Hickory County, Missouri
- Formed: February 14, 1845
- County Population 1860: 4,511
- Slave Population 1860: 196
Image courtesy of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield
Before the influx of white settlers to the area, Hickory County, Missouri was the territory of the Osage and Sac and Fox Native American tribes. The first non-Native Americans in the area were French fur traders, who named many locations in the county. The first permanent settlers began to arrive in the 1830s from the eastern United States, and included William C. Montgomery, Archibald Cock, the Jones Family, Hiram K. Turk and his family, and Samuel Tudy. Hiram Turk opened the first store. The first few years of settlement were filled with drama and tension, as the Turk and Jones families soon began a two year feud over a fistfight.
Hickory County is located among abundant fresh water sources, including the Pomme de Terre River, Osage River, Little Niangua River, Huffman’s Creek, Turkey Creek, Little Mills Creek, and Weaubleau Creek. The soil is extremely fertile and suitable for corn, oats, wheat, sorghum, rye, various vegetables, cotton, tobacco, apples, and peaches. The soil that is not conducive to agriculture is able to produce grazing grasses for cattle, horses, mules, and sheep. The county contains abundant timber, including oak, hickory, and walnut trees, was well was good building stone. There are also natural lead, iron, and zinc deposits.
The county was officially formed on February 14, 1845, and named after President Andrew Jackson’s nickname, “Old Hickory.” Joel B. Halbert held the first session of the county court in his home. A committee of three men—Henry Bartlett, William Lemon, and James Johnson—were appointed to name the county seat. This sparked feuds between people on the east and west sides of the Pomme de Terre River, as to which side the county seat should be located on. The county seat was named Hermitage, and located on a bend in the river where it is difficult to tell what side of the river it is located. The debate over the county seat was not fully resolved until the 1870s.
When the Civil War began in 1861, the county was roughly evenly divided between Union and Confederate support. The question of slavery was not a deciding factor in choosing loyalties, but rather the question of state’s rights. Many slaveholders, in fact, fought for the Union. Around 1,000 Hickory County men fought in several different regiments during the war. These included: Company B, 8th Regiment Cavalry, Missouri State Militia under Major John Cosgrove, Company I under Captain B.A. Reeder, Company E, 16th Regiment Cavalry, Missouri State Militia under Lieutenant Joel B. Halbert, and Companies C and B of the same regiment under Captain W.H. Liggett and John A. Pare respectively. There were no major battles within Hickory County boundaries, though the residents suffered terribly from guerrilla warfare and violence from both sides of the war. Most homes and businesses were burned, crops destroyed, and livestock killed during the war. Many residents fled Hickory County during the war and did not return. Those that did, return returned to almost nothing. Hickory County worked hard to rebuild itself, though it was a long process.
- History of Hickory, Polk, Cedar, Dade, and Barton Counties, Missouri (Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1889).