Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
Join Geni to explore your genealogy and family history in the World's Largest Family Tree.

Dent County, Missouri

Project Tags

Top Surnames

view all


Please add profiles of those who were born, lived or died in Dent County, Missouri.

Official Website

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft was one of the earliest visitors to Dent County, which was then unmapped and unknown. In 1818, Schoolcraft and Levi Pettibone left Potosi, Missouri on an adventure that often left them hungry, lost, lonely and in danger. They started headed west from Potosi on a trail that is now followed by Highway 8, then turned south through southern Dent and Shannon counties, where Schoolcraft found the Current River, "a fine stream with fertile banks and clear, sparkling water.” Today the river attracts tourists who launch canoes by the thousands during the summer to enjoy the fast-moving water of the Current and Jack's Fork Rivers in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. Schoolcraft traveled to the area of today's Springfield, Missouri, then went east on White River and finally back to Potosi, completing a journey of 89 days.

The White River trail had long been used by Native Americans in Dent County. It later became one of the branches of the Trail of Tears, which saw many Cherokees pass through on their forced trek to Oklahoma. Some stopped in Dent County and many old families take pride in their Cherokee heritage. The "trace" wound from Sligo southwest to the Ephraim Bressie Farm on Spring Creek north of Salem. It left the county about the present town of Maples.

The first white settler was George Cole, who cleared a farm on the Meramec near Short Bend. It was later the site of the Nelson Mill. An abundance of waterpower and difficulty of transportation made mills important in the settling of the new land. Some of the first settlers came in 1829, mostly to the Meramec, Spring Creek and Dry Fork valleys. Land could be purchased for five cents or less an acre. William Thornton, Daniel Troutman and Daniel W. Wooliver were among the 1829 settlers, followed by William Blackwell, Nicholas Berardy, Elisha Nelson, Jerry Potts, Ephraim Bressie, Robert Leonard, Abner Wingfield, Lewis Dent, Wilson Craddock, Thomas Higginbotham, Jack Berry, Silas Hamby, Smith Wofford, Turquill McNeill, Dr. John Hyer, Samuel Hyer and David Lenox.

In 1851 the Missouri Assembly created Dent County from Crawford and Shannon counties. It was named for early settler Lewis Dent, who served as the first representative. G.D. Breckenridge, Samuel Hyer, Jr., and Jotham Clark were the first elected county officials. Joseph Millsap served as sheriff and David Henderson as clerk. They met at the Bressie Farm.

An early log courthouse, built about 1851 or 1852, was Dent County's first, on the Wingfield farm northeast of Salem. In 1852-53 a courthouse was built south of the present courthouse. It was burned during the Civil War. The next courthouse, built in 1864, also fell victim to fire in May 1866. The beautiful Victorian courthouse was built in 1870 for $15,500. A.E. Dye came to Dent County to build this courthouse. His son, E.L. Dye, assisted him and was to become the leading builder in the county. W.P. Elmer in his history reports that when the courthouse was finished, pictures of it were published in McClure's Magazine and newspapers in the East to show the development of the West.

Minerals have greatly influenced the Dent County economy. The iron furnace, built at Sligo, was the greatest, starting in 1880 and active until 1923. There was plenty of iron ore—Simmons Hill in Salem, Orchard and Cherry Valley, Millsap, Pomeroy, Hawkins Banks, Red Hill and Scotia. Elmer writes in his history that the Sligo furnace was the most successful and continued longer than any other iron furnace in Missouri. The Sligo furnace was built on Crooked Creek and produced 60 to 80 tons of pig iron a day with some runs of up to 100 tons. E.B. Sankey came from New Castle, Pennsylvania in 1870 to survey the St. Louis-Salem and Little Rock Railroad from Cuba to Salem. The Sligo & Eastern Railroad ran a branch to East End to gather wood for the kilns producing charcoal for the furnace. Sligo's population in its big years reached 1,000.

In recent times the largest mining and milling operations were in the "New Lead Belt" some 30 miles east of Salem. St. Joe Lead started the mining boom at Viburnum in neighboring Iron County and soon other major mining companies bought land and mineral rights. The mines brought new families and well-paying jobs with many choosing to live in Salem. Doe Run in nearby St. Francois County continues mining and battery reclamation in the area today.

Salem led the world in the production and shipping of railroad ties for a time. While the early lumber companies cut the vast Ozark pine forests, timber has remained a major asset, with white oak staves for barrels, oak flooring, pallets, charcoal briquettes and lumber. The Bunker-Cul1er Lumber Co. in Bunker was one of the area's biggest industries, and like the mines which hauled wood for the kilns from a large area, Bunker-Cul1er used rails to bring in logs.

Dent County has had its ups and downs economically, but is proud of its record of having five banks during the Great Depression without a failure. The Great Depression years brought many changes. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) brought young men to the area, many of whom stayed. There were CCC camps at Boss and Indian Trail.

Adjacent Counties


  • Boss
  • Bunker
  • Darien
  • Doss
  • Gladden
  • Hobson
  • Howes
  • Jack
  • Jadwin
  • Joy
  • Lake Spring
  • Lecoma
  • Lenox
  • Montauk
  • Rhyse
  • Salem (County Seat)
  • Sligo
  • Short Bend
  • Stone Hill



Genealogy Trails

Roots Web

Hearthstone Legacy

Mark Twain National Forest (part)

Ozark National Scenic Waterways (part)

MO Gen Web


Genealogy Express