The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 14, 2013

Frankie Meyer: Maps track past changes to county borders

By Frankie Meyer
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — Because county boundaries changed frequently as our country developed, researchers must learn about those changes in order to find information about ancestors and relatives.

The website for the Missouri Digital Library has a book with maps that show the changing boundaries in Missouri. The book, "History of Missouri Counties, County Seats, and Courthouse Squares," was compiled by Marian M. Ohman in 1983.

The easiest way to read a copy of the book is to type the title in the search box. When a list of websites appears on the screen, click on the one that is related to the Missouri Digital Library. You will then be taken directly to a free, digitized copy of the book.

The second page of the book has a map of the area when the Louisiana Purchase occurred. Another page has a map of the Territory of Missouri in 1812. At that time the area included Arkansas. Instead of counties, the area was divided into the districts of Saint Louis, Saint Charles, Saint Genevieve, Cape Girardeau and New Madrid.

In 1819, Arkansas territory was separated from the Missouri Territory. A map of the two territories is found inside.

Wayne County covered most of southern Missouri. The large, adjoining county to the north was Franklin. Cooper County covered much of the west-central area. Three other counties that were also large at that time were Howard, Pike and Montgomery.

Lawrence County covered the northern third of Arkansas territory in 1819. Other counties were Pulaski, Clark, Hemstead, Arkansas and Indian Reservation. Part of New Madrid County was in Arkansas territory and part was in Missouri territory.

By 1830 Missouri had changed dramatically with additional counties added. Wayne and Crawford counties covered most of the southern half of the state. A map on Page 8 shows the counties at that time. Ohman's book also has maps of Missouri in 1841, 1845, 1855 and 1876.

The author notes that settlers used two routes to travel to the state. The earliest route was along the Ohio River and began in Pennsylvania, then flowed by West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois before emptying into the Mississippi River. After floating downstream to the Mississippi, the families rowed and poled upstream.

Another route was the Cumberland-National Road that began in Maryland and extended through Pennsylvania to Wheeling, W.V., in 1838. By 1850 the route extended through Indiana and Illinois. After that year, most settlers used that route.

Using data from the 1850 census of Missouri, Ohman determined that around 70,000 people were born in Kentucky, 45,000 were from Tennessee, 41,000 were from Virginia-West Virginia and 17,000 were from North Carolina.

Suggestions or queries? Write to Frankie Meyer, 509 N. Center St., Plainfield, IN 46168 or email frankiemeyer