Kirksville is the county seat of Adair County, Missouri, United States. It is located in Benton Township. The population was 17,505 at the 2010 census. Kirksville also anchors a micropolitan area that comprises Adair and Schuyler counties. The city is perhaps best known as the location of Truman State University and A. T. Still University.
The Village (now City) of Kirksville was established on December 1, 1848. This was based upon claim made by Jonathan Floyd, Trustee Adair County Commissioners, on December 25, 1846 and recorded at the Land Office in Boonville Missouri for the establishment of the County Seat. Though selected in 1841 for the site of the Seat of Justice for Adair County, the Village of Kirksville dates from an Act, approved January 30, 1857 incorporating the Town. In 1841 the site was selected by Jefferson Collins, L. B. Mitchell, and Thomas Ferrell and a plat was established in 1842. In Violette’s History of Adair County the town has been identified with "Long Point" and "Hopkinsville." However, a small block-house is distinctly cited as being built in 1832, confirmed by the plat and land entries which show no settlements on the actual site until after its selection as the county seat "on the ridge at Long Point, just outside the city limits of Kirksville."
Origin of Name
According to tradition, Jesse Kirk, Kirksvilles first postmaster, shared a dinner of turkey and whiskey with surveyors working in the area on the condition that they would name the town after him. Not only the first postmaster, Kirk was also the first to own a hotel and a tavern in Kirksville (contrary to popular belief, the name of the city has no connection to John Kirk, onetime president of Truman State University). However, the grandson of Jesse Kirk reported that the town was named for Kirk’s son John, a figure of local legend credited with killing two deer with a single bullet. "Hopkinsville" was explained as a joking reference to the peculiar gait of John Kirk’s lame father-in-law, David Sloan; the jocular name was discarded when the village was selected for the seat of justice in Adair County.
The Battle of Kirksville
The Battle of Kirksville was fought August 6–9, 1862 during the American Civil War. Union troops led by John McNeil forced Confederate volunteers under Joseph Porter to vacate the city. Casualty estimates (almost entirely Confederate) range from 150-200 dead and up to 400 wounded. According to the August 12, 1862, Quincy Herald there were 8 Federal dead and 25 wounded. The victorious Union commander, Colonel McNeil, gained brief national attention for his post-battle execution of a small number of Confederate prisoners. These prisoners had been previously captured in battle and then paroled with the understanding they would no longer take up arms against the Union, upon penalty of death if recaptured. Nonetheless, Confederate government officials were outraged, and it is said that Confederate president Jefferson Davis even called for the execution of Colonel (later Brigadier General) McNeil if he were to be captured.
The Kirksville Cyclone
On the evening of April 27, 1899, a cyclone passing through Adair County cut a path of destruction three blocks wide, killed 32 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings. The popular song "Just as the Storm Passed O'er" was based on the event, and the Kimball Piano Company exploited the incident for its advertising, when one of their instruments was carried a long distance by the tornado but still found in working condition.
On May 13, 2009 Kirksville was again the victim of a large tornado. A tornado estimated as an EF2 on the Fujita scale struck the northern edge of Kirksville destroying or severely damaging many homes, several businesses, a car dealership, and at least one factory. Two residents living just outside the city limits were killed by the tornado, and as many as a dozen other area residents were injured. The story, and extensive video of, the 2009 twister was featured in season 2 of Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel as well as a 2010 episode of Storm Stories on The Weather Channel.
Noteworthy events in Kirksville history