Lincoln County

Lincoln County is located at the southern end of a geological formation known as the Lincoln Hills. The great pressures within the earth over hundreds of millions of years ago have caused the bedrock to buckle into a series of hills about 60 miles long and 15 miles wide. The Lincoln Hills region was not affected as much during the last ice age glaciers pushed down through northern Missouri and flattened the landscape. Streams and rivers such as the two branches of the Cuivre (French for copper) then cut deep valleys into the hills to create the rugged the “Ozarklike” terrain evident today.

There were many Sac and Fox settlements in the Cuivre river watershed prior to the arrival of European settlers in what is now Lincoln County. These tribes are related to the Algonquians and were forced to migrate south from their traditional home by the French in the mid-1700s, displacing the Illinois Confederation. The first Europeans in the area were French explorers who claimed vast regions for France and were followed by the voyageurs, the fur traders. France ceded its territory west of the Mississippi River to Spain when it signed the Treaty of Paris in 1763, which ended the French and Indian War. The area that is now Missouri became part of the Province of Upper Louisiana.

American settlers were attracted to Upper Louisiana by land grants offered by the Spanish. Southeast of present day Troy in 1801, Christopher Clark erected a cabin becoming the first permanent settler in Missouri north of the present limits of St. Charles County. The next families of note were the families of Zadock Woods and Deacon Joseph Cottle who settled near a spring in present day Troy, 1802.

The United States gained control of the territory with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Relations with the Sac and Fox were relatively peaceful until the beginning of the War of 1812 although most rejected an 1804 treaty that ceded much of their land west of the Mississippi River. The tribes sided with the British and they saw the war as a means to evict the settlers from lands they considered their hunting grounds. To defend against attacks the settlers built a series of stockade forts including Woods' Fort, the largest, near the Woods/Cottle settlement. The men of the area served in the volunteer Lincoln County Rangers, led by Clark and Nathan (son of Daniel) Boone, among others. The campaigns of the Lincoln County Rangers extended from the Missouri River to past the Iowa line, principally in the vicinity of the Mississippi.

After the war much of the Cuivre River watershed was organized into Lincoln County. This occurred during a session of the Territorial Legislature in December 1818. The name was chosen by Christopher Clark after the two counties he lived in North Carolina and Kentucky, which had been named after Benjamin Lincoln (1733-1810) of Massachusetts, a Revolutionary War general, the Secretary of War (1781-1783) of the Continental Congress, and a respected friend of George Washington, who was deputized by him to receive the British surrender at Yorktown. The first county seat was Monroe, and later moved to Alexandria, and finally to Troy in 1828.

During the 1840s the county was beset by an organized band of counterfeiters and horse and cattle thieves. In what became known as the "Slicker War," a company of regulators was raised to combat the thieves. The term "slicker" came from the form of punishment inflicted on the suspects, which was to whip then with hickory withes, or “slicking.” The regulators committed excesses when a few took the opportunity to settle personal grudges. The regulators were disbanded when the thieves were driven out but animosities remained by those who were unjustly their target.

During the Civil War the sympathies of the citizens of Lincoln County were largely with the Confederacy, having mostly been immigrants from southern states. When the pro-Southern Governor Clairborn Jackson issued his proclamation calling for volunteers to defend the State against Federal troops, no county responded more enthusiastically than did Lincoln County. Despite its sympathies fighting was limited in Lincoln County due to the almost continuous presence of Union troops in Troy.

Transportation in Lincoln County changed throughout the 19th-century, from primitive trails and roads to canals to railroads and to modern highways. The arrival in the early 1880s of railroads at Troy, Elsberry, and Winfield gave farmers and merchants access to outside markets. Rail access focused on depots, which in turn fostered downtown development with stores, banks, shops, libraries, and social institutions. Residential areas with both vernacular and high style architecture grew out from the city centers to become neighborhoods dotted with schools and parks.

In 1946 the Missouri Department of Natural Resources added Cuivre River State Park to the park system. Located between Troy and Moscow Mills, the park is one of the state’s largest and most rugged parks. Lake Lincoln offers swimming, boating, fishing and the park’s two wild areas provide hiking, backpacking, photography and wildlife observation activities.

Explore these Great River Road Communities
in Lincoln County, Missouri
Elsberry Moscow Mills Troy

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