Financial center and shipping point, this prairie town was founded in 1855 as the seat of Vernon County, fertile farming and coal producing area. Col. D. C. Hunter, who laid out the town, named it for Nevada City, Calif. The county, legally organized in 1855, after an earlier attempt in 1851, is named for state Senator Col. Miles Vernon.
Settled largely by Southerners, Nevada and Vernon County were deeply involved in the Kansas Border War, 1854-1859, over extension of slavery. One of the raids of the time was made by John Brown into north Vernon County. During the Civil War, the area was overrun by troops of both sides and guerrilla raiders. Federal militia burned Nevada to the ground, May 26, 1863.
After the war, Nevada prospered with the coming of the M. K. T. Railroad in 1870 and the Missouri Pacific branch in 1882. Cottey Junior College for women was founded by Virginia Cottey Stockard, 1884. In 1927 she deeded the school to the P. E. O. Sisterhood. State Hospital No. 3 was located here in 1885. Nearby Camp Clark, Missouri National Guard training area, dates from 1919.
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Nevada lies between the Great Western Plains and the Ozark Highland of Missouri, in a region acquired through the 1808 and 1825 Osage Indian land cessions. Some 20 miles north of Nevada, near the mouth of the Marmaton River, the Great Osage had their village. Near them lived their kinsmen, the Little Osage. Long after they removed west, the Osage came back to mourn their dead buried in Blue Mound, one of several large, natural mounds to the north.
The first white man to visit the villages was Charles Du Tisn?, 1719, on an exploring trip for the French Government. In the Spanish period, traders Auguste and Pierre Chouteau built Fort Carondelet, 1795, on the Osage River, above the villages. Explorer Zebulon M. Pike visited the Osage on his 1806 trip to the Southwest. Noted Harmony Mission, 1821-1836, an Indian school, was on the Osage River in Bates County.
William Joel Stone, Congressman, 1885-91; Missouri Governor, 1893-97; and U.S. Senator, 1903-18; made Nevada his home. The state erected the Frederick Hibbard statue of Stone on the courthouse lawn in 1935.