The Race West

at Battle of Lexington State Historic Site

"Lexington is one of the towns from which outfits are made in merchandise, mules, oxen and wagons for the Santa Fe or New Mexican trade. The fur traders who pass to the mountain by land make this town a place of rendezvous, and frequently are going out and coming in their wagons and packed mules, at the same period of going and coming that is chosen by the Mexican traders…" --- Alphonso Wetmore, Gazetteer of the State of Missouri, 1837

By the late 1830s, warehouses lined the Lexington riverfront. Steamboats brought manufactured goods up river and carried agricultural products like hemp and tobacco downriver. The community benefited from the success of hemp cultivation, which was needed for rope production.

As many Americans moved west, those from the southern states settled areas along the Missouri River. Oliver Anderson capitalized on the opportunities found in hemp production and in 1852 sent the largest shipment of bale rope recorded to St. Louis.

Through written histories, maps, newspaper articles and advertisements, students will be able to analyze settlement patterns of early Lexington settlers, explain why Lexington became the fifth largest town in Missouri during the 1850s, understand the dependence of hemp cultivation on slavery and explain the effects of the Civil War on Lexington.