Polk County, Missouri American History and Genealogy Project

"Campbell's Gazetteer of Missouri"
C. A. Campbell, St. Louis, 1875

From the "Polk County" section of the above book:


In the south-western part of the State, is bounded north by St. Clair and Hickory Counties, east by Dallas, south by Greene, and west by Dade and Cedar Counties, and contains 422,400 acres.

Population in 1840, 8,449; in 1850, 6,186; in 1860, 9,995; in 1870, 12,445, of whom 12,186 were white and 259 colored, 6,249 male and 6,196 female, 12,364 native (6,794 born in Missouri) and 81 foreign.

History. The first settlements were made as early as 1820, by emigrants from Tennessee, although the county was not organized until March 13th, 1835, up to which time it had formed a part of Greene County. It was named in honor of James K. Polk, of Tennessee. The first court was held September 7th, 1835, at Bolivar, Chas. H. Allen presiding, and Joseph English sheriff. Of the grand jury then impanelled there is only one survivor Amos Richardson, who lives near Humansville. John S. Phelps, of Springfield, was the first attorney admitted to practice in this court, his signature bearing date of August 7th, 1837. During the late war this county suffered slightly compared with others in its vicinity.

Physical Features. The face of the country is generally undulating, but somewhat broken along the streams, and very diversified, being nearly equally divided between prairie and timber. The Pomme de Terre River enters at the south-eastern corner, and, flowing north-westerly, leaves near the center of the northern boundary. By this stream, and its numerous tributaries and sub-tributaries, the county is abundantly watered in the eastern and central parts, while in the west are many creeks and branches which flow into the Sac River. The streams are clear and rapid, and at many different points afford fine water power. The finest timber is along the streams, and consists chiefly of the different varieties of hickory, oak, elm, walnut, cherry, maple and sycamore. The soil, which is generally rich and productive, is classed as white ash, black loam and red clay, the latter being peculiarly adapted to the raising of wheat.

There are many extensive and beautiful prairies, among which are the Twenty-five Mile Prairie, which covers an area of 20 square miles, in the northern portion of the county, and is separated by the Pomme de Terre from Sentinel and Flint Prairies, which lie in the midst of the oak woodlands of the north-east. On the east is Buffalo Head Prairie, several miles in extent, and near the center of the county is Three Mound Prairie, so called from three mounds of vermicular sandstone in the vicinity. There are, also, Pleasant Prairie in the southern. Crisp Prairie in the south-western, and Valley Prairie in the west and north-western parts. The latter commences at a point 9 miles west of the center of Polk and extends north-west to the Osage River, near Osceola, in St. Clair County. Fine springs abound, and at Bolivar, at Humansville, on Col. Acock's plantation, 10 miles south-east of Bolivar, and in several other localities these are impregnated with sulphate of iron, and other minerals. On the East Fork of Sac River, near the village of Orleans, and ten miles south-west from Bolivar, are the Wallula Chalybeate springs, noted for their medicinal properties. These issue from the rocks, high up among the hills of the river, into which they pour their waters. The surroundings are exceedingly beautiful, the hills rise above the narrow valleys in terraces and escarpments, and terminate in isolated, grotesque cliffs. Far below, the waters of the river are seen gleaming through the foliage that fringes its banks, while beyond is Pleasant Prairie, with its broad farms and well-cultivated fields, and in the distance the Ozark Hills form an indistinct, irregular outline against the horizon.

Agricultural Productions. Tobacco is a sure and profitable crop, and many farmers are turning their attention to its culture. The soil is well adapted to the cereals, vegetables and grasses that flourish in this latitude, blue grass growing spontaneously, and wheat yielding an average of 20 bushels per acre, while the bottom lands produce immense crops of corn, etc. There are many fine orchards, and apples, pears, peaches and plums yield plentifully, some of the native varieties being sweet and palatable. The soil also seems adapted to the growth of the grape, as the indigenous varieties grow in abundance. Stock-growing is an important interest. Horses, mules, cattle, hogs and sheep are raised, the climate being most favorable to the last named.

Mineral Resources. Lead and sulphuret of zinc are found in small quantities. On the border of Flint Prairie are the traces of "old diggings," which have led many to believe that some valuable mineral has been found, and still exists there, but it is possible they were made by the aborigines to obtain flint for their arrow-points. Polk County rests upon a formation of magnesian limestone, which is easily quarried, and furnishes excellent building stone. In many places this formation is super-laid with a coarse brown sandstone, destitute of fossils, and not valuable for building purposes; and under this deposit lies that singular argillaceous sand-rock known as the vermicular, or worm-eaten, while above this formation encrinital limestone is found, which, when burned, makes good lime. The bluffs of the Pomme de Terre are magnesian limestone capped with ferruginous sandstone, and in the eastern portion of the county but little of any other formation is found. The East Fork of Sac River cuts through ledges of shelly lime-stone, and through vermicular rock into the magnesian series. In portions of the county red sandstone is the prevailing rock. In the bottoms of the Pomme de Terre, the remains of the mastodon and mammoth, with other species now extinct, have been found imbedded with the bones of the bear, buffalo, elk, wolf, etc.

The manufacturing interests are mainly confined to grist and saw-mills, to the production of home-made cloth and other fabrics, and to the manufacture of wagons.

Wealth. Valuation of the county per census of 1870, $4,500,000.

The Exports are corn, wheat, rye, hogs, cattle.

The Educational Interests are attracting more attention yearly. The number of schools at present is ZZ. There are high schools at Bolivar and Morrisville; the former connected with the graded school, the latter under the auspices of the M. E. Ch. South.

BOLIVAR, the county seat, incorporated in 1867, is pleasantly situated near the center of the county, and is 90 miles s. of Sedalia and 30 miles n. of Springfield, with both of which places it is connected by daily mails. It contains 3 hotels, 2 churches M. E. Ch. South and Baptist, and a high school building, 1i bank, 18 stores, 2 cabinet, 2 wagon and 2 saddle and harness shops, 1 wool-carding machine, 1 cotton gin, 1 steam saw and 1 steam flouring-mill, and 2 newspapers The Free Press, edited by James Dumars, and The Herald, edited by L. J. Ritchie. The present court-house was built in 1841. It is a brick structure somewhat antique in style, but in a good state of preservation. Pop., about 750.

Brighton, 12 miles s. e. of Bolivar, contains 1 store.

Fair Play, 10 miles w. of Bolivar, contains 2 stores.

Halfway, 12 miles e. of Bolivar, has 2 stores, 1 wagon shop, etc.

Humansville, 16 miles n. w. of Bolivar, was one of the first settled towns in the county. It contains 9 stores and 1 cooper and 1 saddler's shop. Population, about 300.

Morrisville, 10 miles s. of Bolivar, contains a population of about 100, and 2 stores.

Orleans, 10 miles s. w. of Bolivar, has 1 store, and a flouring and saw-mill.

Payne's Prairie, a post-office 9 miles n. e. of Bolivar.

Pleasant Hope, 17 miles s. e. of Bolivar, contains a carding-machine, 2 stores and some shops.

Assessed valuation in 1873, $2,737,678. Taxation, $1.70 per $100. Bonded debt, $43,500. Floating debt, $10,000.

Rondo, a post-office 10 miles n. of Bolivar.

Sentinel Prairie, is a post-office 14 miles n. e. of Bolivar.

The nearest railroad station to all of these towns is Springfield, in Greene County, 30 miles distant from Bolivar.

This website created June 3, 2015 by Sheryl McClure.
2017 Missouri American History and Genealogy Project