Centuries after prehistoric Mississippian societies built mounds on the cliffs around what is now Jefferson City, the area passed into Spanish, then French hands before the United States ultimately acquired it through the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Sparsely populated when Missouri was admitted to the Union in 1821, it may have remained free of major settlement if not for a commission established by the new state to identify the future site of its capital. Later in 1821, the commission selected the unclaimed, but now familiar, site of forested limestone hills on the south bank of the Missouri River.
The bold decision to forego an existing locale meant Jefferson City truly was the “City a Capitol Built.” Its earliest settlers were mostly of southern descent, with a few of the state’s richest men purchasing land in the new capital and many more relocating from the small nearby communities of Marion and Cote Sans Dessein. Within a decade, a second wave of influential settlers appeared: German immigrants. These groups’ collective vision took the dot on a map and built it into a capital city.
In celebration of Missouri’s ongoing bicentennial of statehood, join the Missouri State Archives for a program about the founding of the state capital taken from the new book, "Hidden History of Jefferson City," from author and Missouri State Archives staff member Michelle Brooks.