Retirement in Missouri
After six years in the mountains, John Colter must have felt he was returning to a veritable metropolis. The houses and stone walls of St. Louis in 1810 extended for a mile-and-a-half along the bank of the Mississippi. Travelers from down the river were impressed by the town's imposing appearance from the water, and usually concluded that they were nearing a city rather than a town of fourteen hundred inhabitants. The old Spanish fort, which served both as jail and court‐ house, stood on the second bench above the river and was familiar, but the tiers of homes and buildings beside it and on the level below had thickened and become more extended. This growth had followed the raising of the American flag, and was an inevitable consequence of a situation near the junction of two mighty, far-reaching rivers.
After disembarking from their canoe, Colter and his two companions would have needed little time to discover that the view from the river was deceiving. True, the town had grown; but it had still only about a dozen business establishments, including a printing press. These enterprises, however, were operated with a bustling efficiency that left no doubt St. Louisans were aware their town was destined to become one of the most important cities on the Mississippi. Even then it was the center of the thriving fur trade, a position it had attained while still an outpost of the Spanish government. During the fifty years of settlement the weather had softened the raw angularity of the public buildings, while vines and trees had veiled the glaring newness of the hastily constructed private dwellings. This feeling of established permanency was in keeping with the fact that the frontier, in its slow advance up the river, had overtaken St. Louis just a few