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Cass County is a county located in the western part of the U.S. state of Missouri. Its county seat is Harrisonville. The county was organized in 1835 as Van Buren County but was renamed in 1849 after U.S. Senator Lewis Cass of Michigan who later became a presidential candidate.
Cass County is part of the Kansas City, MO Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The Harrisonville area was originally inhabited by the "Dhegilha" Native American subgroup. The Osage, Quapaw, Omaha, Ponca and Kansa tribes make up this Siouan linguistic group. The Kansa tribal range extended southward from the Kansas-Missouri River junction as far as the northern edge of Bates County, Missouri, taking in the sites of modern Pleasant Hill, Garden City, Archie and Drexel. On their southeastern border they were neighbors of the Osage, although there is no evidence that either of these tribes ever had a truly permanent settlement in the territory of Cass County.
Early camp meetings southwest of Harrisonville often had as many as 500 Indians in attendance, as they seemed to enjoy the religious services as much as the white settlers.. These visitors were reported to be Shawnee and Delaware, both speaking related Algonquian languages.
In 1818 a grant of land in southern Missouri was made to some Delawares, but it was receded by them in 1825, and most of them moved to a reservation in Kansas, while others had previously gone to Texas. Those who remained in the Harrisonville area were close relatives of the Sauk, Fox and Kickapoo tribes.
The first American settler on the site of modern Harrisonville was James Lackey in 1830. Other early settlers were Humphrey Hunt, John Blythe and Dr. Joseph Hudspeth. Lackey was considered a "squatter," as he built a cabin and enclosed a small field on the tract of public land taken for county seat purposes.
The site of the town was fixed under an act of the Missouri General Assembly in 1835, by David Waldo of Lafayette County and Samual Hink and William Brown, both of Jackson County. In the same year, the first court met for the county, known as Van Buren County. The Justices James McClellan and William Savage met in McClellan's residence about three miles (5 km) southeast of Peculiar on September 14, 1835. William Lyon was appointed clerk of the court and county government was organized, including the establishment of Grand River Township.
In the spring of 1837 the town of Harrisonville was located by Enoch Rice, Francis Prine and Welcome Scott, who had been appointed commissioners by the state legislature in the winter of 1836. These commissioners in company with Martin Rice, the county surveyor, met at the home of John Cook on April 3, 1837 and finally decided on Lackey's preemption claim. In May they laid off the town in lots 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the northeast and northwest quarters of Section 4, Township 44N., Range 31W. Within these 160 acres (0.65 km2) there were to be four streets: Wall and Pearl running east to west, Lexington and Independence going north and south, each less than 40 feet wide. Fleming Harris was appointed town commissioner on April 8, 1837. The first town lots were sold on June 12 of that year; those facing the public square sold at $20 each, the others at $10.
"Democrat" was strongly urged as a name for the new town but was finally rejected. Instead, the town was named after U.S. Representative Albert G. Harrison from Missouri.
On October 8, 1835, the first church in Harrisonville was organized in the county two miles southwest of town known as Hopewell or New Hope Baptist.
The first house within the town was erected by Jason L. Dickey in 1836.
The first jail in Harrisonville and second for the county was established in 1838. Its site was 312 S. Independence. One of its successors is listed among the state's historic sites.
Harrisonville eventually was served by railroad lines presently known as the Missouri Pacific and the Frisco. Railroad construction was responsible for the notorious "Gunn City Massacre," the background of which began in 1857. Cass County approved a large stock subscription for the Pacific Railroad Company. This corporation later surrendered the bonds to the new Saint Louis and Santa Fe Railroad, from whence they were still later assigned to the Land Grant Railroad & Construction Company of New York. Citizens of Cass County sought by injunction to prevent the funding of these bonds, but by legal maneuvering and collusion, a new set of bonds was issued secretly. Basically the outraged populace viewed this development as a sophisticated maneuver to benefit the holders of bonds that had become worthless by re-obligating the county to pay those same bonds. Three men who helped to perpetrate this swindle, including the county attorney and a judge of the county court, were shot and killed on April 24, 1872 while on board a Katy railroad spur between Bryson, Missouri and Paola, Kansas (in or near what is now known as Gunn City). Forty-one men were arrested and brought to trial for these killings, but there were no convictions. At the time of the shootings, a Republican newspaper, belonging to Mr. Porter J. Coston, in Harrisonville, Missouri, was burned by the same mob.
The year before the Civil War, 12 cities in Missouri had population of approximately 2,500 or more. Harrisonville ranked 37th with a population of 675. In 1863 the town was depopulated, and most of the buildings burned, the jail among them . Fort Harrisonville was a Union stronghold for a brief period in 1863 and provided protection for loyal Union families.