In 1673 French explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet canoed down the Mississippi from the north. They mapped the area and were the first to refer to it as Missouri, named after a local Indian tribe. In 1682 Robert de La Salle travelled from the Great Lakes to the mouth of the Mississippi. He claimed the whole area for France and named the upper Mississippi basin Illinois Country. In 1717 Illinois Country became part of the French province of Louisiana. The French established the first permanent settlement in the mid 1730s at Ste. Genevieve on the banks of the Mississippi. It remained the only settlement in the area until St. Louis was founded as a fur trading post in 1764. Two years earlier France had transferred control of Louisiana to Spain but in 1802 Spain secretly ceded the territory back to France ready for it to be sold in 1803 to the USA under the Louisiana Purchase. The following year the Lewis & Clark Expedition set out from St Louis to explore the new territory. Missouri was organized as a territory in 1812 and was admitted to the Union as a slave state on August 10, 1821. At the start of the Civil War opinion in Missouri was mainly in favour of the Union but state governor Claiborne Fox Jackson supported the Confederacy. He and much of the legislature fled to southern Missouri where they passed an ordinance of secession but it was not recognised and Missouri remained in the Union. Modern Missouri has a diverse economy including a large agricultural sector and also mining of limestone, lead, and coal.
Scott Joplin House State Historic Site, St Louis
Scott Joplin was born in 1867 or 1868 in north east Texas. He became famous for the ragtime music that he composed, including pieces that a still well known and loved such as the Maple Leaf Rag and The Entertainer. When he was a child, his family moved to Texarkana which, as the name suggests, straddles the border between Texas and Arkansas. It is thought that Joplin gained his first experience of playing the piano here, playing in the house where his mother worked. By age 11 he was able to play several instruments. His talent was spotted by music teacher Julius Weiss who gave him formal music training. He took up a career as a musician working with troupes of minstrels and bands. He moved around a lot until in In 1894 he set up home in Sedalia, Missouri. In late 1898 he tried his hand a publishing a couple of piano rags with only limited success. In 1899 he tried again, this time successfully publishing the Maple Leaf Rag. He went on to publish a total of 44 pieces of ragtime music, one ragtime ballet and two operas. In 1900 Joplin moved to a flat in St. Louis with his new wife, Belle. They lived there until 1903. Joplin died in 1917 as a result of tertiary syphilis. The building where he lived from 1900 to 1903 is now Scott Joplin House State Historic Site. It is open to the public, but unfortunately it was closed when we visited.
Gateway Arch, St. Louis
The Missouri River joins the Mississippi just 26 kilometres (16 miles) north of the city of St. Louis. From Lewis and Clark onwards this ready access to major rivers made St. Louis the ideal starting point for expeditions into the more remote regions of the Louisiana Purchase. It also made St. Louis the starting point for western expansion of settlement of the USA. The Gateway Arch was built in St. Louis on the banks of the Mississippi between 1963 and 1965 to commemorate the westward expansion. The idea of building such a monument goes right back to 1931, but it proved difficult to agree funding so it was not until 1945 that a competition was announced for the design of a monument. In 1947 the winning design was chosen, an arch proposed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen. Much of the next 16 years was spent wrestling with the problem that railroad tracks ran down the banks of the Mississippi, right through the site proposed for the arch. These were eventually put in tunnels, allowing construction of the stainless steel arch to begin in 1963. The arch stands 192 metres (630 feet) high and it opened to the public on June 10, 1967. A tram runs through the hollow tube that forms the arch to take visitors to an observation deck at the top. The Arch and the Museum of Westward Expansion built underneath it, form part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.
Missouri River from Katy Trail State Park, St Charles
The river that enters the Gulf of Mexico south of New Orleans should actually be called the Missouri because where the two rivers join it is the Missouri not the Mississippi that carries the greater volume of water. The mistake arose because the Mississippi was first explored from the north down to its mouth in the south. Upstream from the point of confluence the Missouri is also longer than the Mississippi. This could demote the Mississippi and Missouri on the table of longest rivers in the world, so the two rivers are counted as one. The Mississippi-Missouri River System is the fourth longest river in the world at 5,969 kilometres (3,709 miles) long. This picture shows the Missouri at St. Charles, just 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the point where it joins the Mississippi.
Click on Minimap to navigate
Mississippi River from from below Gateway Arch, St Louis
At the time of the Louisiana Purchase, rivers provided the primary method of transport. Missouri has the Mississippi running along its eastern boundary and the Missouri bisecting the state from Kansas City to St. Louis. Having such great transport links helped Missouri to become a territory only nine years after the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and a state another nine years on. Gaining statehood was far from trouble free as the anti-slavery faction in the US Congress were keen to prevent any northward expansion of slavery while the pro-slavery faction wanted Missouri to remain a slave state. The 1820 Missouri Compromise broke the deadlock by prohibiting slavery north of the parallel 36°30′ north, with the exception of the Missouri Territory. To preserve the balance on slavery, the Compromise opened the way for Maine to gain statehood as a free state to balance the arrival of Missouri as a slave state. This picture shows the mighty Mississippi as it passes in front of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
We have more pages on Missouri. Click below or on the Minimap: