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Settlements were often named after persons of accomplishment. Thus Monticello,
in honor of President Thomas Jefferson's home atop a hill in Virginia, had been
selected as the name of this community, but another town in Lewis County,
Missouri, had already laid claim to the name. Therefore, Hills, the English
equivalent, plus borough, meaning town or village was chosen. The name was
recorded as Hillsboro. It is unclear if it was an accident or by design.
The Hillsboro area was settled in the late 1770s. This area provided wild game,
timber and rich soil for farming. Water was abundant from the Big Spring that
still flows, located at First and Elm Streets. This spring, along with two
others, forms the headwaters of Belews Creek, named for William Belews who
settled there in 1778. This creek attracted the Huskey family to locate here in
1803. On the 21st of April, 1820 President John Quincy Adams, by an act of
Congress, acknowledged the sale of 80 acres to John Huskey. The heirs still farm
the land today, making the Huskey farm one of the oldest in Missouri.
Jefferson County was formed on December 8, 1818. The first county seat was
Herculaneum. In 1832, it was proposed that the county seat be more centrally
located. This undertaking took a number of years. Following endless debate, a
vote of the people, the donation of a tract of land by Samuel Merry and Hugh
O'Neill, and then an act of the Missouri General Assembly, Hillsboro became the
county seat on February 8, 1839.
In 1840, the first courthouse was completed at Second and Oak Streets. Then in
1865, a new site was purchased and a courthouse erected. Surviving remodeling
and growth, it has remained at that site for well over 100 years.
Because travel to and from Hillsboro was difficult, many of the early homes were
built by persons elected to county office. It was for this reason that Hillsboro
had three hotels, the last closing in the 1930s.
There was no public transportation until the late 1830s with the arrival of the
stagecoach. Trains began to run to nearby Victoria in 1858. From there, one rode
horseback or walked the Hillsboro-Victoria Road to Hillsboro. 1940 brought the
completion of Highway 21 and a bus line that serviced the area for about
A weekly newspaper was established in 1866.
In 1873, the town of Hillsboro was incorporated and a board of trustees
The settlers’ one-room schoolhouses were consolidated in 1939, forming the
Hillsboro School District. The first school building, built at Seventh Street
and Highway 21, remains a part of the expanding school campus yet today.
In 1947, a group of men who saw a need for fire protection formed the Hillsboro
Fire Tag Association and purchased a fire truck from the City of De Soto. A fire
district was formed in 1974.
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