Adair County History

Adair County Missouri


Tradition says Adair County's first courts met in a schoolhouse two miles south of Kirksville. The first courthouse, which cost $1,000, dates from 1843. It was a low, one-story, brick temporary building, located on a lot across the street from the square. John B. Earhart was the builder, and John D. Callison, a carpenter. Caleb Barnett was superintendent. The first court held there met July 3, 1843.

The Square was reserved for the permanent courthouse. The court ordered the first permanent building in February 1852 and initially appropriated $2,200. William H. Parcells was appointed superintendent and was sent to Knox County, just east of Adair County, to get the plan for its recently completed building at Edina. Adair County then adapted the foursquare design and built it on the public square. On March 8, 1852, the contract was awarded to Galyon and Douglass, who completed the work in 1853. The first floor contained offices: a few additional rooms and the courtroom were on the second floor.

Fire destroyed this courthouse April 12, 1865, and the county remained without a courthouse for 30 years. For may of these years, the public square was known as the "Park." An illustration from the atlas of 1876 shows a portion of the square filled with a geometric pattern of trees. The third and present Adair County courthouse dates from the turn of the century.

As Adair Countians contemplated a new courthouse, some proposed a different location where only one main facade would be necessary. This would reduce construction costs considerably and leave the square for a public park. But, in April 1896 the people voted to put the building on the square.

Several bond issues failed before one inspired the majority of voters, on August 3, 1897, to finance $50,000 for building a replacement.   Notices placed in local newspapers by the county judges illustrated the Johnson County courthouse, with the enticement that Adair County could have a comparable building.

Published by University of Missouri-Columbia Extension Divison - by Marian M Ohman, Coordinator, Art History Programs

Adair, John (1757-1840)

Born in Chester County, S.C., January 9, 1757. Served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War; delegate to Kentucky state constitutional convention, 1792; member of Kentucky state house of representatives, 1793-95, 1798, 1800-03, 1817; Speaker of the Kentucky State House of Representatives, 1802-03; U.S. Senator from Kentucky, 1805-06; served in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812; Governor of Kentucky, 1820-24; U.S. Representative from Kentucky, 1831-33. Died in Harrodsburg, Ky., May 19, 1840. Original interment in unknown location; reinterment in 1872 at Frankfort Cemetery, Frankfort, Ky. Adair counties in Iowa and Kentucky are also named for him.

ADAIR, John, senator, was born in Chester county, S.C., in 1759. He was a volunteer in the revolutionary army; was made a prisoner and obliged to endure very great suffering. In 1787 he removed to Kentucky, where he became prominent in the public affairs of that state, distinguished himself in Indian fights by his bravery and sagacity, and was made register of the Kentucky land office in 1805. He was a member of the convention that framed the constitution of the state of Kentucky, and was a representative in the state legislature and speaker of the house. In 1805-6 he was United States senator. At the time of Aaron Burr's treason, Adair was thought to be connected with it, and for a time he was rather unpopular, but people shortly became convinced that Adair had sympathized with Burr simply from his belief that the government was sanctioning his action. In 1813 he was aide to Governor Shelby in the battle of the Themes, and two years later he served under General Jackson as adjutant-general at the battle of New Orleans. He was prominent in politics, was elected governor of Kentucky in 1820, serving four years, and from 1831 to 1833 represented his district in Congress. His name is held in high esteem throughout Kentucky, and Adair county was named in his honor. He died May 19, 1840.

Church History

Robert L Webb is collecting Early Church History of Adair County, and I am certain he will be glad to share with us what he finds. I have forwarded his request for a picture, in case anyone has one. Any information on these churches I am sure he would appreciate.

David Wortman was the first moderator of the "Hazel Creek Association" in 1854. Hazel Creek Church was organized in October 1843 by two other ministers and it is the only Primitive Baptist church still in existence of all those which once made up the Association. Spring Creek was one of that group. Hazel Creek is about 3 miles west of Greentop, in Adair Co., Missouri. I think it might have met in Schuyler Co. during part of its history. Elder Wortman helped organize Oak Hill Church in Davis Co., Iowa, and Des Moines River Church, near Eldon, in Wapello Co., Iowa, and he and Elder John Hill were both members of Lick Creek church in Van Buren County, Iowa, according to our earliest records. I wonder if a request could be put on the Adair County page, for anyone who might have a photo or snapshot of the Oak Hill Primitive Baptist Church, which was near Mark, in Davis County, Iowa.

Cleone Stidmon, of Kirksville, Mo., gave me a snapshot of the present condition of the abandoned old school where Spring Creek church once met. It is in pitiful condition. She said the cemetery is accessible but you would need walking shoes. Apparently, someone has been over and checked, because she said that David Wortman's stone is there. She also mentioned that the records of the church and of the Hazel Creek association have been located (if I understood correctly). Some of the church members are planning to make copies of all of the records. It seems there is still quite a bit of interest in the history of Elder Wortman and the churches where he was a member, as well as the Broyles cemetery, etc.
-Robert Webb

Missouri was a part of the Louisiana Purchase and became a territory in 1803. Settlement in the Kirksville area began in the 1820s, with more settlers arriving in the 1830s and 1840s. Adair County was organized in 1841. Because many of the early settlers in the area came from Kentucky, the county was named after Kentucky Governor and Senator John Adair. By 1850, the population of Adair County was 2,283.

Higginson Book Company - Specializing in Genealogy & History

Index to the biography section on Violette's History of Adair County

These books may be available at the Adair County Library or the Adair County Historical Society in Kirksville.

  1. The History of Adair County, by E. M. Violette, 1911
  2. 2. Brashear Centennial, Trails to Rails, 1972
  3. 3. The First Hundred Years, Novinger, Missouri, 1979

More history information from our site:

Adair County Department of Community Development, University of Missouri-Columbia

Kirksville links