Center for Missouri Studies Fellowships Awarded in 2020

The State Historical Society of Missouri will award two Center for Missouri Studies fellowships in 2020 to scholars studying Missouri’s early statehood period. One of the fellowship projects will examine Jesuit ties to slavery within the early state, while the other will analyze treaties with Native Americans concerning title to the land that became Missouri.

Kelly L. Schmidt, a doctoral student at Loyola University in Chicago, was awarded a fellowship for her proposed study, “‘We Heard Sometimes Their Earnest Desire to Be Free in a Free Country’: Enslaved People, Jesuit Masters, and Negotiations for Freedom in Early Missouri.” Her project will examine enslaved communities near St. Louis and St. Charles that were foundational to establishing the Catholic Church in the region. Jesuit missionaries helped bring Catholicism to this region, but were also among the French colonizers who introduced slavery within the territory that became Missouri. Schmidt will study how enslaved people serving the religious order were able to use community networks dating to the colonial era, as well as remaining traces of the legal code governing slavery in France’s overseas empire, to resist their bondage after Missouri became a US territory and state.

Greg Olson, an independent scholar in Columbia, Missouri, received a fellowship for his proposal, “White Man’s Paper Trail: Extinguishing Indigenous Land Claims in Missouri.” In his study, Olson will examine the treaties with Native Americans through which the United States sought legal claim to the land within Missouri. When Missouri petitioned for statehood in 1817, indigenous nations had ceded the rights to only a fraction of the land within the future state’s borders; clearing title to the rest took until 1837 and required negotiating twenty treaties with thirteen Native nations. Olson will explore the legal foundations behind US claims to Native American property, as well as how the treaties became intertwined with the military and commercial interests of the state’s leaders, some of whom served as treaty negotiators.    

Schmidt and Olson will hold their appointments for the 2020 calendar year. Each will write a scholarly essay for possible publication in the Missouri Historical Review and may also make a public presentation of their work. Fellowship awards include a stipend of $5,000. New topics for the fellowships are introduced each year.