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Mark Twain Museum and other Genius’ of Northern Missouri

Updated on August 23, 2013

Road Trip on the American Genius Highway

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

Mark Twain

Drive Highway 36 in northern Missouri and you discover some of the great ideas, inventions and innovators of America. You can learn the stories of Mark Twain, the Pony Express, Walt Disney, Jessie James and more. Dubbed "The Way of American Genius", this stretch of highway is meant to provide an educational experience and appreciation of the history of the great men who once lived there. To learn more, go American Genius Highway

We'll start this tour in St. Joseph where the Pony Express all began and where Jesse James lived. South of St. Joseph are Liberty and Kearney with their additions. Back onto Highway 36, we'll stop in Marceline and learn about the man behind the Disney phenomenon; Walt Disney's hometown. Finally our journey ends in Hannibal where Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher will tell us all about Mark Twain.

All Aboard for the Pony Express!

St. Joseph, Missouri

If you are visiting the area:

St. Joseph Convention and Visitor Bureau

1-800-785-0360

Patee House Museum

Headquarters for the Pony Express

This is not your ordinary museum. Originally, the Patee House Museum was built as a luxury hotel in 1858. From 1860 - 1861, it served as the headquarters for the Pony Express. Today it is home to a museum celebrating the time including:

  • Two floors of exhibits

  • 1860 train which you can climb on board and model railroads

  • Take a ride on the Wild Thing Carousel

  • 1877 Railroad depot

  • Stagecoach, cars, trucks, fire trucks, wagons, buggies, jeep, racecar, horse-drawn hearse and carriages

  • A real gallows

  • Blacksmith shop

  • Dressmaker's shop

  • Antique furniture and toys

  • An entire wing with Western art by George Warfel

  • An entire wing made to look like the streets of historic St. Joseph

Location:

1202 Penn St

St. Joseph, MO 64503

816-232-8206

Jesse James House Museum

Jesse James was only 34 when shot and killed in 1882. The Jesse James House Museum

is the location where it all happened. The museum houses artifacts of Jesse James’ life and death. You will also find articles of Frank James and the Ford Brothers.

Location:

1202 Penn St

St. Joseph, MO 64503

816-232-8206

Pony Express National Museum

During the gold rush of the 1800’s in California, it was determined that faster communication needed to happen between the two coasts. Telegraph and railroad reached as far as St. Joseph, Missouri, but went no further. In 1860, the Pony Express was established. Leaving St. Joseph on horseback, brave men raced over rough and rugged land in all weather conditions in order to get important news to Sacramento, California.

The Pony Express National Museum stands in the original Pike’s Peak Stables to celebrate the lives of these brave souls. Follow the timeline of the Pony Express through exhibits and see the lives they led along the route.

Location:

914 Penn Street

St. Joseph, MO 64503

1-800-530-5930

Mount Mora Cemetery

If you want to know the Who's Who of St. Joseph, look no further than the Mount Mora Cemetery. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and serves as an extension to the St. Joseph Museums.

During the years following the Civil War, the wealthy people of St. Joseph created extravagant homes and the finest tomb architecture. Mausoleum Row near the main gate is home to twenty-one impressive mausoleums. Take a stroll and learn about the important people of St. Joseph.

Location:

824 Mount Mora

St. Joseph, MO 64501

Marceline, Missouri

If you're visiting the area:

City of Marceline Chamber of Commerce

660-376-3347

Walt Disney Hometown Museum

To tell the truth, more things of importance happened to me in Marceline than have ever happened since, or are likely to in the future.

Walt Disney

We're all familiar with Mickey Mouse, but Walt Disney was so much more than that. He arrived in the tiny town of Marceline, Missouri by train when he was just five years old. He may have left, but his heart remained here. At the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, you'll learn about his life in Marceline through interpretive exhibits including:

  • Hundreds of personal letters

  • Photographs of Walt and Roy while in Marceline

  • Mickey Mouse dolls

  • Midget Autopia Car ride, moved from Disneyland and in use at the Walt Disney Park

  • Video of Walt and Roy in Marceline

  • Track panel from Walt's Carolwood Pacific Railroad

Location:

120 East Santa Fe Street

Marceline, MO 64658

660-376-3343

What's Your Favorite Disney Movie?

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    Walt Disney Dreaming Tree and Barn

    There are no big signs leading the way, but it is worth the effort to find the Walt Disney Dreaming Tree and Barn. Today the farm is owned by a former Mouseketeer. The tree is where Walt first began to draw. It is here that he dreamed up the ideas for his cartoons. Sit beneath the tree and see what dreams you come up with.

    The Barn is a re-creation of the original. You are encouraged to come inside and write a message on the wall. Hundreds before you have. It's fun to read the words. It is in this barn that Walt got his first taste for show business by creating plays for the neighbors.

    Location:

    131 W. Broadway St.

    Marceline, MO 64658

    Phone: 660-376-2332

    Walt Disney on Whats My Line in 1956

    Liberty, Missouri

    If your visiting the area:

    Historic Liberty

    816-781-5200

    Jesse James Bank Museum

    Take a tour of the one room museum inside the Jesse James Bank located in the historic downtown Liberty. In the Jesse James Bank Museum, see the bank as it looked in 1866 when a group of horsemen rode into town and robbed the bank. It was the first daytime robbery to take place and although the robbers were never caught, it was blamed on the James Gang.

    The museum is filled with furnishings from the time including a Seth Thomas clock set to the time the robbery took place. You can also read the newspaper story about the robbery and see photos and documents from the bank.

    Location:

    103 North Water

    Liberty, MO 64068

    816-736-8510

    Historic District of Liberty

    Take a stroll through the historic district of Liberty, Missouri established in 1820. Learn about the history as you visit:

    • Clay County Museum

    • Corbin Mill built in 1889

    • Corbin Theatre

    • Freedom Fountain - Commemorating the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement

    • Historic Liberty Jail

    • Historic Pharis Farm originally titled in 1824

    • Jesse James Bank Museum

    • Murals of historic downtown Liberty

    • Don’t forget to get some shopping done

    Location:

    Historic Downtown Liberty

    111 N. Water Street

    Liberty, MO 64068

    (816) 781-3575

    Freedom Fountain

    African American Walking Tour

    The first African Americans in Clay county came as slaves in 1817. The first Freedom Fountain was a place where slaves were bought and sold. Even after slavery was abolished, segregation remained. The Civil War Confederates brought deep prejudices home with them. It wasn’t until the mid 1900’s before school integration became law.

    Through it all, the African American community of Liberty has remained strong. Take the African American Walking Tour to learn more about the neighborhoods in the city. See the current Freedom Fountain which is dedicated by the Clay County African American Legacy.

    Location:

    1 Courthouse Square

    Corner of Franklin and Water

    Liberty, MO 64068

    Historic Liberty Jail Museum

    During the early 1800’s, Prophet Joseph Smith spent about five months awaiting trial in the Liberty Jail. Today you can visit the restored Historic Liberty Jail Musuem and learn more about the revelations Smith had while in jail and how it shaped the history of the Mormon religion. Tours are free and include art, sculpture, photos and audio-visual presentation.

    Location:

    216 North Main Street

    Liberty, MO 64068

    816-781-3188

    Kearney, Missouri

    If you're visiting the area:

    Kearney Chamber of Commerce

    816- 628-4229

    Jesse James Farm and Museum

    Built in 1847, take a tour of the home where Frank and Jesse James grew up. Walk along the creek where they played until they both headed into the Civil War. In the museum watch a video about the history of the trouble Frank and Jesse got into after the war. The museum holds the largest collection of family artifacts. Then head to the farmhouse which has been carefully restored.

    Location:

    Jesse James Farm and Museum

    21216 Jesse James Farm Road

    Kearney, MO 64068

    816-736-8500

    Watkins House and Woolen Mill

    During the industrial revolution, woolen mills were a staple. Waltus Watkins moved to Kearney and built a fine home in 1854. He took years of planning before building the Watkins Woolen Mill in 1860. By the early 1900's the mill fell into disrepair and ceased operation in 1905.

    Today the Watkins House and Woolen Mill have been restored to their original beauty. The home is a classic Revival home with tour highlights including:

    • Semicircular semi-floating staircase

    • Formal parlor

    • Guest rooms

    • Summer kitchen

    Next take a tour of the mill including:

    • Storefront

    • Machinery for processing the wool, spinning the yarn and weaving the cloth

    • Gristmill

    • Original steam engine

    Location:

    Main entrance is at NE 161st Street and County Road RA

    Kearney, MO

    64068

    816-580-3387

    Woolen Mills on Display

    Hannibal, Missouri

    If you're visiting the area:

    Visit Hannibal

    1-866-263-4825

    Mark Twain Museum

    The average American may not know who is grandfather was. But the American was, however, one degree better off than the average Frenchman who, as a rule, was in considerable doubt as to who his father was.”

    Mark Twain

    A visit to the Mark Twain Museum includes eight buildings on property right in the heart of the historic downtown area of Hannibal Missouri. While exploring, you will discover how a young boy grew up in a small village and became one of the world’s favorite authors.

    Included in the properties:

    • Main interpretive center where you will find interactive exhibits and original Norman Rockwell paintings.

    • Mark Twain Boyhood Home and garden where Sam Clemens grew up and let his imagination soar.

    • Huckleberry Finn House where the real Huck Finn grew up.

    • Becky Thatcher House where Laura Hawkins, the inspiration for Becky, lived.

    • J.M. Clemens Justice of the Peace Office where Sam’s father held court.

    • Grant’s Drug Store where the Clemens’s family lived for a short time.

    • Museum Gallery featuring interactive exhibits, Clemens family artifacts and more Norman Rockwell pictures.

    • Gift Shop located in the original museum built in 1937.

    • Tom and Huck Statue.

    Location:

    120 North Main

    Hannibal, MO 63401

    573-221-9010

    Mark Twain Memorabilia

    Mark Twain Cave

    If you've read the Adventures of Tom Sawyer, you'll know about a cave. It is the Mark Twain Cave that Clemens wrote about in this and four other books. First discovered in 1819, the Mark Twain Cave

    began having tours in 1886. It is Missouri's largest showcave. You can take a one hour guided tour of the cave and learn where the adventures began.

    Close by:

    • Cameron Cave discovered a decade later. This cave is much larger and more complex than the Mark Twain Cave. It is said you could get lost and never find your way out. The guided tour of this cave is 1 ½ hours.

    • Visitor Center where you can find information, books, gifts, souvenirs and collectibles.

    • Sticks, Stones and Bones where you can pan for semi-precious gemstones.

    • Cave Hollow Gifts and Candles featuring hand carved candles. You can watch the candle making process and even dip and decorate your own candle.

    Location:

    300 Cave Hollow Road

    Hannibal, MO 63401

    573-221-1656

    Mark Twain Riverboat Cruise

    To really get a feel for life in the time of Mark Twain, consider taking a cruise on the Mark Twain Riverboat. It is has been cruising the “Mighty Mississippi” for over thirty years.

    You can take a one hour sightseeing cruise. Learn about the sights you are seeing, the history of the area as well as some legends of years gone by. Or you can take the two hour dinner cruise that features all of the above plus a dinner buffet and live music as it was in the era of Mark Twain.

    The Mark Twain has been a unique feature on the Hannibal riverfront for more than thirty years. We strive to offer visitors and residents of Hannibal a uniquely authentic riverboat experience on the "Mighty Mississippi".

    Location of the dock:

    Center Street Landing

    Hannibal, MO 63401

    573-221-3222

    Planters Barn Theater

    Home of the play Mark Twain Himself

    Located on Dead Man's Alley, the Planters Barn Theater is right by the Mark Twain Boyhood Home. It was built in 1849 as a livery barn, the theater is full of period décor and furnishings. It is said that Samuel Clemens and Abraham Lincoln have been in attendance in history.

    During the summer, you can take in the one-man show, Mark Twain Himself. The actor greets guests as they enter the theater and remains in character. During the play, he recites anecdotes taken from Mark Twain's life and writings.

    Location:

    319 North Main Street

    Hannibal, MO 63401

    573-231-0021

    Samuel Clemens' life on the Mississippi - Inspiration for some of his writings as Mark Twain

    Haunted Hannibal Tour

    Think you might want to catch up with Mark Twain? Take in the Haunted Hannibal Tour where you will learn about locations in the historic district that have reported paranormal activity. Hear stories about the ghosts of the mansions on Millionaires’ Row and take a tour of the Old Baptist Cemetery. Watch out for slaves or civil war soldiers!

    Location:

    215 North Main

    Hannibal, MO 63401

    573-248-1819

    Molly Brown Birthplace and Museum

    The Unsinkable Molly Brown

    Just a few blocks from downtown Hannibal, Margaret (Molly) Tobin Brown was born in an Irish immigrant’s cottage. The unsinkable Molly Brown, she is best known for her heroic actions during the sinking of the Titanic. She was on her way back to Hannibal to see her sister when the infamous Titanic struck an ice berg and sank.

    After seeing the horrible things of that fateful day, Molly turned into a political figure speaking out for maritime reform, women’s rights and improved conditions for miners. She remained very active all her life.

    The home where she was born has been restored and is now the Molly Brown Museum celebrating her life. An entire room is dedicated to the Titanic tragedy.

    Location:

    600 Butler Street

    Hannibal, MO 63401

    Phone :573-221-2477

    Have You Visited the American Genius' Highway?

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        RinchenChodron 4 years ago

        I wish I had had this lens when I went to college in Maryville, MO - was not aware of these great museums when I lived there. I'll have to come back and take a tour.

      • Jogalog profile image

        Jogalog 4 years ago

        I haven't but it sounds like a fantastic trip to do.