(Front):(See other side)
In the Ozark perimeter, above Missouri's Southeast Lowland Region, Poplar Bluff was laid out in 1849 as seat of newly organized Butler County. The town was named for its location in a forest of yellow poplars on the bluffs above Black River. Called L'eau Noire by French trappers, Black River flows clear and swift above Poplar Bluff, murky and slow below. The county is named for Mexican War General W.O. Butler.
Almost destroyed by guerrilla and troop foragers during the Civil War, Poplar Bluff's present development began with the arrival of the St. Louis, Iron Mt., & So. R.R. (Mo. Pac.) in 1872. The lumbering era of the 1870's to early 1900's brought a second railroad (the Frisco), 2 banks, and Black River Seminary (1869-75) to Poplar Bluff. A part of Butler County is now in Clark National Forest.
Poplar Bluff's growth continued with the agricultural economy that developed after the lumbering boom. Reclamation of Butler County's swamp between the St. Francis and Black rivers began with the 1913 Inter-River Drainage District. The county produces rice, cotton, grain, livestock, and lumber.
(Reverse):(Continued from other side)Poplar Bluff, seat of Butler County, with its trade, banks, and industries, is in territory ceded by Osage Indians in 1808 and utilized by other tribes into the 1930's. Southward is Gillis Bluff, said to be named for an Indian trader who had a post there around 1825. Above Poplar Bluff ran the Natchitoches Trail, an Indian pathway to the Southwest. Geologists H.R. Schoolcraft, in 1819, and G.W. Featherstonaugh, in 1834, traveled along a part of this path. Some 1800 Indian mounds remain in the county area.
Butler County's first settler is said to be Solomon Kittrell in 1819. The early pioneers, largely from Kentucky and Tennessee, were attracted by the plentiful water, wood, and game. Taxes were often paid in furs. About 1881, a number of German families formed a short-lived communal colony in the vicinity of Gillis Bluff where they laid out Carola.
In 1927, a tornado struck in Poplar Bluff killing 87 and doing over 2 million dollars damage. The courthouse, rebuilt after the disaster, is the county's fourth. Poplar Bluff was the home of Dwight H. Brown, Missouri's Secretary of State, 1932-44.