Visitors Guide to
Jefferson County, Missouri

County Seat of Jefferson County

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After Jefferson County was organized in 1818 the community of Herculaneum, along the banks of the Mississippi River, was named the county seat. By 1831 Herculaneum had lost its importance as the principal settlement of the county because of the decline of the lead business, and in 1832 a proposal was made to move the county seat to a more central location. This proposal was met with opposition and it was not until Samuel Merry and Hugh O'Neill donated 50 acres of land designated for a new county seat that the proposal gained acceptance. An 1839 act of the state legislature officially recognized this land as the county seat of Jefferson County. The acreage was platted in 1839 and originally named Monticello after the home of President Thomas Jefferson. However that name had already been taken by Monticello in Lewis County and Hillsboro was selected reportedly because Hillsboro is the English equivalent of the Italian Monticello.

The first courthouse was completed in 1840 and was used until a new courthouse and jail was completed. The first courthouse continued to serve Hillsboro as the first public school building. The second courthouse, a vernacular building, was first built in 1861-1863 with additions added in 1892, 1953, and 1975-1976. Hillsboro was bypassed by the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad in 1857 and with the springing up of a number of villages along that line. Hillsboro has always remained and seems destined to remain, a small village. Hillsboro is pleasantly located on an elevated position near the center of the county, and contains a number of excellent examples of 19th century brick building and residential architecture.

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