Preservation Journal


Malcolm Drummond, Historic Sites in St. Charles County, Missouri

(St. Louis: Harland Bartholomew and Associates, 1976)

[Prior to the point where I pick up the narrative, Drummond discusses the Indian
presence in Saint Charles County prior to the arrival of European settlers.]
The first European settlement in the county was established at St. Charles in
1769 by a Frenchman, Louis Blanchette, called "The Hunter." Blanchette was
commissioned by the Governor of Upper Louisiana to establish a post under
Spanish rule. Having visited the area five years before, he was impressed with
the hunting lands. He named the settlement "Les Petites Cotes" and he served
as the civil military governor of the area until his death in 1793.

The first of the American settlers to the county is believed to have been the
Boone family ... [mentions Daniel Boone and Daniel M. Boone]
The large wave of German immigration which began in the 1830s had a great
influence on the county... [Mentions Gottfried Duden and Louis Eversman]
St. Charles County was organized in 1812 with St. Charles as the county seat. In
1817, Howard County was formed by cutting off the western part of the county.
Montgomery and Lincoln counties were organized in 1818, reducing St. Charles
County to its present size.

One of the first permanent European settlements on the Missouri River, St.
Charles, was established by Louis Blanchette, a French Canadian fur trader and
hunter. Having explored the area five years earlier on a successful hunting trip,
Blanchette returned in April 1769 with a group of followers from his home of St.
Louis de Lauzon, Quebec, Canada. The Spanish governor of Upper Louisiana
had commissioned him to establish the post under the authority of the Spanish
government. The new settlement was called "Les Petites Cotes" in apparent
reference to the small hills overlooking the Missouri River. Several log houses, a
log church, and a grist mill were constructed near the Blanchette Creek in the
city blook now bordered by Boonslick Road, McDonoough Street and Main Street.

Blanchette developed a prosperous fur trading business and was, until his death
in 1793, the settlement's civil and military governor. The settlement was
surveyed in 1786 by August Chouteau, the beginning of the development of a
"town." In 1791, the second Catholic church was constructed off Main Street
facing present-day Jackson Street and was dedicated 7 Nov 1791 by Manuel
Perez, the lieutenant governor of Louisiana. On that day, Perez officially changed
the name of the settlement from Les Petites Cotes to San Carlos in honor of St.
Carlos Borromeo, the patron saint of the new church and of Charles IV, King of

Following Blanchette, the position of commandant was held by Don Carlos Tayon
(1793-1801) and James Mackay (1801-1804). In 1804, San Carlos, along with
the remainder of Upper Louisiana, no longer owed allegiance to France as it
became part of the United States of America through the Louisiana Purchase. At
that time, the Louisiana Territory was still governed by the Spanish, the people
unaware of Napoleon's secret treaty [in 1800--Justin Watkins] with Spain deeding
the large territory back to France. On 9 Mar 1804, the residents of San Carlos
gathered at the commandant's headquarters on Main Street by Blanchette Creek
and were told they were now living in the United States. The Spanish flag was
lowered, the French flag raised and lowered, and finally the American flag was
raised, this being followed by a joyous celebration.

Because of its strategic location on the Missouri River, St. Charles was known as
the "Key to the West." The city entertained Captain Meriwether Lewis,
Lieutenant William Clark and their expedition from 16 to 20 May 1804. The
expedition was enroute to chart the course of the Missouri and Columbia rivers
westward to the Pacific Ocean. Two years and 132 days later, after
accomplishing a successful journey, the expedition returned to St. Charles.

Boonslick Road [now Boone's Lick Road--Justin Watkins], the main highway out
of St. Charles from which grew the Santa Fe Trail, the Salt Lick Trail, and the
Great Oregon Trail, was established from St. Charles to the town of Franklin in
Howard County in May 1820.

St. Charles served as the focal point for the establishment of the route to Santa
Fe. President John Quincy Adams, in 1825, appointed Benjamin Reeves, George
Sibley, and Thomas Mathers as commissioners to develop the route. These three
men met at Eckert's Tavern (now 515 South Main Street) to write their reports
concerning the survey and marking of the road to Santa Fe.

The third post office west of the Mississippi River was established in St. Charles
in 1806. Post coaches from St. Louis stopped at the post office at 202 South
Main then proceeded west over the Boonslick Road. The Sacred Heart Convent
was established in 1818, the first in the nation. The first public school in the city
was founded in 1822, and Lindenwood College, originally Lindenwood School,
was started in 1827. [Note: Lindenwood became a college in 1853 and a
university in 1996.--Justin Watkins]

Missouri was admitted to the Union on 10 Aug 1821 and St. Charles was state
capital from that date until 1826. As the center of the new state's population,
the city was accessible by the rivers, the post road from St. Louis and Boonslick