"the party being extreemly anxious to get down ply their ores very well, we Saw Some cows on the bank which was a joyfull Sight to the party and Caused a Shout to be raised for joy at [blank] P M we Came in Sight of the little french Village called Charriton [Charrette]."
William Clark, September 20, 1806
On Sep. 20, 1806, the Lewis and Clark Expedition camped near this site on the return voyage of their epic trek across the continent. Only three days out from St. Louis, the men on the Corps of Discovery were eager to reach the ending point of the expedition, and for the previous two days they had foregone hunting and subsisted on pawpaws in order to waste no time in reaching the "settlements," (La Charrette), on the evening of Sept. 20.
As they pulled into the village at sunset the men raised a shout and received the permission of Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to fire a salute. Three rounds were fired to hearty cheers. A party of five trading boats tied up at La Charrette returned the salute. These boats were bound for the Osage and Oto tribes (Sgt. John Ordway stated they were heading to the Omaha nation) and were under the command of two young Scotsmen from Canada. They generously provided the men with beef, flour and pork, and the French residents from the village brought milk and other items for the crew. One crafty resident sold the expedition two gallons of whiskey for the extortionate price of $8 in cash.
According to Clark, "every person, both French and americans Seem to express great pleasure at our return, and acknowledge them selves much astonished in Seeing us return. They informed us that we were Supposed to have been lost long Since, and were entirely given out by every person &c."
The captains did encounter discontent among the American settlers they met at the village over the difficulty they were having with the new U.S. territorial government getting their Spanish land grants confirmed. Lewis and Clark, as future territorial administrators, would soon become embroiled in this seething controversy that would drag on for several years prior to statehood.
While at La Charrette, William Clark expressed his admiration for the boats of the party of Canadians that were tied to the river bank. During the trip up the Missouri River in 1804 to the winter camp at the Mandan villages, members of the expedition had to maneuver a large 55-foot long keelboat that Lewis had contracted to be built in Pittsburgh against the uncommonly rapid currents of the Lower Missouri River. By the end of this leg of the journey, both captains were ready to concede that the large, ungainly keelboat was not the ideal boat to take up this river. The boats Clark saw at La Charrette, however, seemed perfectly suited for the Missouri. These "schenectady" boats, as Clark termed them, were wide in proportion to their length, unlike the keelboat, which had a round bottom. They were smaller - 30 feet long by eight feet wide with pointed bows and sterns and flat bottoms. Because of this design, they were not prone to rolling on their sides when grounded on sandbars, which was a problem that constantly plagued the keelboat. And unlike the keelboat, which required 20 oars, these boats needed only six oarsmen. "I believe them [the Schenectady-type boats] to be the best Calculated for the navigation of this river of any which I have Seen."