Bates County, Missouri

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The Bates County Courthouse is located at 1 North Delaware Street, Butler, MO 64730; phone: 660-679-3371.

Beginnings [1]

After Missouri became a state in 1821, county lines were drawn and redrawn. County seats changed accordingly. The western area of Missouri between the Missouri and the Osage (Maraies des Cygnes) Rivers was named Lilliard County. Baptist missionaries from New York established Harmony Mission, the first community in what became Bates County, to serve as a school for Native American children in the area. In 1833, Lilliard County was divided into Jackson County and Van Buren County, with Harmony Mission selected as the first county seat. In 1841, Cass County separated from Van Buren County and the southern part of Van Buren was named Bates County in honor of Missouri's second governor Frederick Bates. In 1847, Papinsville (originally Papinville) became the county seat of Bates County, in part because its location on the Osage River made it accessible to river travel. In 1853, Papinsville began building a "substantial brick courthouse" which was finished in 1855.

However, county lines were again redrawn in 1855 (over the objections of Papinsville) and the southern part of what had been Bates County became Vernon County. This change left Papinsville with a newly completed courthouse at the southern edge of Bates County. While the Papinsville courthouse was under construction, Butler citizens campaigned to have their more centrally located town declared county seat. Butler was a logical choice and after three citizens donated 55 acres for the project, the Legislature agreed to move the county seat to Butler. A plat marking a central courthouse square was filed. The court hired Fritzpatrick (a.k.a. Fitzpatrick) and Hurt of Benton County to build a 50 x 50-foot brick courthouse to serve Bates County. The recently constructed but unneeded courthouse at Papinsville was converted to commercial use.

  1. Rhonda Chalfant, Chalfant Consulting and Roger Maserang, Historic Preservation Program, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Bates County Courthouse, Bates County, MO, nomination document, 2001, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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