Named after the ancient North African city, Carthage, Missouri, (population 12,668) was platted in 1842. The town, located in the southwestern part of the state, was created to be the seat of Jasper County, which was named for Revolutionary War hero Sergeant William Jasper.
A one-story courthouse was completed in June 1842, but was replaced in the early 1850s. The new building did not last long, however; it was devastated, along with most of the rest of the city, during the Civil War. Carthage was rebuilt in 1866 and soon returned to prosperity. The town’s rise was aided by a lead and zinc mining boom that began in the mid-1870s. The arrival of the railroad as well as the introduction of modern industry to the area greatly contributed to its continued growth and success through the early 20th century.
A large quarry was opened in the late 1800s, providing the only gray marble in the United States. In the 1880s through the 1890s, many of the mine owners and other town leaders built large mansions out of the local marble, stone, and brick. Most of those houses are still standing today and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1895, the Romanesque Revival Jasper County Courthouse was built, also out of the native gray marble. Located in the center of the town, it is a local landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and exhibits Civil War relics, Route 66 memorabilia, and other artifacts. In 2008, a massive project was undertaken to repair the building’s wiring, which had decayed badly over 100 years and posed a significant fire hazard. Today, the courthouse remains a central heritage tourism asset for Carthage and is one of the most photographed courthouses in Missouri.
The Battle of Carthage, which was the first Civil War battle fought west of the Mississippi River (on July 5, 1861), swirled around and through the city, even across the central courthouse square. The battle is depicted in a mural by a noted local artist in the city-run Civil War Museum. Annual reenactments are also part of a long tradition in Carthage, and were a central feature of the battle’s sesquicentennial in 2010.
Designated a Preserve America Community in July 2010.