The first permanent white settlement in the county was made within three or four miles of what is now the town of Novinger. It seems however that it was about 10 years before settlers began to occupy the land in and around Novinger. By 1860 this part of the county was pretty well settled by a class of hard working and thrifty farmers who scarcely dreamed of the vast mineral wealth that underlay their lands. They were accustomed to go to Kirksville for some of their trading and the milling point was Nineveh, a settlement which had been founded by a colony of German communists about 1850.
The first step toward the making of the present town of Novinger was taken after the Q.M. & P. R.R. (Quincy Missouri & Pacific) was extended west from Kirksville in 1878. In that year, or at least the next, John C. Novinger laid out on his land a village which bore his name and which constitutes today the original town of Novinger. Two different industries were beginning to be developed by that time in the western part of the county, the tie and the coal industries, and the advantage in having a railroad run through the timber and coal regions was something that both the company and the community realized at the time when the railroad was projected west from Kirksville, the tie industry was leading the coal industry by long odds. Novinger station became the most important tie settlement in the county, and several individuals and firms made it their shipping point from which ties by the hundreds of thousands were shipped to different parts of the country. Notwithstanding the fact that so much traffic went on through Novinger, the industry contributed nothing to the permanence of the place. A few little shanties were put up in the town for the temporary use of the tie workers, but when the timber around the place had been cleared off and the tie business was closed up, the tie workers left and their shanties were torn down or converted to other uses. This industry was at its height from about 1885 to 1895.
But just as the tie business began to enter its decline in the county and particularly around Novinger, the second industry of that part of the county, the coal industry, began to take on a new life and to expand beyond what it had ever been in the past. This industry was the means of making the town what it had become by the early decade of the 20th century. By 1911 the population was about 2,000 ... more if outlying mining camps were included.