Lawrence County, Missouri

Lawrence County, Missouri

  • Formed: 1845
  • County Population 1860: 5,000
  • Slave Population 1860: 245
  • Civil War Engagements
    -Rebel Flag Episode, February 18-19, 1862
    -Suffered constant guerrilla warfare
Campbell’s New Atlas of Missouri, 1874
Image courtesy of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield

The Osage Indians were the first residents in Lawrence County, Missouri. White settlers from Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia began to settle the land in 1831 pushing the Osages out of the area. The first permanent, non-Native American settlers were James M. White, Daniel Beal, Jacob and Mary Miller, and William Lumley, a Revolutionary War veteran.

In 1840, the population was estimated to be about 500 people. The early settlers grew corn, wheat, potatoes, melons, tomatoes, and beans. They earned a living by hunting beaver, wolves, and fox for their furs, and then traded these furs in St. Louis for salt, iron, and cloth. The settlers in Lawrence County also grew limited amounts of cotton and flax for cloth fibers. They relied on honey and maple sap for sweeteners, and raised cattle, sheep, horses, mules, and pigs. Lawrence County location near the Spring River, along with many other creeks and streams, and the Lake of the Ozarks helped the community grow. The area contains natural zinc and lead deposits, and many timber resources. Black walnuts and several kinds of wild game—turkeys and deer, for example—were readily available to early settlers.

The county was officially formed in 1845 from parts of Barry and Dade Counties, with the county seat at Mt. Vernon. By 1850, the population was close to 5,000 people. By 1860, there was a slave population in Lawrence of 285 people. Lawrence County was named after naval officer Captain James Lawrence, who served and died in the War of 1812. The town of Chesapeake was named after his ship. No Lawrence County residents fought in the Mexican war during the late 1840s; however, several veterans of the war settled in Lawrence County after its conclusion.

When the Civil War began in 1861, residents were divided, as in most Missouri counties, between support for the Union and the Confederacy. There were several military regiments that enlisted Lawrence County Citizens. These included: The Enrolled Missouri Militia, Company A Rifle Battalion, 1st Infantry, the 3rd Missouri Volunteer Infantry, the Lawrence County Home Guard, and the 15th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry. There were no major battles within the Lawrence County boundaries, but there were several small armed conflicts. On February 18-19, 1862, the “Rebel Flag Episode” took place in Mt. Vernon. Lieut-Col. James K. Mills, on learning that Sterling Price’s troops had entered the town, sent Capt. Mudgett with thirty men to capture them. They took the flag and five prisoners, and left the Union flag flying over the courthouse. Throughout the war, both armies moved in and out of the county, taking crops and livestock. Many residents fled, and population estimates in 1865 were less than 4,000 people. Guerrilla warfare was a constant threat in the area. After the war’s end, there was an influx of Swedish immigrants to the county. In the 1870s, the railroad came to the Lawrence County. Pierce City, named after railroad official Andrew Percie (the spelling was changed), was formed shortly after. Marionville and Aurora soon followed.

Browse all collections in Lawrence County

  • Consulted:
  • 1. David H. Jones,  A History of Pierce City Through Postcards, Photographs, Papers, and People (David H. Jones Publishing, LLC. 2005).
  • 2. Verona, Missouri, 1868-1968. Historical Committee of the Verona Centennial, 1968.
  • 3. Lee Collier, History of Marionville, Missouri, (State Historical Society of Missouri,
  • 4. Jessie C. Miller, et. al. Lawrence County, Missouri, Lawrence County Historical Society, Mt. Vernon, 1974.
  • 5. Reprint of the Lawrence County section of Goodspeed’s Newton, Lawrence, Barry, and McDonald Counties (Cassville, MO: Litho Printers, 1973).
  • 6. “Military History”, “A Reprint of Goodspeed’s 1888 History of Lawrence County; Reprint Lawrence County Section of Goodspeed’s Newton, Lawrence, Barry And McDonald Counties History; published by the Goodspeed Publishing Co., in 1888; Reprinted by Litho Printers Of Cassville, Missouri In 1973.” as transcribed by Judy Johnson Reustle. accessed on 1 November 2010,