From Civil War battlefields to the homes of legendary authors, speakers, scientists and musicians, Missouri has a fascinating history and ties to some of the most notable figures in American and world history. Learn more on this family-friend adventure in Missouri.
Start your Missouri adventure in Hannibal, where you’ll discover how a young boy growing up in a small village became one of the world’s most beloved authors. A self-guided tour of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum gives you the chance to explore the Hannibal of Samuel Clemens and experience the amazing stories he created through the power of his imagination. The properties include six historically significant buildings; plus two interactive museums whose collections include 15 original Norman Rockwell paintings and a wealth of Twain artifacts.
From Hannibal, it’s a 90-minute drive west to see the boyhood home of General of the Armies, John J. “Black Jack” Pershing (September 1860-July 1948). Pershing was and is the highest ranking military officer in U.S. history. He lived in Laclede from age 6 (1866) until 1882, when he left for West Point. Tours of the house and exhibits in Prairie Mound School interpret his life.
From Laclede, head west to the Wild West city of St. Joseph, where, on April 3, 1860, a lone rider left Pikes Peak Stables marking the start of the Pony Express. Brave riders, carrying saddlebags filled with our nation’s hopes and dreams, traveled more than 2,000 miles (3,200km) west to California.
From St. Joseph, it’s a two-and-a-half hour drive to Lamar, the birth home of Harry S. Truman. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, was born here in 1884. Furnishings from the period fill the home, which is open for free tours. Truman is the only Missourian ever elected president of the United States.
After visiting Truman’s birthplace, take the short, 35-minute drive south to the George Washington Carver National Monument, which preserves the birthplace and legacy of the famed African American scientist, educator and humanitarian. George Washington Carver reputedly discovered three hundred uses for peanuts and hundreds more for soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes. This was the first national monument dedicated to a black American and the first to honor someone other than a president.
From the Carver site in Diamond, it’s about 50 miles (80km) to Republic and Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. Fought on August 10, 1861, the Battle of Wilson’s Creek was a pivotal battle in Missouri and the second major battle of the Civil War. More than 2,500 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded or declared missing during the five hours of intense fighting.
It’s a cross-state drive and there’s much to see and do along the way, but Cape Girardeau’s Fort D is next up on this epic road trip. In the summer of 1861, four forts were built around the strategic city of Cape Girardeau. Fort D was designed by German-American engineers. The forts were built by soldiers, under the direction of Lt. John Wesley Powell; he later gained fame as the explorer of the Grand Canyon. The fort was manned throughout the Civil War. Of the four earthen forts, only Fort D remains.
Make one more Civil War-related stop on this cross-state adventure when you visit Ironton. The Grant monument commemorates where Ulysses S. Grant received his commission as a brigadier general. Fittingly, the bronze statue commemorating that event is an image of an average enlisted fighting man. It is a serene setting between the spring and duck pond of Ste. Marie Du Lac church.
From Ironton, it’s about a one-hour drive east to Ste. Genevieve, a history-rich city on the Mississippi River. This historic site includes three houses: the 1818 Federal-style Felix Valle House; the vertical-log, 1792 Amoureux House; and the 1819 Shaw House. Exhibits interpret the lifestyles and history of early Ste. Genevieve. These are some of the finest examples of French colonial architecture in the nation.
From Ste. Gen, it’s a one-hour drive to St. Louis, where you can tour the modest flat where Scott Joplin wrote his famous ragtime classics “The Entertainer” and “Easy Winners.” The apartment is lit by gaslight. It contains 1902 furnishings. An antique player piano fills the home with The King of Ragtime’s unique music. Please note this state historic site is closed from November through January.
End your history-themed sightseeing adventure in Fulton where, in 1946 at Westminster College, Winston Churchill delivered one of the most significant speeches of his long and illustrious career. That address, best known as the “Iron Curtain Speech,” effectively marked the beginning of the Cold War and linked, forever, Fulton and Westminster College with Winston Churchill.