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The first Europeans to reach the area that is today Missouri, were Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet who explored the Mississippi River in canoes in 1673. The area was claimed for France, as part of the Louisiana Territory in 1682 by Robert Cavalier.
In the early 18th century, European immigrants accompanied by black slaves began to arrive in the area. The French constructed a fort, Fort Orleans in 1724 on Missouri River. Spain gained control of the region in 1762 by the Treaty of Fontainebleau, but did not assume control until 1770. The territory was however returned to France in 1800, who then sold it the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
In 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition set out to map the region, and in 1805 the Louisiana Territory was organized. When Louisiana became a state in 1812, the remaing Louisiana Territory was renamed the Missouri Territory. In 1818, Missouri requested admission to the Union as a slave state. This was a difficult political problem because of the delicate balance between free and slave states. However the 1820 Missouri Compromise allowed Missouri's admission along with Maine's (the latter as a free state), and Missouri was admitted to the Union in 1821.
When Missouri was admitted to the Union, its western border was a straight line, however in 1836, additional land was acquired from Native American tribes (the Platte Purchase) which added additional land to the Northwest corner of the state.
Joseph Smith, Jr. leader of the LDS ("Mormons") claimed to have received a revelation that western Missouri would become Zion, a place of gathering. Many Mormons came to the area, but were resented by other state's existing inhabitants who, unlike the Mormons, were slaveholders. There was considerable friction during this time, including violence and Smith being jailed, and in 1839 Smith and the LDS moved to Illinois.
In 1848, when the California Gold Rush begun, Missouri became an important departure point to the West, gaining the nickname "Gateway to the West".
At the start of the American Civil War (1861), Missouri voted against seceding from the Union. However, there sympathies for both sides within the state, and secessionists did try to form their own state government. There were many battles in the state, and in 1865 Missouri abolished slavery, doing so before the US adopted the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery throughout the United States of America).
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