Sedalia Ragtime Archive
          dedicated to the genius of Scott Joplin and the American Music History he made in Sedalia 

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Where America's Music Began on the Frontier

Posted by sedaliaragtimearchives on January 9, 2016 at 2:25 PM

Where America’s Music Began on the Frontier 

When Scott Joplin arrived in Sedalia in the 1890’s it was a bustling, bawdy, bounding young city ready to burst into the twentieth century. It was only two or three generations from having been founded on the wide open Missouri prairie. In 1895 Sedalia seemed to have one foot on the frontier while the other was progressively stepping into the future.

Sedalia’s founder General George R. Smith, had anticipated the phenomenon and moved his little community from Georgetown to Sedville as news of the railroad’s western advance crossed the Mississippi River. It was a very wise and propitious move indeed.

However, only months after its founding in 1857 Sedalia had been torn by the Civil War. The Missouri Pacific railroad had been laid as far as Sedalia and it would be the railhead for most of the fighting. As a result both sides fought to hold and then keep this vital asset under their authority. The 1860’s were not a pleasant time to be here, yet people came; rugged, ragged, roughened pioneers looking for a better life.

As the war ended, an even rowdier rabble came bursting into town really kicking up the dust this time. They were the original cowboys herding Texas cattle to a hungry market in the east. After the war, Sedalia was the nearest access to a rail line supplying that market. The “Rawhide” trail only lasted one season but it put Sedalia on the map and began a succession of economic ventures that grew our little wild west town into a city.

Sedalia grew quickly sort of skipping its childhood and jumping feet first into its adolescence. The town was always about the iron road and as the 1800’s accelerated to 1900 the railroad built the town into a city. The Missouri Pacific barreled across the continent after the Civil War and it soon reached the Pacific coast. Communities along that ribbon of rails prospered. Those still hugging rivers and streams, the early arteries of the new nation, watched as their prosperity literally dried up. Sedalia was booming and I’ll light that fuse next time we visit a place where America’s music began.

Larry C Melton 1-09-2016

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