Missouri State Archives
Supreme Court of Missouri Historical Records
The Supreme Court of Missouri Historical Database provides an index and abstract
of the criminal and civil court cases that were appealed to the territorial Superior
Court and state Supreme Court of Missouri up to 1868, and a partial listing of cases
to 1889. This database is made possible by a partnership between the Missouri State
Archives, the Supreme Court of Missouri, and the Supreme Court of Missouri Historical
Society. Digital images are available for some case files dating from 1821 through
The case files demonstrate the rich variety in Missouri history as cases evolve
from French fur trappers to steamboat cases of the Mark Twain era to the rise of
modern railroads. Court dockets feature the names of prominent Missourians, such
as Thomas Hart Benton, William Clark, Sterling Price, and Frank Blair, alongside
the infamous and notorious. Although litigants came from the entire range of Missouri
society, the vast majority of cases involve relatively unknown citizens. These cases
provide great insight into the lives of many common Missourians that were only sporadically
documented during the first century of the state. The records also offer observations
about historical development in the politics, economics, and social issues of 19th
century Missouri. A wide range of topics is available for historical and legal research,
including slavery and freedom suits, business and industry, local and state elections,
dueling, agriculture and mining, morality issues, the role of women in society,
and judicial precedent.
The case files include civil, criminal, and chancery (equity) cases. The majority
of the cases are civil suits regarding debts or damages. Unredeemed promissory notes,
breaches of contracts, and land disputes dominate the dockets. The criminal cases
span the breadth of Missouri's laws. Cases range from horrific murder to petty theft.
Chancery or equity cases are usually divorces, estate settlements, or other types
of probate. A number of documents in the territorial Superior Court cases date from
the 1780s and 1790s, under the rule of French and Spanish governments, and are written
in the French language.
In 2010, the Missouri State Archives was awarded a grant from the National Historical
Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) that enabled the Missouri State Archives
to scan the original Supreme Court case files from 1821 to 1865 and link those digital
images to the existing database entries. Work on the project began April 1, 2010
and concluded September 30, 2012.
For more information about the Missouri Supreme Court Historical Database:
To request copies of records not available online, please email the citation for
the record you want to the Missouri State Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org. The record will be located, the number of pages counted,
and you will be notified by email of the cost of the copies. Upon receipt of payment,
the copies will be made and mailed to you.
Missouri State Archives
September 22, 2010
4 minutes 18 seconds (4:18)
Missouri's historic Supreme Court cases hold countless details about our state's
past. Tens of thousands of cases, dating back to 1783, examine topics such as slavery,
agriculture, industry and education. These records provide insight into the day-to-day
lives of Missourians, and they help reveal the values that shaped our state during
its colorful history.