16. Charrette Creek Opposite Washington, Missouri

Missouri River

View northwest, upstream

Aerial photo of a city on the muddy Missouri River

© 2000 Airphoto—Jim Wark


On 25 May 1804, seven travel days and about forty river-miles above St. Charles,the expedition camped near a small village at the mouth of a creek called Charrette. Its seven French families had arrived only a few years before, drawn by good hunting, opportunities for Indian trade, and the security of the small fort established there by the Spanish around 1796. The family of Daniel Boone, the famous frontiersman from Kentucky, moved there sometime after 1804.

"The people at this Village is pore, houses Small," Clark observed, but they were hospitable toward the captains at least, for "they Sent us milk & eggs to eat." Their little community was the last settlement of whites on the Missouri River. Here they also met the young French-Canadian, Régis Loisel, who had been a partner with Hugh Heney in trading with the Sioux, and was returning from his fort on Cedar Island, 1200 miles farther up the Missouri, where he had spent the previous winter with another partner, Pierre-Antoine Tabeau.

Passing this way again on 20 September 1806, the Corps knew they were finally back in home territory when they saw some cows on the bank, "which was a joyfull Sight to the party," said Clark. Soon they saw the village, and "the men raised a Shout and Sprung upon their ores." To celebrate, "they discharged 3 rounds with a harty Cheer, which was returned from five tradeing boats" that were moored there. Two young Scotsmen gave the men some beef, pork, and flour, and treated the captains to "a very agreeable supper." The people there "Seem to express great pleasure at our return, and acknowledged them selves much astonished in Seeing us. . . . they informed us that we were Supposed to have been lost long Since."

The Missouri River washed away all remains of the original village of La Charette many years ago. When Lewis and Clark were there, the mouth of Charrette Creek was across the river and perhaps seven miles upstream from where it now enters the Missouri opposite the present town of Washington. The town, named after George Washington, was platted in 1827 on the site of a Spanish fort, San Juan del Misuri (St. John's of the Missouri), which existed there from 1796 until 1803.


From Discovering Lewis & Clark from the Air
Photography by Jim Wark

Text by Joseph Mussulman
Reproduced by permission of Mountain Press