Why We’re Thankful

Here at JNPA, we’re proud to serve as a non-profit partner of some of our nation’s most treasured public lands.  So in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, we wanted to take a moment to list some of the many things we’re thankful for.

Living history programs that bring the past alive for visitors of all ages. 

(Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site)

Breathtaking scenery that inspires and enriches all of us.

(Voyageurs National Park)

Parks that honor the courageous men and women who fought for equality for all Americans.

(Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site)

Preserving America’s important historic buildings for future generations to enjoy.

(Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park)

Dedicated interpretive rangers from the Army Corps of Engineers who share the wonders of their sites with visitors.

(Lewis and Clark Visitor Center)

Energetic and committed National Park Service rangers who inspire children to become Junior Rangers.

(Voyageurs National Park)

Opportunities for recreation and enjoyment of the outdoors.

(Lewis and Clark Visitor Center)

Educators at all of our partner parks who share their love of public lands with tomorrow’s generation.

(Gateway Arch National Park)

Preserving the homes of America’s presidents as a way of helping us understand and connect with these important figures.

(President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site)

Honoring African Americans’ struggle to achieve freedom and respect in American society.

(Gateway Arch National Park)

Commemorating the diverse nationalities, traditions, and cultures that helped shape our nation.

(Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park)

Preserving critical wilderness areas that safeguard our nation’s biodiversity and ecological health.

(Mississippi National River and Recreation Area)

Protecting America’s rivers and streams that are so vital for drinking water, recreation, and commerce.

(Missouri National Recreational River)

Architectural marvels that enhance our nation’s cultural heritage and stimulate our imaginations.

(Gateway Arch National Park)

Many thanks to JNPA’s partner parks and all they do to protect America’s heritage, landscapes, and stories.   Happy Thanksgiving!

Hidden Treasures?

When Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park joined the National Park Service (NPS) in 2020, historians already knew quite a lot about the 18th century French colonial village.  The unique vertical log construction of some of the homes was well documented, as were the interactions of the many different cultures and nationalities who migrated to the town.  But are there secrets still buried beneath the historic sites in Ste. Genevieve? 

Courtesy NPS

That’s what the Park Service wants to find out.  This summer agency officials dispatched specialists from the NPS Midwest Archeology Center to investigate the grounds of the park’s historic buildings, including the Jean Baptiste Vallé house, Green Tree Tavern, and the Bauvais-Amoureux house.  The archaeologists are searching for items such as the remains of trash pits, outbuildings like barns, kitchens and stables, and perhaps even a privy or two.

Researching spaces outside the main homes can reveal information about how people lived or worked on-site, including enslaved men and women or hired servants. Information like this is invaluable to creating a complete picture of a historic community, since accounts of these individuals are often left out of traditional records. With the help of MWAC, park officials hope to gain a better understanding of the history of the park’s buildings and their occupants.

Courtesy NPS

To locate artifacts or remains of old structures, the archeologists conducted geophysical surveys of each property they studied.  Among the state-of-the art instruments they used were magnetometers, ground-penetrating radar equipment, and electromagnetic induction meters.  (Pretty high-tech stuff!)  All of the data they collected will be analyzed over the next year or two, and the scientists will generate a comprehensive report of their findings.

The Midwest Archeology Center has conducted research for more than 70 NPS sites throughout the mid-continent.  Using high-tech equipment and good old-fashioned digging tools, its studies have ranged from 10,000-year-old American Indian campsites to the garbage in Abraham Lincoln’s backyard.

We can’t wait to find out what the archeologists uncover at Ste. Genevieve, and you can be sure we’ll let you know when we learn the results.  Meanwhile, be sure to pay a visit to the park to get a firsthand look at this amazing site.   

Une Femme Courageuse

Visitors to the historic Bauvais-Amoureux House in Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park usually marvel over its unique French colonial architecture – it is one of only five surviving poteaux-en-terre (meaning post-in-ground) houses in North America. But while the 1792 structure is truly unique, even more fascinating is the story of one of its owners, Madame Pélagie Amoureux.

Pélagie was an African American woman born in 1805 and enslaved by the Bauvais-Vitale family. She married Benjamin Amoureux, a white man, in 1830. Interracial marriage was not legal in Missouri at the time, so they traveled to Illinois to marry before returning to Ste. Genevieve. Their first son, Felix, was born in 1831 and was also enslaved by the Bauvais-Vitale family until he and his mother were freed in 1832. Pélagie and Benjamin were not allowed to live in the same house even while married, so Benjamin purchased a house for Pélagie from the family of Jean Baptiste Bauvais in the 1850’s, which they then renamed the Amoureux house.  The couple had five children over the course of their marriage and were finally allowed to live together as a family in the Amoureux house in the 1860’s.

An undated historic photo of Amoureux House. Credit: Library of Congress
Pelagie Amoureux and her family. Credit: NPS

Over the course of her life, Pélagie was not afraid to stand up for herself, despite being both African American and a woman. On three separate occasions, she sued people who threatened or harmed her. While the courts did not side with her in any of the cases, she still did what she could to stand up for her rights. Pélagie died in 1890.  Her children and their descendants continued to live in the Amoureux house until 1963. After changing owners a handful of times, the Bauvais-Amoureux house was donated to the National Park Service in 2019 as the first official property of Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park.

The park staff is committed to bringing to light the story of Pelagie and other overlooked figures from the town’s history.  We encourage you to take a ranger-led tour of the Bauvais-Amoureux when you visit the park.

The Bauvais-Amoureux House today. Credit: NPS

The Newest Addition to Ste. Gen is also the Oldest

The newest acquisition to Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park’s historic buildings happens to be the oldest structure in the community.  While the Green Tree Tavern has played numerous roles in the small Missouri town, it now serves as a reminder of the complex history of this unique European settlement.

The Green Tree Tavern in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, is a rare surviving example of French Colonial architecture known as poteaux sur sole (post on sill). Its unusual construction featured walls made of hand-hewn white oak logs arranged vertically rather than the more traditional horizontal log structure used elsewhere.  Recent studies of the building’s timbers confirmed a construction date of 1790, making it the oldest home in the town and possibly the oldest home west of the Mississippi.

Green Tree Tavern c. 1934

The tavern has filled many different roles for many different people.  It was originally built as a home for French Canadian Nicolas Janis and his family.  When they migrated to the area, they brought with them at least 10 enslaved people, many of whose ownership transferred to the original owners’ descendants. 

When Nicolas’ son, Francois, inherited the property, he opened it as an inn.  The tavern offered lodging, entertainment, socializing, and news to the many travelers pouring into the new Louisiana Purchase territory. Guests could enjoy food and drink in the public room, then sleep in rooms heated by an unusual triangular fireplace.  In later years the building served as a tobacco store and as the first Masonic Lodge in Missouri.

Interior view of Green Tree Tavern showing the triangular fireplace

The grounds of Green Tree Tavern are open year-round.  National Park Service rangers offer free interior tours daily, but registration is required either in person at the park’s Welcome Center (66 Main Street) or by phone at (573) 880-7189.

How Many National Park Sites Have YOU Visited?

The National Park Service system currently includes 423 sites throughout the United States and its territories.  These range from national monuments and battlefields to national historic sites and recreation areas to national rivers and seashores. 

Don’t feel bad if you haven’t visited the majority of these places (most of us haven’t!). But luckily, National Park Week is just around the corner – a perfect time to add to your NPS “life list.”

National Park Week is an annual celebration jointly hosted by the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation to encourage everyone to discover our nation’s diverse historic, natural, and cultural treasures.  This year, the week runs from April 16 through 24.  Parks across the country will host a variety of special programs, events, and digital experiences, including National Junior Ranger Day for kids on Saturday April 23.  You can find out more about programs and themes you might be interested in by going here.  

Another bonus for park visitors during National Park Week – entrance fees are waived at all parks on Saturday April 16.  (Other 2022 free fee days can be found here).  Luckily, there are never entry fees at JNPA’s partner parks but each of them would be glad to see you in April, or any time!

If you’re planning to visit any of the 63 parks that have “national park” in their name, you’ll want a copy of National Geographic’s national park guide as well as the Passport to Your National Parks, which not only contains park information but allows you to collect the passport stamps from every park you visit.