Webster County, organized March 3, 1855, encompasses 590 sq. miles of the highest extensive upland area of Missouri's Ozarks. The judicial seat, Marshfield, lies 1490 feet above sea level, highest county seat in Mo. Pioneer legislator John F. McMahan named the county and county seat for Daniel Webster and his Marshfield, Mass. home.
Marshfield was laid out in 1856 by R.H. Pitts on land given by C.F. Dryden and W.T. and B.F.T. Burford. Until a courthouse was built, county business was conducted at Hazelwood where Joseph W. McClurg, later Gov. of Mo., operated a general store. Today's Carthage marble courthouse, built 1939-41, is the county's third.
During the Civil War, a small force of pro-Southern State troops was driven out of Marshfield, Feb. 1862, and ten months later a body of Confederates was routed east of town. On Jan. 9, 1863, Gen. Joseph O. Shelby's troops burned the stoutly built Union fortifications at Marshfield and at Sand Springs, evacuated earlier. By 1862, the telegraph passed near Marshfield on a route later called the "Old Wire Road."
In Webster County, straddling the divide between the Missouri and Arkansas rivers, rise the headwaters of the James, Niangua, Gasconade, and Pomme de Terre rivers. A part of the 1808 Osage Indian land cession, the county was settled
Back Sidein the early 1830's by pioneers from Ky. and Tenn. An Indian trail crossed southern Webster County and many prehistoric mounds are in the area.
The railroad building boom of the post Civil War period stimulated county growth as a dairy, poultry, and livestock producer. The Atlantic & Pacific (Frisco) was built through Marshfield, 1872, and by 1883 the Kansas City, Springfield, & Memphis (Frisco) crossed the county. Seymour, Rogersville, Fordland, and Niangua grew up along the rail routes. Early schools were Marshfield Academy, chartered, 1860; Mt. Dale Academy, opened, 1873; and Henderson Academy, 1879.
Astronomer Edwin P. Hubble (1889-1953) was born in Marshfield. The composition "Marshfield Tornado" by the Negro musician John W. (Blind) Boone gave wide publicity to the April 18, 1880 tornado which struck town killing 65 and doing $1,000,000 damage.