Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser
Bates County was created January 29, 1841. Some annalists have asserted it was named in honor of Edward Bates, of St. Louis, afterward attorney-general in the cabinet of President Lincoln. This is an error. It was named for the older brother of Edward Bates, Frederick Bates, who was territorial secretary in 1814, and Governor of the State of Missouri in 1824-25. As created, Bates County included all the territory constituting the present counties of Bates and Vernon. February 15, 1851, the county of Vernon was created, its territory being precisely that already constituting the county of Bates. What remained to be known as Bates County was Vernon County as now constituted. It was provided, however, in the organic act, that the new county (Vernon) was not to organize until the people residing therein should ratify it at the polls in August following. It is asserted, but not of record, that the vote was adverse to the proposition. However, Governor King appointed officers for the new county. The act creating Vernon County was declared unconstitutional by Judge Russell Hicks, who fined Samuel Scott one cent for assuming to discharge the duties of sheriff in the new county.
Upon this decision Bates County remained as originally constituted until February, 1855, when the present county of Vernon was legally created (February 27), the three southern tiers of townships in Cass County having previously been added to Bates County, (February 27), these two provisions giving to the latter its present dimensions. In 1841, Thomas B. Arnett of Van Buren County, (changed to Cass County in 1848), Robert M. White of Johnson County, and Cornelius Davy of Jackson County, commissioners to locate a permanent seat of justice, reported in favor of Harmony Mission.
The history of this period is exceedingly meager on account of the destruction of records during the Civil War. No court house was built at Harmony Mission, and court sessions were held in the mission house erected for school and church purposes. In 1847 Papinsville was made the seat of justice and a temporary building was provided for court purposes...The permanent court house was completed in 1855...In 1856, after the detachment of a portion of the new county of Vernon, a more central point became necessary as a county seat, and W. L. Sutherland and Achilles Early, as commissioners, designated Butler...The old court house at Papinsville was sold to Phillip Zeal...The organic act designated as the temporary seat of justice, the house of Colonel Robert Allen, at Harmony Mission, where assembled in 1841 the first county court, Judges William Profitt, George Douglas and George Manship...No record of early proceedings exists. Under a general emergency act, the county and circuit courts held their sittings at Johnstown in 1864, and at Pleasant Gap in 1865. John F. Ryland was the first circuit judge. (--Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, 1901, Conard, Vol. 1, pp. 178, 179.)
"Section 34. All that portion of territory included in the following described limits, viz: Beginning on the western boundary line of this State, at the southwest corner of Van Buren County;* thence east to the southeast corner of said county; thence south on the range line dividing Ranges 28 & 29, to the township line dividing Townships 33 & 34; thence west on said township line to the western line of the State; thence north on said line to the place of beginning, is hereby created a separate and distinct county, to be called and known by the name of the county of Bates."
*Van Buren County in 1835; changed to Cass County in 1848. (--History of Bates County, 1883, Goodspeed, p. 783. Our Storehouse of Missouri Place Names, Ramsay, p. 6.)
"An act was passed May 3, 1835, establishing the county of Van Buren, and provided that the northern boundary line of Van Buren, shall be the permanent southern boundary of Jackson County, and all the territory included in the county of Bates, shall be, for all civil and military purposes, attached to Van Buren, until the said county of Bates shall be organized into a separate and distinct county, by law."
Later, "Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Missouri, as follows:
"All that portion of country included in the limits of Van Buren County as now established and defined by law, shall hereafter be known and called Cass County instead of Van Buren."
The act further provided that wherever the name Van Buren was used the same provisions applied to Cass County...
This act shall be enforced from and after its passage.
Approved, February 19, 1849. (--History of Cass County, 1883, St. Joseph Steam Printing Co., pp. 92, 93.)
"Section 35. Thomas B. Arnet, of the county of Van Buren; Robert M. White, of Johnson County, and Cornelius Davy of Jackson County, are hereby appointed commissioners to select the permanent seat of justice for said county.
Section 36. The circuit and county courts for said county shall be held at James Allen's at the old Harmony Mission, until the permanent seat of justice is established, or the county court shall otherwise direct."
Approved January 29, 1841.
On the 22nd day of February 1835, an act was approved attaching a part of Cass County to Bates; that act reads:
Section 1. All that part of Cass County included in and made part of the late county of Vernon, by an act entitled, "An act to establish the County of Vernon", approved the 17th day of February 1851, and which late County of Vernon was afterwards decided to be unconstitutional, is hereby attached to and made part of Bates County...
Not only was a portion of Cass County (the part above referred to) once a portion of Vernon County, but Vernon included as well the county of Bates. The act of legislature establishing Vernon County was approved February 17, 1851, and was as follows:
(Here follows a rather lengthy description of the boundaries of Vernon County, which, for the lack of space will not be given here.)
It will thus be seen that Vernon County embraced Bates and the southern part of Cass. The new county, however, was to remain such, provided the people residing in the territory included therein shall ratify the act at the polls in August, 1851.
The act creating the new county of Vernon was soon declared unconstitutional, which left the county of Bates as originally erected until 1855, when, as stated, the southern part of Cass was added to it. During the same year (1855) Vernon County, as now formed, was organized, and a portion of the southern part of Bates was taken off and attached to it. That portion of Bates County that was added to Vernon was two miles in width and thirty miles in length. (--History of Bates County, 1883, Goodspeed, pp. 784, 785.)