A sleepy little town today, with a population
of some 850 people, this has not always been the case as the community was
on its way to becoming an important port city at one time.
Before the town was founded, the site,
situated on the Osage River, was just downstream from the main villages of
the Osage Nation and the area was often frequented by the tribe, who had
made their home in the area for centuries.
However, things would begin to change for the
Indians when the United States government took control of the
Louisiana Purchase in 1804 -- territory previously held by the French and
Unlike the French who had successfully
traded with the Osage, American settlers demanded protection from the
Indians, who were known for their skill with both horses and guns.
Missouri, Kathy Weiser,
In 1808 and 1825, the Osage had been
convinced to sign treaties with the government, giving up all of
Missouri and parts of
Oklahoma. In 1872, they traded their remaining
lands for the present reservation in
As more and more settlers moved into the
area, the town that would later be known as Osceola was founded in
the mid 1830s. The first house was built in the winter of 1835-36. The
logs were cut by Sanders Nance and his slave, Martin, and hauled to
the bluff. However, a dispute soon erupted between Nance and a man
named Phillip Crow as to whose land it was. Nance backed off and Crow
built the house. He was soon joined by a man named Richard P.
Crutchfield, and the spring of 1836, the pair opened the first store
on the banks of Osage River called the "Crossing of the Osage at Crow
Crow and Crutchfield were soon joined by
the Cox brothers -- Pleasant, Joseph and William, who opened the
second store in the settlement. More and more people continued
to come to the area, with James Gardner opening a log tavern, John W.
Bridges establishing a blacksmith shop and Pleasant Cox opening a
sawmill, all in 1837. The following year, Phillip Crow expanded his
business dealings by building a ferry across the Osage River. A post
office was also established in 1838.
New settlers continued to come, primarily
supported by agriculture, timber, and livestock. In 1839, the town
adopted the name of the famed Seminole Chief and Warrior, Osceola,
who had died in South Carolina two years earlier. David Corbin and his
son built the first frame building in the town in 1839, which was soon
occupied as a tailor shop run by a Frenchman named Ernest Lemming.
On January 29, 1841, St. Clair
County was formed from Rives
(later Henry) County and named for Arthur St. Clair, a Revolutionary
War general. After a bitter contest and numerous debates, Osceola
became the county seat in November, 1841, a designation it continues
to hold today.
The first courts of St. Clair County met in homes
before a courthouse was built in 1842. The building was a two-story
structure, described as having a tin roof, a parapet around
its roof line, and plank floors, was situated on the town square.