My adopted hometown where I’ve lived for the past dozen years or so is St. Joseph, Missouri, which has the slogan “Where the West officially started getting wild.”
Jesse and his gang were hiding out in St. Joseph when Bob Ford, that dirty little coward, laid Jesse in his grave. The bullet hole created by the fatal bullet is framed in a wall of Jesse’s house that is now a museum.
St. Joe (it’s an informal place, feel free to use its nickname) attracted all kinds of characters back in the day. Located on the banks of the Missouri River, the city was a transportation hub. During the gold rush of 1849, prospectors waited in line for days to get a ride on the ferry to cross the river. Those who tried to cut in line were often cut down. Hundreds of wagon trains loaded supplies in the city – among them the ill-fated Donner Party.
St. Joe was the last point of civilization before reaching the vast untamed wilderness. Or as we call it, Kansas.
Teasing between the two states is (mostly) good natured today, but the “Border War” between Kansas and Missouri was intense and deadly during the Civil War. The University of Kansas mascot Jayhawk draws its name from wartime raids. Jesse James got his start riding with a renegade Confederate general.
St. Joe’s history may seem a bit slanted toward the “pistol” side, but there’s plenty here for romantics, as well. The Pony Express is probably the romanticized of all. The mail delivery service only lasted for 18 months, yet 150 years later, it sill inspires an annual re-ride by devoted fans.
The Patee House was a hotel during the Pony Express period and now it’s a treasure trove of a museum, including the ball room that conjures up images of ladies in gorgeous gowns.
One of the city’s greatest treasures is its architecture. The old buildings have a sense about them that says St. Joe. The race is on to preserve these historic structures while the elements and the cost of restoration make it a challenge. But if you’ve always dreamed of owning an 1884 grocery store, you could be in business for $5,000.
It’s been a pleasure for me to show you around my hometown. I hope you have enjoyed it and now have a taste of St. Joe’s Western flavor and maybe even decide to come for a visit and officially get wild.
Now let’s chat! What’s your favorite historic site to visit? What puts your hometown on the map?