January 1, 1821 marked the effective date for the creation of Perry County. The General Assembly organized the county on November 16, 1820 from Ste. Genevieve County. The name commemorates Oliver Hazard Perry, naval hero of the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812. The approximate boundaries were the Mississippi River, Apple Creek, Madison County, and Saline Creek to the mouth of St. Laurent Creek.
Perry County was one of eleven counties organized in November 1820, the only one in southeastern Missouri. These included Allen (later Atchison), Boone, Callaway, Chariton, Cole, Gasconade, Lillard (later Lafayette), Ralls, Ray, and Saline.
Europeans settled the area in 1787, when Jean Baptiste Barsaloux and his father Girard moved to Bois Brule Bottom. Shawnee and Delaware from Ohio settled along Apple Creek in the 1790s at the invitation of Louis Lorimier, and their principal village, Le Grand Village Sauvage, was near Old Appleton.
The first Americans settled Bois Brule Bottom in the late 1790s, and organized a Baptist Church in 1807. Roman Catholics from Maryland via north-central Kentucky arrived in the early 1800s; the first was Isidore Moore in 1801. Moore founded Tucker’s Settlement, which also included the Tucker, Fenwick, Cissell, Riney, Hamilton, Layton, Manning, and Hagan families. Most settled in The Barrens, natural prairie uplands around Perryville.
The concentration of American Catholics attracted the Church to construct St. Marys of The Barrens seminary in 1819. Other groups settling Perry County included North Carolina Presbyterians near Brazeau; Methodists from North Carolina in south-central Perry County, with names like Abernathy, Farrar, and Rutledge, who built York Chapel in 1826; descendants of French families around Perryville after statehood; Flemings in the northeastern part of the county; German Lutheran and Reformed North Carolinians; and then Saxon Lutherans by the end of the 1830s.