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Lexington is a city in Lafayette Countymarker, Missourimarker, United Statesmarker. The population was 4,453 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Lafayette Countymarker . Located in western Missourimarker, Lexington lies about 40 miles east of Kansas Citymarker and is part of the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan Areamarker. It is the home of the Battle of Lexington State Historic Sitemarker, and Wentworth Military Academy and Collegemarker, the oldest military school west of the Mississippi River.


Lexington is located at (39.183060, -93.875070) .342343456489705439. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.7 square miles (9.5 km²), of which, 3.5 square miles (9.0 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km²) of it (4.92%) is water.


As of the census of 2000, there were 4,453 people, 1,815 households, and 1,210 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,279.7 people per square mile (494.1/km²). There were 2,015 housing units at an average density of 579.1/sq mi (223.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 91.02% White, 6.04% African American, 0.18% Native American, 0.49% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.06% from other races, and 1.17% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.18% of the population.

There were 1,815 households out of which 31.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.9% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.3% were non-families. 30.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.90.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.2% under the age of 18, 8.0% from 18 to 24, 26.0% from 25 to 44, 22.7% from 45 to 64, and 18.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 89.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,759, and the median income for a family was $39,583. Males had a median income of $31,672 versus $21,646 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,879. About 12.8% of families and 14.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.1% of those under age 18 and 11.5% of those age 65 or over.



Lexington, Missouri, located on the bluffs of the Missouri Rivermarker, was platted in 1822, near William Jack's Ferry, which had been established three years earlier on the south bank of the river. It was settled largely by Kentuckians and was named for Lexington, Kentuckymarker. In 1823, Lexington became the county seat of Lafayette County and grew rapidly.

Growth as a trading center

John Aull opened a mercantile store in 1822, and he was soon joined by his brothers James and Robert Aull. The Aull Brothers firm soon had a frontier chain, also operating stores in Independencemarker, Westportmarker, and Libertymarker. Other merchants came, as did farmers and planters who specialized in hemp, tobacco and cattle.

With the emphasis on trade and agriculture, Lexington and Lafayette County also had one of the largest slave populations in the state. Many homes in town still have the old slave quarters behind them.

Lexington was a bustling and prosperous city, the largest city west of St. Louis in the 1830s and '40's. During that period, it was the major center for merchants and outfitters as trappers, traders, and emigrants prepared to travel westward on the Santa Fe Trail, California Trail, Oregon Trail, and the Mormon Trail to Utah. Goods sent west from Lexington were valued at $450,000 in 1843. Rope walks, slaughter houses, a foundry and a furniture factory were among other early Lexington industries. In the 1840s, Russell, Majors and Waddell, the largest trading firm in the West, established its headquarters on Main Street. In the 1850s, these three men had 3500 wagons carrying goods from Missouri to Sacramento, Denver, and other points, and in 1860, they would found the Pony Express.

The steamboat trade on the river became a hugely profitable investment, and the wharf was a center of commerce. In 1852, one of the worst steamboat accidents in Missouri history occurred at Lexington. The side-wheeler Saluda was carrying 250 Mormons en route to Salt Lake Citymarker when its boilers exploded, killing over 150 people. Many children orphaned by the blast were adopted by Lexingtonians. Productive coal mines, among the first in the state, were dug into the surrounding river bluffs to provide fuel for river steamers.


Lexington was also noted for its architecture, especially in its public buildings. The Greek Revival Lafayette County Courthouse, built in 1847 on Main Street, is the oldest courthouse in continuous use west of the Mississippi. The Masonic College, also built in the Greek Revival style, operated from 1847 to 1857, and after the Civil War, it housed the Central College for Women. The Gothic Revival Christ Episcopal Church, built in 1848, has an interior finished in walnut and a ceiling ornamented with a Gothic truss arch. Lexington is still home to over 150 homes and public buildings built before the Civil War, and annually holds well-attended tours of its historic homes and buildings.

Civil War and aftermath

Lexington was the site of two of the largest battles in the western campaign of the American Civil War. The better-known Battle of Lexingtonmarker is commonly referred to as the Battle of the Hemp Balesmarker. On September 12, 1861, between 6,000 and 10,000 soldiers of the Missouri State Guard, led by Major General Sterling Price, began a siege against the Federal military post in the old Masonic College commanded by Colonel James A. Mulligan.

On September 18, Price's army mounted an assault. Some of Price's army used hemp bales as moving breastworks while they moved up the river bluffs and closed in on Mulligan's headquarters. On September 20, 1861, Mulligan's troops surrendered. Combined casualties were 73 dead, 270 wounded. The battlefield on the bluffs of the Missouri Rivermarker is now a state park, and the cannonball stuck in one of the upper pillars of the Courthouse has become a symbol for the town.

The Second Battle of Lexington occurred during Price's Missouri Expedition on October 19, 1864.

Lexington was known as a center for Quantrill's Raiders during the war. Two months after the Civil War ended, many of these guerrilla fighters who had refused to honor the cease fire finally decided to turn themselves in at Lexington. While riding into town, reportedly under a white flag, they skirmished with Union soldiers, and Jesse James was severely wounded. Some credit this event as a major contributing factor to his post-war career as a legendary bank robber. It is likely not a coincidence that the James-Younger Gang targeted the Alexander Mitchell bank in Lexington for the second daylight bank robbery in United States history. In December 1866, Archie Clement, an accomplice of the James brothers and perhaps the most notorious of all the guerrilla fighters, terrorized the town and was shot from his horse and killed by a sniper perched in the second floor of the Courthouse.

Athens of the West

Lexington never returned to its pre-war prominence, replaced by Kansas City as the most important city in western Missouri. Particularly harmful was arrival of the transcontinental railroad, which supplanted the river commerce. A number of institutions of higher education were established, leading the town to bill itself as the “Athens of the West.”. Especially significant were three schools for women, the Elizabeth Aull Seminary, Lexington Ladies College, and Central College for Women. Wentworth Military Academymarker, founded in 1880, still draws students from throughout the country and around the world today.

Lexington businesses

Until the 1980s Lexington was the headquarters and main distrubtion point for Mattingly's/Matco Stores, which was purchased by P.M. Place Stores. In 2000 the Place's stores were purchased by ShopKo to be converted into Pamida stores. In 2004 the former Mattingly warehouse was sold by Pamida. In August 2004 liquidation of the former Matco #101, then a Pamida, began and the store was closed by the end of October. This was the end of the Mattingly store legacy in Lexington. Hugh Mattingly had been a mentor to Wal-Mart founder, Sam Walton.

Lexington is a location for the Maid-Rite restaurant franchise, famous in the midwestern United States for its loose meat hamburgers and other traditional diner fare.

Dunbrooke began as a dress shirt company in 1939 in Lexington, Missouri has grown to become one of the nation’s premiere logoed apparel manufacturers. Over the past 65 years, the company has borne witness to several changes, encompassing everything from its products to its name. The company has manufactured several types of apparel, from dress shirts to bowling shirts to nylon gym shorts and jackets. Dunbrooke’s signature jacket line had its beginnings in the 1950’s when the company was under government contract to produce nylon jackets for the Korean War. The company’s name also underwent several transformations from its original name “Dunhill” (1939) to “Dunbrooke Shirt Company” (1963) to “Dunbrooke Sportswear” (1971) to Dunbrooke Apparel Corp (2003). The current managers purchased Dunbrooke from parent company American Marketing Industries (AMI) in October 2003. Under its new ownership, Dunbrooke today maintains two offices – corporate headquarters in Independence, MO, and a modern decorating and distribution center located in El Dorado Springs, MO, built in 1998

Notable residents





Arts and Entertainment





  1. History of Wentworth Military Academy, by James M. Sellers, Jr., 1984.

  • The Battle of Lexington, Fought in and About the City of Lexington, Missouri on September 18, 19 and 20th, 1861. Lexington Historical Society. 1903.
  • Lexington, Missouri Sesquicentennial Commemorative Book, 1972.

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