The early settlers came to Western Missouri by riverboat, many were relocating for the second and third time. The settlers were coming from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Peculiar also had families from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia.
On July 29, 1868, Robert Cass, county surveyor, surveyed Peculiar into lots, blocks and streets; this certified plat was filed as "The Town of Peculiar".
One tradition says Peculiar got its name by a spiritualists who declared it "peculiar" that he had seen the site in a vision.
Peculiar received its name in 1868 when the first postmaster, Edgar Thomson, had his first choice, Excelsior, rejected because it already existed in Atchison County, Missouri. Several other choices were also rejected. The story goes that the annoyed Thomson wrote to the Postmaster General himself to complain saying, among other things, "We don't care what name you give us so long as it is sort of 'peculiar'," (with "peculiar" in quotation marks). Washington approved that name. The post office was established on June 22, 1868.
In 1953 Peculiar was incorporated and became a first class city and political subdivision of the state of Missouri. The city was governed by a Mayor/Board of Aldermen form of government.
A historical plaque in the town is noteworthy. It reads: "In 1861-1864 while bloody battles raged throughout the southern states nothing happened here."
The town motto is, appropriately enough, "Where the 'odds' are with you".
In the 1960s Charlie Finley, the owner of the Kansas City Athletics, threatened to move his team to Peculiar and have them play in a cow pasture with temporary bleachers.
The city celebrated its centenary in July 1968. The celebrations continued for nine days and included an antique show and sale, a Lions Club championship rodeo, and an open class Western horse show.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.5 square miles (9.2 km²), of which, 3.5 square miles (9.1 km²) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (1.41%) is water.
Elevation is 991 ft.
There were 953 households out of which 42.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.7% were married couples living together, 13.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.3% were non-families. 19.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.73 and the average family size was 3.14.
In the city the population was spread out with 31.8% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 31.2% from 25 to 44, 18.7% from 45 to 64, and 9.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 93.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $44,769, and the median income for a family was $48,534. Males had a median income of $36,921 versus $27,885 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,104. About 5.7% of families and 7.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.4% of those under age 18 and 11.7% of those age 65 or over.
14% of Peculiar residents age 25 and older have a Bachelor's or an Advanced College Degree.
At the time of the 2000 Census Median Rent in Peculiar $376. Home owner costs for people with mortgages were $880 monthly.