PIERPONT — The laws of Columbia don’t apply to Pierpont resident Ken Horn.
“I’ve got a 55-gallon drum I burn trash in — that’d be illegal in Columbia,” Horn said. “The freedom. That’s why I moved out here in the first place.”
A rural village with a population of 76, Pierpont sits at the intersection of Route N and Highway 163 a few miles south of Columbia. It’s the first time the village’s official population has been known, as Pierpont was not in the Missouri census until 2010’s numbers were released Thursday.
Back in 2004, Columbia’s expanding city limits encroached on Pierpont, which feared annexation. No more burning trash or shooting firearms. But longtime resident Justin John had no interest in surrendering the village’s freedom to Columbia ordinances. John fronted a board of five trustees who officially incorporated Pierpont as a village on Nov. 4, 2004.
“Nobody out here wanted to be in Columbia, so we got busy,” John said.
The village’s appearance on the census makes official the work done to keep Pierpont independent. Referred to as “mayor,” John is chairman of Pierpont's Board of Trustees for what he made a point to call a legitimate government entity.
“We do the same thing that the Columbia City Council does, just on a smaller scale,” John said.
A half-cent sales tax generates enough revenue for the village to comfortably function. This is collected at the Pierpont Store, the village’s central hub and only public business. Some residents meet at the store in the morning, sharing coffee and talking over breakfast. John said the store, reportedly 185 years old, embodies the village's identity.
And if you're driving through, that's probably all you're going to notice of Pierpont. A wooden house with old-school gas pumps and formed plastic signs out front.
So why keep Columbia out? Why not, John said. Residents remain only minutes away from the rest of Columbia and a trip down Highway 63 from Ashland and Jefferson City. Because Pierpont is on a state road, Boone County supplies electricity, water and fire department. The village even sees an influx of game-day traffic when the MU football team plays.
It’s the perfect balance of privacy and moderate isolation for John and the other 75 people there.
“Pierpont is like a residential neighborhood that everybody really enjoys, and that’s the way we want to keep it,” John said. “If you want to live in Columbia, go live in Columbia."