Missouri was once a part of that immense domain covering the "Great West" and included the territory west of the Mississippi river, extending through Oregon to the Pacific coast, as well as south to the dominion of Mexico.

In 1763, one hundred forty-seven years ago, that great region known as the "Louisiana Purchase" was ceded to Spain by France, but in 1800, by treaty, it was ceded back to France. In October, 1803, by the payment of about fifteen million dollars, the United States government secured this territory from the French. On December 20, 1803, the star-spangled banner supplanted the tri-colored flag of France at New Orleans, where Generals Wilkinson and Claiborne had been commissioned to take formal possession of the domain for the United States. In 1804, Congress divided the vast territory into two parts, the "Territory of Orleans" and the "District of Louisiana," known as "Upper Louisiana." This district included all that portion of the old province north of "Hope Encampment," on the lower Mississippi, and embraced the present state of Missouri, all the western region of country to the Pacific ocean, and all below the forty-ninth degree of latitude not claimed by Spain.

On March 26, 1804, as a matter of convenience to the government, Missouri was placed within the jurisdiction of the government of the Territory of Indiana, and its machinery, so to speak, put in operation by Gen. William Henry Harrison, then governor of Indiana. In this he was ably assisted by Judges Griffin, Vanderburg and Davis, who established in St. Louis what were termed courts of common pleas. The district of Louisiana was regularly organized into the territory of Louisiana by Congress, March 3, 1805, and President Thomas Jefferson appointed Gen. James Wilkinson governor and Frederick Bates secretary. The Legislature of the territory was formed by Governor Wilkinson and Judges R. J. Meigs and John B. C. Lucas. In 1807, Governor Wilkinson was succeeded by Captain Meriwether Lewis, of the Clark and Lewis expedition up the Missouri and on to the far-off Pacific coast. Later Governor Lewis committed suicide and President James Madison appointed Gen. Benjamin Howard, of Lexington, Kentucky, to fill his place. He resigned in 1810 to enter the war of 1812 and died in St. Louis in 1814. In 1810, Capt. William Clark, of the above named expedition, was appointed governor to succeed General Howard and remained in office until the admission of Missouri Territory as a state into the Union.

For the purpose of local government, Missouri was divided into four districts. Cape Girardeau, the first, embraced the territory between Tywappity Bottom and Apple Creek; Ste Genevieve, the second, embraced the territory from Apple Creek to the Meramec River; St. Louis, the third, embraced the territory between the Meramec river and the Missouri river; St. Charles, the fourth, included the settled portion of the state between the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers. The total population of these districts at that date was eight thousand, six hundred and seventy, including slaves. The population of the district of Louisiana, when ceded to the United States, was ten thousand, one hundred twenty.

Source: Past and Present of Nodaway County, Bowen & Co., Indianapolis, Indiana (1910), pp. 17-18.