Welcome To St. Francois County, Missouri
St. Francois County, Missouri, is located in the heartland of America, just 80 miles south of the St. Louis metropolitan area. The County is largely rural and offers a varied landscape ranging from rolling crop lands to the St. Francois Mountains of the Missouri Ozarks.
Within 25 miles of the County is Taum Sauk Mountain to the west, the highest point in Missouri, and to the east, the Mississippi River. And yet, the County is only a little over an hour’s travel from the entertainment, sports and cultural attractions of the St. Louis area via four-lane U.S. Highway 67 and Interstate 55.
This central location, and an efficient surface transportation network, offers important advantages to St. Francois County businesses. Portions of 20 states, with a combined population of 107 million people, are located within a 500-mile radius of the County. The states in this market area include 43% of all U. S. retail sales and 47% of all U. S. manufacturing establishments. Retail sales in this market area exceed $1.5 trillion.
These important markets can be reached quickly from St. Francois County by rail, truck, air or by barge via the Bussen public dock in southern St. Louis County. Reasonably priced rail service to both coasts, and barge access to the Port of New Orleans, provide shipping corridors to foreign markets. The completion of a new slackwater port and public transfer facility now under construction just south of the City of Ste. Genevieve will further reduce shipping time by barge.
In addition to its market advantages, the communities of St. Francois County offer a quality living and working environment, good schools, and government and community leaders ready to work with new businesses.
The recorded history of St. Francois County began about 1700. Following reports from local native American Indians, the earliest explorers located rich lead deposits some "50 leagues west of Ste. Genevieve" at a site presumed to be at or near present-day Mine LaMotte. It is virtually certain these early explorers at least passed through St. Francois County.
By 1735, a seasonal mining operation was established just west of the City of Desloge, and for over a century, lead mining provided the main economic stimulus within the County. As miners and their families immigrated into the County, businesses grew to supply their needs. The rich farmlands of St. Francois County also attracted immigrants, and agriculture grew to be an important industry in the County. Throughout the mining era, lead was the state’s most significant resource, and St. Francois County lay spread out over much of the "Missouri Lead Belt" which produced lead for the world.
In 1821, St. Francois County became the ninth county in the newly admitted State of Missouri. St. Francois County was formed from sections of Ste. Genevieve, Washington and Jefferson Counties. The following year, Farmington was founded specifically to serve as the County seat. Land for this new town was donated to the County by David Murphy, a wealthy landowner. By 1832, five separate mining operations were active around the site of the present-day City of Park Hills.
By 1830, the first year an official census was taken in Missouri, the population of St. Francois County had grown to 2,366 people. During those early years of statehood, "company" towns were founded to support miners and their families. By the late 1950's, the ore veins had begun to "play out," and mining companies began migrating south and west to the richer areas of the Viburnum Trend. The closing of the St. Joseph lead mines in Park Hills in 1972 marked the end of an economic era in St. Francois County and launched a quest for a new and diversified economic base. The heritage of mining in St. Francois County is remembered in some of its placenames such as Leadwood and Leadington.
The people of St. Francois County have been anxious to preserve their mining legacy and worked closely with state officials to create St. Joe State Park at the site of the former St. Joe Lead Company mine. St. Joe State Park is the second largest state park in Missouri and one of the most popular. The park offers hiking, picnicking, camping, swimming and trails for horseback riding and off-road vehicles. The Missouri Mines State Historic Site, located at the edge of the park, provides interpretation of local mining and processing techniques, and tours of the former St. Joe mining operation.
Today, the economy of St. Francois County is powered by an increasingly diverse mix of manufacturers, retailers, service providers, health care providers, higher education and a number of large state-operated facilities.