Exploring all palmyra has to offer

Palmyra mural.

By Dennis Bresnahan

I like to camp at different campgrounds in state parks, conservation areas, and national forests in Missouri throughout the year.  

When traveling to these campgrounds, I try to stop at some of the small towns along the way that I have never visited before, just to see what is there.

Most of these towns are just plain little cities that have a couple blocks of houses with a few commercial buildings downtown, and many are no longer occupied.

But some have historic markers, statues of famous residents, and other monuments.

These are the types of towns that I look forward to finding and exploring and learning about.  

One of these is Palmyra, the county seat of Marion County in northeast Missouri. It is 12 miles northwest of Hannibal, Mo., and 17 miles southwest of Quincy, Ill.

I was on my way to go camping at Wakonda State Park on Highway 61 when I stopped in Palmyra. This city has a very interesting and historic past.  

Marion County Jail and federal prison (side view with sign & showing prison in back).

Most of its history can be seen and interpreted by visiting many existing old buildings, signs, murals, and statues.

Palmyra is seven miles west of the Mississippi River and sits on a natural rock foundation where early settlers found an endless water supply from a clear sweet spring.  

Palmyra was founded in 1819 on the Salt River Trail from St. Charles to the Des Moines River.

It was mostly settled by Southerners on land ceded to the United Sates by the Iowa, Sauk, and Fox tribes.  

There are still a large number of antebellum homes and buildings in Palmyra and although most are private residences, these 19th century places can be seen with a drive through the town.

Many are included on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 1828 Gardner House, once a stop on the St. Louis-St. Paul stagecoach route, is now a museum and visitor center.  

Marion County Jail and Federal Prison (front view).

A taped narrative for a walking tour of the business and historic district is available at the Gardner House.

Some of the historic buildings to see here are the replica of a 1818 log cabin at the big spring and the 1858 Marion County Jail. The jail was used as a federal prison during the Civil War.

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