Camden County, or Any Name Will Do

Camden County has had two names and three county seats over the years. Get out your scorecards and we'll try to wade through the morass.

Organized in 1841, the county originally was named "Kinderhook," after Kinderhook, New York, the birthplace and hometown of President Martin Van Buren. Kinderhook was a Dutch phrase meaning, approximately, "children's place."

The original county seat was the village of Oregon, located at the mouth of Linn Creek. The name apparently came from the term "Oregon fever," in reference to the excitement then sweeping the nation over migration of American pioneers to the Pacific Northwest.

In 1843 the name Kinderhook County was changed. William Henry Harrison had defeated Van Buren, and the people of the county had grown disenchanted with Van Buren's legacy. (During Van Buren's admininstration the economy had slumped and relations with Great Britain had worsened.) The new county name, "Camden," was chosen in honor of the first Earl of Camden, Charles Pratt, a British jurist and eloquent champion of colonial rights in the years leading up to the American Revolution. (Camden, New Jersey, and Camden, South Carolina, also are named after the same distinguished gentleman.)

Charles Pratte, 1st Earl Camden

To coincide with the new county name, the name of the county seat also changed. Oregon became Erie. Only the name changed--the location remained the same. (You can still see a vestige of the original town: Old Erie Cemetery is located on Lake Road Y-49.)

All these changes might have been enough for any other county, but not so for Camden. In 1855 the county seat moved from Erie to the new town of Linn Creek. The townsite of Linn Creek was a mile up the creek valley and less prone to flood than Erie. At least, that's what they thought. The entire town of Linn Creek had to be permanently relocated three miles farther up the valley in 1931 to escape the rising waters of the Lake of the Ozarks.

With that move came yet another change. The seat of county government switched from Linn Creek to Camdenton. The town Camdenton had not existed before the Lake came in. It grew by design around the realigned intersections of Highways 54 and 5.

The name "Camdenton," of course, is a contraction of Camden Town.

© 1999-2000 by Michael Gillespie. All rights reserved.