Canton, Missouri is a small town located in Lewis County. Despite its size, Canton has been witness to numerous historical events that have shaped the region and country as a whole. From wars to cultural movements, Canton has been a backdrop for some of the most significant moments in American history. Here are seven historical events that have taken place near Canton, MO.
1. Lewis and Clark Expedition
In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Territory. Led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, the expedition began its journey near Canton, MO, in May of 1804. The travelers made their way up the Missouri River through what is now Montana, Idaho, and Washington, eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean. The Lewis and Clark Expedition opened up the West to exploration and settlement, and its impact on American history is immeasurable.
2. Battle of Athens
During the Civil War, Canton was the site of the Battle of Athens, which took place on August 5, 1861. The battle was part of a larger campaign to control the Mississippi River and was fought between Union and Confederate forces. Although the Union troops managed to drive off the Confederates, Canton was left in ruins, and many of its buildings were destroyed. The Battle of Athens is considered one of the earliest engagements of the Civil War.
3. Lincoln-Douglas Debates
In 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas faced off in a series of debates across Illinois that would influence the future of the country. One of the most significant debates took place in nearby Quincy, IL, where the two candidates discussed the issue of slavery. The debates helped bring national attention to the issue of slavery and raised Lincoln's profile en route to his eventual election as president.
4. Canton Asylum for Insane Indians
From 1902 to 1934, Canton was home to the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians. The facility was intended to provide care for mentally ill Native Americans, but it quickly became notorious for its mistreatment of patients. The asylum was eventually closed due to public outcry, but its legacy highlights the abuse and neglect Native Americans faced in America.
5. World War II
During World War II, Canton was home to a prisoner of war camp that housed German and Italian soldiers. The camp was one of several in Missouri, and its presence in Canton helped local farmers and businesses during the war years. Although the camp was closed after the war ended, its impact on the town was significant.
6. The Civil Rights Movement
During the 1960s, Canton was a hub for the civil rights movement in the Midwest. The nearby city of Hannibal was the birthplace of slave and civil rights activist Dred Scott, and Canton was a site of protests and demonstrations during the struggle for equal rights. Civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks visited nearby cities to speak and organize during this time.
7. Tri-State Tornado
On March 18, 1925, the deadliest tornado in U.S. history struck Canton, Missouri. The Tri-State Tornado killed nearly 700 people and caused widespread destruction throughout the Midwest. Although Canton was not the only town affected by the tornado, its impact on the town and its residents was significant.
In conclusion, Canton, MO may be a small town, but it has played an outsized role in American history. From Lewis and Clark's exploration to the Civil Rights Movement, Canton has been witness to many of the most significant events in the country's history. These historical events serve as a reminder of the enduring importance of this small town in the heart of America.
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