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A History of Livingston County, Missouri
Published by The Livingston County Centennial Committee
Next to Jackson, Grand River Township, lying in the southeast part of the county, is the largest. Many bluffs are found along the north and west side of the river which flows through the northern part and along the eastern edge of the township, before it leaves the county. The township has rich farming land, stone quarries and coal beds, although coal is no longer mined. The pioneers who entered the land, all of it between 1836 and 1839, found traces of an old French trading post. The only tramps they knew were bands of Indians who stopped to hunt and beg. The pioneers believed that Grand River would be a principal market route, so they made their homes along the river to be near the shipping ports. In early times they bartered and traded mostly, for money was scarce and Carrollton and Brunswick, their trading points, were far away. Many interesting stories are told of the pioneers. One anecdote concerning Doctor Wolfskill, the earliest practicing physician, runs that one day he called to prescribe for a lady. She declared, no doubt truthfully, that no doctor had ever set foot in her house before. He left some powders with directions to take them in water. The well-meaning and obedient lady, to follow his directions literally, had brought in a barrel of water into which she climbed before she took the powders.
In the northwestern part of the township are three or four large mounds said to be the work of ancient mound builders. It is further related that at one time several men, on opening one of these mounds, found a rudely constructed vault of stones from which they took well preserved parts of a human skeleton.
About the year 1843, in a small log cabin with slab seats, Old Kay Smith taught what must have been the first school. The first steamboat which came up the river was the "Bedford " mentioned on a previous page. Sometime later another boat was wrecked at Ballew's Ford, but during high water she was pulled ashore onto an improvised dock, and after being repaired, was able to make the return journey. In addition to the excitement of steamboats there was a race track in the neighborhood where the folk tried out their horses before an excited crowd given to much betting and fierce fist fights.
Spencer Austin Alexander came to Grand River Township in 1837. September 4, this year, his many descendants celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of his coming to the county. Mr. A. E. Myers had charge of the celebration, where the familiar names of Alexander, Myers, Browning, Littrell, Gale, Ryan, Ramsey, Piatt and others were heard. Bulletins concerning the celebration include interesting items. We learn that eggs often brought as much as two cents per dozen at the store. Early trips to the mill were long and hard for all except the small boys, to whom the journey was a holiday. At the wedding of Eliza Alexander Browning in 1859, guests stood in wonder before a gift so strange as to call forth much speculation. It was the first coal oil lamp they had ever seen.
On April 12, 1837, the town of Astoria was laid out and platted fifteen days before the platting of Utica was filed. Astoria was located on the west bank of Locust Creek in the region which was considered the most important area of civilization in North Missouri. Boyd's Atlas tells us no houses were ever built, and in 1868 the site was changed to the mouth of Locust Creek and was called Grandville. But the 1886 History says this statement is incorrect, as Grandville was never regularly laid out and platted, and owed nothing to Astoria for its origin. The beautifully colored plat, with places for banks and public halls, may still be in existence, at least Mr. Joseph Ruegger had it in 1886. Of Grandville, or "Coonville," Mr. John Jacobs, an early settler there, said that it had two stores, two dramshops and, at one time, a tobacco factory.
Many are the exciting stories of pugilistic encounters and disorders generally. During the Civil War Grand River Township suffered greatly from pillaging and thieving by bushwhackers.
The little town of Bedford, named perhaps because its founder was interested in the "Bedford," which met its untimely fate at that point, was laid out as the town of Laborn, by whom, we do not know. In 1838, a Frenchman named William LeBarron, made a new survey and plat identical with that of Laborn. Perhaps as early as 1840. Bedford had a school, taught by John S. Bates. The first religious services were conducted by a Methodist minister whose name was Newbill, or Neubill. John Custer ran the first ferry over Grand River. This ferry was operated until 1866, when a bridge was built. The Wabash Railroad, built in 1871, gave Bedford another means of communication with places far and near. For a number of years a horse street car drawn on wood tracks covered with strap iron, carried passengers the two miles from or to the station. Now graveled roads make it an easy matter to reach Bedford from either Highway 36 or Highway 65. At one time Bedford had two tobacco factories and a chair factory.
The Civil War found the town wholly unprotected. against bushwhackers who destroyed property, marauded and plundered. In 1880 another disaster, a cyclone, took the center span from the "new" bridge, destroyed the mill, and damaged some fifteen buildings.
In 1852 the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was organized, and in 1871 the Masonic Lodge opened a chapter in Bedford.