Cedar County, Missouri

Cedar County, Missouri

  • Formed: February 14, 1845
  • County Population 1860: 6,428
  • Slave Population 1860: 211
  • Civil War Engagements
    – Thomas Livingston’s Raid, July 11, 1863
    – Joseph Shelby’s Raid, Fall 1863
Campbell’s New Atlas of Missouri, 1874
Image courtesy of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

Cedar County, Missouri is located in the Sac River Basin which forms around the Sac River tributaries Spring, Bear, Cedar, Horse, and Alder Creeks. The county contains iron, copper, lead, and zinc deposits, though they were not heavily developed due to distance to the nearest railroad. Cedar County also contains natural coal deposits. Timber resources include oak, hickory, maple, walnut, pecan, sycamore, and cedar. Wild fruits, including apples, pears, cherries, and plums, are plentiful. The soil is very suitable for growing wheat, corn, oats, millet, tobacco, various vegetables, and grazing grasses. Natural mineral springs in the area served as a population draw.

The first non-Native American settlers were men named Robert Graham, Thomas English, John Crisp, and a man with the surname Crump and their families in 1832. Another early settler, John Williams, built the first mill in the county. Cedar County was officially formed on February 14, 1845, out of parts of Polk and Dade Counties, and was named after the abundant timber resources. Stockton was named the county seat, and several townships were established: Madison, Linn, Jefferson, Benton, Cedar, and Washington. Early in 1846, the county government worked to improve roads to minimize Stockton’s isolation from surrounding counties.

Political debate in the 1850s centered on the question of whether Kansas should enter the Union as a slave state or a free state. While Cedar County residents were not directly involved in the conflict, the debate formed sharp political divides between residents. These divides continued after the Kansas debate was settled, and when the Civil War broke out in 1861, Cedar County men fought in equal numbers for both Union and Confederate armies. Union troops held control of the county for most of the war, and stockade the courthouse as their headquarters. Bushwhackers were a constant threat to Cedar County residents and their property. There were no major battles in Cedar County boundaries, though Cedar County men took part in several battles, including the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in Greene County in August, 1861.

There were two notable raids in Cedar County. The first, the Livingston Raid, took place July 11, 1863. At the time, residents were all in the courthouse listen to two politicians—Orville P. Welch and William C. Montgomery—debate. Colonel Thomas R. Livingston led a group of Confederate soldiers into town, hoping to surprise the distracted Union troops. A skirmish ensued, and the raid was unsuccessful, resulting in Colonel Livingston’s death. The second raid, the Shelby Raid, occurred in the fall of 1863. Joseph Shelby led a large force of men into the county and burned the courthouse, though he did so without violence towards the residents. The county records had previously been removed and stored in Arkansas. Eventually, Union troops found the records and moved them to Springfield, where they were soon after returned to Cedar County.

Cedar County men enlisted in several different military regiments. Union regiments included: 7th Provisional Regiment, Enrolled Missouri Militia under Captain P.H. Rohrer, Companies A and M, 15th regiment, Missouri Volunteer Cavalry under Captain Dennis H. Connaway, a local man, 8th Regiment Missouri State Militia, and Battery H, 20th Missouri Light Artillery under William C. Montgomery. Local men included in these regiments included J.J. Gravely and James Lawthorn, later Cedar County Sheriff and a state representative. Confederate troops, called the “Stockton Grays,” were organized under Captain Benjamin F. Walker and First Lieutenant Russell Lilburn, both Cedar County residents.

After the war, the county began to rebuild itself through the tourism industry. The mineral springs in the area became sites of health resorts, including El Dorado Springs, founded in 1881, and Jerico Springs, founded in 1883. During the late summer of each year, people began to travel to these springs from all over the country to reap their touted healing benefits, bringing their business with them. The healing springs also served to make a large permanent population. The population in El Dorado Springs alone was almost 4,000 in 1889.

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  • Consulted:
  • Cedar County, Missouri: History and Families, Cedar County Historical Society (Paducah, KY: Turner Publishing Company, 1998).