Thursday, November 04, 2010

City of Chariton

Origin of Name of This City
Annals of Iowa for October, An Historical Quarterly, Gives the Answer


Lewis and Clark in Their Famous Expedition, went up Missouri River and Noted Chariton River in Diary

This article appeared in the November 10, 1927 Herald Patriot Newspaper

In 1804 when the Lewis and Clark expedition went up the Missouri river and passed the mouths of the Chariton Rivers they noted the name in the diary they kept describing their trip.  In the "History of the Expedition of Lewis and Clark." by Elliott Coues, the original diary is published and the editor makes notes.  On the origin of this name we quote from Vol. 1, pages 19 and 31 as follows:

June 10th, 1804 we passed Deer Creek and, at the distance of five miles, the two rivers called by the French, the two Charatons; a corruption of Thieraton (read Charretin), the first of which is 30, the second 70 yards wide.

June 24, 1804, we passed at eight miles distance, Hay Cabin Creek, coming in from the south, about 20 yards wide, and so-called from camps of straw built on it.  To the north are some rocks projecting into the river, and a little beyond them is a creek on the same side, called Charaton Scarty - that is, Charaton like the Otter.

This word has never been satisfactorily explained; certainly the explanation attempted in the text is itself a misprint or other blunder.  It might be either Charieton or Chariatan; the former is given on page 347 of the orig. ed.; the latter would match Gasconade, as applied to another river.  The various forms in which we find it add to our perplexity.  Thus it is the Cheraton of Collo in 1796; Charieton is Perrin du Lac's style in 1805; Lewis' map of 1806 has Charliton; Clark's 1814, prinis the two Charatons; Brackenridge 1814, gives Chareton or Chariton, p. 211 and p. 265; Long, 1823, Charaton; Nicollet's map, 1843, Chariton; some of the spurious Lewis and Clark books make it Chareturn; Gass strikes out for himself with two Charlottes, p. 16; Pike, 1810, is satisfied with two Charlatans; Lapie, 1821, has but one river, which he calls R. des deux Charlatans.  I only discovered what it ought to be on consulting L. and C.'s MSS. (see note under date of June 24th.)  The name has now settled into the form Chariton for both rivers, for the county, and for a town.  The two rivers were formerly distinguished in French as Grand and Petit Charletons (so Perrin du Lac); they have also been called a Great and Little, and West and East.  They are probably the pair of rivers called les rivieres aux racines by D'Anville, 1752, though his map runs them separately into the Missouri.  These rivers reach the Missouri through Chariton county, with Howard county adjoining at the confluence.  The Chicago and Alton R.R. crosses the Missouri a little below this point, and both Charitons are crossed above by the Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific R.R.  The streams are sort of straight, north and south, parallel with many branches of the Grand River, which comes into the Missouri a little higher up.  This is the main drainage into the Missouri of the rise to 1,000 to the west and the north.  East of the Charitons the drainage is into the Mississippi.

See note at the date of June 10th.  Since that was penned, I have come into possession of all of the original manuscripts of Lewis and Clark, which Nicholas Biddle had when he wrote his book, and several other field notebooks, which were at the time in the hands of President Jefferson.  These throw new light on the puzzling word "Charaton."  On June 10th Clark wrote:  "passed the two rivers of the Charietons, which mouth together;" on June 24th he wrote:  "Charreton Carta," as the name of the creek now in question.  Lewis' MMS, yield us "Charetton" in one place and "Shariton" in another.  Now when ABiddle struck these snags he upset, and wrote a letter to Clark  (now before me) dated July 7th, 1810, asking: "What is the real name and spelling of the stream called Sharriton Carta and also the two Charietons?  Get some of the Frenchmen at St. Louis to put them down exactly as they should be printed."  Clark's reply I never saw; the upshot as above printed has hitherto defied conjecture.  But the meaning is now clear.  For "Charaton Scarty:" read Charretins ecartes, i.e., two creeks, each named Charretin, which are separated or divergent in their courses though emptying together into the Missouri.  There are a pair of creeks in Clay county, Mo., which exactly answer this description, and are in just the right place.  Then for the attempted explanation, "like the Otter," read simply, "like the other," i.e. like the two other rivers called by the same name, having one mouth, though they are separated (ecartes) in their courses.  The word Charretin (also Chartin) will be found in any good French dictionary.  It is a derivative of Charrette, which we have seen before as a place named on the Missouri.

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