Today, the Lewis and Clark Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers the beginning of the expedition in 1804, and on May 22 made eighteen miles progress.
From the History of the Expedition Under the Command of Captains Lewis & Clarke to the Sources of the Missouri, Thence Across the Rocky Mountains and Down the River Columbia to the Pacific Ocean, Performed During the Years 1804-5-6 by Order of the Government of the United States – Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, edited by Nicholas Biddle, and published in 1906:
All the preparations being completed, we left our encampment on Monday, May 14th, 1804.
This spot is at the mouth of Wood river, a small stream which empties itself into the Mississippi, opposite to the entrance of the Missouri. It is situated in latitude 88° 55′ 19.6″ north, and longitude from Greenwich, 89° 57′ 45″.
On both sides of the Mississippi the land for two or three miles is rich and level, but gradually swells into a high pleasant country, with less timber on the western than on the eastern side, but all susceptible of cultivation.
The point which separates the two rivers on the north, extends for fifteen or twenty miles, the greater part of which is an open level plain, in which the people of the neighborhood cultivate what little grain they raise.
Not being able to set sail before four o’clock P.M., we did not make more than four miles, and encamped on the first island opposite a small creek called Cold Water.
May 15. — The rain, which had continued yesterday and last night, ceased this morning. We then proceeded, and after passing two small islands about ten miles further, stopped for the night at Piper’s landing, opposite another island.
The water is here very rapid and the banks falling in. We found that our boat was too heavily laden in the stern, in consequence of which she ran on logs three times to-day.
It became necessary to throw the greatest weight on the bow of the boat, a precaution very necessary in ascending both the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, in the beds of which, there lie great quantities of concealed timber.
The next morning we set sail at five o’clock. At the distance of a few miles, we passed a remarkably large coal hill on the north side, called by the French La Charbonniere, and arrived at the town of St. Charles.
Here we remained a few days. St. Charles is a small town on the north bank of the Missouri, about twenty-one miles from its confluence with the Mississippi.
It is situated in a narrow plain, sufficiently high to protect it from the annual risings of the river in the month of June, and at the foot of a range of small hills, which have occasioned its being called Petite Cote, a name by which it is more known to the French than by that of St. Charles.
One principal street, about a mile in length and running parallel with the river, divides the town, which is composed of nearly one hundred small wooden houses, besides a chapel.
The inhabitants, about four hundred and fifty in number, are chiefly descendants from the French of Canada; and, in their manners, they unite all the careless gayety, and the amiable hospitality of the best times of France: yet, like most of their countrymen in America, they are but ill qualified for the rude life of a frontier; not that they are without talent, for they possess much natural genius and vivacity; nor that they are destitute of enterprise, for their hunting excursions are long, laborious, and hazardous: but their exertions are all desultory; their industry is without system, and without perseverance.
The surrounding country, therefore, though rich, is not, in general, well cultivated; the inhabitants chiefly subsisting by hunting and trade with the Indians, and confine their culture to gardening, in which they excel.
Being joined by captain Lewis, who had been detained by business at St. Louis, we again set sail on Monday, May 21st, in the afternoon, but were prevented by wind and rain from going more than about three miles, when we encamped on the upper point of an island, nearly opposite a creek which falls in on the south side.
On the 22d we made about eighteen miles, passing several small farms on the bank of the river, a number of islands, and a large creek on the south side, called Bonhomme, or Goodman’s river. A small number of emigrants from the United States have settled on the sides of this creek, which are very fertile.
We also passed some high lands, and encamped, on the north side, near a small creek.
Here we met with a camp of Kickapoo Indians who had left us at St. Charles, with a promise of procuring us some provisions by the time we overtook them.
They now made us a present of four deer, and we gave them in return two quarts of whiskey.
This tribe reside on the heads of the Kaskaskia and Illinois river, on the other side of the Mississippi, but occasionally hunt on the Missouri.
The Lewis and Clark Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows with an image of the Missouri river near St. Charles, circa 1970s.