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The small city of Hamilton, in Caldwell County, Missouri, is the birthplace of James Cash Penney, who founded the J.C. Penney stores in 1902. The city was founded on unsettled prairie land after the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad extended its tracks to the area in 1854. Originally, the new town was going to be named Prairie City but Albert Gallatin Davis, a prominent member of the land company, chose Hamilton instead, in honor of both Alexander Hamilton, a founding father of the United States and Joseph Hamilton, an early American lawyer and military hero who was killed at the Battle of the Thames during the War of 1812. Davis served as Hamilton’s first postmaster in 1858, and a railroad depot was constructed in Hamilton in 1859, with Davis as the first railroad and express agent. Hamilton was largely spared during the American Civil War, as most of its residents held pro-Union sympathies and there were few pro-Confederates residing in the area. Hamilton was incorporated as a city in 1868, at which time several new parcels of land were annexed. Hamilton is situated just north of US Highway 36, with Branch 36 running through the center of town, also known as Missouri Highway 13. Cameron is west of Hamilton, Kingston is to the south, and Gallatin is to the north.



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