The bizarre day in history when one Missouri city went from Spanish to French to American

Special to Branson Globe

While the majority of us have experienced our own set of 24 hours that were memorably odd in the Show-Me State, there’s one particular day in history that was considerably more unusual than the rest. Taking you all the way back to the 1800s is Three Flags Day.

After the Louisiana Purchase deal was made between the French and the United States, our country doubled in size.


Missouri was part of the Louisiana Purchase. (Special to Branson Globe)

Originally the United States had only intended on buying New Orleans from the French, but the large piece of land would eventually be offered up to our country for a price that we couldn’t refuse.

The massive deal was one that would take the Spanish by surprise, seeing as they had just recently ceded the land to the French.

Because the French had only so recently acquired the land, the majority of it was still run by the Spanish.

While the Louisiana Purchase would go into effect on April 30th, 1803, the official Americanizing ceremony wouldn’t take place until that winter.

After the deal went through, it took months for all of the needed arrangements to be made. Over the course of the summer and fall, money changed hands and Congress signed the needed papers to put everything into place.

An original Americanizing ceremony was held in the territory’s capital of New Orleans, but because it was during the winter in the 1800s those living north of New Orleans didn’t hear about the change until significantly after it had taken place. It would later be decided that in March of 1804, a second ceremony would be held in St. Louis.

Unfortunately, the next issue at hand would be that the Spanish had yet to actually give up the territory of St. Louis!

It was quickly realized that in order to turn over the territory’s new American identity, that two treaties would need to be put into effect, one at a time. First, the land would be transferred from the Spanish to the French, with the French then transferring the land to the United States afterwards.

On March 8, 1804 the Spanish Governor of St. Louis posted a notice on the city’s church door informing everyone in the area of the major switch in power that was about to take place.

After the announcement was made, the next day on March 9 the Spanish flag came down in St. Louis and the French flag went up to fly high. Because so many of the residents living in the area had French roots, excitement enthused as the flag waved in the air. The French flag was originally due to stay up for six hours, but because of all the excitement they allowed it to fly until noon the following day.

On March 10, the French flag came down with the new American Flag rising up in town. Sadly, the American flag didn’t cause as much of a friendly frenzy as the French one did. Now you know the story of why we refer to March 10 as Three Flags Day!

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