Putnam County is Established: February 28, 1845

Putnam County Courthouse, Missouri, Large stone government building with trees and sidewalk
Wikimedia Commons

Putnam County was established on this date in 1845. Before becoming part of Missouri, the area was claimed by the Sac, Fox, and Iowa Tribes. People from these tribes remained in the area until the 1840s, and it’s thought that a man named Brightwell Martin became the county’s first permanent white resident in 1836. Named after General Israel Putnam, a hero of the American Revolutionary War, the county’s early settlers were pioneers from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, who were attracted by the fertile land and abundant wildlife.

Putnam County was once bordered by Dodge County, and both originally extended nine miles further north into what is now Iowa. However an 1851 Supreme Court ruling determined that the territory belonged to Iowa, ending the so-called Honey War, a bloodless conflict that erupted over the dispute. After the ruling it was determined that Dodge County was no longer large enough due to statutory minimum area requirements, and its land was folded into Putnam County where it remains today.

The county seat, Unionville, was established in 1853 and quickly became a center of commerce and government for the area. Unionville had previously been named Harmony before the Civil War.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, agriculture became the dominant industry in Putnam County. The introduction of the railroad in the 1870s boosted the local economy, allowing farmers to transport their products to larger markets. Corn, soybeans, and livestock were among the primary products of the region.

The 20th century brought further changes to Putnam County, including the construction of rural schools and the establishment of electricity and telephone services in the 1930s and 1940s. However, like many rural areas, the county experienced a decline in population as residents moved to urban centers in search of employment.

Putnam County has maintained its rural character and agricultural heritage. Today, it is known for its scenic beauty, including Rebel’s Cove, Union Ridge, and Mineral Hills Conservation Areas, which attract outdoor enthusiasts.