Lewis and Clark Heritage Days are held the third weekend in May each year in Historic Saint Charles, Missouri. For 2014 the dates are May 17 & 18. The first celebration in Saint Charles of Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the Louisiana Purchase was in 1979 and has been held each year since. The reenactment includes a grand parade, military encampment, fife and drum corps muster, musket and cannon demonstrations, a skillet throw, and period music, food and wares. Each day begins with the raising of colors and the day ends with retreat and the lowering of colors. The Discovery Expedition of Saint Charles is camped on site in Frontier Park, and the Lewis & Clark Boathouse is just steps away, where the Discovery Expedition of Saint Charles boats are on display.
President Thomas Jefferson planned the Lewis & Clark Expedition in secret because the French and Spanish coalition still owned and governed the Louisiana Territory. With an amazing set of events in 1803 came the purchase of this vast territory for the United States. Training in secret on the eastern bank of the Mississippi near the confluence with the Missouri River, the Expedition was able to set out in the spring of 1804 after the land was officially transferred. On May 14th, Clark set out with a restless, rowdy, high spirited crew of 43 men moving up the Missouri River and they landed in Saint Charles on May 16th. “...at 12oClock a number Spectators french & Indians flocked to the bank to See the party. This village is about one mile in length…and about 450 inhabitents chiefly French, those people appear pore, polite & harmonious.”[-Wm. Clark’s Journal]
While they waited for Lewis to meet them, they reloaded the keelboat. They were “…invited to a ball in the Village.” Three men deserted their watch and were court-martialed for misconduct. On Sunday, May 20th many of the men went to church and later that day “…Capt Lewis and several gentlemen arrive from St. Louis thro a violent Shoure of rain…” On May 21st, the Lewis & Clark Expedition “…set out from St. Charles at 3oClock after getting every matter arranged…”[-Wm. Clark’s Journal]
And so began one of the greatest explorations in the young history of the United States. Lewis and Clark Heritage Days commemorates this beginning and places you in the middle of the 1804 camp. Join us for the celebration!