Dignitaries and local leaders gathered to celebrate the 200th birthday of three neighboring counties Monday.
"This is a big day for Callaway, Cole and Boone," said Gary Jungermann, Callaway County presiding commissioner.
The three counties installed and dedicated a joint monument at the North Jefferson Katy Trail trailhead, just south of Holts Summit. Each of the monument's three sides bears the outline of one of the counties and the date of its founding; the base is engraved with a summarized history of each county.
The monument was funded in part by Central Bank, which has branches in each of the three counties. Central Bank president/CEO David Minton said he was proud of the bank's role in aiding the growth and development of the counties. He also mentioned the challenges the three have faced over the last 18 months: A tornado, flooding and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"And yet all of these obstacles have proven one thing: The heartland of Missouri is strong," he said. "We stick together, rise to the occasion and overcome. It's who we are and who we will always be."
Callaway County will be dedicating its own bicentennial monument at the Callaway County Courthouse 10 a.m. Nov. 25 — read this Saturday's Fulton Sun for more details.
Cole and Boone counties were both founded on Nov. 16, 1820, while Callaway County was established nine days later on Nov. 25 — in fact, a total of 10 counties were established within that nine day span, as part of preparations for Missouri's bid for statehood in 1821.
Retired journalist and history enthusiast Bob Priddy shared that tidbit, as well as many others, while reviewing the history of the three counties during Monday's ceremony.
"This is an area of farmers," he said. "It was once the home of shoe factories and mines and places where cities were planned by hopeful people. In many places people founded the cities that now are prideful places for us to live. The fact is, we live in their legacy. And today, we're here to celebrate that legacy and remind ourselves to cherish the things that they have given us."
Priddy described the three counties as the "heart of western migration." The Boone's Lick Road once ran right through Callaway County to connect with what became the Oregon Trail. The Missouri River, too, which borders all three counties, acted as a "liquid highway" to the West.
"These three counties are not just the heart of Missouri, they were the crossroads of the nation," Priddy said.
Much later, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway provided an important route for trade; today, much of the railway's Missouri portion has been converted into trails: The Katy Trail, where the monument now stands.
Carol Comer, director of Missouri's Department of Natural Resources, described the area of the trail near the monument as one of the prettiest sections, with views of towering bluffs, the Missouri River and the capitol's dome in Jefferson City. She noted that during the pandemic, trail use has increased by nearly 95 percent compared to the same period in 2019.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson noted many of the 400,000 people who visit the Katy Trail annually will see the new monument.
"And 100, 200 years from now, they'll be talking about us, who was here at this (dedication)," he said.
Jungermann, Cole County Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman and Boone County Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill presented Parson with a specially made 24-star American flag. Missouri was the 24th state to join the union when it was officially established in 1821.
"We've been blessed with everyone before us giving us what we have today," Jungermann said.
He added he was proud to have the monument standing on Callaway County soil, and also proud of the county's healthy working relationship with Cole and Boone counties.
Members of the Callaway 200 committee helped develop the history engraved on Callaway County's side of the monument's base.
It reads: "Callaway County, named for Captain James Callaway, grandson of the pioneer Daniel Boone, was organized on November 25, 1820, from a portion of Montgomery County. Comprised of 847 square miles, it is the seventh largest county in the state. Cote Sans Dessein, in southern Callaway County on the Missouri River, was the first permanent settlement in 1808. Fulton, centrally located, became the county seat in 1825.
"Native Americans, Africans, Western Europeans and eventually a variety of nationalities brought diversity and a wealth of talents to the area. Early crops included tobacco, hemp and grains. Callaway County's mule industry brought state and national attention in the 1900s. Agriculture, railroads, industry, nuclear energy and educational and state institutions expanded growth and prosperity during the past two centuries. Callawegians are self-reliant, hard-working forward-thinking, community-minded and committed to a better future for all. This monument is dedicated in 2020 to that enduring spirit."
Committee members said they were pleased with the resulting monument, and with the dedication ceremony.
"I enjoyed working with all three counties on this mutual celebration," Callaway 200 co-chair Susan Krumm said.