Missouri State History

It is believed that the first Europeans to visit Missouri’s land were DeSoto, Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet in the 17th century, proceeded by Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle who claimed the area west of the Mississippi for France naming it the Louisiana territory. The Louisiana territory was secretly given to Spain, then returned to back to France and sold to the US by Napoleon Bonaparte. The seat of government for the territory was in St. Louis, which is also the departure point for the Lewis and Clark expedition in to the Pacific northwest.

Missouri has been called the “Mother of the West” or the “Gateway to the West” because it was a starting point for much exploration and travel. The Oregon and Santa Fe Trails began in Missouri, as well as the Butterfield Overland Mail route and the Pony Express.

Fur trading and mining were the major activities of Missouri in the earlier years. The business of mining brought the first blacks to Missouri as slaves. Fort Osage was built overlooking the Missouri river and governed by William Clarke. Many military and trade alliances were made between the white settlers and Indians, particularly with the Osage tribe. As settlement increases in the area, Indians begin raiding frontier settlements, upset over the loss of their ancient hunting grounds.

In 1812 a portion of the Louisiana territory became the Missouri territory and by 1818 Missouri requested to be admitted into the Union. This request caused a nationwide uproar over the issue of slavery and the bitter debates created further division within the US. In 1820 the Missouri Compromise was passed, allowing Maine in as a free state and Missouri in as slave state, keeping the ratio between slave and free states equal. It also stipulated that slavery was prohibited in the remainder of the Louisiana territory north of the southern boundary of Missouri. On August 10, 1821 Missouri was admitted as the 24th state and was at the time the nation’s western frontier. St. Charles was designated as the temporary state capitol, until Jefferson City was made the permanent state capitol.

In 1831, Joseph Smith and his followers, known as the Mormons or Latter-Day Saints, settled in Independence, Missouri after being made to leave two previous states. The growing Mormon population was not well received by other Missourians. In 1838 hostilities escalated into what is known as the “Mormon War.” The Mormons were tired of being driven from state to state and county to county and decided to defend themselves with local and legitimate state militia groups. The governor of Missouri issued his famous Extermination Order, allowing the state militia to “drive all Mormons from Missouri or exterminate them.” Raids, burning of homes and business, rape and murder was committed by both sides. An unprovoked attack at Haun’s Mill left 17 LDS men and boys dead. During the winter of 1838, 12,000 Mormons fled Missouri led by Brigham Young. Joseph Smith had been jailed in Missouri, but was allowed to escape and join his followers. Smith reports that this imprisonment provoked further revelations from heaven and increased his strength.

The well-known Dred Scott case took place in Missouri. Scott was a slave who claimed that he was due his freedom based on the seven years that he had lived in a free state. The case was taken to court in 1846 and went on for over 10 years. Based on Missouri law, the Missouri Supreme Court had freed numerous slaves who had traveled and lived in free states, but because of the increasing conflict of the times, they ruled against Scott. The case was taken to the United States Supreme Court which in 1857 upheld slavery in US territories that had previously been ruled as non-slavery areas by the Missouri Compromise and denied the legality of black citizenship in America.  “Scott’s case left America in ‘shocks and throes and convulsions’ that only the complete eradication of slavery through war could cure.”

When the Kansas-Nebraska Act was signed in 1854 it did away with the Missouri Compromise and allowed each state to decide if it would be a slave or free state. The country was afraid of what it would cost either side if Kansas became a free or slave state. Numerous Missourians went into Kansas to try to force Kansas into becoming a slave state. What ensued was a border war. “For five years before the Civil War, residents of the neighboring states of Missouri and Kansas waged their own civil conflict, which was characterized by unremitting and unparalleled brutality. More than anywhere else in the nation, this was truly a civil war-a conflict whose wounds were a long time in healing.” Jayhawkers from Kansas and bushwhackers from Missouri led raids on the others’ land, homes, business, and families, committing numerous violent atrocities. Just between November 1855 and December 1856 alone, 200 died in the conflict. In August of 1863 Order #11 was issued that called for Bates, Cass, Jackson, and Vernon counties to be made into a wasteland. “People were given 15 days to leave the area and then every home, barn and outbuilding was burned to the ground, and all food appropriate or destroyed.” For many years after the Civil War this area was called the “Burnt District.” The order was issued in attempt to stop bushwhackers, which it did in that area, but they simply moved north to “Little Dixie” and continued their guerilla warfare.

As the Civil War began, “Missouri’s allegiance was of vital concern to the Federal government. The state’s strategic position; the two rivers, Missouri and Mississippi; its abundant manpower, and natural resources made it imperative that she remain in the Union.” Missouri did remain in the Union, but its governor at the time was pro-slavery and created a rebel government that voted to secede. The result was a divided state. Missouri experienced 1,162 skirmishes and battles, had more fighting within its borders than any other state except Virginia, and ranks as the 3rd most fought over state in the nation during the Civil War. By the 3rd year of the war much of Missouri had been burned and depopulated. Significant battles in Missouri were Wilson’s Creek, Lexington, and Westport (now Kansas City) which was the largest battle fought west of the Mississippi. But it was the Battle at Pea Ridge in Arkansas, after the Union army had drove the Confederate army south, that determined that Missouri would remain in the Union.

Missouri was the “scene of savage and fierce fighting, mostly guerilla warfare with small bands of mounted raiders destroying anything military or civilian that could aid the enemy.” Southwest Missouri, more than any other area, became home to a vicious and cruel guerilla war between sympathizers with the Confederate and Union sides. Infamous fighters were William Clarke Quantrill, Frank and Jesse James, Cole Younger, William “Bloody Bill” Anderson, and Al Bolin. Anderson was responsible for the Centralia, Missouri massacre where he lined up over 20 captured Union soldiers and shot each of them in back. Bolin was known as the “meanest man in the Ozarks” and was known for his favorite killing spot called “Murder Rocks” near Forsyth, Missouri.

You can read more about Missouri and some helpful Prayer Points by clicking the appropriate links below.

About Missouri
Prayer Points