Rural Missouri Magazine

Birthplace of a hero

by Bob McEowen

Laclede, population 410, is not unlike many otherwise unremarkable small towns that somehow produce remarkable people. In military history there are few greater than Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, who grew up there.

Visitors to this north-central Missouri town, located along Highway 36, can tour Pershing’s boyhood home, visit a museum housed in a one-room schoolhouse where the war hero taught before entering the military and pay homage at a local veteran’s memorial.

You don’t have to be a military history buff to enjoy Laclede and the surrounding area, though. Just west of town stands Locust Creek Covered Bridge, near where Pershing swam as a boy.

The bridge, built in 1868 and recently restored, is the longest of four surviving covered bridges in Missouri. Also nearby is Pershing State Park, which features hiking trails, fishing lakes, prairies, marshland and an upland forest.

Pershing began his military career in the cavalry fighting American Indians and earned his nickname commanding black soldiers in the Battle of San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. He served in the Phillipines and battled revolutionary Pancho Villa in Mexico. After leading American forces in Europe during World War I Pershing was named General of the Armies of the United States, one rank above five-star general. In 1932 he won the Pulitzer Prize for history.

For more information about area attractions call the General John J. Pershing Boyhood Home State Historic Site at (660) 963-2525.

Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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