History of Monroe County

The Missouri Handbook: Monroe County

Embracing a full description of the state of Missouri; her agricultural, mineralogical and geological character; her water courses timberlands, soil and climate; the various railroad lines ... description of each county in the state; the emancipation ordinance.

Published in 1865

Author: Nathan Howe Parker

This county is located in the southern part of Northeast Missouri, and is the center of what is termed, the "Blue Grass Region" of Missouri. It is one of the large counties of the State, containing 422,703 acres, and in point of wealth, stands among the very first of those counties that have no large cities.


About two-thirds of the area of the county was originally timber land, and the remainder prairie. The prairies are not very large, and well distributed over the county, so that not many of the farms of the county, as now owned and occupied, are either wholly prairie or wholly timber. Both the prairie and timber lands yield abundant crops.


Of this there is a great abundance and of the best grades--enough to meet all demands for farm and building purposes. The following, among other varieties, are found: Black walnut, common shellbark, thick shell-bark and pig-nut hickories, white and blue ash, white and black burr, and many other varieties of oak; sugar tree, maple, linn, sycamore, etc. Of the smaller growth there are red and black haws, sumach, hazel, paw-paw, red-bud, and many others.


The quality of the soil may almost be gather from the foregoing. It is of the "bluff" formation, although not so well developed as in some other parts of the country.  Professor Swallow, in his geological survey of 1855, says, that the "bluff" formation prevails in this county, and that the soil is well adapted to corn, wheat, oats, and tobacco.  The clay underlying the soil is very productive. Manure is at hand, and the soil can be indefinitely improved by deep plowing and a proper rotation of crops.


There are ninety-seven school districts in the county, and a county school fund of over $107,000. This is loaned out at ten per cent interest, which is applied to maintaining free schools in every district in the county. The schools are kept open from four to nine months; and, including the county's share of the State fund, as much money is expended for school purposes in Monroe County as anywhere in the West, in proportion to population.


In all parts of the county there is the greatest abundance of running water. The North, Middle, Elk, and South Fork of Salt River pass through the county from east to west; and they and their tributaries afford good running fresh water throughout the dryest seasons.


Corn, wheat, oats, tobacco, timothy, and blue grass are the great staples of the county. Other crops and grasses are produced, but most attention is given to the above. The corn crop of 1879 made an average of forty bushels to the acre for the entire county. Blue grass grows spontaneously, and Monroe has as fine blue grass pastures as there are in the world, and a great many of them.


There are competing lines of railway to Chicago and St. Louis, the best markets in the west.


From the foregoing it is plain that Monroe is a great county for stock-raising, and, therefore, those of the farmers are doing best who are devoting themselves to that industry. All such are accumulating wealth from year to year. The census of 1880 will probably show that this is one of the greatest cattle, horse, mule, sheep, and hog-producing counties in the West. In point of size and quality, the cattle sent to market are unsurpassed, and command the top of the market.


All denominations are represented, and every neighborhood has its church and school-house. There is no such thing as ostracism for opinion's sakes.


Taking all the facts into consideration, it can be confidently asserted that nowhere can cheaper framing and stock-raising lands be bought than in Monroe County--the prices ranging from ten to twenty dollars for the best improved, and much lower for unimproved lands.

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