From Enslaved to Enlisted

2/15/2024 | Cuivre River State Park | Troy, MO

Cuivre River State Park will commemorate Black History Month in February with two new exhibits. One exhibit highlights the men of the 62nd U.S. Colored Infantry from Lincoln County. The other exhibit documents the life of Louis Overton, a formerly enslaved man who was a preacher and community leader, and who helped form the first church and school for Black Americans in Lincoln County.

Over 200 formerly enslaved men from Lincoln County enlisted in the Civil War, with around 40 men being placed in the 62nd. The 62nd mostly saw duty in Louisiana and Texas. In the group's downtime, the white officers taught the soldiers how to read and write. The men of the 62nd made only $10 a month, of which $3 could be deducted for the cost of uniforms (this was practiced only with Black regiments). However, these men believed so strongly in the power of education that they donated part of their meager salaries for the establishment of a school in Missouri for freed Blacks. By the end of the war, the men had over $5,000 as seed money for what would be called the Lincoln Institute – today, Lincoln University in Jefferson City.

The Lincoln County men took their mission one step further, sending money for the establishment of a school and church back home. After their return, several soldiers met with their friend Louis Overton, and together they rode on horseback across the county to find the perfect locations. They chose sites in Elsberry and Troy for churches, and the school was built on Louis Overton's farm, off the northeastern boundary of what would become Cuivre River State Park. 

The exhibits will be on display through February in the park’s visitor center, which is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information, call the park office at 636-528-7247.   

Exhibit dates: Jan. 22 - Feb. 29, Monday-Friday
Exhibit times: 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Click here to read the news release.

Cuivre River State Park is located at:

678 State Route 147, Troy, MO | 636-528-7247

Associated activities

  • Interpretive Programs