Jefferson County History - Hillsboro

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Settlements were often named after persons of accomplishment. Thus Monticello, in honor of  President Thomas Jefferson's home atop a hill in Virginia, had been selected as the name of this community, but another town in Lewis County, Missouri, had already laid claim to the name. Therefore, Hills, the English equivalent, plus borough, meaning town or village was chosen. The name was recorded as Hillsboro. It is unclear if it was an accident or by design.

The Hillsboro area was settled in the late 1770s. This area provided wild game, timber and rich soil for farming. Water was abundant from the Big Spring that still flows, located at First and Elm Streets. This spring, along with two others, forms the headwaters of Belews Creek, named for William Belews who settled there in 1778. This creek attracted the Huskey family to locate here in 1803. On the 21st of April, 1820 President John Quincy Adams, by an act of Congress, acknowledged the sale of 80 acres to John Huskey. The heirs still farm the land today, making the Huskey farm one of the oldest in Missouri.

Jefferson County was formed on December 8, 1818. The first county seat was Herculaneum. In 1832, it was proposed that the county seat be more centrally located. This undertaking took a number of years. Following endless debate, a vote of the people, the donation of a tract of land by Samuel Merry and Hugh O'Neill, and then an act of the Missouri General Assembly, Hillsboro became the county seat on February 8, 1839.

In 1840, the first courthouse was completed at Second and Oak Streets. Then in 1865, a new site was purchased and a courthouse erected. Surviving remodeling and growth, it has remained at that site for well over 100 years.

Because travel to and from Hillsboro was difficult, many of the early homes were built by persons elected to county office. It was for this reason that Hillsboro had three hotels, the last closing in the 1930s.

There was no public transportation until the late 1830s with the arrival of the stagecoach. Trains began to run to nearby Victoria in 1858. From there, one rode horseback or walked the Hillsboro-Victoria Road to Hillsboro. 1940 brought the completion of Highway 21 and a bus line that serviced the area for about twenty‑five years.
A weekly newspaper was established in 1866.

In 1873, the town of Hillsboro was incorporated and a board of trustees appointed.

The settlers’ one-room schoolhouses were consolidated in 1939, forming the Hillsboro School District. The first school building, built at Seventh Street and Highway 21, remains a part of the expanding school campus yet today.

In 1947, a group of men who saw a need for fire protection formed the Hillsboro Fire Tag Association and purchased a fire truck from the City of De Soto. A fire district was formed in 1974.


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