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Missouri: Home of Mark Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was inspired by Twain’s time as a river boat pilot on the Mississippi.

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Missouri, the “Show Me State,” was named after the tribe Missouris. Long before the Europeans explored the territory, there were several tribes of Native Americans including Foxes, Iowas, Delawares, Kickappos, Kansas, Otos, Sacs, Osages, Miamis, and Shawnees. The first explorers showed up in 1673 when Father Jacques Marguette and Louis Joliet visited and provided the first written accounts of the area. It would be nearly a century, though, before any permanent settlements were made.

In the mid-1730s, the French settled in Ste. Genevieve. In 1764, St. Louis was established as a fur trading post. By this time, Spain had control of the area, but in 1802, it ceded the area (known as the Louisiana Territory) back to France in a secret treaty. French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte wasn’t too thrilled with the new acquisition and sold it to the United States the following year for $15,000,000.

In 1812, Missouri was officially recognized as a territory, and on August 10, 1821, it joined the Union as the 24th state. It was the second state (Louisiana was the first) of the Louisiana Purchase to be admitted into the Union.

Things got dicey with the 1820 Missouri Compromise, though. The legislation allowed Missouri to be admitted to the Union as a slave state while Maine joined as a free state. Most Missourians did not believe in the institution of slavery, and when the Civil War broke out, the majority fought for the Union. At first, citizens wanted to stay out of the war, but Claiborne Fox Jackson, the governor, was pro-southern and tried to align the state with the Confederacy. He and his colleagues were forced to go to the southern part of the state where they passed an ordinance of secession. The ordinance wasn’t supported though because his government was no longer recognized by Missourians.

The Missouri Mormon War

The 1830s saw the Mormon population rising as they banded together and sought to settle in various locations in the state. For religious reasons, they believed they were destined to inherit the land from the people already settled there. Conflicts arose between the religious group and non-Mormons. Fights and even battles broke out.

One day, a legally sanctioned militia was attacked by Mormons who mistook it for an anti-Mormon mob. On October 27, 1838, the governor, Lilburn Boggs, was so infuriated that he issued an “Extermination Order.” The order declared members of the Mormon Church as enemies and demanded that they must be exterminated or removed from the state.

Interesting Facts

  • Missouri farmer Valentine Tapley really did not care for Abraham Lincoln. He vowed that if Lincoln became president, he would never again shave. He kept his promise and ended up with a beard that was 12-foot six-inches long when he died in 1910.
  • President Harry S. Truman was born in Lamar and was the first Missourian to become commander in chief.
  • Built in 1965 to commemorate settling the west after President Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis is the nation’s tallest manmade monument, standing 630 feet.
  • Mark Twain was born and raised in the Show Me State. His book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was inspired by his experience as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River.

National Correspondent at and Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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