Gerald Schultz County History

Geography of Miller County

Miller County lies in south central Missouri, in the northern foothills of the Ozark plateau. Although both areal and quadrilateral centers of the state are located in the northeastern part of the county, the distance to the Iowa-Missouri boundary is considerably greater than the distance to the Arkansas-Missouri line. There are about six tiers of counties to the northern boundary of the state, but only five can be counted to the southern boundary. The county seat of Tuscumbia, which is located near the center of the county, is about 160 miles due south of the northern boundary of the state and about 120 miles north of the southern. The distances from Tuscumbia to the eastern and western boundaries of the state are almost the same.

Miller County is bounded on the west by Morgan and Camden, on the south by Camden and Pulaski, on the east by Maries and Osage, and on the north by Cole and Moniteau Counties. It contains about 590 square miles of land, being the fifty-seventh in rank among the 114 counties of the state in regard to area. It is more than two times as large as Worth, the smallest county, and slightly more than half as large as Texas, the largest county in the state. The extreme length of Miller County from north to south is approximately 28 miles. A line drawn east and west through the county is 27 miles long. The distance from the extreme northwest corner to the southeast corner is about 37 miles, which is the greatest length of the county.


When the United States Census was taken in 1930, Miller County had a total population of 16,728. Of this number 1,289 lived in Equality Township; 3,124 in Franklin; 1,948 in Glaze; 1,202 in Jim Henry; 993 in Osage; 2,836 in Richwoods; and 5,336 in Saline. The number of inhabitants in 1930 was larger than in any preceding decade. A previous peak had been reached in 1910. In the latter year the county had a population of 16,717 as compared to 15,567 in 1920. A glance at the census figures shows that the increase during the decade from 1920 to 1930 occurred in the vicinity of the Osage hydro-electric project which was in process of construction at the time the last census was taken. Franklin Township, in which the hydro-electric project is located, showed an increase from 1,503 in 1920 to 3,124 in 1930.

It is significant to note that the native whites form 98.5 per cent of the population of the county. This percentage figure, of course, includes the native white of foreign parentage and more distant foreign ancestry. The most outstanding foreign element is the German. The people of German ancestry have settled chiefly around St. Elizabeth, Mary's Home, and St. Antony. The number of Negroes is very small, comprising only one-half of one per cent of the total population.

Creation of the County by the General Assembly

Miller County was created by an act of the General Assembly of the State of Missouri, February 6, 1837. It was named in honor of John Miller, the fourth governor of Missouri, who was born in Berkeley County, Virginia. During the War of 1812 he served as Lieutenant Colonel of the 17th United States Infantry and as Colonel of the 19th Infantry. After he had resigned his position in the United States Army he was appointed registrar of land at Franklin, Howard County, Missouri. In 1825 he was elected governor to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Governor Bates. His campaign for re-election as governor was unique in that he had no opponents. From 1837 to 1843 he served Missouri in the United States House of Representatives. He then retired to his residence near Florissant, Missouri, where he died March 18, 1846.

Before the creation of Miller County, its territory formed parts of several older counties. Soon after Upper Louisiana was formally transferred by France to the United States in 1804, it was divided into five local districts. These were the districts of St. Louis, St. Charles, St. Genevieve, Cape Girardeau, and New Madrid. These districts formed the foundation of county organization in Missouri. In 1812 they were reorganized into counties.

Modern Miller County was first a part of St. Louis County. When Howard County was created in 1816, it included the part of Miller County situated north of the Osage River. Until 1818, the part which is south of the Osage remained within the limits of St. Louis County. In the latter year, it became a part of Franklin County and the area north of the river was included in Cooper County. Two years later the latter area became a part of Cole County. After the southern portion had belonged to Franklin County, it successively constituted a part of Gasconade, Crawford, and again Gasconade Counties. When Pulaski County was formed on January 19, 1833, its northern boundary was the township line between townships thirty-nine and forty. Thus all of the present-day municipal township of Richwoods and the greater portion of Glaze formed a part of Pulaski County until the creation of Miller County in 1837. The area between the Osage River and the township line between townships thirty-nine and forty remained a part of Gasconade County until Miller County was created.


The Act of February 6, 1837, defined the boundaries of the county as follows: Beginning where the township line between townships forty-two and forty-three crosses the range line between ranges fifteen and sixteen; thence with said range line to where said range line crosses the Osage River the second time; thence up said river until it comes to the point where the township line between townships thirty-nine and forty crosses said river; thence on a direct line to a point on the range line between ranges fourteen and fifteen in the middle of township thirty-eight; thence due east to the range line between ranges eleven and twelve; thence north to the township line between .townships forty-one and forty-two; thence with the range line to the middle of the main channel of the Osage River; thence up the middle of main channel of said river to the range line between ranges twelve and thirteen; thence to the southeast corner of township forty-two, range thirteen; thence with township line between townships forty-one and forty-two, where the same intersects the range line between ranges thirteen and fourteen; thence with the said range line to the township line between townships forty-two and forty-three; thence west with said line to the place of beginning.

In 1839 the eastern part of the northern boundary was defined in somewhat different terms, correcting errors in the Act of February 6, 1837. No changes have been made in the southern or eastern boundaries or in the northern boundary between Miller on the one hand, Cole and Moniteau on the other since then. A number of changes have been made in the boundary dividing Miller County from Morgan and Camden Counties. As a result of a controversy concerning railroad bonds a portion of Morgan County, lying north of the Osage River, was annexed to Miller County in 1860. At first the southwest boundary dividing the counties of Miller and Camden was a diagonal line, but as this line proved unsatisfactory it was changed to follow sectional lines.

Location of County Seat

By the Act of February 6, 1837, the General Assembly of the State of Missouri appointed David Fullbright of Pulaski County, Zacheus German of Morgan County, and John Hensley of Cole County as commissioners to locate the county seat. They met for this purpose at Harrison's Store on the Osage River, April 17, 1837. The two sites offered for the location of the county seat were King's Bluff and Harrison's Store. The commissioners selected the latter place. The land for the seat of government was donated by James P. Harrison. On July 11, 1837, the county court ordered that the seat of justice for the county of Miller should be known and called Tuscumbia.

The boundaries of the land donated to the county were surveyed and marked out by Marquis Calmes, the first county surveyor, in July of the same year. The town site was laid out into lots by Alfred M. Houston. On October 19, 1837, fifty-one lots were offered for sale. According to the terms of sale, twenty-five per cent of the purchase money was to be paid down. On the balance a credit of twelve months was given, but purchasers were required to enter into bond with approved security. The amount derived from the sale of these lots prior to February 8, 1838, was $683.86.

May 1, 1837, the county court held its first session at the log house of William Miller, who had been instrumental in the formation of the new county. According to tradition, his log house had only one door and one window. It was located on the Osage River near the mouth of Saline creek. The court appointed John Francis as presiding justice. The associate justices were Edmund Wilkes and Stephen A. Blevans. James P. Harrison was the first clerk of the court and William N. Harrison the first sheriff. On the second day of the first session, the court divided the county into four civil townships. These were Saline, Osage, Richwoods, and Equality. The present-day townships of Jim Henry and Glaze were at first parts of Osage and Equality townships, respectively. A part of modern Franklin Township then belonged to Morgan County. The remainder formed parts of Saline and Equality townships.

On April 6, 1837, Judge William Scott of the First Judicial Circuit appointed James P. Harrison as clerk of the Circuit Court. The latter was to serve in this capacity until the general election in 1838. This appointment made him the first official of the new county. June 22, 1837, the first session of the circuit court in Miller County was also held at the log house of William Miller. The presiding judge was William Scott, who was one of Missouri's outstanding jurists. His decisions on questions of real-estate law and constitutional construction have stood as guides to the legal profession. It was Judge Scott who wrote the majority opinion in the nationally famous Dred Scott case. His opinion was later affIrmed by the United States Supreme Court. The members of the first grand jury were John L. Davis, foreman; Robert Shipley, William P. Dhon, Samuel Miller, Isaac Bass, Elisha Francis, Elihu Gregory, John G. Witten, James Brumley, William Blyze, John Stewart, John Hale, John Shelton, Pete Sullens, Leander Musick, Abraham Castleman, and John Loveall. Finding no indictments, the grand jury was discharged. The members of the first trial jury were Gaddis E. Miller, Thomas H. Dawson, William Miller, Enoch McCarty, Jonathan Blevans, Stephen A. Blevans, Peter Bilyeu, Samuel Gilleland, David Musick, John Degraffenreid, Tscharner Degraffenreid, and Joel Musick. The first case was an appeal from a justice court. The court found the defendant guilty of trespass and awarded the plaintiff one cent damages.

First County Officers

All of the first county officers served by appointments. The appointment of the clerk of the Circuit Court has been mentioned. On April 13, 1837, Governor Lilburn W. Boggs appointed John Francis, Stephen A. Blevans, and Edmund Wilkes justices of the county court, William H. Pulliam, assessor, William N. Harrison, sheriff and collector, and Marquis Calmes, county surveyor.

First Elections

In 1837 each civil township .had only one voting place. The court ordered that the elections in Equality Township be held at Tuscumbia; in Osage township at the home of John T. Davis; in Richwoods Township at the home of Zachariah Price; in Saline township at the home of Andrew Burriss. Only three judges were required and the court made the following selections: James Reed, D. Boqua, and Hugh Challis for Equality township; John Witten, John T. Davis, and William Miller for Osage township; James Scott, William Blyze, and Josiah Stuart for Richwoods township; John S. Franklin, Hiram B. Russell, and Andrew McCasland for Saline township.

The first election in the county was held July 1, 1837, for the purpose of electing four justices of the peace and one constable in each township. Jesse Kindrick, Andrew D. Boqua, and Sherwood P. Rector were elected justices of the peace in Equality Township; Josiah Birdsong, Peter Bilyeu and James Scott were elected justices of Richwoods Township; Hugh L. Campbell, Hugh Gartin, and Hiram B. Russell were elected justices of Saline Township. The first general election was held August 6, 1838. At this time John Francis Wilson Coats, and John T. Davis were elected judges of the county court. Other county officers elected were William P. Dixon, clerk of the county and circuit courts; William N. Harrison sheriff and collector; and Hardin M. Williams, county surveyor.

--From A History of Miller County, Missouri By Gerard Schultz, 1933

 Increase Font Size  Decrease Font Size