Fredericktown is a city in and the county seat of Madison County, Missouri, United States, in the northeastern foothills of the Ozark Mountains. The population was 3,928 at the 2000 census. The city is surrounded on three sides (east, west, and south) by the easternmost parcel of the Mark Twain National Forest.
The earliest European settlement in the area near what is now Fredericktown was Mine La Motte, a small community about six miles (10 km) to the north. Mine La Motte was first settled by Europeans to mine a large vein of galena lead ore distributed in dolomite that reached the surface there. The need for a local source of lead for ammunition made Mine La Motte one of the earliest European settlements in the interior of the North American continent. Another earlier settlement was the French Catholic community of St. Michaels, Missouri, which is located just north of the current Fredericktown site on the other side of Saline Creek. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the Americanization of the area began in earnest with an influx of second and third generation German Reformed Church settlers from the next county eastward, Bollinger County. In 1819, the area was organized to form Madison County. The name was chosen to honor James Madison, who had been the two-term President of the United States up until two years earlier (from 1809 to 1817), and who had handled the Louisiana Purchase as Secretary of State for Thomas Jefferson. At the time that Madison County was organized, the land south of Saline Creek was owned by Col. Nathaniel Cook. A new town was laid out on Col. Cook's higher, less flood-prone land, and named Fredericktown in honor of Col. Cook's close friend from Bollinger County, Col. George Frederick Bollinger.
The largest and most accessible recreation area in Madison County is the Silver Mines Recreation Area, which is part of the Mark Twain National Forest. Along with its associated Turkey Creek Picnic Area and Millstream Garden Conservation Area, Silver Mines provides miles of beautiful hiking trails along the sides of one of the deepest valleys of the St. Francis River. In the spring, the white waters of the river are also a popular site for kayaking contests. For anyone interested in geology, Silver Mines offers the additional benefit of easy access to an unusual variety of rare minerals (see Geology).