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Town History: St. Louis, Missourri

Updated on June 22, 2015

Old St Louis Courthouse


St. Louis, Missouri was founded in 1764 by Pierre Lacléde and August Choteau They named the town for St. Louis who was Louis IV of France. Metropolitan St. Louis or Greater St. Louis is the 15th largest city in the United States with a population of 2,795,794. It became a major port on the Mississippi river when the population expanded after the American Civil War. Late in the 19th Century it became the 4th largest city in the U.S.


In the years 800 A.D. to 1400 A.D. the area, now occupied by St. Louis, was occupied by Native American mound builders that were part of the Mississippian culture. It’s likely that many American Indian tribes are descendants of the mound building Mississippian culture. Most of the Mississippian sites that have been dated were prior to 1539-1540 when Hernado de Soto was in the area exploring.

Mississippian Culture

Native Americans who built mounds thrived starting in what is now known as the Mississippi River Valley about the year 800 AD. Mississippians shared some cultural traits which were distinct that were somewhat distinct. Shared some cultural traits:

  • They made large, truncated pyramid mounds, or platform mounds. The mounds were generally square or rectangular. Sometimes they were circular.
  • Houses, temples, burial buildings, and other buildings were generally built on top of mounds.
  • The agriculture was based on maize (corn.) To a large extent Mississippian culture developed with the use of large scale and intensive farming, supporting larger populations and specialization of crafts...
  • Use of shell from the river as tempering agents in shell tempered pottery, although marine shells were sometimes used.

Trade networks going as far as the Rocky Mountains in the west, the Great lakes in to the north, the Gulf of Mexico to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.

  • Chiefdom or complex chiefdom level of social complexity
  • Institutionalized social inequality.
  • Political and religious power in the hands of one individual or a few.
  • Beginnings of a settlement hierarchy with one major center have clear influence or control over lesser communities, the lesser communities might or might not have fewer mounds.

Trappings of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC) or the Southern Cult.

They had neither writing system nor stone architecture but worked with natural metal deposits and did not smelt iron or practice bronze metallurgy.

Where are Mississippians now?

More than likely they were the ancestors of many of the American Indian nations in these areas. According to Wikipedia, the following Indians that are thought to be descended from the Mississippians are: Alabama, Apalachee, Caddo, Cherokee, Chikasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Guale, Hitchiti, Houma, Kansa, Missouri, Natchez, Osage Nation, Quapaw, Seminole, Tinica-Biloxi, Yamasee, and Yuchi

European exploration and settlement

After its establishment in 1764 St. Louis, grew because of being located on the Mississippi River as a trading post or trading fort. Because the mound builders had left and impression on the land the city was nicknamed “mound city.”

European exploration started about 1673 with French explorers Louis Joliet, Jacques Marquette in the Mississippi River Valley. In 1678 La Salle claimed the region for France as part of French Louisiana.

The earliest European settlements in the area were Illinois County or Upper Louisiana. In the 1690s and early 1700s at Cahokia, Kaskaskia and Fort de Chartes were being settled. Ste Genevience, Missouri was founded by migrants from eastern French villages.

From 1764 to 1803 European control of the area west of Mississippi to Northern most part of Missouri River basin called Louisiana was assumed by the Spanish as part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.

During the American Revolution the British attacked St. Louis, although it was mostly done by Indians.

19th Century

In the year 1800, St. Louis was transferred back to France as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Americans bought it from the French and the American flag flew on March 10 1804. It became the territorial capitol soon after the Lewis and Clark expedition left St. Louis in May of 1804 and reached the Pacific Ocean in the summer of 1805. They returned in September of 1806 and lived in St. Louis afterward.

The arrival of steamboats in 1818 improved the connections to New Orleans and eastern markets. With the advent of Missouri statehood in 1821 the capitol left St. Louis and in 1822 was incorporated as a city. St. Louis, with its port connections grew as a city.

  • A significant number of Irish and German immigrants arrived in the 1840’s the population was about 20,000 in 1840 and grew to 160,000 by 1860.
  • It was the largest French controlled city in French Louisiana.

During the Civil War St. Louis had significant number of divisions but except for Camp Jackson in 1861 there was no combat. The war blockade halted river traffic which had an economic effect on the city. The St. Louis Arsenal did build ironclads for the Union

The city left St. Louis County and became an Independent city in August of 1876.

  • Industrial production increased for the rest of the Century.
  • Literary figures include Tennessee Williams and T.S. Eliot
  • Corporations include Anheuser-Busch Brewery, Ralston Purina
  • Auto included Brass Era cars because of the brass ornaments of the time.


Dred Scott

The infamous Dred Scott Supreme Court decision started as a lawsuit in St. Louis. In 1840 Missouri was admitted to the union as a slave state.. The number of slaves increased in the 1840s although the percentages of in the population decreased. There were about 3,200 blacks, both free and slave lived and worked in St. Louis in 1850.

In some cases slave were allowed to earn wages and they could buy their freedom. Some, mostly those with some relationship with their masters were given freedom. This might be house servants, slaves who were getting old etc. In some cases slaves were able to file lawsuits for freedom. Such a case in St. Louis was Dred Scott. This slave and his wife sued for freedom on the basis that they had traveled and lived in free states with their masters. The suit was filed in St. Louis and the states case was ruled in their favor. However, on appeal to the Supreme Court in 1857 ruled against them.

20th Century

In 1904 the Worlds Fair and the 1904 Summer Olympics were held in St. Louis. This made St. Louis the first non-European city to host the Olympics. Forest Park, the St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Zoo and the Missouri History Museum benefitted from the proceeds.

Starting in the second decade of the century there were many there were discriminatory aspects to property deeds. There were many conflicts over segregation into the 1970’s

After World War II, St. Louis expanded due to the increase in industry and wartime housing shortages. Population peaked at 856,796.


St. Louis is an old city that was first founded in 1764. It had a prehistory of Native Americans known as mound builders who were ancestors to a number of Indian tribes. It became a port on the Mississippi River due to being a trading post. It was explored as early as 1673 by French Explorers who named it after St. Louis, who was also a king of France. It was claimed for France in 1678 and settlements were made there in the 1690s. Later it became part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. In the 1800s it was transferred back to France as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Eventually it was sold to the United States..\

copyright 2013 Don Hoglund

© 2013 Don A. Hoglund


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    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for your comments, Mel. I appreciate your interest.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      4 years ago from San Diego California

      St. Louis and the state of Missouri play pivotal roles in our country's history. Lewis and Clark started their famous journey of discovery up the Missouri River from this great city. Fantastic hub!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      ologsinquito, thanks for reading and commenting. I've never had the opportunity to spend time there but I would like to.

    • ologsinquito profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      St. Louis is older than I imagined. I've only been there once. It's a fun place.

    • prasadjain profile image


      5 years ago from Tumkur

      A beautiful hub, result of a good study and note making. Articles like this are necessary to know the history of a particular town.Such studies come under the branch-'Local History'.Thanks for writing this

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids


      I think all the Mississippi River towns are interesting. They were largely the first places settled so have absorbed a lot of history. I hope you enjoy ST. Louis when you get there. Thanks for commenting,votes and sharing.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      This is a very useful, interesting, and informative hub about a city I have never visited. The historical account you have laid out is very interesting and well-researched. When I take my steamboat ride down the Mississippi River, I will definitely stop in St. Louis before going to New Orleans. Voted up and sharing. Also Pinning and Tweeting.

    • ajwrites57 profile image


      5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      dahoglund, interesting Hub. Good thing we were able to get this region for a song! Thanks for sharing!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      drjb, this was truly an article where it was hard to know what to include and what to leave out. I've already received suggestion of things to include. I was there once on a hurried holiday trip to see friends and got very little time for tourism. Thanks for commenting and I'm glad you like the selection of the Trolley Song.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      5 years ago from south Florida

      Fascinating history about St. Louis, Don. I grew up in the Midwest but somehow missed visiting St. Louis. Plan to get there one day. Loved listening to Judy and the Trolley Song. Thanks for the treat.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Deborah-Diane, Glad you found my St. Louis history interesting. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Deborah-Diane profile image


      5 years ago from Orange County, California

      I grew up in St. Louis and moved to a small town south of there when I was 12. Now I live in California and rarely visit St. Louis. However, your history of the area was interesting. Thanks for sharing!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      NMLady, having lived in the mid-West all my life I can understand you view of the weather. My wife hated Kansas City because of the humidity. The trappers festival sounds interesting. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      HI Peggy,

      Glad you found this hub about St. Louis informative and enjoyed your visit. I was only there once and that was a hurried trip to visit some friends for Christmas years ago. We really didn't see much though. We have had rather slow melt off in Rapids this year. Not only is some snow still here but we got more last night. Hopefully it will avert flooding and help the moisture level for planting.

      Thanks for the votes and sharing.

    • NMLady profile image


      5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Enjoyed reading your history. You did a very nice job. Every Spring there is a Trappers Festival just over the river in IL. that is a great deal of fun.

      I went to school in Columbia and lived in St. Louis for years. The places I love are Lacledes' Landing (riverfront) to include the Arch, The St. Louis Zoo, and Soulard's Market (Sat. morning heaven for a cook and Farmer's Mkt person!!)

      However, as much as St. Louis enriched my life~Lovely and fun place to live but the weather is beastly hot in the summer and nasty cold frozen ice in the winter.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Don,

      I learned much about St. Louis by reading this detailed hub of yours. My mother and I certainly enjoyed our visit up there and because of our friend who lives just outside of St. Louis, we had a grand tour of places like the Missouri Botanical Garden and Grant's Farm. Unfortunately we did not get to go up in the arch because it was closed for repair, but we did take a paddle boat ride on the Mississippi River. I understand that the river has been very low of late which is limiting the transportation. Am sure with snow melt off and the usual Spring floods, that will change.

      They have neat little neighborhoods. We were taken to a cute little Italian restaurant in a primarily Italian neighborhood.

      UUI votes and sharing. I enjoyed reading this!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks, Will. Glad you liked it.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      mactavers, I'm glad you liked the hub. Thanks for commenting.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Wayne, I know Kansas City was a place where many wagon trains started on the westward journey, including, I think, the Mormons. Rivers, as you say, have been the early transport route, followed by railroads and finally highways. Actually, the rivers still carry freight. At Rock Island, where I used to work, river traffic takes precedent over car traffic, that is the people trying to get across the bridge to get to work.

      Thanks for commenting and adding information.

    • WillStarr profile image


      5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Well done, Don! Voted up and very interesting.

    • mactavers profile image


      5 years ago

      Wow, this is a first rate Hub. It makes me want to visit St. Louis again.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 

      5 years ago from Texas

      If I remember correctly, St. Louis was also a key point gateway to western settlers heading out looking for land....and a hub for wagon-train operations. The mound builders were very prolific extending across an area which encompassed several states. Mounds can be found along the river as far south as Natchez and maybe further. I am intrigued by the history of the cities. One thing most of them have in common is a "waterway". Water is a requirement for human survival and in those days represented a source of food, transportation, and trade. Very interesting...thanks much for sharing, Don. ~WB


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