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Despite a population of under a thousand, Van Buren is the largest town in Carter County, Missouri. The city was founded as the county seat of Ripley County in 1833, and named for then Vice President Martin Van Buren. The city remained the county seat until 1847 when it was moved to the new town of Doniphan. After the county seat was moved, Van Buren declined to a point where only a few families remained. In 1859, Ripley County was split and Van Buren became part of Carter County, and was selected to be the seat of government for the new county. Originally, the town center was situated a mile and a half west and across the Current River from its current location. No named battled occurred in Van Buren during the American Civil War, although from December of 1862 to January of 1863, Union General John Davidson camped near Van Buren with about three thousand troops. Coming from the south, Confederate troops under the command of General Jeff Thompson had camped on top of Barren Hill, not far away. The following morning, they surprised a company of Union soldiers as they were loading supplies. After a battle lasting about one hour, the Union troops were forced to retreat, leaving the supplies behind. The Confederate troops then retreated to the west, taking the confiscated goods with them. Overall, most of the damage done to Van Buren and the surrounding area were not from organized military forces from either side, but from Jayhawkers and Bushwhackers, many of whom were local residents settling grudges. In 1893, a bridge was constructed across the Current River and, in 1909, the suspension bridge was replaced by a structural steel bridge, now used by US Highway 60, which passes through town. Van Buren is located in the Mark Twain National Forest. The community of South Van Buren is, obviously, to the south and, beyond that, is the small town of Chicopee.


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