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Programs & Projects


St. Louis Circuit Court Historical Records Project


St Louis Court documents

About the Project

The St. Louis Circuit Court Historical Records Project was initiated in 1999. It is a long-term initiative that seeks to provide access to the rich materials contained in the St. Louis Circuit Court records. Ultimately over four million pages of original court documents, dating from 1787 to 1875, will be preserved and accessible for research. These records comprise the largest single collection of historically valuable records in Missouri never systematically reviewed by historical researchers. In 2000, work on records from the early years (1790s to 1830) was designated an official project of the national Save America's Treasures initiative. The project will consist of conservation treatment of the documents, followed by preservation microfilming that will make the records available for research.

This project is a broad partnership of government, university, legal, and business organizations to preserve and make available these unique judicial records to the citizens of Missouri and the nation. Students from St. Louis University, University of Missouri-St. Louis, and Washington University in St. Louis work under the direction of professional staff from the Missouri State Archives to process and digitize case files. An Academic Advisory Committee of historians selects themes from the court cases that have particular significance to regional and state history. To stimulate further research within the court documents, leading to a greater understanding of Missouri and the American past, the records in those thematic series are digitized for online access.

About the Records

Researchers of all descriptions have long looked to St. Louis for its unique role in the state's settlement history; all ethnic groups and historical themes are represented in St. Louis judicial records.

The St. Louis Circuit court case files from the territorial and early statehood period and beyond possess exceptional evidential, informational, and intrinsic value. The records document the legal basis of the early court system, profile local individuals of national prominence, and illustrate broad themes of American intellectual and social history. Leading figures of the westward expansion are included in the collections, such as Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton, and Moses Austin and his son, Stephen F. Austin.

The following thematic series are available for research on the St. Louis Circuit Court Historical Records Project database.

  • Lewis & Clark/Corps of Discovery
  • Freedom Suits
  • St. Louis Fur Trade Cases
  • Native American Suits

Civil War Records from the St. Louis Circuit Court

In 2006, the Missouri State Archives launched a new initiative to organize, index, and preserve records from the Civil War era (1861-1868).  The project is partial supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. [read more]

For more information about this project, contact the Missouri State Archives, at (573) 751-3280.