In 1818, Franklin County was organized and separated from St. Louis County and named after one of America's founding fathers: Benjamin Franklin.
With 922-square-miles, Franklin County is the largest geographic area in the St. Louis MSA and one of the largest counties in all of Missouri.
By an act of the State Legislature on Jan. 22, 1825, the City of Union was established as the County Seat and the court met for the first time in Union in 1827.
The name "Union" has nothing to do with the Civil War or organized labor. It came before both of them.
Rather, the name was chosen to express the coming together of people and ideas as demonstrated by Union's selection as the new, centrally located seat of county government in the early 1800s.
The first building used as a courthouse in Union was a log structure and the ground where Union now exists was owned by three farmers who donated 72.5 acres for the establishment of the original town.
Replacing the log courthouse, a new courthouse was constructed in 1923 and was completely remodeled in 1970 after being bombed the previous year as a diversion during a bank robbery. In 2002, the county announced an ambitious phased construction project that included a new justice center, an expanded courthouse annex and renovations to the existing courthouse. They completed the first phase of the building project in 2006 when they opened the doors to the Franklin County Government Center and the Justice Center was completed in 2008. The historical courthouse still stands and houses the Franklin County Veterans Museum.
More than two centuries ago, the French were the first European settlers in Franklin County. These immigrants focused primarily on commercial ventures such as trapping, trading, and mining.
Soon Anglo-American settlers followed as they migrated from the Carolinas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia to establish farms in the area. The earliest record of a settlement in Franklin County is that of William Hughes, located on Du Bois creek in 1794.
Major rivers and streams in the area include the Missouri, the Meramec, the Bourbeuse, the St. Johns and Boeuf Creeks. These waterways received their names from the Native American Indians and these early explorers and settlers.
Starting in 1820, a steady stream of German settlers were drawn to the area and this trend continued through 1910. Strong evidence of the German culture can still be found in architecture throughout Union and Franklin County and is reflected in common family names like Alfermann, Hoffmann, Overschmidt, Schroeder, Voss, and Zimmermann.
In November 1882, a joint stock company was formed by businessmen of Union and Washington to build a telephone line to connect the two towns.
On Jan. 19. 1900, the Bell Telephone Company announced they would soon have the line connecting Washington and Pacific with St. Louis and that Union and other towns along the Frisco Railroad would be included in the circuit. Starting that April, anyone in Union who was willing to pay the price could use the telephone at the Reinhard-Miller Drug Store to call long distance to New York and San Francisco.
In 1887 the St. Louis-Kansas City and Colorado Railroad was constructed through Union. The SLKC&CRR was the product of several businessmen who lived in towns east of St. Louis, primarily those in Union, who saw the potential of having a railroad serving their community. This railroad later came under the ownership of the Rock Island Railroad. Today the city is served by the Missouri Central Railroad. Railroads in Franklin County primarily concentrate on hauling freight although Amtrak passenger service is available from the nearby City of Washington.
In 1968, East Central College was established to serve the higher educational needs of people in east central Missouri. One year after voters created this new college district, the first classes were held in temporary facilities within the Union City Hall. That same year, a 114-acre tract of land was purchased for developing the main campus at the intersection of U.S. Highway 50 and Prairie Dell Road.
Today, ECC now encompasses more than 200 picturesque acres and serves an enrollment of 3,500 students.
At the start of the 21st century, more than 300 successful businesses are now based in Union. Some of the City's largest employers are manufacturing firms such as the Esselte Pendaflex Corporation and Silgan Plastic Containers, as well as public service agencies like Franklin County Government, Union R-XI School District, and East Central College.
Along with the City of Union, the region of Franklin County now includes the cities and towns of Beaufort, Berger, Catawissa, Gerald, Gray Summit, Labadie, Leslie, Lonedell, Luebbering, New Haven, Pacific, Robertsville, Saint Clair, Sullivan, Villa Ridge, and Washington.
Union and Franklin County continue to grow in much the same way as our area started and progressed 200 years ago: through hard work, planning, and community spirit.