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Kirksville, Missouri

Kirksville, Missouri
Kirksville Square (2004)
Kirksville Square (2004)
Flag of Kirksville, Missouri
Location within Adair County and Missouri
Location within Adair County and Missouri
Coordinates: [1]
Country United States
State Missouri
County Adair
Township Benton
Platted 1841
Incorporated 1857
 • Mayor Richard Detweiler
 • Total 14.43 sq mi (37.37 km2)
 • Land 14.39 sq mi (37.27 km2)
 • Water 0.04 sq mi (0.10 km2)
Elevation[1] 981 ft (299 m)
Population (2010)[3][4]
 • Total 17,505
 • Estimate (2012) 17,522
 • Density 1,200/sq mi (470/km2)
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 63501
Area code 660
FIPS code 29-39026 [1]
GNIS feature ID 0735678 [1]

Kirksville is a city in and the county seat of Adair County, Missouri, United States.[1] Located in the Benton Township, its population was 17,505 at the 2010 census.[5] Kirksville is home of Truman State University and A.T. Still University.


  • History 1
    • Origin of name 1.1
    • Battle of Kirksville 1.2
    • Tornadoes 1.3
  • Geography 2
    • Climate 2.1
  • Demographics 3
    • 2010 census 3.1
    • 2000 census 3.2
  • Government 4
  • Education 5
  • Media 6
  • Infrastructure 7
    • Transportation 7.1
    • Utilities 7.2
  • Notable people 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Group of men and boys at Friedman Shelby Shoe Company in 1910

Kirksville was laid out in 1841 on a 40-acre (16 ha) site, and was first incorporated in 1857.[6]

Origin of name

According to tradition, Jesse Kirk, Kirksville's first postmaster, shared a dinner of turkey and whiskey with surveyors working in the area on the condition that they would name the town after him.[7] Not only the first postmaster, Kirk was also the first to own a hotel and a tavern in Kirksville.

Contrary to popular belief, the name of the city has no connection to John Kirk, onetime president of Truman State University from 1899 to 1925. However, the grandson of Jesse Kirk reported that the town was named for Kirk’s son John, a figure of local legend credited with killing two deer with a single bullet. "Hopkinsville" was explained as a joking reference to the peculiar gait of John Kirk’s lame father-in-law, David Sloan; the jocular name was discarded when the village was selected for the seat of justice in Adair County.[8]

Battle of Kirksville

The Battle of Kirksville was fought August 6–9, 1862 during the American Civil War. Union troops led by John McNeil forced Confederate volunteers under Joseph Porter to vacate the city. Casualty estimates (almost entirely Confederate) range from 150-200 dead and up to 400 wounded. According to the August 12, 1862, Quincy Herald there were 8 Federal dead and 25 wounded. The victorious Union commander, Colonel McNeil, gained brief national attention for his post-battle execution of a small number of Confederate prisoners. These prisoners had been previously captured in battle and then paroled with the understanding they would no longer take up arms against the Union, upon penalty of death if recaptured. Nonetheless, Confederate government officials were outraged, and it is said that Confederate president Jefferson Davis even called for the execution of Colonel (later Brigadier General) McNeil if he were to be captured.


On the evening of April 27, 1899, a tornado passing through Adair County cut a path of destruction three blocks wide, killed 32 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings. The popular song "Just as the Storm Passed O'er" was based on the event, and the Kimball Piano Company exploited the incident for its advertising, when one of their instruments was carried a long distance by the tornado but still found in working condition.[9]

On May 13, 2009 Kirksville was again the victim of a large tornado. A tornado estimated as an EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale struck the northern edge of Kirksville destroying or severely damaging many homes, several businesses, a car dealership, and at least one factory. Two residents living just outside the city limits were killed by the tornado, and as many as a dozen other area residents were injured.[10] The story and extensive video of the 2009 twister was featured in season 2 of Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel[11] as well as a 2010 episode of Storm Stories on The Weather Channel.


Kirksville is located at (40.1947539, -92.5832496).[1] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 14.43 square miles (37.37 km2), of which, 14.39 square miles (37.27 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) is water.[2]


Climate data for Kirksville, Missouri
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 70
Average high °F (°C) 32
Average low °F (°C) 13
Record low °F (°C) −23
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.00
Source: [12]


Kirksville anchors a micropolitan area that comprises Adair and Schuyler counties.

2010 census

As of the census[3] of 2010, there were 17,505 people, 6,714 households, and 3,066 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,216.5 inhabitants per square mile (469.7/km2). There were 7,434 housing units at an average density of 516.6 per square mile (199.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 92.3% White, 2.2% African American, 0.2% Native American, 2.4% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.8% from other races, and 2.0% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.7% of the population.

There were 6,714 households of which 23.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.0% were married couples living together, 9.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 54.3% were non-families. 37.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.18 and the average family size was 2.90.

The median age in the city was 23.8 years. 16.4% of residents were under the age of 18; 36% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 19% were from 25 to 44; 17.5% were from 45 to 64; and 11.2% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 46.1% male and 53.9% female.

2000 census

As of the census[15] of 2000, there were 16,988 people, 6,583 households, and 2,975 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,624.0 people per square mile (627.1/km²). There were 7,303 housing units at an average density of 698.2 per square mile (269.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 94.38% White, 1.73% African American, 0.26% Native American, 1.93% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.59% from other races, and 1.07% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.54% of the population.

There were 6,583 households out of which 20.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.1% were married couples living together, 7.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 54.8% were non-families. 36.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16 and the average family size was 2.83.

In the city the population was spread out with 15.6% under the age of 18, 37.6% from 18 to 24, 20.5% from 25 to 44, 14.4% from 45 to 64, and 12.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 23 years. For every 100 females there were 82.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $22,836, and the median income for a family was $36,772. Males had a median income of $26,776 versus $22,309 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,388. About 14.4% of families and 30.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.7% of those under age 18 and 13.1% of those age 65 or over.


Kirksville City Hall. The building was originally constructed as a U.S. Post Office in the early 1900s and was converted for city use in the 1960s.

Kirksville is a Missouri Third-Class city, operating as a council-manager government. A paid city manager and staff handle the day-to-day operations and report to the city council.

Candidates for Kirksville city council are not required to have any party affiliation (i.e. Republican or Democrat) in order to run for office. The only requirements are to be at least 21 years of age, a United States citizen, to have lived in the city for at least one year prior to election, and to not have any outstanding/overdue city or county taxes. All members are elected in an "at large" representation basis versus any particular section or ward. Following each election, the councilmembers vote among themselves to choose a member to serve a one-year term as mayor. Council meetings are held the first and third Monday of each month. The current Kirksville City Council Members are:[16]

  • Richard Detweiler (Mayor)[17][18]
  • Glen Moritz (Mayor Pro Tem)
  • Richard Steele
  • Jerry Mills
  • Phillip Biston

The city of Kirksville provides residents with full-time fire and police departments, along with water, sewer, and street maintenance service. Citywide trash removal is contracted by the city with a private contractor, currently Advanced Disposal Environmental Service, and is mandatory for all residents or property owners. Recycling is optional. The city of Kirksville partners with other agencies to operate Kirk-Tran, an area bus service, and a county-wide E-911 Center.


Kirksville is home to three institutions of higher learning:


Paired with Ottumwa, Iowa, Kirksville is a media market region, ranked 199 by Nielsen, and home to an ABC/CBS affiliate, KTVO-TV 3. Kirksville is home to seven main radio stations.

Frequency Call sign Nickname Format Owner Web site
1450 AM and 99.7 FM   KIRX News, Talk and Good Time Oldies Oldies Simulcast KIRX Group [8]
88.7 FM KTRM The Edge College Radio Emily Aldredge [9]
89.7 FM KKTR . National Public Radio
Simulcast of KBIA Columbia
Truman State University [10]
90.7 FM KGHN Christian Radio Religious C.A.R.E. Broadcasting [11]
93.7 FM KTUF Today’s Best Country, K-TUF Country Simulcast KIRX Group [12]
94.5 FM KRXL The Classic Rock Station, 94.5 The X Classic Rock KIRX Group [13]
107.9 FM KLTE . Religious Bott Radio Network [14]

The Kirksville-Ottumwa DMA includes a FOX affiliate, KYOU-TV 15, and is covered by NBC from Hannibal-Quincy and, in some areas, Kansas City. Radios in Kirksville can also pick up stations from Brookfield, Macon, Moberly, Hannibal-Quincy, and Keokuk, Iowa. Among low-powered translators and micro-broadcasters is 107.5 FM, operated by students from Truman’s campus.

In print, Kirksville is served by the Kirksville Daily Express (web site), Sundays through Fridays, and on Thursdays by the Index, a weekly newspaper produced by students at Truman State University. The students of Truman State University also publish an alternative newspaper, The Monitor.

Truman students produce a weekly news broadcast, News 36, played on CableOne channel 3 and on their on-campus station, TruTV, on Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30pm, 9:00pm, 10:00pm, and 2:00am.



The City of Kirksville operates the Kirksville Regional Airport (formerly Clarence Cannon Airport), four miles (6 km) south of the city by the village of Millard.

Kirksville, by way of La Plata, is serviced by Amtrak's Southwest Chief which runs along the BNSF Railway. The distance from Truman State University to La Plata (Amtrak station) is approximately 12.5 miles (20.1 km).

Kirksville once had two operational railroads that ran through town. The east-west rail line was originally incorporated as the Quincy, Missouri & Pacific Railroad, which was renamed several times during financial restructuring and changing hands numerous times, until in 1897 it became the Quincy, Omaha & Kansas City Railroad. Financial problems continued, and it was operated by the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad after 1903 and later absorbed by that company, which in turn became Burlington Northern in 1970. The portion of the line that ran west of Kirksville towards Green City was abandoned and eventually torn down in the early 1950s. The portion of the line that ran east of town towards Edina, Labelle, and West Quincy was scrapped in 1982 - 1983, after the Staggers Rail Act deregulated the rail industry. The depot which serviced along the Burlington Northern in Kirksville still stands along Elson Street just north of Cottonwood Street and plans are that it will be renovated.

Kirksville’s other railroad, the Wabash Railroad, became the Norfolk and Western Railway in October, 1964. This north-south line later became the Norfolk Southern Railway in 1982 after N&W merged with Southern Railway. In April 1992, the last official NS train ran the line between Albia, IA and Moberly, MO as the railroad announced it would abandon the line due to a loss in profit. During the summer of 1993, the railroad reopened to train traffic as the floods of the midwest affected lines around the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Trains continued to run the line until 1995. After failed attempts from buyers wanting to purchase the line and turn it into a shortline railroad, work began on tearing down the railroad from Moberly, MO northward toward La Plata, MO where it has a connection with the BNSF Railway and from Moulton, IA southward toward La Plata, MO. The portion of the line from Moulton, IA northward towards Albia was purchased by the Appanoose County Community Railroad. In late September 1997, the tracks through Kirksville were finally torn down leaving the city without a rail line. The project to tear down the abandoned line was completed by the end of 1997.

In 1952, the United States Air Force opened a radar base that was home to the 790th Radar Squadron, an Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, in Sublette, about 10 mi (16 km) north of Kirksville. The Air Force inactivated the 790th Radar Squadron in 1968. The Federal Aviation Administration took over running the radar and most of the surrounding 78.51 acres (317,700 m2) were given to Northeast Missouri State University.[19] The current radar, an Air Route Surveillance Radar - Model 3, is a long-range radar that feeds data to air traffic control centers that control aircraft flying over the region.

Four fatal airplane accidents have occurred near Kirksville:

  1. On May 6, 1935, a plane carrying Senator Bronson Cutting of New Mexico crashed south of Kirksville, killing him. As a result, Congress created the Civil Aeronautics Administration.[20][21]
  2. On May 22, 1962, Continental Airlines Flight 11, heading to Kansas City from Chicago under heavy weather, was brought down by a dynamite explosion northwest of Kirksville. Some aviation historians consider this the first act of aviation terrorism in history.
  3. On October 20, 2004, Corporate Airlines Flight 5966 (now RegionsAir) crashed just south of Kirksville Regional Airport, killing 13 of 15 passengers and crew.
  4. On November 5, 2013, a Piper PA-32 crashed 3 miles southeast of Kirksville Regional Airport on its final approach, killing both passengers aboard.


Boaters enjoying the new Thousand Hills State Park Marina, mid-1950s.

Kirksville is served by two watersheds. Hazel Creek Lake (530 acres), formed in 1982, was first used as a water source the next year. The larger water source, Forrest Lake (640 acres), was formed by the city in the 1950s when a dam was constructed across Big Creek. Forrest Lake anchors the Thousand Hills State Park, located just west of the city and is named in honor of former Missouri Governor Forrest Smith.[22][23]

Kirksville trash pick-up is currently conducted through the Advanced Disposal of Macon, MO. The company also picks up recycling and yard waste for the city. Most residents receive electrical service from AmerenUE, although a portion of the city receives it from Tri-County Electric, an R.E.C. co-op. Liberty Utilities is the natural gas supplier for the Kirksville area.

Notable people


  1. ^ a b c d e f Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) details for Kirksville, Missouri; United States Geological Survey (USGS); October 24, 1980.
  2. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010".  
  3. ^ a b "American FactFinder".  
  4. ^ "Population Estimates".  
  5. ^ Kirksville Daily Express, 2-24-11
  6. ^ Violette, E. M. (1911). History of Adair County. The Denslow History Company. p. 345. 
  7. ^ Eaton, David Wolfe (1916). How Missouri Counties, Towns and Streams Were Named. The State Historical Society of Missouri. p. 201. 
  8. ^ Kirksville Daily Express, March 20, 1941
  9. ^ The Kirksville Cyclone in 1899
  10. ^ "Three killed in Northeast Missouri storms - Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio". May 13, 2009. Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  11. ^ "About The Show : Storm Chasers : Discovery Channel". 2008-09-10. Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  12. ^ "Average Weather for Kirksville, MO - Temperature and Precipitation". Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  13. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  15. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  16. ^ "Uncertain first steps for council - Kirksville, MO". Kirksville Daily Express. April 8, 2011. Archived from the original on 2012-03-16. Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  17. ^ Hunsicker, Jason (31 March 2013). "2013 Kirksville City Council candidate profiles". Kirksville Daily Express. 
  18. ^ Muller, Taylor (9 April 2013). "Mayor Detweiler to continue to serve as Council leader, Moritz to KHPC". 'Kirksville Daily Express via website. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  19. ^ "Federal Facilities Section: Department of Defense Sites". Archived from the original on 2006-07-24. Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  20. ^ "Kirksville History: Whitney McFerron". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  21. ^ "Records of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) - (Record Group 197)". Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  22. ^ "We Would Just Like to Say Thank You" (pdf). Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  23. ^ "A Book of Adair County History." Published by the Kirksville-Adair County Bicentennial Committee, 1976.
  24. ^

External links

  • City of Kirksville
  • Kirksville Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Kirksville Area Economic Development
  • Adair County Historical Society
  • Historic maps of Kirksville in the Sanborn Maps of Missouri Collection at the University of Missouri
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