Nearly 223 years ago the United States of America was formed on July 4, 1776. Just 42 years later Caledonia, a tiny village, was formed in what is now Washington County.
On May 15 the Village of Caledonia will celebrate its bicentennial birthday in a 2019 Bicentennial Celebration.
According to historical documents provided by Mayor John M. Robinson III of Caledonia, the village was formed in 1819 by public sale. Alexander Craighead, of Scottish descent, came to Missouri from Tennessee and in 1816 opened a frontier store in the Bellevue Township. Craighead later platted the settlement and advertised for a public sale on May 15, 1918 to occur on that date in the following year.
Craighead’s advertising slogan was indicated that whoever purchased the first lot in the new village would retain the rights to name the village. Craighead purchased the first two lots and therefore was given the right to name the town.
There were other frontier families that had already settled in the valley, including Miles Goforth, a Revolutionary War Soldier who had moved to the valley in 1803, and James Robinson, of Scotland, who moved with his family from Tennessee in 1805, as well as Jacob Eversole, who was the first of his family to arrive in 1820.
Goforth was appointed constable for Bellevue Township in 1804 and St. Francois Township in 1814. He and his wife had 10 children, of which one, a son named Andrew, was a Major in the War of 1812. Andrew Goforth also served in the Missouri Senate in 1842.
Robinson and his wife, Elizabeth (Campbell) Robinson, had 11 children. James was the charter treasurer of the Tyro Masonic Lodge No. 12 and A.M. Caledonia. One of Goforth’s grandsons, Gen. James McCormick, was a prominent Civil War soldier and businessman in Farmington.
Eversole and his business partner, Martin Ruggles, were partners in an iron smelting furnace and water-powered grist mill.
The Village of Caledonia was first incorporated on Nov. 6, 1874, and the first appointed mayor was the Honorable Alexander Caldwell Refle, who was the son of frontier doctor and U.S. Congressional Statesman Hon. James Hugh Refle, M.D.
Refle was involved in the Black Hawk War, served as a U.S. Marshall for the Missouri Territory, served in the Missouri Legislature, and then later served as a U.S. Representative. Refle’s sons, Alexander and William followed their father into politics. Andrew being the first mayor of Caledonia and William moving to Jefferson City to run the State of Missouri Division of Insurance.
John Robinson III, current mayor of Caledonia said that the Bellevue Valley has remained the same over decades. “The stately homes, the streetscape of Main Street anchored by the Old Village Mercantile (since 1909), the Methodist Church, and the former Bellevue Presbyterian Church buildings are the features of the city,” said Robinson.
Robinson said that the very name Caledonia actually means Scotland in Latin, which is fitting for the village due to its Scottish-Irish descendants.
“Caledonia was granted federal historical designation in 1984 and the entire business district along Missouri 21 is a federally designated historical district,” said Robinson. “The Village of Caledonia is also proud to be a POW-MIA Community and a Purple Heart Community.”
Robinson said the city is also working with the National Trail of Tears Commission to have the area designated under the National Trail of Tears Certified Sites.
Robinson said the 2019 Caledonia Bicentennial Celebration Committee was formed by the Caledonia Community Foundation and Robinson serves as the chair of the committee. “Several activities are being planned that will culminate on the two-hundredth anniversary on Saturday, May 18 in the Village Park.
The celebration is being held in conjunction with the 4th Annual Antique and Vintage Market anniversary. The market offers indoor and outdoor vendors with antiques, retro items, repurposed items, shabby chic, home décor, original art, homemade treasures, yummy foods, and a toast to the Scottish heritage of the village.
“May 18 will include a 9 a.m. Scottish-themed parade complete with bagpipes, Claddagh dancers, the Alba Garrison Scottish group, Scottish vendors straight from Scotland, Scottish clan tents, and in the afternoon a ceremony of “Calling of the Scottish Clans” in the village park,” said Robinson.
Along with the Mayor Robinson, co-grand marshals will be Her Majesties Honorary Consul to Missouri for the United Kingdom, the Hon. Mark Sutherland and his wife Mrs. Sutherland. The Sutherlands were born in Scotland and represent the UK here in the states.
Robinson said that through a generous donation, the Farnum Family Music Show will perform at 1 p.m. at the Village Park Pavilion. The group is based in the Missouri Ozarks and frequently performs in Branson. They perform celtic, gospel, Americana, western, and bluegrass music.
To help with the costs of the event, the planning committee has been selling commemorative coins, T-shirts, and bicentennial plates. On May 18 the Caledonia post office will be selling a commemorative seal.
“One special item that will be sold is a one-time special edition of the Caledonia Courier, founded in 1964 by Mrs. Louise Eversole and ran until 1977 when it ceased publication,” said Robinson. “The committee obtained rights to publish a one-time limited edition for the bicentennial.”
“Everyone from all surrounding communities are invited to come and take part in this celebration of Caledonia’s history,” said Robinson.
Matt McFarland is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.