Bates County Missouri

Tourism in Bates County

Bates County, Missouri is rich in local history.  From the first settlers who came as missionaries to the Osage Indians, through the turbulent Civil War years to more recent times, Bates County has a tremendous heritage.


Bates County Museum         

In 1961, the Bates County Historical Society was founded with a goal to preserve the history and wonderful artifacts of our past, and to educate those interested in our history. With these ideals as their goal, they purchased the 1892 County Jail [ seen to the right ] on the corner of Fort Scott and Lyons in the city of Butler, the county seat for Bates County. The Bates County Museum of Pioneer History was established and the complex grew to include the Atkeson log cabin, the Lindsey Stage Coach Depot and the Hastins building. A very popular attraction for both tourists and the local population, the museum has been a delight to visitors from every state in the union. The Bates County Historical Society has continued to promote events and speeches of interest to keep history alive and available during the past 40 years. The Museum was closed at this sight and moved to it’s current location below. The Bates County Museum is now located on Elks Drive, just west of the city limits of Butler, Missouri. This 1915 building sits on 4.7 acres and plans are underway to create a village which would include an old school house, an early built church, general store and a log cabin.

Papinville: The Original County Seat

Papinville Bridge

Papinville is a small community on the southern edge of Bates county. It was the former Bates County seat, and the location of the first Bates County courthouse. The Papinville Historical and Cemetery Association was organized in 1989 and strives to preserve their history for future generations. Each year the Association holds a picnic on the last Saturday of September. Live music is performed from the band stand and a buffet supper is served. There is a one-room school house, built in 1895, which is completely restored and furnished with the original desks. The museum is filled with many interesting items about the beginning of Bates County and the history of the area. A “Stepping Stones of History” walkway [shown below] will walk you through history from 1673 to the present. In addition, the 1883 bridge [shown below] is being placed on the National Historical Register. The complex will be open on Sunday and Monday afternoons for the Memorial Weekend. Tours may be booked for other times by e-mailing, calling 417-395-4288, or by writing The Papinville Historical And Cemetery Association, R. R. 1 Box 60, Rockville, Mo. 64780-9037.

Frontier Village

Frontier Village, in Adrian, Missouri, is owned and operated by the Western Missouri Antique Tractor and Machinery Association. The Association was formed in 1977 with Don Arndt as the founding president. Since then, the Association has grown over the years, to a membership of over 250 with members from Adrian, Missouri to Minnesota. The shows presented by the Association at the Village have more than 20 states represented along with some foreign countries.

The village was a result of interest in preserving history and old agricultural ways and produced its first gas engine show in 1982. The growth continued with the first building, a school, in 1983, a red barn in 1984, and now a total of 20 buildings with 2 more under construction. In addition, there are three county bridges donated to the Village from Bates County. On a state level, the Village has the largest steam engine, the largest separator, and the oldest portable running steam engine in Missouri.

Events include tractor and machinery shows, plowing, craft demonstrations, a train managed by Ronnie Essenpries and his crew, two saw mills (one of the two is a 120 year old saw mill from Clinton, Missouri and is still operational), tours, a museum, and activities vary from buggy rides to actual weddings.


Poplar Heights Farm

Poplar Heights Farm is a living history farm and nature conservancy in Bates County, Missouri. The farm supports and conducts programs to preserve the area’s past and offer educational opportunities to the region.Poplar Heights Barn

A 12 year restoration program has been completed. The family house, barns and extensive landscaping have been restored to their 1890’s look. The Grand Opening Celebration was held in 2010 and Poplar heights Farm is now open to the public with programs, displays, demonstrations, a computerized research library for the history of Bates County and the Main House is a museum of period antiques showcasing life in rural Missouri at the turn of the 20th century. .

For Bates County Cemeteries  visit: 


The Battle of Island Mound 

This Civil War battle was significant because it was the first battle fought by trained black soldiers under the command of black officers.

The Battle of Island Mound began on October 27, 1862, when over 200 1st Kansas troops marched into Bates County from   Ft. Lincoln, Kansas.  Their mission was to clear out a confederate stronghold on Hog Island.  They commandeered the Enoch and Christiana Toothman farm which was on the old Butler, Ft.Scott road.  The battle occurred on October 29th and marked the first time in American history that black soldiers engaged the enemy during the Civil War.

Because of the attack on Lawrence, Kansas in August 1863 by Missouri guerrillas, General Thomas Ewing issued his infamous Order #11.  This order included the counties of Jackson, Cass, Bates and Vernon and forced the residents in Bates County to vacate their homes within 15 days.  Bates County was the only county that was totally depopulated and left in absolute ruins.  When the people of Bates County returned, they found burnt out structures and desolate land.  During this time, courts were held in locations other than the county seat.

 In October 2008 the citizens of Bates County dedicated a statue of 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantryman, which is located on the grounds of the Courthouse.  The State of Missouri purchased a portion of the Toothman farm and developed the State’s newest State Historic Site, “Battle of Island Mound”.  Bates County is proud to remember and honor its past.  The people who endured this time and place are a testament to the American spirit.  Remembering our ancestors and honoring them for their sacrifices gives even greater meaning to the high cost of freedom and liberties enjoyed today by all Americans. Photo: Statue on the courthouse lawn honoring the 1st Kansas Colored Soldiers.

Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site accepted into National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom

For more information: 573-751-1010
Volume 41-071 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 17, 2013

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site was recently accepted into the National Park Services’ “National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.” Sites selected for inclusion in the Network to Freedom make a significant contribution to the understanding of the Underground Railroad in American history.

Battle of Island Mound, the newest historic site in Missouri State Parks, was dedicated on October 28, 2012, on the 150th anniversary of the actual battle. The Battle of Island Mound marked the first time that African-American troops were engaged in Civil War combat. Battle of Island Mound State Historic site encompasses Fort Africa, where the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry were camped in 1862 before a pitched battle with pro-Confederate forces near a low hill named Island Mound.

The site features a kiosk with three large interpretive panels and additional interpretive panels located along Courage Trail explain how the battle occurred and the significance of its outcome. The bravery of these men is reflected in a monument to them that concludes “…Here their bravery and determination helped our nation better understand the founding fathers’ words “all men are created equal.”

The Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site is located in Bates County, Missouri about 7 miles west of Butler, Missouri. For information about state parks and historic sites, visit Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.