Historic Sites

Jesse James Birthplace

Jesse James Bank Museum

It was a cold and snowy February afternoon when a group of horsemen rode into Liberty, Missouri. After a short time, gunshots broke the winter silence as the men rode off with their loot leaving one young college student dead and the town in shock.

The Jesse James Bank, located on the historic square in Liberty, Missouri, was the site of the nation’s first successful daylight peacetime bank robbery.  While the robbers were never caught, the crime as attributed to the infamous James Gang.

Visitors see the bank as it was in 1866.  Period furnishings fill the room and one becomes immersed in the story of the robbery as told by the bank teller.  As you peer into the original green vault you can imagine the fear felt by the two bank tellers.  Among the furnishings, a rare Seth Thomas clock, set for the exact time and date of the robbery, February 13, 1866.  Many photographs and other documents are on display for the public to view.

A museum store offers many historical books, period style toys and games, and other fun souvenir keepsakes.

For more information, or to schedule a tour call us at (816)736-8510.

The Jesse James Bank Museum is operated by the Department of Clay County Historic Sites. 

Historic Mt. Gilead Church & School

Mt. Gilead Church was organized in 1830 as a Primitive Baptist Church, with services held in the homes of its members.  It became the Mt. Gilead Christian Church in 1841, with the first building constructed in 1844. That structure burned in 1862. The present brick church was built in 1873. Brick was made on the site and some of the pews were made from trees on the property. The pulpit was fashioned more than a century ago by John Ingram from an old cherry wood rope bed donated by Matt Wilkerson, who at one time, lived across the road. Services were held regularly for many decades until 1930 when the church closed. Four years later it opened as a Community Church with Reverend Forrest Taylor as pastor. It became inactive again in 1937. Services were renewed in 1951 and continued until the early 1980’s.

Adjacent to the church is the cemetery, which was also founded in 1830 with stones dating back to the 1840’s.  Matt Smith maintained the church and cemetery for nearly 50 years before his death in 1969.  A cousin of Abraham Lincoln is buried here, as well as founding church members, and confederate soldiers.

The Clay County Department of Historic Sites acquired the Mt. Gilead property in 1984. The two-acre property includes the historic church, school, and cemetery. In 1998, extensive renovations to both the church and school included new HVAC systems, complete refurbishing of the church interior, electrical updates, flagstone walkways, landscaping, cemetery restoration, restroom facilities, and the installation of a portion of the original fence at the cemetery entrance.

The church can accommodate a variety of events, including weddings, reunions, showers, meetings, picnics, performances and parties. Reservations are available year round. Call us today at (816)736-8502 so we can show you this lovely & versatile venue.  


Its simple furnishings add to the charm many couples are seeking. With the right decor, Mt. Gilead Church can be transformed to fit most any style of wedding.

Rental Fee




Damage Deposit




General Information

Seating capacity 100-125 people


Dressing room inside church


Wheelchair accessible


Available year round


Restroom facility on the grounds     



Original Furnishings



Organ (not functional)


3 sexton chairs


20 pews






Special agreement to sign if serving alcohol


Carriage path & turnstile for horse & buggy


Mt. Gilead School located just west of Kearney, Missouri, operated for over 100 years until it closed its doors in 1946. The present two story school was built in 1879. Historians believe that Mt. Gilead was the only school in the area to continuously hold classes during the Civil War.

View photos from the Mt. GIlead School program here

Historic Mt. Gilead School

One-Room School Program

Clay County Historic Sites offers a unique field trip opportunity to experience history in a one-room school. A teacher in period costume instructs the class in late 1880s style with McGuffey readers. Pupils practice penmanship and perform arithmetic problems using slates. The four-hour program accommodates up to 30 students and complements required school curriculum. This popular field trip requires advance reservations. Contact Clay County Historic Sites at (816)736-8500 to schedule your group.

View photos here.

Mt. Gilead Mondays

Check out our newest program, Mt. Gilead Mondays. The program is designed for homeschoolers who are unable to gather a large enough group to schedule a standard Mt. Gilead field trip, and for students in school districts that have shortened their week to exclude Mondays. Each Mt. Gilead Monday will have it's own historic theme, with historic interpretation, craft projects and games related to that theme. 

Scout programs

Mt. Gilead School offers programs for Girl and Boy Scout troops. The program, which earns participants their history badge, is conducted just like our school field trip with a schoolmarm in period costume and classes conducted as they were in 1880, complete with spelling bee. Call (816)736-8502 to schedule your scout troop today! 

Historic Mt. Gilead School is operated by the Department of Clay County Historic Sites. 

Bus Funding

Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area is offering a "Bus On Us" program, which provides transportation funding for field trips within the heritage area that pertain to the themes of Freedom's Frontier (The Missouri Kansas Border War, Shaping the Frontier, and Struggles for Freedom). Field trips to Historic Mt. Gilead School are eligible for this grant. Find out more about Freedom's Frontier's Bus On Us program here, and contact Freedom's Frontier for an application. 

Historic Pharis Farm

The story of the Pharis farm begins in 1836, when Fielding Bell, the son of a Revolutionary War veteran, migrated to Clay County, Missouri, from Mason County, Kentucky, via steamboat with his wife and eight children. The Bell family built a log cabin and established a farm on a site just a few miles north of the Missouri River. When Fielding passed away, his oldest son Daniel assumed control of the farm. Daniel, a respected farmer and businessman, served as president of the Missouri City Savings Bank and was proprietor of E.D. Bell & Sons Dry Goods and Clothing Store on the riverfront at nearby Missouri City.

In 1858-59, with the help of John Morrison, the mason who had just completed the stonework on the first Clay County Courthouse, Daniel constructed the present home. The clay that made the bricks was hand dug and baked on site. The bustling 400-acre farm included an icehouse, smokehouse, and blacksmith shop.

Although the Pharis’ were drawn to the land, the rich history of the Bell House was intriguing and piqued Donald’s interest. He and his first wife Helen, and later his second wife, Laura preserved the structure and collected period antiques to fill the rooms of the home. Donald saved the adjacent cabin from destruction in nearby Ray County, moved it to his farm and used it to share his knowledge of the past with visitors.

Upon his death, Mr. Pharis donated the property to Clay County.Clay County Historic Sites, a division of the Parks Department, plans to conduct a variety of agricultural and conservation programs on the 160 acre farm. The history of the Liberty farm predates the Civil War and has been a point of interest to area residents throughout the years. The site is currently closed to the public, except for special events (see calendar). To schedule an event or obtain additional information, contact Clay County Historic Sites at (816)736-8500.