Richmond was laid out along a pattern which is common for county seat towns in the rural Midwest. The courthouse is at the center of the town, with the major business district around the four sides of the “square.” The present courthouse was dedicated on November 20, 1915, built at a cost of $100,000. The first courthouse was Riggs Tavern in Bluffton, which was used from 1821 to 1827. Then, the court met at George Woodward’s home, just outside Richmond, until 1829, when a log courthouse was completed in the middle of the square in Richmond. This first official courthouse building was torn down in 1856, and a new brick building was completed. This brick courthouse was moved to South College Street in 1914, so the third and final courthouse could be built.
General Alexander W. Doniphan is possibly the most famous citizen that Ray County ever had. Aside from helping to save the Mormons from execution, he led one of the greatest land marches in military history. Locally he was a prominent lawyer, statesman and orator. He died in Richmond, Mo., August 8, 1887. On July 29, 1918, the State of Missouri dedicated a magnificent monument of bronze and granite at Richmond, to his memory.
The Farris Theatre was built in 1901 as an opera house. It was originally called the Dougherty Auditorium, named for Sam Dougherty who had moved to Richmond in the late 1800’s after striking it rich in the gold fields of Colorado. Sam adopted Richmond as his home town and decided that it needed some culture. Along with some help from local merchants he built the theater and operated it for several years.
It was patterned after the Tabor Theater in Leadville, Colo., and is very similar to the Folly Theater in Kansas City which was built in 1900. It was on the circuit for traveling road shows in the early 1900’s and was visited by such notables as John Phillip Sousa’s band and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The Farris Theatre has been fully restored for use as a performance theater, movie house, and community center, by a not-for-profit group called “Friends of the Farris.”
It is one of the best examples of the turn of the century theater architecture and great care has been taken to restore this beautiful theatre, as nearly as possible, to the way it was in 1901. For information call 816-776-6684 or visit the web site.
RAY COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS AND MUSEUM
On a hill overlooking the Ray County Fairgrounds stands an old brick building of curious proportions. Built in 1910, in the shape of a “Y”, every room has an outside view. The total cost of $19,491 was spent to create County Home, commonly referred to as the Poor Farm. From 1959 to 1971, it served as the Elm Park Nursing Home.
This three-story building has a total of 54 rooms and its unique design earned County Home a place on the National Register of Historical Places. In the 1973 this unique building was leased to Ray County Historical Society, who converted it into the Ray County Museum.
The displays are varied and of great local interest. Rooms preserve Ray County’s rich heritage and particular historical events, some of which are The Civil War, World War I and II. Other subjects and events represented in the vast 54 room museum are Indian Artifacts, The Shotwell Parlor (1800’s), Coal Mining, Black History, Country Kitchen, Governors, The Daughters of the American Revolution, Quilts, Country School, Post Office, Costume, Doctor, Wildlife, and The Mormon History Exhibit Room, replica of the Golden Tablet, funded by the Mormon Church.
A very extensive genealogical library is located just off the main entryway. The Ray County Historical Society, in conjunction with the Ray County Genealogical Society, maintains regular hours to help historical researchers.
The Ray County Museum is rated at the top for county museums in the State of Missouri. It is open year round, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday and closed on the holidays. Group tours are available with advance reservation. For more information contact the museum at 1-816-776-2305, by email, or visit the web site.
THE MAN WHO SHOT JESSE JAMES
Bob Ford entered the old west history books when he shot and killed Jesse James in hopes of collecting a $10,000.00 reward. Although pardoned by the Governor of Missouri, it was public sentiment that caused Bob Ford to leave Missouri. In Creede, Colo., Bob opened a saloon and was killed by Ed O. Kelly.
Bob Ford is buried in the Richmond “City” Cemetery in Richmond, Mo., and his brother, Charley, is buried nearby.
The land for this cemetery first called “Public Burial Ground” was deeded by John C. Richardson on August 13, 1846 to Charles Morehead, James Lapsely & George Dunn in trust for the “sole & exclusive use of the inhabitants of the town of Richmond as a public burial ground forever”. The price was $80.
It’s location was prompted when disastrous spring flooding washed away the grave of Mr. Richardson’s wife’s mother in the Missouri River lowlands in 1844.
Oliver Cowdery (he is buried in the cemetery) was the scribe of the translation as it fell from the lips of Joseph Smith the Prophet. He copied the original manuscript for the printers use and was proof-reader of the 1st Edition of The Book of Mormon. He was the first person baptized in the Latter Day Saint dispensation of the Gospel and was one of six members of the church at it’s organization on April 6, 1830 at Fayette, Seneca County, New York. The monument was dedicated on November 22, 1911. The cemetery was taken over by the Mormon Church in 1949-1950 after being abandoned for 70 years.
Also buried in the cemetery are William T. Anderson, otherwise known as “Bloody Bill Anderson,” who was a guerilla for the Confederacy in the Civil War and Peter Whitmer, whose Fayette, N.Y., home was used to found the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Martin Harris, one of three witnesses to the golden plates that Joseph Smith found who financed the first publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830 is mentioned on the headstone, but is not actually buried there. David Whitmer is also mentioned on the headstone, but is buried in the Richmond “City” Cemetery.
Two Missouri Governors from Richmond are buried in Richmond, Austin A. King (1802-1970) in the Richmond “City” Cemetery and Forrest Smith (1886-1962) in Sunny Slope Cemetery.