Local History

A city of stories … Find yourself in one

You can’t talk about St. Joseph without talking about our truly uncommon history. Founded along the Missouri River bluffs by French fur trader Joseph Robidoux, we’re also the launch point of the Pony Express and thousands of westward pioneers.

A little about our city’s founder (thanks Robidoux Row Museum), Robidoux arrived in the Blacksnake Hills region in 1799 at the age of 16. Seeing it as a great fur trading location, he was present when Louis and Clark returned to the region in 1806 and is referred to in Clark’s journals. He owned the land where the city was founded after the Platte Purchase of 1837. The city was platted in 1843.

After its founding, the city really blossomed in the number of residents and the amount of Wild West character. The house where notorious outlaw Jesse James met his demise is open for tours, and it’s next door to the multi-level 1858 Patee House Museum — one of the nation’s top western museums. A prestigious Native American collection awaits at the St. Joseph Museum, reflecting the deep cultural impact of tribes on the region’s early history. The Black Archives Museum showcases the lasting impact of African Americans on the city, including the birthplace of Coleman Hawkins and hometown of Etta Cox, among other music greats. Visitors and locals comment often on our amazing collection of 19th century mansions and buildings, spurred by an 1870s manufacturing and shipping boom (see the homes of the founder of Aunt Jemima pancake mix and the saltine cracker, to name a few). News lovers won’t want to miss the new Walter Cronkite Memorial, honoring one of St. Joseph’s native sons. And we could go on and on. Come see where you fit into the intriguing, quirky and unique history of St. Joseph.