Osage County has over 1,000 farms with 305,000 acres in agricultural production and livestock. The average farm is 266 family acres according to the 1997 U.S. Census of Agriculture. Because agriculture is the main industry in the county, many products are, or can be made, available to consumers directly “from our home to your home.”
Take a tour of Osage County’s historical museums:
The Osage County Historical Society was organized as a non-profit organization in 1985 and has worked many years to build a home for the history of the county and the memories of its people, including the Osage Indian Nation. Society members, prominent families, native and current residents contributed funds and in-kind labor and materials to make the Historical Society a reality.
Two buildings compose the Historical Society with the Zewicki House Museum, a nine room house, built in 1894 located at the corner of Fourth and Main Streets in downtown Linn.
Adjacent and behind the Zewicki House on 103 South Fourth Street is the Cultural Heritage Center which opened Sept. 8, 2013. This building, shaped like a large red barn, houses collections of family’s histories, the schools, photos, probate, civil and criminal court cases, tax records, over 16,000 obituaries and many other items recounting the unique history of Osage County.
Hours of operation are Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. until Noon. Visitors are welcomed.
Telephone number is 573-897-2932 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
WESTPHALIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM has a large collection of memorabilia from the early days of the town. The museum is located at 119 East Main Street in downtown Westphalia. The museum is open April 1 through October 31 on every Sunday from 1-3 p.m.
ST. JOSEPH’S CATHOLIC CHURCH, founded in 1838, is the oldest Catholic parish in Osage County. This church holds the largest collection of relics in the Diocese of Jefferson City. The building features a unique double choir loft and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The church is located at 125 E. Main Street in downtown Westphalia.
TOWNLEY HOUSE MUSEUM, a house built in 1856 by Charles Phelps, is probably the oldest building in Chamois. It is located at the corner of Third and Main Streets in downtown Chamois. Tours are by reservation only.
ZEWICKI HOUSE MUSEUM, a nine-room house, was built in 1894 and is home of the Osage County Historical Society. The museum is located at the corner of Fourth and Main Streets in downtown Linn. Hours of operation are: Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. until Noon; May through October.
Rich Histories and Strong Traditions:
- In 1857, the Missouri Pacific Railroad began to cut into the rolling Missouri countryside, in turn developing the northern section of the county along the Missouri River — Bonnots Mill, Chamois and Morrison. Many communities in rural Missouri grew up around “railroad towns” built to service freight and passenger traffic along the rails. Bonnots Mill was the County Seat’s (Linn) rail link for transportation and shipping.
- While railroads were under construction, hard working Missourians cut, hauled and hewed railroad ties from lush oak forests in the county. Strong men, some with Missouri mules, did it all with no machinery in the 1800s, often making less than a dollar a day. People now tell of great grandfathers walking miles to work and back to feed families and maintain subsistence farms. The picture above shows ties still being produced from a wheel-blade saw mill around the turn of the century.
- The Rock Island Railroad brought social and commercial progress to southern Osage County by 1903, providing, at last, connection to markets for agricultural produce. The railroad spanned a number of rivers, establishing communities such as Belle, Freeburg, Argyle and Meta. They grew into shipping centers, bringing the telegraph, social progress and commerce during the late 1930s
- Paved state highways brought significant commercial development to Osage County. Highway 50, the main east-west route, was paved in 1928. Highway 63, the main north-south route, was paved by 1931.
- The Unterrified Democrat newspaper in Linn, established in 1866, gave the county government and communities a cohesive identity.
- Christian churches around the county were largely founded by Fr. Ferdinand M. Helias, S.J., a parish priest in Taos. He organized German immigrants into native dialect groups so they could assimilate into the American social structure more easily within a supportive parish structure. Helias Highschool, Jefferson City, is named for him. Some of the churches he founded are on the National Historic Register.
- School districts, and high schools in the districts, were a significant factor bringing the county community together. Old one-room schoolhouses are common everywhere, each built to educate a small number of farm families, usually within walking distance.
- NEW, MORE RECENT HISTORY: Chamois, Missouri, is located in extreme northern Osage County, situated right along the Missouri River. Morrison, Missouri, is located in extreme northwest Gasconade County on the edge of the Missouri River valley. The two towns are now connected by Highway 100 which goes through the river bottom. There is also river bottom land below Morrison and above Chamois. This is all extremely good farmland and was once heavily populated by farm families.
- On October 9, 2021, the community of Loose Creek had their belated (delayed by COVID the previous year) celebration of their 175 anniversary of founding. A special speaker was Gary Kremer, director of the Missouri State Historical Society, and a native of Osage County’s small town of Frankenstein. In the linked video Kremer provides an an overview of the history of Osage County and Loose Creek. https://www.facebook.com/ICParishLooseCreek/videos/593633341770663
Lewis and Clark traveling through, both ways, on their famous expedition; it is said Jesse James passing through, hopping a train in Chamois; Charles Lindbergh and his plane visited (he attended a wedding reception in the Benedict house in the river bottom between Chamois and Morrison); and of course, the Missouri Pacific Railroad (now Union Pacific), the reason Chamois was born. Morrison was first a Missouri River landing (Pannell’s Landing and later Thee’s Landing—washed away by a change in the river channel), but was later important because of its place on the Missouri Pacific Railroad (then called Morrison Station).
Many floods occurred over the years, but the Great Flood of 1993, was what many called the Five Hundred Year Flood—the largest flood ever recorded. The Missouri River filled the entire valley, from bluff to bluff, staying above flood stage for 62 days. Many homes and farmsteads dotting the bottom earlier in the century gradually disappeared after the Flood of 1993. Today only a few brave folks remain in the bottom.
“The size and impact of the Great Flood of 1993 was unprecedented and has been considered the most costly and devastating flood to ravage the U.S. in modern history. The number of record river levels, the aerial extent, the number of persons displaced, amount of crop and property damage and its duration surpassed all earlier U.S. floods in modern time.” (National Weather Service Forecast Office of St. Louis, Missouri)
The Chamois Industrial Development Corporation (CIDC) dates back to April 29, 1980. It became incorporated in 2002 and is a 501-C3 organization. Its mission is to attract commerce and to promote financial and business enhancement of the people of the Chamois area. Beneath this organization is the Chamois Historic Preservation Commission (CHPC). Its mission is to preserve buildings, objects, memories, and history of Chamois and the surrounding area. The CHPC has existed since 2010 and has maintained and operated the Townley House Museum, refurbished the Old Jail in Chamois and raised, with much help from the Chamois Lions Club, approximately $15,000 to Save the Bandstand at Riverside Park in Chamois.
If you would like to find out more about the history of Osage County and its communities, visit the Osage County Historical Society website, or browse through records at the Historical Society and Museum.
Fr. Joseph J. Welschmeyer, former parish priest in the county, supplied significant historical events that shaped the county. Fr. Welschmyer was a well known historian and author in Osage County. He published Sacred Heart Sesquicentennial, on Rich Fountain, Missouri, in 1988, covering the years 1838 to 1988.