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The Missouri State Penitentiary, located in Jefferson City, was once the oldest operating prison west of the Mississippi River. It opened in 1836 and closed in 2004.
Cooper County, Missouri, located in the central part of the state, has a rich and fascinating history that spans over two centuries. The county was established in 1818 and named after Sarshell Cooper, who was a prominent figure in early Missouri politics. The early settlers in the area were mostly of German and Scotch-Irish descent, and they played a significant role in shaping the county's identity.

In the 19th century, Cooper County became an important hub for trade and transportation. It was situated along the Missouri River, which allowed for easy access to the western frontier. The county seat, Boonville, quickly developed into a bustling river town and a center for industry and commerce. The town played a vital role during the California Gold Rush in the 1840s and 1850s, as many pioneers set out from Boonville to seek their fortunes in the West.

During the American Civil War, Cooper County became a contentious battleground. The county was initially pro-Union, but as tensions escalated and Missouri became deeply divided, it became a focal point for conflict between Union and Confederate forces. The Battle of Boonville in 1861 was a pivotal moment in the early stages of the war, as Union troops secured a significant victory and established control over the area.

After the war, Cooper County saw a period of reconstruction and recovery. The railroad arrived in Boonville, bringing new opportunities for trade and travel. The county's agriculture industry flourished, with farmers producing tobacco, hemp, and livestock. In the 20th century, Cooper County continued to thrive, with the growth of manufacturing and the expansion of educational institutions.

Today, Cooper County retains its historical charm while embracing modern progress. Its rich heritage is reflected in its museums, historic sites, and annual festivals that celebrate its past. From its early settlement days to its role in westward expansion and its resilience during difficult times, Cooper County's history is woven into the fabric of Missouri's story.

This timeline provides a concise overview of the key events in the history of Cooper County, Missouri.

  • 1804: Cooper County was established by an act of the territorial legislature of Missouri.
  • 1816: The county seat was originally located in Boonville.
  • 1820: Missouri officially became a state, and Cooper County was recognized as one of its counties.
  • 1826: Boonville was incorporated as a city.
  • 1833: The first courthouse in Cooper County was completed in Boonville.
  • 1836: The Boonville Saline Land Office opened, attracting settlers to the area.
  • 1846: The first railroad, the Pacific Railroad, reached Boonville, stimulating economic growth.
  • 1861: During the Civil War, Boonville was the site of the Battle of Boonville, a Union victory.
  • 1878: The current Cooper County Courthouse was built in Boonville as a replacement for the original courthouse.
  • 1903: The first electric streetcar system was introduced in Boonville.
  • 1924: The first bridge connecting Boonville and New Franklin was completed.
  • 1960: The Katy Trail State Park, a popular recreational trail, was established, passing through Cooper County.
  • 1970: The Isle of Capri Casino opened in Boonville, contributing to the local economy.
  • 1993: The Thespian Hall in Boonville was added to the National Register of Historic Places.