Howard County was settled long before it was named, and the name chosen was Howard, so named in honor of Missouri's first governor.
Benjamin Howard was born in 1760 to John and Mary (Preston) Howard in Lexington, Virginia (which is now Kentucky). He studied law at the College of William & Mary, where he graduated in 1796; after being admitted to the bar, he began his law practice in Lexington. Howard was elected to the Kentucky General Assembly in 1800. From March 4, 1807, until his resignation April 10, 1810, he represented Kentucky as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Barely 10 days later, on April 17, 1810, President James Madison appointed Benjamin Howard governor of the part of the Louisiana Territory, which was north of present-day Louisiana.
It was while he was governor, Howard married Mary Mason on Feb. 14, 1811. Their union was short-lived, as Mary died just two years later.
Howard was still governor of the territory four months after it was renamed the Missouri Territory in June 1812. This made him the first governor of Missouri.
The following year, on March 12, 1813, Benjamin Howard was appointed brigadier general in the U.S. Army and given command of the Eighth Military Department, which was west of the Mississippi River.
Howard was on a trip to St. Louis when he was taken ill and died Sept. 18, 1814. There is some discrepancy about his final resting place, but some records indicate he was first buried in Old Grace Church Graveyard and re-interred in Bellefontaine Cemetery.
Although Howard was not born in Missouri and died before Missouri became a state, he did leave his historic footprint on the state. He will forever be known as Missouri's first governor.
His second name to fame occurred Jan. 23, 1816, when Howard County, the largest county ever in the state of Missouri, was created. Nicknamed the Mother of Counties, Howard County covered one-third of what would become the state of Missouri and formed all or part of 39 other counties.
Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written Historically Yours for the Boonville Daily News since April 2008. In celebration of Missouri's upcoming Bicentennial, she has syndicated her column statewide and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to [email protected]