St. Charles' Rich Heritage: A Historical Perspective
Late in 1803, Lewis & Clark arrived in the area but the Spanish governor refused to allow the expedition into the Louisiana Territory, denying he had received information about the purchase. The men built Camp Wood in Illinois, where the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers join. Here the men prepared and trained for the long journey ahead.
Additional men were enlisted until the Corps of Discovery consisted of over 40 well-trained men. During the winter months many trips were made to neighboring villages and towns, including St. Charles, St. Louis, and Cahokia. Additional supplies were purchased and important maps and information were acquired.
Finally, in May 1804, all the preparations for the expedition were complete except for last minute details, which Captain Lewis was taking care of in St. Louis. Clark and the men left Camp Wood behind on May 14, 1804 and journeyed to St. Charles, where they established a camp to wait for Captain Lewis to join them.
As the men approached St. Charles, Clark wrote in his journal, " . . . a number Spectators French and Indians flocked to the bank to See the party. This Village is about one mile in length . . . about 450 inhabitants Chiefly French, those people appear pore, polite and harmonious."
Two very experienced river men, Pierre Cruzatte and Francois Labishe, were enlisted in St. Charles as the last members of the expedition.
The men reloaded the 55-foot keel boat, putting the equipment and supplies to the bow of the boat. Additional supplies were put in two other boats, the 41-foot red pirogue and the 39-foot white pirogue. Captain Clark " . . . gave out tin cups and knives to the French hands."