Pemiscot County was carved out of the southern portion of New Madrid County in 1851. The is said to have originated from a Native American word meaning "liquid mud."
Bootlegging Liquor & A Dirty Sheriff:
Clyde Orton & the Criminal Underworld of
Pemiscot County in the 1960s
Clyde Orton was elected sheriff of Pemiscot in 1956. He served twenty-two years as county sheriff in two different tenures marked with greed, corruption, lies, murder, bootlegging, cock fighting, and gambling. His first term ended in 1971 as a result of then state attorney general for Missouri, John Danforth's investigation of Orton's participation in a host of crimes that made him unfit for service as sheriff. In March 1971 the Missouri Supreme Court voted in a five to one split to oust Orton based on charges of oppression, misconduct, and neglect of duty. After being defeated at least twice for the job of sheriff, he was again elected in 1981.
Thad Shelly was elected sheriff of Pemiscot County during the special election to replace Orton after his ouster from office by the Missouri Supreme Court in 1971. Orton would again go head to head with Shelly in 1972 and 1976, in which he was defeated during the Democratic Primary both times.
In October of 1976, Shelly, who ran as a "reformer" candidate to clean up the county after years under Orton's control, was himself suspected of misconduct. Shelly was accused of falsifying trips which he stated were official business but turned out to be personal in nature.