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Boonville City

Cooper County, Missouri

Boonville City Hall is located at 525 East Spring Street, Boonville, MO 65223.
Phone: 660‑882‑2332.

The Boonville Historical Society (Friends of Historic Boonville) is located at 614 East Morgan Street, Boonville, MO 65223; phone: 660-822-7977.

Beginnings [1]

Boonville, named for Daniel Boone, was laid out as a town in 1817 by Charles Lucas and Asa Morgan with the first lots being sold in 1819. To insure that the county seat of the newly formed Cooper County would be located at Boonville, the developers donated 50 acres of land in the new city to the recently appointed county commissioners on the condition that proceeds from the sale of the land be used to build a courthouse and a jail on the Public Square. Following the flooding of her sister city, Franklin, Boonville experienced her first substantial growth in population and commerce and became the largest port west of St. Louis as well as the new departure point of the Santa Fe Trail.

The settlers of the early development period hailed mostly from the states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. Boonville at this time was considered the western-most point of civilization and the beginning of the frontier and, for the most part, the homes of these early settlers were composed of log or heavy timbered construction, often in the form of Federal style architecture. The tradition of using brick as a building medium originated quite early in Boonville with the founding of Marcus Williams' brick yard in the early 1820s. Boonville's earliest documented brick residence is R. P. Clark's second residence, built in 1825.

Between the years 1826 and 1870 Boonville grew from a small frontier settlement into a prosperous boom town as the result of the development of riverport facilities and her involvement in the Santa Fe Trail trade. As many as 4 to 6 steamboats daily were loading and unloading cargo at the wharf, with goods being transported up the bluff to the main commercial district over a cobblestone road. Merchants such as Jacob Wyan, William H. Trigg, Isaac Lioberger, Thomas M. Campbell and Judge C. H. Smith accumulated large fortunes from their wholesale and retail trade establishments and soon branched into other endeavors. In fact, the number of commercial enterprises was so great that Boonville became the most active riverport west of St. Louis.

By 1854, Boonville's population had quadrupled to a total of 3,000. In that year the city contained 9 wholesale and retail dry goods houses, 10 wholesale and retail grocers, a steam floor mill, a brewery, 3 harness and 6 boot houses, a bank, a newspaper and numerous other businesses.

Populated in her infancy by settlers from the south, the city, which was incorporated in 1839, developed distinct southern traditions of architecture, culture, and education. The traditional Southern belief in private education was realized through the development of at least 9 institutions of learning.

  1. Linda Harper and James C. Higbie, Friends of Historic Boonville, Boonville Missouri Multiple Resource Area, nomination document, 1980, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.