There is a wealth of history in the counties surrounding St. Louis City and County on the Missouri side of the Mississippi. In general, if a county is one or two counties away from St. Louis County, it will be included within this category. Likewise, if it was traditionally within in the direct economic sphere of St. Louis, the county will be included.
St. Charles County
St. Charles County has long been one of the oldest settled parts of the state, and its county seat, St. Charles, was once the state capital of Missouri. While there has been a vast amount of suburbanization in the triangle in between I-70, Highway 40 and the Missouri River, there are still plenty of historic buildings and towns, such as Femme Osage, that give an impression of the rich history of the county.
To the west of St. Louis County, Franklin County is still largely rural, with stunning views of the Missouri River and rolling hills dotted with farmhouses. The planned community of St. Alban’s, built around the small town of the same name on the former Brown Estate, sits on the ridges of the hills above the river.
Jefferson County is due south of St. Louis County, south of the Meramec River. Its rolling hills, demonstrating its role as the foothills of the Ozarks, conceal many fascinating sites and buildings. While much of the northern third of the county has seen suburbs develop, most of the county remains rural.
West of St. Charles County, and north of Franklin County, increasingly suburban Warren County has long had a rich history of German Lutheran settlement along the Missouri River. While the I-70 corridor is increasingly more crowded, the rugged terrain keeps much of the scenery around the old German settlements much as it has been for the last two hundred years.
Ste. Genevieve County
Long settled by the French in the early Eighteenth Century, its county seat Ste. Genevieve is the oldest community in Missouri. Sitting along the Mississippi River, its economy was long based since colonial times off of trade ties as far south as New Orleans and lead mining to the west in the Ozark Mountains.
West of Franklin County along the Missouri River with its county seat in the German American cultural center of Hermann, Gasconade County has long been associated with wine and rolling hills. The county also goes far to the south, into the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Settled for much of the state’s history, some of the oldest German businesses were founded in this county.
St. Francois County
South of Jefferson County and St. Louis, St. Francois County has long been the center of the lead mining industry in Missouri, going far back into the Eighteenth Century. The mountains and hills are forested and dotted with small towns, with the county seat of Farmington now the southern locus of the St. Louis Metropolitan Census Area. Today, lead is no longer a major industry, but the exurbs of St. Louis are spreading out into the historic hill country.
North of St. Charles County and further up the Mississippi River along historic Highway 61, Lincoln County is experiencing rapid growth as part of the exurbs of the St. Louis region. Along the river, there are towns that date back to the earliest days of Missouri’s history, and inland communities are growing rapidly from their farming communities’ roots.