I was very surprised at the wealth of history found in St. Joseph, Missouri over Thanksgiving. The Pony Express began its routes in this city, Jesse James was shot and killed there, it was Missouri's second largest city during the Civil War and that war pit neighbor against neighbor in the worst way, and it was a major place for the manufacturing of dry goods and hardware.
The first thing that interested me was, of course, Jesse James, one of the most famous bank robbers in American history. He and his brother Frank robbed banks and trains for 15 years, robberies which occasionally led to people being shot and killed. He came to St. Joseph to hide from the law after a Minnesota bank robbery turned into such a botch all that every one of his gang was killed except Jesse and his brother. In the end, he was shot in his own living room by a member of his newly formed gang, Bob Ford. Jesse was 34. When you think about his age, he began his crimes at a very young age.
His father Robert was a Baptist Minister who founded William Jewell College in Liberty Missouri and some historians believe Jesse was religious (in his own way) but probably not a Robin Hood who gave his stolen money to the poor. No one really knows what he did with all the money he stole.
Here is the home Jesse James was killed in located near and above old downtown St. Joe.
This house is now part of a museum which also covers several of St. Joseph's founders.
Then there is the matter of the Pony Express which consisted of relays of men riding horses carrying saddlebags of mail across a 2000-mile trail. If you are are old enough to remember western tv programs and movies, you'll remember the Pony Express. It was founded by William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors. Plans for the Pony Express were spurred by the threat of the Civil War and the need for faster communication with the West.
The service opened officially on April 3, 1860, when riders left simultaneously from St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. "The first westbound trip was made in 9 days and 23 hours and the eastbound journey in 11 days and 12 hours. Eventually, the Pony Express had more than 100 stations, 80 riders, and between 400 and 500 horses. The express route was extremely hazardous, but only one mail delivery was ever lost. The service lasted only 19 months until October 24, 1861, when the completion of the Pacific Telegraph line ended the need for its existence."
There is a mural painted on a building wall a block from the museum which depicts the evolution of mail delivery and western travel.
And lastly in this same area above the old downtown are huge old stone homes built by the local captains of industry and trade back in the Victorian era of 19th Century St. Joseph. These homes are amazing and still being lived in by someone. A few are being restored, others just barely lived in and testifying to past vast wealth.