Franklin County will turn 200 years old this year having originally been chartered on Dec. 11, 1818.
In December 1818, the Missouri state Legislature made the decision to create Franklin County out of St. Louis County; however, it was not implemented until January 1819.
To celebrate its bicentennial a number of events have been planned this fall and throughout 2019 to mark historic places, people and events in the county’s early history.
The kickoff event for Franklin County’s 200th birthday will be a dedication of the first courthouse site and old-fashioned church picnic Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Newport Presbyterian Church. Newport was chosen for this honor because it’s the site of the original county seat and courthouse.
The first courthouse was established in Newport and stood near the site where the Newport Presbyterian Church now stands.
The courthouse stood at this location until 1896. A monument is being created by St. Clair Monument Company to mark the Newport site. It will include some of the stone from the original courthouse.
Dedication of the monument marking the place of the first courthouse will take place at 1 p.m.
Newport Presbyterian Church is hosting an old-time church picnic immediately following the ceremony.
A bicentennial website has been launched by the Franklin County 1818 Corporation, which is steering and organizing the yearlong celebration.
A website with more information on the bicentennial can be found at www.franklinmo200.com. It includes information about the communities in Franklin County, as well as people, places and photos.
The website currently is a work in progress and more information is being added.
Founding member Marc Houseman, director of the Washington Historical Society Museum, says the committee has high hopes for the website and hopes to use it as a tool to keep the public informed and gather even more historical information.
“It has some historical information and photos on it now,” Houseman said. “We hope to add a little more at a time. The main purpose is to give the community a place to get details on the bicentennial events.”
A celebration 200 years in the making has taken a lot of time to plan. The 1818 group has been at it since this time last year when it was given autonomy and limited funding from the Franklin County Commission.
“We’ve been meeting every month laying out the plans,” Houseman said. “We are getting more and more people at the meetings the closer it gets.”
Houseman said a large bicentennial event is in the works and invitations are being sent out to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, other state politicos and dignitaries.
“Things are really starting to come together,” Houseman said. “We’ve been working on this for 2 1/2 years and now it’s close enough you can taste it. People are definitely starting to talk about it and enthusiasm is growing.”
The opening ceremony for the bicentennial celebration has been set for Jan. 12, at East Central College.
Other planned events and activities include a bicentennial parade, bike and bus tours of limestone churches, an art show, historical lectures and an event at Röbller Winery in New Haven.
A set of traveling history panels is being created and will be set up at the various events.