Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

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June 19, 2007

Missouri: A new way to look at the start of the Civil War

TIFTON, Ga. — Fort Sumter wasn’t first, or so they say in Missouri when folks talk about the Civil War. They’re even advertising the idea in Smithsonian and other national publications.

Missouri historians are holding on to the notion that trouble was brewing, and maybe firing full force by 1854, when frontier settlers from Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains but didn’t see eye-to-eye with neighbors sent by the New England Emigrant Aid Society to abolish slavery while settling the west.

I checked out the part of the claim I could reach with three easy day trips in and out of Kansas City. I wasn’t looking for Civil War battle sites, but for not-so-civil relationships.

Volunteers and staff in all the historic sites I visited really care about this story of the warring before the War. Finding your way is a bit of a puzzle best figured out with advance literature and a good map.

You can concentrate on the shoot-em-up style all along the border with Freesoilers and the Kansas Jayhawkers fighting for abolition and the Missouri Bushwhackers defending slavery as a way of life, as you check out interesting museums, historic houses and a battle site or two.

My plan connected me to the Pony Express, the bank-robbing James brothers and artist George Caleb Bingham, plus lots of pretty scenery and some great restaurants.

Since everything turned out to be more interesting than I expected, I didn’t leave enough time to check out Kansas City – except for a stroll through the Truman Presidential Museum & Library in next-door Independence.

Guess that’s a story for another day about a city which clearly looks like it’s on the move with new and expanded art museums, almost-completed massive entertainment and sports centers and the bustling, modern 1922 Country Club Plaza and 1914 Union Station.

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