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JEFFERSON CITY, MO, JAN. 11, 2024 – Every February, the United States honors the contributions and sacrifices of Black Americans who have helped shape the nation, celebrating the rich cultural heritage, triumphs and adversities that are a permanent part of our country’s history. Cuivre River State Park plans to commemorate Black History Month with two new exhibits.

One exhibit highlights the men of the 62nd U.S. Regiment of Colored Infantry from Lincoln County and ties into the other that features the life of Louis Overton. Overton a formerly enslaved man was a preacher and community leader who helped form the first church and school for African Americans in Lincoln County. Over 200 former enslaved men from Lincoln County enlisted in the war, with around 40 men being placed in the 62nd regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The 62nd mostly saw duty in Louisiana and Texas, and in their downtime, their white officers taught the soldiers to read and write. The men of the 62nd made only $10/month, of which $3 could be deducted for the cost of uniforms (this was practice only with African American regiments). However, these men believed so strongly in the power of education, that they donated part of their meager salary for the establishment of a school in Missouri for freed blacks.  By the end of the war, the men had over $5,000 as seed money for what would be called the Lincoln Institute-today, known today as Lincoln University in Jefferson City. The Lincoln County men took their mission one step further, sending money for the establishment of a school and church back home. After their return, several soldiers met with their friend Louis Overton, and together they rode on horseback across the county to find the perfect locations. They chose sites in Elsberry and Troy for churches, and the school was located on Louis Overton's farm off the northeastern boundary of what would become Cuivre River State Park. 

The exhibits will be on display Monday, Jan. 22 through the month of February in the park Visitor Center, which is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information call the park office at 636-528-7247. Cuivre River State Park is located 5 miles east of Troy at 678 State Route 147.

For more information on state parks and historic sites, visit Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

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