Missouri Courthouses
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Editor’s note
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Marian M. Ohman
Department of Community Development

MoniteauCounty: Moniteau
Organized: Feb. 14, 1845
Named after: French spelling of Indian word meaning "spirit" or "God"
County seat: California

The first session of Moniteau County Court took place on Feb. 27, 1845, a few miles north of the present-day county seat. In May of the same year, Mr. and Mrs. A. T. Byler donated 50 acres in Boonesborough, an early name for California, which was designated as the county seat. The square was to contain one acre. In May 1846 the court ordered the sheriff to sell the old building on the public square.

In September 1846 the court appropriated $2,500 for a two-story, brick courthouse with stone foundation to be built on the same site. The building contained two small offices on the south side, a large room on the north (apparently the courtroom), and one large room on the second floor, which was leased to a lodge in 1852. Albert Byler contracted the building of the 50-by-70-foot courthouse for $2,176.85. In April 1867, as the court prepared to build a second courthouse, they ordered the building sold to the highest bidder. H. C. Finke bought it for $550 and removed it.

The court made an order in January 1867 for a new courthouse. William Vogdt was appointed to superintend construction, which the court estimated to cost about $45,000-$50,000. A new site was briefly considered, but in February 1867 the court chose the site of the previous courthouse. The commissioners received bids for construction of a 54-by-89-foot building in March 1867.

The Illinois firm of Underwood and Conn submitted a bid of $40,433.75, which the court accepted in April 1867. Contracators completed construction in February 1868. Seven rooms were on the first floor; double stairways leading to the 54-by-54-foot courtroom on the second floor were later reduced to one stairway by enclosing the well on the east.

In 1905 O. E. Sprouce directed an extensive remodeling that included alteration of the roof, which had caused so much leaking. He increased the height of the dome 20 feet, replastered the walls and added a metal ceiling to the Circuit Court room (Figure 1). Minor repairs and alterations were made in 1934 under a federal Civil Works Administration project.

Figure 1
Moniteau County Courthouse, 1867-. after 1905 remodeling. (Courtesy: State Historical Society of Missouri, gift of W. W. Wisdom)

The curved portico design is similar to the 1826 St. Louis County courthouse designed by Morton and Laveille. It is also reminiscent of the Missouri State Capitol, designed by A. Stephen Hills in 1837, remodeled in 1888. Moniteau County's courthouse is now on the National Register of Historic Places.


  • Ford, J. E. History of Moniteau County. California: Press of the California Democrat, 1936.
  • History of Cole, Moniteau, Morgan, Benton, Miller, Maries and Osage Counties, Missouri.
  • Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1889.
  • Moniteau County, Missouri. California: W. W. Hayward and Company, 1875.
  • "Historic Missouri Courthouses." Missouri Historical Review. volume 58 (October 1963) inside back cover.
  • Paegelow, Elia Wood. "Moniteau County on parade." Moniteau County Fair Diamond Jubilee Pageant, August 1941.
  • California Democrat, Feb. 8, 1917; March 14, 1974.
  • (California) Central Missourian, Jan. 12, Feb. 9, 23, April 6, 13, 1867.
  • (California) Moniteau County Herald, May 19, 1905; June 1, 1939 Special edition.
Manuscript collections
  • Work Projects Administration, Historical Records Survey, Missouri, 1935-1942, Moniteau County. Located in Joint Collection: MU, Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia and State Historical Society of Missouri Manuscripts.
  • Descriptive Atlas of Moniteau County, Missouri. Chicago: Acme Publishing Company, 1900.
Publication No. UED6067