Missouri's Little Dixie African American History Tour

Prairie Park Plantation

Prairie Park, also known as the William B. Sappington Plantation, is located off Route TT southwest of Arrow Rock, Missouri. The main house is a Greek Revival style mansion including a roof observation deck often utilized by white overseers to watch enslaved peoples working on their grounds. The estate originally included 12 outbuildings with three devoted to slave quarters. Only two of the original slave quarters exist today. William B. Sappington, the son of John S. Sappington, who manufactured quinine pills used to cure malarial fever and typhoid, built the home in 1843-45. The plantation itself was 600 acres and was largely operated by over 30 enslaved people at a time, specializing in the production of hemp.

Saline County, part of the Little Dixie and Black Belt regions, had one of the largest slave populations outside of the American South. The slave population in Saline County was one of the highest in the state of Missouri. Arrow Rock's population was nearing 50 percent enslaved by the time of the Civil War. The average Little Dixie slaveowner had 6.1 slaves, with only 4 percent of the Little Dixie slave owners being classified as planters (owning at least 500 acres and 20 slaves). The Sappingtons were no doubt one of the largest and most successful plantations in the region. During the Civil War, Union soldiers were commonly in the area as the Sappingtons had well-known relatives within the Confederate Army and were likely sympathizers. The Union Army took livestock and supplies as William was forced to flee to the state of Kentucky.

Enslaved men and women at Prairie Park and across Missouri experienced a smaller-scale of slavery than that of the Deep South, but it was no less dehumanizing. Accounts from enslaved men and women can be seen to mirror the horrible conditions and treatment by white owners and society. At Prairie Park, men likely worked in the fields, assisting with growing hemp, or in the painstakingly tedious process of refining hemp into burlap used for rope. Women mostly worked within the home and kitchen, cooking and cleaning. Missouri was unique in that many of those who were enslaved did have some agency. It is likely that slaves at Prairie Park assisted in building large portions of the town of Arrow Rock.

The home has been renovated multiple times over the years after suffering damage due to tornadoes during the 1940s. Today, Prairie Park is a private residence and it is one of the only estates in Missouri to still have slave quarters standing.



Private property no public access.