Cole County celebrates 200 years of history.

On November 16, 1820, Cole County was established by the Missouri General Assembly in St. Louis. At that time, the county’s population was only 1,028 people and consisted mainly of Englishmen, Scotsmen, and slaves. Now, 200 years later, Cole County’s population has grown from 1,028 to more than 77,000 residents of all different backgrounds and ethnicities. This growth of our county is something to celebrate, and that’s been the work of Marc Ellinger in his role as chairman of the Cole County Bicentennial. 

Marc is the past presiding commissioner of Cole County; his father, John Ellinger, led Cole County’s sesquicentennial (150-year celebration) in 1970, and Marc is excited to carry on the family tradition of leading the county in celebration. To help him carry on this tradition, he has been using a scrapbook his dad created to commemorate the sesquicentennial as a guide to help find ways to celebrate.

 “We’re doing things differently than they did 50 years ago, but we are also doing some things the same, like creating a commemorative coin to go along with the celebration,” Marc says.

Cole County’s Sesquicentennial Coin

“We are also doing some things the same, like creating a commemorative coin to go along with the celebration.”

— Marc Ellinger

 No matter the similarities and differences, Marc strives to do a great job of finding different ways to honor this historical event, even through the challenges of COVID-19.

If there’s one thing about Cole County, it’s that it has a very rich history. “Many English, Scotch-Irish, and Germans came to settle with their families in Cole County. Many of them came to seek religious freedom, independence, and fertile and inexpensive land for about 50 cents an acre,” says Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman. “I am excited about all the events. It’s our history, and it’s important to celebrate.”

The bicentennial celebration kicked off June 5, 2020, in Marion, with a historical tour and a speech by historian Bob Priddy. Priddy recounted the days when Marion was the seat of state government before Jefferson City took its place in 1825. Since the seat was first set in Marion, organizers thought it would only be fitting that the bicentennial kicked off there. 

But that was just the beginning of the celebration. In addition to the bicentennial coins being sold, Blacksmith Artisanal Spirits, in Lohman, commissioned 200 bottles of Cole County bourbon; Prison Brews has made 200 cans of custom bicentennial beer with two centennial hops; and Naught-Naught Insurance Agency has provided 200 bottles of Captain Cole Crimson wine. To top it off, raffle tickets are being sold at Samuel’s Tuxedo for a chance to win one of the 200 custom Cole County Missouri Bicentennial .22 caliber rifles from the Historical Armory. 

Throughout the rest of the year, there will also be many dedications in the name of the bicentennial, such as a quilt that was specially handcrafted by St. Margaret’s Parish for the event and three trees planted on the courthouse lawn that were contributed by Daughters of American Revolution, Sons of American Revolution, and Sons of Union Veterans.

One of Marc Ellinger’s goals was to leave something more permanent and legacy-minded. Currently, an obelisk monument is being made in commemoration of the event and will be placed next to the Cole County Courthouse. On each of the three sides of the monument, there will be information on the history of Cole County. According to Marc, we can expect to see this monument erected sometime between September and October. There are many plans in the works for the monument, such as a suggestion to use it in a Living Windows display around Christmas.

The bicentennial of Cole County is truly an event in itself, one that many Missourians can look forward to for fun opportunities, historic dedications, and memories. As the final event to celebrate the bicentennial, city officials, residents, and historians will meet across the river at the North Jefferson City trailhead of the Katy Trail on November 16, 2020. Here will be the new home of a tri-county monument to celebrate Boone County, Callaway County, and Cole County’s anniversaries. At that time, Sam Bushman and Marc Ellinger will pass the torch to Governor Mike Parson as he begins planning the state of Missouri’s bicentennial celebration in 2021.

Fun Facts: 

The government seat was originally in Marion before Jefferson City took its place and eventually became Missouri’s capital in 1825.

The first government building built in Cole County was a jailhouse, then came the courthouse.

You can purchase a commemorative coin at Central Bank and Samuel’s Tuxedos and Gifts.

Meghan Maples is a senior at Blair Oaks High School. She enjoys art, technology, and dance.