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A History of Livingston County, Missouri
Published by The Livingston County Centennial Committee
Rich Hill Township, taken from Chillicothe Township, was organized in 1872. Those presenting the petition asked that the name be "Grant," in honor of the leading spirit of the organization, and not "Grant the General." The request was allowed one afternoon, taken back the following morning, and the suggestion of James D. Beal, father of "Webb" Beal, was followed. He reasoned that, since to the north the new township had a neighbor called Cream Ridge, and since the land for which they sought a name was just as good and in his opinion better, they should call the place Rich Hill. This is the only municipal township coinciding with a single perfect and entire congressional township. Highview, a part of Chillicothe, lies within its boundary on the southwest, and Medicine Creek flows through the northeast section,
In 1918 the drainage ditch, which ruined many acres of land in Chillicothe and other townships, proved to be a blessing to the farm lands in Rich Hill, for hundreds of acres of swampy marsh country were reclaimed for cultivation. There were squatters living in this area long before the first land was entered in 1839. On November 3, 1840, John Cox laid out a town, which never developed, at the site of Cox's Mill. This mill was later known as Slagle's; here from miles around farmers came, bringing their wheat and corn to be ground into flour. In later years the mill was used mostly for grinding corn and oats into stock feed. In this little community there were, for a long while, a postoffice, a cording mill, a brick yard and a blacksmith shop, making up an important settlement.
A favorite spot, although it was over in Wheeling Township, was the section below the dam where pioneers could wade or swim, fish or row, or best of all, where they could come to be baptized as a pledge to the religion of their choice.
Near by the mill, in 1844, Slagle's Bridge was thrown across Medicine Creek. Now the mill is gone, but Slagle's school house and Slagle's Cemetery still mark the place where another influential pioneer worked to develop our country.
About 1877, when Judge Slagle retired, Doctor J. B. Freeman purchased and operated the mill. In the same neighborhood at one time Mr. Adams established a successful creamery, which ran for a number of years. Rock quarries on the Gilbert and Collins farms furnished materials for the WPA project of road graveling. Already the farm-to-market road from the highway east five miles is finished, and the gravel road crossing the township from north to south is under construction.
Although coal mining has never been an important industry in this community, at one time a few mines near Slagle's Mill furnished fuel for local consumption. In 1887, upon the completion of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad through the township, a little town of Sturges, named for a railroad official, was established. The same year they had a postoffice and a store, operated by Hopper M. Tracy, and now known as Boorn's Store. In 1903 Mr. L. A. Martin built the Hallowe'en telephone exchange. A bank established in 1904 closed in 1925 with every depositor receiving one hundred per cent of his money.
The farmers in the south portion of the township ship stock from Chillicothe, but in the north portion Sturges is the shipping point. Mr. Webb Beal remembers that in one day one hundred fourteen cars of stock were loaded and shipped from Sturges. Farming and stock raising have always been the most important industry with the leading crops hay, corn, oats and wheat. During the '80s C. B. Williams and H. A. Roberts bought and shipped stock extensively. R. F. and G.. L. Cranmer were influential in the economic development of the township, for they were cattle feeders who furnished the market with many young cattle, hogs, and much grain in the south section of the township. In north Rich Hill William and H. L. Lightner, Stephen and Jesse Hopper and J. D. Gordan fed and shipped stock extensively. For years after 1870 P. H. Minor was a breeder of Shorthorn cattle. During the late '90s T. F. B. Sotham bred Herefords extensively. Among the names of this township, we might mention H. Metzner, W. B. Popham, George WaIz, Charles and Clum Gordon, Louis Howell, John W. Hill and R. F. Cranmer.
Mrs. M. S. Gilbert remembers when the enrollment at Smith school grew too large for one teacher, so two schools were created, Pond and Bradford. Mrs. Gilbert has seven children and a number of grandchildren, all of whom attended the same school she attended.
The early churches of the community were: Bethel, organized in 1868; Centenary Chapel (Methodist Episcopal, South), built in 1884; and the New Hope Church, built in 1890, then in 1903 sold to an organization in Highview.
In 1918, and during the years of the Farm Congress in Chillicothe, Rich Hill vied with Chillicothe Township for first honors, and usually won. The many fine citizens of this township make up a loyal group of public spirited people of whom any county has a right to be proud.