This is a picture of the cemetery located behind St. Stephen Church of Richwoods Missouri. Photographed: June 27, 1999 by Gene Carroll
According to the church records, the first person buried in the St. Stephen Cemetery was a 21 year old named Constant Cordier. Constant passed away on February 25, 1848.
That same year, two additional burials took place. Sadly both were children and both were in April. On April 5th, 3 year old Charles Gratiot was laid to rest and on the April 30th a 3 year old unnamed child of Paschal and L (CABACIE) Boyer
was buried. Ten additional people found their final resting place in 1849 and by the end of 1851 fifteen more people were respectfully laid to rest in the fields behind the church.
Within this beautiful old church are memories, histories and wonderful leads which offer a wealth of information
and knowledge about the past history of Richwoods.
Many well known names can be found within the St. Stephen Church records and many
believe St. Stephen have an important piece of U.S. history right in their back yard.
Quoting an article writiten by Joseph Kenny of the St. Louis Review on July 14, 2006
"A gravestone (pictured below) in the cemetery at St. Stephen reads: "In memory of Toussaint Charboneau, Born Mar. 1, 1781, Died Feb. 19, 1866." Charboneau was the interpreter for the Lewis and Clark expedition and husband of Sacagawea.
“The Charboneaus out here are positive he was on the expedition,” Father Robert Liss told the Review in an account a few years ago. Stories have been passed down through generations from Charboneau about the Lewis and Clark expedition.
According to a written account by Harriet Eugenie Charboneau Doyen, Toussaint Charboneau’s granddaughter, he was born in Montreal, Canada, one of four brothers orphaned very young. He began trading with Native Americans at a young age and learned many Native American dialects. He was an employee of the Northwest Fur Trading Co.
The journals of Lewis and Clark cite that in 1805, Charboneau and his two common-law wives were living with the Hidatsa Indians. In April, Charboneau, Sacagawea and their newborn son, Jean Baptiste, joined Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their expedition to explore the Missouri River. Both Charboneau and Sacagawea served as interpreters throughout the next 16 months.
Not much is known about him after the expedition. His family left Lewis and Clark in August 1806. He and Sacagawea later sent their son to St. Louis to be raised by Clark, but supposedly they returned to the upper Missouri Indian villages. Jean Baptiste went to St. Louis University and is depicted on a coin honoring Sacagawea.
In 1822 a Toussaint Charboneau bought land in Richwoods, according to Washington County records. At that time, the area was mostly farmland and lead and zinc mines.
Harriet Charboneau Doyen’s account says that he operated a mine and set up a trading post that gradually developed into a general store. He married Marie Laviolette at St. Joachim Parish in Old Mines in 1832. He also adopted Marie’s son, Louis Malette, who was thereafter known as Louis Charboneau.
Some believe that Louis really was Charboneau’s son.
Louis had 17 children, from whom the current Charboneaus in Richwoods are descended.
Some don’t believe it is the same Toussaint Charboneau buried in the grave as the explorer. Others are determined that it is the explorer because nobody knows where the real Toussaint Charboneau is buried or when he died exactly, and because so many of Charboneau descendants have believed he is the one.
The cemetery is worth visiting for other historic reasons. Included are graves of Confederate and Union soldiers buried next to each other.
Click here to read another St. Louis Review Article about Charboneau's grave.