A celebration at the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing.

Relive the Historic Bike Ride of the Buffalo Soldiers

Wednesday April 26, 2017

By Explore St. Louis Guest

Each year the Mary Meachum Celebration sets out to educate, inform and provide an experience reflecting a historic event acquainting visitors with the customs and culture of African Americans throughout history. As part of this year’s celebration they will also commemorate the 120th anniversary of the Buffalo Soldiers grueling journey to St. Louis.

The 2017 Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing Celebration will take place on Saturday, May 6 with black history tours from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and event presentations from 12-5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public featuring reenactments, music, food, art and much more. The Mary Meachum site is located at 28 E. Grand Ave.

In 1855, Mary Meachum a free-born black woman, fought against slavery using her home as a depot for the Underground Railroad. In 1855, she was arrested for aiding in the attempted escape of nine slaves across the Mississippi River to freedom in Illinois. The site is now named in her honor and it is Missouri’s first nationally recognized Underground Railroad site.

As slavery ended and brought forth new beginnings, we saw the rise of black cultural institutions, education, churches and the Buffalo Soldiers. The Buffalo Soldiers were established by Congress after the Civil War as the first peacetime all-black regiments in the U.S. Army.

In 1897, bicycles were a new invention and the government wanted to test them for military use.  Twenty members of the 25th Infantry (a.k.a. the Buffalo Soldiers) departed from Ft. Missoula, Mont. in June and traveled all the way to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis across five states for a total of 1987 miles in only 41 days. At the time, there were only 26 prototypes produced. The Buffalo Soldiers were to test these models in different terrains and weather conditions. While in the Rocky Mountains, they faced an unusually late spring snow storm and rode over railroad tracks for hundreds of miles. They also carried the bikes for almost 300 miles through sand hills in Nebraska. Once they arrived in St. Louis, they were welcomed by thousands of cheering fans.

On Saturday, May 6 you can learn all about their exhausting journey as you participate in the three-mile family oriented tour from Laclede’s Landing to the Mary Meachum site. You may walk or ride with narrated stops about the Buffalo Soldiers’ bike ride and the tour concludes at the Mary Meachum celebration. Or you can also join the ten-mile narrated bike ride covering black history in the St. Louis region.

Through bike tours, performances, demonstrations, children’s games, music, dance, food and art vendors you’ll learn all about this milestone event.  Dress in 1897 style or come as you are. For more details about this event please visit marymeachum.org.