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Kirksville, Missouri facts for kids

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Kirksville, Missouri
City of Kirksville
Kirksville Square (2004)
Kirksville Square (2004)
Flag of Kirksville, Missouri
Location within Adair County and Missouri
Location within Adair County and Missouri
Country United States
State Missouri
County Adair
Township Benton
Platted 1841
Incorporated 1857
 • Type Council-manager government
 • Total 14.42 sq mi (37.36 km2)
 • Land 14.39 sq mi (37.26 km2)
 • Water 0.04 sq mi (0.10 km2)
981 ft (299 m)
 • Total 17,530
 • Density 1,215.7/sq mi (469.22/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code 660
FIPS code 29-39026
GNIS feature ID 0735678

Kirksville is a city in and the county seat of Adair County, Missouri. Located in the Benton Township, its population was 17,530 at the 2020 census. Kirksville is home to two colleges: Truman State University and A.T. Still University.


Child workers in Kirksville, MO
Group of men and boys at Friedman Shelby Shoe Company in 1910

Kirksville was laid out in 1841 on a 40-acre (0.06 sq mi; 16.19 ha) site, and was first incorporated in 1857.

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. 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.

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.

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. The story and extensive video of the 2009 twister was featured in season 2 of Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel as well as a 2010 episode of Storm Stories on The Weather Channel.

National Register of Historic Places

The Adair County Courthouse, Bear Creek Baptist Church, Dockery Hotel, Grim Building, Capt. Thomas C. Harris House, Journal Printing Company Building, Kirksville Courthouse Square Historic District, Drs. George and Blanche Laughlin House, Masonic Temple, Dr. E. Sanborn Smith House, Orie J. Smith Black and White Stock Farm Historic District, Sojourners Club, Thousand Hills State Park Petroglyphs Archeological Site, Travelers Hotel, and Trinity Episcopal Church are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Kirksville is located at 40°11′41″N 92°35′00″W / 40.19472°N 92.58333°W / 40.19472; -92.58333 (40.1947539, -92.5832496). 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.


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
Precipitation inches (mm) 1.00


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 658
1870 1,471 123.6%
1880 2,314 57.3%
1890 3,510 51.7%
1900 5,966 70.0%
1910 6,347 6.4%
1920 7,213 13.6%
1930 8,293 15.0%
1940 10,080 21.5%
1950 11,110 10.2%
1960 13,123 18.1%
1970 15,569 18.6%
1980 17,167 10.3%
1990 17,152 −0.1%
2000 16,988 −1.0%
2010 17,505 3.0%
2020 17,530 0.1%
U.S. Decennial Census

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

2010 census

As of the census 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.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population on July 1, 2017 was estimated to be 17,536.

Congolese population

By 2015 a number of persons originating from the Democratic Republic of the Congo settled in Kirksville; they first came to the U.S. through diversity visas. Many found work at a Farmland Foods facility in nearby Milan, Missouri. In 2014 five Congolese families lived in Kirksville. By February 2016 almost 40 Congolese families resided in Kirksville, totaling around 100 people.

Prior to 2015 about half of the 20-25 English as a second language program students in the Kirksville R-III School District were of Hispanic origin, but the wave of Congolese students appeared by 2015, doubling the number of ESOL students and giving it a French-speaking population not previously present. Therefore, the district began expanding its ESOL program.

Students and faculty from Truman State University took steps to help the Congolese residents acclimate to life in Kirksville.

According to Dr. Sana Camara of Truman State, many of the immigrants were well-educated, and that the main barrier to success was specifically a lack of English knowledge.


Kirksville is home to three institutions of higher learning:

  • Truman State University, a liberal arts school, originally the North Missouri Normal School and Commercial College, and more recently Northeast Missouri State University.
  • A.T. Still University, home of the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, the founding osteopathic medical and dental schools.
  • Moberly Area Community College (MACC) operates a Kirksville campus.

Primary and secondary schools, including Kirksville High School, are operated by the Kirksville R-III School District.

Kirksville has a public library, the Adair County Public Library.



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 out, leaving the city without a rail line. The project to tear out 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. 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, TWA Flight 6, carrying Senator Bronson Cutting of New Mexico, crashed south of Kirksville. As a result, Congress created the Civil Aeronautics Administration.
  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.
  4. On November 5, 2013, a Piper PA-32 crashed 3 miles southeast of Kirksville Regional Airport on its final approach.


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.

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

  • Andrew Taylor Still, M.D., D.O., founder of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Doris Akers, gospel singer and composer.
  • Samuel W. Arnold, three-term U.S. Representative from Missouri 1st District (1943–49)
  • Joseph Baldwin, founder and first president of First District Normal School, now Truman State University
  • William Beckner, mathematician
  • Gordon Bell, early computer engineer
  • Robert J. Behnen, a genealogist and former Republican member of the Missouri House of Representatives
  • Lewis Binford, prominent 20th century archaeologist and anthropologist; retired to Kirksville and died there in 2011.
  • Anthony Cistaro, actor, born In Kirksville but grew up in California.
  • Charles F. Cochran, U.S. Representative (1897–1905), born in Kirksville. Raised in Kansas.
  • Debra Di Blasi, prize-winning writer
  • Rusty Draper, singer
  • Leo Goeke, opera singer
  • Alex Linder, White Supremacy leader and owner/operator of the Vanguard News Network, an antisemitic, white supremacist website launched in 2000.
  • Lucy Foster Madison (1865–1932), American novelist and teacher
  • Rebecca Mark-Jusbasche, former head of Enron International.
  • Joe Maxwell, Lieutenant Governor of Missouri
  • Rebecca McClanahan, Professor of Nursing and former Democratic member of the Missouri House of Representatives
  • Archie Musick painter 1902–1978
  • John R. Musick, late 19th-century historian and author
  • Jim Musick, American professional football player.
  • Ruth Ann Musick, folklorist and author
  • Geraldine Page, Academy Award-winning actress
  • James E. Rieger, US Army colonel & winner of the Distinguished Service Cross.
  • Carolyne Roehm, author, businesswoman, socialite, fashion designer
  • Robert Taylor is another of several actors who lived in Kirksville. As a child he was here for a short period while his father Dr. Spangler Andrew Brugh attended Osteopath School.
  • William Traylor, character actor and founder of the Loft Studio in Hollywood.
  • Rhonda Vincent, Award-winning bluegrass singer.
  • James F. Walker, artist
  • Arthur L. Willard, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral & winner of the Navy Cross.
  • John Wimber, Charismatic Movement leader and keyboardist for The Righteous Brothers
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