We’re not called the Show Me State for nothing. The residents of this state can be as stubborn as Missouri mules… when we’ve a mind to!
People are often confused as to the identity of Missouri. Some call us Southern, some Northern, although the truth is we’re smack dab in the middle of the country! At the time of the War of Northern Aggression (aka the Civil War), Missouri did not secede from the Union, although it was torn in its sympathies and was a slave state. Originally, Missouri was part of the Louisiana Purchase. In fact, Lewis and Clark departed for the West from here in St. Louis, where I live. St. Louis lies at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, so what better jumping off point than that? They spent the night at Fort Bellefontaine, which is a short drive from where we live. My daughter and I visited the site, and stood in the same place that Lewis & Clark did, overlooking the Missouri River.
St. Louis is also known as the Gateway to the West; it was the beginning of the road for many travelers as they crossed the vast continent into unknown territories. Because of its central location, it became a spot for people to trade their goods and send them back East, as well as buy the goods that were brought from there. In 1821, as part of the Missouri Compromise, Missouri was admitted to the Union as a slave state.
Most of the original settlers of the state were French Canadian, following in the footsteps of early explorers Marquette and Joliet, founding what is the present-day city of Ste. Genevieve, located about an hour south of St. Louis. There is a park just on the other side of the river, named for Pere Marquette, which is a lovely place to visit when you’re in St. Louis.
St. Louis, in the east, is the largest city in Missouri, followed by Kansas City in the west, although the capital is neither of those, but Jefferson City, which is more centrally located than either. Missouri is a beautiful state, with many rivers and streams, forests, and the state is also riddled with caves, which are fun to explore. I’ve been to a few of those myself, including Meramec State Park, where Jesse James once hid. Within driving distance of St. Louis, you can also visit Daniel Boone’s home, and in South County is Grant’s Farm, one time home of the former president/general.
Here in Missouri, we love our sports, although there is a rivalry between the baseball teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals, although if you really want to see a fight, just mention the Chicago Cubs, the feelings are even stronger! I’m partial to the Cards, naturally. I can even remember a time when Harry Carey broadcast on local radio, before he went to Chicago. That’s a whole story in itself.
We also love our entertainment. There’s a little place called Branson you might have heard tell of. I can remember when it was the middle of nowhere, and people only knew about it because it was right by Silver Dollar City. Times have changed, and Branson’s become a sort of Midwestern mecca for the entertainment industry, with a number of theatres run and starring some very well known people, including Andy Williams. Silver Dollar City’s grown. I visited there a few years ago with my son and his girlfriend and her mother, and the place had changed a lot since I was a kid, riding on the stagecoach, getting my picture taken in the jail.
There is also a large German population in Missouri, many of whom ended up toward the center of the state, in Hermann. Missouri has a number of its own wineries, including but not limited to Stone Hill, Augusta, Hermannhof and Little Hills.
We have a huge crack that runs beneath the state—the New Madrid fault—so at times we do suffer from earthquakes, but nothing like what they get in California. A few years back, a so-called expert predicted one for a specific day and time, and said it would be ginormous and produce major damage, death and destruction. It never happened.
There are many scenic routes that you can drive through Missouri, such as Hwy 21, and Hwy 94 (the old Lewis & Clark Trail). Historic Route 66 zips through here too. And there are tons of beautiful parks that are just perfect for picnics and enjoying the great outdoors. For those who love the river, you can take a scenic tour along the Mississippi.
Famous people from Missouri? Yep, we got ‘em. Harry Truman and Mark Twain (go up to Hannibal, whitewash a fence, and stay for a while). Thomas Hart Benton, Josephine Baker, George Washington Carver, Langston Hughes, Scott Joplin, Dred Scott (of the infamous Dred Scott case), Jesse and Frank James, Cole Younger, Charles Lindbergh, J.C. Penney, Joseph Pulitzer, Walt Disney, Omar Bradley, Ulysses S. Grant, Daniel Boone and more.
I’ve lived in St. Louis most of my life and have incorporated it into some of my books. My first published book was To The Max, which was released by Dreamspinner Press in March of 2010. My heroes—Max, my gay werewolf and his longtime lover Richard—live in a cottage in St. Charles, above the Missouri River. St. Louis also figures in my novel Dark Love, written under my pen name Reinette, and takes place in a mythical museum of the supernatural and horror located there. It just feels natural to place my characters here, and there will be more.
I live here in Florissant, in St. Louis County, with my 22 year-old daughter Sarah, and two cats—the Mighty Ramesses and Lady Chablis. I expect that someday I’ll move, but Missouri will always be in my heart.
I’d like to offer a copy of To The Max. All you have to do is comment on my post, and be sure to include your email address, so I can reach you with the prize.
If you’d like to know more about me, visit my blog and website, http://julielynnhayes.blogspot.com
If you’d like to know more about Missouri, visit http://www.mo.gov
Thanks for having me, Annette, and letting me talk about my state!
(pictures provided by author)