History of La Plata

History of La Plata

Founded in 1855, the name La Plata is Spanish for "the silver", in regard to the great expanse of native prairie that the town rests on. An early pioneer, Drury Davis is credited with settling the La Plata area in 1827, by establishing a trading post 1/2 mile west of our present town. Soon, the area became populated with like-minded early settlers.

In 1855, a young surveyor named Henry O. Clark came to the small settlement with a plat of a town he had laid out. He met with other men of vision; Louis Gex, Theodore Saunders and Dr. W. W. Moore. After deciding to accept Clark's plan, the men selected streets to be named after themselves. Gex, Saunders (Sanders), and Moore Streets now surround our City Park. Henry Clark chose a street one block south of the square, which bordered his fathers land.

La Plata's name came to be what it is, only by chance. There were suggestions from all of the men as to what the name should be, so each man's choice was tossed into a hat. The name drawn was La Plata, Dr. Moore's choice. Dr. Moore had mistakenly thought it to be French , meaning "the city of the silver river."

The small town grew and prospered as a farming hub and soon had businesses that were mostly farming related, including a grist mill, blacksmith shop and creamery. Later, chicken and turkey hatcheries became major industries in town.

The North Missouri Railroad, later called the Wabash Railroad, came through La Plata in 1867. This rail line lasted until 1993, when the last local train traveled through La Plata. Removal of the system began in 1994. In 1887, the Santa Fe Railroad chose La Plata as a stop on its route, making the town the crossroads in Macon County, Missouri for these two major railroads. Amtrak and BN&SF still travel through our town, and La Plata is one of only two Amtrak stops in Missouri.

In 1912, the Prairie Pipeline was the first of the great oil pipelines to build through La Plata. Later the Sinclair Pipeline also built through town and remains today under the name BP Pipelines, North America.

The first 4-room school in La Plata was built in 1872, at the school's current location. Throughout the following years, improvements in curriculum and in the school buildings have kept La Plata graduates ready to move ahead in life. Strong community support for the La Plata school system continues today.

A strong religious community has helped hold this small rural area together. Churches today include the Community Presbyterian Church, the First Baptist Church, and United Methodist Church, the Disciples of Christ (Christian) Church and the Assembly of God Church.

150 years have passed since the birth of our small town. La Plata has seen times of growth and prosperity and also hard times and the decline of a once vital community. However, the basics of wonderful small town living remain. Amenities include a great school system, a public library, two banks, one grocery store, two convenience stores, a phsrmacy, U. S. Post Office, two doctors, a dental office, and many other businesses. Recreational facilities include a wonderful 18-hole golf course, two tennis courts, an outdoor basketball court, a city park, baseball/softball field, and a public lake for swimming and fishing.

La Plata has three homes listed on the National Register of Historic Homes; the Gilbreath McLorn House, the John T. Doneghy house, and the Lester Dent home.

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Ernie Miles