St. Michael's Prairie
St. Michael's Prairie, the site where St. Joseph would be established, was identified on maps at least as early as 1792. French explorers and trappers had been traveling up and down the Missouri River since the early 1700s, and many areas along the river had been used as camps or temporary settlements. St. Michael was the name of a French family whose history is linked with the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, so it is possible that during the 18th century this area was named for a member of that family.
The Corps of Discovery passed here on Saturday, July 7, 1804. Clark's journal entry for that day included a description of St. Michael's Prairie:
"?a Sand bar at the point; opposite a butifull Prarie on the S.Side calld St. Michul, those Praries on the river has verry much the appearence of farms from the river Divided by narrow Strips of woodland, which wood land is Situatd. on the runs leading to the river."
On the return trip, St. Michael's Prairie was a campsite on Friday, September 12, 1806. That evening, Clark wrote in his journal about meeting an old army friend:
"Met Mr. McClellin at the St. Michls Prarie we came too here? Mr. McClellin receved us very politely, and gave us all the news and occurrences which had taken place in the Illinois within his knowledge the evening proveing to be wet and cloudy we concluded to continue all night, we dispatched the two Canoes a head to hunt with 5 hunters in them."
Sergeant Ordway wrote in his journal on September 12th that "Mr. McLanen informed us that the people in general in the united States were concerned about and they had heard that we were all killed then again they heard that the Spanyards had us in the [illegible] &C."
Robert McClellan was an old acquainten[illegible] Lewis and Clark, having served with [illegible] army.
French fur trader Joseph Robidoux, the founder of St. Joseph, met Lewis and Clark on the Missouri River near the Gasconade River on September 16, 1806. Clark was suspicious of his license and "cautioned him against prosueing the Steps of his brothers in attempting to degrade the American Charector in the eye of the Indians."
Several years later, in the fall of 1826, Robidoux established a fur post on the Missouri River at the mouth of Roy's Branch. He moved downriver about a mile the next spring and set up a permanent post at Blacksnake Creek, on the prairie Clark referred to as "St. Michul." In the late 1830s, settlers began moving into the area, and Robidoux founded the city of St. Joseph on the former site of his fur post.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition
In 1804-06, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led about 40 soldiers and boatmen on an epic journey. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned this "Corps of Discovery" to find a route to the Pacific Ocean through the newly acquired Louisiana territory. Along the way, they mapped the land, recorded its resources, and contacted its native inhabitants.
The landscape has changed since Lewis and Clark explored it: rivers have been dammed, forests cut over, prairies plowed under, and roads built to the horizon. Although remnants of wilderness still exist, imagine this land as Lewis and Clark first saw it two centuries ago.
The United States purchased the Louisiana territory - more than 830,000 square miles - from France in 1803. President Jefferson selected Meriwether Lewis (far left) to lead an expedition there.
With Jefferson's permission, Lewis asked his friend and former commanding officer, William Clark (left), to be co-leader. Although opposite in temperament, they worked harmoniously throughout the two-year journey.