History of Ray County

Richmond was founded, 1827, as the seat of Ray County on land donated by John Wollard, W. B. Martin, and Isaac and William Thornton. The county, organized 1820, had its first seat at Bluffton, where Camden, an early Missouri Riverport, was laid out, 1836. The river channel suddenly shifted there, July 3, 1915, leaving Camden several miles inland and placing the Lafayette County boundary north of the river in that area.

Richmond and Ray County suffered from troop movements, skirmishes, and guerrilla raids from 1861-1865, but the postwar years brought coal mining and railroad growth. The St. Louis & St. Joseph (Santa Fe), came to Richmond, 1870. North Mo. (Wabash) reached nearby Henrietta, 1869, and Chicago, Santa Fe, & Calif. (Santa Fe), in 1887. Early schools were Richmond Academy, opened in 1836, and Woodson (Methodist) Institute, 1893.

At the courthouse is the State statue, by F. C. Hibbard, to Alexander W. Doniphan (1808-1887), who lived here 19 years. Colonel in the Mexican War, he led the 1st Reg. Mo. Mounted Volunteers on the famed 1846-47 self-sustaining expedition to Mexico.

Trade and legal center for livestock, grain, and coal mining county, Richmond lie in the Glacial Plains Region of Missouri in territory ceded by Iowa, Sac. and Fox tribes, 1824. An ancient Indian trail ran along the Missouri River. In the vicinity of Orrick, laid out 1869, the river bottomland is one of the State’s leading potato producing areas.

The county, named for Missouri legislator John Ray, was settled by Southerners who came to the area, 1814-1815. The first settlements were Bluffton, southwest, near the present Camden, and Buffalo, southeast, near where Hardin was later founded in 1868.

Forrest Smith, Missouri governor, 1949-53, was born near Richmond and here lived Austin A. King, governor, 1849-53. Albert M. Clark, Mo. Supreme Court justice, 1938-1950, was born in nearby Lawson. In Richmond’s cemeteries are the State Monument to Gov. King; Latter-Day Saints monument to David Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery, witnesses of “Book of Mormon”; and the unmarked grave of guerilla raider Bill Anderson. In town is the gravesite of Mexican War Captain Israel R. Hendley.

– State Historical Society of Missouri, 1957