Michael Bushnell

Join our Northeast News staff this summer as we hit the road and share with our readers a new weekly feature on where to go and what to do, just a few miles or hours away from home.

For our next adventure, Michael Bushnell, who y’all know as the News Dog, and his wife Christine, visited St. Joseph, Missouri.

St. Joseph, Missouri. The city where the Pony Express started and where the outlaw and Missouri Partisan Ranger Jesse James met his end. Most recently, the new home of the Kansas City Chiefs training camp facility on the campus of Missouri Western State University, where this News Dog learned the Journalism craft – and spent a few hours in the Dean’s office in the process.

St. Joseph – or as we’ll abbreviate, St. Joe – is a 40-minute commute straight north on I-29. If you’re more the two-lane type, US-169 is a nice alternative as is MO-45/US-59 that runs through Platte City, Weston and Rushville, entering St. Joe on the lower west-side near historic Lake Contrary.

When Missouri was admitted to the union in 1821, its Northwest border did not follow the Missouri River as it does today. The annexation of what’s termed the Platte Purchase was actually the work of fur trader Joseph Robidoux who conveyed the lands on which he established his trading post in 1826 to the state in 1843, thus creating the Missouri we know today.

The city of St. Joseph was incorporated in 1851. Over the next decade the city grew exponentially, largely as a jumping off point for settlers who traveled upriver by steamboat to set off for points west such as California and Oregon. On April 3, 1860, the arrival of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad carried the first letter to the Pony Express stables at 10th Street and Penn Avenue.

Three of the main museum destinations, The Patee House Museum, the Jesse James Home and the Pony Express Stables, are all within three blocks of each other at 11th and Penn, on the southern fringes of the downtown area.

Our first stop was the Patee House. Completed in 1858, the Patee House Hotel operated for only about 30 years. During its tenure it housed the offices of the Pony Express on the first floor. Witnesses say on at least three occasions, Pony Express riders actually rode their mounts inside the hotel to change out mail saddles. During the Civil War it was also the office of the Union Army Provost Marshal.

The museum is literally packed with exhibits such as a full size replica steam locomotive and a reproduction of a St. Joe street circa 1890 that has various shops and offices, including the dental office used by the father of journalist Walter Cronkite, who was born in St. Joe in 1916. Other features include a room filled with model carousels, an Overland stage coach and the original Pony Express offices. Admission charge is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, with student and child rates available as well.

Next up, is the Jesse James Home, which is accessible through the Patee House as they share the same lot. The unassuming white clapboard cottage was moved from its original location at 13th and Lafayette in 1939 to a location on the Belt Highway, seemingly to attract more tourism business. In 1977, it was moved to the lot on the Patee House grounds, just two blocks from its original location.

The museum charges a $4 admission fee, $3 for seniors and $2 for students. Inside, an audio tour tells of the last 100 days of Jesse James, his murder by the coward Robert Ford and a number of original artifacts present in the home during the James occupancy. The original needlepoint James was adjusting when he was shot from behind by Ford still hangs crooked on the wall in the living room.

The plaster in the wall from where the bullet allegedly entered, as well as the blood stained floor have been gouged out by tourists over time seeking souvenirs from the James home. The exhibit also includes items found in James’ coffin when he was exhumed in 1995 by Dr. James Starrs after questions surfaced about the authenticity of the body in the coffin buried in James’ grave. The investigation determined that the body was that of the famous outlaw. A re-interment ceremony was held at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, Mo., following the investigation.

Two blocks down the hill from the Patee House and the Jesse James Home is the Pony Express Stables Museum, a must see for anyone interested in the history of the westward expansion. Founded by William Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell, the Pony Express advertised that letters could be sent to San Francisco in a mere 10 days.

Admission is a modest $7, $6 for seniors, with student and child rates available. Inside the original stables building are stable bays complete with model horses, tack and replications of the unique saddles used by the riders carrying the mail. Sadly, we missed the annual recreation ride that was last weekend from Sacramento to St. Joe, following the old route as closely as possible.

One of the most beautiful features of St. Joe is the George Kessler designed Parkway System. Kessler was integral in the initial design and development of Kansas City’s Parks and Boulevard system in the early 1900’s. In 1912, the St. Joseph Parks department adopted Kessler’s master plan that was ultimately carried out by Architect George Burnap.

The St. Joe parkway system winds over 25 miles through the heart of town, connecting Hyde Park on the South to Krug Park on the north. The 9.3-mile stretch of the Parkway is home to the semi-annual Parkway Run, a fundraiser for the City’s Park Department.

How ‘bout those CHIEFS! In 2010, the Kansas City Chiefs moved their spring training camp from River Falls, Wis., to the campus of Missouri Western State University. MWSU welcomed the Chiefs organization with open arms and a huge new, multi-million dollar training facility that doubles as space for the college’s Griffon sports teams.

No trip to the Missouri Western would be complete without a quick selfie with The General, the spirit cannon fabricated in the early 1980’s by the Phi Sigma Epsilon fraternity. It’s a special piece of history as this NewsDog had a hand in its building, as well its on-field use during Griffon football games.

We finished off our day with a mid-afternoon beverage and snack at the famous D&G in the 1900 block of Frederick Avenue. The D&G originally opened in 1945 as Judy’s D&G and was a popular spot for good, inexpensive food and a cold beer. After a brief closure in the 1990’s, the space reopened about eight years ago, offering some D&G classics such as the Simple Simon, as well as an upgraded appetizer menu.

Early in 2023, the D&G began brewing their own beer, a staple of the bar & grill’s drink menu. Be sure to try the Yuengling knock off, My Yueng-A-Ling, it’s spot on in terms of taste and body with the Pennsylvania-based real thing.

All told, our excursion to St. Joseph was under $40 total for the museum admissions and a $27 food and beverage tab at the D&G. Take the beers off the tab and the total comes in well under $20 with the tip.

One piece of advice, especially if you’re a history buff: plan more time. We spent roughly 90 minutes at the Patee House and could have easily spent twice that. Some other historical features of St. Joseph worth noting are the palatial mansions on Robidoux Hill, the historic Missouri Theater downtown, designed by noted theater designers the Boller Brothers, a slow cruise down Ashland Avenue and Lover’s Lane – immortalized by early 20th century Poet Eugene Field – and a stop at the Glore Psychiatric Museum on the grounds of the former State Mental Hospital.

For more information on St. Joseph destinations and attractions, visit stjomo.com.

Jesse James Home &
Patee House Museum
1202 Penn St.
St Joseph, MO 64053
(816) 232-8206

Pony Express National Museum
914 Penn St.
St. Joseph, MO 64053

D&G Pub & Grub
1918 Frederick Ave
St. Jospeh, MO 64501

Krug Park
3500 St. Joseph Ave
St. Joseph, MO 64505
(816) 271-5500

Missouri Western State University
4525 Downs Dr.
St. Joseph, MO 64507
(816) 271-4200