text and illustrations, and the commemorative was also produced for sale in panes of 20.

Lewis and Clark commemorative stamp, 2004

Lewis and Clark commemorative stamp by Michael Deas, 2004

Sacagawea "Legends of the West" stamp, 1994

Sacagawea “Legends of the West” stamp, 1994

Although Sacagawea was not included on the 2004 stamp, she was pictured as the sole subject on a stamp of her own in 1994 in the “Legends of the West” series. Unfortunately, this series proved to have one of the most infamous and embarrassing mistakes in U.S. postal history. The original Legends of the West pane of twenty 29-cent stamps featured a stamp of African-American rodeo performer Bill Pickett. However, after over five million panes had been printed, it was discovered that the stamp depicting Pickett actually pictured his younger brother Ben.

When the error was confirmed, the USPS decided to destroy all the Legend panes and to print a new set with an authentic portrait of Bill Pickett. However, almost 200 of the panes had already been distributed and sold. A modern philatelic rarity, the error panes quickly shot up in value, and one of them reached a price of $4,620 in a public auction. Stamp collectors clamored for the rest of the error panes to be released for sale, but the postal service had promised the Pickett family that they would be destroyed – at considerable cost. Finally, the Postal Service compromised by selling 150,000 original panes for collectors, containing the erroneous portrait of Bill Pickett. All of the remaining original panes were destroyed, and the series was reissued in a new pane featuring the right Bill Pickett.

The "Wrong" Bill Pickett Stamp

The “Wrong” Bill Pickett Stamp

The "Right" Bill Pickett Stamp

The “Right” Bill Pickett Stamp

Recently, a 12-year-old boy named Jackson Davis V has been running a well-publicized campaign to put the face of York, William Clark’s slave who accompanied him on the expedition, on a postage stamp. The great-grandson of a DC postal worker, Jackson wrote a letter and sent an essay to USPS Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee asking that they consider honoring York with a Black Heritage Stamp. The USPS responded saying that his proposal is “under consideration.” This is a fantastic effort and long overdue. Fingers crossed that Jackson’s tireless efforts will make his dream come true!

More great resources:

Arago: People, Postage, and the Post

Jackson Davis’ Vote 4 York Black Heritage Stamp 2013 (Facebook)

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Meriwether Lewis by John Lanzalotti (2000). This bust was placed in the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond in 2008.

You might think that after Meriwether Lewis and William Clark returned from the West to great acclaim as national heroes, that every city and town associated with the Expedition would have wanted to erect a monument to their achievement. But in fact, outdoor public sculpture was unheard of in the United States until about the 1830s, many years after the Corps of Discovery had faded from memory. The real golden age of public monuments began in America after the Civil War, when almost every community wished to build a memorial to the dead.

The pace of building monuments reached its zenith around the turn of the 20th century. Since then, a number of very interesting Lewis & Clark monuments have been erected all along the trail, with a fresh wave coming recently for the Bicentennial commemoration.

In this series, we’ll take a look at some of the Lewis & Clark sculptures. Today I’ll begin with several monuments in the “Eastern Legacy” states where Captain Lewis prepared for the Expedition and William Clark recruited early members of the Corps, as  well as the way the Expedition is remembered along the first segment of the Lewis & Clark Trail in Missouri.

As many historians like to say, the Lewis & Clark Expedition actually began in the mind of Thomas Jefferson, so what better place to begin our sculptural journey than Charlottesville, Virginia, the home town of Jefferson and of Lewis himself.

Statue in Charlottesville, Virginia of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Sacagawea (kneeling), by Charles Keck (1919)

The Charlottesville monument seems to have been the first permanent memorial to Lewis & Clark in the United States. Here, Charles Keck captured the manly beauty and virility of Lewis and Clark in this statue that shows them very much as frontier soldiers, perhaps not so different from the American doughboys who had recently returned from World War I. From the awkward pose, it is difficult not to think that Sacagawea was a last-minute addition to Keck’s commission, and indeed her posture has been interpreted as subservient or cowering, drawing student protests in recent years. In 2009, a plaque was added to the statue recognizing Sacagawea’s contribution to the Expedition’s success.

"When They Shook Hands," by Carol Grende (2003). Statue located at the Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville, Indiana.

This bronze was commissioned by the Southern Indiana Visitors’ Bureau and several local boosters to commemorate Clarksville’s role as the home of William Clark in 1803 and the place where the two captains met that fall and began the planning of the Expedition and recruitment of members of the Corps of Discovery. Interestingly enough, sculptor Carol Grende of Montana accepted the commission in spite of an extremely tight seven-month deadline to complete the project before the bicentennial event in Clarksville, and the statue arrived in town just 30 hours before the ceremony began.

"Captain's Return," by Harry Weber (2006). This St. Louis statue of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their dog Seaman stands in the waters of the Mississippi near the Gateway Arch.

This bronze by St. Louis sculptor Harry Weber was commissioned for the final “signature event” of the Bicentennial, which commemorated the September day in 1806 when the Corps of Discovery returned, about a year later than expected and after most people had given them up for dead. It has become iconic as a gauge of how high the river’s waters flow every spring and summer in flood stage:

The Lewis & Clark statue on the St. Louis riverfront in flood stage. I have seen photos in which only Clark's hat is still visible.

Lewis and Clark monument on the waterfront in St. Charles, Missouri, by Pat Kennedy (2003)

Lewis, Clark, and Seaman were a common trio in Bicentennial commemorations. It is interesting to compare how bulked-up Lewis and Clark are here compared with their 1919 portrayal in the Charlottesville statue.

This grouping on the grounds of the Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City includes York, Lewis, Seaman, Clark, and George Drouillard. Bronze by Sabra Tull Meyer, 2008.

A day in the life early in the Lewis & Clark Expedition is depicted in this grouping. The artist who made this arrangement, Sabra Tull Meyer, has a fascinating website that tells the story of the monument’s creation along with great photographs of how the statues were created. Check out The Making of a Monument.

The Corps of Discovery by Eugene Daub (2000). This statue stands in Case Park on the Kansas City waterfront, and depicts Lewis, Clark, York, and Sacagawea with her baby Jean-Baptiste on her back.

The Kansas City monument was the centerpiece of the renovation of Case Park, a showpiece of urban renewal in downtown Kansas City. The monument is 18 feet high and is believed to be the largest Lewis & Clark memorial in existence.

Are there any outdoor sculptures of Lewis and Clark in the eastern states or in Missouri that I have missed? If so, let me know. In the next installment of this series, we’ll trek onward and see how Lewis and Clark are remembered on the Great Plains.

More reading: William Clark’s grave

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One of the most colorful members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was its oldest member, interpreter and sometime cook Toussaint Charbonneau – better known as “Mr. Sacagawea” and baby-daddy to young Pomp. One of the main things we know about Charbonneau from the Lewis and Clark journals is that he got on Lewis’s nerves. In his final request for pay for Charbonneau at the end of the expedition, Lewis dismissed him as a “man of no peculiar merit.” Clark, however, liked him better and kept up his acquaintance with Charbonneau long after the expedition had ended.

Lewis and Clark at Three Forks, by Edgar Paxton

Lewis and Clark at Three Forks, by Edgar Paxton. Charbonneau is depicted on the far right.

Born in Canada to French parents in 1767, Toussaint Charbonneau was a trapper and trader for the North West Company, a Canadian fur-trading concern. Charbonneau’s first appearance in the historical record – and also the first blemish on his reputation – come from the records of that company. On May 30, 1795, a recorder on one of the North West Company expeditions wrote: “Tousst. Charbonneau was stabbed at the Manitou-a-banc end of the Portage la Prairie, Manitoba in the act of committing a Rape upon her Daughter by an old Saultier woman with a Canoe Awl—a fate he highly deserved for his brutality.”

Charbonneau survived the incident, and by the time Lewis and Clark arrived at the Mandan-Hidatsa villages in the fall of 1804, he was still employed as a trapper and had been living among the Hidatsa for several years, now with two teenage Indian wives. One of these was Sacagawea, a Shoshone Indian who had been kidnapped by the Hidatsa around 1800. Charbonneau had bought Sacagawea from the Hidatsa, and she was pregnant with their first child. Hearing that Lewis and Clark were looking to hire interpreters, Charbonneau applied for the job. Clark wrote in his journal:

4th of Novr. a french man by Name Chabonah, who Speaks the Big Belley language visit us, he wished to hire & informed us his 2 Squars were Snake Indians, we engau him to go on with us and take one of his wives to interpet the Snake language The Indians Horses & Dogs live in the Same Lodge with themselves

Sagawea’s first meeting with Lewis and Clark occurred on November 11, when she came with her husband and his other Shoshone wife, Otter Woman, to present some buffalo robes as gifts to the officers. She gave birth to her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, on February 12, 1805. Despite the fact that she was a new mother, Lewis and Clark had high hopes that Charbonneau, Sacagawea and the baby would accompany them west in the spring. They were especially interested in Sacagawea, who could help them negiotiate with the Shoshone for horses to carry them across the Rocky Mountains.

Sacagawea's First Gift, November 1804 - by Michael Haynes

Sacagawea's First Gift, November 1804 - by Michael Haynes

Toussaint Charbonneau’s engagement with the Corps of Discovery was rocky from the start. On March 12, 1805, Clark noted “our Interpeter Shabonah, detumins on not proceeding with us as an interpeter under the terms mentioned yesterday he will not agree to work let our Situation be what it may not Stand a guard, and if miffed with any man he wishes to return when he pleases, also have the disposial of as much provisions as he Chuses to Carrye.” Clark deemed Charbonneau’s terms “in admissible” and concluded, “we Suffer him to be off the engagement which was only virbal.”

In other words, Charbonneau quit. A few days later, however, he had a change of heart. Clark wrote: “He [Charbonneau] was Sorry for the foolissh part he had acted and if we pleased he would accompany us agreeabley to the terms we had perposed and doe every thing we wished him to doe &c. &c.” It was back on again.

As key members of the expedition’s communications team, the Charbonneau family was in close contact with the captains throughout the expedition, often sharing the same tent. Clark in particular became fond of the family, particularly of Charbonneau’s wife “Janey” (Clark’s nickname for Sacagawea) and her baby “Pomp.” Clark even offered to educate the boy at his own expense, a promise he later made good on. On August 14, 1805, Clark notes that he rebuked Charbonneau “for Strikeing his woman at their Dinner.” While he did not put up with any mistreatment of Sacagawea, in general Clark seems to have not only tolerated Charbonneau, but actually liked him.

Charbonneau and Sacagawea with William Clark

Charbonneau and Sacagawea with William Clark

For Lewis, however, it was a different story. Lewis was not all that impressed with Charbonneau’s skill as an interpreter – he could speak Hidatsa imperfectly and English not at all – and even less impressed with his wilderness prowess. On April 13, 1805, Charbonneau’s lack of skill as a waterman went on display. Lewis wrote: “A suddon squall of wind struck us and turned the perogue so much on the side as to allarm Sharbono who was steering at the time, in this state of alarm he threw the perogue with her side to the wind, when the spritsail gibing was as near overseting the perogue as it was possible to have missed. the wind however abating for an instant I ordered Drewyer to the helm and the sails to be taken in, which was instant executed and the perogue being steered before the wind was agin plased in a state of security. this accedent was very near costing us dearly.”

Only a month later, an even worse potential disaster occurred on Charbonneau’s watch. Lewis and Clark were both walking on shore, and Charbonneau was again at the helm of the white pirogue, in which were stored the expedition’s papers, instruments, books, medicines, and most of their trade goods. Lewis recounted with “trepidation and horror” what happened next:

It happened unfortunately for us this evening that Charbono was at the helm of this Perogue, in stead of Drewyer, who had previously steered her; Charbono cannot swim and is perhaps the most timid waterman in the world; perhaps it was equally unluckey that Capt. C. and myself were both on shore at that moment, a circumstance which rarely happened; and tho’ we were on the shore opposite to the perogue, were too far distant to be heard or to do more than remain spectators of her fate… surfice it to say, that the Perogue was under sail when a sudon squawl of wind struck her obliquely, and turned her considerably, the steersman allarmed, in stead of puting her before the wind, lufted her up into it, the wind was so violent that it drew the brace of the squarsail out of the hand of the man who was attending it, and instantly upset the perogue and would have turned her completely topsaturva, had it not have been from the resistance mad by the oarning against the water; in this situation Capt. C and myself both fired our guns to attract the attention if possible of the crew and ordered the halyards to be cut and the sail hawled in, but they did not hear us; such was their confusion and consternation at this moment, that they suffered the perogue to lye on her side for half a minute before they took the sail in, the perogue then wrighted but had filled within an inch of the gunwals; Charbono still crying to his god for mercy, had not yet recollected the rudder, nor could the repeated orders of the Bowsman, Cruzat, bring him to his recollection untill he threatend to shoot him instantly if he did not take hold of the rudder and do his duty, the waves by this time were runing very high, but the fortitude resolution and good conduct of Cruzat saved her.

Replicas of the white and red pirogue on the Missouri River in Omaha, Nebraska

Replicas of the white and red pirogue on the Missouri River in Omaha, Nebraska

Still shaken by the near disaster, Lewis recalled his own mad impulse to jump in the water in a life-sacrificing attempt to save the pirogue. “I should have paid the forfit of my life for the madness of my project,” he wrote. “But this had the perogue been lost, I should have valued but little.”

Charbonneau’s stock with Lewis had fallen considerably, and not even his skill at making boudin blanc could restore the Captain’s faith in him. Despite the critical role Charbonneau played in the chain of interpretation once they reached the Shoshone, Lewis became further incensed with Charbonneau in August 1805 as the Corps of Discovery was preparing to trek on horseback into the Rocky Mountains. Charbonneau learned that the Shoshone were planning to decamp down the Missouri, a calamity that would have left Lewis, his party, and his baggage stranded in the mountains without a guide. Lewis wrote:

Artist's depiction of Toussaint Charbonneau

Artist's depiction of Toussaint Charbonneau, Lewis and Clark Murals Series

Our hunters joined us at noon with three deer the greater part of which I gave the indians. sometime after we had halted, Charbono mentioned to me with apparent unconcern that he expected to meet all the Indians from the camp on the Columbia tomorrow on their way to the Missouri. allarmed at this information I asked why he expected to meet them. he then informed me that the 1st Cheif had dispatched some of his young men this morning to this camp requesting the Indians to meet them tomorrow and that himself and those with him would go on with them down the Missouri, and consequently leave me and my baggage on the mountain or thereabouts. I was out of patience with the folly of Charbono who had not sufficient sagacity to see the consequencies which would inevitably flow from such a movement of the indians, and altho’ he had been in possession of this information since early in the morning when it had been communicated to him by his Indian woman yet he never mentioned it untill the after noon. I could not forbear speaking to him with some degree of asperity on this occasion.

From then on, at times when Lewis and Clark were separated, the Charbonneaus almost inevitably remained with Clark.

When the Corps arrived back at the Mandan-Hidatsa villages in August 1806, Charbonneau was given a voucher in the sum of $500.33, his payment for his interpreter duties. (Sacagawea received nothing.) The Charbonneaus remained there until the late fall of 1809, when they boarded a Missouri Fur Company barge and traveled to St. Louis. There Charbonneau cashed in his voucher and accepted his land warrant, another reward granted to all the men on the expedition.

The Fate of the Corps book

The Fate of the Corps by Larry E. Morris

However, farming did not agree with Charbonneau. He sold his land to Clark for $100 in 1811 and resumed his job as a fur trapper, this time with the Missouri Fur Company. Leaving his son Jean Baptiste in Clarks’ care, Charbonneau was stationed at Fort Manuel in present-day South Dakota when Sacagawea died in December 1812, leaving behind a young daughter, Lisette. William Clark became legal guardian to both Jean Baptiste and Lisette by order of a St. Louis orphan’s court in August 1813. Lisette did not survive childhood.

As for Charbonneau, he lived on until around 1840, continuing to scratch out a living as a trapper, trader, cook, and interpreter for the government. Charbonneau was at Fort Clark near the Mandan-Hidatsa villages in 1837 when a smallpox epidemic struck, killing his Indian wife at the time and decimating the native population. He later took another wife, a 14 year-old Assiniboine girl. It is not known exactly when or under what circumstances Charbonneau died. His estate of $320 was settled in 1843 by his son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.

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Across the Endless River, by Thad Carhart

It’s often been said of Ginger Rogers that she did everything that Fred Astaire did only backwards and wearing high heels. Another female icon, Sacagawea, is equally admired for doing everything that Lewis & Clark did, only carrying a newborn infant with her every step of the way. Legions of writers and fans have exaggerated Sacagawea’s role in the Corps of Discovery almost beyond recognition, but one constant remains: mother and child, trekking through the wilderness.

Thad Carhart’s new literary novel, Across the Endless River, starts where most people’s knowledge of Sacagawea and her son Baptiste leaves off. Given how he spent the first two years of his life, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, nicknamed Pomp by Captain William Clark, is a young boy forever along for the ride. From the start, Baptiste is an outsider caught up in a swirl of cultures with widely disparate values and expectations. Part of the year he spends at the Mandan villages in North Dakota, living a traditional lifestyle with his mother and his father, a rough old fur trapper. There Baptiste learns to know and understand the river and the natural world.

The other half of the year, Baptiste lives in St. Louis as the ward of Captain Clark. Clark is a loving guardian, and he sees that Baptiste is educated in the classics, schooled as a Catholic (the religion of his father), and allowed to develop his talents as a musician. In a moving scene, Clark is the one person who understands and shares eight-year-old Baptiste’s grief when they learn that Sacagawea has died at a frontier fort. As he grows up, Baptiste becomes skilled at passing between the two worlds. He also begins to realize that he will never be fully accepted in either.

Duke Paul Wilhelm of Wurttemberg traveled and collected throughout North America from 1822-1824. He is credited as one of the early explorers of the headwaters of the Missouri river.

At age 18, Baptiste’s life takes a surprising turn after he becomes a river guide for a German nobleman and naturalist, Duke Paul of Wurttemberg. Paul invites Baptiste to return to Europe with him to tour the continent and help him organize and describe the many specimens of animals and Indian artifacts he has collected on the trip. What young man would refuse? Within months, Baptiste is off to Europe and the adventure of his life.

The main storyline of Across the Endless River follows fish-out-of-water Baptiste on his peregrinations through Europe. At first, I was concerned that we had started down the well-trodden path of “wise Native American meets clueless Europeans.” But the book is much more thoughtful than that. Baptiste is astute enough to notice that Duke Paul and his fellow nobles could learn a lot from his Mandan buddies back home, but he also begins to discover that he too has a lot to learn about life.

Baptiste has been friendly with a few tavern wenches, but now he becomes involved with two women who couldn’t be more different. He begins a passionate secret affair with Therese, a much older noblewoman who seems to live life on her own terms. Then there is Maura, an Irish-French girl about his own age who is caught between family duty and her own desire to be a doctor–an impossibility for a woman in Europe. Baptiste begins to realize that he is not the only one who faces decisions, compromises, and constraints on his life.

A far cry from the Mandan villages: Ludwigsburg Palace near Stuttgart. Duke Paul called this place home.

Though Across the Endless River is light on plot, the pages turn easily. Carhart has a down-to-earth writing style and a wonderful eye for the telling and intriguing details for Paris, Wuttermberg, and the fabulous royal palaces and salons in which the young frontiersman spends his days. Servants glide through secret passages, enabling the lavish lifestyle but also furthering their own agendas, while royals connive and rail against their destinies. Duke Paul, in particular, dreams of becoming a great naturalist but struggles with frustration, his own disorganized nature, and his unwillingess to give up his royal perks.

Baptiste Charbonneau stayed in Europe until he was 25, then returned to America to spend the rest of his life as a frontier trapper, guide, and mountain man. From the outside looking in, his sojourn among these European royals appears to be an exotic adventure. But Carhart hits on a universal theme that makes this historical novel more than a curiosity: the journey of a young person to understand himself; to see his fellow human beings as they really are, with all their foibles and dreams; and to make his own decisions. By the end of Across the Endless River, the son of Sacagawea is no longer just along for the ride.

More reading:
Thad Carhart’s website
Sacagawea’s Boy: The Story of Pomp

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Sacagawea dollar

Pomp immortalized with his mom on the Sacagawea dollar

The smallest member of the Lewis & Clark expedition, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, had a unique and colorful life. Pomp was born to Sacagawea and her husband, Toussaint Charbonneau, on February 11, 1805, when Lewis and Clark were staying at Fort Mandan in present-day North Dakota. Charbonneau, a French fur trapper described by Meriwether Lewis as having “no particular merit,” had signed on with the Lewis & Clark expedition as an interpreter, agreeing to bring Sacagawea along to interpret with her own people, the Shoshone Indians. Lewis and Clark therefore had a great stake in Sacagawea’s health and well being. Lewis assisted at the birth, pulverizing some rattlesnake rattle into a folk remedy tea to help her “bring forth.”

Sacagawea, by all accounts, was a likeable young woman of good sense and character, and she endeared herself to the men of the expedition during the long journey with her stoic courage, helpfulness, and devotion to her newborn, Jean Baptiste. William Clark loved the little boy and nicknamed him “Pomp.” The cute doings of Pomp occasionally appear in Clark’s account of the journey. Indeed, Clark became very attached to the whole Charbonneau family, often inviting them to accompany him on his scouting missions. For several anxious days in May 1806, Pomp became dangerously ill, and both captains doctored him, recording his condition in their journals every day for a week.

Pompey's Pillar

Pompey's Pillar, the landform named after Pomp, near Billings, Montana

When the expedition arrived back in the Mandan villages in 1806 and had to leave the Charbonneaus behind, Clark was palpably distraught. He immediately fired off a letter to Charbonneau offering to raise and educate Pomp, “my little dancing boy,” who was not even yet weaned.

In 1809, the Charbonneaus moved near St. Louis, where Clark tried to help them make a living and saw to the baptism of Jean Baptiste. In 1811, when Jean Baptiste was six years old, his parents decided they’d had enough of civilization and headed back up the Missouri. They left the boy in Clark’s care to begin his education. Tragically, Sacagawea never saw her son again. She died in December 1812 at the fur trading post of Fort Manuel near the present-day town of Kenel, South Dakota.

Sacagawea had another child sometime in 1811 or 1812, a girl named Lisette. Officials at Fort Manuel, believing for a time that Charbonneau had been killed in an Indian massacre, took Lisette to St. Louis to Clark. Not much is known about her. Some sources say she lived to young adulthood, but the lack of mention of her in Clark’s letters or papers casts doubt upon this idea. The report of Charbonneau’s death proved to be false. He lived on, working as a guide in the west until his death in 1843, about 80 years of age, the husband to many Indian wives over the years.

As for Jean Baptiste, he ended up living a very adventurous life. Clark gave him the best available education, at both Catholic and Baptist schools. In the classical tradition, he learned not only English, but Latin and Greek. He was especially fond of Shakespeare and was a talented violinist. As a youngster, Pomp hung around Clark’s Indian Museum in St. Louis and told visitors stories about the expedition, often saying that he was “born in a canoe.”

It was thought for some time that Baptiste actually lived with the Clarks, but this doesn’t seem to have been the case. Instead, he seems to have lived at a boarding school where other half-Indian children were also being educated. Historians like James Holmberg have speculated that Clark’s wife, Julia, may not have been too keen on taking in another woman’s child, especially a half-Indian.

Not surprisingly, Jean Baptiste had a traveling bone. When he was 16, Clark gave him permission to go up the Missouri as a fur trader. There Baptiste met a German prince who had come to the United States to hunt and study plant and animal life. The prince took Baptiste back to Europe, where he led hunting expeditions for German royalty. While in Europe, Baptiste played the violin for Ludwig van Beethoven and learned German, Spanish, and French. He also fathered a child, a circumstance which may have hastened his return to the United States in 1829.

Pomp then embarked on a career as a mountain man. Anyone who met him never forgot the Shakespeare-quoting half-Indian trapper. Baptiste earned a reputation for being courageous, hospitable, and funny. He even showed off his years in civilization by making a mean mint julep out of wild mint leaves.

Jean Baptiste Charbonneau's grave

Memorial at Jean Baptiste Charbonneau's grave, near Jordan Valley, Oregon

In later years, Baptiste worked as a guide, including a stint guiding the Mormons in 1846. He tried his hand at politics, serving as the Alcalde (mayor) of San Luis Rey in California. Like many adventurous men of the West, he got caught up in the California Gold Rush and apparently got a permanent case of gold fever. He died in 1866, age 61, on his way to newly opened gold fields in Montana.

More good reading:

Pomp: The True Story of the Baby on the Sacagawea Dollar

Sacagawea’s Story

My Boy Pomp: About that Name

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