It was not a quick and easy process, but Missouri was finally admitted to the Union on Aug. 10, 1821 as the 24th state.

However, the territory that was to become the state of Missouri had been officially divided into five counties on Oct. 1, 1812. They were St. Charles County, which was named for Italian Cardinal St. Charles Borromeo. St Louis County was named for St. Louis (King Louis IX of France), patron saint of King Louis XV. St. Genevieve County was named for the French saint patroness of Paris. Cape Girardeau County was named for Sieur de Girardot, a French officer who was stationed with French troops at Kaskaskia as early as 1704, and New Madrid County, which was named on behalf of Madrid, Spain.

Then all of the rest of the 114 counties in Missouri were organized as settlements, and grew large enough in population to warrant their own local governments. Washington County was the first one to be added in 1813 and was named for George Washington. Worth County was the last one added in 1861 and named for William Jenkins Worth, a soldier in the Florida and Mexican Wars. However, in 1876 the city of St. Louis was broken off from its county to become its own entity, maintaining its own courthouse and records.

Jackson County wasn’t organized until Dec. 15, 1826 and was named for the very popular general, Andrew Jackson, even before he became the seventh president of the United States. Hickory County was also named for Jackson, whose nickname was “Old Hickory.” Cass County was originally organized as Van Buren County in honor of Martin Van Buren, the eighth president, but the Democratic legislature of Missouri changed the name to Cass to honor Van Buren’s Democratic opponent Lewis Cass.

Clay County was named for Henry Clay, a Kentucky congressman. Platte County was organized from the Platte Purchase and named for the Platte River, which is a French term meaning “flat” or “shallow river.” Bates County was named for Frederick Bates, governor of Missouri. Johnson County in Missouri was named in behalf of Richard Johnson, a Kentucky senator that became vice president under Martin Van Buren. Johnson was a hero of the War of 1812 and was reputed to have killed the Shawnee Indian leader, Tecumseh.

Lafayette County was originally known as Lillard County, named for William Lillard, a Missouri legislator from Tennessee. Lillard, who was getting up there in age, became ill and returned to Tennessee, so a couple of years later the county name was changed by an act of the state legislature to Lafayette in honor of Marquis de La Fayette’s visit to St. Louis.

There is not enough room in this column to list all 114 counties and who they were named after, but in Missouri we have a Lewis County and a Clark County, named after Lewis and Clark. We have a Pike County, which was named after Pike’s Peak’s namesake, explorer Zebulon Pike.

Jefferson County was named for the third president of the United States and Monroe County was named for the fifth president. Franklin County was named for Benjamin and Boone County for Daniel. Henry County was named for Patrick Henry, the Revolutionary patriot.

But Lincoln County was not named after “Honest Abe.” it was named on behalf of Benjamin Lincoln, a Revolutionary War general.

Not all counties were named after men. Scotland County was named for the country. Saline County was named for its many salt springs. Iron County was named for the many iron mines, and Cedar County was named for the multitude of cedar trees located there.

Reference: Missouri State Archives of Missouri History

To reach Ted W. Stillwell send e-mail to or call him at 816-896-3592.