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History of Livingston County
from The History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties, Missouri. 1886
First County Courts - Early Elections, Etc., - First Circuit Courts - During
the Mormon War - The First Court-House - Second Court-House - First Bridges,
Ferries, Stores, Physicians, etc.- Early Marriages - Improving the Wilderness -
The Famous "Heatherly War."
The first term of the county court was held April 6, 1837, at the house of
Joseph Cox, in what was then Medicine Creek township, or about four miles due
north of the present site of Chillicothe, (center of section 12 - 58 - 24). Mr.
Cox's residence had been designated as the temporary seat of justice of the
county. There were present the three county judges, Wm. Martin, Joseph Cox and
Reuben McCoskrie; the clerk, Thos. R. Bryan, and the sheriff; Wm. O. Jennings,
all of whom were commissioned by Gov. Lilburn W. Boggs, February 4, previously.
The first business done, after choosing Judge Martin president of the court,
was to divide the county into municipal townships. This was done as to the
county by laying off four townships - Shoal Creek, Indian Creek, Medicine Creek
and Grand River - whose designated boundaries were as follows: -
Shoal Creek - Beginning at the southwest corner of the county, on the
range line between 25 and 26, where the same crosses the line between
Congressional townships 55 and 56; thence east twelve miles, or to the line
between ranges 23 and 24; then north to Grand river, then up Grand river to the
line between ranges 25 and 26, or the western boundary of the county, then south
to the beginning. In other words Shoal Creek township comprised the southwestern
part of the county, embracing the territory in the present townships of Monroe,
Mound, Greene and Utica.
Indian Creek - Beginning at the northwest corner of the county proper,
then south along the county line to the middle of the channel of Grand river,
then down the river to the forks, then up the east fork of Grand river to the
north line of the county proper - or the line between Congressional townships 59
and 60, then west to the beginning. In other words Indian Creek township
included the north-western portion of the county, comprising the territory
between the forks of Grand river in what is now Sampsel and Jackson townships.
- Beginning at the northeast corner of the county, then south with the county
line to Grand River, then up Grand River to the East fork, then up the East fork
to the northern boundary of the county proper, then east to the beginning.
Medicine Creek township, therefore, comprised the entire northwestern part of
the county, including all the territory now in Chillicothe, Rich Hill, Cream
Ridge, Medicine and Wheeling townships.
- Beginning on Grand river where the line between ranges 23 and 24 crosses said
river (at the northeast corner of what was then Shoal Creek township), then down
the river to the southeast corner of the county (where the line between
townships 55 and 56 crosses the river), then west with the south boundary of the
county to the line between ranges 23 and 24, then north to the beginning. Grand
river embraced the territory in the southeastern part of the county, south of
Grand river, including all the present townships of Fairview and the greater
portion of the present Grand river.
All the territory north of the county
proper, which had been attached to Livingston (forming now the counties
of Grundy and Mercer), was divided into two townships. All of the territory east
of the East fork of Grand river, extending to the Iowa line, was called Muddy
Creek township, and all west of the East fork was called Sugar Creek.
It will be seen that the townships
were all named from the streams.
Special elections to choose two
justices of the peace and one constable in each township were ordered held May
27, as follows: --
In Indian Creek, at Jesse
Nave's; judges of election, James Leeper, Andrew Ligett and Benjamin Hargrave.
In Shoal Creek, at John S. Tomblin's; judges John Austin, Samuel E. Todd
and Stephen Reynolds; two additional justices of the peace were elected in this
township in July. Medicine Creek, at Wm. E. Pearl's; judges, Wm.
Linville, Samuel Parks, James Cook. Grand River, at Benjamin A. Fewel's;
judges John Hall, John Stucky and Benj. A. Fewel. Sugar Creek, at George
Perry's; judges, Wm. P. Thompson, George Bunch, and Philip Wild. Muddy Creek,
at Daniel Duval's; judges, John Thrailkill, Daniel Duval and Wm. S. "Cohorn"
1 In November following an
election was held at Utica - John Austin, Spencer Gregory and Howard Maupin,
judges, to choose two additional justices for Shoal Creek, and the same day an
election was held at Nave'' in Indian Creek, to select two more for that
township --Elisha Bucher, Wm. Venable and Alex. Dockery, judges.
It can not now be determined who the justices were that were chosen at this
election, as they were commissioned by the Governor, but the following were the
constables in four of the townships: -
In Medicine Creek, John Cox; Indian Creek, Chas. Blakeley; Shoal Creek, James
Austin; Sugar Creek, John Scott.
At the first session of the county court the only other business transacted,
in addition to that referred to, was the location of the temporary seat of
justice of the county at the "dwelling house of Joseph Cox," and the
appointment of Saml. B. Campbell as assessor (or "cesser," as Clerk
Bryan spelled and pronounced it) for the year 1837. From his report, afterwards
filed, it seems that it required Mr. Campbell twenty-five days to assess the
entire county. Wm. E. Pearls was appointed deputy county clerk.
At the May term, 1837, the second session of the county court, Wm. Linville
was appointed the first county treasurer, but in a few weeks he resigned and in
June Samuel Parks was appointed. Ten blank "grocery" licenses were
ordered issued and delivered to the sheriff, to be by him granted to applicants
at the rate of $10 per license. The sheriff, Wm. O. Jennings, was appointed
Rates of ferriage over Grand river, were fixed as follows: For a man and
horse, 12 1/2 cents; single horse or man, 6 1/4 cents; one horse wagon, 18 3/4
cents; two-horse wagon 25 cents; four-horse wagon, 37 1/2 cents; six-horse
wagon, 75 cents; cattle, 4 cents per head; hogs and sheep, 1 cent each. The
license fee was fixed at $2 each for State and county.
In August the sixteenth section, reserved for school purposes, in township
58, range 24, was ordered sold; and at the same session steps were taken for the
location of the county seat at Chillicothe.
The first county roads were opened in September 1837. Brannock Wilkinson,
James Leeper and S. B. Campbell were the commissioners of a road from
Chillicothe to Millport, near Gallatin, in Daviess county. This was the first
road. The second ran from Utica, via Chillicothe, to Nathan H. Gregory's
residence on Medicine creek, where now is thrown the iron bridge - on the road
between Chillicothe and Linneus. The commissioners of this road were Wm. Mann,
Wm. E. Pearl and Solomon Cox. Of course these were not the first roads of any
sort in the county, for highways had been established when it was a part of
Carroll. Then there were numerous private roads, called trails or
The most insane man in the county was John D. Martin, son of Judge Wm.
Martin, who lived in the forks of Grand river, and was married and had a wife
and two children. He was about 37 years of age when he became insane, and his
insanity was due to epilepsy, to which he had been subject for ten years. In
October, 1837, the unfortunate man was declared insane by a jury composed of
John Cox, John Hartgrave, Lewis Winfrey, Alex. Ware, Wm. Mann, Wm. P. Ewell,
James Nave, Nathan H. Gregory, Wm. Linville, Wm. Mabry and Henry Frith. His
father built a house for him near his (the father's) own, an here he was removed
and cared for until his death a few years later. There was no asylum in Missouri
at that day.
One of the first deaths among adults was that of Edward Elliott in the summer
of 1837. Elisha Bucher was the administrator of the estate, the first
administrator appointed by the Livingston county court.
At the first term of the county court held in 1838, E. Dornaby was appointed
assessor (or "cessor") for that year. At this session an incident
happened which threw many of the "prominent" men of the county into
quite a state. The hard times which followed the suspension of the old United
States bank were felt even here in the backwoods. Money was very scarce - hard
to borrow and harder to pay back. Nearly every one was strapped. Suddenly
appeared Sheriff Jennings with $603 in good hard cash, the county's share of the
"three-per-cent fund," obtained from the State - a fund distributed
among the counties to aid in the construction of roads and bridges. The county
court seized upon the money and voted to loan it out. In fifteen minutes the
entire sum had been loaned on twelve months' credit at 10 per cent interest. W.
E. Pearl, Jesse Nave, Wm. O. Jennings, C. H. Ashby, Wm. F. Ewell, Evan Odell,
Giles Woolsey and James L. Austin were the borrowers. Two securities were
required on each note; and the borrowers stood by each other, no outsider being
Thus, W. E. Pearl, the deputy county clerk, borrowed $50, with. Jesse Newlin
and C. H. Ashhy as sureties. C. H. Ashby borrowed $100, with W. E. Pearl and Wm.
O. Jennings as his sureties. W. O. Jennings borrowed $100, with C. H. Ashby and
Jesse Nave as his sureties. Jesse Nave borrowed $100, with Wm. O. Jennings and
Jesse Newly as his sureties, etc. Although, doubtless, there was nothing corrupt
in the matter, yet it seemed as if a sort of ring was formed to borrow and
gobble the money, and in a few years suit had to be instituted against nearly
all the parties to recover it.
The August election, 1838, was held in Indian Creek township at Jesse Nave's
in "Navestown." The judges were J. A. Davis, Wm. Venable and Alexander
Dockery (the latter the grandfather of the present Congressman of the same
name). In Sugar Creek township the election was held at Philip Wild's; judges,
Dr. Wm. P. Thompson, George Bunch and Wm. Gee. In Shoal Creek at John L.
Tomblin's; judges, Isaac W. McCoskrie, Spencer H. Gregory and Thos. Fields. In
Muddy Creek, John Thrailkill, Wm. Cochrane and Saml. Benson were the judges; in
Medicine Creek, Saml. Parks, John Ryan and Wm. Linville.
During the Mormon War Livingston county was not an idle spectator, but an
active participant. No Mormons lived in the county, but the people sided with
the Gentile population of Daviess and other counties, and demanded the expulsion
or extermination of the "Jo. Smithites." Early in the beginning of the
troubles in 1838, a numerously signed petition was sent from this county to the
Governor asking him to expel the Mormons from Caldwell and Daviess counties, and
from the State. Mr. Adam Black bore the petition to His Excellency.
It was a force largely composed of Livingston county men, and led by the
sheriff, Col. Wm. O. Jennings, that engaged in the massacre at Haun's mill,
which is fully mentioned elsewhere in this volume. (See History of Caldwell
County). Capt. Nehemiah Comstock, who lived in Greene township, was also a
prominent actor in this tragedy. Certain members of Comstock's company are yet
living in this county.
There were about 200 militiamen under arms in this county during the fall of
1838. These were led by Col. Jennings, and scouted through this and Daviess
county chiefly, occasionally visiting Caldwell. Comstock's company was stationed
at Haun's mill for some weeks after the surrender at Far West. While in this
county the militia lived on their friends, and on themselves. Mr. James Leeper,
whose father and brother were under Jennings, relates that he perfectly
remembers cutting up his father's corn to feed the horses of the troopers.
A considerable sum of money was subscribed and given to Sheriff Jennings as a
war fund, to defray certain expenses. In June, 1840, he turned over to the
county treasurer, by order of the county court, a balance of this fund,
amounting to $14.18, which sum was afterwards ordered paid to a Mrs. Marters.
The first term of the circuit court for Livingston county was begun at the
house of Joseph Cox, on Monday, July 8, 1837. Hon. Austin A. King, of Ray
county, afterward Governor, was judge; Wm. O. Jennings, sheriff; Thos. R. Bryan,
clerk; Wm. E. Pearl, deputy clerk, and Thos. D. Burch, circuit attorney. The
first case tried was an appeal case from a justice's court, entitled
"Samuel Ashley, appellant, v. Joseph Wolfscales, appellee." It
was tried by a jury, and resulted in a verdict for the plaintiff Ashley, in the
sum of $14.12 1/2. Wood & Burch were the attorneys for Ashley, and W. H.
Davis the attorney for Wolfscales. The following composed the petit jury: -
Samuel Parks, Geo. Burch, Geo. Tethrs, John L. Tomblin, Allen Lyle, Solomon
Cox, Stephen Cox, John B. Dewey, Hiram Comstock, Wm. Peery, Joshua Whitney and
Milton L. Moore.
The term lasted two days and six other cases were tried. Only three lawyers were present, T. C. Burch, the circuit attorney, who in civil cases represented the law firm of Wood & Burch; W. H. Davis, and Wm. Claude Jones, the latter of Carrollton. No grand jury was impaneled at this term.
The second term was held at Cox's, beginning on Tuesday, November 7, 1836.1
A venire consisted of 24 names for a grand jury, but of this number only 11
appeared - John L. Tomblin, foreman; James Todd, Robt. Moss, John Cooper,
Robinson Bryan, Lemuel D. Sego, Evan Odell, Thos. Maupin, Nicholas Wells,
Jonathan Nichols and Peter Malone; but Jacob Goben, John Austin, Wm. Reynolds,
Thomas Jennings and Henry Carsner, who were among the bystanders, were added,
and the panel completed. The jury retired for consultation, but there was no
business before them, and on reporting this fact to the judge he discharged
them. This term lasted but one day, John L. Tomblin was appointed trustee to
take charge of the estate of Wm. Parker, a convict in the penitentiary.
1 Note from proofreader, 1998 - This is probably an error in
the book. The year should be 1838.
At the first term of court Mr. Cox, at whose log cabin it was held, boarded
the judge, jury, litigants, lawyers, and witnesses without charge, setting long
tables in the shade of the trees near his cabin, and loading them with corn
pone, butter and venison, and other edibles known to pioneer life. At the
November term, it is said that Cox again kept free hotel for those in attendance
The July term, 1838, was the first held at Chillicothe. At this term also the
first indictments were found, viz.: Against Henry Carsner for perjury, and
against Wm. Yancy for selling liquor after nine o'clock a. m. on Sunday. The
grand jury was composed of Levi F. Gobin, foreman; Geo. W. Martin, Wm. Smith,
Henry Duncan, John Stuckey, Wm. F. Ewell, Abraham Blan, Elisha Bucher, Michael
R. Richardson, Wm. Mabry, Abner Brasfield, Thos. Preston, Wm. McCarty, Elisha M.
Guill, Isaac McCoskrie and Wm. Woolsey. Afterward Wm. Yancey was convicted on
his charge and fined $1, and Carsner forfeited his bond and it can not readily
be learned what disposition was made of his case.
At the April term, 1839, Thos. C. Burch, who had been appointed by Gov. Boggs
the previous February, took his seat as judge; but in December following he was
succeeded by James A. Clark, and B. F. Stringfellow was the circuit attorney.
The grand jury this year served without pay, pursuant to a request of the
county, but it did considerable work, finding over thirty indictments for
betting or "playing at cards for money," against the following
persons: three indictments each against Lewis Hunt, Charles Blakeley and Jacob
Rogers; two each against Levi F. Gobin, sheriff Wm. O. Jennings, and John Tatman,
and one each against Benj. Hargraves, Benj. Baker, Jesse Newlan, Harrison
Weldon, William Oxford, H. B. Best, Michael Gardner, Elias Brown, Huston Martin,
Saml. Chestnut, Chas. Scott, John Comer, Francis Peniston, Hiram Tatman, William
Whitney, Joshua Whitney, Levi Cox and C. H. Ashby. In most instances the accused
were convicted and let off with small fines. Jacob Rogers was also indicted and
afterwards convicted and fined $15 for keeping a gaming house.
The jury also indicted one of its members, the foreman, Levi F. Gobin, for
assault and battery; and old John Graves, the founder of Chillicothe, was
presented for "burglary," as the indictment read, but this was soon
quashed and dissipated.
The attorneys at this term were John R. Williams, B. F. Stringfellow,
Justiman Williams, Jr., William Y. Slack and William H. Davis. In April, 1840,
Robt. D. Ray, Chas. Gordon and J. H. Savage, were added to the roll, and in
August, Richard Vaughn.
In June, 1839, a special term was called by Judge Burch, to try the case of
John Cummings charged with maiming one Hiram Taylor. He had been arrested in
this county and taken to the Carrollton jail for safe keeping. The grand jury
refused to find a bill against Cummings and he was discharged.
The first naturalization proceedings were held in April, 1842, when an
Englishman named William Palethrop, declared his intention to become a citizen,
or took out "his first papers," as the proceeding is commonly called.
Following is the record au the subject in Mr. Pearl's quaint orthography and
And now at this day Came William Palethrop, late a Subject of great Britian,
and made oath on the holy Evangelist almy god that it is bonafide his
Intention to become a Citizens of the U. States and to renounce and abjure for
ever all alegance and fidelity to every ferin prince potentate State and
suvrinity whatever and particularly all alegens to Victory the queen of great
Britain of whom he was heretofore a Subject.
In February, 1839, the county court, then composed of Wm. P. Thompson, David
H. Dunkinson and Gilbert Woolsey, created certain new townships and changed the
names of four already in existence. Of the new townships, Washington, Morgan and
Marion were entirely, and Jefferson and Franklin partially, in what is now
Grundy county. Jefferson included a part of Cream Ridge. The name of Medicine
Creek township was changed to Chillicothe, Shoal Creek was changed to Monroe,
Sugar Creek to Madison and Indian Creek to Jackson. The new names were all
stated to be in honor of great American statesmen and warriors.
In May, Monroe township (formerly called Shoal Creek) was divided by a line
running between sections 30 and 31, in township 57 - 25, due east to Grand
river. The territory north of this line was formed into a new municipal township
which was called Greene, in "honor of Jineral Green[e] of the Revolution
War," says the record. There was some protesting against the organization
of this township, but it was accomplished.
The first court-house of Livingston county was begun in October, 1837, and
was built in Chillicothe, pursuant to the order of the county court. Following
is a literal copy of the order: -
Ordered that a house be built in toun of Chillicothe for a temporary court
house for the county of Livingston to be built buy the forth Mondy in march next
or 1838 to be of this discription towit. Eighteen feet from Out to Out to be
raised in cabbin form to be flored with Loose plank of punce ons [puncheons] to
be well hewn doun in side to be covered with clabords [clapboards] well nailed
on - joice to be 7 feet from floor with a good wood or turf chimney with back
& Jams as is usal to cabbins & to be well Chinked & daubed to have a
door cut out faced up & Shutters made to it. The said Commissioner to let
out said house to the Lowest bidder or not to give higher in private contract
than Fifty dollars to the undertaker of said house & it is further ordered
that said court house be set on lot 5 block eleven.
" Lot 5, block 11," is about 150 yards northwest of the present county jail, or 200 yards from the northwest corner of the square. The first court-house was indeed a modest structure. No provision was made for windows in the order, and it actually had none until in May, 1839. The first county court was held in this building in May,
1838, when the first furniture was ordered purchased at public expense - a
table 4 x 3 1/2 feet, with a large drawer, and six chairs. In March, 1841, the
citizens of Chillicothe used this building for a school-house.
The first jail was ordered built in the fall of 1838. No recorded
particulars of this building can now be obtained, save that the commissioner was
directed " not to go higher than $1,000" in contracting for its
The second court-house in this county was completed November 2, 1841. Its
construction was ordered by the county court in August, 1838. The order directed
that the contract be let the following November; that the cost should not exceed
$5,000, and that the contractor might have two years to complete his work. In
November, however, the letting of the contract was ordered suspended until
March, 1839, but when that time came the court again ordered the postponement of
the contract. Old Thomas R. Bryan, the county clerk, and some others claimed
that this action of the court was illegal, and moved to appeal the decision to
the circuit court, but the motion to appeal was overruled. The grounds of the
second postponement was "lack of funds at present, and no good prospects
for any soon."
In September (1839) the court appropriated $4,000 to build the house; in
November the plan of the superintendent for the same was received, and he was
ordered to receive proposals for undertaking the work till January following. In
February, 1840, the contract was let to Moses Burton, Esq., of Fayette, Howard
county, Messrs. Majors, Garner, Black, Collier and Settle, of that county, being
his sureties. The contract price was $5,600, of which $1,600 was an additional
appropriation. The building was of brick, two stories high, and stood in the
center of the public square, Chillicothe. The height of the first story was 13
feet. At first, all the rooms were warmed by fire-places. The house was painted
and had a cupola (or, as the record says, a "cupelow "), and was not
an unattractive structure. It stood until after the Civil War. Mr. Burton was
not paid the cash in full when his work was done - "no funds." He was
given a warrant for near $4,000, with interest at ten per cent, and this was not
paid for some years later.
In the fall of 1840 Col. Sarshel Woods, of Carroll county, built a bridge
across Shoal creek, near Whitney's mill, and this was probably the first bridge
built in the county. In March, 1841, the county court appointed Joseph Harper
and Thos. Carter to examine the cost of this bridge, and on their report and
recommendation Col. Woods was allowed $140 for its construction.
At the same time John C. Orem, Joseph Harper and Simeon Miller were appointed
commissioners to examine all the crossings of the streams in the county, and
report at what points bridges should be built. In May $400 was appropriated to
build a bridge across Medicine creek at the crossing of the Bloomington and
Plattsburg road. This bridge was built by Zadoc Holcomb, and completed in 1842.
The first bridge across East Grand river was completed in the winter of 1848,
at Graham's mill. Jesse Nave was the contractor and Levi Cox the commissioner.
The structure gave way in a few years. Soon after it was built James Martin and
the horse he was riding both fell off of it into the stream, a distance of 30
feet. The horse was killed, but the man was not injured.
The second bridge on Medicine creek was built at the site of Cox's mill, in
1848. Numerous other bridges were established in 1843-44.
Perhaps the first ferry in Livingston county was established over the East
fork of Grand river, five miles northwest of Chillicothe, west of Joseph Cox's,
in 1835, by Wm. McGee. The first across Grand river below the forks was put in
by one Murphy in the summer of 1838; he also had a ferry across Shoal creek the
same year. Joshua Whitney had a ferry at his mill on Shoal creek (where Dawn is
now) in 1838. Elisha Hereford had a ferry across Grand river, six mile south of
Chillicothe, in about 1839; Martin Wheat afterward operated this ferry.
Hargrave's ferry over Grand river, west of Chillicothe, was operated in 1839,
and the same year C. H. Ashby established one across Grand river at the present
site of Graham's mill.
The first stores in Livingston county were opened by Jesse Nave, at Navestown, or Spring Hill, in 1837; by John Doss,1 in the forks, in 1838 and by Stone & Wilson in Chillicothe the same year. In what is now Grundy county, J. L. Lomax had a store at Bluff Grove, now Trenton, in 1838, and John Thrailkill another at some point in that county. Prior to this, and occasionally afterward, the settlers resorted to Carrolton and Brunswick for such articles of merchandise as they were compelled to have. All, or nearly all, of the first stores kept whisky for sale as a staple article, along with other "necessaries of life." An establishment exclusively devoted to the sale of
whisky was called a "grocery."
1 Mr. Doss was killed at Weston, Mo., in 1879, while on his
way to California.
The first mills used by the settlers were what some of them facetiously
termed "Armstrong's" mills, - that is to say, a mill worked by a
strong arm. Sometimes this was a mortar and pestle, a funnel-shaped cavity
burned in a stump into which corn was poured and pounded with a pestle into meal
and hominy, and sometimes it was a mortar and "sweep." The latter was
arranged like a modern well "sweep," save that instead of a rope
attached to the spring pole there was another pole, in the end of which an iron
wedge was inserted, making a very effective pestle, This was rather easy to
work, as it only required exertion to bring it down; the elasticity of the
spring pole raised it up.
But power mills soon came in vogue. Joshua Whitney built a mill on Shoal
creek, where Dawn now stands. Cox's mill on Medicine (afterward Slagle's), and
James Black's horse mill (afterward Hicklin's), three miles northwest of Spring
Hill, were among the first mills. Sharp's mill, on Medicine creek, in what is
now Grundy, was built as early as 1838. Samuel Todd's mill on West Grand river,
near Utica, is claimed to have been the first water mill in the county. Between
Todd and Brannock Wilkerson lies the distinction of erecting the first horse
Perhaps Dr. John Wolfskill, of Carroll, who at one time lived near Bedford,
was the first practicing physician in the southern part of the county. Dr.
Wolfskill was in this quarter in 1836. Dr. Wm. P. Thompson lived in the forks up
in Grundy, in 1835, and practiced his profession far and near. Dr. John S.
Williams, a Kentuckian, settled in Chillicothe in about 1839, and Dr. Thos.
Gordon came a year or two later. Dr. Williams died in January, 1876.
The first marriage in Livingston county, after its organization, was that of
Thomas Maupin and Elizabeth Austin, by James D. Penney, a justice of the peace
of Shoal Creek township, February 5, 1837. A week later (Feb. 12), Jacob Work
and Lena Tinney were married by County Judge Reuben McCoskrie. February 19, Wm.
Maybury and Mary Wilkinson were married, Esq. John Newland, of Medicine Creek
township, officiating. Other marriages in the county, in 1887, were the
March 9, James Coffreth and Serena Winegan, by James A. Davis, J. P.
March 30, Matthew Gibbs and Susan Williams, by James A. Davis, J. P.
May 6, Milton L. Moore and Louisa D. Perry, by Rev. Lorenzo Waugh, M. E. Church.
May 16, Samuel J. Beard and Eliza Fletcher, by Jesse Newland, justice of the peace of Medicine Creek township.
May 20, Jefferson Bryan and Jane Bird, by Reuben McCoskrie, county judge.
June 29, Rice Wood and Matilda Gee, by Isam Wood, J. P.
July 10, Thos. Wilkerson and Mary Moore, by Nathan H. Gregory, J. P.
August 27, Joseph Todd and Susan Harrison, by Reuben McCoskrie, county judge.
September 20, John Ryan and Susan Botts, by N. H. Gregory, J. P.
October 22, Zachariah Blair and Keziah Ogle, by Reuben McCoskrie, county judge.
November 13, John Simpson and Martha Venable, by Jas. A. Davis, J. P.
November 16, John Walker and Matilda Gann, by Jas. A. Davis, J. P.
November 26, Jewett Nevis and Sarah A. Peery, by W. P. Thompson, J. P.
There were fewer marriages in 1838 than in 1837.
A pioneer wedding in Livingston county in early days would not compare, in
point, of elegance and finish, with one in these days. For there were lacking
the paraphernalia of display and the pomp and circumstance attendant in this age
upon affairs of that character. In those days few people wore "store
goods." Their apparel was for the most part of home-spun. A "Sunday
suit" resembled an "everyday" suit so far as general appearance
went. The material of which the clothing was made was principally cotton or flax
and wool. The men wore jeans, cotton and linsey; the women wore linsey and
The bride's toilet, therefore, was not expensive; neither was it elaborate,
fanciful or showy; neither was it extensive. But it was sensible, for it was
sufficient, and it was appropriate to the times, the manners and the
circumstances. Yet she was as well dressed as the groom - his jeans coat, his
linsey or cotton shirt, his jeans or coarse linen trousers, his feet in
home-tanned shoes, and without a glove to his hand or his name.
But for all this, and for all of many other discomforts and disadvantages,
the marriages were as fortunate and felicitous, and the weddings themselves as
joyous as any of those of modern times. It is not a matter of silk and satins,
this affair of a happy marriage. The wedding was seldom or never a private one.
The entire settlement was invited, and uniformly accepted the invitation. To
neglect to send an invitation was to give an offense; to refuse one was to give
an insult. There were all sorts of merry-making and diversion during the day. A
shooting match was quite common. There were foot races, wrestling matches, and
other athletic sports - sometimes a pugilistic encounter. At night a dance was
had, in which there was general participation. Many of the dancers were
barefoot, it is true, and the ball room floor was composed of split puncheons,
from which all the splinters had not all been removed, but the soles of their
feet were covered with a coating impenetrable almost as a coat of armor, and
bade defiance to any fair-sized splinter. Indeed, it is said, that a real merry
dance always resulted in smoothing a puncheon floor as if it had been gone over
with four and twenty jack-planes!
The wedding feast was always worthy of the name. The cake was corn pone; the
champagne and claret consists of good old Kentucky and Missouri whisky, clear
and pure as mountain dew, unadulated by mercenary "rectifiers" and
untouched and untaxed by gauger and government. The latter article was usually
imported for the occasion. Then there were venison steaks and roasts, turkey,
grouse, nectar-like maple syrup and other toothsome edibles, the bare mention of
which is sufficient to make an old pioneer's mouth water in these days.
There were no newspapers then to chronicle all the details of a wedding in
consideration of some of the cake, and print a list of alleged
"presents" including plated teaspoons, fifteen-cent napkins, and
ten-cent salt cellars, ad nauseam, and that was one point in favor of the
But some of the early weddings in this county were not such rude affairs, for
the parents were fairly well-to-do, and were able to provide the contracting
parties with suitable outfits, and have everything done decently and in order.
When babies came, as they did come - and as they always will come into every
orderly and well regulated settlement, heaven bless them! they were quite often
rocked and lulled to sleep in cradles fashioned by the hand of the fond father,
with seasoned hickory bows attached to them for rockers. Within this little
trough there were placed a few folds of flannel or linsey or some other kind of
cloth,. sometimes a pillow, sometimes soft "hatcheled," but unspun tow
or flax, and into these nests there where snuggled the innocent, cunning little
Nearly all of the first settlers of this county were men of moderate means
who were obliged to do their own work. There were but few slaveholders. Every
man and boy able to wield an ax set to work at once, and quite frequently women
and girls assisted their husbands and brothers in the clearings.
The soil now considered the best was once covered with a heavy growth of
timber, chiefly white elm trees. The pioneers had hard work to reduce the land
to a proper condition for plowing and sowing. The huge trees were to be cut
down, and when down were yet more in the way then they had been. Those suitable
were split into all the rails they would make, and then the tops and limbs and
the trunks of others not fit for rails or lumber, were gathered into piles and
burned. The combined labor of entire settlements was necessary to this work on
any farm. Log rollings were common in early days - were necessary, too. Then
after the soil was fitted to receive the plow it took several years to work it
down so that it would produce properly. It was too rich at first, and the crops
grew rank and luxuriant as to stem and stalk. Wheat grew five feet high, but the
heads were poorly filled, and often it would not pay for the reaping.
By "reaping," the expression is meant literally, for until many
years after the county was settled, wheat, oats and other small grain were cut
with sickles altogether. Harvesting was performed very much as it was in the
days of Ruth and Boaz, The cradles came in about 1840, and when they appeared it
was considered that human ingenuity had exhausted itself in the production of
labor-saving harvest machinery. The first reaping machine - the old McCormick -
was brought in sometime after 1850, and was a wonder.
The first tillers of the soil, those who subdued the wilderness and leveled
the mighty forests, never enjoyed the full fruits of their labor. It remained
for those who came after them to dwell in baronial mansions, to ride in fine
carriages, to wear linen and broadcloth, and to fare sumptuously every day. And
yet the present occupants of the country have a full right to the enjoyment of
what they have. Their enterprise and sagacity have done as much for the
improvement of the county as the pluck and hard labor of the pioneers.
If the work of clearing up and redeeming a new country had to be done now, it
would be greatly facilitated. The old pioneers knew no other implement for
felling trees and cutting them up than an ax. The modern pioneer would set up a
"Lightning" saw and in one day do as much clearing as would employ his
ancestor a week. The old pioneer, by the hardest work, grubbed up stumps with a
mattock; the modern pioneer would blow them to flinders with dynamite.
In the summer of 1836 occurred in Northern Missouri certain incidents known
in the aggregate as the "Heatherly War." With these incidents it is
proper to deal in this volume, since certain companies of volunteers from this
county took part in the war, and at the time: the entire population was greatly
excited and at times apprehensive.
From the official records of Carroll county, from the statements of living
witnesses, and from other sources of information, it is learned that in the
spring of this year a band of desperadoes, robbers and thieves lived in that
part of Carroll county known as the Upper Grand river county, and now included
in Mercer and Grundy counties. This band had for its principal member a family
named Heatherly, from Kentucky, composed of the following persons: George
Heatherly, Sr., the father; Jenny Heatherly, the mother; John Heatherly, Alfred
Heatherly, George Heatherly, Jr., and James Heatherly, the sons, and Ann
Heatherly, the daughter.
The Heatherlys lived far out on the frontier, and their cabin was a
rendezvous for hard characters of all sorts. The antecedents of the family were
bad. Old George Heatherly was regarded as a thief in Kentucky, and Mrs.
Heatherly was a sister to the notorious Kentucky murderers and freebooters, Big
and Little Harpe. The women of the family were prostitutes, and the men were
believed to be villains of the hardest sort. It is said that one of Mrs.
Heatherly's children was a mulatto, whose father was a coal black Negro; that
accompanied the family from Kentucky to Missouri. Bad as they were, however, the
Heatherlys were perhaps not as black as they were painted, and many crimes were
attributed to them of which, in all probability, they were innocent.
Living with the Heatherlys as boarders, visitors, or employees, were three or
four young men whose reputations were none of the best, and who had doubtless
drifted westward from the older States as they fled from officers of the law
from crimes committed.
Old Mrs. Heatherly is said to have been the leading spirit of the gang,
prompting and planning many a dark deed, and often assisting in its execution.
Tales were told of the sudden and utter disappearance of many a land hunter and
explorer, who visited the Upper Grand river country and was last seen in the
neighborhood of the Heatherly house. These stories may or may not have been
true, but all the same they were told, and gradually gained credence.
Early in the month of June, 1836, a hunting party of the Iowa Indians from
Southern Iowa, came down on the East fork of Grand river on a hunting
expedition. As soon as the Heatherlys heard of the proximity of Indians they
resolved to visit their camp, steal what horses they could, and carry them down
to the Missouri river counties and sell them. Taking with them James Dunbar,
Alfred Hawkins and a man named Thomas, the four Heatherlys visited the scene of
the Iowas' hunting operations and began to steal the ponies and horses which had
been turned out to graze. Fortune favored them and they managed to secure quite
a lot of ponies, and escaped with them to the forks of Grand river. Here they
were overtaken by a pursuing party of the Iowas, who demanded a return of their
property. The demand being either refused or not instantly complied with the
Indians opened fire on the thieves. The first volley killed Thomas. Other shots
being fired the Heatherly gang retreated, leaving the ponies in the hands of
their rightful owners.
Upon the defeat of their scheme the Heatherlys returned home, and began
consulting among themselves as to the best course to pursue under the
circumstances. Being much alarmed lest the Indians should give information of
the affair to the whites and have the true story believed, it was resolved to
anticipate a visit to the whites on the river, and go first themselves and tell
a tale of their own. Dunbar had for some time shown symptoms of treachery to the
party, or rather of a desire to break away from his evil associates. Soon after
he was murdered and his body secreted, but afterwards found.
In a day or two the Heatherlys made their appearance in the settlements
raising an alarm that the Indians were in the country murdering and robbing, and
claimed that they killed Dunbar and other white men in the Upper Grand river
country. The news was at first believed and there was great excitement
throughout the country. A part of the story that the Indians were in the
country, was known to be true and the rest was readily believed. Carriers were
sent to Ray, Clay and Clinton, and the people were thoroughly aroused.
Gen. B. M. Thompson, of Ray, commanding the militia forces in the district,
ordered out several companies, and at the head of a regiment from Ray and
Carroll, moved rapidly to the scene of the reported troubles. The whole country
north of Carroll county was thoroughly scoured. An advance scouting party
penetrated the section of country where the Indians were, visited their camp and
found them quiet and perfectly peaceable, and wondering at the cause of the
visit of so many white men in arms.
Two companies from Clay were ordered out by Gen. Thompson. The battalion,
numbering about 150 men, was commanded by Col. Shubael Allen. There accompanied
the militia some volunteers, among whom was Gen. A.. W. Doniphan. Obedient to
orders Col. Allen marched his battalion almost due north, nearly along the then
western boundary of the State, to a point in what is now De Kalb county, and
then turned to the reported scene of the troubles. This was done to discover
whether or not there was a movement of the savages from that quarter, or to
flank the supposed hostile band reported to be advancing down Grand river.
Arriving at Grand river the battalion crossed and encamped one Sunday on its
After thorough examination and investigation of the situation and
circumstances, Gen. Thompson became perfectly satisfied that the Indians were
not and had not been hostile - were innocent of the offenses alleged against
them, but on the contrary, had been preyed upon by the Heatherly gang in the
manner heretofore described. After consultation the officers returned the men to
their homes and disbanded them and the great scare was over.
The depredations and crimes alleged against the Indians were now traced
directly to the Heatherlys. A warrant for their arrest was issued, and July 17,
Sheriff Lewis N. Rees, of Carroll county, with a strong posse, apprehended them,
and their preliminary examination came off before Squire Jesse Newlin, who then
lived at Navetown, now Spring Hill, Livingston county. The examination attracted
great attention and lasted several days. The result was that the accused were
found to be the murderers - either as principals or accessories - of James
Dunbar, and on the 27th of July, they were given into the custody of the sheriff
of Ray county for safe keeping. Old man Heatherly, his wife, and their daughter,
Ann, were released on bail.
October 27, 1836, in obedience to a writ of habeas corpus, issued by
Judge John F. Ryland, in vacation, the sheriff of Ray county brought into the
circuit court at Carrollton, the old man, George Heatherly, his wife, Jenny
Heatherly, their sons, George, Jr., John, Alfred and James Heatherly, and Alfred
Hawkins, all charged with the murder of James Dunbar. The accused were returned
to the custody of the sheriff.
The grand jury found bills of indictment against the Heatherlys, and a
separate indictment against Alfred Hawkins. Austin A. King took his seat on the
bench, as judge of the circuit, in the room of Judge Ryland, at this term. Thos.
C. Birch was circuit attorney, but having been counsel for the accused in the
preliminary examination, was discharged from the duties imposed upon him by the
law in this case and Amos Rees was appointed by the court special prosecutor.
On Tuesday, March 17, 1837, John Heatherly was acquitted. There being no
sufficient jail in Carroll county, the Heatherlys were sent to Lafayette county
jail, and Hawkins to the jail of Chariton county for safe keeping. Bills to the
amount of $580 were allowed certain parties for guarding the prisoners.
It being apparent to the prosecutor that no conviction could be had of the
Heatherlys, nor of Hawkins, unless some of his fellow-criminals would testify
against him, at the July term, 1837, before Judge King, a nolle pros. was
entered against the Heatherlys, and they were discharged. Whereupon Hawkins was
placed on trial and the Heatherlys testified against him. He was ably and
vigorously defended by his counsel, who induced some of the jury to believe that
the Heatherlys themselves were the guilty parties, and the result was that the
jury disagreed, and were discharged.
At the November term, 1887, Hawkins was again tried, at Carrollton, and this
time convicted of murder in the first degree, and sentenced to death. The
sentence was afterward commuted to 20 years in the penitentiary, whither he was
taken, but after serving about two years of his time he died, thus terminating
"the Heatherly War." What eventually became of the Heatherly family is