The county was named for Captain Stephen Cole, an intrepid pioneer and famous Indian fighter. It was Stephen Cole who erected Cole's Fort during the War of 1812 as a protection against the British troops as well as the Sac-Fox Indians to the north and the Osage Indians to the south. Cole's Fort was located where present-day Boonville (Cooper County) now stands.
As early as 1816, a few pioneer families from Kentucky and Tennessee inhabited the land, but whites were few until after the organization of the county on November 16, 1820. Officially, Cole became an effective county on January 1, 1821.
Howard's Bluff, a small village on the south banks of the Missouri river near the town later founded as Marion, was the first county seat. Howard's Bluff retained the county seat status from 1820-1822. From 1822-1828, the seat was located in the river town of Marion. When the governmental seat of state moved to Jefferson City from St. Charles in 1828, Jefferson City became the third and final county seat, as well as the third and final state capitol. The first state capitol was located in St. Louis from 1821-1826.
At one time, determined Marion residents tried to regain the county seat, but all hopes of renewal became fruitless when Moniteau County was created in 1845 and the town of Marion no longer was situated in the central portion of Cole County. What an amazing disaster the county seat would have suffered during the Great Flood of 1993 if Marion would have been successful in reclaiming the county seat!
The county is situated near the geographical center of the state and located on the south bank of the Missouri River. Being a river county and intersected by numerous streams of irregular courses, Cole was described as being broken in topography in 1904. The county has 6 different townships: Clark, Jefferson, Liberty, Marion, Moreau, & Osage.
As in other counties, the railroad played an important role in the county's history. The Missouri Pacific was the main line that covered most of Cole's land (Bagnell Branch & River Route). The Chicago and Alton railroad had a small section running through the southern portion of the county. The Missouri, Kansas, and Texas rail line also ran through the county as well.
The population of Cole County in 1830 was 3,023 and by 1904, the population had increased to a staggering 20,578. Around this same time period (c/1904-05) the county had a total of 20 towns/settlements and nine different newspapers in circulation: JEFFERSON CITY STATE TRIBUNE, COLE COUNTY DEMOCRAT, MISSOURI VOLKSFREUND, THE REPUBLICAN, MISSOURI SCHOOL JOURNAL, THE POST, RUSSELLVILLE RUSTLER, & CENTER MISSOURI LEADER (Centertown).
Also around the turn of the century, Cole County had the largest saddletree factory in the world, located in the Jefferson City area. There were also five shoe factories, the county's second largest industry. In 1904, approximately 10,000 pairs of shoes were produced daily.
The first marriage was recorded in 1821 and the first divorce was decreed in March, 1835. Many towns came and went over the years, many not known nor heard of by their descendants today.
-from THE GHOST TOWNS OF CENTRAL MISSOURI by Kelly Warman-Stallings
Cole County Historical Society - 109 Madison street - Jefferson City, MO 65101
(573)-635-1850 - firstname.lastname@example.org - http://www.colecohistsoc.org/
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