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Early mining center, named for the famous South American silver mine, Potosi was established by Moses Austin as the seat of Washington County, organized, 1813.
Austin came here, 1797, after receiving a 3 square mile Spanish land grant, including Mine à Breton lead diggings opened about 1773 by Francois Azor, nicknamed Breton.
Under Moses Austin (1761-1821) lead, which brought Missouri's first settlers, became the base of its first major industry.
Here he sank the first mine shaft in Missouri and built the first reverberatory furnace west of the Mississippi. He founded Herculaneum, to the east, as a lead depot.
Austin died soon after the Spanish governor of Texas had granted his petition to settle 300 American families there.
His son, Stephen, carried out the colonizing venture. In the Presbyterian Cemetery here, under a concrete vault, lie Moses and his wife, Maria Brown Austin.
Here Stephen Austin, "Father of Texas," spent his boyhood, and here lived John Rice Jones, State Supreme Court judge, 1820-24, and Daniel Dunklin, governor, 1832-36. Potosi had the second academy in Missouri, 1817.
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Center for one of the largest
barite or "tiff" mining areas in the U.S., Potosi serves a mining, farming, and lumbering county.
In 1819, explorer Henry R. Schoolcraft listed 28 mines in the county where French gold and silver seekers early discovered lead. In the Indian Creek area, ore is now mined.
Northward, is Old Mines, a French village reminiscent of Missouri's colonial days. The first mine was opened there, 1726, by Philip Renault. In the area are Cannon's Mines with its primitive furnace and Shibboleth Mine opened by John Smith T., speculator from Tennessee. An early iron works, Springfield Iron Furnace, opened near Potosi, 1823.
The first Presbyterian Church west of the Mississippi was organized, 1816, in Bellevue Valley to the south, first settled by Scotch-Irish pioneers from N.C., 1807.
In this valley, passed the Cherokee Indian "Trail of Tears" to Okla., 1837. Near town is historic Bellevue Presbyterian Cemetery. Washington State Park, with its Indian petroglyphs, is on Big River. At Irondale is a Boy Scout Camp.
Erected by State Historical Society of Missouri
and State Highway Commission, 1955