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City History


In 1541, Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to enter the Cottleville area. The area was subsequently claimed for Spain by DeSoto and claimed for France by LaSalle. After Louis XIV of France directed that a large area, including Cottleville, be explored in 1658, French explorers from Quebec began searching for potential locations of trading posts in the Mississippi River valley. In 1682, the French formally took possession of a large portion of the United States which they named Louisiana. By 1760, French traders, trappers, and missionaries had penetrated the Mississippi Valley and established settlements as far south as the Missouri River in St. Charles County. Louis Blanchette, a French Canadian fur trader, established an active riverfront during a brief period when the area was deeded to Spain. The territory remained under French control until acquired by the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

The Town of Cottleville is one of the oldest in St. Charles County. As far back as 1800 there existed a group of houses located near the spot where the old Boone's Lick Road crosses the Dardenne Creek.

Cottleville, located along the old Boone's Lick Road, was first settled by Capt. Warren G. Cottle who secured a land grant from the Spanish in 1798. It was said of him that he farmed extensively and practiced medicine occasionally, because there was little sickness among the people, and those who got sick had no money to pay for his services. However, the town did not develop much until the John Pitman family of Kentucky settled about one and one-half miles west of town in 1810. Other early settlers were George Huffman, a Kentuckian, prior to 1803; Aaron Rutger, a Hollander, prior to 1809; Nathaniel Simons from New England; and Nicholas Contz, a Pennsylvania Dutchman.

In 1811, Dr. Warren G. Cottle died and his children, who were quite numerous, inherited his extensive farmlands. One of his sons, Lorenzo, inherited about 200 acres of land located on both sides of the Dardenne Creek. In 1839, he parsed into lots that part of his property lying on the south side of the stream and named the town Cottleville in honor of his deceased father. Before that time the village was sometimes called Dardenne or Pin Hook.

Another prominent landowner of that era was David K. Pitman, whose land adjoined that of the Cottle's. During the 1850's and 1860's, he laid out two subdivisions to the town. The Village of Cottleville prospered so that at one time it numbered eleven places of business, two hotels, and a population of 500 people. In 1846 the town became a rival of St. Charles and petitions were circulated to have the county Seat of Justice transferred from St. Charles to Cottleville. The people of St. Charles heard about this daring attempt and soon had many counter-petitions circulated. This ended the ambitions of its citizens to bring the County Seat to Cottleville.

The historic Boone's Lick Road (now Missouri State Route N) began as a trail leading from St. Charles to Boone's Lick in Howard County. It follows the route blazed by Daniel Boone's sons to a salt lick that they discovered in Howard County. Within St. Charles County, the early Spanish Grant settlers followed it as a route between their farms and the City of St. Charles. From St. Charles it passed through Harvester, Cottleville, Dardenne, Pond, and Pauldingville into Warren County. This road was, at one time, an Indian trail, and also one of the principal highways leading westward through Missouri. Along its path traveled many covered wagons, stage coaches and pony express riders.

It often happened that the travelers became stranded at the point where the Boone's Lick Trail crossed the Dardenne, because of the frequent over-flowing of the stream and the muddy condition of the bottom lands, through which the road passed. Gradually, small places of business came into existence, such as country stores, wagon repair shops, little hotels, etc. Two grist mills, where wheat and corn were ground into flour and meal, were in operation by 1804.

It became the stagecoach route over which travelers and mail were transported. Many covered wagons traveled the Boone's Lick Trail to settle in counties west of St. Charles County. Later, the Boone's Lick Trail was the route followed by those who branched off to follow the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, and the California Trail. During the Civil War, troops and supplies were transported over this route. Later, cattle and mules were driven over the route on the way to the railroad and auctions.

During the 1850's, a timber plank road was built from St. Charles westward along the Boone's Lick Road as far as Cottleville. The road was known as the Western Plank Road. The road project was not a success because the timbers soon began to warp and rotted away after a few years.

During the Civil War, Cottleville was the location of a famous recruiting camp named Camp Krekel.