County History


Cole County.—A county in central Missouri, of irregular shape, bounded on the northeast by the Missouri River, on the east by the Osage River, which joins the Missouri at the eastern extremity of the county; on the south and southwest by Miller County, and on the west by Moniteau County. It is drained by Moniteau and Moreau Creeks, and numerous other small streams. It comprises 234,466 acres, of which 70,000 acres are under cultivation. Considerable portions are untillable, but afford excellent grazing. The upland soil is rich and warm, producing grain and small fruits of superior quality, while the low lands yield a rank growth of nearly all products known to the latitude.

The crops are wheat, corn, oats, barley and hay, with tobacco of peculiar excellence. Peaches and apples are abundant, and perfect in quality. Hogs and cattle are large and profitable products. The broken lands are rich in lead, iron and bituminous coal, with some deposits of cannel coal. The native woods are oak, hickory, walnut, elm, ash, sugar maple and cottonwood. In early days there were many relics of the Mound builders, which have all but disappeared. The most numerous and perfect mounds were at the junction of the Missouri and Osage Rivers and on Moreau Creek, some containing stone sepulchers enclosing human skeletons, with war and hunting implements.

The late Elias Elston, of the village named for him, made a collection of these relics, which included specimens before unknown, now in possession of the Missouri Historical Society, in St. Louis. Cole County was originally contained in the tract occupied by the Osage Indians, and was in the St. Louis district of Louisiana Territory. It became a part of Howard County upon its organization, in 1816, and of the new county of Cooper in 1818. In 1820 it was organized as a county, and named for Captain Stephen Cole, a pioneer, who built Cole's Fort, where Boonville now stands. The first whites came from Tennessee, in 1815-16, settling at the mouth of Moniteau Creek. John Inglish located west of that point and Henry McKenney opposite, with James Miller, James Fulkerson, John Mulkey, David Chambers, Joshua Chambers, John Harman, David Young, William Gooch and Martin Gooch near by. Harman brought one son and all the others from two to five sons each. In 1819 came James Hunter, the first militia colonel; John 'Hensley, the first Senator, with others, who located on the Missouri River, nine miles from the site of Jefferson City.

In 1820 the lands of the county were opened for entry, and a large immigration began.

In 1821 John Vivion and James Stark were appointed judges, and opened the first county court April 2nd, at the house of John Inglish.

In 1822 the first elected judges, John Inglish, Reuben Smith and James Stark, took their seats. Marion was designated as the seat of justice, and order was made for the erection of a courthouse and jail; the cost of the former was $748, and of the latter was $690.

The north half of Marion Township was detached, being designated as Marion Township and in 1823 Jefferson Township was created.

February 3, 1829, the county court held its last session at Marion, the building selling for $450, and March 30th convened at the house of John C. Gordon, in Jefferson City, pursuant to a removal act of January 21st and appropriated $900 for a jail.

In 1831 the court occupied the State House, and in 1832 rented a building from R. W. Wells.

In 1838 the new courthouse was occupied, built at a cost of $4,000, part of the realty being donated by the State.

Judge David Todd held the first circuit court at the house of John Inglish, with Paul Whitley as sheriff, January 15, 1821.

In 1824 Reuben Hall was indicted for murder, and sentenced to death, but the execution was deferred, and he was afterward pardoned.

Judge Todd held the first term of court in Jefferson City, at the home of John C. Gordon, February 20, 1829.

In 1835 the first divorce case in the county was tried, that of Mary Hodges against Peter B. Hodges.

Louis White and David Duaine, Canadians, were the first foreigners naturalized.

In 1839 Henry Lane was tried for murder, found guilty, and his execution, October 14th, was the first in the county.

The old courthouse was replaced in 1897 by the present handsome edifice of Carthage stone, erected at a cost of $49,700, and furnished at a cost of $10,000. The indebtedness of the county is $60,000 for building the courthouse, and $30,000 on railroad bond account.

The first church building was of logs, erected by the Baptists, in 1837, on the James Dunnica farm, ten miles west of Jefferson City. Rev. John B. Longdon was the first minister, and James Fulkerson and Martin Noland deacons. The same year a Catholic Church was formed by Father Helias.  Rev. James McCorkle was the first Cumberland Presbyterian minister and the elders were James Mead and Samuel Crow. The Methodists organized a church in 1838.
The first school was opened by Lashley L. Woods, in the courthouse at Marion, March 10, 1827. In addition to the children of James Miller, Jason Harrison, and others, he had for pupils about twenty grown men and women.

Another pioneer teacher was Jefferson Thomas, who died in 1832, and was the first person buried in the Jefferson City Cemetery. Jefferson School District was instituted in 1835, with Daniel Colgan, John Walker and Samuel L. Hart, as trustees. In 1898 there were in the county 55 public schools, 76 teachers, and 6,241 pupils; the permanent school fund was $16,636.56.

Railroads entering the county are the main line and the Lebanon branch of the Missouri Pacific.

In 1898 the principal surplus products were as follows:
Wheat, 158,883 bushels;
Flour, 7,746,180 pounds;
Cornmeal, 87,000 pounds;
Ship stuff, 1,428,600pounds;
Clover seed, 97,993 pounds; hay,
98,500 pounds; wool,
7,850 pounds; neat cattle,
2,458 head; hogs, 20,950 head;
Logs, 36,000 feet; cross ties, 76,953 feet;
Lumber 246,900 feet.
In 1900 the population was 20,578.
[Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri: Edited by Howard Louis Conard; Publ. 1901;  Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack]


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