The following article was written by my good friend,
Bill Dollarhide, and is taken from his book, Missouri Censuses & Substitute Names Lists, 1752-2010.
1673. Mississippi River. French explorers Jacques Jolliet and Louis Marquette left their base at Ste. Sault Marie, and made their way to the Illinois River, which they descended to become the first Europeans to discover the Mississippi River. They floated down the Mississippi as far south as the mouth of the Arkansas River before returning to the Great Lakes area.
1682. Mississippi River. Following the same route as Jolliet and Marquette, René-Robert Cavelier (Sieur de LaSalle) floated down the Mississippi River, continuing all the way to its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico. He then claimed the entire Mississippi Basin for Louis XIV of France, for whom Louisiana was named.
1682-1720. Louisiana. During this period, the jurisdiction of Louisiana ran from the Gulf of Mexico to the confluence of the Arkansas River with the Mississippi River. The French administered Arkansas Post, Natchez, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Mobile, and Biloxi as part of Louisiana. Fort Louis de la Louisiane (now Mobile), was the capital of Louisiana, 1702-1720.
1720-1762. Upper and Lower Louisiana. By 1720, The Illinois Country was separated from Quebéc and added to Louisiana. The original Louisiana area became known as Lower Louisiana. The capital of Lower Louisiana was at New Orleans, 1720-1762. Upper Louisiana extended from the Highlands (Terra Haute) on the Wabash River down the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys to the Arkansas River. The fur trading settlements of Upper Louisiana included Vincennes (now Indiana), Prairie du Chien (now Wisconsin); Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Chartres, Saint Philippe, and Prairie du Rocher (now Illinois); Ste. Genevieve (now Missouri), and Fort de Chavagnial on the Missouri River (now Kansas).
1763. Treaty of Paris. This was the end of the French and Indian war. (In Europe it was called the “Seven Years War.”) At the 1763 treaty, the French surrendered all their claims in North America. Spain acquired the former French areas west of the Mississippi, renamed Spanish Louisiana. Great Britain gained all of Québec, which they immediately renamed the Province of Canada. Britain also gained control of the rest of North America east of the Mississippi River. They named their entire area British North America.
1764. St. Louis was founded by French trader Pierre Laclede Liguest. Although part of Spanish Louisiana, St. Louis operated under French civilian control until it was occupied by Spanish soldiers in 1770.
1783. Treaty of Paris. As the official end of the Revolutionary War, the 1783 treaty recognized the United States as an independent republic, with borders from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. The treaty also reaffirmed the claims of Britain to present-day Canada; and Spain’s claim to lands west of the Mississippi River.
1800. Louisiana. Napoleon acquired title of Louisiana from Spain. At the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso, the Spanish acknowledged that it was too costly to explore the country and could not see the rewards being worth the investment. Spain retroceded Louisiana to France in exchange for the Grand Duchy of Tuscany (now part of Italy).
1803. Louisiana Purchase. The United States purchased Louisiana from France. Sent by President Jefferson to attempt the purchase of New Orleans, the American negotiators (James Madison and Robert Livingston) were surprised when Napoleon offered the entire tract to them. The Louisiana Purchase was officially described as the “drainage of the Mississippi and Missouri River basins.” Adding the area doubled the size of the United States.
1804. On a expedition ordered by President Thomas Jefferson, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s Corps of Discovery left St. Louis in search of a passage to the Pacific Ocean. Based on bad information from his spies, the Spanish governor of New Mexico dispatched soldiers from Santa Fe to the Arkansas River to intercept the party and arrest them. But, the Lewis and Clark party had taken a more northern route, following the Missouri River.
1804. Orleans Territory and Louisiana District. Congress divided the Louisiana Purchase into two jurisdictions. Orleans Territory had north and south bounds the same as the present state of Louisiana, but did not include land east of the Mississippi River, and its northwestern corner extended on an indefinite line west into Spanish Texas. For a year, Louisiana District was attached to Indiana Territory for judicial administration.
1805. Louisiana Territory. Louisiana District became Louisiana Territory with its own Governor on July 4, 1805. First governor: James Wilkinson. First territorial capital: St. Louis.
1805. First Pike Expedition. Governor Wilkinson, still a U.S. Army General, picked Lieutenant Zebulon Pike to lead a small party of soldiers to investigate the Mississippi River above St. Louis. Pike was given specific orders to find the source of the Mississippi, and while doing so, to note “…any rivers, prairies, islands, mines, quarries, timber, and any Indian villages and settlements encountered.”
1805. Louisiana Territory had five original subdivisions: St. Louis District, St. Charles District, Ste. Genevieve District, Cape Girardeau District and New Madrid District. The unpopulated area north of these original districts was referred to as Upper Louisiana, and included all lands north to the U.S./British border and west to the Continental Divide.
1806-1807. Second Pike Expedition. Zebulon Pike, now a Captain, was again sent out, this time to explore and locate the source of the Red River in Lower Louisiana. From St. Louis, Pike’s party followed the Missouri River to the mouth of the Kansas River, then connecting with the Arkansas River, which he followed to its source in the Rocky Mountains (now Colorado), Pike returned on a more southern route that took him into an area claimed by the Spanish as part of Nuevo Mexico. He and his men were arrested, taken to Santa Fe, but returned to the Arkansas River shortly thereafter. In 1810 Pike wrote a book describing his adventures in the Rocky Mountains that became a best seller in America and Europe. The book was the inspiration and guide for a good number of “mountain men” who were the only whites to venture into the Rocky Mountains for the next 35 years.
1812. Missouri Territory. Louisiana Territory was renamed Missouri Territory on June 4, 1812. This was to avoid any confusion after Orleans Territory became the State of Louisiana on April 30, 1812. The General Assembly of the Territory of Missouri met in St. Louis in October, and converted the first five original districts into counties: Cape Girardeau, New Madrid, St. Charles, St. Louis, and Ste. Genevieve. A year later, the territorial legislature created Arkansas County from lands ceded by the Osage Indians.
1815-1819. Steamboats did not dominate river transportation until after the development of the classic flat-bottomed sternwheeler. By 1815, steamboats on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers had revolutionized river traffic. The first steamboats on the Missouri River began in 1819, but they could usually go no farther west than the mouth of the Kansas River, due to the periodic low water levels and heavy silt at that point.
1819. Arkansas Territory was created, reducing the size of Missouri Territory. The original area included all of present-day Arkansas and most of Oklahoma.
1820. The Missouri Compromise in Congress allowed Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state and Maine as a free state, thus keeping the balance of slave and free states equal in Congress. The Act dictated that the remaining area of Missouri Territory north of Latitude 36° 30′ was to be free of slavery (that area included present Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana).
1821. Aug 10th. Missouri was admitted to the Union as a state with St. Louis as the capital. After Missouri became a state, the remaining part of old Missouri Territory was officially described as Unorganized Territory.
1821. Sept. Santa Fe Trail. William Becknell, a Missouri trader, was the first American to follow the route that was to become known as the Santa Fe Trail, beginning at the Missouri River near present Independence, MO. His profitable success in trading with the newly independent Mexicans of Santa Fe was well publicized. Over the next few months, dozens of wagon trains were organized to transport and sell products to a new market.
1822. The Rocky Mountain Fur Company was formed by General William Ashley. He placed an ad in a St. Louis newspaper to recruit able-bodied men for his new fur-trading enterprise. There was no shortage of willing young men. Ashley did not build a chain of forts to manage his fur trading operation. Instead, he sent his men out alone and made arrangements to meet them all at a central place a year later. When Ashley finally reached his men each year, it was cause for celebration – a wild party they called “the rendezvous.” In 1826, William Ashley retired a wealthy man and sold the Rocky Mountain Fur Company to his employees.
1826. Missouri. The state capital was moved from St. Louis to Jefferson City.
1827. Independence, Missouri. The frontier town of Independence was founded in 1827, the farthest point westward on the Missouri River where steamboats could usually travel. (The nearby confluence of the Kansas River was part of the navigation problem, due to heavy silt and periodic shallow channels). Independence immediately became a supply point, staging area, and primary starting point for the growing number of trappers and traders using the Santa Fe Trail.
1829. Sublette’s Trace/Oregon Trail. Before 1829, access to the Platte River Trail from Independence, Missouri, was via the Missouri River to the mouth of the Platte River in present Nebraska. But steamboat traffic usually ended at Independence and travel up river at that time required human-powered keel boats. The overland route of the Santa Fe Trail now started at Independence as well, heading west several miles into present Kansas, then southwest towards Santa Fe. A few miles into the Santa Fe Trail in present Kansas, at a point later called the Oregon Trail Junction, fur trader William Sublette blazed a cut-off from the Santa Fe Trail, turning northwest and connecting with the Platte River in present Nebraska. The new route across present northeast Kansas was more direct than the river route, and later became the first leg of the Oregon Trail.
1832. After dredging projects near the mouth of the Kansas River, steamboat traffic continued up the Missouri River. In 1832, the steamboat Yellowstone began the first of its annual fur-trading voyages up the Missouri River, reaching Fort Union (present North Dakota/Montana line).
1841. The Western Emigration Society, a group of about 70 settlers bound for California and the Oregon Country set off on the Oregon Trail, beginning at Independence, Missouri. This was the first organized wagon train to head for California and Oregon. It is usually called the “Bartleson-Bidwell party,” named for the two leaders. John Bartleson led about half of the group to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. John Bidwell took the other half to California’s Sacramento Valley. It is important to remember that neither California nor the Oregon Country were part of the U.S. in 1841, and that the pioneers headed there traveled on blind faith that they would be allowed to stay when they got there.
1843. May. Oregon Trail. A wagon train with over 120 wagons, a large herd of livestock, and 1,000 pioneers left Elm Grove, MO and headed out on the Oregon Trail. The largest wagon train to date, it became the model for the thousands of wagon trains that followed. For an online list of the members of the 1843 Wagon Train, see the OR RootsWeb site:
1849. California Gold Rush. With the discovery of gold in California, the Missouri towns of St. Louis, Independence, Westport, and St. Joseph became points of departure for emigrants bound for California, making Missouri the “Gateway to the West.”
1860. Apr. Pony Express. The 1,900-mile Pony Express route ran from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California. In competition with the Butterfield Overland Stage company, which held the U.S. Mail contract until the start of the Civil War, the Pony Express riders made the northern journey from St. Joseph to Sacramento in 10 days’ time. The Butterfield stages took a southern route from Memphis through Arkansas, Texas, and New Mexico, and into Los Angeles, then to Sacramento in an average of 25 days’ time. Still, the Pony Express could never gain the U.S. Mail contract and stayed in business only until June 1861.
1946. Missouri. Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of Great Britain, delivered his famous “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton’s Westminster College.
1965. St. Louis, Missouri. The Gateway Arch (Jefferson National Expansion Memorial) designed by Eero Saarinen was completed. Located on the original settlement site of St. Louis, it symbolized the role of St. Louis in the development of the western frontier.
Missouri Censuses & Substitute Name Lists, 1752-2010, 85 pages, softbound, Item FR0259.
Missouri Censuses & Substitute Name Lists, 1752-2010 (PDF Version), 85 pages, Item FR0260.
Missouri Censuses & Substitutes, a Genealogists’ Insta-GuideTM, 4-page, laminated, 3-hole punched, Item FR0329.
Missouri Censuses & Substitutes, a Genealogists’ Insta-GuideTM, (PDF version), 4 pp, Item FR0330.