Bowling Green, the county seat of Pike County, lies 12 miles from the Mississippi River on a rolling plain, 880 feet above sea level. The first pioneer here, John W. Bayse, came in 1820 and by 1823, the settlement named for Bowling Green, Kentucky succeeded Louisiana as the Pike County Seat of Justice. A large spring providing a plentiful source of water drew the settlers to this area.

Here on the pioneer Salt River Trail, the town made a steady growth. Early schools were Pike Academy, 1837; Isaac W. Bayse's Normal School, 1867; and J. D. Meriwether's Bowling Green college, 1881. The Chicago and Alton Railroad (G.M. & O.) was completed in 1871 and the St. Louis and Hannibal in 1876. Limestone quarries were opened in the late 1800's. Near here the first Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church west of the Mississippi was organized in 1820.

When the county, named for explorer Zebulon Pike, was organized in 1818, it included all of Missouri's Upper Salt River country from which have come nine whole counties and parts of six others. Many Pike Countians joined the 1849 Gold Rush and the ballads "Joe Bowers" and "Sweet Betsy from Pike" are associated with this county.