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Memphis, Missouri
Town sign
Town sign
Location of Memphis, Missouri
Location of Memphis, Missouri
Coordinates: 40°27′39″N 92°10′12″W / 40.46083°N 92.17000°W / 40.46083; -92.17000Coordinates: 40°27′39″N 92°10′12″W / 40.46083°N 92.17000°W / 40.46083; -92.17000
Country United States
State Missouri
County Scotland
 • Total 1.57 sq mi (4.07 km2)
 • Land 1.56 sq mi (4.04 km2)
 • Water 0.01 sq mi (0.03 km2)
801 ft (244 m)
 • Total 1,822
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,161/sq mi (447.7/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 660
FIPS code 29-47270
GNIS feature ID 0722228

Memphis is a city in Scotland County, Missouri, United States. The population was 1,822 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Scotland County. Memphis is located adjacent to U.S. Highway 136, east of Lancaster, and west of Kahoka.


Scotland County court house in Memphis.
Memphis city hall.

Although Scotland County was organized by an act of the Missouri General Assembly on January 29, 1841 the town of Memphis did not come to be until more than two years later. County commissioners met at Sand Hill on May 15, 1843 to select the county seat. A spot near the geographical center of the county was chosen, and after some debate, was named Memphis, after the ancient city of Memphis, Egypt. The name had been previously used by a U.S. Post Office that operated on the North Fabius River a short distance away. The land for the town, about fifty acres, was donated to the county by early settler Samuel Cecil. After being laid out in town lots the original plat of Memphis was filed with county court on October 11, 1843. However a few homes already existed on the site and had for several years, the first being a log cabin constructed in 1835 by Burton Tompkins.

Scotland County's first courthouse, a two-story brick structure, was completed in June, 1845 at a cost of $1,500 dollars. However just a decade later the building was declared unsafe by the county court and a second, larger courthouse was constructed in the middle of the town square in 1856 at a cost of $19,500. The second building served the county well until the turn of the 20th century, but at just forty feet by seventy feet it was becoming increasingly cramped. It was condemned in May, 1905 and razed in early 1907. The current Scotland County courthouse was constructed between October, 1907 and July, 1908 at a cost of $50,000.

Civil War

Scotland County was the scene of two notable engagements during the American Civil War. On July 13, 1862 Confederate Colonel Joseph C. Porter approached Memphis in four converging columns totalling 125–169 men and captured it with little or no resistance. They first raided the Federal armory, seizing about a hundred muskets with cartridge boxes and ammunition, and several uniforms. The Confederate rounded up all adult males, who were taken to the court house to swear not to divulge any information about the raiders for forty-eight hours. Porter freed all militiamen or suspected militiamen to await parole, a fact noted by champions of his character. Citizens expressed their sympathies variously; Porter gave safe passage to a physician, an admitted supporter of the Union, who was anxious to return to his seriously ill wife. A verbally abusive woman was threatened with a pistol by one of Porter’s troops, perhaps as a bluff. Porter’s troops entered the courthouse and destroyed all indictments for horse-theft; the act is variously understood as simple lawlessness, intervention on behalf of criminal associates, or interference with politically motivated, fraudulent charges.

At Memphis, a key incident occurred which would darken Colonel Porter’s reputation, and which his detractors see as part of a consistent behavioral pattern which put him and his men beyond the norms of warfare. According to the "History of Shelby County,” which is generally sympathetic to Porter, “Most conceded that Col. Porter’s purpose for capturing Memphis, MO. was to seize Dr. Wm. Aylward, a prominent Union man of the community.” Aylward was captured during the day by Captain Tom Stacy's men and confined to a house. Stacy was generally regarded as a genuine bushwhacker, with his company called "the chain gang" by the other members of Porter's command due to their behavior. After rousing Doctor Aylward overnight and removing him from his home, ostensibly to see Porter, guards claimed that he escaped. However, witnesses reported hearing the sounds of a strangling, and his body was found the next day, with marks consistent with hanging or strangulation. Supporters of Porter attribute the murder of Aylward to Stacy. However, a Union gentleman who came to inquire about Aylward and a captured officer before the discovery of the body stated that when he asked Porter about Aylward, the response was, "He is where he will never disturb anybody else."

20th century

In the late 1920s, Memphis was the birthplace of The Pheasant Aircraft Company.


Memphis is located at 40°27′39″N 92°10′12″W / 40.46083°N 92.17000°W / 40.46083; -92.17000 (40.460889, -92.169908), along the North Fabius River. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.57 square miles (4.07 km2), of which, 1.56 square miles (4.04 km2) is land and 0.01 square miles (0.03 km2) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 183
1870 1,007
1880 1,418 40.8%
1890 1,780 25.5%
1900 2,195 23.3%
1910 1,984 −9.6%
1920 1,941 −2.2%
1930 1,728 −11.0%
1940 1,935 12.0%
1950 2,035 5.2%
1960 2,106 3.5%
1970 2,081 −1.2%
1980 2,105 1.2%
1990 2,094 −0.5%
2000 2,061 −1.6%
2010 1,822 −11.6%
2015 (est.) 1,829 0.4%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 1,822 people, 813 households, and 466 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,167.9 inhabitants per square mile (450.9/km2). There were 994 housing units at an average density of 637.2 per square mile (246.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 98.5% White, 0.2% African American, 0.5% Native American, 0.1% Asian, 0.1% from other races, and 0.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.2% of the population.

There were 813 households of which 27.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.5% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 42.7% were non-families. 39.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.15 and the average family size was 2.85.

The median age in the city was 43.8 years. 24% of residents were under the age of 18; 7.3% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 20.2% were from 25 to 44; 25.1% were from 45 to 64; and 23.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 44.6% male and 55.4% female.


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