It is not clear why or how Perryville came to be selected as the county
seat of Perry County, but on August 7, 1821, Bernard Layton deeded 51
acres in exchange for one town lot. The town would be platted in 1822
and 53 of the 99 town lots were sold for $1,486.25, which was used to
build the first courthouse. The one existing today is actually the third
such structure and was built in 1904. The town was named for its county,
which honors Captain Oliver Hazard Perry who won the naval Battle of
Lake Erie during the War of 1812. This victory became famous because it
marked the first time that Great Britain lost an entire naval squadron
by surrender and because afterwards Perry’s sent the message “We have
met the enemy and they are ours.”
There were two early stores in Perryville. The first, a log structure,
was built by Ferdinand Rozier, Sr. on the north side of the town square.
The second, built by Levi Block, was a two-story building with the upper
story serving as the first town hall for the small settlement.
Perryville was first incorporated in 1837, but records show the
incorporation was allowed to lapse. Around 1830 Henry Burns built a home
on South Spring Street. The home was later bought by William P. Faherty
and now serves as a museum operated by the Perry County Historical
Society. In 1856, the town was again incorporated. Largely because of
its role as the seat of county government and because of its central
location, Perryville began to develop as the political and trading
center of Perry County. Perryville was slow to grow with a population of
only 879 in 1890. Completion of the Chester, Ste. Genevieve & Farmington
Railroad during the early
1893 the telephone arrived. The first horseless carriage, deemed a "locomobile"
by The Perry County Republican newspaper, was reported in Perryville in
1903. The first power plant was built in 1913 to provide Perryville with
electric lights. In 1923 the Chamber of Commerce was formed, and
Perryville launched its first industrial development offensive by
raising $100,000 to build an industrial building in the hope of
persuading International Shoe Company in St. Louis to open a Perryville
plant. The venture was successful and the opening of the International
plant spurred a cycle of growth which included the paving of city
streets and a host of new businesses and city services. In 1940 a second
International production facility, known as the Kiefner Branch, opened
in Perryville. However, in 1964 an economic downturn forced the closing
of International's original Magnolia branch plant.
Perryville Chamber of Commerce touts the community as the Heartland's
best-kept secret. Its location
among the rolling hills of rural Missouri and numerous and historic
sites provide a beautiful setting for visitors. Perryville has been able
to hold onto its small-town feel while growing to offer all the
amenities of larger communities.
There are a number of specialty stores and wineries in the area. The
surrounding countryside is particularly beautiful during autumn.