Lewis County, located in northeast Missouri, is known for its rich history and rural charm. From significant Civil War battles to its influential residents, Lewis County has a fascinating past. Here are 7 interesting facts about Lewis County in Missouri history.
1. The first child born in Monticello
Monticello, the county seat of Lewis County, was founded in 1835 and is named after the home of Thomas Jefferson. The first child born in Monticello was Eliza Jane Phillips in 1836. Her father, Jesse Phillips, served as the county's second sheriff.
2. Battle of Athens
During the Civil War, Lewis County was the site of the Battle of Athens, which occurred on August 5, 1861. The Union forces, led by Colonel David Moore, defeated the Confederate forces, led by Colonel Martin E. Green. This battle delayed the advance of General Sterling Price's Confederate army and allowed Union troops to fortify their positions in Missouri.
3. Nauvoo to Monticello
In the 1840s, many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons, settled in Nauvoo, Illinois, which is across the Mississippi River from Lewis County. When the Mormons were forced to leave Nauvoo, many of them settled in Lewis County, with a significant number establishing themselves in Monticello.
4. Hiram Young
Hiram Young was born into slavery in Kentucky in 1801. After gaining his freedom, he moved to Missouri and became one of the most successful black businessmen in the state. Young owned a lumber mill, a ferry, and a sawmill, and was instrumental in building the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad through Lewis County.
5. The Chippewa Indians
The Chippewa Indians were the first known inhabitants of what is now Lewis County. They were semi-nomadic and relied on hunting, fishing, and gathering for their livelihood. Although there were no Chippewa settlements in Lewis County, they frequently traveled through the area on their hunting expeditions.
6. Champ Clark
James Beauchamp "Champ" Clark was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1893 to 1921 and Speaker of the House from 1911 to 1919. He was born in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, but moved to Lewis County as a child when his father, John Hampton Clark, was elected judge. Champ Clark's childhood home is now a museum in Bowling Green, Missouri.
7. Fort Belle Fontaine
Fort Belle Fontaine was one of the earliest military installations in Missouri, established in 1805 on the Missouri River near the present-day town of Portage Des Sioux. It was named for a nearby spring that the French called Belle Fontaine. The fort served as a trading post and military garrison and was the site of the Council of 1815, where several Native American tribes signed a treaty with the U.S. government.
In conclusion, Lewis County has a rich and diverse history that has shaped both the county itself and the state of Missouri. From Native American tribes to Civil War battles, and influential citizens, Lewis County has much to offer and it is worth learning about its history.
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