A Look Back

Holt County

One of 6 counties formed in the Indian Platte Purchase Territory, annexed to the State 1837, Holt County was organized in 1841 and named for State legislator David Rice Holt. The county's 456 square miles, bounded west and south by the Missouri, east by the Nodaway, include Missouri River flood plain, steep river bluffs, high glacial prairie. The Lewis and Clark Expedition, in 1804, camped near mouth of the Nodaway.

Oregon, the county seat, lying 1093 feet above sea level, laid out 1841, by John A. Williams, Edward Smith, and Travis Finley, was first called Finley. The courthouse is located in a handsome two-and-a-half acre plot. No railroad reached Oregon until a short line, now abandoned, was built in 1908.

A divided county during the Civil War, Holt was subjected to brutal guerrilla raids. Modern growth came with the building of what is now the C.B. & Q. Railroad in the county, north to south, 1869, and northeast to west central, 1879. The county grew as livestock and grain producer and various towns developed as marketing, trading, food processing and shipping centers.

Holt County's first settlers were Peter and Blank Stephenson, 1838. Pioneers were from Va., Ky., Tenn., Ind., and a large number of Germans located near Craig and Corning in 1839-41. In the 1840's, Whig Vallley, near Maitland, was settled and Jackson's Point (for A. P. Jackson), near Mound City, was a stage stop on St. Joseph to Council Bluffs route. Mormons, immigrants, gold seekers of '49 trekked through the county.

Towns platted in 1857 were Mound City, largest town in the county, and Forest City, once a noted Missouri River port. Bigelow, Corning, Craig were laid out 1868; New Point, Forbes, 1869; Maitland, 1880; Fortescue, 1890.

Holt County State Representative John W. Kelly (1800-58) introduced the resolution leading to 1853 School Law providing first State tax money for public schools. He was one of authors of the law often called the Kelly act. Inventor of Split-log Road Drag, David Ward King (1857-1920) lived in Holt County. Charles C. Moore, a native, served as Lt. Gov. of Idaho, 1919-22, and Gov. 1923-26. In the county are Big Lake State Park and Squaw Creek National Wild Life Refuge.

As stated on the sign erected by State Historical Society of Missouri and State Highway Commission, 1961, located in front of Holt County Courthouse.

Holt County History Web Links:

Holt County Museum & Research Center


The Holt County Historical Society


Courthouse History

Holt County was organized on January 29, 1841 with the county seat being Oregon. Holt County's first courthouse was completed in 1842 and was a 20-by-26 foot two-story building. In 1852, the court moved into a its second courthouse, a 46-foot-square, brick, two-story building. In 1881, elected officials had a mansard roof and tower added to the building. Over the years the courthouse was remodeled several times. A fire destroyed this building on January 30-31, 1965. County voters approved a bond issue to finance the new courthouse. The new courthouse was complete in 1966 with its architect being B. R. Hunter. This courthouse still serves the people of Holt County today.

Louisiana Purchase 1803

Numerous states emerged including Missouri in 1821, doubling the size of the United States. Acquisition of the Platte Purchase Indian Territory in 1836 extended the State boundary westward to the Missouri River. Settlers crossed the Nodaway River inland at the rapids via Old Trail Road Gateway to Holt County which became a feeder line for the Oregon Trail. Holt County was established in 1841, with Oregon. Named for an Indian princess selected as the county seat.

 Lewis and Clark Expedition 1804-1806

 Meriwether Lewis 1774-1809

 Private Presidential Secretary to Thomas Jefferson Governor of the Louisiana Territory

 William Clark 1770-1838

 Soldier and Explorer, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Governor of Missouri Territory

They Passed This Way

Acquired from France during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, The Louisiana Purchase encompassed 875,000 square miles costing 15 million dollars or about 3 cents per acre. Virginia natives Lewis and Clark, launched their expedition departing St. Louis in May 1804 on a voyage of discovery, utilizing canoes and oar powered keelboats. Congress appropriated 2,500 dollars for the 8,000 mile round trip venture that took two-and-a-half years, involving over 40 men, the Indian interpreter Sacagawea and a dog.

Old Trail Road

Jesse Carroll, among the first pioneers, immediately built the first courthouse, jail and the Carroll-Lenz Stagecoach Inn in the 1840's. Assisted by his devoted black slave. Descendents of many early families still reside in Holt County. In the mid-1800's others travelled through Oregon, MO., down Sterrett Hill crossing the Missouri River at Iowa Point, westward to the California Gold Rush and the Pacific Northwest.

As stated by the Lewis & Clark hisorical marker erected by the William White Chapter of NSDAR, 2002, located in front of the Holt County courthouse.