Missouri History:: Origin of Missouri Counties

Missouri History

What are the Origins of Missouri Counties?

Alphabetical Listing

Adair County
Organized January 29, 1841, from Macon County and named for John Adair, governor of Kentucky.

Andrew County
Organized January 29, 1841, from the Platte Purchase and named for Andrew Jackson Davis, a prominent citizen of St. Louis and Savannah.

Atchison County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Holt County and named for David Rice Atchison, United States senator. The boundaries for Allen County were defined by the legislature in 1843 and attached to Holt County in 1845. Atchison County was organized out of this territory and the act defining Allen County repealed.

Audrain County
Organized December 17, 1836, from Callaway, Monroe and Ralls counties and named for James H. Audrain, Missouri legislator.

Barry County
Organized January 5, 1835, from Greene County and named for U.S. Postmaster General William T. Barry.

Barton County
Organized December 12, 1855, from Jasper County and named for David Barton, United States senator.

Bates County
Organized January 29, 1841, from Van Buren (now Cass) County and named for Frederick Bates, governor of Missouri.

Benton County
Organized January 3, 1835, from Pettis and Greene counties and named for Thomas Hart Benton, United States senator.

Bollinger County
Organized March 1, 1851, from Cape Girardeau, Madison, Stoddard and Wayne counties and named for George F. Bollinger, pioneer settler and Missouri legislator.

Boone County
Organized November 16, 1820, (effective January 1, 1821) from Howard County and named for Daniel Boone.

Buchanan County
Organized December 31, 1838, from the Platte Purchase and named for James Buchanan, senator from Pennsylvania and later United States president.

Butler County
Organized February 27, 1849, from Wayne County and named for William O. Butler, a Kentucky congressman.

Caldwell County
Organized December 29, 1836, from Ray County and named for John Caldwell, Indian scout. Alexander Doniphan is credited with naming Caldwell County in honor of an Indian fighter whom his father, Joseph Doniphan, had known in Kentucky. According to Floyd C. Shoemaker, Doniphan probably referred to Colonel John Caldwell, the famous soldier for whom Caldwell County, Kentucky was named. Mathew Caldwell has also been cited as the man for whom the Missouri county was named.

Callaway County
Organized November 25, 1820 (effective January 1, 1821) from Boone, Howard and Montgomery counties and named for James Callaway, Missouri ranger killed by Indians in the War of 1812.

Camden County
Organized January 29, 1841, from Benton, Morgan and Pulaski counties and named for Charles Pratt, Earl of Camden. Originally organized in 1841 as Kinderhook County in honor of President Martin Van Buren's New York home. The name was changed to Camden on February 23, 1843.

Cape Girardeau County
Organized October 1, 1812, as one of the five original counties and named for Sieur de Girardot, a French officer. Sieur de Girardot is generally accepted as the man for whom the river bend above the original settlement of Cape Girardeau was named. Louis Houck in his History of Missouri states that the origin cannot now definitely be known. De Girardot was stationed with the French troops at Kaskaskia as early as 1704 and may have moved across the river to the bend above present Cape Girardeau.

Carroll County
Organized January 2, 1833, from Ray County and named for Charles Carroll of Carrollton.

Carter County
Organized March 10, 1859, from Oregon, Reynolds, Ripley and Shannon counties; named for Zimri A. Carter, pioneer settler.

Cass County
Organized March 3, 1835, from Jackson County and named for Lewis Cass, Michigan senator and presidential candidate. Originally organized as Van Buren County in honor of Martin Van Buren, the Democratic legislature changed the name to Cass on February 19, 1849, to honor Van Buren's Democratic opponent Lewis Cass. Van Buren ran as the Free-Soil candidate for president in 1848.

Cedar County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Dade and St. Clair counties and named for its abundance of cedar trees.

Chariton County
Organized November 16, 1820 (effective January 1, 1821) from Howard County and named for the Chariton River. Several origins of the name of the Chariton River have been suggested. The most plausible suggestion connects the name of the river with Joseph Chorette, a French fur trader of St. Louis. Trudeau, in his Journal of 1795, mentions Chorette as accompanying him on his expedition up the Missouri River and as being drowned on July 10 of that year while swimming in the river. The family name has the variants Choret, Care and Carrette in old documents.

Christian County
Organized March 8, 1859, from Greene, Taney and Webster counties and named for William Christian, Kentucky Revolutionary War soldier.

Clark County
Organized December 16, 1836, from Lewis County and named for William Clark, explorer, Indian agent and governor of the Missouri Territory.

Clay County
Organized January 2, 1822, from Ray County and named for Henry Clay, Kentucky congressman.

Clinton County
Organized January 2, 1833, from Clay County and named for DeWitt Clinton, governor of New York.

Cole County
Organized November 16, 1820 (effective January 1, 1821) from Cooper County and named for Stephen Cole, pioneer settler and Indian fighter.

Cooper County
Organized December 17, 1818 (effective February 1, 1819) from Howard County and named for Sarshel (Benjamin) Cooper, pioneer settler.

Crawford County
Organized January 23, 1829, from Gasconade County and named for William H. Crawford, Georgia senator.

Dade County
Organized January 29, 1841, from Barry and Polk counties and named for Francis L. Dade, pioneer settler.

Dallas County
Organized January 29, 1841, from Polk County and named for George M. Dallas, diplomat and later vice-president. Originally organized as Niangua County in 1841; the name was changed to Dallas on December 16, 1844, due to the alleged difficulty in both spelling and pronouncing Niangua.

Daviess County
Organized December 29, 1836, from Ray County and named for Joseph H. Daviess, Kentucky soldier in the War of 1812.

DeKalb County
Organized February 25, 1845, from Clinton County and named for Johann Kalb, Baron deKalb. Baron deKalb was a German-born officer who served with the French Army and was killed in the American Revolution.

Dent County
Organized February 10, 1851, from Crawford and Shannon counties and named for Lewis Dent, pioneer settler.

Douglas County
Organized October 29, 1857, from Ozark County and named for Stephen A. Douglas, Illinois senator and later presidential candidate.

Dunklin County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Stoddard County and named for Daniel Dunklin, governor of Missouri.

Franklin County
Organized December 11, 1818, (effective January 1, 1819) from St. Louis County and named for Benjamin Franklin.

Gasconade County
Organized November 25, 1820, (effective January 1, 1821) from Franklin County and named for the Gasconade River. Gasconade may be one of the early satirical nicknames, like Paincourt, meaning "short of bread" for St. Louis, which has survived. It probably derived from the French word gascon meaning "boaster, braggart" which may have been applied to the people who lived along the river and who may have been inclined to brag about their exploits when they returned to St. Louis.

Gentry County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Clinton County and named for Richard Gentry, Seminole War general.

Greene County
Organized January 2, 1833, from Crawford and Wayne counties and named for Nathaniel Greene, Revolutionary War general.

Grundy County
Organized January 29, 1841, from Livingston County and named for Felix Grundy, Tennessee senator and United States attorney general.

Harrison County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Daviess County and named for Albert G. Harrison, Missouri congressman.

Henry County
Organized December 13, 1834, from Lillard (now Lafayette) County and named for Patrick Henry, Revolutionary patriot. Originally organized as Rives county, the name was changed to Henry on October 15, 1841, by an act of the legislature.

Hickory County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Benton and Polk counties and named for United States President Andrew Jackson, nicknamed "Old Hickory."

Holt County
Organized January 29, 1841, from the Platte Purchase and named for David Rice Holt, Missouri legislator from Platte County. Originally organized and named Nodaway County, the name was changed seventeen days later to honor the memory of D.R. Holt, who died during the legislative session.

Howard County
Organized January 23, 1816, (effective March 1, 1816) from St. Charles and St. Louis counties and named for Benjamin Howard, governor of the Missouri Territory.

Howell County
Organized March 2, 1857, from Oregon County and named for James Howell, pioneer settler. Some sources also state the county was named for Thomas J. Howell.

Iron County
Organized February 17, 1857, from Madison, Reynolds, St. Francois, Washington and Wayne counties and named for abundant iron ore.

Jackson County
Organized December 15, 1826, from Lillard (now Lafayette) County and named for United States President Andrew Jackson.

Jasper County
Organized January 29, 1841, from Barry County and named for William Jasper, Revolutionary War soldier.

Jefferson County
Organized December 8, 1818, (effective January 1, 1819) from St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve counties and named for Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States.

Johnson County
Organized December 13, 1834, from Lillard (now Lafayette) County and named for R.M. Johnson, Kentucky senator and later vice president.

Knox County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Scotland County and named for Henry Knox, Revolutionary War general.

Laclede County
Organized February 24, 1849, from Camden, Pulaski and Wright counties and named for Pierre Laclede Liguest, founder of St. Louis.

Lafayette County
Organized November 16, 1820, (effective January 1, 1821) from Cooper County and named for Marquis de La Fayette. Originally organized as Lillard County in honor of James (William) Lillard of Tennessee, who served in the first state constitutional convention and first state legislature. The name was changed in honor of Marquis de La Fayette's visit to the United States by an act of the Legislature on February 16, 1825.

Lawrence County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Barry and Dade counties and named for James Lawrence, naval hero of the War of 1812.

Lewis County
Organized January 2, 1833, from Marion County and named for Captain Meriwether Lewis, explorer and governor of the Missouri Territory.

Lincoln County
Organized December 14, 1818, (effective January 1, 1819) from St. Charles County and named for Benjamin Lincoln, Revolutionary War general.

Linn County
Organized January 6, 1837, from Chariton County and named for Lewis F. Linn, United States senator

Livingston County
Organized January 6, 1837, from Carroll County and named for United States Secretary of State Edward Livingston.

McDonald County
Organized March 3, 1849, from Newton County and named for Alexander McDonald, Revolutionary War soldier. Originally defined by the Legislature as Seneca County and attached to Newton County for civil and military purposes on January 1, 1847, the name was changed to McDonald upon formal organization of the county.

Macon County
Organized January 6, 1837, from Chariton and Randolph counties and named for Nathaniel Macon, Revolutionary War soldier and North Carolina congressman.

Madison County
Organized December 14, 1818, (effective January 1, 1819) from Cape Girardeau and Ste. Genevieve counties and named for United States President James Madison.

Maries County
Organized March 2, 1855, from Osage and Pulaski counties and named for the Maries River. Maries is probably a corruption of the French "marias" meaning "marsh" or "swamp." The Maries River, like the upper reaches of the Osage River, was once said to be called Le Marias de Cygnes or "Marsh of Swans." It has also been suggested that the Big and Little Maries Rivers were named for two French girls and that the name is the plural of Marie.

Marion County
Organized December 23, 1826, from Ralls County and named for Francis Marion, Revolutionary War hero.

Mercer County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Grundy County and named for John F. Mercer, a Revolutionary War general.

Miller County
Organized February 6, 1837, from Cole and Pulaski counties and named for John Miller, governor of Missouri.

Mississippi County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Scott County and named for the Mississippi River. Mississippi is derived from the Algonquin Indian words: missi meaning "great" and seepee meaning "water."

Moniteau County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Cole and Morgan counties and named for Moniteau Creek. The name Moniteau is the French spelling of the Indian word meaning "spirit of God." It has been said that the creek was named by the Indians for the painted figure of a man "spirit of God," that was on a rock at the mouth.

Monroe County
Organized January 6, 1831, from Ralls County and named for United States President James Monroe.

Montgomery County
Organized December 14, 1818, (effective January 1, 1819) from St. Charles County and named for Richard Montgomery, a Revolutionary War general.

Morgan County
Organized January 5, 1833, from Cooper County and named for Daniel Morgan, a Revolutionary War general.

New Madrid
Organized October 1, 1812, as one of the five original counties and named for Madrid, Spain.

Newton County
Organized December 31, 1838, from Barry County and named for John Newton, a Revolutionary War soldier.

Nodaway County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Andrew County and named for the Nodaway River. Nodaway is a Potawatomi Indian word meaning "placid." "Jump over the river" has also been suggested as the meaning.

Oregon County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Ripley County and named for the Territory of Oregon.

Osage County
Organized January 29, 1841, from Gasconade County and named for the Osage River. The name Osage is generally believed to be a corruption by the French of Washazhe, the name of the Osage Indians. The name has also been given as Wawsashe, Wacase, and Wassashsha. Marquette spelled the named Ouchage and Autrechacha. The name, to the Indians, meant "people."

Ozark County
Organized January 29, 1841, from Taney County and named for the Ozark Mountains. Ozark is the anglicized version of the French abbreviation "aux arcs" for Aux Arkansas meaning "in the county of Arkansas." Originally organized January 29, 1841, as Ozark County, the name was changed to Decatur by an act of the Legislature on February 22, 1843. On March 24, 1845, the name was changed back to Ozark.

Pemiscot County
Organized February 19, 1851, from New Madrid County and named for the Indian word meaning "liquid mud."

Perry County
Organized November 16, 1820, (effective January 1, 1821) from Ste. Genevieve County and named for Oliver H. Perry, naval hero of the War of 1812.

Pettis County
Organized January 26, 1833, from Cooper and Saline counties and named for Spencer Pettis, Missouri congressman.

Phelps County
Organized November 13, 1857, from Crawford County and named for John F. Phelps, congressman and later governor of Missouri.

Pike County
Organized December 14, 1818, (effective February 1, 1819) from St. Charles County and named for Zebulon Montgomery Pike, explorer.

Platte County
Organized December 31, 1838, from the Platte Purchase and named for the Platte River. Platte is a French word meaning "flat" or "shallow."

Polk County
Organized January 5, 1835, from Greene County and named for United States President James K. Polk.

Pulaski County
Organized January 19, 1833, from Crawford County and named for Casmir Pulaski, Polish general of the American Revolution.

Putnam County
Organized February 28, 1845, from Adair and Sullivan counties and named for Israel Putnam, a Revolutionary War general.

Ralls County
Organized November 16, 1820, (effective January 1, 1821) from Pike County and named for Daniel Ralls, Missouri legislator.

Randolph County
Organized January 22, 1829, from Chariton and Ralls counties and named for John Randolph of Virginia.

Ray County
Organized November 16, 1820, (effective January 1, 1821) from Howard County and named for John Ray, member of the first state constitutional convention.

Reynolds County
Organized February 25, 1845, from Shannon County and named for Thomas Reynolds, governor of Missouri.

Ripley County
Organized January 5, 1833, from Wayne County and named for Eleazar W. Ripley, a soldier in the War of 1812.

Saint Charles County
Organized October 1, 1812, as one of the five original counties and named for Italian Cardinal St. Charles Borromeo.

Saint Clair County
Organized January 29, 1841, from Rives (later Henry) County and named for Arthur St. Clair, a Revolutionary War general.

Saint Francois County
Organized December 19, 1821, from Jefferson, Ste. Genevieve and Washington counties and named for the St. Francois River. The river was probably named by the early French for St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscan Order.

Saint Louis City
Organized August 22, 1876, under the 1875 Constitution of the State of Missouri. Until that date, St. Louis City and St. Louis County were one entity. After that time, St. Louis City became its own entity, maintaining its own courthouse and records.

Saint Louis County
Organized October 1, 1812, as one of the five original counties; named for St. Louis (King Louis IX of France), patron saint of King Louis XV.

Sainte Genevieve County
Organized October 1, 1812, as one of the five original counties and named for the French saint, patroness of Paris.

Saline County
Organized November 25, 1820, (effective January 1, 1821) from Cooper County and named for its numerous salt springs.

Schuyler County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Adair County and named for Philip Schuyler, a Revolutionary War general.

Scotland County
Organized January 29, 1841, from Clark, Lewis, and Shelby counties and named for Scotland.

Scott County
Organized December 28, 1821, (effective March 1, 1822) from New Madrid County and named for John Scott, Missouri congressman.

Shannon County
Organized January 29, 1841, from Ripley County and named for George Shannon, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Shelby County
Organized January 2, 1835, from Marion County and named for Isaac Shelby, governor of Kentucky and a Revolutionary War soldier.

Stoddard County
Organized January 2, 1835, from New Madrid County and named for Amos Stoddard, first American Civil Commandant of Upper Louisiana.

Stone County
Organized February 10, 1851, from Taney County and named for William Stone, pioneer judge of Taney County.

Sullivan County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Linn County and named for James Sullivan, a Revolutionary War general. Originally defined by the legislature as Highland County on February 17, 1843, the name was changed upon actual organization.

Taney County
Organized January 6, 1837, from Greene County and named for Roger B. Taney, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Texas County
Organized February 14, 1845, from Shannon and Wright counties and named for the Republic of Texas. Originally defined by the legislature as Ashley County on February 17, 1843, the name was changed to Texas upon organization.

Vernon County
Organized February 27, 1855, from Bates County and named for Miles Vernon, Missouri legislator. The original law establishing Vernon County was approved on February 17, 1851, but was later declared to be unconstitutional in that the boundaries described were identical to those of Bates County.

Warren County
Organized January 5, 1833, from Montgomery County and named for Joseph Warren, a Revolutionary War general.

Washington County
Organized August 21, 1813, (effective November 1, 1813) from Ste. Genevieve and named for George Washington, first President of the United States.

Wayne County
Organized December 11, 1818, (effective February 1, 1819) from Cape Girardeau county and territorial Lawrence county1 and named for Anthony Wayne, a Revolutionary War general.  

Webster County
Organized March 3, 1855, from Greene County and named for Daniel Webster, Massachusetts senator and U.S. Secretary of State.

Worth County
Organized February 8, 1861, (effective February 25, 1861) from Gentry County and named for William Jenkins Worth, a soldier in the Florida and Mexican Wars.

Wright County
Organized January 29, 1841, from Pulaski County and named for Silas Wright, a New York senator.

 

1 Territorial Lawrence County consisted of a portion of southeast Missouri and northeast Arkansas.  The majority of Lawrence county became Lawrence County, Arkansas when the Arkansas Territory was created in 1819.