St. Charles (; Spanish: "San Carlos") 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 2nd largest city in St. Charles County. It lies just to the northwest of St. Louis, Missouri on the Missouri River, and, for a time, played a significant role in the United States' westward expansion. It is the third oldest city west of the Mississippi, founded in 1765 as Les Petites Côtes, "The Little Hills", by Louis Blanchette, a French Canadian fur trader, and was the last "civilized" stop for the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804. The city served as the first Missouri capital from 1821 to 1826. It is the site for the Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne shrine. It is also the home base for the St. Louis National Weather Service Forecast Office, serving central, east-central and northeastern Missouri, as well as west-central and southwest Illinois.
According to Hopewell's rather romantic account, Blanchette met another French Canadian (Bernard Guillet) at the site of St. Charles in 1765. Blanchette, determined to settle at the site, asked if Guillet, who had become the chief of a Dakota tribe, had chosen a name for it.
Blanchette settled there in 1769 under the authority of the Spanish governor of Upper Louisiana, and served as its civil and military leader until his death in 1793. During this time perhaps only a couple dozen buildings were built. Although the settlement was under Spanish jurisdiction, the settlers themselves remained primarily French Canadians.
Fort San Carlos
The first church, built in 1791, was dedicated to San Carlos Borromeo, and the town became known as San Carlos del Misuri: "St. Charles of the Missouri". This church was destroyed by a tornado in 1916. The Spanish Lieutenant-Governor Carlos de Hault de Lassus appointed Daniel Boone commandant of the Femme Osage District, which he served until the United States government assumed control in 1804. The name of the town, San Carlos, was anglicized to become St. Charles. William Clark arrived in St. Charles on May 16, 1804. With him were 40 men and three boats; there 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 excited town was very hospitable to the explorers. Lewis arrived via St. Charles Rock Road on May 20, and the expedition launched the next day in a keelboat at 3:30 pm. St. Charles was the last established American town they would visit for more than two and a half years.
State capital and growth
When Missouri was granted statehood in 1821, a decision was made 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 capitol, 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. These he published upon his return 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. Off of Interstate 70 going westbound to the right of the First Capital Drive exit, a highway sign is displayed with a logo and information regarding this claim. Kansas and Pennsylvania also lay claim to the first interstate project.