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La Charrette Village

Interested in what Lewis & Clark, Daniel Boone, Zebulon Pike, John Colter, President Jefferson and other notables thought about America's newly acquired westernmost village? Enjoy the west...before it became distorted by TV, movies and novels.

Location: Port Aransas, Texas, United States

A retired professor of Food and Animal Science at Texas A&M University, The University of Connecticut and Texas Tech. A cowboy in my previous life...never thought about being a professor or an author.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Lucky Life Events

Lucky to be born into a supportive family with a vision toward the future based largely upon hard work and education, I was confronted with a decision as a high school freshman. Local physician, Dr. H. H. Schmidt diagnosed the heart condition of coarctation in my aortic arch. None with the condition had survived beyond their late twenties. With a fifty-fifty chance of success, I elected to undergo surgery in Barnes Hospital in St. Louis on October13, 1952. Upon awaking, I pledged to myself to do all that I could with the remainder of my life. I was lucky too that Drs. Burford and Massey were one of the few teams in the world with the essential skills to correct the congenital defect. Likewise, serendipity presented itself as my sister Helen was in training at Barnes as a nursing student and helped me during those unusual days. Within a month of surgery, I was back in Washington High School - minus one rib - as part of the technology of the day. All these medical capabilities represented a long cry from those first years at La Charrette when bleeding and mid-wives passed as modern medecine. La Charrette's and Marthasville's first physicians, Drs. John Young and John Jones (a Boone family member by marriage), arrived in 1817.

From there forward I seemed to remain lucky, largely the result of obtaining insightful guidance from family, friends, teachers and professional associates in helping me make appropriate career choices and decisions. But the most lucky event of all was joining with Wendy Anne Walkinshaw in 1959, the arrival of children, Sheryl and Scott, our grandchildren, and sharing a rewarding and eventful life together.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Bousillage Cabins

The verticle log cabins at La Charrette Village were common to both French and Native American communities constructed at the time of the Louisiana Purchase. Since Village Charrette was established by Frenchmen with Native American heritage who were also married to Native American wives, it was entirely natural that bousillage (vertical log with mud and straw to fill the cracks) construction was employed. But when the Marthasville Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Committe chose to construct a replica of one for the 2004 celebrations, the concept was all but forgotten. Fortunately, I was able to provide them illustrations to proceed with construction. Go to the title link to see how they proceeded. Another is soon to be constructed in Marthasville Park to support future celebrations of local history. Today, only a few of the original bousillage style cabins remain in Louisiana as explained at http://www.tourlouisiana.com/rural_life_museum.htm The one show above is taken from my model of La Charrette Village. These unique, and rather crude structures with dirt floors and open windows, only added to the disparaging remarks offered by those visiting the village.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Steamboats Coming to Charrette Landing

The river Landing at La Charrette Village served as the very lifeline to its community from the earliest days of fur trading into the early 20th Century. Several years after the arrival of commercial steamboat traffic in the 1820s the landing changed names. Following the loss of La Charrette Village, it became Marthasville Landing named after its nearest local village. Throughout this interval, the landing served its local residents, their guest plus transporting a myriad of products and services.

Steamboats powered by fire-generated steam boilers represented the latest technology. They were generally faster than available alternatives, but dangerous. Steamboats sank, caught fire, ran aground and more, all around treacherous Charrette Bend immediately west of the village. Many would stop at Charrette Landing to off-load their cargo and purchase firewood before continuing the process as far up the Missouri River as possible.

The Western Engineer was one of the first to pass by La Charrette. It was part of the so-called “Scientific” portion of the 1819-20 expedition led by Major Stephen H. Long. On board were the first artists to travel west, Titan Ramsey Peale and Samuel Seymour. Shown here is Peal’s sketch of his modern river transport. Also accompanying the expedition was zoologist Thomas Say. Both Say and Peale walked about 30 miles around the north of La Charrette Village to study and report on nature.

But this was no ordinary river steamer. Its boilers constantly clogged causing it to travel little faster the hand-powered vessels of Lewis and Clark’s. Most extraordinary of all though was its secondary role of impressing, if not scaring, the Native Americans encountered along the route. As a military vessel its helmsman's house was bullet proof, the paddle wheel was hidden from view with a bow designed to creat the elusion of a big-river-swimming-dragon-monster belching smoke and soot. People watching it along the way, to include those at Charrette Landing, must have thought it looked pretty silly. Check in for more details about this expedition and the boat at the title link. Eventually, steamboats were designed with greater functionality and served a major role in western expansion. But before then, Long's expedition was abandoned when the U.S. Congress pulled its fundings after the press became highly critical of how poorly things were going.

A few years later, in 1845, a deligation of Kentucky Legislators disembarked at Marthasville Landing from Captain Joseph La Barge's steamboat named the Kansas. The mission was to exhume the remains of Daniel and Rebecca Boone and rebury them in a Frankfort Cemetery. To the present day this event is considered by many of Charrette Township as an unnecessary one, fueling the question if remains of others than the Boones were actually exhumed.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Three Charrettes?

The research and validation work leading to the published history of La Charrette Village portrayed here required years of study. My goal was to reveal accurately its past since contradictory information existed to include oral history and fables. This sorting-out process, while interesting, necessarily forced decisions be made. Examples included dates and circumstances of its founding and demise as well as the presence of forts constructed there. One document that I was aware of since the early 1960s became very difficult to ‘set-aside’. Undated, it was authored by Professor Daniel Irion. My Uncle Frank Schoppenhorst translated it from German into English in 1962. I remember him corteling, "There's something just not right about it." Apparently his hunch was correct as I was never able to prove it worthy as a historical document. Uncle Frank was married to my Aunt Amanda nee Rocklage who was born in an old La Charrette Village cabin.

Daniel Irion was born February 21, 1855 at Marthasville, immediately north of old La Charrette Village. Eventually, Daniel attended Elmhurst Pro-Seminar (now Elmhurst College) from 1871-1877, and was ordained. He taught Greek and Latin at Elmhurst, served as a pastor to several Midwest parishes before becoming President of Elmhurst where he served as Professor of New Testament and published on the topic. In short, by all accounts, Daniel was a respected scholar and leader until his October 25, 1935 death as revealed at the title link.

Reverend Irion gave his unpublished seven-page (typed) document an enticing title - Early Settlers of La Charrette - a copy of which is held in the Western Historical Missouri Collection on the University of Missouri campus - Columbia. He states that twelve men rowed a boat to the village site where 30 or 40 people of “French, German, and Dutch” nationality initiated La Charrette Village in 1763. He avoids offering specific dates for most events described, except when Indians kidnapped some village girls in 1764. Charles “Indian” Phillips apparently aided in their recovery. But, the construction of a grist mill, building other structures, when more settlers joined the village, its first church service or when a flood of several weeks swept away La Charrette remain undated. Irion claimed that, “Indian Phillips with several other men stayed behind” as the others departed after the flood.

The most promising leads in the (apparently) flawed document were the names recorded. Only two were validated, Indian Phillips, who we know frequented the village, and a Professor of Theology at Leipsig, Germany, Christian F. Gellers. According to Irion, Gellers had instructed a certain Mr. Remier before he arrived at La Charrette. My purpose in providing these names cited by Irion is to enlist your help to associate them with La Charrette, if appropriate. They were, according to Reverend Irion:
Mr. Reimer of Halberstadt, Germany who fought in the military against Frederick II of Prussia. He eventually came to America via Philidelphia.

Miss Hertha Keller, who was invited to come to American from Germany (perhaps Halberstadt) by Reimer to marry. She arrives in Philadelphia where they marry in “the Lutheran Church” before heading to St. Louis, and La Charrette.

Raymond DuBois, called ‘Captain’, had been an officer in the French army and wounded at Roszbach in 1756. He apparently led those arriving in 1763 with at least one child, daughter Blanchette DuBois.

Mrs. Bessing, a widow, from the vicinity of Hamburg, Germany and her two children: Rudolph age 16 and Sophie of 15 years. Sophie and Blanchette DuBois were the two girls captured by Indians while picking wildflowers along the Charrette Creek riverbank “in the early spring of 1764.”

Philip Hauerdt, brother to Mrs. Bessing, came to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from Germany before his sister, was married without children, and therefore invited the Bessings to follow them to La Charrette. Philip was an engineer who previously worked in a Quaker colony in Pennsylvania.

I searched the usual genealogy resources, military records and census reports but nothing surfaced about them that fit within this story of Irion’s. Throughout, he seems most interested in the Germans, religious activities and the things Indian Phillips did to be helpful to the settlers. Most perplexing to me is why he might have written such a story if it contained little or no subtance.

Ideas, suggestions and assistance are welcomed. Please contact me with whatever you may have on these individuals.

And to bring the total to three - real or supposed - Charrette Villages in Warren County, Missouri is the one initiated in 1899 a few miles further up Charrette Creek. This one was spelled as ‘Charette’ as once common. But, by 1907 it too was disbanded.