Marion County

Hannibal as seen from Lover's Leap

Human habitation of Marion County dates back to the Mississippian mound building culture that dates to as early as the 800s whose mounds can still be seen in the county. The last Native American culture to inhabit the area were the tribes of the Sac and Fox who were forced to migrate south from their traditional home by the French in the mid-1700s, displacing the Illinois Confederation. The first European in Marion County was Father Louis Hennepin, a French missionary, who was exploring the Mississippi River north of the Illinois River. Father Hennepin landed just north of Hannibal in an area called Bay de Charles, erecting a cross and claiming the land for the King of France.

Bay de Charles was the first settlement in Marion County. Manturi Bouvet, a trapper and fur trader formed this settlement to carry on trade with the local tribes in the late 1700s. After the Louisiana Purchase, immigrants from Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina started settling in Marion County. The communities of Palmyra and Hannibal were established in 1819. In 1826 the Missouri Legislature passed legislation creating Marion County from land being subdivided from Ralls County and Palmyra was selected as the county seat. Marion County was named for Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox" of Carolina.

Palmyra grew quickly, aided by its status as county seat and the establishment of a U.S. Land Office in 1825. The Land Office sold over 3 million acres by time it closed in 1858. In 1835 Col. William Muldrow founded the town of Marion City, which he billed as the "The Gateway to the Orient." Muldrow's 1836 promotion of Marion College and Marion City brought a large number of immigrants from the Atlantic coast, particularly Pennsylvania, which was so large that it was commonly called The Eastern Run. Successive floods in 1836, 1844, and 1851 eventually destroyed the town with its inhabitants moving on to Palmyra and Hannibal. Similarly the arrival of the railroads to both Palmyra and Hannibal helped these communities to grow.

The great American author Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, is Marion County's most famous native son. Twain's family moved to Hannibal in 1839 from his birthplace in nearby Florida, Mo. Twain lived in Hannibal until 1853 working for local newspapers. The characters and settings of two of his most important books, "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn," draw heavily from his experiences in this river town. Today a large tourist industry and a number of attractions draw heavily from the fact that Twain lived in Hannibal.

Marion County did not escape the strife that the Civil War caused Missouri. In the summer of 1862 Confederate Col. Joseph E. Porter was conducting successful raids on Union outposts and patrols. In September of that year, when the Union Col. John McNeil was elsewhere, Porter entered Palmyra almost unopposed and freed some 50 prisoners and captured 3 of their own, including an Andrew Allsman, who was a Union informer. Col McNeil posted public demands for Allsman's release.  When Allsman wasn't released McNeil ordered the controversial execution of 10 Confederate prisoners in retaliation. A monument to these men is located on the grounds of the Marion County Courthouse in Palmyra.

Marion County has a lot to offer to those who wish to visit its attractions and communities. Palmyra has been called the Handsomest City in North Missouri and has over 200 antebellum structures. Maps for a walking tour can be obtained at the visitor's center in the Gardner House on Main Street. Two visitor centers can be found in Hannibal to help those interested in the area.

Explore these Great River Road Communities
in Marion County, Missouri
Hannibal Palmyra

Clarence Cannon
Lover's Leap Palmyra Massacre
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