Our History


Our Mission

The mission of the Friends of Arrow Rock is to share the Missouri frontier experience with current and future generations. As stewards of its history, the Friends of Arrow Rock safeguard the memories of the village by preserving its buildings and artifacts. Through exhibits and educational programs, the Friends of Arrow Rock convey the history of the area to children and adults, grounding them in the past to prepare them for the future.

Our Vision

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Arrow Rock is located at the crossroads of the Missouri River and the Santa Fe Trail. It is a microcosm of Missouri’s frontier experience, including Native American occupation, European exploration, westward migration and town founding, interlaced with commerce and conflict. Because its history is important and authentic and its buildings are original and well-preserved in its scenic setting on the bluffs of the Missouri River, the Friends of Arrow Rock seek to develop this site into one of the premier historic destinations in the country so that the important lessons of our past will not be forgotten.

As curators of historic buildings and artifacts, the Friends of Arrow Rock will preserve and display our holdings in accordance with the best practices of historic preservation. In partnership with other groups who share a passion for the history of Arrow Rock, the Friends will work for the development and promotion of local and regional cultural tourism. As stewards of a public trust, the Friends are committed to providing the financial and administrative resources needed to ensure the future of Arrow Rock for generations to come.

Above all, the Friends of Arrow Rock want to tell the story of a living town–not just individual properties and exhibits.  By interpreting history from the 1830s to the 1930s in a village that is still a lively community, the Friends of Arrow Rock aim to help residents and visitors understand how communities change over time, adapting to adversity as well as prosperity.

In doing this, the Friends have embraced the whole truth about Arrow Rock’s past. By confronting, studying and teaching about controversial issues such as the displacement of the Indians, enslavement of African Americans, the Civil War and its aftermath, as well as the decline, depopulation and restoration of small rural towns, the Friends of Arrow Rock works to create a history-based community where encountering the past can help shape a better future.

Friends of Arrow Rock History

Since 1959 the Friends of Arrow Rock has grown from a small group of committed people to a membership of more than 700, all in a village with a population of 56! Unsure of their future when they completed their first restoration in 1960, they turned the property over to the Arrow Rock State Park. They soon found there were more buildings to be saved, and they began to work. The Friends now own or lease twelve historic buildings and one modern building.

With this much property, preservation is a never-ending task. The Friends of Arrow Rock own the 1839 Miller-Bradford House, the Dr. Sappington Medical Museum, the c.1830s Shelby Log Cabin, the J.P. Sites Gun Shop (c1866) and country Victorian Sites House (1875), the Masonic Lodge Hall (1868) and the I.O.O.F. Lodge Hall (Odd Fellows) (1868). We also have long-term leases on the Christian Church (1872) and the Lawless House (c.1903). On the boardwalk you will find the Friends of Arrow Rock Office which houses the Christopher Collection of Early Missouri Firearms as well as a museum shop offering a wide selection of history books, CDs, t-shirts, etc. The Post Office also leases one of our boardwalk buildings. In 1995 the Friends received, as gifts, Brown’s Chapel Free Will Baptist Church (1871) and Brown Lodge No. 22 of A.F. & A.M. (1881).

Click here to learn more about the Friends of Arrow Rock properties and our ongoing efforts to preserve them.

Preserving the historic structures of this 19th century Missouri River town was our first task. Furnishing the buildings was the next.

Currently we have extensive collections in the Gun Shop as well as the 1875 Victorian Sites House, and we maintain two period rooms in the 1839 Miller-Bradford House. We also house collections in the Odd Fellows Hall and its downstairs Print Shop. The Christopher Collection of Early Missouri Firearms is on permanent display in our Main Street Headquarters. The Friends also house an archeaological collection gathered since 1996 under the direction of archeaologist Tim Baumann.

The Christian Church

The Christian Church

Occasionally used for weddings, the 1872 Christian Church is complete with its original furnishings. Renovated, and with modern conveniences, Brown’s Chapel is available for services, meetings, reunions, or weddings.

Preserving the buildings and their contents is only half the job. These buildings and collections tell a story, a story connecting our past with the present and providing a basis for our future. We seek to tell the story to approximately 2,000 students and adults who annually participate in our educational programs and guided tram tours. Every other year we host hundreds of students and accompanying adults at the Children’s Craft Festival aided by more than 100 volunteers demonstrating over 30 crafts of 19th century daily living. Click to learn more about our programs for children.

Hundreds more visit our office and museum shop on Main Street, read our publications, attend our symposiums, forums or home tours. All these efforts are directed by a volunteer Board of Trustees and coordinated by an Executive Director, Education Director, a part-time Properties Manager, two seasonal employees and a team of specialized consultants. Please join us in telling the story.

Click here to learn more about Friends of Arrow Rock membership opportunities.