A Directory of Towns, Villages, and Hamlets
Past and Present
of Jefferson County, Missouri

Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser

Jefferson County

Jefferson County is bounded on the north by St. Louis County, east by the Mississippi River, south by Ste. Genevieve, St. Franois and Washington Counties and west by Franklin...

The territory comprising Jefferson County, at one time belonged to Spain and was under control of a Spanish Governor, who made liberal offers of land to persons who desired to settle permanently in the county. "While O'Riley was governor and captain-general of the whole country, from 1769 to 1790, homesteads were allowed, to be taken only on the Mississippi, and the settlers could take up from four to six arpents front by forty back. This would give them from 136 to 204 acres of lands."...This rule appears to have continued in force until 1797, after which time each head of a family was allowed to take up 200 arpents of land for himself, fifty for each child and twenty for each Negro he brought with him, not to exceed in all 800 arpents. This was the origin of the ownership of the many tracts of land in the county known as "Spanish Grants".

From the best information available it is believed that John Hilderbrand, of French descent, was the first settler in what at the present time constitutes Jefferson County. In 1774, or perhaps earlier, he settled on Saline Creek in the northeastern part of the county, and founded what was afterward called the Meramec settlement...

In 1804 there was no post-office nearer than St. Louis, and no road in the county. There were what were called trails from one settlement to the other. There was no store here then. John Johnston had a little mill at the old Falkland place. The wheel was made out of a large log, cut with grooves. Johnston could crack corn, but hardly make meal.

Soon after the United States acquired title to the region by treaty with France, the territory was divided into five districts, and according to the division all that part of Jefferson County lying north of Plattin Creek became a part of the St. Louis District, and the balance formed a part of the Ste. Genevieve District...

About 1805, a town called New Hartford was laid out at or near Illinois Station and Christian Wilt and John M. Honey erected a shot-tower there. They also had a store, the first ever established in this county...


Jefferson County was organized by an act of the Legislature of the Territory of Missouri, approved December 9, 1818, as may be seen by the first section, thereof, which follows: (The section is too lengthy to include here, but it is recorded on page 585 of the History of Jefferson County, 1888, Goodspeed.)..This act also provided that the first court should be held at Herculaneum, and afterward at such places as the court might select until a courthouse could be constructed.

Inasmuch as no steps were taken for the building of a courthouse at Herculaneum for a number of years after the county was organized, it seems evident that an early removal of the county seat was anticipated.

On the 9th of May, 1832, the court appointed Minor Mothershead, Thomas Hurst, William Hurst, Jess Phillips, and Paschal Detchemundy, commissioners to consider the question of removing the county seat to a more central point. Eventually an election was held at the several voting places in the county to decide the question of moving the seat of justice to the east half of the northwest quarter of Section 3, Township 40 North, Range 4 East, it being the site of the present town of Hillsboro and the place selected by the commissioners...Finally, after much discussion the vote was approved, and in July, 1836, Bailey G. Martin was appointed to let the contract and superintend the building of a courthouse at Monticello, the name then given to the present (1888) site of Hillsboro, or rather the hill just south thereof...

Strong opposition to the removal of the county seat was made, and the project thus delayed. Finally, Hugh O'Neill and Samuel Murry, the owners of the site selected, donated the same to the county, and passed the title thereto by deed of conveyance dated April 7, 1838. The tract thus conveyed consisted of fifty acres and lies in the northern part of Section 3, Township 40 North, Range 4 East, and is the site of the present county seat. (-- History of Jefferson County, 1888, Goodspeed, pp. 363, 370, 388, 389.)

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