Missouri History Timeline

Important Dates, Events, and Milestones in Missouri History

Offers a chronological timeline of important dates,  events, and milestones in Missouri history.

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.

 Missouri was admitted to the United States in 1821 as part of the Missouri Compromise. Located on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, the state was an important hub of transportation and commerce in early America

17th Century Missouri History Timeline

1673 - First Europeans to set foot on land that would later become Missouri were Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet were the during their voyage down the Mississippi River.

1682 -

  • April 9 - Explorer Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle took possession of the Louisiana Territory area for France. He names the region "Louisiana" in honor of King Louis XIV..

18th Century Missouri History Timeline

1703 - Mission of St. Francis Xavier abandoned because of unhealthful swamps

1714 - Frenchman, Etienne de Bourgmont builds a fort on the Missouri River near the mouth of the Grand River.

1719 - Marc Antoine de La Loere Des Ursins, employed by the Company of the Indies, with a crew of workmen, begins digging for lead and silver in the Mine La Motte area and puts black slaves to work in the mines.

1724 - Fort Orleans built on the north bank of the Missouri River by Etienne de Bourgmont in today's Carroll County; abandoned six years later

1750 - St Genevieve established a trading post, the first permanent white settlement

1762 -

  • November 13 - Spain gained control of the Louisiana Territory from France in the Treaty of Fontainebleau

1764 -

  • February 15 - City of St. Louis founded by Pierre Laclede Liguest and Rene August Chouteau

1769 - City of St. Charles established by Louis Blanchette as a trading post

1770 -

  • May 20 - Spanish government officially assumed control of the Territory of Louisiana

1773 - Mine au Breton (later Potosi) founded

1774 - JB Tribeau starts the first school at St. Louis--it operates about 40 years.

1789 -

  • February 14 - Colonel George Morgan established the city of New Madrid

1793 -

  • January 4 - Louis Lorimer received trading privileges and authority to establish a post at Cape Girardeau

1796 - Daniel Morgan Boone builds a cabin near the mouth of Femme Osage Creek in St. Charles County. He later persuade his father to come to Missouri.

1798 - Lieutenant Governor Zenon Trudeau of the Spanish government offered Daniel Boone 1000 arpents to settle in the Louisiana Territory.

19th Century Missouri History Timeline

1800 -

  • Moses Austin made the first sheet lead and cannonballs manufactured in Missouri
  • October 30 - Spain returned the Louisiana Territory to France

1803 -

  • April 30 - The US buys the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon

1804 -

  • May 21 - The Lewis and Clark Expedition set out from St. Louis

1805 -

  • March 3 - The Territory of Louisiana established; the seat of government was St. Louis

1808 -

  • June 18 - City of Ste. Genevieve incorporated
  • Joseph Charless founded the first newspaper in Missouri, the "Missouri Gazette"
  • Fort Osage is built overlooking the Missouri River under the direction of William Clark as part of the vast federally controlled fur trade system.

1809 - Missouri Fur Company organized in St. Louis. The abundance of animal pelts in the Mississippi Valley region played a key role in the development of the Upper Louisiana territory. Prominent members of the Company included fur trader Manuel Lisa, Auguste and Pierre Chouteau, and William Clark

1811 -

  • December 16 - First shocks of the New Madrid earthquakes, the worst in US history

1812 -

  • June 4 - Portion of the Territory of Louisiana became the Territory of Missouri
  • October 1 - First general assembly of the Territory of Missouri met; the five original counties were organized: Cape Girardeau, New Madrid, St. Charles, St. Louis, and Ste. Genevieve

1813 - Rebecca Boone dies

1816 -

  • July 8 - Mid-Missouri's first circuit court opened at Cole's Fort

1817 -

  • August 2 - Steamboat Zebulon M. Pike reached St. Louis, the first steamboat to navigate the Mississippi River above the mouth of the Ohio River

1818 -

  • January 8 - Speaker of the US House of Representatives presented the first petition to Congress from Missouri requesting statehood.
  • 10,000 slaves in Missouri

1820 -

  • The Missouri statehood controversy became a national issue as the issue of slavery was debated. The "Missouri Compromise" 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. Although Missouri was allowed to enter as a slave state, the remaining portion of the Louisiana Purchase area north of the 36 degrees 30minutes line was to be forever free of slavery.
  • March 6 - Missouri's Enabling Act passed and approved by President James Monroe
  • July 19 - Missouri's first Constitution adopted
  • August 28 - Missouri's first state elections were held and Alexander McNair elected Missouri's first governor
  • September 18 - Missouri's first General Assembly began its first session at the Missouri Hotel in St. Louis

1821 -

  • August 10 - President James Monroe admitted Missouri as the 24th state; the state capitol was located in St. Charles until a permanent location was designated
  • September 1 - Santa Fe Trail opened by William Becknell's successful trading expeditions to Santa Fe
  • December 31 - Governor Alexander McNair signed the bill designating the site for the City of Jefferson

1822 -

  • January 11 - Bill to create the Missouri State Seal adopted

1824 -

  • May 11- St. Regis Seminary opens in Florissant. It is the first Roman Catholic institution established in the country for the higher education of Native Americans

1825 -

  • August 1 - William Beaumont began research observing the human digestive system

1826 -

  • October 1 - Jefferson City designated Missouri's permanent seat of government; all state records, equipment, and the Great Seal were moved to Jefferson City

1829 -

  • January 22 - Missouri State Library established by law

1831 - Joseph Smith settles with his followers in Independence.

1835 -

  • November 30 - Writer Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) born in Florida, Missouri

1836 -

  • March 8 - Missouri State Penitentiary received its first prisoner
  • Senator Thomas Hart Benton verbally attacks abolitionists for sending petitions to the US Congress.

1837 -

  • March 28 - President Martin Van Buren issued a proclamation which completed the annexation of the Platte Purchase area to Missouri, establishing the northwestern border of the state
  • November 15 - Missouri's first capitol in Jefferson City destroyed by fire

1838 -

  • October 27 - Governor Lilburn Boggs issued the "Extermination Order" against Mormons living in Missouri, demanding that members of the Mormon church leave the state

1839 -

  • February 9 - The Geyer Act, the foundation of Missouri's public school system approved

1841 -

  • April 14 - The University of Missouri, the first state university west of the Mississippi River, opened

1842 -

  • National depression hits Missouri. Price plummet and foreclosures and bankruptcies rise.
  • Carthage (named for the ancient city) established along Spring River just east of Joplin.

1843 -

  • June 7 - Susan Elizabeth Blow, founder of the public kindergarten movement, born in St. Louis
  • July 26- Joseph Robidoux filed a plat of a town which he called St. Joseph

1844 -

  • Great Missouri flood destroys the Independence wharves and Westport Landing gains most of the Santa Fe trade.
  • Missouri bans free blacks from settling in the state.

1847 -

  • Legislation enacted to establish a hospital for care and treatment of the insane; State Hospital No. 1 established in Fulton and began receiving patients in 1851
  • October 18 - Boatmen's Bank, the oldest bank west of the Mississippi River established
  • December 20 - St. Louis connected to the East Coast by telegraph
  • Jesse Woodson James is born at Kearney.

1848 -

  • February 5 - Myra Belle Starr is born in Washington Country
  • Hermann celebrates its first "Weinfest."

1849 -

  • March 4 - US Senator David Rice Atchison, from Missouri, was President for a day
  • 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" with the discovery of gold in California
  • Second, and most serious, cholera epidemic struck St. Louis; over 4000 people died

1850 -

  • February 4 - Town of Kansas (later Kansas City) incorporated.
  • September 3 - Poet Eugene Field born in St. Louis.

1851 -

  • July 4 - Groundbreaking ceremonies for the construction of the Pacific Railroad were held in St. Louis; the line was to go from St. Louis to Jefferson City and then to some point on the western boundary
  • State Hospital No. 1 established in Fulton and began receiving patients
  • George Caleb Bingham begins his painting of Daniel Boone, called Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap.

1852- Martha Jane Canary is born in Princeton.

1854 -

  • May 30 - President Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, allowing the notion of "popular sovereignty" in determining if a territory would be a slave state or a free state. This act set the stage for the violent Kansas-Missouri border wars where the Missouri "Border Ruffians" and the Kansas "Jayhawkers" transformed a frontier quarrel over slavery's borders into a national issue

1855 -

  • August 30 - Side-wheel steamboat Arabia leaves St. Louis and sink at Westport Landing on September 5th

1857 -

  • March 6 - The Dred Scott decision handed down by US Chief Justice Roger B. Taney; the case originated in St. Louis. Under Missouri statutes, in 1846 Scott was allowed to sue for his freedom from slavery based on the fact that he had previously lived in a free territory (Wisconsin) before his return to the slave state of Missouri
  • Work began on the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis, established by Henry Shaw

1858 - Hermann's population grows to 1,400 inhabitants

1859 - Braille is first introduced in the Western Hemisphere at the Missouri School for the Blind in St. Louis.

1860 -

  • April 3 - Pony Express started its first run from St. Joseph to Sacramento, California

1861 -

  • August 10 - Battle of Wilson's Creek resulted in a Union retreat and southwestern Missouri was left in Confederate hands until the Battle of Pea Ridge
  • September 11 - President Abraham Lincoln revoked John Fremont's emancipation proclamation for Missouri
  • October 28 - Missouri's "Rebel Legislature" adopted an Act of Secession

1862 -

March 6 thru 8 - 3-day battle at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, Union Army forced the Confederates, excluding the state guard from Missouri, to retreat; ending the threat of Confederate military control in Missouri

1863 -

  • August 21 - William Clarke Quantrill and his band of pro-Southern guerillas raided the pro-Union town of Lawrence, Kansas, killing nearly 150 men and boys. This attack served to avenge the imprisonment of their wives, mothers, and sisters in Kansas City
  • August 25 - Brigadier General Thomas Ewing issued General Order No. 11, requiring all people living in Jackson, Cass, Bates, and northern Vernon counties to vacate the area unless their loyalty to the Union could be proven

1864 - George Washington Carver born near Diamond, Missouri

1865 -

  • January 11- Slavery abolished in Missouri by an ordinance of immediate emancipation, making Missouri the first slave state to emancipate its slaves before the adoption of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution
  • April 10 - Missouri's second Constitution (Drake Constitution) was adopted. A group of politicians, known as "Radicals," favored emancipation of slaves and disfranchisement of persons who were sympathetic to the Confederacy during the Civil War. The Radicals included an "Ironclad Oath" in the new constitution to exclude former Confederate sympathizers from the vote and certain occupations, severely limiting their civil rights

1866 -

  • April 6 - Lincoln Institute (later Lincoln University) was incorporated as an institution for black students in Missouri
  • August -11 The Missouri Historical Society organized in St. Louis
  • Calamity Jane (May 1, 1852 - August 1, 1903), born in Princeton, Mo. In 1862, the family moved to Virginia City, Nevada. An Indian uprising separated her from her father and brothers at the age of 10. She'll become a famous woman of the Kansas plains, Calamity Jane.
  • Sedalia is an important railhead for the Texas cattle drive of 1866.

1867 -

  • May 8 - The Missouri Woman's Suffrage Club organized in St. Louis; the sole purpose of this organization was the political enfranchisement of women, the first such organization in the United States

1870 - M. Lemma Barkeloo was the first woman lawyer in Missouri (St. Louis); She was the first woman trial lawyer in the United States, and the first woman lawyer to try a case in federal court.

1871 -

  • May 8 - Phoebe W. Couzins of St. Louis became Missouri's first woman law school graduate when she graduated from the Washington University Law Department

1872 -

  • January 20 - Governor B. Gratz Brown and family moved into the newly completed Governor's Mansion

1873 -

  • The Missouri Supreme Court upheld a decision by the St. Louis Circuit Court, denying Virginia Minor the right to register to vote
  • Susan Blow opened the first public kindergarten in the United States in St. Louis

1874 -

  • January 31 - Frst train robbery at Gads Hill by the James Gang
  • July 4 - Eads Bridge, spanning the Mississippi River, was opened in St. Louis

1875 -

  • Grasshopper plague in Missouri caused an estimated $15 million worth of damages
  • October 30 - Missouri's third Constitution was adopted

1881 -

  • July 28 - Governor Thomas Crittenden offered a $5000 reward for the arrest and conviction of members of the Jesse James gang

1882 -

  • April 3- Jesse James was killed by Bob Ford in St. Joseph
  • October 5 - Frank James surrenders himself to the governor of Missouri, and stands trial for robbery and murder. He is acquitted.

1887 - Couzins become the nation's first Woman US Marshal

1891 - St. Louis' Wainwright Building, one of America's first skyscrapers, was designed by Louis Sullivan.

1894 -

  • October 30 - The American School of Osteopathy was incorporated by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still in Kirksville

1898 -

  • May 4 - Volunteers for the Spanish-American War began arriving in St. Louis

1899 -

  • March 9 - The State Historical Society of Missouri was incorporated in Columbia
  • Scott Joplin's "The Maple Leaf Rag" was published in Sedalia, Missouri.

20th Century Missouri History Timeline

1901 -

  • September 9 - First State Fair held at Sedalia opened
  • November 29 - Monsanto Company founded in St. Louis

1904 -

  • April 30- World's Fair opened in St. Louis

1907 - Primary election law was adopted in Missouri

1909 - Missouri Supreme Court handed down a decision in the case against Standard Oil Company, affirming the company's violation of Missouri antitrust laws

1911 -

  • February 5 - Missouri State Capitol destroyed by fire after being struck by lightning

1913 -

  • Direct election of senators was authorized; previously US senators from Missouri were elected by the General Assembly
  • March 22- State Flag

1918 - World War 1 ended

1919 -

  • April 5 - Governor Frederick D. Gardner signed a law granting presidential suffrage to women
  • July 2 - Missouri became the eleventh state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment granting suffrage to women

1920 -

  • August 31 - Marie Byrum became the first woman to vote in Missouri history

1921 -

  • August 4 - The Centennial Road Law, providing for the construction of a modern system of Missouri highways, was signed into law

1922 -

  • November 7 - Mellcene T. Smith and Sarah Lucille Turner became the first women elected to the Missouri state legislature

1927 -

  • May 21 - Charles Lindbergh landed the "Spirit of St. Louis" in Paris


  • Ocober 29 - Stock market crashed

1931 -

  • April 24 - A bill creating the Missouri State Highway Patrol was signed by Governor Henry S. Caulfield
  • Bagnell Dam was completed, forming the Lake of the Ozarks, one of the largest artificial lakes in the world with approximately 1400 miles of shoreline

1933 - William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, was opened to the public in Kansas City

1935 - Thomas Hart Benton painted A Social History of Missouri in the State Capitol Building's House Lounge

1937 -

  • July 1 - First Missouri Conservation Commission was appointed

1938 -

  • December 12 - The United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Lloyd Gaines case. The court struck a blow to Missouri's "separate but equal" laws, stating that in the absence of an equal law school for black students, Gaines should be admitted to the University of Missouri law school

1939 -

  • May 22 - Kansas City "Boss" Tom Pendergast sentenced to 15 months in the federal penitentiary for income tax evasion
  • The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation was organized by JS McDonnell; it merged with Douglas to form McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Corporation in 1967

1940 - The Ellis Fischel State Cancer Center was opened in Columbia, becoming the first state-owned and operated hospital west of the Mississippi River devoted exclusively to the care of cancer patients

1944 - U. Senator Harry S. Truman of Independence is elected Vice President.

1945 -

  • The Missouri Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Kraemer v. Shelley St. Louis housing segregation case
  • March 30 - Missouri's fourth, and current, Constitution became effective
  • April 12 - US Vice President Harry S Truman became President upon the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • September 2 - Japan signed documents of surrender ending World War II in the Pacific on the deck of the USS Missouri

1946 -

  • March 5 - Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of England, delivered his "Iron Curtain" speech at Fulton's Westminster College

1948 - President Harry S Truman elected to the Presidency

1949 - The state legislature adopts The Missouri Waltz as the official state song.

1952 - Leonor K. Sullivan became Missouri's first woman US Representative

1954 -

  • September 22 - The Missouri State Penitentiary Riot

1957 -

  • June 8 - Missouri Commission on Human Rights was created

1965 - The Gateway Arch (Jefferson National Expansion Memorial) designed by Eero Saarinen was completed. Located on the original settlement site of St. Louis, it symbolizes the role of St. Louis in the development of the western frontier

1967 - The McDonnell Aircraft Corporation merged with Douglas to form McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Corporation in 1967

1968 -

  • April - Race riots in Kansas City in response to the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

1972 - Mary Gant became Missouri's first woman state senator

1973 - US withdraws from Viet Nam

1977 - Gwen B. Giles became Missouri's first African-American woman state senator

1980s -

  • High levels of dioxin are discovered in Times Beach, near St. Louis.
  • Farmers suffer during a national farm crisis.
  • Foreign trade restrictions are loosened, affecting Missouri's industries, especially shoes and automobiles.

1980 -

  • May - Court-ordered desegregation began in Missouri, attempting to alleviate the racial isolation of black students. The court determined that the State of Missouri was required to pay half of the cost of school desegregation plans; numerous legal issues arose
  • Population center of the U. moves into Missouri to DeSoto.

1982 - Government workers began taking soil samples, testing for dioxin at Times Beach; the town was later evacuated

1983 - Scott Joplin is awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

1984 -

  •  May 30 - Margaret B. Kelly became the first woman to hold statewide office in Missouri when she was appointed to the office of State Auditor

1987 -

  • Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Knoster was designated as the home of the B-2 Stealth Bomber unit
  • Ann K. Covington became the first woman appointed to the Missouri Supreme Court

1988 -

  • The Missouri Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Nancy Cruzan "right to life" case
  • Missouri's first presidential primary on the occasion of Richard Gephardt, US Congressman from Missouri, running for the Democratic nomination

1992 - Missouri voters approved riverboat gambling excursions on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers

1993 -

  • The Great Flood of 1993 devastated parts of Missouri and the Midwest
  • Outstanding Schools Act was passed; it was a $310 million measure to reform Missouri schools and their funding
  • Internet launched in Missouri

1995 - Scientists, archeologists, and interested descendants gather in Kearney to dig up Jesse James' grave.

1996 - Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher delivers a major address at Westminister College in Fulton to commemorate one of the most famous speeches of the post-World War II era: Churchill's 1946 "Iron Curtain" speech.

21st Century Missouri History Timeline

2000 -

  • October 16 - Involved in a hotly contested race for the Senate with incumbent Republican Senator John Ashcroft. Governor Mel Carnahan, his son, and a campaign advisor die in a small-plane crash just outside of St. Louis on October 16th. A memorial service on October 20th is attended by President Clinton. Carnahan wins the election in November and his wife Jean will go to Washington
  • October 20 - Memorial service attended by President Clinton.

2001 - John Ashcroft becomes US Attorney General.

2007 - Two missing teenage boys, (one since 2002 -, found at home of Michael Devlin near St. Louis; he was charged with kidnapping

2008 -

  • Gunman killed five at Kirkwood council meeting;
  • Anheuser-Busch sold to Belgian brewer InBev

2011 -

  • Tornado struck Joplin, over 100 people killed, over 1,100 injured, major destruction
  • St. Louis Cardinals won World Series

2012 - Several towns suffered extensive damage from midwest storm system

Sources: Portions reprinted by permission of the Missouri State Archives

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