ST. JOSEPH, Mo. —
As one of the most storied cities in Missouri, St. Joseph has a colorful past that is well-documented through several long-standing museums that have become must-see destinations for both tourists and local residents.
Nestled in the northwest part of the state, St. Joseph has long been a beacon for history buffs and tourists. The city has taken advantage of this draw by heavily promoting several museums, which include the Patee House Museum, the St. Joseph Museum, the Glore Psychiatric Museum and the Pony Express Stables.
Patee House Museum director Gary Chilcote said that the city’s museums tell the story of Missouri from a first-person view.
“We have documented and chronicled our history here because we want to give an authentic retelling of history,” Chilcote said. “We want people to walk through and be able to see the authentic and the real history of where we came from. We’ve salvaged a lot of the city’s history here, there is a whole town inside of these walls.”
Patee House Museum and Jesse James Home
Located at 1202 Penn St., both museums are on the same property and are two of the oldest museums inside of the city.
The Jesse James House is the location where the famous outlaw met his end on April 3, 1882, at the hands of Robert Ford. The house was originally located several blocks south of its present location.
It was moved to the Penn Street location in 1977. The museum has steadily transformed from just a historical home to a fully featured museum, complete with a display covering the 1995 exhumation of Jesse James. Many of the artifacts recovered during the exhumation, like the original coffin handles and lapel pins, are now on display at the museum.
“Jesse James is a national legend, and there is a blurry line between who he was and what entertainment has made out of him,” Chilcote said as he pointed to the bullet hole left in the wall from the fatal shot. “We show the history of what happened here. Whether he was an outlaw or a modern Robin Hood is up to you when you leave here.”
The Patee House Museum itself is a four-floor treasure trove of artifacts from over 200 years of Midwest history with a specific focus on the 1860s. The museum was originally built in 1858 as a hotel and was once the headquarters for the famed Pony Express, which started in St. Joseph in 1860. The building has served as a museum since 1963.
The museum contains many original storefronts from the city, including the dentist office owned by Dr. Walter Leland Cronkite, father of the famous St. Joseph-born news anchor Walter Cronkite. Also included are a locomotive from the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad and an art gallery featuring more than 40 portraits of famed westerners.
Both museums are on the National Register of Historic Places and are open year-round, though from November through March the museums are open only on the weekends. Admission for the Patee House is $6 for adults and $4 for students, while the Jesse James Home runs $4 for adults and $2 for students.