Civil War History
With the coming of the Civil War sesquicentennial, Columbia has several key sites for history buffs to explore. Within walking distance of Flat Branch Park is the University of Missouri's Western Historical Manuscript Collection, which contains the Civil War letters of Lewis Riley. Riley was a Union cavalryman from the 6th Missouri. His letters to his wife describe battles throughout the South, including Memphis, Vicksburg and Little Rock. They also give readers a unique insight into the hopes and fears of a soldier during the Civil War.
The Western Historical Manuscript Collection is located on the ground floor of the west wing of the Ellis Library across the lobby from the library auditorium. All public areas are handicap accessible.
Also within walking distance of the park is the Columbia Cemetery, where one of the earliest regiments of the United States Colored Infantry is interred. This is the only location of its kind the state. Many of those interred were members of Missouri's 62nd US Colored Infantry Regiment who participated in the last major engagement of the Civil War at Palmetto Ranch, Texas on May 15, 1865, over a month after General Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Virginia.
The Columbia Cemetery is located at the intersection of Broadway and Garth, two block west of Providence.
The Home of Ragtime
The District's West End was Columbia's first African-American neighborhood--then known as Sharp End--and was the home of one of the city's most amazing citizens, J.W. "Blind" Boone. His story begin in the final year of the Civil War as Rachel Boone, a runaway slave from a family descended from Daniel Boone, gave birth to a baby in a Union Army camp near Miami, Missouri. Before John William reached his first birthday, he was diagnosed with "brain fever," a vaguely defined yet commonly reported disease of the time. The only option to relieve the swelling of his brain was the complete removal of his eyes. However, this didn't affect his amazing ear for music. He attended music classes at Christian College (now Columbia College) and soon became a nationwide ragtime sensation.
The Blind Boone home is located on North Fourth Street and is designated as "Nationally Significant" on the National Register of Historic Places. The house is currently undergoing a historic renovation. Future plans for this site include a ragtime museum dedicated to Boone and his music.
The Francis Quadrangle Historic District is the core of the University of Missouri's educational and administrative buildings and is the site of the original campus. The Quad is significant as the oldest, most monumental expression of the quadrangle type of campus planning in the state. It symbolizes the historic significance of the University of Missouri as the first state university west of the Mississippi River. Six of the quadrangle structures also stand as intact, well-preserved examples of the work of Missouri's institutional architect, Morris Frederick Bell.
Francis Quadrangle is located at the south end of the Avenue of the Columns.
While strolling through the Quad, be sure to note the Chancellor's Residence, the oldest building on the oldest public university campus west of the Mississippi River. Built in the mid-1800's, the current residence is the second at this location. The first, erected in 1843, served as quarters for 300 Union soldiers during the Civil War. It was destroyed by fire in 1865. The current Residence has hosted numerous celebrities including Walter Cronkite, Eleanor Roosevelt, Joseph Pulitzer, Harry S Truman, and Mark Twain.
When you're finished exploring the buildings on Francis Quadrangle, take a moment to rest in Jefferson's Garden, planted with cardinal flowers, columbine, Virginia bluebells, sweetshrub and Rose of Sharon in honor of the president's garden at Monticello. Thomas Jefferson's original grave marker, donated to the University by Jefferson's family in 1885, is located here, as is a bronze sculpture of Jefferson himself. Jefferson's Garden is just one of many botanical gardens located on the MU campus.
Jefferson's Gardens are located on the west side of the Chancellor's Residence.