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Warsaw - Rich History on the Osage River

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Aerial view of Warsaw, Missouri

Warsaw Aerial view, photo courtesy City of Warsaw, Missouri.



Warsaw, Missouri, the County Seat of Benton County, is a small town of some 2,100 permanent residents, which, just about doubles during the lake season as fishermen, campers, and lake enthusiasts move down to their seasonal homes or just come for the area opportunities. Warsaw is located between two of Missouri's largest lakes -- Truman Reservoir and Lake of the Ozarks.


Rich in history, from Native Americans to steamboats, to Civil War skirmishes, Warsaw has endured throughout the years to become a quickly growing community that exudes small town charm and provides numerous recreation opportunities for locals and visitors alike.


Osage WarriorWhen white explorers came to the area in 1719, a number of Indian tribes called the region home, including the Delaware, Shawnee, Kickapoo, and Sac and Fox. By far; however, the land was occupied by the Osage Indians, from which, the river would later take its name. With its plentiful supply of rivers and springs, the area abounded with game, providing superb hunting grounds for the Indians. In its bluffs and hills, the Indians found abundant amounts of flint rock in order to make arrows, knives and other weapons.

Early French hunters, trappers, and traders soon began to trade with the Indians along the Osage River, which by the early 1800s, increased significantly as white settlers saw increased opportunities on the river itself.

River FerryThe area that would become the town of Warsaw was first settled around 1820, primarily by Kentucky and Tennessee farmers of English, Irish and German descents. Early on, the settlement became a crossroads of travel and freighting. The first ferry was established on the Osage River in 1831 by Lewis Bledsoe, located where the site of Bledsoe Ferry Park, near Truman Dam, is located today. Bledsoe's Osage Ferry served the Boonville-Springfield Road, parts of which were also called the Old Military Road or Wire Road, east of town. Another ferry was later established by Mark Fristoe to the west. Soon, numerous freight wagons, stagecoaches, and wagon trains began to pass through the area.


One of the earliest residents of Benton County was Stephen A. Howser from Kentucky. He and his wife, Sarah (Sally) Wyatt Howser, settled in the area that would soon become Warsaw around 1831. Later, they would deed part of their land on the Osage River for the new township. Alas, they would also be the parents of a boy who would later make his name known in Missouri's darker annals of history as a murderer and a thief.


Benton County was first created on January 3, 1835, from parts of Pettis and Greene counties and named for Thomas Hart Benton, United States Senator.




The county "offices” were initially held in a home near Bledsoe’s Ferry, which was doing a brisk business. In 1836, the Gazetteer of Missouri described the new "town,” which was then referred to as "Osage” or "New Town” in promising terms, including plans for a great hotel, mills, warehouses, and merchants, as well as predicting a population of several thousand over the next five years.


Town lots for Warsaw were first sold in February, 1838, and the town slowly began to grow. The first Benton County Courts met in various homes in the area but a new site was soon chosen at the corner of Washington and Van Buren Streets (where the county jail now stands.) Money was raised for a new "temporary” courthouse building through lot sales and a 20’x 30’ log building was constructed. Two years later, construction on a permanent two-story courthouse began. The new structure cost $4,500 and county officials began to occupy the new building in 1842. The following year, the City of Warsaw was officially incorporated.



Continued Next Page


  Warsaw, Missouri Custom Postcard

Custom postcard by Legends of America.


The Homer C. Wright Riverboat traveled the Osage River

The Homer C. Wright steamer was one of the many river boats  to travel on the

Osage River. It would also be the last. It finally sank during an ice storm.


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