The making of a county

In the beginning


In honor of our county’s 200th birthday, The Gasconade County Historical Society will be publishing an article each month about the history, events and/or stories of our county—The Gasconade County Historical Society


Gasconade County was organized by an act approved Nov. 25, 1820, two hundred years ago, this year. The original boundaries of the County covered a large portion of what is now Mo. below the Missouri River. In Jan. of 1825, an act was passed by the legislature of Mo. to change the boundaries of the county, making it smaller.  It still included 27 sq. mi. of present-day Crawford Co., seven and one-half townships of present-day Maries Co. and all of present-day Osage Co. In Jan. of 1841 and Jan. of 1869, changes were once again made to make the county boundaries as they are today.

In 1821, the first commissioners were appointed for the County and given the duty of acquiring land on which to erect a courthouse. Until a courthouse could be built, all courts were to be held in the home of Isaac Perkins. Land was purchased and the first county seat of Gasconade County was established in the town of Gasconade (then known as Gasconade City).  Gasconade City remained the county seat until 1825, when, on account of a flood, it was deemed advisable to move the county seat. Commissioners chose Bartonville as the county’s second county seat. Bartonville was located on the Gasconade River in what is now Osage County. The town remained the county seat until 1828 when it too, like Gasconade City, was visited by a flood and deemed unsuitable.  Records show that Joshua Cox was paid $303.12  to build a 20’x24’ log courthouse in Mt. Sterling as the next seat of justice for Gasconade County. The County seat remained in Mt. Sterling until 1842 when an election was held with voters approving the County seat be moved to Hermann, where it remains today. 

The first permanent settlers, it is believed, came into the County about 1812 and settled near a spring, creek or river as water was a necessity.  These settlers made their livelihood by trapping, hunting and trading with the Indians. In 1829 Isaiah Bowen settled near what is now Red Bird. He worked at the Meramec Iron Works during the week and cleared his land on weekends after walking home from Crawford County, using the North Star as his guide.  When more settlers arrived in the area, Mr. Bowen built a mill on his Bourbeuse property, but, unfortunately, it washed away a few years later. His second mill was built several miles down the river and was a great success. Besides farming, other means of profitable business engaged in by the county’s early settlers was hauling iron and supplies between St. James and Hermann, rafting pine lumber from the Upper Gasconade River to St. Louis and mining salt peter from the salt peter caves. 


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