Located at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Steelville is surrounded by rolling hills and clean running streams–the Meramec River and two Spring fed creeks, the Yadkin and Whittenburg, and located to the east a few miles is the Huzzah and Courtois. Many travel to this area each year to enjoy the natural resources mother nature has blessed this area with.
Prior to the 1800’s the first people to pass through Steelville were American Indians primarily from the Choctaw and Cherokee tribes. They were removed from Georgia and Mississippi and forced to relocate to Oklahoma and the West. This journey is referred to as “The Trail of Tears”. It is believed that they stopped in Steelville around the spring to rest, bury their dead, and get supplies.
The first settlers in Steelville were William Britton, who built a small grist mill along the Yadkin Creek, and James Steel, our founding father, who operated a trading post and was appointed by the government as Commissioner to lay out the city in 1835–the year in which Steelville was founded. Britton remained in the area. Steel, according to census, moved northward to continue his interest in mining.
James Steel purchased 40 acres of land from the government which he later sold to the “County Court” on December 16, 1835 for $50. By this time a little settlement had sprung up. Crawford County Court named the town Steelville as the County Seat. The deed was recorded on December 18, 1835, the town was platted, and the first deeds to lots were sold for $12 each.
The town was incorporated as a city of the fourth class in 1885. At this time, there were 500 inhabitants. The Lebanon Lodge, Masonic, was chartered on October 14, 1846. The first tailor, Mr. Vanburg, came in town in 1844. The first hotel was owned by James Davis. In 1847, A. W. Johnson opened a blacksmith shop. Andrew Jackson opened the first Post Office. Doctor Dunlap was the first doctor, and in 1838, J. H. Johnson opened the first saddle and harness shop.
The Steelville Normal Business Institute was originally at Vichy, Missouri. It was moved to Steelville with the help of John T. Woodruff of Springfield and Professor Hayes and opened during the latter part of 1890.
The first Newspaper of Steelville, Steelville Crawford Missouri, was established on May 4, 1874, by Thomas Roberts. The paper was printed in a log cabin the first time and was a Republican paper.
The Steelville Bank began operations in October, 1884, under the direction of President G. W. Matlock. This was constructed of brick and was very strong by the standards of that time. Later, the bank was named Crawford County Farmers Bank. In 1925, bank robbers made an attempt to rob the bank. Most of the robbers were killed. Robbers included Basil Doman, age 21, from Mitchell, Illinois. McCellan was wounded and died after being examined. Albert Walters, age 20, from Granite City, Illinois, was the driver of the getaway car and was shot. The youngest, Leslie Reiter, age 16, from Madison, Illinois, was sent to jail. One robber was dead, two were wounded, one was taken prisoner, and a fifth got away. He was never caught or identified. The sheriff at the time was Mr. Enke. There was only one citizen wounded – A. D. Schweider – he was walking out of the adjoining store and was shot in the legs.
Steelville has survived floods and fires. A terrible flood occurred in Steelville Missouri, on Friday, July 15, 1898. There was a great loss of life and property in this flood. The main streets, submerged to a depth of five to eight feet, carried wrecked homes, farm machinery, shocks of wheat, tree limbs, uprooted trees, and debris of every sort. Thirty-five homes and business houses were removed from their foundations, twisted, wrecked and made unfit for general use. Thirteen lives were lost and probably at least $200,000 of property was destroyed. A fire in the downtown area in 1904 burned down much of the downtown. Steelville has survived because of caring and hard working people, which is apparent today.
Steelville rebuilt and has made many vast improvements over the years. The downtown was renovated in early 1900’s with many businesses giving their storefronts a facelift to bring back that comfortable quaint feeling that small towns give.
Steelville, Missouri – where the rivers come together – where the people come together!