Hillsborough City Hall is located at 101 2nd Street, Hillsboro, MO 63050; phone: 636-797-3334.
Jefferson County was formed on December 8, 1818, with Herculaneum as the County Seat. In 1832, Samuel Merry and Hugh O'Neill donated a piece of land for the purpose of centrally locating the county seat. After much debate, the county seat was moved in 1839 to that land. The city of Hillsboro was then incorporated in 1873. The name of the city was to be Monticello, in honor of the home of Thomas Jefferson, but Monticello was the name of another Missouri community, so it could not be used. The name became Hillsborough, which is a liberal English translation of the name Monticello. Over time, the name was shortened to Hillsboro, as it remains today.
Travel was difficult in 1873 when Hillsboro was incorporated, requiring that businesses, homes, hotels, and other government offices be built within walking distance of the County Courthouse. Early travelers came to Hillsboro on foot, horseback, farm wagon or buckboard, but public transportation made an early appearance with stage coach services in 1830, rail service in 1858, and bus service in 1940, lasting as a source of transportation to St. Louis for over 25 years. People doing business in Hillsboro, the County Seat, often stayed overnight, so the hotel business thrived. Hillsboro residents built their homes near the Courthouse for the sake of convenience. The streets were dirt, with wooden plank sidewalks in the business district. In the 1860s, gravel was put on the dirt streets through the efforts of county jail prisoners.
The town of Hillsboro petitioned the county court for incorporation as a city in 1873; the new city then began to grow and prosper with new businesses, a newspaper, and other services to meet community needs. Local farmers brought their produce and meat to town for sale. Without refrigeration, the meat was smoked while fruits and vegetables were canned. Cattle buyers would go from farm to farm, buying livestock, which local boys would drive to the market or designated clients. Surplus fresh produce and cattle were shipped to St. Louis on wagons.
At the turn of the 20th Century, conditions began to change rapidly with the introduction of the telephone, motorized carriages and electricity. The county seat was the hub for politics; it was an exciting time to be alive. Travel was still a major ordeal, requiring people to stay overnight to conduct business at the Courthouse. The demand for food was greater than the hotels could accommodate, thus generating business for local women to bake pies. A hotel employee would push a cart through town picking up the pies for delivery to the hotels. There was no rural mail delivery, making it commonplace in winter that farmers could not make the trip to the Post Office to retrieve their mail for weeks at a time. News could only travel as fast as the people who carried it.