Clinton Co. MO Historical Society

Clinton Co. Historical Society

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Our Society is dedicated to the preservation of the history of Clinton County, Missouri and maintains this site as one means of sharing information, preserving the "memories" and "heritage" of the area. Officers: Helen Russell, phone (816) 539-0093

The Society plans to meet the 4th Thursday, 7:00pm of every other month at different sites throughout the area.  If you are from out of town, check on exact meeting plans before coming.

The Genealogical Library is located in "The Community Court Yard Building" on Maple St., a block west of the courthouse in Plattsburg. It is maintained by diligent volunteers by appointment only Monday-Friday. If you have requests, questions, contributions, or needs of such services please email this site.

County Seat

Plattsburg, the county seat, is located 30 miles S-SE of St. Joseph, MO and 35 miles N-NE of Kansas City, MO on Highway 116. Other communities include Cameron, Gower, Lathrop and Trimble.

Missouri counties with Clinton county in blue map Northwest Missouri counties map

Brief County History

by L. P. Grooms, Plattsburg, MO

Before the official founding of Clinton County, the area was settled by one John Livingston in 1830.  During his first winter it is reported he killed close to fifty black bears, 22 where the present-day Clinton County Courthouse stands.  Until the Platte Purchase, the area was "the border county" and sometimes known as the "Gateway to the West."

Clinton County is rich in heritage and history. It was established as a county in 1833 from the larger, older Clay county, home of Confederate soldier turned outlaw Jesse James.

The "History of Missouri" chapter in the book, Goodspeed's History of Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Crawford & Gasconade Counties Missouri, 1888, 1970, page 184, gives the "Dates of the organization of the counties, origin of their names, etc., Clinton {county name}--Organized January 15, 1833; reduced to its present limits in 1841.  Named for Vice-President George Cllinton, of New York.   This county seat was first called Concord, then Springfield, and finally Plattsburg, for the residence of Gov. Clinton." [submitted to MOCLINTO-L]

History of Clinton County Courthouse is on this site (opens in new window)

Some of the original pioneers included such family names as Biggerstaff, Fry, Livingston, Newby, Vassar, as well as several others. Plattsburg became the county seat and was soon a thriving community.

Biggerstaff Brothers store, Plattsburg Missouri
Biggerstaff Bros. store

Plattsburg MO barber shop circa 1900
Plattsburg Barber Shop circa 1900

War Between the States, Clinton Co. Missouri

Clinton County was primarily settled by Southerners, although it was well and bravely represented on both sides during the Civil War. Casualties include Confederate Rufus Kelley, who died in the Battle of Wilson's Creek in 1861, and Union Captain Turney who died in a skirmish just east of Plattsburg in 1864. Both brave soldiers are buried in the old Plattsburg Cemetery.

The Civil War divided Clinton County, who had forces and casualties representing both sides. The county was however, pro-southern in sentiment. Hassled by border guerrila warfare, Plattsburg (and Clinton County) was often terrorized by Quantrell's forces. Sen. David Rice Atchison was also known to stir up Southern sentiment against Jim Lane and the Kansas Redlegs. As with any warfare, there is no good side of battle. Many brave young men from the county representing both sides became casualties. A sad plight for neighbors and families.


Captain Dewitt Clinton McMichael, of Plattsburg, Missouri, soon after he was commissioned as Captain in the 13th Veteran Volunteer Calvalry Regiment in 1864. He began the Civil War in the 6th Missouri Militia, Company F as an enlisted man. Company F was made up of the "flower of Clinton County's finest" history records. The roster included Captain Charles C. Basset, afterwards a prominent lawyer in South Missouri, and Daniel M. Birch, fresh out of the Virginia University.

[looking for photo]

D.C. McMichael rose through the ranks quite fast and led the lead company through the charge at dowtown Independence, MO which routed Cabell's brigade out of that town. He also saw intense action at Westport and Newtonia, commanded the post at Liberty, and later became assigned to important posts in St. Louis.

Captain McMichael is of great interest to me as I currently live in the house of his father, Thomas McMichael, which was originally built in 1848 and finished around 1860 by the latter. He was an important methodist deacon who built the first church in Plattsburg out of logs (M.E. Church).

Incidently, his older brother John was Mayor of PLattsburg, served in the state senate, and started the original three newspapers in Plattsburg ...  The LeverThe Democrat, and  The Leader which is still published in 2003 by Steve Tinnen.

Much of this information, as well as the picture, has been supplied to me by Joel Hedrick, Civil War Historian and Author, who is writing a book about the 6th Missouri. The majority of the rest of the family research I have done. I am currently seeking any information on the McMichael family, Primarily John's descendents since he was the only child to outlive his dad and prosper. When his wife, Julia Lincoln McMichael, of the Clay County Lincolns, died in the 1930s she left a son John Morgan and a daughter Julia in NW Arkansas. Please email me if you have any Info, Thanks!

A sad note on D.C. McMichael is that he stayed in the military after the Civil War and was killed in 1877 leading a charge against the Modoc Indians in Oregon. He is buried in a NW U.S. National Cemetery. A long way from home for a Plattsburg hero to rest!


General Rosecrans - Key Union Commander in NW Missouri Operations During the War Between the States


General Sterling Price - Confederate Commander and home-town favorite, led many successful raids and battles throughout Missouri during the War Between The States.

by Helen Russell   Mar 4,1999

There has been more than one David Rice Atchison.   There are three small stones in the Green Lawn Cemetery with that name all located in the Atchison-Allen family  lot.  One for a child named David Rice Atchison that died at the age of three.  Another, with the same name, with the date of birth as 1840 & death in 1904.  It may be for the David Rice Atchison who  lived in Plattsburg and was elected as an Associate County Judge in 1894 and 1896 and elected Presiding Judge in 1898, which was two years after Sen. Atchison died.  Then, of course, the one for Senator Atchison.  He was born in Frogtown, KY  on August 11, 1807 and died at his farm home  in Clinton County on January 26, 1886.   There is one large stone in the middle of the lot with a great number of small stones  surrounding it - all the same size - about 15" high and a little over 12" wide.  Very unpretentious for such a great statesman.

It has been my goal for many years to inform people about David Rice Atchison and the fact that he should be remembered for what a great statesman he was.  Did you know that he entered college at the age of 14 and graduated with high honors at the age of 18?  The college he attended, and from which he was graduated was, Transylvania which later was incorporated in the University of Kentucky.

Sen. Atchison was admitted to practice law in Kentucky in 1829 at the age of 22.  The next year he moved to Clay County, MO and received  his license to practice in the Missouri Supreme Court.   Shortly thereafter he was appointed Major General of the Northern Division of the Missouri State Militia.  It was during this period of time that the problems arose with the Mormons in Missouri.  The governor ordered "that the Mormons must be treated as enemies and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace"  Sen. Atchison refused to execute the order and gave up his command and left the militia.  He is held in very high regard by the Mormons.

In 1833 he was appointed with two other men by the Governor of Missouri to select a seat of Justice for Clinton County, and of course you know  they selected Plattsburg.

Clay County elected him as State Legislator in 1834 and again in 1838.  It was during this period of time that he, along with several other men, was instrumental in obtaining the Platte Purchase which includes Platte, Buchanan, Andrew, Holt, Nodaway & Atchison counties. It should be pointed out that Atchison county was named in his honor.

He had been in the State of Missouri for eleven years, when the Governor appointed him to be Judge of the Circuit Court of Platte County and he moved to Platte City at that time.

Then in 1842, he was appointed to fill the unexpired term in the U.S. Senate and afterwards was elected to two consecutive terms in the Senate ending in 1855.

He was nominated for Governor of Missouri in 1843 but he declined.

I'm sure you all know the circumstances under which he become President but did you know that  in 1853, when Franklin Pierce was inaugurated, William R. King, the newly-elected vice president was in Havana, Cuba and Sen. Atchison took the oath for him, and at King's death just three months later, Sen Atchison became vice president and was paid accordingly.  He served in that position through December of 1854, almost two years.

An article about Sen Atchison published in The Globe, an Atchison, KS newspaper   on August 11, 1930 reads as follows: "In 1854 he was instrumental in forming the town company that founded Atchison, and the city and county were named after him.   Atchison County, MO., and Atchison township, Clinton County, MO., are also named after him.  The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad bears his name as one of its founders."   The article in telling of his being president of the U.S. for one day goes on to say, "... he was awakened in the wee hours that Sunday and told he was the only man left in the District of Columbia who could be sworn in as President.   He took the oath of office standing in his nightcap and nightshirt."

In 1855 he was regarded as a leader and chief advisor of the pro-slavery party in Kansas during the troubles which preceded the admission of that state.  Some twenty-five years later during an interview he was asked about being denounced as a "border ruffian".  He replied -"Well, the fact is, I saved many lives, as my object was to keep down the feud.  I was a peacemaker in the settlement of difficulties by Governor Shannon and counselled the 'ruffians' to forebearance.  But old John Brown, whom I never saw to my knowledge, continued to stir up the embers of discord and strife. I see even in friendly biographies of myself that none of them get at the truth."

In 1856 he was put in command of over eleven hundred men at a point called Santa Fe and in 1857 he moved to Clinton County - purchased 1,700 acres of land and built a spacious and elegant mansion which was destroyed by fire in 1870. He was quite upset because of the loss of  his extensive library and valuable records of his opinions and observations.   He replaced the mansion with a frame cottage and lived there in his farm home until his death in 1886.

During the Civil War he left for the South and was in the battle of Lexington.   Governor Jackson sent him a commission as brigadier general which he declined, as his residence in Clinton County was outside the limits of the division.  However, he remained in the army till after the battle of Elkhorn.

In the 1881 History of Clinton County there is a detailed news article that was printed in the St. Joseph Gazette concerning an Old Settler's Meeting attended by the old settlers of the Platte Purchase.  It was held in Buchanan County in September 1874.  "General David Rice Atchison was called upon to make the opening address, at which time he made one of his characteristic addresses interspersed with anecdotes and adventures that always gladden the hearts of the old and give pleasure and instruction to the young."

He spoke of those pioneer days the old people were all so familiar with, and of the hardships connected with them, which now appear like a chasm and a lure to the young.   Of all the speeches that day none were more affecting than the brief and pointed remarks of the venerable ex-President of the U.S. Senate. As a private citizen, no man was ever more highly esteemed, by all who knew him, than David Rice Atchison.  It is reported that he remarked that he had once presided over the US Senate, but presiding over this reunion of the old settlers of the Platte Purchase was a prouder position then he ever before occupied.

In September of 1882 a Plattsburg newspaper called The Lever ran the whole front page plus two additional columns covering an interview of Sen. Atchison by the editor, John M. McMichael and an un-named Republican representative.  To the question "General, please explain how you became President of the United States for one day?"  He replied,  "It was in this way:  Polk went out of office on the 3d of March 1849, on Saturday at 12 noon.  The next day, the 4th, occurring on Sunday, Gen. Taylor was not inaugurated.  He was not inaugurated till Monday, the 5th, at 12 noon.  It was then canvassed among Senators whether there was an interregnum (a time during which a country lacks a government).  It was plain that there was either an interregnum or I was the President of the United States being chairman of the Senate, having succeeded Judge Magnum of North Carolina.  The judge waked me up at 3 o'clock in the morning and said jocularly that as I was President of the United States he wanted me to appoint him as secretary of state.  I made no pretense to the office, but if I was entitled in it I had one boast to make, that not a woman or a child shed a tear on account of my removing any one from office during my incumbency of the place.  A great many such questions are liable to arise under our form of government".

The article spoke of his close friendship with Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, General Sam Houston and Jefferson Davis, President of the Southern Confederacy.

David Rice Atchison of Plattsburg was President for a Day.  You can read about on this page David Rice Atchison



Plattsburg, MO

Visit the Plattsburg, MO web site

Plattsburg MO Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber of Commerce is open Monday thru Friday from 9:00am to 12:00 pm, it is located at 101 S. Main Street, Plattsburg, MO. Right next to the old hotel.  They hope to see you there, mention you saw them on the web and get a free "Good Morning!"  For further info on the city, county, events, or historical information please call (816) 539-2649.


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updated June 11, 2013

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web page by Emmett Mason

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