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RG0883.AM:  Alexis Merrill Charbonneau, 1850-1939

Notebook:  1933

Size:  One volume


Alexis Charbonneau was born in Ogdensburg, NY in 1850 of French and Irish parentage. His early training consisted of classical French and Latin studies given in hopes of preparing him for priesthood, but after the death of his mother he ran away from school and his father taught him the blacksmithing trade. Early in his teens he became fascinated by stories of the west with its mining camps and at 17 he yielded to the lure and came west to Sioux City. After a brief stay he went up the Missouri on a packet to Yankton and then on to Fort Pierre. Here was plenty of opportunity for a young smith for there were guns to be repaired, scissors to be made, horse shoes to be put on, cooking utensils to be fashioned, on down the multitudinous tasks that a people far from civilization would find.

So here young Alex found life exciting enough to fulfill his thirst for adventure, so he went to work. For several years he worked as traveling blacksmith for a stage coach company which carried mail and passengers to and from the Black Hills. He has been on stages when they were held up, and he fished from rivers the bodies of men shot by Indians. In Fort Pierre he married and established his home as one of the few permanent residents. After the Fort Pierre days, Alex moved to the Rosebud country to help build the Rosebud Indian Agency. His wife was the daughter of a first settler in Sioux City.

This information was taken from Alexis Charbonneau’s Find-A-Grave record.


This collection is comprised of the reminiscences and stories of Alex Charbonneau, a purported descendant of Toussaint Charbonneau and Sacagawea. Dated August 14, 1933, the volume covers the time period of 1870s-1890s. Some of what is written is from firsthand knowledge, but a lot seems to come from secondhand information. He tells of his time as a stagecoach driver at Fort Pierre, South Dakota, 1881 or 1882, and other jobs he had. He also writes of Indian Wars (Little Big horn, Minnesota Massacre); Indian customs such as the Buffalo Dance, the Ghost Dance, and marriage customs; forts and Indian agencies, in particular the Cheyenne River Agency, South Dakota; cowboy life with mentions of a cattle drive; gold prospecting in California and Alaska; and related subjects. He writes of Alexis, the Grand Duke of Russia, and his buffalo hunt in Nebraska.


Notebook, 1933


Subject headings:

Arikara Indians

Bison hunting

Canary, Martha Jane “Calamity Jane,” 1852-1903

Charbonneau, Alexis Merrill, 1850-1939

Cheyenne River Agency (South Dakota)


Custer, George Armstrong, 1839-1876

Dupree, Frederick, 1818-1898

Fort Laramie (Wyoming)

Fort Pierre (South Dakota)

Gold mines and mining

Indians of North America

Indians of North America — Wars

Kelly, Luther Sage “Yellowstone,” 1849-1928

Little Bighorn, Battle of, Montana, 1876

Marriage customs and rites

Military posts

Siouan Indians

Sitting Bull, 1831-1890

Spotted Tail Indian Agency


Swift Bear, 1827-1909


Revised TMM         08-29-2016