St. Charles is a city in and the county seat of St. Charles County, Missouri, United States. The population was 65,794 at the 2010 census, making St. Charles the ninth-largest city in Missouri. It lies to the northwest of St. Louis, Missouri on the Missouri River.
Founded in about 1769 as Les Petites Côtes, "The Little Hills", by Louis Blanchette, a French-Canadian fur trader, when the area was nominally ruled by Spain following the Seven Years' War, it is the third-oldest city in Missouri. For a time, it played a significant role in the United States' westward expansion.
It was settled primarily by French-speaking colonists from Canada in its early days and was considered the last "civilized" stop by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804, which was exploring the western territory after the United States made the Louisiana Purchase. The city served as the first Missouri capital from 1821 to 1826. It is the site of the Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne shrine.
PreColumbian cultures inhabited the area for at least 7,000 years. When the Europeans arrived the area was inhabited by Ilini, Osage and Missouri nations.
According to Hopewell's Romantic Legends of the Missouri and Mississippi: Blanchette met another French Canadian (Bernard Guillet) at the site of St. Charles in 1765. Blanchette, determined to settle there, asked if Guillet, who had become a chief of a Dakota tribe, had chosen a name for it.
Blanchette settled there in about 1769 under the authority of the Spanish governor of Upper Louisiana (the area had been ceded by France to Spain under an agreement with Great Britain following French defeat in the war). He was appointed as its civil and military leader, serving until his death in 1793. Although the settlement was under Spanish jurisdiction, the settlers were primarily Native American and French Canadians who had migrated from northern territories.
Considered to begin in St. Charles, the Boone's Lick Trail along the Missouri River lowlands was the major overland route for settlement of central and western Missouri. This area became known as the Boonslick or "Boonslick Country." At Franklin, Missouri, the trail ended. Westward progress continued on the Santa Fe Trail.
San Carlos Borromeo
The first church, built in 1791, was Catholic and dedicated to the Spanish saint San Carlos Borromeo. The town became known as San Carlos del Misuri: "St. Charles of the Missouri". The original location of the church is not known but a replica has been built just off Main Street. The third St. Charles Borromeo Church now stands on Fifth Street.
The Spanish Lieutenant-Governor Carlos de Hault de Lassus appointed Daniel Boone as commandant of the Femme Osage District, which he served until the United States government assumed control in 1804 following the Louisiana Purchase. The name of the town, San Carlos, was anglicized to St. Charles. William Clark arrived in St. Charles on May 16, 1804. With him were 40 men and three boats; they made final preparations, as they waited for Meriwether Lewis to arrive from St. Louis. They attended dances, dinners, and a church service during this time, and the town residents, excited to be part of the national expedition, were very hospitable to the explorers. Lewis arrived via St. Charles Rock Road on May 20. The expedition launched the next day in a keelboat at 3:30 pm. St. Charles was the last established American town the expedition visited for more than two and a half years.
State capital and growth
When Missouri was granted statehood in 1821, the legislature decided to build a "City of Jefferson" to serve as the state capital, in the center of the state, overlooking the Missouri River. Since this land was undeveloped at the time, a temporary capital was needed. St. Charles beat eight other cities in a competition to house the temporary capital, offering free meeting space for the legislature in rooms located above a hardware store. This building is preserved as the First Missouri State Capitol State Historic Site and may be toured. The Missouri government continued to meet there until Jefferson City was ready in 1826.
Gottfried Duden was a German who visited in the area in 1824. Travelling under the guidance of Daniel M. Boone, he wrote extensive accounts of life in St. Charles County during his year there. He published these after returning to Germany in 1829, and his favorable impressions of the area led to the immigration of a number of Germans in 1833. The first permanent German settler in the region was probably Louis Eversman, who arrived with Duden but decided to stay. St. Charles, Missouri, is where the first claimed interstate project started in 1956. A state highway marker is displayed with a logo and information regarding this claim, off Interstate 70 going westbound, to the right of the First Capital Drive exit. Kansas and Pennsylvania also lay claim to the first interstate project.