St. Francois County covers an area of 410 square miles (1,100 square kilometers) and is located south and east of St.Louis, MO in an area of the state that is referred to as the “Lead Belt.” St.Francois County is bordered by Jefferson County, Washington County, Perry County, Ste.Genevieve County, Madison County and Iron County. As of the 2010 US Census, the county’s population was 65,359.
The County of St.Francois is a component of the Greater St. Louis Area (GSA) and consists of several commuter cities. St.Francois County’s economy has diversified and developed a balanced agricultural and economic sector. The largest city and county seat is Farmington. Cities/towns located within St. Francois County: Bismarck, Bonne Terre, Desloge, Doe Run, Farmington, French Village, Knob Lick, Leadington, Leadwood and Park Hills. St. Francois County is part of “The Parkland” as St. Francois and the immediate surrounding counties have numerous State Parks and waterways which are utilized by our citizens for outdoor recreation, camping and family events.
The Health Center began in 1975 as a nursing service. It was located in the county courthouse, with a staff of two nurses. The St. Francois County Court endorsed the establishment of a full-time county health center supported by a tax levy in April, 1976. A county sanitarian was added to the staff. The center is governed by a Board of Trustees consisting of five elected board members. The Center moved from a room in the county courthouse to rented building located on the grounds of the southeast mental health center. In 1982 the Board of Trustees purchased a building to house the health center, where it is still located today.
The Health Center services have changed overtime. Services began with home health services. Home health services were phased out in 1994. A lead blood level study was conducted in 1997. A two-year pilot project, issuing computer-generated birth and death certificates, was conducted for the MO Department of Health and Senior Services in 1997. By September 2002, family planning services, a prenatal clinic, emergency planning and the addition of a bio- terrorism planner were added to the services provided by the health center. In 2007, a dental clinic for underprivileged children’s preventative services was added. The health center continues to monitor community needs and programs to address the needs of our community with a staff of thirty one.
The first county settlement was founded in 1796 in what is now known as Big River Mills by Andrew Baker, John Ally, Francis Starnater and John Andrews. Andrew Baker built a large home along the north bank of the Big River where he developed a community. The others lived in camps.
In 1797/98, other immigrants began arriving in St. Francois County. The Reverend William Murphy and his family arrived in 1797 and established a settlement where the Washington School now stands. Reverend Murphy’s sons established home sites adjacent to his, securing their land claims. Land secured, the Murphy’s returned to Tennessee for their families. Unfortunately, sickness overtook Reverend Murphy and he died. David Murphy, a son of Reverend Murphy, returned to the settlement in 1801. The following year, his brothers Joseph, William and Richard arrived and began permanent settlements from grants made by the Spanish Governor. Murphy’s Settlement was established.
In 1800, this vast area (upper & lower Louisiana) was ceded from the Spanish to the French. In 1803, this vast area became part of the United States as a result of the Louisiana Purchase. The daily arrival of immigrants continued the growth of the settlement. The constant influx of settlers to the county brought with it a demand for a permanent seat of government. David and Rachel Murphy, on September 2, 1822, “…gave as a donation to the County of St. Francois, upon which to fix the county seat, fifty two acres of land…” A brick court house, a stray-pen and a log jail were build in 1824.
The county was officially organized on December 19, 1821. The county was formed from parts of three existing counties; Ste. Genevieve, Jefferson and Washington. It was named for the St. Francis River. The origin of the river’s name is unclear. However, as the story goes: Jacques Marquett, a Jesuit who explored this region in 1673 may have named the river for the Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier. Jacques Marquette had spent time at St. Francois Xavier before beginning his voyage. Being a Jesuit, it would have been very unlikely that Marquett would have given the river a Franciscan name.