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Livingston County

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County coordinator and webmaster: Sharlene K. Miller, CG

History of Livingston County, MO

Source: Livingston County History - Celebrating 150 Years 1821 -1981, Editor Ruth Seiberling, Published by The Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Chillicothe, Missouri, 1981.

Early Missouri and Livingston County Information:

The area that eventually became Livingston County was originally part of unattached Indian Lands Louisiana Territory.  In 1804, the U.S. Government acquired what was called the Louisiana Purchase from France.  This acquisition included a major portion of the lands west of the Mississippi River.  From 1804 to 1810 the area that is now Livingston County was not yet a county and very few white settlers lived in the area.  When the 1820 census was taken, this area was considered to be Howard County. 

By 1830 more people were moving into the area and Howard County had been divided into Chariton, Ray and Clay Counties.  The area where Livingston County, now is was at that time part of Ray County.

On January 6, 1837, Livingston County officially became a county when Governor Daniel Dunklin signed legislation enacting the formation of Livingston County.  The first boundaries of Livingston County included what is now Grundy and Mercer counties, reaching all the way to the line between Missouri and the Iowa Territory.

The county was named for the Hon. Edward Livingston, the eleventh Secretary of State, of the United States under President Andrew Jackson.

By 1850, Grundy and Mercer counties became separate governmental units and were officially counties at the time the 1850 census was enumerated.

Early  History

The land that came to be called Livingston County dates back much further than 1837. Before settlers came to the area the land was populated by its natural inhabitants - coyotes, beavers, squirrels, panthers, deer and rabbits. The Grand River flowed from the northwest to southeast, shagbark hickory, cottonwood, and white oak growing on its banks. Beneath the prairie grass covered hills a sub-soil of clay and thin veins of coal lay hidden.
Indians lived in the area.  One old trail crossed Medicine Creek and went north to the mouth of Honey Creek. Several different tribes lived in the area using these primitive trails.  It was not uncommon to find  Chippewa, Sac, Fox and Pottawatomie Indians on these trails. They camped for near the waterways; following the wildlife and game. Burial mounds along the bank of the Grand River provides evidence that Indians lived in Livingston County. They were the first known occupants of Livingston County.  They had several settlements in the county.  One village was located about a mile west of the present site of Chillicothe; another was located on Medicine Creek; another on the bluffs on the east fork of Grand River. One village was located three miles southeast of the present town of Springhill, another west of Farmersville.   As white settlers moved into the area, the Indians were forced to move further west.  The Shawnees were the last tribe to leave. They left behind the name of their town - Chillicothe. Other early inhabitants of Livingston County included French trappers.  They explored this region early as 1724. About six miles below the mouth of the Grand River, the French had trading post. Trappers covered many miles trading with the Indians for fur from beaver and otter.

In 1837, when the county was officially established, the Livingston County Court began to plat the town of Chillicothe.  Two men involved in this early process were John graves and Nathan Gregory.  The lots were then put up for sale.  Joseph Cox' home served as the venue of early court sessions as early as 1832, but the first courthouse was built in 1838, but was not the same building that is the courthouse today.  A second courthouse was built in 1841 at the corner of Webster ad Cherry Streets.


The railroad began trying to establish a line across the northern part of the state as early as 1846. The name of the railroad was the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad. The line was completed in the year 1859 and the first train left Hannibal early in the morning and by evening the passengers had traveled the entire distance across the state.

Chillicothe - City Improvements

The city was one that always took price in how the town looked.  The founding fathers layed out the city lots in an orderly fashion, they built a new courthouse in 1841; worked on getting the railroad to come through the city in 1846 to 1859.  In the 1870’s and 80’s an effort was made to keep black locust trees out of the city park and the city council passed an ordinance that said livestock must be kept fenced.  The city installed electric lights in 1885.  To conserve electricity they were not operated on Sundays.  One year later a telephone system was also installed and people could travel from one part of town to the next in the mule drawn street car. It was not long before a new Opera House was constructed and a new hotel called the Leeper Hotel was opened.

Notes:  Other communities in Livingston County

  • Avalon - in Fairview Township - established in 1869; was known as Scott's Mound before it was officially platted and became Avalon.
  • Bedford - Original name of town was Laborn; suffered damage from tornadoes and bushwhackers during the 1860s and 1880s.
  • Chula - 1st plot of ground given for town in January 1890.  It was incorporated on October 7, 1893.  Town newspaper called "The Chula Home Press" and later became "The Chula News."
  • Dawn - some evidence that there was a settlement in this area as early as 1829.  Town newspaper called the "Dawn Clipper,"
  • Farmersville - the first plot for this settlement was made January 10, 1870.  It is only 1/4 miler south of the Grundy - Livingston County line.
  • Ludlow - established in 1877.
  • Mooresville - platted in 1860 and named for W. B. Moore.
  • Sampsel - platted July 31, 1871 by John C. Whitaker.
  • Springhill - Established in 1840
  • Sturges - formed because of the railroad in 1887. 
  • Utica - platted in 1837 - named for Roderick Matson, who first settled in the area.  He was from Utica, NY.
  • Wheeling - platted on October 7, 1865 by John Nay.


Links to other sites:

Livingston County Public Library - online version of the History of Caldwell and Livingston and Counties , published in 1886.

Note to Contributors to this Site!

If you have information to contribute, please e-mail me: Sharlene Miller with your information and if it is appropriate, I will be happy to add it to the website.