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Worth County
Worth County
Organized February 8, 1861, (effective February 25, 1861) from Gentry County and named for William Jenkins Worth, a soldier in the Florida and Mexican Wars.

County Seat: Grant City


Worth County
P.O. Box 340
Grant City, MO 64456


In 1861 Worth County was organized, the last of Missouri's 114 counties. During the 19th century, Worth County had three courthouses. From 1861-1863, Smithton, also called Worthville, was the seat of justice, but after a petition requested removal to a central location, the county seat was moved to Grant City.

County officials appropriated $600 in September 1863 for a 20-by-40-foot, two-story courthouse. Built on the northeast corner of the square, the courthouse was used for the July 1864 session of court. Fire destroyed this building in February 1866.

The court appropriated $1,000 for the next courthouse, which was to be built on the square. The frame, two-story building, superintended and apparently planned by John F. Mason, measured 40 by 32 feet. County offices were on the first floor, the courtroom above.

By 1882 this building was considered unsatisfactory. The 1882 History of Gentry and Worth Counties reported that the courthouse was gloomy, dingy, poorly lit and inadequately ventilated. The writer advocated building a new courthouse, which would enhance the county seat, reflecting the "genius, enterprise and generosity of her people." It was not until 1897 that Worth County citizens authorized $25,000 to be issued in bonds for building a courthouse. Nine architects submitted designs. The court chose the plans of architects Fremont C. Orff and Ernest F. Guilbert, of Minneapolis, in October 1897. Their design called for a two-story building of hard brick with stone trim, measuring 71 by 80 feet. The center tower was to rise over 100 feet. Four entries were planned, one from each side of the square. The court awarded the building contract to Stansberry Press Brick Co. for $19,360. Heating and plumbing contracts amounted to $1,929. 

During February 1899 county officials moved to the new courthouse, and in April, the Grant City Bar sponsored a social event to raise money for furnishing the courtroom.

More than 80 years later, although still used, the courthouse is deteriorating, and there are no funds for maintenance. In November 1979 the county was in desperate financial condition, and after county voters repeatedly rejected proposed tax increases, Worth County officials closed the courthouse. They moved back in May 1980 with limited services of water and lights only. Worth County, with a rural population, is the smallest of Missouri's counties, and will continue to face difficulties supporting a county government.

Copyright 2002 University of Missouri. Published by University Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia.

Additional History
The first seat of government for Worth County was at Smithton. This town was in approximately the center of Middlefork Township. It was a little south of where Bill Davidson lives now and was established by Bill's great grandfather, Eli Smith, in 1857.
Worth County was established by an act of the Missouri Legislature Feb. 8, 1861, which was to create the last and smallest county in the state as of Feb. 25,1861. The first county court of the new county was ordered to meet on the first Monday of April 1861 in Smithton.
In January 1863 a petition was presented to the county court to move the seat of government to a more central location in the county. This was put to a vote Aug. 3, 1863, with 225 voters approving the move and 90 opposed. On that same day, the court ordered that the new seat of government would be named Grant City.
On the seventh day of September 1863, the county court issued the following order in reference to building the new courthouse:
"Ordered by the court that an appropriation of six hundred dollars be made out of any money in the county treasury, not otherwise appropriated, for the purpose of erecting a building to be used for county purposes, the dimensions of said building to be as follows: Twenty feet in width, forty feet in length, the lower story nine feet between the lower and upper floors; the upper story to be eight feet in the clear; the number of windows in the upper story eleven, twelve lights each, 10x12; also one door. Lower story to contain four windows of the same size of the windows in the upper story; also three doors. The above described building to be built of good material, and to be built in Grant City, Worth County, Missouri."
This building was on the northeast corner of the square and was used until it was destroyed by fire in February 1866. It probably sat where the bowling alley is now located. Later a blacksmith shop owned by Judge Kirkpatrick occupied the same site.
At the April 1866 term of court the following order was made:
"Ordered by the county court, that a courthouse be built on the public square, and that one thousand dollar be appropriated from county revenue for that purpose; said courthouse to be a good, substantial frame, forty by thirty-two feet, two stories high, and that John F. Mason be appointed superintendent to draft building and specifications, and superintend building of the same, and said specifications be submitted to the court for approval or rejection."

The Courthouse Clock

Records at Courthouse

Recorder of Deeds: Index to deeds, 1849-1894; Deed records, 1849-1881; Warranty deeds, 1876-1888; Quitclaim deeds, 1871-1888; Mortgage deeds, 1872-1899; Deeds of trust, 1873-1890; Marriage records, 1861 -1928.

Clerk of the County Court: Record of births, 1883-1893; Record of deaths, 1883-1893.

Clerk of the Circuit Court: Index to circuit court records, 1861-1870; Circuit court records, 1861-1892.

Clerk of the Probate Court: Index to probate records, 1861-1949; Probate records, 1861-1889; Administratorís/executorís letters, bonds and records, 1861-1933; Inventories, appraisements and sale bills, 1872-1899; Will records, 1886-1926.

More Links
Birth & Death Records Database

Search for Worth County on Archives' Online Catalog

Roll by Roll Listing of Microfilm

Local Records Inventory Database

Missouri Birth & Death Records Database: Search & Record Availability