Missouri had not yet been a state for a year when the new state Legislature enacted Revised Statute of Missouri, Chapter 351, dated Dec. 31, 1821, which affirmed the location selected to become the capital of our new state.
Very shortly thereafter, the Legislature enacted Revised Statute of Missouri, Chapter 365, dated Jan. 11, 1822, in which the Legislature instructed the commissioners to meet on a specified date and proceed immediately to lay out a town. With this action, they set forth the general guidelines for the plan of the town. Later paragraphs made provisions to name the town “City of Jefferson” and set a date at which 200 of those 1,000 lots would be sold.
It took almost another year for the Legislature to enact Revised Statute of Missouri, Chapter 446, dated Dec. 19, 1822, appointing Josiah Ramsey Jr., John C. Gordon and Adam Hope as commissioners and specifying the duties of the commissioners and how the first sale of lots would be conducted. Another paragraph instructed the commissioners regarding the first State House, which was for the use of the general assembly and residence of the governor, and entrusted its construction to commissioners to be appointed.
The commissioners laid out the town as they were instructed by the Legislature. The first street, which was to be the showcase or parade route, was laid off perpendicular to the river, 100 feet in width, and was called “Broadway.” The balance of the streets were laid out parallel to and perpendicular to Broadway, each being 80 feet in width. Each block created by these streets was 417.5 feet square. Through the middle of each block, running in an east-west direction, are alleys 20 feet in width. The lots on each side of the alleyway were 198.75 feet in length and 104.28 feet in width. As laid out there were four lots on each side of the alley. The planners created 125 city blocks, creating a total of 1,000 lots. A block of this standard size contains almost exactly 4 acres and consequently 0.5 acres per lot.
The original corporate limits of the City of Jefferson can best be described as follows. The western boundary is formed by a line drawn due south from the point at which the extension of Fulkerson Street meets the Missouri River until it intersects Atchison Street near the intersection with Walnut Street. The southern boundary of the city is from that point on Atchison Street until a point at which Atchison intersects Linn Street. The eastern boundary of the city is from that point on Linn Street until Linn intersects the river. The northern boundary of the city is formed at the edge of the Missouri River. The corporate limits of the City of Jefferson were defined by the limits of the 1,000 lots as they were laid out with slight exception in the southeast corner of the town to provide regularity.
The plan for naming of the streets was that all streets perpendicular to the river were to be named for presidents starting just east of Broadway moving eastward and that the streets parallel to the river were to be named for governors starting at the river moving southward. The street running parallel to the river at river’s edge was named Water Street due to the objection of McNair, the sitting governor of the time. The plan for use of governors’ names was rarely followed, with only Miller and Dunklin streets named for governors. The streets named for presidents had more success, but even that fell apart later in the process as the naming of streets move eastward. McCarty Street, which was originally named Van Buren Street, had a name change at an act of the City Council in 1854 as President Van Buren fell out of favor with the public.
Along with the plans for the city and the lots therein, Mrs. Jane (Ramsey) Ewing, sister of one of the commissioners, was selected to draw the map from which the lots were auctioned. She had ordered a piece of white canvas, 20 feet by 30 feet, from St. Louis on which she painted the streets, Broadway in red, the other north-south streets in green, and the east-west streets in blue. The lots for sale were drawn and numbered in black. The map was then secured to a frame of wood. Unfortunately, this map perished with the fire in the first Capitol in 1837.
The day of the sale arrived, the first Monday of May 1823, and was superintended by the three commissioners. Wyncoop Warner, sheriff of Callaway County, cried the sale of lots. Jesse Roystun served as clerk of the sale, and Mrs. Ewing pointed to the lots as they were
Wayne Johnson is a Jefferson City native and retired engineer and chemist. For the past two decades he has worked with local historical societies, setting up websites, digital imaging, and compiling general histories of people, places and events in Callaway and Cole counties.