Medlar Flower

Missouri History

When Robert Cavalier, sieur de La Salle, claimed the area for France in 1682, it was inhabited by the Osage and Missouri Indians. In 1803 the land passed to the U.S. as part of the Louisiana Purchase, and soon St. Louis became the gateway to the West, especially after the advent of steamboat traffic on the Missouri and Mississippi rivers in the 1820s. The question of admitting the Missouri Territory into the Union became a burning national issue because it involved the question of extending slavery; the dispute was ended by the Missouri Compromise (1821), which admitted Missouri as a slave state. Independence, St. Joseph, and other cities became the starting points for wagon trains traveling west, and the state's own population grew, especially with the arrival of railroads and, subsequently, of thousands of German immigrants during the 1840s and 50s. Missouri remained loyal to the Union in the Civil War and was the scene of guerrilla activities, which gave rise to postwar lawlessness on the part of Jesse James and other outlaws. Industry gradually surpassed agriculture in importance, especially after World War II, when Missouri became the country's second largest manufacturer of automobiles (after Michigan). Although faced with high unemployment, the state continued to attract varied industrial and commercial enterprises in the 1980s. In 1993 record rains led to widespread flooding in the state, particularly along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.