Visitors Guide to
St. Charles County, Missouri
First State Capitol
Situated a short drive northwest of St.
Louis is the city of St. Charles which traces its history to the late 18th
century. Founded in 1769 by Louis Blanchette, a French Canadian fur
trader and hunter, as a post along the Missouri River, St. Charles is the
first European settlement along this waterway. Blanchette named the
settlement Les Petit Cotes (The Little Hills) and served as its civil and
military Governor until his death in 1793. In 1791 the population of the
settlement had grown to around 225 and a second Catholic church was built
and dedicated to San Carlos Borromeo, the patron saint of King Charles IV
of Spain. On the day this church was dedicated the settlementís name was
changed to San Carlos, shortened from the churchís name to also honor
King Charles IV.
The first American settlers began
arriving in the 1790's. Daniel Boone, the famous frontiersman, became one of
the first settlers in St. Charles County by building a home in nearby
Defiance in 1799. Boone moved to the region after he lost title to his land
claims when Kentucky became a state in 1792 after hearing from his son,
Daniel M., and other hunters of the great abundance of game and fertile
country. In 1800, Boone was appointed magistrate of the Femme Osage District
in St. Charles County and received a large tract of land for his services.
Boone again lost his land after the United States took control after the
Louisiana Purchase but was later granted a tract of land by a special act of
Congress in 1814.
Lewis and Clark Connection
In 1804, when the Louisiana Purchase was
finalized, the settlementís name was Anglicized to St. Charles from San
Carlos. On May 16, 1804, William Clark arrived in St. Charles, still at the
time a predominately French community, with the main body of the Corps of
Discovery to await the arrival of Meriwether Lewis who was still attending
business in St. Louis. While in St. Charles, the expedition rearranged the
goods in their boats, bought additional supplies, and enjoyed the
hospitality of the town. Lewis arrived from St. Louis on May 20, and the
expedition resumed their epic journey up the Missouri the next day. St.
Charles has been designated as a Lewis and Clark site on the Lewis and Clark
National Historic Trail and is the home of the Lewis & Clark Boat House
and Nature Center that is the home base for the replica boats (a keelboat and
two pirogues) of the Discovery Expedition of St. Charles. An impressive new
Lewis and Clark monument featuring Lewis, Clark, and Seaman can be found in Frontier Park along the banks of
the Missouri River and the annual Frontier Days in May commemorates the
Expedition's departure from St. Charles on their great adventure.
|Visit our special Lewis
and Clark Section to learn more about the Corps of Discoveryís
experience during their stay in the Middle Mississippi River Valley. greatriverroad.comís
special coverage includes information on all of the regionís sites and
events as well as supplemental articles relating to the expeditionís
experience during the winter of 1803-04.
St. Charles served as the territorial
capitol of Missouri and as itís first state capitol from June 4, 1821
until October 1, 1826 when the state capitol was moved to its permanent
location in Jefferson City. The second floor of two adjoining Federal-style
brick buildings on Main Street owned by local merchants provided office and
meeting space for both legislatures and the governor. This building (photo
recently restored as a State Historic Site with a interpretive center, is
open to the public and operated by the Missouri Department of Natural
St. Charles saw its population and
economic base expand as a result of the western expansion and German
immigration. Its inclusion in the railway and bridge building networks
helped St. Charles make a successful transition from a primarily river town.
One of its newest industries is tourism and the success that St. Charles is
experiencing in this new endeavor is evident along Main Street. This
district is on the National Historic Register and contains over 30 notable
structures that now house a variety of restaurants, shops, and other
businesses. Friendly and informative people who help visitors
with brochures, directions, and answers to questions staff a centrally
located Visitors Center. St. Charles' newest attraction is the Foundry
Art Centre. This new facility has 5,000 square feet of exhibition
space in four galleries that features an on-going rotation of special
touring exhibitions, curated exhibits and juried competitions. 21 studios for artists have been built on the mezzanine
level of the building that allows
visitors to see and talk with the artists as they work. The wide variety of special
events that occur throughout the year make St. Charles an interesting stop
along the Great River Road or as a destination in itself. Its easy driving distance from St.
Louis also makes St. Charles a great short distance getaway for people of
metropolitan St. Louis.