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Cultural Heritage Center

103 S. 4th Street
Linn, MO 65051
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Osage County overview

Osage county is in Central Missouri.

Loose Creek Bluff
St Louis, the metropolis of the Mississippi Valley, is 85 miles from the eastern border.  Jefferson City, the capital of the State, is 10 miles from the western boundary.  The physical boundaries of the county are the Osage on the west; the Missouri on the north, while the meanderings of the Gasconade establishes in part the boundary on the east.  Maries county lies just south.  The county has an area of 375, 336 acres and a population, according to the census of 1910, of 14,283 people.

The predominating geological formations are limestone and sandstone.  Lead, coal, kaolin and iron ore have been discovered in various parts of the county, but not in quantities sufficient to hazard the cost of an attempt at commercial development.  Topographically, considered, the county shows the effect of the glacial period.  Hills and valleys of irregular formations stretch in all directions.  The strata of rock, irregular in position, shows the result of the upheaval.  The main watershed is an irregular promontory stretching from the Maries county line to the Missouri river.  Diverging from this mainland are numerous lesser watersheds, feeding tributaries of the Osage and Gasconade rivers.  The great bluffs overlooking the larger and smaller streams are objects of scenic interest and beauty.  Rising precipitously hundreds of feel above the streams at their base, they are majestic in their proportions.  They are practically unexplored, notwithstanding that industry has for years been carried on about them.  Nature has dealt lavishly in forming a landscape of beauty.  Prodigious hill and fertile valleys ever delight the eye with scenic variations.  Rome’s seven hills, celebrated in literary metaphor, are abashed by the seventy and seven hills of Osage.  Nature shows a curious and interesting workmanship.  Some formations suggest the spectacular and delightful Alps, while nestling at their base are fertile valleys, yielding abundantly blade and grain in response to human industry.  Nowhere in all the vast expanse of the American continent can be found a country of equal are yielding products, domestic and natural, of greater variety.  The oak, sycamore, cottonwood, elm, ash, walnut and hickory are the natural product of hill and valley.  Civilization introduced a variety of domestic products which yield their rich portion in season.  Not only does the topography of the county and the carried character of its soil permit the production of the variety of staple articles, but nature well adapted all elements to the first requirements of the pioneer.  The numerous streams abounded with fish, the woods with game and the hills and valleys with wild fruit.  These, with crystal springs of never-failing water, fulfilled the pioneer’s vision of an earthly paradise.  While making conquest of the forest and laying the foundations for the more improved civilization to follow, nature yielded abundantly to the wants of the early settler.  True, the valleys, covered with a growth of luxuriant oak, about which were dense hanging foliage, spread malaria in his path.  Even the residents of the high hills escaped not the unsparing ravages of disease peculiar to the undeveloped country.  Owing to the nature of the country it yielded stubbornly to conquest.  The sturdy settler battled heroically with his new environments, making progress by slow and difficult stages.

Life in Osage county in the pioneer days was typical of that in the colonial period.  Log house with puncheon floors sufficed the needs of the early settler.  The more prosperous of that period lived in two-roomed log houses, with an entry between.  All houses had their celebrated fireplaces, these at one end of the building.  Huge rock chimneys on the outside carried away the great volume of smoke.  Home life was simple and hospitality was the predominating virtue.  The early settler was not harassed by the Indian as was his Virginia forebears.  Ere settlement was made here the Indian had moved further west and south.  The first while settlers were in exclusive control of the territory.  Prior to occupancy of the land by the whites, the Osage, Shawnee and Delaware Indians inhabited the country.  Before them were the mound builders, who, from evidences now apparent, must have numerously populated this region. Interested parties have made excavations and found skeletons and stone implements peculiar to that prehistoric race.  A regularity of earth formations in Benton township, south of Chamois, indicate that the mound builders resided there in great numbers.  These formations have both the appearances of natural and artificial creations.  Their vast size suggests the difficulty of artificial construction, while their regularity gives almost positive assurance that they are not the work of nature.


The first settlers in Osage County were the French near Cote Sans Dessein, near the present site of Bonnots Mill, where they established trading posts with the Indians, with whom they much thrown in social intercourse.  History gives us no particulars of their crude form of social government, but tradition informs us that they lived a life of social merriment in which the peaceable Indian participated.  This was about the beginning of the nineteenth century.  The gradual encroachment of the Missouri river upon the settlers village dispersed them and they moved to points more remote in the interior of the county and by degrees familiarized themselves with the processes of farming.  The great overflow of 1844 drove the last resident from French Village and the town ceased to exist.  Thereafter Dauphine- now Bonnots Mill – was established.

About the year 1833 a colony of educated Westphalians located in the western part of the county on the big and little Maries.  These sturdy characters were ambitious to establish institutions of learning in the new country.  They were devout Catholics and aspired to give the world an example of devotion to faith by establishing institutions of learning calculated to promote the growth of their religion.  They made a map of the Osage and Maries region.  Showing the location of settlers’ farms, roads, and other places then regarded of importance.  The beautiful town of Westphalia was established by them, which became their headquarters and to which immigrations from the fatherland poured in.  They were an industrious people who prospered in the new land of their adoption.

The first of the American-born immigrants were Virginians, who settled in the interior of the county on land adapted to the growth of tobacco.  They selected the high hills, rejecting the more fertile valley land, which could have been obtained at no greater cost.  They were a peaceable people who, while not indolent, took life easy.  Their environments were adapted to the full enjoyment of their tastes.  The fox chase was a community affair in which success was evidence of valor or failure, humiliation.   The tables were well supplied with venison, the skin of the deer being converted into buckskin trousers, a staple garment in those days.  All domestic services were performed by the women, who procured wood and water and often solved the vexatious problem of supplying, by ingenious preparation of materials at hand, the table wants of the family.  These conditions had established themselves without serious consideration of the respective duties of the sexes.  The early settle answered the call of the wild as the first law of his nature.  He was not disturbed with ethical problems of home life further than require morality and virtue in the home.  If the women performed more than their share of work, their endurance was regarded as proof that not too much had been required.  No Lochinvar could woo with greater ardor than the sturdy young suitor of that period, but once having acquired possession of the object of his affection could, he reverted to type and lived true to the example set by the fathers.

While there was apparent a palpable inequality in the domestic requirements of the sexes of that early day, yet the men were not lacking in respect and affection for the women.  The domestic structure was the creation of long custom.  With no pretension to aesthetic tastes, they accepted without question the perfect idealism of their primitive conditions.  They were jealous of any invasion that threatened established customs.  The head of the family concerned himself with the work, which the mother of the family could not perform.  His duties were to annually clear additional land, put in the crop and cultivate it.  But these duties were not permitted to interfere with his pleasures.  He could discern with fine discrimination the favorable or unfavorable signs of the weather for fishing, and always yielded to his native impulses in matters of this character.  The summer months afforded him much delight on the banks of streams, where he kept tense vigil at his lines.  During the winter months he spent much of his time in the woods in quest of game, and he demonstrated prowess with the crude firearms he possessed.  The rifle, loaded at the muzzle, was the chief implement of execution.  Occupying a place of high esteem was a long-eared, deep bass-voiced hound, who endurance was a quality of admiration.  That hound that laid out in the chase or was outdistanced by the others subjected himself to speedy dispatch.  No man in the community dared venture the humiliation of the ownership of a hound that shirked in the chase.  In fact, he craved no higher honors than the distinction of owning the best pack in the community.

But the provincialism of the earlier day has been succeeded by the history of the present-an era of progress, prosperity and culture, an expression of the red blood and indomitable character of the early settlers.  Improved farms, the best breeds of horses and cattle, and the adaptation of scientific methods in farming are everywhere evident in rural life.  Churches and schools dot the hills and valleys of the county, whereby is reflected an advance in social life and culture.

The public affairs of the county have been economically and honestly administered, and neither suspicion or scandal has been directed at a public official.  The mass of the people are intelligent, honest and industrious, and the general effort is towards industrial progress and a higher idealism.


Osage county has always furnished her full quota of patriotic men when the nation demanded their services.  We recall but one who served in the war of 1812-Major Jesse Evans.  Col. Adam Miller, whose name was a household word in Osage County, and who was intimately identified with her material interests, served in the Seminole Indian was in Florida.

The Mexican war was the signal for a ready and enthusiastic response on the part of the leading citizens of the county.  J. W. Hawkins, militia colonel, called a meeting at Linn in June 1846.  An organization was effected with August Rainey as captain and John Scott first lieutenant.  Capt. Rainey’s company went to Fort Leavenworth, where it remained six weeks and, not being needed, returned home.  Captain Rainey died on his return home and William Reynolds, one of the company who became a major, died later while in the service.

At the outbreak of the Civil war Osage County had more slaves than any territory of equal area between the Osage and Meramec.  In 1860 there were over 200 slaves in the county, and the richest slave-owner in the whole region resided in Osage County.

After the election of President Lincoln, Osage County became much interested in Civil was issues.  J. W. Blount was representative of the county in the State Legislature and was a supporter of Gov. Claiborne Jackson’s war policy, a position out of harmony with the prevailing sentiment of the representative men of all  parties in the county.

The Home Guard movement had its birth in the summer of 1861.  The mission of this organization was to protect public property, bridges and railroads and facilitate the operations of federal troops.  Capt. J.K. Kidd formed the first Home Guards at Cooper Hill, and later Medora became general headquarters.  Among the captains of Home Guards were John and Henry Burnett, J.W. Glover, Sam Miller, Felix Bonnot and W. W. Price. Contemporaneous with these organizations was the formation of State Guards, under direction of Governor Jackson, by J.T. Berry, who was appointed enrolling officer for Osage County.  Governor Jackson’s withdrawal from the State capital led to the gradual dispersion of these men, some joining the confederate forces and other going into the federal militia or regular troops.

In August 1861, Capt. J.K. Kidd organized the Osage Independent Mounted Rifle Company, which he took to St Louis.  In the fall of 1861, Col. George B. Boomer of Castle Rock recruited, from the Home Guards, the Twenty-sixth Missouri Volunteer Infantry.  This regiment distinguished itself for bravery and its commander, Colonel  Boomer, was a conspicuous and valant leader in many memorable combats.  Today his name occupies a position of high esteem in the hearts of the old soldiers, and to his memory there is accorded a reverence singularly profound and grateful.  The local Grand Army of the Republic organization takes its name from him.

In 1862 Col. Adam Miller, who was enrolling officer for Osage County, began the formation of militia companies.  The first enrolled was Company A, under Captain David Hopkins.  Company B was also enrolled at Linn under Captain Marion Davis.  Then followed the organization at Linn of Company C, E.W. Anderson, Captain; Company D, J.W. Williams, Captain; Company E, Mat Stiefermann, captain; Company F, P.J.Combey, captain; at Westphalia Company G, S Borgmeyer, captain; at Koelztown Company H, H. Strobach, captain; at Linn, Company I, J.C. Dessieux, captain; at Westphalia, Company J, George Laverenz, captain; at Linn, Company K, D.C. Duncan, captain; Company L, G.J. McKnight, captain. David Hopkins of Company A first had general administrative control of the companies, but dissatisfaction arising from his radical rule, Col. Zevely was placed in charge, who vigorous yet just policy restored harmony among the men and peace in the county.  Many of those composing these companies originally served in Governor Jackson’s State Guards.  This militia organization was subject to federal orders, but its chief duty was to guard the lines of transportation in the county.  Medora, originally headquarters of the Home Guards, surrendered its military prestige to Linn, which afterward became the center of the Home Guards organization.

The years 1861-1862 were productive of much bitterness and frequent troubles. Assailed by disturbers within and marauders from without.  Osage county experienced its share of war history.  General Price, in his famous raid from St. Louis to Jefferson City, invaded the county in October 1864.  His army, driven to desperation by want, and hardened by years of warfare, plundered as they went, talking the best horses and plundering homes of all articles that were of value.  Little food was left in the country after Price’s invasion.

The Home Guards were under Maj. Chesley Glover, a man of broad sympathies, loyal patriotism and unquestioned integrity.  This organization was subject to orders from Rolla to Pacific.  Gradually it was absorbed by the regular troops and the enrolled militia, which later organization was formed at Linn in the fall of 1862, with L. Zevely, colonel; Adam Miller, lieutenant-colonel; W.J. Williams, major, and August Kleinsorge, adjutant.

The Thirty-third Missouri Volunteer Infantry, commanded by Col. C.B.Fiske; the Sixth and Tenth Cavalry Volunteers, with some Iowa regiments, embraced 456 men from Osage county.  There were 181 in the Twenty-Six, 102 in the Iowa troops and 120 men, organized at Linn August, 1864, in the Forty-eighth Missouri Volunteer Infantry.

Osage County passes through the reconstruction period with considerable agitation, but without serious overt acts.  Oaths of loyalty, dispossession of office and disfranchisement of voters instituted an unpopular regime, which, however, gradually gave way to more tolerant and charitable rule.

During the Spanish-American war Osage county supplied a number of young volunteers for the army, some of whom saw active service.  A company was organized at Linn in the summer of 1898; J.C. Von Arx being elected captain and Hermann Tillman first lieutenant.  This company endeavored to get into the service, but, not being needed, did not get into the field.  The company was organized independent of orders, hence was not a recognized military organization.


The 1st courthouse erected in Osage County was in 1843 at the cost of $3,420.79.  The contract for the building of the second courthouse was let in 1872 at the cost of $28, 993.41.  This building was completed in 1874; destroyed by fire Sunday night November 15, 1880, and rebuilt at the cost of $13,000.

The first jail erected in Osage county was in 1844 at a cost of $133.14.  The present building was erected in 1858 at a cost of $2,560.

The county poor farm was created in 1853 with 108 acres.  The present building was erected in 1893 at a cost of $4,550.  The present farm consists of ten acres.

Contract for the erection of the bridge across Doolin’s creek, near Chamois, in sum of $684, was let August 17, 1891.

The contract for the erection of the bridge across Loose creek, near Isbell, in sum of $4,000, was let August 17, 1891.

The contract for the erection of the bridge across the Maries creek, near Westphalia, was let November 22, 1892.  Bridge was built in 1893.  Contract price $14,000.

The contract for the erection of the bridges across Swan creek and the Gasconade river at or near Rollin’s ferry in sum of $12,440 was let June 29, 1897.  Bridge was completed in 1898.