Bolivar Missouri Historical Tour

The Friendly City

Bolivar, Missouri, is an idyllic city in the middle of Missouri. Filled with rich history and preservation of its landmarks and buildings, it has been careful to maintain and identify buildings and places which remind present and future citizens of its past. The city of Bolivar has existed since November 10, 1835. On this day during the Andrew Jackson administration, the Polk County Court proclaimed Bolivar to exist as the county seat. On your visit, as you traverse the historically named streets such as Jefferson, Mill, and Jackson, you will notice that their streets are not precisely north and south. This is for a good reason. The town was organized and developed along the trail used by the Overland Stage (aka the Oregon Stage Line), a wagon trail. This is why Bolivar’s streets do not run true north and south, instead being offset about 22 degrees to the west. It was also placed in that area due to Keeling Spring, a stop along the Butterfield Stage Company route (City of Bolivar, Missouri 2010). The town received its name after John Polk Campbell, William Polk, and Ezekiel Polk submitted the name of Polk. It was not only their name but the name of their grandfather Ezekiel Polk, who helped establish the town of Bolivar, Tennessee. The Missouri General Assembly recognized that many of the early settlers of Polk County had come from Tennessee and approved the name. In keeping with traditions established in Tennessee, they proposed naming the newest village of Polk County as Bolivar. It was approved without objection. Bolivar was also recognized as the village name due to the heroics of General Simon Bolivar in South America. Grandfather Ezekiel Polk had also served in the army of General George Washington in the Revolutionary War, which filled him with reverence for liberators of the common man and the downtrodden.

Today, Bolivar is a thriving city in the heart of Polk County. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it has a population of 11,110 people and has grown in population by 4% since the last count in 2020—1,300 people per square mile of land, a far cry from the early settlers in 1835. Over 91% of households have a high school diploma, while only 26% have a college degree. Most residents of Bolivar live within 21 minutes of their workplace, meaning their job is within the county limits. This equals greater amounts of income staying in the town, with estimated retail sales at $255 million in 2017. Not only is Bolivar filled with a rich history of its past, but it is also making history in the present. It is the hometown of Missouri Governor Mike Parson, making him the first governor from a southwest Missouri county since 2009 and the first governor ever from Polk County and Bolivar.

We hope you enjoy this tour of Bolivar. The history remembered and treasured here is a testament to our country. These eight stops on your tour mark Bolivar’s commitment to history, education, veterans, art, and more. We invite you to begin at the North Ward School (now the Polk County Museum), then to the main historic square and the county courthouse, Bolivar Public Library, followed by visiting the North Ward School (now the Polk County Museum), First National Bank, Frisco Station, the statue of Simon Bolivar, Southwest Baptist University, and Dunnegan Memorial Park. We hope that this tour will give you an insight into a typical American town that has made its history and appreciates the simple freedoms given to it by liberators such as Simon Bolivar: faith, family, and freedom. Bolivar awaits you, and we welcome you to this historic town.