Johnson County was organized on Dec. 13, 1834. John and Martin Warren were the first to settle in the area and the town of Warrensburg was named after them. Two other important founding fathers of the day were Benjamin Grover and Nathaniel Holden.

Benjamin Whiteman Grover was born Oct. 27, 1811, in Green County, Ohio. He was educated there and, along with his father who was Circuit Clerk, served as Deputy Clerk from 1828 to 1834.

Grover moved to Madison, Indiana, in 1834, and, on Sept. 30 of that year, was joined in Holy Matrimony to Letitia Downing Sheets. The couple moved to St. Louis in 1842 and then Warrensburg in 1844. He served as the county’s fifth sheriff before being elected to the state senate for four years.

Nathaniel B. Holden was born March 10, 1810. One source says he was born in Jefferson County, New York; another claims he was born in Indiana.

It was after he moved to Missouri that he left his mark in history. After teaching school in the winter of 1839-1840, he was a newspaper editor and a surveyor. In between his terms in the Missouri Legislature — 1844-1846 and 1852-1853 — he served as a major in the US Army during the Mexican-American War in 1848.

Following the war, Grover and Holden became lawyers for the Johnson County area. They largely responsible for the Pacific Railroad being built through Johnson County, rather than following the Missouri River across the middle of the state.

Grover argued that all the state should be developed and not just a trade route along the Missouri River. Between the two of them, the harder, more expensive route was chosen and the Pacific Railroad was headed for Warrensburg and Johnson County. The groundbreaking ceremony for the start of the Pacific Railroad was held in St. Louis, July 4, 1851. Neither man lived to see the railroad reach Johnson County.

Grover joined the Army when the Civil War began in 1861. He was shot on September 19, 1861, during the Siege of Lexington and died a painful death on Oct. 30, 1861.

Holden was murdered at his sister’s home on Sept. 21, 1862, while recovering from a stroke.

The railroad reached Warrensburg in 1864 and Grover’s son, George, raised the American Flag at the station on July 4.

Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News since April 2008, She has covered the War Between the States, US history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she syndicated her column statewide in September 2018 and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to