St. Louis Geography & History

Some goals of the St. Louis Geog­ra­phy & His­to­ry Les­son Plan:

I. Teach Geog­ra­phy Skills
- Map Reading
Crit­i­cal Thinking

II. Intro­duce the Camp­bell Family
After read­ing the pro­vid­ed mate­ri­als, stu­dents should be able to answer the fol­low­ing questions: 
Who was Robert Campbell?
Where was he born?
What is a per­son who comes from anoth­er coun­try called?
Who was Vir­ginia Campbell?
How many chil­dren did the Camp­bells have?
How many chil­dren lived past the age of 7?
What busi­ness­es did Robert Camp­bell have?
Who lived in the house after Robert and Vir­ginia Camp­bell died?

III. Teach Local History
After read­ing the pro­vid­ed mate­ri­als and observ­ing the Camp­bell House and its sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hood, stu­dents should be able to answer the fol­low­ing questions:
Why is St. Louis locat­ed at the junc­ture of the Mis­souri and Mis­sis­sip­pi Rivers?

Where was St. Louis before 1850?
What was the Camp­bell House prop­er­ty before it was part of a neighborhood?
Why did peo­ple live close­ly packed togeth­er in ear­ly St. Louis? (1764 to 1850)
Why did wealthy res­i­dents move out of the city?
What inven­tion allowed peo­ple to move fur­ther away from their businesses?
As the wealthy res­i­dents con­tin­ued to move fur­ther west after the 1880s, why did the Camp­bells choose to stay in this house? (open question)
How many hous­es can be found on Lucas Place today?
Where did these homes go?
What do you see hap­pen­ing around the Camp­bell House today?

Com­mon Core stan­dards for this les­son: RH.6–8.1, RH.6–8.7, RH.6–8.8, RI.6.3, RI.6.7, speak­ing ele­ments: SL.6.2 to SL.8.2, SL.6.4 to SL.8.4, col­lab­o­ra­tions: SL.6.1a‑d to SL.8.1a‑d.

Please con­tact the Muse­um for more information.

 St. Louis Geography & History: Why is St. Louis Here?

St. Louis is a unique place with its own style and his­to­ry.  For more than 10,000 years peo­ple have been mak­ing a home for them­selves here.  What is it about this place that had made it a good place to live for so long?  (by the end of the les­son stu­dents should be able to answer this question.)

I. The Unit­ed States and St. Louis

Look at a map of the Unit­ed States and find St. Louis. One of the first things you will notice about St. Louis is all of the rivers sur­round­ing the city. St. Louis sits on the west­ern shore of the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er, just below the mouth of the Mis­souri Riv­er. Just north of St. Louis, on the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er, is the mouth of the Illi­nois Riv­er and just south of St. Louis is the mouth of the Ohio Riv­er. Before rail­roads and cars were invent­ed, rivers were the fastest and eas­i­est way to trav­el. St. Louis is the hub of a great water­ways sys­tem that makes it rel­a­tive­ly easy for a per­son to trav­el from the Rocky Moun­tains to the Appalachi­an Moun­tains and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mex­i­co, all by water.


The St. Louis we know today is not the first large city in this area. In about 800 C.E. small groups of Native Amer­i­cans began to come togeth­er to cre­ate what would become the largest city in North Amer­i­ca at Cahokia Mounds, across the riv­er from St. Louis in Illi­nois. This city last­ed until about 1200 C.E. when it was aban­doned and its inhab­i­tants spread out to small farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties through­out the region.

II. Hutchins’ Map of the Mid-Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er Val­ley, 1778

In 1673 France claimed the entire Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er val­ley as a colony and began to estab­lish mis­sions and trad­ing posts, which quick­ly evolved into small farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties along the east bank of the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er. In 1699, Father St. Cosme estab­lished the ear­li­est of these com­mu­ni­ties in what is now Cahokia, Illi­nois, in 1699. In 1763 the entire west bank of the Mis­sis­sip­pi and New Orleans was trans­ferred to Spain and the east bank became part of the British colonies.


III. Colo­nial Map of St. Louis, cir­ca 1800

In 1763 a group of traders were giv­en a monop­oly to trade with all of the Native Amer­i­cans west of the Mis­sis­sip­pi by the French Gov­er­nor in New Orleans. One of the traders, Pierre Laclede, led a group of boats loaded with trad­ing goods up the Mis­sis­sip­pi in the fall. When he reached Fort de Chartres in Illi­nois, the com­man­dant told Laclede that he was now in British ter­ri­to­ry and, to main­tain his trad­ing monop­oly, he would have to set up his post on the west bank of the Mississippi.


 Laclede then went on a trip up the riv­er to find the most suit­able spot for his post. He chose the site of mod­ern-day St. Louis because it was the first high ground south of the mouth of the Mis­souri. This meant that he was close to the peo­ple he want­ed to trade with and that the site was above the floods on the riv­er. In the ear­ly spring of 1764 he sent his 14-year-old pro­tégé, Auguste Chouteau, and a group of boat­men to estab­lish his trad­ing post at what is now St. Louis. With the trans­fer of the east bank of the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er to the Eng­lish, there were many set­tlers who joined Laclede across the riv­er in St. Louis, which was then Span­ish territory.

With­in a very short time St. Louis became one of the largest vil­lages in the mid-Mis­sis­sip­pi val­ley. In 1803 Napoleon, the Emper­or of France, sold the entire Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er val­ley and much of what is now the west­ern part of the coun­try to the Unit­ed States for $15 mil­lion; this became known as the Louisiana Pur­chase. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment very quick­ly began to encour­age west­ward expan­sion and set­tle­ment and St. Louis became the log­i­cal place for emi­grants head­ing west to stop and pur­chase sup­plies for their trip. By the 1830s, St. Louis had tru­ly become the “Gate­way to the West.”

IV. St. Louis Map Show­ing the Com­mon Fields, cir­ca 1820



V. St. Louis Map cir­ca 1845



VI. Com­mon Field Map Super­im­posed Over 1845 St. Louis Map



The City of St. Louis expe­ri­enced very rapid growth after the Louisiana Pur­chase in 1803. Around the colo­nial vil­lage of St. Louis were large areas of agri­cul­tur­al land, and when the influx of Amer­i­cans began after the Louisiana Pur­chase they began to buy the long nar­row lots for their own farms and for devel­op­ment. If you look at the lay­out of streets in St. Louis, many of them fol­low the edges of the orig­i­nal 18th cen­tu­ry fields. Robert Camp­bell arrived in St. Louis in 1824 just as this expan­sion was beginning.

VII. Lucas Place Neigh­bor­hood, 1875

In 1850, James and his sis­ter Ann Lucas laid out St. Louis’ first pri­vate neigh­bor­hood, Lucas Place. It ran along both sides of what is now Locust Street from 13th to 18th streets on three orig­i­nal long lots that James’ father, J.B.C. Lucas, pur­chased in 1810. When first built the neigh­bor­hood was well west of the devel­oped part of the city; in essence the sub­urbs. Lucas Place, for the first time in St. Louis, allowed the wealthy to sep­a­rate them­selves from the rest of the city.  Stu­dents can learn more about Lucas Place and St. Louis neigh­bor­hoods as a part of our What Makes A Neigh­bor­hood pro­gram.



VIII. St. Louis Street with an Ear­ly Horse-Drawn Streetcar

What most allowed peo­ple to move fur­ther away from their busi­ness­es and the riv­er was the intro­duc­tion of street­car lines in St. Louis. For the first time, peo­ple could move eas­i­ly and quick­ly across larg­er spaces in the city. The first street cars were not elec­tric or steam, they were pulled by mules. In large part due to this inno­va­tion, city quick­ly grew up around Lucas Place, mak­ing it less exclu­sive and removed from the hus­tle and bus­tle of down­town. By 1880 Lucas Place res­i­dents began to move fur­ther west to Van­de­ven­ter Place and the Cen­tral West End. Today, the only remain­ing Lucas Place build­ing is the Camp­bell House Museum.


St. Louis con­tin­ues to expand quick­ly. The St. Louis met­ro­pol­i­tan area now encom­pass­es 12 coun­ties and extends out from the river­front forty-five miles in each direction.