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Missouri History
© 2005 Rickie Lazzerini

Page 3

Historical Review 1.5   
Life in Missouri

     After the expulsion of Native Americans, settlers from the South began flooding into the state. Kentucky and Tennessee produced the most settlers, followed by North Carolina and Virginia. These settlers brought with them strong Methodist and Baptist Southern cultures, creating a strict Christian foundation in the state.

     Missouri's economy was mainly based on farming and lead mining. Most of these mines were located in Washington County. The mining industry brought in an average of $149,728 per year. Agriculture was a developing industry in the early 1800s. In the territorial period, most of Missouri's land was uncultivated, but crop acreage grew along with population. The fur trading industry swelled when the Santa Fe Trail was opened after the Mexican War for Independence. The Santa Fe Trail connected Missouri to the Southwest.

     Violence was an unfortunate aspect of Missouri life in the beginning of the century. Many Missouri settlers were frontiersmen, and some were fugitives, composing a rambunctious group. Gambling was a popular form of entertainment; duels, riots, brawls and other forms of assault were not uncommon. Dueling was so commonplace on one Mississippi River island that it became known as "Bloody Island." In 1807, a Cape Girardeau merchant, William Ogle, challenged Joseph McFerron, the clerk of the district court, to a duel over an injury. The dueled took place on Cypress Island, with McFerron killing Ogle instantly with a single shot to the head. McFerron then returned to his court post. In another duel, Charles Lucas, the son of a judge, survived one duel on Bloody Island only to die in another.

Mormons in Missouri

     Joseph Smith founded the Mormon church in New York in 1830. From New York, Smith and his followers had a short stay in Kirtland, Ohio before moving to Missouri. Smith claimed to have a revelation that directed him to create a Mormon metropolis in Missouri. Smith and his followers moved to Independence, a rough frontier village and river port for the Santa Fe Trail. Recruits came from New York, and by 1833 about one third of the town's 4,000 inhabitants were Mormon. Many frontiersmen were hostile to the Mormon religion, and on July 30, 1833 five hundred citizens of Jackson County met at Independence courthouse to issue a protest against the Mormon's settlement in western Missouri. They accused the Mormons of blasphemy, speaking in tongues, corrupting slaves, and claiming they were going to take over the country. The group demanded that the Mormons halt migration to the area, cease publication of their newspaper, and leave town. When the Mormons refused to comply, the anti-Mormon protestors resorted to violence, destroying their printing office, invading Mormon stores, and tarring and feathering two Mormons. The Mormons decided to stay despite the violence, receiving support from the governor. The Mormons were attacked again, this time striking at their Big Blue Community, west of Independence. During this attack, Missouri law enforcement took the side of the mob, leaving the Mormons unprotected. Conflict continued until Smith and his followers agreed to leave the county. The Mormons then moved to the town of Liberty in Clay County.

     In their new settlement at Liberty, the Mormon population grew to 3,000. On July 4, 1838, at the building site of their new temple, Sidney Rigdon preached his "Salt Sermon." In this speech he spoke of his policy of violent resistance to aggression against Mormons. He named all non-Mormons Gentiles, and called for a war of extermination against all who disturbed Mormon settlements. This sermon upset the non-Mormons, and Governor Boggs called up a militia force to protect the people and drive the Mormon followers out of Missouri. Six Mormon leaders were arrested, including Rigdon and Smith, and were taken to Independence. The arrested men were stripped of their weapons and forced to leave town. Smith and four others were charged with arson, larceny, murder, and treason. They obtained a change of venue for their trial and escaped while on the road. Crossing the border into Illinois, they would occupy the town of Nauvoo. For awhile, the group would be accepted in Nauvoo taking control of the city government and erecting their own militia. While in Nauvoo, the Mormons split into two factions; those who believed in polygamy and those who did not. Violence soon erupted, resulting in the killing of Smith by an angry mob. After these events Brigham Young would lead the remaining Mormons to Utah.


     Germans and Irish were the largest immigrant groups in Missouri during the antebellum period. Germans comprised the largest immigrant, non-English speaking group in Missouri. Between 1830 and 1850 large numbers of Germans immigrated to the Missouri and Mississippi River Valleys, as well as the bordering uplands. There were four main types of German immigrants who came to Missouri. The educated men and women from the Jungdeutchland movement, also known as the Jung Cult, those who came to America to escape suppression of a reactionary government. The German romanticists were looking to escape a conventional society, and the religious separatists wanted to escape the repression of the established church. Many common people who simply wanted to improve their economic position also immigrated. German Catholics settled mainly in Westphalia, Taos, Richfountain, Loose Creek, Lustown, and Frankenstein. Protestant separatists settled in Wittenberg, Altonburg, and Frohna. All of the German immigrants shared one commonality. They were all attracted to Missouri because of the low cost of land, accessibility by rivers, and fertile soil. As of 1860, Jefferson City was half German, and Boonville was one quarter German. By 1870, people of German birth or parentage composed more than twenty percent of Osage, Franklin, Warren, St. Charles, and St. Louis Counties. These counties made up the so-called "Missouri Rhineland."

     The Irish immigrants constitute the other main immigrant group in 18th century Missouri. Irish were present in Missouri dating back to the founding of St Louis. In 1764, an Irish regiment of the British Army patrolled the area around Cahokia and other villages of the east bank. Irish began migrating to Missouri from the east coast, and invited friends and family from Ireland to join them. In the 1840s, the famine Irish formed the next wave of immigrants to arrive at St. Louis. These immigrants usually arrived in New Orleans, taking a steamboat to St. Louis. They took advantage of charitable organizations and found work loading steamboats, working on the railroads, and in the clay pits. Irish continued to arrive throughout the century and often found work in the burgeoning manufacturing industry.

By Rickie Lazzerini

BA History
University of California, Santa Barbara

Index of Historical Reviews

2005 Rickie Lazzerini, All Rights Reserved
This page may be freely linked to but may not be reproduced
in any form without prior written consent from the author.

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