A Brief History of the Missouri River Region

 

Missouririvermap

 

Known by many of us as the Heartland or Breadbasket, the Midwest, as defined by the United States Census Bureau as the Midwest Region is located in the North Central United States and consists of 12 states. Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio stretch across the Southern edge while Nebraska, the Dakotas and Michigan line the east and west borders and leave Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin accounting for the territory in the middle. Covering a very large breadth of land, the Midwest region reaches all the way from the Central United States to the Canadian Border. With a landscape full of variety including beautiful tallgrass prairies, rolling hills, deep green forests, lowland plains and wide, flowing rivers, it’s easy to see why early migrating nomads and adventurous european explorers were attracted to it’s bounty.

Today the United States Census Bureau tallies the population of the region at 65 million people and although the Midwest is home to several of the largest urban areas in the country, the region will always be associated with farming and agriculture. Very little uncultivated land remains throughout the midwest and the region is one of the World’s economic leaders in agriculture, responsible for creating an enormous economic impact through jobs and export revenues. With the invention of the steel moldboard plow by John Deere, Midwestern soil has become some of the most fertile and productive soil in the entire world. However, long before the plow and long before any european settlers arrived, the indigenous Mississippian Culture was farming this land and creating their own agricultural complex.

Between 10,000-12,000 years ago, at the end of the last glacial period, humans first began to settle near the Missouri River. The longest river in North America quickly became one of the main migration and trade paths for the people that would eventually become indigenous to the great plains. To support their growing populations these Native Americans not only foraged and gathered Berries, Herbs, Nuts and Fruits but also developed farming technologies to allow effective production of Corn, Squash, Beans, Tobacco and Cotton. During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, Native American Corn farmers were outproducing wheat growing farmers in Europe 3:1 and it is estimated that 50-60% of all crops in production worldwide originate from North America.

European settlers first came to the Missouri River region in the late 1600’s and the term Missouri River was documented in 1714 by French explorers. The land was not truly settled until the mid to late 1800’s when the region saw an enormous influx of European immigrants, to the tune of 1 million a year.  Many people left Kansas City and Independence to head further west in search of prosperity but many of the Germans stayed and luckily for their friends and neighbors they brought German brewing techniques for Beer. Not only were they master beer brewers but their winemaking skills were unparalleled in their era producing more than 2 million gallons of Wine per year in Missouri. Basically, they were alcohol experts and probably knew how to have a good time.

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