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[photo] Painting "Lewis and Clark: The Departure from St. Charles, May 21, 1804" by Gary R. Lucy
Courtesy of the Gary R. Lucy Gallery, Inc. www.garylucy.com

St. Charles, Missouri, served as the final embarkation point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. At noon on May 14, 1804, Clark and approximately 42 men docked at St. Charles, an outpost for traders dating from about 1769. St. Charles, the first permanent European settlement on the Missouri River and one of the first in the state of Missouri, was described as being "about 100 houses, the most of them small and indefferent and about 450 inhabitents Chiefly French, those people appear Pore, polite and harmonious" (DeVoto 1997, 4). Here Clark met with two more members of the expedition, Pierre Cruzatte and Francois Labiche, who served as boatmen and interpreters. While awaiting Lewis's arrival the men entertained the townspeople on the boats, danced at balls and attended a Mass conducted by a local priest. Some members of the crew celebrated too much, resulting in court-martials and punishments. John Collins received 50 lashes for being absent without leave (AWOL), misbehaving at a ball and using disrespectful language to Clark. William Werner and Hugh Hall were also found guilty of being AWOL and received sentences of 25 lashes each. Lewis arrived at 6:30pm on May 20 and the entire crew set out on their journey to the Pacific Ocean on May 21, 1804, to the sound of "three cheers" from the audience lining the riverbank. Clark noted in his journal that day:

Missouri First State Capitol Building
National Register of Historic Places Collection

. . . All the forepart of the day arranging our party and procureing the different articles necessary for them at this place. Dined with Mr. Ducett and set out at half passed three oClock under three cheers from the gentlemen on the bank and proceeded on . . . We camped in a bend at the Mo. of a small creek. Soon after we came too the Indians arrived with 4 deer as a present, for which we gave them two qt. of whiskey . . . (Jones 2000, 2)

After reaching the Pacific Ocean, Lewis and Clark retraced their journey and returned safely to the St. Charles riverfront on September 26, 1806. The St. Charles Historic District includes numerous 19th-century residential and commercial buildings, and is the home of the first Missouri State Capitol building (1821-1826).

To reach the St. Charles Historic District take Hwy. I-70 west from downtown St. Louis for approximately 15 miles, go across the Missouri River Bridge and take the first St. Charles exit. Turn right and follow the signs to the historic section of St. Charles. Please call the Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau at 1-800-366-2427, or visit their website for further information.

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