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- Historical Information
VERSAILLES, MISSOURI ESTABLISHED 1835
Commissioner Street Thurston selected the site for Versailles in Section 6, Township 42, Range 17 in Morgan County in 1835. Mr. Wyan and Hugh Galbraith donated 36 blocks of land, each 170 feet square, and platted the town. At this time, the remnants of the Osage tribe of Indians still lived in the county.
The town was named after Versailles, France, possibly by residents of the county who were descendants of the French.
Versailles became an incorporated village February 13, 1866. The city officials at that time were V.S. Walker, A.J. Hart, W.C. Reed, E. Lindley and R. Boyd Williams, with Mr. Reed as chairman and J. Tyler Campbell as City Clerk. The first mayor of Versailles, elected in 1881, was B. R. Richardson.
In 1840, the population of Versailles was 70. Today, the population is 2,482 (as of the 2010 census).
In its infancy the village of Versailles was long and narrow, having only two streets running north and south, Monroe and Fisher streets, and ten streets running east and west. The highest point of the tract was selected for the courthouse.
The first postmaster, Hugh Galbraith, also built the first building in town. A small brick structure on North Monroe Street, one block north of the square. In 1836 William Hicks opened a 3-room tavern or inn and livery stable on South Monroe Street, southwest of the square. This was the stagecoach stop for the Jefferson City to Springfield line. A blacksmith shop, boarding house, general store and carpentry shop were constructed around the courthouse square. Lumber for the Versailles buildings was brought by ox cart from Walton's lumber mill.
By 1840, there were seventy people and twenty-five buildings in Versailles. At this time Dr. J.B. Thurston came to Versailles and began his medical practice and in 1848, Dr. McCelland joined him.
1844, William Kidwell, Sr. established the Kidwell undertaking and furniture business on North Monroe Street. Kidwell and members of his family made coffins to order and furniture from walnut lumber. The business was later owned by David Kidwell and at his death, his son, William F. Kidwell became the owner and dropped the furniture store after a few years to concentrate on the funeral business. William F. Kidwell was the first licensed embalmer in Versailles.
In 1846, a stagecoach line, operated from Jefferson City to Springfield by way of Versailles, Cole Camp and Warsaw; progressed from three trips a week to daily service. The first sidewalks were made of wood planks. By 1894 Versailles had gas lights, furnished by the Chicago Globe, Light and Heat Co. In 1904 the first electric light plant was established in Versailles as a municipal plant lighting the town from 7 p.m. to daylight. The first ice plant was built in 1909 to supply the town with ice.
A major fire October 23, 1886 practically wiped out the town of Versailles. Five months later, March 13, 1887 the second fire stunned the residents of the Versailles. The second fire destroyed the courthouse and burned all the business buildings on the west and south side of the square. The citizens of Versailles rallied following the disaster and soon started rebuilding the town.
The first railroad in Versailles was the Boonville-Versailles branch of the Missouri Pacific from Tipton to Versailles was completed in 1880. In 1936, this railroad line ceased operations and the train turn around was removed. The rock Island Railroad was completed from St. Louis to Kansas City in 1903 in time for transportation from Versailles to the World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904.
The first telephone company in Versailles was organized in the late 1980's. At one time, the only long distant phone in Versailles was located in the M. Spidel Confectionery on North Monroe Street. In 1906 Fred G. George B. Dressie purchase the exchange and operated the office in a back room of the Martin Hotel.
Municipal waterworks went into Versailles in 1923 during the mayorship of William F. Kidwell. The Versailles Rural Fire Department was organized in 1952.
Versailles is a town of contrasts, charm and history.