Warsaw History

The earliest inhabitants of Warsaw and Benton County area were of the pre-historic variety. In 1843, Samuel H. Whipple delivered a mastodon to the museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. Later, in 1852, peccary and mastodon remains were found by Dr. R.W. Gibbs of Warsaw. These were proudly displayed in his drug store. Replicas of mastodon remains can be seen at the Harry S. Truman Dam and Reservoir Visitor Center.

When the first white men came here in the early eighteenth   century, inhabitants were Native Americans: Delaware, Shawnee, Sac, Kickapoo, but mostly Osage. The area was a natural habitat with its hills and wooded hunting grounds full of wild game, and its boundless supply of springs and rivers. The superior quality of flint rock in the area supplied the native people an abundance of arrows, knives, and other weapons.
The first recorded white man in the area arrived in 1719. French traders, hunters, and trappers kept a thin line of commerce up and down the Osage River basin. However, by 1830, the river was an artery of immigration. Pioneers were for the most part farmers of Scotch-Irish, German, and English descent migrating mostly from Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

Warsaw was first settled in 1820, and then on January 7, 1837, a committee was appointed by the Benton County Court to choose a site for the County Seat. It was to be located as near the center of the county and the Osage River as possible. Warsaw was selected and in April 1843, the city was incorporated. There is no written record of how the name “Warsaw” was chosen, however, street names are mostly patriotic and it is believed that the name, which was capital city of Poland, was chosen in honor of the Polish Patriot Kosciusko.

From infancy Warsaw was the crossroads of travel and freighting. As early as 1820, a ferry was operated on the Osage River by Lewis Bledsoe, near where Truman Dam sits today. Stagecoaches and wagon trains passed through everyday. The Nicholas Tavern, which was later Newman’s Hotel and in more recent days Reser Funeral Home, was used in pre-Civil War days as a daily mail stop by the Butterfield Stage Pony Express.

In 1837, the first steamboats traveled the river and docked in Warsaw. Upstream cargo consisted mainly of salt, groceries, nails, and iron. Commodities that made up the bulk of the downstream traffic were pork, furs, grain, deer skins and meat, chickens, eggs, whiskey, and much more. In 1854, Warsaw alone shipped 144 bales of deer skins. In the mid-1850s seven St. Louis steamboats could be seen at the wharf at Warsaw at one time. This means of hauling lasted until the completion of the railroad between Sedalia and Warsaw.

The first train made the journey between Sedalia and Warsaw on November 20, 1880. The price of progress did not come with out sacrifice, as with all forms of transportation there is a risk involved, on November 2, 1897, the narrow-gauge train wrecked when it plunged off the big trestle two and one-half miles northeast of Warsaw. The engineer, John Minnier, was killed. The Missouri-Pacific Line was discontinued August 31, 1946.


Warsaw Firsts

  • Bank: Built in 1857, by Mechanics Bank of Saint Louis. It was closed in 1861, after General Fremont’s troops devastated Main Street. The building was bought in 1903, and remodeled into a jail, which is still being used today.
  • Courthouse: A 20 x 30 ft. log building at Van Buren and Washington (where county jail now stands)
  • Postmaster: Adamson Cornwall
  • Osage River Ferry: Established in 1820, by Lewis Bledsoe
  • Warsaw Ferry: Ran by W.J. Fristoe on Jefferson-Springfield Road

Warsaw Weather Trivia

  • Warsaw holds the state record for the low temperature of -40 degrees on February 13, 1905.
  • Warsaw holds the state record for the high temperature of 118 degrees on July 14, 1954.

Warsaw Mayors

Henry P. Lay
James A. Logan
S.O. Davis
J.S. Phillips
W.S. Shadburne
W.K. Shepardson
H.G. Savage
Guss C. Salley
Jonathan Autrieth
G.R. Bresse
Charles Petts
Guss C. Salley
H.G. Savage
Lawrence E. Meyer
J.H. Savage
Gordon H. Drak
H.M. Ryan
Mahlon K. White
J.W. Estes
James Bogart
B.E. Eoff
Lou Ann Breshears
James A. Logan
Ken Brown
H. Riemenshnitter
Eddie Simons


Warsaw Civil War Facts

  • April 23, 1861 – Crowd raises rebel flag on east side of courthouse lawn in Warsaw
  • October 17-21, 1861 – General Fremont’s troops demolish Warsaw
  • November 22, 1861 – Warsaw burned by Union Army stragglers
  • February 13, 1862 – Major Ed Price, son of Sterling Price captured in Warsaw home
  • April 8-28, 1862 – Several skirmishes fought in and around Warsaw
  • October 7, 1862 – Skirmish at Warsaw
  • November 7-9, 1863 – Colonel Shelby’s troops burn Warsaw then march to Cole Camp