1800s |

Lewis & Clark Reach First White Settlement – 9/20/1806

On September 20th of 1806, on their way back from their famous expedition, Lewis and Clark reached the first white settlement they had seen since leaving the east back in 1804. The settlement was located along the Missouri River. It was a frontier village called La Charette.

President Jefferson had chosen Meriwether Lewis as the expedition's commander, because of his reputation for having all the qualities needed to undertake such a journey. Lewis chose his friend, William Clark, as second in command. In 1803, Jefferson sent Lewis to Philadelphia to study medicine and astronomy.

In 1804, Meriwether Lewis and his friend, William Clark, embarked on an expedition that would take them all the way from Saint Louis, Missouri to Fort Klatsop, in northwestern Oregon. It would be the first expedition to cross the western part of the continental United States. The expedition was called Corps of Discovery.

Along the way, Lewis and Clark experienced many adventures, and met a few friendly Indian tribes. They even traded with a Brule (Lakota / Sioux) chief named Black Bull, near what is now Pierre, South Dakota. Black Bull was the grandfather of the famous Chief Crazy Horse, although Crazy Horse had not yet been born. Black Bull was actually the father of Crazy Horse's mother, but even she had not yet been born.

Of all the different native tribes Lewis and Clark met, there was only one violent confrontation, when a group of Blackfeet from the Piikani nation tried to steal rifles from Lewis' group. A fight broke out and two Native American people were killed.

Eventually, Lewis and Clark arrived at their destination. Their travels had taken them from Missouri, into Iowa, through Nebraska, into South Dakota, up to North Dakota, through Montana, through Idaho, and finally into Fort Klatsop, at the extreme northwestern corner of Oregon, near the border of the state of Washington. The crew wintered at Fort Klatsop, before commencing their return to Saint Louis.

La Charette was the last white settlement if you were heading west, and the first white settlement for those moving east. Lewis & Clark reunited with the people of La Charette when they had almost completed their journey. According to Lewis' journal entry, the people of La Charette gave Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and all their U.S. Army volunteers a hero's welcome home.

Before embarking on the last leg of their journey, Meriwether Lewis asked that the mail be held at the post office in La Charette, just long enough so he could write a letter to President Thomas Jefferson, who had commissioned the voyage, which was intended to explore newly purchased territory, to find a manageable route from east to west, and to establish an American presence in the west, before the Europeans would try to claim it. On a secondary note, to study the area's plants, animals, and geography, to draw maps, and to establish trade with local native tribes.

In the letter, Commander Lewis let President Jefferson know that the expedition had been a success.  

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Mark Hinderberg


Retired History Professor at Vanderbilt University. Love taking a portal through time and sharing my knowledge with anyone else who loves reading about history. It is my passion and my greatest hobby.