This is the story of an American region. It is the story of a place long controlled by the Osages, claimed by the French, and for decades under the jurisdiction of the Spanish Crown. It was a place that became the first dumping ground for Native Americans who were pressured out of their ancestral homelands and pushed across the Mississippi River, a place traversed by thousands of Cherokees on the last leg of their Trail of Tears. It was a destination for Tennesseans, Kentuckians, Virginians, and Carolinians in ox carts and covered wagons. It was a launching point for forty-niners and cattle drives to the western coast. It was a place that hosted the early business ventures of the men who established the Rocky Mountain fur trade. It was the place where General Ulysses S. Grant received his first star. It was home to lead miners and iron mongers, to cowboys and slaves, to circuit riders and trappers, dirt farmers and counterfeiters. It was the last hunting ground of Daniel Boone. It was home to industrialist Moses Austin and his son, Stephen F., the “Father of Texas.” It was the birthplace and childhood home of African American scientist and inventor George Washington Carver. It was home to Hermann Jaeger, a Swiss immigrant credited with saving the European wine industry in the nineteenth century. It was the site of “Wild Bill” Hickok’s first shootout and Jesse James’s first train robbery. It was where a teenage Charlie Parker honed his licks on the alto sax. It is now the home of the world’s largest retail corporation, the nation’s leading meat-producing company, and one of the world’s finest collections of American art....
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