For years, there have been incorrect stories told about the original name of Jefferson City, the capital city of Missouri. Our research has confirmed the original name of Jefferson City was:
The City of Jefferson.
Not Howard’s Bluff. Not Lohman’s Landing. We’re not sure where those ideas originated but they are not true.
When Missouri became a state, Congress passed a law giving the state four sections of land on which to locate the permanent seat of government, the temporary seat being in St. Charles where you can visit the building that was the first state capitol. The legislature appointed commissioners to select a location that was on the Missouri River within forty miles of the mouth of the Osage River, as specified in state law.
The commissioners looked at three sites: Cote Sans Dessein, a French village located in then-Montgomery, now Callaway, County; Howard’s Bluff in Moniteau County; and an unnamed area that was available but was considered a poor possible site because the land was not good for farming. Cote Sans Dessein, across the river from the Osage River mouth, was favored by the commissioners but rejected by the legislature because of questionable land ownership caused by significant land speculation.
The second site, Howard’s Bluff, was about where the community of Marion is in western Cole County. It was Cole County’s first county seat before the western half of Cole County became Moniteau County. That area, however, already had settlers on it with legitimate land claims. So it was out.
That left the least acceptable site. When the legislature ordered a town be laid out there, it said in the law that the town would be named the City of Jefferson. There were only two or three cabins in that area at the time.
We came across a map in an 1823 Gazeteer of Illinois and Missouri that pretty clearly shows Howard’s Bluff was not the original name of the City of Jefferson.
As far as Lohman’s Landing is concerned—-the Lohman family wasn’t among the early settlers of Jefferson City and did not become a prominent name in the town until it bought what had been known as Jefferson Landing in the early 1850s. By then the City of Jefferson had been in existence for a quarter-century.
By then Cote Sans Dessein had been washed away by the Missouri River. By then, Moniteau County had been split away from Cole and the county seat had shifted to the City of Jefferson and Marion today is mostly an access point to the river.
Jefferson City wasn’t much of a city when the seat of government moved to it—only about thirty families. It survived several political and legal attempts to move the seat of government or to claim the community for private ownership. But it is still what it was designated to be in 1822—the City of Jefferson, the permanent seat of state government.
Just had to get this off the chest after running across the Howard’s Bluff/Lohman’s Landing thing too many times in recent days.