Doniphan History

Old Doniphan Sate Bank

The area that became Doniphan was permanently settled as early as 1819 when Lemuel Kittrell homesteaded on a bluff above the east bank of Current River near the site of a French trader's cabin. Kittrell soon built a grist and wood carding mill near his home and attracted additional settlers to the region. By 1841, a sizeable village had grown near the Kittrell home. The village became a regular stop on the Butterfield Stage Line and was on the St. Louis to Little Rock Highway. In addition to the mill, the village boasted of an inn, store, distillery, produce warehouse, tannery, justice of the peace and notary office, blacksmith and gunsmith. A school was nearby.

On the hills above lovely Current River, Doniphan was founded and became the county seat of Ripley County in 1847. George Lee gave 50 acres for the town and named it for Mexican War Colonel Alexander W. Doniphan. Except for the mill, all of the businesses at Kittrell's Mill moved to the new town and were joined by several additional stores and businesses. Churches, too, were added. Doniphan became the regional center of commerce. By 1860 there were plans to extend the St .Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad from Pilot Knob to Doniphan. The Civil War changed those plans.

Most residents of Ripley County, as well as the surrounding counties, were Southern in belief. Several Confederate regiments were formed in the county and one, the 15th Missouri Cavalry Regiment, CSA, was based at Doniphan. Because three major north-south highways passed through Ripley County, fighting was practically constant during the war.

In the war, brutal guerilla bands overran the county and in September 1864, Doniphan was burned by Union troops as Confederate General Sterling Price's army was moving into Ripley County from Arkansas. Devastated by the war, Doniphan grew with the coming of a branch of the Missouri Pacific Railroad in 1883. The railroad provided a means to market the thousands upon thousands of acres of virgin timber surrounding Doniphan, native yellow pine logs, hauled to Current River and floated to Doniphan in enormous log drives. A log boom at Doniphan retrieved the logs, which were milled and finished, then shipped to market. Hardwood logs were normally hewed into crossties, then collected on the riverbank and moved to Doniphan by long tie rafts. During the early 1900's, Doniphan was the center of a leading railroad tie producing area in the U.S. At the peak, the Missouri Tie and Lumber Co. cut some 35,000,000 feet of logs a year in northwest Ripley County. After 1905, the denuded land was uncared for until made a part of the Clark National Forest in the 1930's when it was put under a program of reforestation.

As other land was cleared by loggers, farmers moved in. Many orchards were planted, some very large. Elberta peaches were the major fruit crop, but apples and pears were also important and tomatoes were grown commercially. Strawberries, too, were a major crop. Several produce warehouses and canning factories were located at Doniphan because of the railroad. Corn, wheat, and cotton were major crops. A roller mill at Doniphan manufactured the very fines grade of flour. In the 1920's and 1930's, the depression changed life in Doniphan, practically halting logging and production and stopping the exports of farm produce.

World War II brought about renewed vigor for Doniphan business and the establishment of new industries, particularly the Hunt Garment Factory and the Wright Leather Specialty plant. Today the industrial structure at Doniphan has greatly enlarged and is a substantial employer. Logging is still a major enterprise with many family owned mills in the area. Because of the crystal clear waters of the Current River, the scenic views in the Mark Twain National Forest and the favorable climate of the Ozarks, tourism is becoming big business at Doniphan.

City of Doniphan Government

Doniphan was established as a village April 26, 1847 and has served Ripley County as County Seat since that time. Doniphan became classified as a Fourth Class City May 1, 1891. The form of government is Mayor and Alderman. A Mayor is elected to preside over a four member Board of Aldermen, all of whom serve in staggered terms for two years. The Municipal Election is held in April of each year. Also elected is a City Collector. The Mayor is the Chief Executive Officer of the City who appoints, subject to Board Approval, all other non-elected officers of the City. The City Clerk, elected by the Board of Aldermen, is the Budget Officer of the City and handles most of the administrative affairs of City Government.

Ripley County Chamber of Commerce
209 W. Highway St
Doniphan, MO 63935
573-996-2212 ::