The original 13 colonies of the United States hugged the Eastern Seaboard of America. Then, for a hundred years, from about 1760 to the 1860s, the settlers moved westward in a couple different large migrations. The first pushed the frontier as far as the Mississippi Valley. During the second migration, following the Louisiana Purchase, settlers moved into Missouri in massive numbers, and then onward toward California and the Oregon Country.

Here in our neck of the woods, different tribes inhabited the fertile plains, plateaus and rugged mountains of Missouri when the first Frenchmen penetrated the wilderness about 350 years ago, in 1673. These tribes were hereditary foes, but most of them maintained peaceful relations with the French traders and missionaries who sought to collect furs and convert them to Christianity. French settlements were mere trading posts and missions, not farms and villages, and did not encroach on Indian hunting lands.

The Spanish, who took over the area by treaty in 1762, upset this balance by encouraging pioneers from the East. The same policy was continued when the United States acquired Missouri in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Two hundred and fifty years ago an estimated 20,000 Indians lived in what is today Missouri. There were Kickapoo, Kansa, Shawnee, Osage, Mizzourah, Sac, Fox, Ioway and Delaware. Many of the tribes were moved to the frontier from back east as the United States continually expanded.

As the settlers demand for land became greater and greater, land agreements with the Indians were broken time and time again. Bloody Indian raids soon followed the influx of settlers and continued until 1815, when a treaty was signed with 19 of the tribes to vacate the new Missouri Territory. A 26-mile wide strip of land along the western edge of Missouri, where we live today here in Jackson County, was not opened until 1825.

Despite a rapid increase in the number of settlements, the early history of Missouri was one of a transient population. By 1820 the era of steamboats had dawned, and St. Louis on the Mississippi was the western edge of the American frontier. As the tides of fur trapping, trading, exploration and fortune seeking swept westward, the Missouri River ports pushed further inland. Most people who came to Missouri at that period in history were here for only a short time, then moved on.

Just before the Civil War, the state’s role as a way station on the road west began to change rapidly. More and more of the thousands who arrived from back east were here to stay and homestead the land. The Scotch and Irish Americans from West Virginia, Kentucky Tennessee and the Carolinas settled the farm regions. German people fleeing revolutionary troubles in their own country settled in the St. Louis area, and modified the aristocratic French-Spanish character of the city.

The German influence on West Central Missouri was especially marked. St. Louis broke out in shoe factories, the legacy of immigrant German cobblers. It also became one the country’s largest beer producing and meatpacking centers, thanks to the German brewers and butchers.

My own grandmother was of Dutch Holland descent, and her people were what were called back then as shoe carpenters – they made those wooden shoes for the children of Holland that you have no-doubt heard about. During my childhood, Grandma had colorfully painted wooden shoe sitting upon the shelf that had been passed down through the generations to her.

To reach Ted W. Stillwell send an email to or call him at 816-896-3592.