Missouri History | Historic
Landmarks | Historical
Places in Centerville, Missouri
Centerville, Missouri Lodging, Bed and Breakfast Inns, Hotels,
Cabins, Cottages and Campgrounds click
of our fine hosts are ready to help plan your Missouri history
tour in Centerville, MO.
you are researching genealogy in Centerville, Missouri, please see
1895 Map of Centerville,
Missouri and surrounding area.
Missouri ~ History and Landmarks, Reynolds County, MO
Historic Mill at Reed Springs
Centerville, located on the West Fork of the Black River,
was born as a brand new town at the same time Reynolds County
was designated in 1845. Between 1812, (when Missouri
became a territory following the Louisiana purchase)
and 1845, Reynolds County was at various times a part of the
following counties: Ste. Genevieve, Cape Girardeau,
Washington, Wayne, Madison, Ripley and Shannon. If you
are searching for family history in this region it can be
very confusing! (We have attempted to help with these
issues on our genealogy
page). Between 1812 and 1862, Missouri was divided
and sub-divided until 114 counties had emerged.
The location for the new Reynolds county seat was chosen after
a decision by those that had been appointed by Governor Edwards
to represent the new county government. After evaluating
the area population and geography, 80 acres of property was
purchased from John Buford for $100. Even though the
geographic center was not known at the time, they named the
new county seat Centreville (Centerville). At the time,
no one lived on the entire 80 acres. "Hazel and
underbrush covered the ground and the deer and bear could
be seen at every turn in the trail that had been cut through
the forest to the new county seat."
As the new town square and public buildings were
being constructed, nearby Lesterville served as temporary
county seat. The original courthouse was completed in
1850, but was not to stand long. The courthouse burned to
the ground. The present courthouse was completed in
1871 and is one of the few courthouses in Missouri over 100
From 1850 to 1860, the population of Reynolds county almost
doubled. Even though almost all of its inhabitants were
from southern states, slavery was never an important issue
in hilly Reynolds county. "In view of that fact,
it was a sad trick of fate that the citizenry had no say,
no choice, as this nation gradually edged closer and closer
to an internal war that would devastate the country."
To read about the Civil War in our region, click
here. During the war, troops and guerilla bands
foraged the area and union troops occupied the courthouse
for a time, bringing progress to a standstill in Centerville.
1863 over 100 Union soldiers who were camped near the courthouse
were captured by the rebel Captain Reverend Jesse Pratt.
In the 1920s, the lumber boom had come to an end and the population
dwindled as residents left the town. Today, Centerville
has a population of around 200, but these old landmarks are
still available to remind the traveler of days gone by.
~ This 56 degree spring is channeled into small lakes, with
waterfalls, which eventually empty into the Black River. It
is not known how far into the hills this beautiful spring
starts but it has served the area surrounding Centerville
in the most useful ways in every era of its time. In 1881,
Nathaniel Scott built the dam and grist mill to grind the
corn into meal and wheat into flour. Shortly thereafter a
saw mill was erected supplying much needed lumber to early
settlers to build their homes. Sometime before 1915, Dr. Shy
had the idea of generating electricity from its water power,
so they took off the overshot wheel, installed a turbine and
ran electric lines into town. Though the lights were bright
at the mill, but dim in town, this supplied the towns’
electric until 1929. The original building and wheel were
taken apart, board by board, and sent to San Francisco for
exhibition at the 1939 Worlds Fair. This display
is now in storage at the Smithsonian Institution in
Washington D.C. Although privately owned, this incredibly
picturesque mill is fully visible from the road. From
Hwy 21 in Centerville, go west on Pine Street for 1/2 mile.
For lodging and accommodations near Centerville, Missouri click
page for helpful information and resources. Better yet, travel
to our region for a
family history vacation and see for yourself!