Native American peoples inhabited the area at least as early as 11000 B.C. When European emigres arrived, the area was inhabited by the Ilini, Osage and Missouri tribes.
According to Hopewell's Romantic Legends of the Missouri and Mississippi: Blanchette met another French Canadian (Bernard Guillet) at the site of St. Charles in 1765. Blanchette, determined to settle there, asked if Guillet, who had become a chief of a Dakota tribe, had chosen a name for it.
- "I called the place 'Les Petites Côtes' " replied Bernard, "from the sides of the hills that you see."
- "By that name shall it be called", said Blanchette Chasseur, "for it is the echo of nature — beautiful from its simplicity."
Blanchette settled there circa 1769 under the authority of the Spanish governor of Upper Louisiana (the area had been ceded by France to Spain under an agreement with Great Britain following French defeat in the French and Indian Wars). He was appointed as the territory's civil and military leader, serving until his death in 1793. Although the settlement was under Spanish jurisdiction, the settlers were primarily Native American and French Canadians who had migrated from northern territories.
Considered to begin in St. Charles, the Boone's Lick Road along the Missouri River was the major overland route for settlement of central and western Missouri. This area became known as the Boonslick or "Boonslick Country." At Franklin, the trail ended. Westward progress continued on the Santa Fe Trail.
San Carlos Borromeo
The first church, built in 1791, was Catholic and dedicated to the Italian saint Charles Borromeo, under the Spanish version of his name, San Carlos Borromeo. The town became known as San Carlos del Misuri: "St. Charles of the Missouri". The original location of the church is not known but a replica has been built just off Main Street. The fourth St. Charles Borromeo Church now stands on Fifth Street.
The Spanish Lieutenant-Governor
Carlos de Hault de Lassus appointed Daniel Boone as commandant of the
Femme Osage District, which he served as until the United States government assumed control in 1804 following the Louisiana Purchase. The name of the town, San Carlos, was anglicized to St. Charles. William Clark arrived in St. Charles on May 16, 1804. With him were 40 men and three boats; they made final preparations, as they waited for Meriwether Lewis to arrive from St. Louis. They attended dances, dinners, and a church service during this time, and the town residents, excited to be part of the national expedition, were very hospitable to the explorers. Lewis arrived via St. Charles Rock Road on May 20. The expedition launched the next day in a keel boat at 3:30 pm. St. Charles was the last established American town the expedition visited for more than two and a half years.
State capital and growth
When Missouri was granted statehood in 1821, the legislature decided to build a "City of Jefferson" to serve as the state capital, in the center of the state, overlooking the Missouri River. Since this land was undeveloped at the time, a temporary capital was needed. St. Charles beat eight other cities in a competition to house the temporary capital, offering free meeting space for the legislature in rooms located above a hardware store. This building is preserved as the First Missouri State Capitol State Historic Site and may be toured. The Missouri government continued to meet there until Jefferson City was ready in 1826.
Gottfried Duden was a German who visited in the area in 1824. Travelling under the guidance of Daniel M. Boone, he wrote extensive accounts of life in St. Charles County during his year there. He published these after returning to Germany in 1829, and his favorable impressions of the area led to the immigration of a number of Germans in 1833. The first permanent German settler in the region was probably Louis Eversman, who arrived with Duden but decided to stay. St. Charles, Missouri, is where the first claimed interstate project started in 1956. A state highway marker is displayed with a logo and information regarding this claim, off Interstate 70 going westbound, to the right of the First Capitol Drive exit. Kansas and Pennsylvania also lay claim to the first interstate project.