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Missouri State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1673—France explores down the Mississippi River into Missouri

1682—France claims all land drained by the Mississippi River

1735—Ste. Genevieve, the first permanent white town, is established

1764—Pierre Laciéde founds St. Louis

1803—The United States gains control of Missouri

1812—Congress creates the Missouri Territory

1821—Missouri becomes the 24th state

1837—The Platte Purchase gives Missouri six northwestern counties

1860—The Pony Express links Missouri to California

1861—Battle of Booneville

1931—Bagnell Dam on the Osage River forms the Lake of the Ozarks

1945—Harry S. Truman becomes the 33rd President of the United States

1965—The Gateway Arch is completed in St. Louis

1986—Missouri establishes a statewide lottery

Several groups of Native American Indians lived in the Missouri region when European explores first arrived.  The largest of these included the Missouri and Osage tribes.

Frenchmen Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet were the first white people to see the Missouri River in 1673.  In 1682, René-Robert Cavelier traveled down the Mississippi River and claimed the entire Mississippi Valley for France.  This land, that included Missouri, was named Louisiana after King Louis XIV.

French fur traders built trading posts along the Missouri River.  Missionaries established St. Francis Xavier, the first white settlement of Missouri.  It was located near present-day St. Louis, but was deserted in 1703.  Missouri’s first permanent settlement, Ste. Genevieve, was established in 1735.

In 1762, the Louisiana Territory came under Spanish control.  Although few Spaniards settled Missouri, many U.S. miners and farmers entered from Mississippi.  In 1800, France reclaimed the Louisiana Territory and in 1803, sold it to the United States.  The Missouri Territory was organized in 1812.

As people flooded into Missouri, Native Americans grew angry and began raiding settlements.  During the War of 1812, Britain supplied the Indians with weapons and encouraged them to attack Missouri settlements.  Not until 1815 did the attacks end with a peace treaty at Portage des Sioux.  By 1825, few Native Americans lived in Missouri.

Attempts for statehood started in 1818, but questions concerning slavery in the state were not settled until 1820.  The Missouri Compromise allowed Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state while Maine became a free state.  This kept the number of slave and free states equal.  Missouri became the 24th state on Aug. 10, 1821.

Fur trade continued as an important industry in Missouri during the mid-1800s.  The American Fur Company organized in St. Louis in 1822 and soon developed a monopoly on all fur trade west of the Mississippi River.  Trade with Mexico was very successful.  The Santa Fe Trail connected Independence with the Southwest.  Independence also marked the beginning of the Oregon Trail that led thousands to the Pacific Northwest.

In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott Decision that slaves were considered property.  This historic decision increased tension between the North and the South.  Kansas, located on Missouri’s western border, became a free state in 1861.  Fighting between Kansas and Missouri began and continued into the Civil War.

In 1861, a convention was called to determine whether Missouri would secede from the Union.  Although the majority voted to support the Union, Governor Claiborne Jackson refused to send troops at the request of President Lincoln.  Jackson led the state militia against Union troops at the Battle of Boonville.  Jackson’s militia was forced to southern Missouri where they defeated Union troops at Wilson’ Creek.  Shortly after, the state convention met again to remove all pro-Confederate state leaders from office.

After the war, St. Louis and Kansas City became important railroad centers.  Outlaws held up banks, stagecoaches, and trains.  Jesse James terrorized the state for over 20 years until he was killed by one of his own gang in 1882.  In 1904, St. Louis hosted the World’s Fair and the Olympics.  The following year laws were passed that required inspection of working conditions and regulation of child labor and public utilities in Missouri.

During World War I (1914-1918), Missouri’s industries expanded to help supply war materials.  John Pershing of Linn County was named commander in chief of the U.S. forces in France.  The Great Depression (1929-1939) caused more than 200,000 Missourians to lose their jobs and some to lose their land.  The federal government established programs to help bring employment to Missouri.  World War II (1939-1945) also revived the economy as factories again opened to provide war materials.

New industries moved to Missouri during the 1950s.  A uranium-processing plant opened in Weldon Spring, electronic plants were built in Joplin, and factories in St. Louis and Neosho began producing parts for spacecrafts.  Economic growth continued through the 1960s.  State leaders encouraged tourism and the expansion of mining throughout the state.

Missouri encountered serious pollution problems in the early 1980s.  Contamination threatened ground water supplies and poisonous substances were discovered in Times Beach.  The federal government is striving to help Missouri clean these areas.  As urban problems became serious, St. Louis and Kansas City rebuilt their riverfronts.  Missouri was also faced with financial problems.  In 1986, a state lottery was established to help with education, welfare, and environmental programs.

Today in spite of these difficulties, Missouri continues to grow and the economy remains strong.