The Scout overlooking downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

7 Oldest Founded Towns to Visit in Missouri

The state of Missouri is home to the Mississippi River, one of the epicenters of agriculture and trade during the beginnings of American history. Check out prominent landmarks from the battle for Civil Rights, walk along the pathway of the First Peoples, and tread the waters that have nourished these communities for centuries. These lands, events, and landmarks in Missouri hold some of the most important histories of America.

Ste. Genevieve

Historical buildings in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.
Historical buildings in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.

Step back in time in Ste. Genevieve, one of the oldest cities in Missouri, and the first French Canadian settlement along the Missouri River towards Louisiana, marking the pathway of the Ojibwa people. Take a walk back in time while enjoying age-old architecture that still stands centuries later. The abundant land along the river and its agricultural potential are what brought individuals to settle in the region. Today, hundreds of farming practices along the pastoral lands sit alongside the Missouri River, which waters them. In 1785, there was a great flood, and the peoples of Ste. Genevieve were forced to relocate a few miles up the river. The buildings that still stand today are from the 18th century when Spain was in power, and that history can be viewed at the National Landmark, the Louis Bolduc House.

St Louis

The Jefferson Memorial Building, built in 1913 with profits from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, is the home of the Missouri History Museum.
The Jefferson Memorial Building is the home of the Missouri History Museum. Image credit Steve Cukrov via

St. Louis was the second permanent settlement and a major hub for Mississippian Native American peoples before the European settlers arrived. Named after King Louis IX of France, the city became the home of the old country. Eventually, losing the land to Spain during the Seven Years' War, St. Louis was later reclaimed by France and became part of the Louisiana Purchase to become an integral part of the United States. St. Louis, home of old city architecture and modern new urban playgrounds, is representative of adapting cities throughout history. Visit the ancient history at Saint Louis Art Museum or Saint Louis Cathedral before checking out the modern spots like Busch Stadium and the Gateway Arch. As the second oldest found city in Missouri, St.Louis holds an insurmountable amount of arts, culture, history, and experiences that will make any visitor want to extend their stay.

Jefferson City

Lewis and Clark Monument in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Lewis and Clark Monument in Jefferson City, Missouri. Image credit Paul Brady Photography via

Jefferson City is the state capital of Missouri and one of the oldest areas where settlers created new communities. During the 17th century, the area was inhabited by the Osage Indians and was eventually claimed by France. A long, complicated history surrounds Jefferson City as the lead mine, one of the largest economic draws in the area, was run by white men who utilized slavery in order to meet their goals. Named after US President Thomas Jefferson, the city is home to historical sites and landmarks associated with the Civil War and the following decades of difficulty. Although rich in controversial history, Jefferson City is the epicenter for discussion and debate, bringing together different cultures, and strengthening the city's fabric. Enjoy diverse perspectives, thought-provoking history, and scenic outdoor experiences in Jefferson City. One of the oldest cities in Missouri to sustain growth through a history of struggle, Jefferson is one of the most important sites for American culture.

Kansas City

Kansas City, Missouri, USA downtown skyline with Union Station at dusk.
Downtown skyline with Union Station at dusk, Kansas City.

Kansas City sits on the border between Missouri and Kansas, a prime location for settlers, especially after the Louisiana Purchase in 1804. An area explored by the famed explorers Lewis and Clark, Kansas City is home to Westport Landing,  Historic Lincoln Building, and the beginning of western movement on the Oregon Trail. Although Kansas City was located in Missouri, it was held by the Union, and during the Civil War, they put the headquarters there, which only incited more conflict in Missouri. This became the site for the largest battle west of the Mississippi, The Battle of Westport. Home to some of the most important histories of the area, Kansas City has modernized to incorporate its beginnings into part of its whole. Along with arts, culture, and entertainment, Kansas highlights its origins as a leading commercial city with a booming economy.

St. Charles

Aerial View of Historic Downtown St Charles.
Aerial View of Historic Downtown St Charles. Image credit RN Photo Midwest via

St. Charles, Missouri, is one of the most important oldest-founded towns on the road to discovery in America. St Charles was Missouri’s state capital before Jefferson and home to explorer Daniel Boone. The City of St. Charles has since become an economic hotspot, housing some of the world's most prominent organizations, such as Coca-Cola Enterprises. Check out the Lewis and Clark Boat House and Museum or Frontier Park to take in all of the history that the land has to offer. Go back centuries by visiting First Missouri State Capitol Historic Park, walk through Fast Lane Classic Cars to embrace the Studebaker era of the area, and have some fun at Two Plumbers Brewery and Arcade.

New Madrid

The historic New Madrid County Courthouse.
The historic New Madrid County Courthouse. Image credit Roberto Galan via

New Madrid is a small town located on the north side of Kentucky Bend, where the river curves in Missouri. The Shawnee, Delaware, Creek, and Cherokee turned into refugees during the American War for Independence. In the early 1780s, they accepted offers from the Spanish people to create a home on the abundant shore of the Mississippi River. In the Civil War, New Madrid was a weak point and quickly evacuated, and the Pope’s army took over. Pope ordered that they dig a small canal at Fort Bankhead to come out east of New Madrid and bypass the batteries. It was a remarkable event that can only be understood by visiting New Madrid. Check out the New Madrid Historical Museum and look through the letters, equipment, clothing, and other items in their archive, which tell the greater story of the centuries-old New Madrid, Missouri. As one of the oldest founded towns in the State of Missouri, New Madrid holds a history of culture and the legacy surrounding the Civil War and the Mississippi River.


Florissant City Hall and clock
Florissant City Hall. Image credit Paul Sableman via Wikimedia Commons

Florrisant is a northern suburb of St Louis and one of the oldest settlements in Missouri. The French settled in Florissant around 1785, renaming it from the Spanish name St. Ferdinand. Visit Casa Alvarez, which dates back to 1790 and is a prime example of Missouri French architecture, before checking out the Old St. Ferdinand’s Shrine, the oldest Catholic Church between Missouri and the Rocky Mountains. Take a walk and discover several National Historic Sites in Florissant. With an environment steeped in history, there are endless things to do. Reflect while walking through plantations, relax while walking past pastoral landscapes, and enjoy the knowledge within the walls while engaging with the area's history. As one of the oldest founded cities in Missouri, Florissant is one of the most prominent spaces to explore the rich history of the American nation.

Missouri holds some of the most important history along the Mississippi River. The spaces where the Civil War was held, and the land borders of the Louisiana Purchase make Missouri one of the most important locations in all of the United States. The state of Missouri holds centuries of American history understood through its local landmarks, historic sites, and community practices.

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