Geography and Landforms:

Missouri is bordered by Iowa on the north and by Arkansas and Tennessee on the south. Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee border the state on the east, and Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma form the western border. The highest point in Missouri is Taum Sauk Mountain at 1772 feet.

Major rivers in the state include the Mississippi River, the Missouri River, the Current River and the Osage River. The land north of the Missouri River is covered with rich soil that is particularly good for growing corn. Western Missouri includes the Osage Plains, which are mostly flat, and the soil is not as good as that north of the Missouri River. However, corn and other grains are grown in the Osage Plains region. The Ozark Plateau region of Missouri is the largest land area in the state. There are forested hills and low mountains covering a large number of caves. The southern part of Missouri is part of the Mississippi Alluvial Plain. Although this area was once swampy, it has been drained and provides rich farmland suitable for growing cotton and rice.


Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet of France were the first white people to see the Missouri River in 1673. In 1682, Rene-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 abandoned in 1703. In 1724, Fort Orleans was built on the north bank of the Missouri River by Etienne de Bourgmont, but this settlement was abandoned within six years. 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 1798, Lieutenant Governor Zenon Trudeau of the Spanish government offered Daniel Boone a large sum of money to settle in the new Territory. However, in 1800, France reclaimed the Louisiana Territory and in 1803, sold it to the United States. In 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition set out from St. Louis to explore the Louisiana Purchase. The expedition would proceed westward until the expedition finally reached the Pacific Ocean.

The Missouri Territory was formally organized in 1812 from a portion of the Louisiana Purchase.

As settlers flooded into Missouri, Native Americans grew angry and began raiding white homesteads. 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. In 1818, the first petition to Congress for Missouri statehood was filed, and 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 with the "Missouri Compromise." Missouri Territory was split between those who supported slavery and those who opposed it. Because the number of slave states and states prohibiting slavery were fairly equal, proponents on both sides did not want the balance in Congress to be upset. The Missouri Compromise sought to solve this issue by permitting Missouri to enter the Union as a "slave state" as long as Maine entered the Union as a "free state" maintaining the balance of power in Congress. In addition, the Compromise determined that the remaining portions of the Louisiana Purchase north of the 36'''?30' line of latitude would be free of slavery. It was decisions such as the Missouri Compromise that drew the United States closer and closer to the Constitutional crisis that became the Civil War. Missouri became the 24th state on Aug. 10, 1821.

Unfortunately, the Missouri Compromise did not settle the issue of slavery in the area. In 1854, President Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act which ruled that states might have "popular sovereignty" in deciding whether to allow or outlaw slavery. This was in direct contradiction of the Missouri Compromise, and led to violent border wars between those living along the Missouri Kansas border. In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott Decision that slaves were considered property, despite the fact that Missouri statutes permitted Scott, a slave, to sue for his freedom based upon the fact that he had lived in a free territory (Wisconsin) prior to being returned to the slave state of Missouri. 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. In 1865, slavery was abolished in Missouri, making the state the first to emancipate its slaves before the adoption of the 13th Amendment.


Missouri's economy is dominated by industry. Aerospace and transportation equipment are the main manufactures; food products, chemicals, printing and publishing, machinery, fabricated metals, and electrical equipment are also important. St. Louis is an important center for the manufacture of metals and chemicals. In Kansas City, long a leading market for livestock and wheat, the manufacture of vending machines and of cars and trucks are leading industries.

Coal in the west and north central sections, lead in the southeast, and zinc in the southwest are among the products of Missouri's mines. Lead, cement, and stone are the chief minerals produced in the state.

Missouri remains important agriculturally; with over 100,000 farms, the state ranks second only to Texas. The most valuable farm products are soybeans, corn, cattle, hogs, wheat, and dairy items. The development of resorts in the Ozarks, including Branson and several lakes, has boosted tourism income.

First Inhabitants:

Nomadic hunters were present in the area we now call Missouri perhaps as early as 12,000 years ago. Divided into small bands, they ranged widely over the land, hunting many now-extinct animals. The next period, called Archaic, lasted from about 10,000 to 3,000 years ago. In this period, these hunters used woven baskets and highly specialized stone tools. Later on, the Woodland culture saw the introduction of pottery and agriculture. Southeastern Missouri contains many artifacts and relics of the culture called Mississippians or Mound Builders, a village society that started about AD 800.

The peoples who inhabited the area during the era of exploration and settlement were semi-nomads who were attracted by the forests and prairies in the lower part of the Missouri River valley, which abounded with game. They lived about half the year in villages, growing crops. Most powerful and numerous were the Osage, who lived along the Osage River. North of the Missouri lived the Oto, and a village of the Missouria people was located at the confluence of the Grand and Missouri rivers. The name of the village was applied to the people, the river, and finally the state. The Iowa and, later, the united Sac (Sauk) and Fox drove out the other groups by the early 19th century. The Spanish moved some Shawnee and Delaware to Missouri temporarily, but all of the Native Americans had been forced out of the state by 1837.

Books Related To Missouri

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain
(978-1402714603) , Fiction
Interest level: 5-9, Lexile: 930, ESL level: 4 - 5
Tom Sawyer entertains readers with his many adventures and misadventures in a small Missouri town and on a nearby island where he searches for pirate's treasure and witnesses a murder.

Aunt Minnie McGranahan - Mary Skillings Prigger
(978-0618604883) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-3, Lexile: 380, ESL level: 2
Aunt Minnie surprises the people in her small Missouri town when she successfully takes over the raising of nine nieces and nephews.

Caught in the Act - Joan Lowery Nixon
(978-0440226789) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-6, Lexile: 800, ESL level: 3 - 4
Michael's new foster home features a vengeful owner, a son who is a bully, and a possible murderer in this gripping mystery.

A Girl Named Dan - Dandi Daley Mackall
(978-1585363513) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-4, Lexile: 590, ESL level: 2 - 3
Dandi tries to ignore society's prejudice against girls playing baseball, so she tries out to be a bat "boy"" for the KC Athletes baseball team."

The Haunted Cabin Mystery - Gertrude Chandler Warner
(978-0807531808) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 630, ESL level: 3 - 4
Children try to uncover the roots of mysterious events at a cabin in rural Missouri, riding a paddle boat down the Mississippi River to get there.

Little Town in the Ozarks - Roger Macbride
(978-0064405805) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-7, Lexile: 870, ESL level: 3 - 4
Part of the continuation of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, this one shows what happens to Rose Wilder's family when they are forced to move into town after a fire on their farm.

S is for Show Me:A Missouri Alphabet - Judy Young
(978-1585360260) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about the state of Missouri.

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs - Betty Birney
(978-1416934899) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-7, Lexile: 790, ESL level: 2 - 3
Eben really wants to find more seven wonders of the world in his small Missouri town.

Famous Citizens:

Maya Angelou
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, as Marguerite Johnson, she is the award winning author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She was the first African American woman to have a book on the New York Times Nonfiction best-seller list, and delivered a speech entitled "On the Pulse of Morning" at the Inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993.

Yogi Berra
Lawrence Peter Berra was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and got his nickname "Yogi" when a childhood friend thought he looked like a Hindu snake charmer. Berra began playing minor League baseball, and in 1942 signed with the New York Yankees at age 17. World War II interrupted his baseball career, and he participated in the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach as a sailor in the Navy. After the War, he returned to baseball and was named All-Star fifteen times, American League MVP three times, played in 14 World Series. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver was born near Diamond Grove, Missouri, the son of a slave. He was raised by his owner, Moses Carver. George's owners realized that he had a remarkable mind and would benefit from going to school, but at that time, black children were not permitted to attend schools with white children. Instead, he left home to attend schools for black children. In 1891, he was admitted to Iowa State University and received degrees in Agriculture and Botany. After graduation, he became the first African American to teach at Iowa State. Eventually, Booker T. Washington, the founder of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute for Negroes (later the Tuskegee Institute) convinced Carver to come and teach there, and he remained on the faculty until his death. Carver's dream was to give African Americans the ability to work and support themselves. He developed products from peanuts and sweet potatoes, common crops grown by black farmers in the south. He is credited with developing peanut butter.

Samuel Clemens
Born in Florida, Missouri, Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, grew up in nearby Hannibal. He began his career as a printer's apprentice, and eventually wrote for the Keokuk, Iowa Saturday Post. Soon thereafter, however, he abandoned his literary career and spent 18 months as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River. Writing called him back following the Civil War and he wrote for newspapers and magazines. He is probably best known for his novels about life on the Mississippi: Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Jesse James
Jesse Woodson James was born in Kearney, Missouri, the son of a Baptist minister. Some believe that cruel treatment by Union soldiers during the Civil War was what turned Jesse and his brother Frank to a life of crime after the war. Their first bank robbery got them $60,000 from a bank in Liberty, Missouri. For 15 years, Frank and Jesse robbed trains and banks throughout the US. In 1876, Jesse and Frank were involved in a robbery along with another gang, and Pinkerton detectives killed or wounded all of them except the James brothers. From that point, Jesse, his wife, and children went into hiding, but the $10,000 price on Jesse's head led Bob Ford to shoot Jesse to collect the reward.

Harry S Truman
Born in Lamar, and raised in Independence, Missouri, Truman began as a successful Missouri farmer. He served in France during World War I and after the war, opened a men's clothing store in Kansas City. An active Democrat, he became a Senator in 1934. As the 33rd President of the United States, Truman ordered the use of atomic weapons against Japan at the end of World War II. He also witnessed the signing of the charter of the United Nations.

Capital: Jefferson City
Entered Union: August 10, 1821
Population: 6,063,589
Area 69,704
Bird Bluebird
Flower Hawthorn
Nickname: Show Me State
Governor Jay Nixon

Places to Visit in Missouri: (Click the links to learn more.)

Pony Express Museum - St. Joseph
The Pony Express Museum provides information and exhibits about the life and work of those who rode on horseback to deliver the mail through the Old West.

Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum - Hannibal
Visit the boyhood home of Mark Twain and see a collection of historic items in the adjoining museum. Nearby is the Becky Thatcher House, actually the Hawkins family home. Laura Hawkins was the model for Becky Thatcher in Twain's stories.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum - Kansas City
African Americans began to play professional baseball during the Civil War, but by 1900, racism forced black players to form their own teams and their own leagues which flourished until 1945, when Jackie Robinson became the first black player to play on a white professional team. The last of the Negro League teams folded in the early 1960s, and their legacy is preserved in this museum.

Meramec Caverns - Stanton
Meramec Caverns is the largest commercial cave in Missouri, a state also known as the Cave State. The caverns chronicle over 400 million years of history. Early Indian tribes used the cave as a shelter, and the cave may have been used as a station on the "Underground Railroad." Jesse James and his gang used the cave as a hideout. Meramec Caverns was opened to the public in 1935 as a tourist attraction and features 26 miles of underground passages.

Lewis & Clark Center - St. Charles
The Lewis & Clark Center is dedicated to the accomplishments of the Lewis & Clark Expedition in the early 19th century. The center includes a museum, trading post, and detailed dioramas showing the expedition traveling the length of the Missouri River, crossing the Rocky Mountains and proceeding to the Pacific Ocean.