Warrensburg is the seat of Johnson County, and was the largest town in the county throughout its early history. The town was founded in 1836, and soon became an important trading center. It was incorporated in 1856, during a period of railroad-spurred expansion. The original settlement was laid out just west of the present downtown, but the center of development shifted east when the Missouri Pacific Railroad came through the area in the mid-1850s. A history of the town which was written in 1881 noted that after the railroad depot was erected in 1867, "the merchants became frantic until they located their business near the station house." The area surrounding the depot became the commercial center of town, and dozens of new buildings were built there in the next few decades, including three new flour mills.
The business climate remained favorable, and by 1881 the Warrensburg business directory included more than 200 separate listings. Of those, six represented owners of the flour mills.