CHARBONNEAU by Karri Samson, PCHS Historian Much has been written about Sacajawea, her little son "Pomp", and their Lewis and Clark adventures. But not much is known of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, the desk clerk at the Orleans Hotel in Auburn (now the site of the Shell gas station in Old Town Auburn). What brought this well educated, well traveled man to Placer County? As with many others who came, it was probably the lure of gold. According to Thompson and West, he spent the winter of 1848-49 on Murderers Bar on the North Fork of the American River with trailblazer Jim Beckworth. He next shows up in the 1860 census as "living near Auburn". Finally, in the 1861 Directory of Placer County, he is found as a desk clerk at the Orleans Hotel. Today in Auburn, the only reminder of his time here, is a sign at the new Holiday Inn proclaiming one of its meeting rooms as the "Charbonneau Room".  Charbonneau's adventures began in 1805 when, as an infant, he accompanied his father Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian trader, and his mother, Sacajawea, as they led Lewis and Clark on their 5,000 mile 20-month trip of discovery to the Pacific and back. Nicknamed "Pomp", a Shoshone term which describes the first born male child. "Pompey's Pillar, a landmark 28 miles east of Billings, Mont, was named for him by Clark. Clark became very fond of the boy, and later saw to his education in St. Louis, Mo. In 1823, Prince Paul Wilhelm of Germany, on a scientific mission to America met Charbonneau in a small settlement on the Missouri River. The Prince took a liking to the young man and persuaded him to return to Germany with him. He spent the next six years learning numerous foreign languages, traveling throughout Europe and North Africa and moving in the finest social circles with the Prince. In 1829, Prince Paul again ventured to the American West with Charbonneau by his side.  At this point, Charbonneau left to lead the life of a mountain man. He scouted the route to be followed by the Mormon Battalion from New Mexico to San Diego in 1846-47. California was taken by US forces in 1847 and Charbonneau was appointed alcalde of a sub-agency for Indians at Mission San Luis Rey. He resigned in less than a year. Many believe it was because he could not tolerate the unjust treatment of the local Indians.   It is at this point that he ventured to Auburn. His activities during the years between 1848 and 1860 are unaccounted for. At his death, the Placer Herald published a column from information supplied by early Placer County Hotelkeeper, Dana Perkins. It states, "Mr. Charbonneau was known to most of the pioneer citizens of this region, being himself one of the first adventurers upon the discovery of gold where he remained with little intermission until his recent departure for the new gold field in Montana."   He headed for gold fields in Montana in the spring of 1866 at the age of 61, but contracted pneumonia at the Owyhee River in southeastern Oregon. His two partners helped him to the nearest settlement, Inskip's Station. He died there May 16, 1866. Nothing is left of the settlement near what is now Donner, Oregon. Charbonneau's gravesite has been designated a National Historical Place. Ed. Note: There are many articles on Charbonneau. Local author Norman McLeod, Mrs. James Reading, Editor of Times Gone By, A San Diego Historical Society publication; an article by Ella Clark and Margot Evans published by the University Press; "Pomp" is First Baby Ever on a U. S. Coin, by George W. Peabody, published in the California Historian, many newspaper articles and a publication by the National Park Service, Fort Clatsop, a Charbonneau Family Portrait are just a few.                                                                   ° ° °
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