The year was 1860, the location is St. Joseph, Missouri. It’s a cold, rainy day. You’re riding on a horse galloping across the state. You have to travel at least 75 miles, changing horses several times over the next 10 hours. Your job is to help deliver important letters five states away within the next 10 days.
You don’t have a cell phone. There are no street signs or highway signs to guide you or even anyone nearby to ask for help.
You are on your own…
Missouri was the eastern starting point for Pony Express riders who traveled by horse in relay teams, delivering mail between the city of St. Joseph and Sacramento, California. Johnny Fry, who lived in Missouri, was just a teenager when he became the first Pony Express rider to leave the state to deliver mail out west.
If you could travel back in time, would you sign up to be a Pony Express rider? Imagine what that would be like. Would you be excited? Maybe even scared?
The Pony Express is an important part of Missouri’s past, but there are also many other significant events, inventions and accomplishments that make Missourians proud. Love pancakes? Consider that the recipe for instant pancake mix was created in this state. Psst, so was the machine that slices bread. Even the first successful parachute jump from an airplane happened here!
The state shares a border with eight others: Iowa to the north; Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee to the east; Arkansas to the south; and Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska to the west. The Missouri River, after which the state is named, flows through the center into the Mississippi River, which makes up the eastern border.
Missouri is also tied with Tennessee as the friendliest state in the country!
What really happened…
- Humans have lived in what is now Missouri for at least 12,000 years.
- When European explorers arrived in the 17th century, they encountered the Osage and Missouria (Indian) nations.
- French-led miners started a settlement here in 1735. Although they stayed, France ceded, or gave back, the land to Spain. Then in 1800, Spain ceded the area back to France.
- In 1803, Missouri was sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
- Four of the largest earthquakes in North American history occurred in the city of New Madrid between December 1811 and February 1812.
- The city of St. Louis was the starting point for the Lewis and Clark expedition. A group of explorers would explore lands west of the Mississippi between 1804 and 1806.
- The state was admitted to the union as a slave state as part of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which balanced the power in the US Senate between slave states and free states.
- It was one of five border states that didn’t leave the Union during the Civil War. Still, they were slave-holding states and the war divided people’s loyalties. Neighbor fought neighbor and bitter feelings lasted long after the Civil War.
- As the country expanded, more white people moved west and claimed land, forcing many Native Americans from their home. Some tribes moved to the eastern part of the state but by the 1830s, they had been forced out of the state entirely.
- Missouri joined the Union as the 24th state in 1821.
- Once the transcontinental telegraph was completed in 1861, there was no need for the Pony Express.
Stuff you should know…
- George Washington Carver, born a slave here before it was outlawed, became a great scientist and inventor. He developed hundreds of products using peanuts, sweet potatoes and soybeans.
- Missouri got its “Show-Me State” nickname in 1899 when Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver said, “I’m from Missouri and you’ve got to show me!”
- The state has more than 6,000 caves earning it the nickname of, you guessed it, the ‘Cave State’.
- The largest part of Missouri is the Ozark Mountains, which are forested hills, mountains, valleys, large lakes and rivers.
Crazy, funny or just plain weird…
- During Abraham Lincoln’s presidential campaign, a farmer named Valentine Tapley from Pike County swore he would never shave again if Lincoln were elected. Tapley kept his promise and grew his beard to twelve feet and six inches before his death in 1910.
- Harry S. Truman had several careers before he became a US president. He tried farming, railway work, joined the army and even owned a haberdashery (a men’s clothing store), which closed in 1922. Oh, and the letter “S” in his name doesn’t stand for anything. It’s his middle name!
- The state’s first two Capitols were destroyed by fire. Flames engulfed the first building in 1837 and then in 1911, a lightning strike caused a massive fire and destroyed the second building. The present Capitol is the third building in Jefferson City.
- Kansas City, Missouri has a ton of fountains that were originally built for horses, birds and dogs. The city is nicknamed, “The City of Fountains”.
- Missouri is where the first cow flew in an airplane. Elm Farm Ollie was headed to the International Aircraft Exposition in St. Louis.
- The most expensive pie ever sold at auction occurred at an annual fundraiser in Rich Hill, Missouri. Jerry Mumma, a 75-year-old farmer who grew soy, wheat and corn, paid $3100 for the pie in 2012. This should help explain part of it: The baker was his 18-year-old granddaughter.
Tell me more…
- The ice cream cone was invented at the World’s Fair in St. Louis when an ice cream vendor ran out of cups and tried to use waffles instead.
- President Harry S. Truman, the 33rd US president, was born here. So were other famous people, including Mark Twain and Jesse James.
- The Gateway Arch in St. Louis has an elevator in it that goes to the top of the 630 foot arch.
- In 1904, the World’s Fair in St. Louis introduced treats that included cotton candy and iced tea.
- The coldest temperature ever recorded in Missouri was -40 °F on February 13th, 1905.
- Many famous Black Americans were born or lived in the state. Among them are James Langston Hughes who became a great American poet, and William “Count” Basie who became a great jazz musician.
Would you like to add anything fun or interesting about Missouri? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your first name, age and state you live in and we’ll post it on Mo’s social media pages!