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Perry County is a county located in Southeast Missourimarker in the United Statesmarker. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, the county's population was 18,132. A 2008 estimate, however, showed the population to be 18,743. Its county seat is Perryvillemarker . The county was officially organized on November 16, 1820 (effective January 1, 1821) from Ste. Genevieve County and was named after Oliver Hazard Perry, a naval hero of the War of 1812.


Shaped like a camel's hump, Perry County consists of 471 square miles that fit neatly into a wedge created by the confluence of Apple Creek and the Mississippi River. Topographically, it is divided into lowlands and uplands. The lowlands comprise about one-eighth of the county and lie for the most part along the river. In the northeastern corner is the Bois Brule Bottom, meaning Burnt Wood, the most extensive tract of lowland, approximately 15 miles long and three to five miles wide. Its rich soil, coupled with its size, makes it the most productive farmland in the county. Smaller in size but still important is the Brazeau Bottom on the Mississippi River below Cape Cinque Hommes and the bottom situated near the mouth of Apple Creek.

The Uplands constitutes the largest part of the county and its topography varies greatly. The best parts of it are in the central area where the soil is generally good and the terrain nearly level or gently rolling. Rolling uplands surround this central section and are bounded by the Saline Hills to the west and the Mississippi River Hills and Buffs to the east and northeast.

During the 18th Century, the Perry County area, like the rest of the future State of Missouri, was part of Louisiana. For most of the century the region was uninhabited, even by the French of nearby Ste.marker Genevievemarker. The latter was the first permanent White settlement in the Missouri area. In 1764, when the terms of the 1763 Treaty of Paris were announced in Louisiana, the French settlers found themselves transferred to an alien domination, that of Spain. In general the French were unhappy with the change of rule and the Spanish governance of the territory was an uneasy one, occasionally punctuated by armed rebellion. In the Ste. Genevieve area, the Spaniards, making a virtue of necessity, tended to let the French govern themselves.

The first inhabitants of what is now Perry County were Native Americans of the Shawnee tribe. In the 1780, they had crossed the Mississippi River from the East and spread throughout Southeast Missouri. Their largest village, a population of some 400, was located in the southern part of the county, just above Apple Creek, near present day Uniontown. Within a decade of the Native American immigration, Spanish authorities showed an interest in opening the area to colonization by Americans.

The first White settlers arrived in the region during the latter half of the 1790s and claimed rich land in Bois Brule Bottom. These Americans organized the region's original Baptist Church in 1807. In the early 1800s, a second group of American settlers crossed the Mississippi River to take advantage of Spanish land offers. These were Roman Catholics of English stock from north-central Kentuckymarker. They had originally come from Marylandmarker to escape religious discrimination and prided themselves on being descendants of Lord Baltimore's original colonists. The first of these to settle permanently in the future Perry County was Isidore Moore. He arrived in 1801 and became a patriarch of the area. Others soon followed whose family names predominated the decades: Tucker, Fenwick, Cissell, Hayton, Riney, Hamilton, Layton, Manning, and Ragan. Most of these settled in the uplands around Perryville in a place called the Barrens because of its open land.

When the region was transferred to American sovereignty in 1803-1804, the Barrens became part of the Louisiana Territory. Prior to the admission of Missouri to statehood in 1821, several new migrations altered the religious composition of the future county. In 1817, a large group of Presbyterians from North Carolinamarker settled in the neighborhood of Brazeaumarker, an area roughly bounded by the Mississippi River and the Cinque Hommes and Apple Creek. These settlers organized a church in 1819. They were soon followed by Methodists from the same state whose family names live on, like Abernathy, Farrar, and Rutledge. In 1826, they built their first log meeting house, which was later replaced by York Chapel.

Until 1821, the Barrens region formed the southern portion of Ste. Genevieve County. When Missouri was granted statehood, Perry County was organized out of the parent district. It was divided into three townships: Brazeau, Cinque Hommes, and Bois Brule. Their boundaries, following natural geographical features, were quite irregular. In 1856, the borders were made symmetrical and two new townships, St. Mary's and Saline, were added.

After 1821, the descendants of French colonial families from Ste. Genevieve trickled into Perry County, and in the middle of the next decade, their ranks swelled by immigrants from France itself. They settled on the lands that were near the present city of Perryville. At about the same time, a small group of Flemings settled in the northeastern part of the county, with the present town of Belgique as their center. There were also Swissmarker in the same area.

The late 1830s saw the beginnings of a heavy German immigration that would permanently alter the ethnic balance of the county. In the fall of 1838, more than 600 Saxon Lutherans, under the leadership of Pastor Martin Stephen, uprooted themselves and migrated to Missouri, seeking to avoid enforced religious conformity. They settled in the southeastern corner of the county and moved inland through a series of towns whose names enshrined both religion and nationality: Wittenberg, Friedheim, Frohna, Dresden, Altenburg, and Paitxdorf, which was renamed Uniontown during the American Civil War.

Others who settled in the area were German Catholics, mostly from Bavaris and Baden. They settled in the Barrens area. The Lutherans and Presbyterians established churches in the region bounded by the 1856 township of Brazeau. The Methodists located farther west in the area that comprised the 1856 township of Cinque Hommes. There they set up two churches, the first York Chapel, near present day Longtown, about five miles southeast of Perryville, and in 1836 a second in Perryville itself. Then in 1844-1845, they divided between north and south over the question of whether a bishop could own slaves. The two Methodist churches in Perry County parted company, the city congregation going with the North and the York Chapel siding with the South. The Baptists of the county tended to congregate in both Bois Brule Bottom and in the area of Saline Township. In the first decades of the 1800s, they met in private homes.

While it is one of the oldest communities in Missouri, Perry County also founded the first college west of the Mississippi River, dating to 1827.


Of adults 25 years of age and older in Perry County, 71.2% possesses a high school diploma while 9.9% holds a bachelor's degree or higher as their highest educational attainment.

Public Schools

  • Altenburg 48 Elementary School - Altenburgmarker - (K-08)
  • Perry County School District No. 32 - Perryvillemarker
    • Perryville Early Childhood Special Education Center (PK)
    • Perryville Elementary School (K-04)
    • Perry County Middle School (05-08)
    • Perryville High School (09-12)
    • Perryville Area Career & Technology Center (09-12)

Private Schools

  • Concordia-Trinity Lutheran School - Frohnamarker - (PK-8) - Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
  • Immanuel Lutheran School, Perryville - (PK-8) - Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
  • Salem Lutheran School, Farrarmarker - (K-8) - Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
  • St. Vincent De Paul Schools, Perryville - (PK-12) - Roman Catholic
    • St. Vincent De Paul Elementary School (PK-6)
    • St. Vincent De Paul High School (7-12)



Politics at the local level in Perry County is predominantly controlled by the Republican Party. In fact, all but two of Perry County's elected officeholders are Republicans.

Office Incumbent Party
Assessor Charles Triller Republican
Circuit Clerk Becky A. Paulus Republican
Clerk Randy Taylor Republican
Collector Rodney J. Richardet Republican
Presiding Commissioner Carl "Topper" Leuckel Republican
Commissioner – District 1 Patrick J. Heaps Democratic
Commissioner – District 2 James L. Sutterer Republican
Coroner Herbert E. Miller Democratic
Prosecuting Attorney Thomas L. Hoeh Republican
Public Administrator Tamara M. Tarrillion Republican
Recorder of Deeds Susan M. Oster Republican
Sheriff Gary J. Schaaf Republican
Surveyor Tim Baer Republican
Treasurer Veronica J. Hershey Republican


Past Gubernatorial Elections Results
Year Republican Democratic Third Parties
2008 51.85% 4,391 46.24% 3,916 1.90% 161
2004 64.57% 5,293 34.43% 2,822 1.00% 82
2000 65.33% 4,735 33.37% 2,419 1.30% 94
1996 48.94% 3,307 49.62% 3,353 1.44% 97

Perry County is divided between two legislative districts in the Missouri House of Representativesmarker.
  • District 106 includes all of the city of Perryville as well as some area north and south of the city and the unincorporated areas of the county directly west of the city. The rest of the district consists of portions of St. Francois and Ste. Genevieve counties. Since 2005, the 106th district has been represented by Steven Tilley, a Republican from Perryville, who is currently the Majority Floor Leader in the House of Representatives. Tilley was re-elected without opposition in 2008.
  • District 157 includes the rest of Perry County as well as part of Cape Girardeau County. It has been represented since 2003 by Scott Lipke, a Republican from Jacksonmarker. In 2008, Lipke defeated Jennifer Friedrich of the Constitution Party by a four-to-one margin, 84.66-15.34 percent, in the Perry County precincts. After his current term, Lipke is prevented from running for another due to term limits.

Perry County is also a part of the 27th District for the Missouri State Senate and is currently represented by Jason Crowell, a (Republican from Cape Girardeaumarker. Crowelll is serving his second and final four-year term due to term limits. In 2008, Crowell defeated Linda Sanders (D-Jacksonmarker) by almost a two-to-one margin, 64.24-35.76 percent. Perry County backed Crowell with 68.81 percent while Sanders received 31.19 percent. The 27th Senatorial District consists of Bollingermarker, Cape Girardeaumarker, Madisonmarker, Mississippimarker, Perry, and Scottmarker counties.

In Missouri's gubernatorial election of 2008, Governor of Missouri Jay Nixon (D) defeated former U.S. Representative Kenny Hulshof with 58.40 percent of the total statewide vote. While Nixon performed extremely well and won many of the rural counties in the state, Perry County was not one of them. Hulshof narrowly carried Perry County with 51.85 percent of the vote to Nixon’s 46.24 percent.


In the U.S. House of Representatives, Perry County is represented by Jo Ann Emerson (R-Cape Girardeau) who represents all of Southeast Missouri as part of Missouri's 8th Congressional District.

Political Culture

Past Presidential Elections Results
Year Republican Democratic Third Parties
2008 63.92% 5,527 34.75% 3,005 1.33% 115
2004 67.60% 5,583 31.78% 2,621 0.52% 43
2000 67.61% 4,667 30.20% 2,085 2.18% 151
1996 50.54% 3,427 37.12% 2,517 12.34% 837

At the presidential level, Perry County is a reliably Republican stronghold. John McCain easily carried the county over Barack Obama in 2008, and George W. Bush carried Perry County by even stronger margins in 2000 and 2004. The last Democratic presidential nominee to win Perry County was Lyndon B. Johnson in the landslide Election of 1964.

Like most rural areas, voters in Perry County generally adhere to socially and culturally conservative principles which strongly influence their Republican leanings. In 2004, Missourians voted on a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman—it overwhelmingly passed Perry County with 85.07 percent of the vote. The initiative passed the state with 71 percent of support from voters as Missouri became the first state to ban same-sex marriage. In 2006, Missourians voted on a constitutional amendment to fund and legalize embryonic stem cell research in the state—it failed in Perry County with 69.45 percent voting against the measure. The initiative narrowly passed the state with 51 percent of support from voters as Missouri became one of the first states in the nation to approve embryonic stem cell research. Despite Perry County’s longstanding tradition of supporting socially conservative platforms, voters in the county have a penchant for advancing populist causes like increasing the minimum wage. In 2006, Missourians voted on a proposition (Proposition B) to increase the minimum wage in the state to $6.50 an hour—it passed Perry County with 69.52 percent of the vote. The proposition strongly passed every single county in Missouri with 75.94 percent voting in favor as the minimum wage was increased to $6.50 an hour in the state. During the same election, voters in five other states also strongly approved increases in the minimum wage.

2008 Missouri Presidential Primary


Unlike many of the rural areas in Missouri that backed former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansasmarker), Perry County provided Senator John McCain (R-Arizonamarker) with his third strongest showing in Missouri. McCain won Perry County with 43.59 percent of the vote. Huckabee finished in second place in Perry County with 25.76 percent. Former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Massachusettsmarker) came in third place, receiving 24.28 percent of the vote while libertarian-leaning U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-Texasmarker) finished fourth with 4.30 percent in Perry County.

Huckabee slightly led Missouri throughout much of the evening until the precincts began reporting from St. Louis where McCain won and put him over the top of Huckabee. In the end, McCain received 32.95 percent of the vote to Huckabee’s 31.53 percent—a 1.42 percent difference. McCain received all of Missouri’s 58 delegates as the Republican Party utilizes the winner-take-all system.


Former U.S. Senator and now Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New Yorkmarker) won Perry County by an almost two-to-one margin over now President Barack Obama (D-Illinoismarker). Clinton carried Perry County with 61.24 percent of the vote while Obama only received 33.73 percent of the vote. Although he withdrew from the race, former U.S. Senator John Edwards (D-North Carolinamarker) still received 4.20 percent of the vote in Perry County.

Clinton had a large initial lead in Missouri at the beginning of the evening as the rural precincts began to report, leading several news organizations to call the state for her; however, Obama rallied from behind as the heavily African American precincts from St. Louismarker began to report and eventually put him over the top. In the end, Obama received 49.32 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 47.90 percent—a 1.42 percent difference. Both candidates split Missouri’s 72 delegates as the Democratic Party utilizes proportional representation.

  • Hillary Rodham Clinton received more votes, a total of 1,180, than any candidate from either party in Perry County during the 2008 Missouri Presidential Primaries.

Tourism & Attractions

Perry County offers a number of historic, architectural and scenic attractions.

Visitors can explore the grounds of the St. Mary's of the Barrens Seminary, the first college founded west of the Mississippi River dating back to 1827. Other features include the National Shrine of our Lady of the Miraculous Medalmarker, the Rosati Log Cabin, the Countess Estelle Doheny Museum with its priceless Gospel of St. John from the Gutenberg Bible and the Bishop Edward Sheehan Memorial Museum and Rare Book Room. Guided tours of the museums are available by request.

In Perryvillemarker, the county seat, visitors can stroll the beautiful square surrounding the Perry County Courthouse built in 1904 with its chiming clock tower. The Square is considered a show place of the city with newly completed streets, decorative sidewalks, "Washington" style light fixtures and decorative tree plantings. Newly brick-paved plaza, landscaped seating areas, park benches, a sundial, a drinking fountain, a directional marker and a gazebo have been added to the courthouse lawn.

On the northeastern corner of the square sits the Levi Block building constructed around 1829, which is thought to be the oldest remaining commercial building in Perryville. It now houses Hilderbrand Jewelers.

The Faherty House, located at 11 S. Spring Street, was originally constructed by Henry Burns in 1825 as a two-room stone house with a basement. It is thought to be the oldest remaining residence in the city. A brick, two-room addition to the house was built in the 1850s. The house also stands on one of the original town lots of Perryville. The restored house features a circa 1830-1890 exterior and interior and is owned and maintained by the Perry County Historical Society.

The Perry County Museum is located at the entrance of the Perryville City Park in the Doerr House, (Wednesday and weekends, May-October).

In southeastern Perry County near the Mississippi River are the early German villages of Frohnamarker, Altenburgmarker, and Wittenbergmarker.

The Saxon Lutheran Memorial in Frohnamarker is dedicated to the preservation of the religious and cultural heritage of the 1839 Saxon Immigration to Missouri (daily, year-round). The memorial boasts two original log houses, a large log barn, a collection of tools and antique farm machinery, a visitor's center, country store and gift shop.

In Altenburgmarker, visit the Concordia Log Cabin College (1839), the Loeber Log Cabin (1839) and Trinity Lutheran Church (1867). The log cabin college was the first Lutheran Seminary west of the Mississippi River. Guided tours of historic Altenburgmarker are also available by appointment.

Traveling south, visit the Tower Rock Natural Area, a designated national landmark, which features a hiking trail. Tower Rockmarker is a high rock, which stands majestically in the Mississippi River. The history of Tower Rock dates to 1698, when three missionaries established a landing atop the rocky island. Nearby, the early 1800s settlement of Apple Creek features the Lady of St. Joseph Shrine.

Perry County has approximately 650 known caves. It has more caves than any other county in Missouri, which is nicknamed "The Cave State."


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 484 square miles (1,254 km²), of which, 475 square miles (1,229 km²) of it is land and 10 square miles (25 km²) of it (1.98%) is water.

Adjacent counties

Major highways

National protected area


As of the census of 2000, there were 18,132 people, 6,904 households, and 4,957 families residing in the county. The population density was 38 people per square mile (15/km²). There were 7,815 housing units at an average density of 16 per square mile (6/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 98.21% White, 0.18% Black or African American, 0.23% Native American, 0.65% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.12% from other races, and 0.58% from two or more races. Approximately 0.51% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 6,904 households out of which 34.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.50% were married couples living together, 7.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.20% were non-families. 24.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.07.

In the county the population was spread out with 26.00% under the age of 18, 8.60% from 18 to 24, 27.90% from 25 to 44, 21.90% from 45 to 64, and 15.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 99.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.50 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $44,264, and the median income for a family was $53,034. Males had a median income of $28,337 versus $19,720 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,066. About 5.20% of families and 9.00% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.90% of those under age 18 and 13.20% of those age 65 or over.

Cities and towns


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