Cole County History

Welcome to Cole County, the home of our State capital here in, Jefferson City, Missouri.

Cole County is in the central part of the state, bounded north by the Missouri River, which separates it from Boone and Callaway counties, east by Osage River, south by Miller, west by Miller and Moniteau counties, and contains 234,466 acres.

As early as 1816, a few families from Kentucky and Tennessee located within the present limits of Cole county.  It was organized November 16, 1820, when it was named for the intrepid pioneer, Capt. Stephan Cole. The county seat was located at Marion in 1822, and removed to Jefferson City in 1828. The seat of government of the State was removed from St. Louis to St. Charles in 1821, then to Jefferson City in 1826. The first Capitol Building was completed on October 1, 1826, and the Legislature convened in the building on the third Monday in November. At the time of admission of Missouri into the Union, Congress granted four sections of land for the location of the seat of government. The Constitution fixed the location of the capital upon the Missouri river, within forty miles of the mouth of the Osage River and was located on the site of the present Governor's Mansion. It served as the Executive, Legislative and Judicial headquarters of the state, and provided living quarters for the Governor on the second floor. At the first session of the Legislature commissioners were appointed who, after a tedious examination, selected the present site of Jefferson City, Daniel M. Boone, son of the famous pioneer and Major Elias Bancroft laid off into lots under the superintendence of the commissioners in 1822. Boone was paid the sum of $4.00 for 120 days of work. The first sale of lots took place in May, 1823, under the supervision of Major. Josiah Ramsey, Jr., Capt. J. C. Gordon and Adam Hop, Esq., trustees on the part of the State. The average price paid was $32.75. The streets were planned on a scale which, if followed in later years, would have gone far to alleviate any traffic problems. They were described as "not more than 120 feet wide or less than 80 feet".

At this time there were but two families residing in the place, Major Josiah Ramsey, Jr., and Mr. Wm. Jones. This year (1823) the building of a brick State house was let to the lowest bidder, Daniel Colgan, and afterwards transferred to James Dunnica of Kentucky, who built the capitol at the bid of $25,000. The State house was completed at the stipulated time, and the Legislature assembled in the new State capitol on the third Monday in November, 1826. Up to this date all the families that resided in Jefferson City were Wm. Jones, Josiah Ramsey, Jr., John C. Gordon, Daniel Colgan, Jesse F Roystan, James Dunnica, Harden Casey, Robert A. Ewing, Alexander Gordon, John Dunnica, John P. Thomas, Rueben Garnett, Stephen C. Doriss, James R. Pullen, Christopher Casey, Henry Buckner, Hiram H. Baber, David Scrivner, Samuel Harrison, Geo. Woodward, Terry Scurlock, David Slater, Granville P. Thomas. Robert H. Hones, Azariah Kennedy, Willis Thornton, David Harmon, Wm. Henderson, Mr. Thompson, McDaniel Dorriss and Mr. Moss.

The second State capitol was commenced in 1838, and occupied by the Legislature of 1840-41, and cost about $350,000. The stone for the building was taken from the bluffs near by, along the line of the Pacific Railroad, in front of the city, The limestone for the pillars was from Callaway county. Mr. S. Hills, the architect, here planned one of the best buildings in the west, whether as regards its substantial character, architectural beauty or interior arrangement of the legislative halls and the several State offices. The general surface of the country is high and undulating and covered with a heavy growth of oak, hickory, elm, walnut, ash, sugar maple, buckeye, cottonwood, etc. The bottom lands are rich in soil and heavily timbered; they are also almost entirely free from riparian loss or acquisition. The upland soil is light and warm, with yellow and red clay for a basis, and peculiarly adapted to the production of small grain and fruits of superior quality. The lowlands in the valleys and the margins of the streams will sustain a rank growth of nearly everything native to the temperate zone.

The central part is drained by the Moreau and north fork of the Moreau, both of which furnish execellent water power. The Osage river lies on the eastern boundary, and is navigable far beyond the limits of the county during the freshet season, and by judicious expenditure on the part of the government, could be made a valuable water route. The northern border is washed by the great Missouri, and this, with her railroad connection, gives Cole great facilities for the transportation of produce.

The agricultural productions are wheat, corn, oats, barley and hay. Tabacco of fine quality is also produced and the apple and peach grow in great perfection.

Coal in large quantities exists, and in the western part numerous beads are worked. The coal is generally bituminous, but cannel coal has been excavated in various localities, particularly in the vicinity of Elston and Centertown. Lead has been found in the south and southwestern parts of the county, on either side of the south fork of the Moreau, in great abundance. Rich deposits have been opened south of Russellville and smelting furnaces erected. Kaolin is found in the bluffs of the Osage, though of what quality for usefulness had not been ascertained. Indications of copper are found in the south central part of the county, and iron exists in immense banks within a short distance of the Osage river, but until facilities for transportation are afforded by the improvement of the navigation of the Osage by means of locks and dams, must remain "hidden treasure."

The first courthouse was built for a cost of $24,000. That building was torn down and in 1896 the Courthouse was dedicated, costing $60,000. The Courthouse caught fire gutting the building. In 1918 the Courthouse was rebuilt at a cost of $48,000.



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