History of Bolivar

Bolivar has existed as a city since November 10, 1835, when proclaimed as such by the Polk County Court and designated as the county seat. Bolivar was organized as a fourth-class city on February 15, 1881.

Early settlers in the area came primarily from Tennessee, and chose the future site of Bolivar in part because of Keeling Spring, and in part because it lay along the trail used by the Overland Stage.

The naming of both the town and county resulted from suggestions put forth by the Campbell brothers, three grandsons of Ezekial Polk, who had settled here with their families. The county was named Polk in honor of their grandfather, who was a distinguished colonel in George Washington’s Revolutionary Army.

This statue of General Simon Bolivar was presented by President Romulo Gallegos
of Venezuela and dedicated by President Harry S. Truman on July 5, 1948.
It is located in Neuhart Park. Photo courtesy of Stephens Photography.

The city was named after the town of Bolivar in Tennessee, where the Campbell brothers had lived prior to settling here, which was in its turn named after General Simon Bolivar, ‘El Liberator’, who was also known as ‘the George Washington of South America’.

Further information on the history of Bolivar and Polk County can be found in “Polk County, Missouri Families & History”, published by the Polk County Genealogical Society. The Society meets each month at the Polk County Genealogical Library, which is the only site in Polk County to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Library is located on the southeast corner of the Bolivar Square.