History of St. Charles
Posted by: Groundspeak Charter Member BruceS
N 38° 46.798 W 090° 28.854
15S E 718823 N 4295372
Quick Description: Historical marker outlining some of the historical events which occurred in St. Charles. The marker is located at the St. Charles Katy Trail trailhead.
Location: Missouri, United States
Date Posted: 3/30/2010 12:06:01 PM
Waymark Code: WM8GKB
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member gparkes
Views: 21

Long Description:

Text of marker:

 History of St. Charles

1769.......................

Les Petites Côtes, River Gateway
St. Charles stands on the banks of the Missouri River as the gateway to the Missouri River valley.  First known as Les Petites Côtes (Little Hills), it was founded by Louis Blanchette in 1769 as a French fur-trading outpost.  Located on high ground upriver from the Missouri-Mississippi confluence, the settlement became known as San Carlos (St. Charles) when the Spanish built San Carlos Borromeo Church in honor of the patron saint of their king.

In 1800, Spain transferred Louisiana Territory back to France.  Three years later, the French sold Louisiana to the United States for $15 million or around three cents an acre.  The Louisiana Purchase immediately doubled the size of the country.

Springboard to the Frontier
When the United States purchased Louisiana Territory, St. Charles became the edge of the U.S. frontier.  Lewis and Clark used St. Charles in 1804 as their final departure point before heading west.  After the War of 1812, settlers flooded into Missouri Territory, using St. Charles as the springboard to outfit and re-supply before reaching their new homes farther west.

1821, First Missouri State Capitol
In 1819, the first steamboat on the Missouri River made its appearance in St. Charles, ushering in a prosperous era.  Two years later, St. Charles began serving as the temporary state capital.  Along with the First Capitol, several building from the period, including Stone Row, the Millington buildings, and Eckert's Tavern, can still be seen today on Main Street.  At Eckert's Tavern in 1827, three surveyors (including George Sibley) defined and approved the official route of the Santa Fe Trail from Fort Osage to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The same year, during a time of booming growth for St. Charles, George Sibley and his wife, Mary Easton Sibley, open Lindenwood College as a women's academy.

1840.......................

German Rhineland
From 1824 to 1827, Goffried Duden visited the Missouri River valley and wrote about its beauty.  His descriptions initiated a flood of German settlers to Missouri and St. Charles.  The German population was so numerous that the area of the Missouri River between St. Louis and Jefferson City is still sometimes called the "Rhineland."  The Germans left their greatest marks in solidly built homes and barns, and local customs.  The area's grape-growing, originally encouraged by Duden, has become world renowned among wine producers.  German names abound here, and their work ethic lives on today.

Growth and Disaster
The Northern Missouri Railroad first came to St. Charles in 1856 and was later bought out by the Wabash & Ohio Railroads.  Construction on the Wabash Bridge, the second bridge across the Missouri River, was completed in 1871.  The Wabash Bridge had several fatal disasters, including construction accidents, derailments, and the collapse of two bridge spans.

St. Charles continued to grow in size and importance as a riverport, railroad stop, and agricultural and manufacturing center.  But other disasters plagued St. Charles.  In 1876, a tornado ravaged its downtown.  The enormous steamboat Montana sank in 1884 after striking the Wabash Bridge.  In 1891, an innovative pontoon bridge across the Missouri River was destroyed by ice.

Legacy of the St. Charles Carriage Co.
In 1878, the St. Charles Carriage Co. began building railroad cars.  In 1899, the car company joined 12 other railroad car companies and formed American Car & Foundry (AC&F).  For over 100 years, the AC&F factory has dominated the riverfront landscape of the city.  It was once the main rail car producer for all U.S. railroads, and produced most of the MKT passenger cars.  AC&F has constructed every sort of train car imaginable, including the first refrigerated cars, St. Louis trolleys and subway cars for New York.

1894.......................

Arrival of the Katy
Katy Trail State Park was once the rail bed of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad (MKT or Katy).  Under the name of the Missouri, Kansas & Eastern, tracks were built between Franklin and Machens in 1892-93 to enable passengers to reach St. Louis.  The first Katy train rolled through St. Charles on April 1, 1984.  Once the new segment opened, a passenger could ride "The Katy" from St. Louis to Galveston, Texas.

In 1921, thieves stole $110,000 form the St. Charles Kay depot in one of the largest station and mail robberies in U.S. history.  After World War II, highway travel became more popular than rail travel.  The Katy's ridership slowed until passenger service was discontinued in 1956.  By the 1970s, the Katy railroad was too small to compete wit larger rail companies.  On April 11, 1986, the last Katy train rode the tracks to St. Louis.

Trolleys to Interstates
In 1904, the St. Charles Bridge Co. Constructed a trolley and vehicle bridge across the Missouri River.  This bridge was the first iron non-railroad bridge to cross the Missouri River.  Automobile travel numbered the days of the railroad and the trolley.  One of the first automobile routes to cross the United States, Highway 40, crossed the Missouri River in St. Charles using the 1904 bridge.  The first interstate highway, Interstate 70, began at St. Charles in 1956.

Rebirth of St. Charles
Around 1960, St. Charles began a movement to preserve its historic district.  Visionaries began restoring the First capitol and other historic buildings on Main Street, leading St. Charles to become home to one of the first historic districts in the nation.  Today, over 100 historic buildings are within St. Charles' historic districts.


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