St. Francois County (/ˈfrænsɪs/) is a county located in the Lead Belt region in the U.S. state of Missouri. As of the 2010 census, the population was 65,359. The largest city and county seat is Farmington. The county was officially organized on December 19, 1821. It was named after the St. Francis River. The origin of the river’s name is unclear. It might refer to St. Francis of Assisi. Another possibility is that Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit who explored the region in 1673, named the river for the Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier. Marquette had spent some time at the mission of St. Francois Xavier before his voyage and, as a Jesuit, was unlikely to have given the river a name honoring the Franciscans.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 455 square miles (1,180 km), of which 452 square miles (1,170 km) is land and 2.8 square miles (7.3 km) (0.6%) is water.
The general surface of St. Francois County is hilly or undulating, but the extreme southern and northeastern corners are table lands excellently adapted to fruit-culture and grazing purposes. The country around Farmington, and for several miles on either side of the St. Francis River, is excellent land, well timbered and sufficiently undulating to render drainage unnecessary. It is well supplied with water from never-failing springs and is drained by Blackwell and Rock Creeks, St. Francis River, Wolf and Back Creeks. Stono Mountain, embraced in this section, is said to afford excellent sheep pasturage.
The northern portion of the county is drained northward by the Big River and its tributaries, including the Flat River, most often known locally as “Flat River Creek.”
The southwestern portion of the county, drained by Indian Creek, is exceedingly hilly. The central and northern section is drained by Big River and its tributaries, Flat River, Davis Creek, Big Branch, Terre Bleu and Three Rivers. The name “Flat River” preserves the name of the town of Flat River, which was dissolved in the formation of the city of Park Hills in 1994. The valleys of these streams are excellently adapted to agricultural purposes, the cereals all doing well. On several of the steams mentioned, there are good mills, and many more excellent sites having sufficient water power to run a mill the entire year.
The uplands are well timbered, yielding from 40 to 100 cords of wood to the acre. The timber consists of white, red and black oak, ash, cherry, walnut, hickory, maple, gum, papaw and dogwood, with beach, sycamore and butternut on the bottoms. Cedar and pine are found in a few localities on the uplands. The soil is generally a black loam. In the vicinity of Farmington, after passing through the first or top soil, there is rich, red-clay subsoil. If these lands have a specialty, it is for grass. All kinds of grass grow luxuriantly, producing from 2 to 2 1/12 tons per acre, which readily markets at from $12 to $20 per ton. Blue grass, it is said by farmers from the blue grass region of Kentucky, does nearly as well here as there, and as an evidence, it is found growing spontaneously in the woods, lawns, old fields and meadows.
As of the census of 2000, there were 55,641 people, 20,793 households, and 14,659 families residing in the county. The population density was 124 people per square mile (48/km²). There were 24,449 housing units at an average density of 54 per square mile (21/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 96.14% White, 2.02% African American, 0.35% Native American, 0.31% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.23% from other races, and 0.92% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.80% of the population.
There were 20,793 households out of which 32.60% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.90% were married couples living together, 11.30% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.50% were non-families. 24.90% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 2.94.
In the county, the population was spread out with 24.00% under the age of 18, 9.20% from 18 to 24, 29.40% from 25 to 44, 22.50% from 45 to 64, and 14.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 103.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.90 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $39,551, and the median income for a family was $47,923. Males had a median income of $29,961 versus $19,412 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,047. Approximately 14.90% of the population and 11.00% of families were below the poverty line, including 19.80% under the age of 18 and 11.50% over the age of 65.
According to the Association of Religion Data Archives County Membership Report (2000), St. Francois County is a part of the Bible Belt with evangelical Protestantism being the majority religion. The most predominant denominations among residents in St. Francois County who adhere to a religion are Southern Baptists (45.48%), Roman Catholics (14.94%), and Methodists (8.37%). There is also a small Orthodox Christian presence in the county. Nativity of the Holy Virgin Mary Orthodox Church is in Desloge, MO.
Catholic Churches in the county are Immaculate Conception in Park Hills, St. Joseph in Farmington, St. Joseph in Bonne Terre, St. John in Bismarck, and St. Anne in French Village.
As more settlers arrived, the Methodist Episcopal Church continued to grow until the division that brought on the Civil War in the nation also caused a split in the congregation. After the war, the church was reorganized as the Methodist Episcopal Church and M.E. Church South, which occupied a frame building on the corner of Jefferson and Harrison Streets. In 1881 the M.E. Church South congregation moved to a new brick building on the corner of West Columbia and Clay Streets. They soon outgrew this facility, tore it down, and built a new brick building on the same site. (This is now occupied by the Free Will Baptist Church.)
The Methodist Episcopal Church North which had been inactive since 1844, revived after the war, chiefly through the leadership of Miss Eliza A. Carleton. She was a well-educated, devout woman who established Carleton Institute, north of town. In response to her call, three ministers came and organized a Farmington circuit, including all of St. Francois and Ste. Genevieve counties and parts of Jefferson, Washington, Iron, and Madison counties. In 1878 Farmington was made a charge. This group purchased a large brick building at Harrison and South Henry, from the Christian Church which had become inactive during the war. Services were held on the second floor, and the resident minister and his family lived on the first floor. This church was strengthened by the presence of Carleton College, which then had moved to Farmington. As this congregation grew; a new site was purchased at the corner of West Columbia and Franklin Streets. A building of native limestone erected here and was often called the Rock Church. The church growth was paralleled by the general growth of the town.
The M.E. Church South received substantial bequests and a fine organ from descendants of Mrs. Murphy, so the board, in 1927, voted to change the name from M.E. Church South to Murphy-Long Memorial Methodist Church. Likewise, about 10 years later, the M.E. Church North, memorialized Miss Carleton, calling it Carleton Memorial Church. After the merger in 1950 the family names were dropped, but the word Memorial continued.
In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal South, and the Protestant Methodist Churches voted to unite nationally and worldwide. In 1950 the two local Methodist churches voted for unification. This was a combination of two enthusiastic, dynamic congregations determined to work together in the Lord’s service.
Under the leadership of Rev. Elbert C. Cole, the two separated congregations grew into one, drawing strength from one another. After much deliberation and prayerful study, the merged membership made the decision for a new building on a new 3.5 acre site on the North side of town. The membership of the new church worked vigorously to provide financing necessary for this large undertaking. As population moved toward Farmington, and transportation became easier, small churches joined with larger ones. The Copenhagen Church, originally German-speaking, became part of the M.E. (Rock) Church in 1917. Members of Delasus joined the merged Methodists about 1950. In 1960 Salem Church, North of town, joined the larger church, and then St. Paul’s congregation followed in 1965.
Countless projects by organizations in the church and sacrificial giving on the part of individual made possible the new facilities which are in use today. The first phase of the building, which included the sanctuary and education department, was completed in 1953. In 1957 the church was debt free and dedicated as a house of prayer for all people. The parish house, which included the fellowship hall, kitchen, parlor, and basement rooms, was completed in 1962. The parsonage, a bequest gift from a lifelong member, was dedicated in 1979. In 1998 a new addition was added to the building including several new classrooms and offices. A prayer garden was dedicated in 2006.