Potosi, Washington County MO


The unusual name of "Potosi" comes from a South American Indian word meaning "place of much noise", and through the years the historic town has been the home of hardy pioneers who made "much noise" in Missouri and throughout the American West.
The original Potosi was a 16th Century Spanish silver find in Bolivia - a fabulous mountain of silver ore named by the Indians from the noises of the volcanic activity in the area. Through the centuries, into Mexico and into North America, the name "Potosi" became generic in meaning a "bonanza" of "El Dorado", and, wherever found, is always associated with mining activities - and hopes of riches.
Moses Austin laid out his town of Potosi as the county seat for the new County of Washington. In 1826 it and the French mining camp of Mine Au Breton, just south across the creek, were incorporated under the single name "Potosi".
Potosi was considered in the Missouri Territorial Legislature as the site of Missouri's temporary capital - losing by only one vote to St. Charles - and in the years that passed continued as a colorful center of an area that produced Missouri's first Black Architect; a psychic who wrote novels on a Ouija board; and the first man to deliver beer in an airplane.
In its more than two centuries, since the French first set their mining stakes in the beautiful creek valley, the town has continued as one of Missouri's more memorable ones, and a place which, through its continued beauty and historic significance has continued to make "much noise".


The town of Potosi was founded by Moses Austin in 1798. Prior to his arrival the area was inhabited by itinerant miners and traders. Moses, an owner of lead mines in southwestern Virginia, moved his family to southeastern Missouri and established the town of Potosi in what is now Washington County, Missouri. Within 2 years the John Hawkins family had joined the family of Moses Austin in Potosi. Apparently John and Moses became close friends and began raising their families in Potosi. Several years later, in 1820, Moses Austin left Potosi on a trip to San Antonio in what is now Texas, to apply for a land grant and to establish a colony in the new territory. After filing the application and en route home to Missouri Moses died, however his son, Stephen F. Austin stepped into his father's shoes and completed his father's dream. Today Stephen F. Austin is considered the founding father of the state of Texas, having established the Austin Colony, the first white settlement in the Texas territory.


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This page was installed 30 July 1997 and last updated 11 August 2014

Larry Flesher, Washington County, MO  lflesher@yahoo.com