Other County Histories | Civil War | 1886 | 1916 | Depression | 1937 | 100 Years
Past and Present of Livingston County
Volume 1. History

by Major A. J. Roof. 1913

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Page 234

The early settlers took a lively interest in the education of their children. They built log schoolhouses, with chimneys of sticks and mud. Few of the houses had glass windows. At the rear of the room a portion of a log was cut out and the opening thus made was covered with muslin greased to admit the light. Just beneath this long window was the writing desk, Generally this was constructed out of a walnut plank, two or more inches in thickness which had been ripped out of the log with a whipsaw. The seats for the children were of split tops with the flat side up and with four pins inserted into auger holes constituted the legs. They had no rests. Teachers were paid by subscription. The price of a scholarship for three months' term was two dollars and fifty cents. Usually the teachers boarded around with the patrons of the school. In order to get fifteen or twenty scholars many of them were obliged to go long distances. Attending school in those days was a privilege which was greatly enjoyed. Delinquencies or "tardies" were unknown. The children all carried their dinners to school and were given one hour recess at noon. Steel pens were unknown, the goosequill alone being used, the "schoolmaster" whittling the quill and making the "split" in the sharp point with a keen-edged pocket knife. For recreation the children played town-ball --- the game which has been modified into the great National game of baseball. Other games were bull-pen, oldcat, Anthony over, marbles, tag and mumble peg. Jumping the rope and swinging the girls were also indulged in. In this age of luxury it must not be imagined that the children of the pioneers did not enjoy life, especially during their school days.

Jackson township was settled more rapidly than most other sections of the county. Jesse Nave opened a store at Springhill, then called Navetown, in 1834, and within a few years thereafter Thomas Tootle, John Stewart and John Doss, each were conducting mercantile establishments there. John Doss also followed the porkpacking business at the same place. The surplus bacon, wheat and other products of the county at that time were hauled by ox-teams to Brunswick, on the Missouri river or shipped by flatboat to St. Louis. For a number of years Springhill was perhaps the most active trading point in the county. From 1840 to 1850 Jackson township produced tens of thousands of hickory hoop-poles, which were also shipped to St. Louis in flat boats. The prairie and forest fires which occasionally swept over the country resulted in seedling hickories coming forth in many places in countless numbers. When these seedlings had attained the proper size they were cut and hauled to the bank of the river during the fall and winter. Flatboats were then constructed mostly of black walnut lumber, whipsawed from the log, the plank being two inches in thickness. This lumber also found ready sale in the St. Louis market. Among the many who built flatboats for the shipment of hoop-poles and other products of the country, were Isom Ware, Benjamin Hargrave, John Doss and Andrew Winkler.

Snakes were very numerous in those pioneer days and some of the older people are yet referred to as the descendants of St. Patrick who helped kill off the snakes in Jackson township. The eastern section of the township is somewhat rough and rocky along the streams and the shelving rocks furnished a splendid rendezvous or winter quarters for the reptiles, Elias Guthridge is often quoted as authority for the biggest snake story, and as it is now related was about as follows: One warm spring morning the settlers got together at the home of Noah R. Hobbs (now Andrew Young's farm) and arming themselves with clubs, proceeded to the creek bluffs where the reptiles were known to have their winter quarters. The warm spring sunshine had limbered their bodies and they were found in great numbers basking everywhere. As the story goes the men began the slaughter and when the battle was over four hundred and forty dead reptiles of various sizes, had been slain and as the narrator often told, "it was not a very good day for snakes either."

Following is a verbatim tax receipt given "Uncle" James Hutchinson, who is now a resident of Chillicothe, at the age of ninety-eight years:

"Received of James Hutchinson five dollars and fifty cents for his taxes for the year 1847, assessed upon the following described Real Estate to-wit: 80 acres, S. E. 27, 58, 24; 40 acres, N. E. 28, 58, 24; 40 acres, S, W. S. E., 28, 58, 24; 160 acres, N. E., 27, 58, 24; 40 acres, N. E. N. E., 28, 58, 24; 40 acres, N. W. N. E., 28, 58, 24.


Collector, Livingston County, Missouri.

Two paroled Federal prisoners who had been captured at Lexington, Missouri, passing through the county, going in the direction of Iowa, stole two horses north of Chillicothe and while proceeding, on their journey northward, were overtaken by Lewis Best and his men and after being shot were horribly mutilated by Lewis, who plunged his bowie-knife many times into their bodies. Later Lewis exhibited his gory knife and boasted that he had "put two d-d Yankees out of the way." The bodies of the murdered men were later found in the brush and buried.

Of the old landmarks of Livingston county, little known at the present day, there yet remains an article once used by the Austin Brothers at a place called Austin Springs, in Monroe township. It was here the brothers operated a still for the manufacture of whiskey in 1851. The building was of round logs, but the structure has gone to decay and about the only article remaining to mark the spot is the old mash trough made of black walnut lumber.

Back in the troubled days immediately after the Civil war Dr. D. J. McMillen was a deputy sheriff under the late Garry Harker. It was McMillen who arrested the late Bishop Hogan in Chillicothe because the then young churchman refused to take what was known as the "Test Oath." Dr. McMillen was active and prominent in the affairs of Livingston county for several years. He moved from Chillicothe to Kansas City where he resided continuously until his death, April 2, 1913. For the past twenty years he had been president of the Western Dental College in that city, where he accumulated a comfortable fortune.

SPRING HILL, March 30th, 1854.

Reuben Hawkins having produced to me satisfactory evidence that he sustains a good moral character, was examined by me as to his proficiency in the branches hereafter specified, and his fitness to govern and teach a public school and I hereby certify that on such examination I found him qualified to teach the following branches (viz.) Spelling Reading Writing Geography English Grammar and Arithmetic.


Commissioner of Common Schools for Livingston County Mo.

On October 2, 1851, Messrs. Bell & Austin, who owned a general store at Springhill, bought a bill of goods from J. W. Tucker of St. Louis, which was shipped to Utica by river and thence transported by ox team to their place of business. The assignment consisted of two ounces of sulphate of quinine, $10; one pound of English calomel at $2; gum champhor, mustang liniment, paregoric, vermifuge, Godfrey's cordial, Bateman's drops, nerve and bone liniment, bears oil, rose hair oil, almond shaving soap, McLean's liver pills, Cook's pills, two dozen pain killer, five pounds Maccaboy snuff, castor oil, linseed oil, copal varnish, etc. The bill for the goods amounted to $88.47 and was receipted January 7, 1852.

On April 8, 1853, A. J. Austin of Springhill bought a bill of goods from McMeckan & Ballentine of St. Louis, which included one hogshead of sugar, 1,052 pounds, at 43/4 cents per pound; seven bags of coffee at 10 cents per pound; three kegs of nails at $5.50 per keg; clarified sugar; soap; a barrel of tar; dried apples, rice; buckets; batting, flour, star candles and five barrels of rectified whiskey which sold at 18 cents per gallon. Total amount of the bill, $386.10.

One of the pioneer physicians of Livingston county, and for twenty years among the best known citizens of this county was Dr. Wm. Keith. He was born near Georgetown, Scott county, Kentucky, December 20, 1806. At the age of seventeen his father George Keith moved to Ballet county where he lived until he was twenty-two years of age. His ancestors were Scotch; his great grandfather, George Keith and a brother, Alexander came to America, soon after the failure of the Stuart cause in 1715, from Scotland and settled near Baltimore, Maryland. His mother, Elizabeth Farrell was a native of Wales. At the age of seventeen, having a fair education he began teaching. He continued to teach in various places in Kentucky until 1836, when he began the study of medicine in Mortonsville, Kentucky, with Dr. Wm. M. Wilson, and finished his medical education under Benjamin W. Dudley, the noted surgeon, and professor of surgery in Transylvania University in the spring of 1838. He was a private pupil of Dr. Dudley for one year. He practiced for two years in Woodford county, then came with his parents to Missouri. The family settled near Chillicothe, about three miles east of the city on the Linneus road. In 1843 he made the acquaintance of John Graves, Thos. R. Bryan and W. Y. Slack, all of whom persuaded him to locate in the new town they had just laid out. He did so and bought some property. In 1848, he moved to a farm near Springhill, in the forks of Grand river where he practiced medicine for ten years with the exception of the years 1850 and '51 which were spent on the route to California and in the gold fields of that state. In 1858, he moved back to Chillicothe in order to give their three sons the benefit of good schools. He was a director of the school boards of the districts in which he lived for many years. He is remembered as the friend of free education. Next to the practice of this profession his chief desire was to have the children in town and country, all taught to read and write and to understand the rudiments of grammar, arithmetic and geography. When the Civil war came on he left his home in Chillicothe, June 14, 1861, and joined the Lost Cause as assistant brigade surgeon under General W. Y. Slack until the latter's death soon after the battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, in March, 1862, where he received a mortal wound. Dr. Keith then acted as hospital surgeon under Price and Van Dorn until the autumn of 1863, when he left the army and accompanied by his wife and youngest son repaired to Kentucky where his oldest son was a student at college, and remained there till the war was over. During the war he was present and assisted in taking care of the wounded at the battles of Carthage, Wilson's Creek, Lexington, Pea Ridge, Iuka and Corinth. In time of battle he was cool and intrepid; in the hospital, a careful and cautious surgeon, untiring in his efforts to relieve the wounded and knew no difference, he said, in his attention to Federals and Confederates. In 1865, he returned to Missouri with his wife and youngest son and located at Sturgeon where he resumed the practice of his profession and continued for twelve years when he turned it over to his son, Dr. J. F. Keith, who in the meantime had graduated from the Missouri Medical College. He was an active member of the Masonic fraternity and of the State Medical Society. He was a constant student and stood abreast of the age in which he lived. He loved the theory and the practice of medicine devotedly. Had he been as selfish and money-loving as he was gifted and accomplished in his profession he could have become enormously wealthy. But he was hospitable and generous to a fault-a gentleman of the old school, and he died comparatively poor. He was for many years before his death a member of the Christian church, and was a man of sterling integrity and a high sense of honor and taught his sons to tread in the same path. He left two sons, Dr. James F. Keith of Sturgeon, Missouri, and Dr. Clayton Keith of Louisiana, Missouri. He died September 28 1890, at his home in Sturgeon, Missouri, at the age of eighty-three years and nine months, beloved and his memory revered by the whole community, leaving a good name and a spotless reputation as a heritage to his children.

This sketch does not refer to Realists or Idealists. It is of a Livingston county "Literalist" in the days of Ď54 who lived in the forks of Grand river on lower Indian creek in a settlement that bore the name of "Guntown" who when the news came to him that a railroad was to be built through this county, was delighted at the thought of being able to contribute to its construction. So one day as the four-horse-stagecoach stopped to change horses at the station west of Springhill he met a railroad man who was traveling through the country and assured him that with all the white oak timber on his forty acres he could easily furnish three thousand white oak rails for the use of the H. & St. Joe Railroad and wished to know of the man what price he might expect for the rails per hundred on the ground. As the man resumed his seat in the coach, he said, "I guess we won't need them."

Not long after this, the man fell sick with ague and sent for a doctor who came and after examining him, left some bitter powders to be taken three times a day. "How shall I take them?" "In a little pumpkin," replied the M. D., who saw some dried pumpkin hanging on sticks in the loft. The next day the doctor was passing by his patient's field of corn and to his surprise, observed the man out walking in his pumpkin patch with a July sun pouring torrid rays down upon him. "Hello! What on earth are you doing out there? Get into the house and into bed as soon as possible." "I will as soon as I find a little pumpkin." "A little what?" demanded the physician. "Why, a little pumpkin. Didn't you tell me to take my medicine in a little pumpkin?" "Yes, but I meant a little stewed pumpkin." "0, Doctor, why didn't you say that first? I try to follow directions as close as I can."

One other instance of his "literalism" will suffice for this sketch. On another occasion when he was sick he tried a different doctor who left him medicine in the form of a powder dosed out in separate papers, and told him to take a paper every night and morning. At the doctor's second visit he said, "Dortor, I wish you wouldn't put so much paper around my medicine. I can hardly swallow one of them." "I didn't intend that you should swallow the paper-only the medicine in the paper." "I wish doctors would say what they mean for I try to follow their directions to the letter." He was a "literalist" gone to seed. And such men were well known in this section of the county.

The City Hotel in Springhill in 1854 and for several years afterward was kept by John Stewart, a veritable "Son of Erin." On June 24, 1854, the Masons were celebrating St.

John's Day, and while Rev. John D. Vincil, who was a spell-binder in that early day was addressing a crowd of people in the west end of the village under the trees, several of the boys took leave of their mothers long enough to run down to the City Hotel where a crowd of people were standing in the street. A boy standing close up against the front of the hotel near a window saw a tall man come out of the saloon on the opposite side of the street with a blacksnake whip in one hand and a long "horse pistol" in the other. As he staggered along the street in front of his "grocery," he shouted, "Oh, yes, I'm going to horsewhip the d-d old rascal." He reeled as he walked up the street, past the crowd and when about forty yards west of the hotel and in the middle of the street, he turned partly around as if going to the hotel. Just then the window by which the boy was standing was thrown up and a double-barrelled shotgun stuck out and was fired twice and the window let down. The rowdy, with the whip in his hand, had fallen to the ground -the first load taking effect in the fleshy part of his right thigh and hip - and as he turned he received the second load in the fleshy part of his anatomy The wounded man was Lorenzo Dow Kirk, the keeper of the saloon. He was carried into Richard Lumpkin's front yard and laid in the shade. His uncle, Dr. Samuel L. Williams, was summoned, who called Dr. Wm. Keith to assist him with the case. They probed for the bullets which proved to buckshot and slugs, until they had extracted eighteen of them. After a few weeks careful attention he recovered. The man who did the shooting was John Stewart, proprietor of the City Hotel. He immediately ran up stairs, locked the door, and reloaded his gun and declared from an upper window that he was ready for any officers that might attempt his arrest. It was not until the third day after the tragedy that Stewart capitulated and gave himself up to the sheriff who had starved him to terms by forbidding either food or drink to pass the door of his room. On the third day of his fast when weak and famished from want of food or drink and from the excitement and loss of rest, he could hold out no longer, he called for Dr. Keith and told him to do all in his power to save Kirk's life; that he had changed his mind in regard to killing Kirk. He was assured that his victim would recover as no vital organ had been penetrated; that in the estimation of the doctors the charge of powder was too small for the amount of lead in front of it; and that had he put but half the number of buckshot and slugs and had he doubled the amount of powder, the case would have been hopeless. The trouble was amicably settled through the intervention of friends. Stewart was acquitted and both men were often seen afterward on the streets of Springhill. They were both brave and fearless men. Kirk made a good soldier in the Civil war, or at least it was so reported.

On a sultry day in July, 1854, the year of the drought throughout North Missouri, two young ladies on horseback accompanied by a young man drew up at Dr. Keithís front gate one mile west of Springhill and asked if they could get a drink of water. They were told that both the cistern and vein well were dry, but if they could drink spring water they were welcome to help themselves at the barrel on the wagon standing under a shade tree in the front yard. The young man hitched his horse and proceeded to get a pitcher of water for his companions from the barrel. When the pitcher was about half filled, the girls put whips to their horses and went west in a gallop, going in the direction of their homes. A man who was sitting in the shade reading, seeing the performance, leaped to his feet, clapped his hands and yelled, "Go it, girls. Go it, girls. Go it while you are young," and laughed loud enough to be heard blocks away. The young man with the pitcher in his hands was so confused by the sudden change in the girls, and the unexpected performance that he dropped the pitcher and without taking time to stop the flow of water from the barrel, ran to his horse, leaped into his saddle and started after the girls. But the loud laugh of some men at work nearby who shouted, "Shame on you, shame on you;" he, too, suddenly changed his mind and whirled his horse in the opposite course and went eastward as fast as his spurs could urge his horse down the lane and up the hill, with his coat tail flying out behind him. The man in the yard, still laughing, yelling and clapping his hands, shouted at the top of his voice, "Go it boots, go it boots. Go it, Gail. Youíll meet her in China." The next time one of the young ladies passed that house she stopped and asked pardon for acting so rudely on that occasion. The doctorís wife said, "The next time, Ruthie Jane, that you want to "shake" Gail youíd better give him a tin bucket that he canít break, as he did the pitcher." "Oh, thereíll be no next time. He will never try to go with me again." Pity," said Mrs. Keith, "that he is so stupid." "Oh, he is bright enough to know better than to try to ride with girls who donít appreciate his company. But he is at home now with his father and out in the field plowing corn, and Iíve come to invite you and the Doctor to my wedding next mint and bring your little boy with you. I am to be married to Dr, ____ _____ of Trenton, Missouri." Very well; Iím coming to your wedding," said Mother Keith, and she went and the little boy, now Dr. Clayton Keith of Louisiana, Missouri, rode behind his mother on the old family horse. As Shakespeare says "Allís well that ends well."

In the month of November, 1860, there was organized in the city of Chillicothe, chiefly through the efforts of two of the sons of ex-Governor Austin A. King, a mock legislature. Walter King and his brother, Edward L., of Clay county, had but recently moved to Chillicothe for the purpose of practicing law. Walter, the elder by several years, had represented Clay county in 1854 in the Missouri General Assembly, where he was associated with some very able men, among the ablest of the state. It was a memorable session with such men as Henry T. Blow, Frank P. Blair, B. Gratz Brown, Albert Todd, Samuel Breckinbridge and George W. Goods from St. Louis; James A. Rollins and Odon Guitar from Boone; Charles H. Hardin from Callaway; Joe Davis from Howard; James H. Britton from Lincoln; Alex W. Donephan from Jackson; Thos. J. C. Fagg and E. C. Murray from Pike; and Walter King from Clay. About twenty names were enrolled, and a meeting called for the purpose of organizing, Walter King spoke of the benefits that would result; that it would be the means of arousing and developing latent talent. That it would be a change from the "eternal wangle" of party politics Ė and give us something of more local importance if not of so general interest. The following names were then enrolled and each man drew his county by lot: Walter King, Edward L. King, Isaac Bibb, Charles H. Mansur, W. J. Rackliffe, Smith Turner, Alex. M Woolfolk, Samuel Anderson, Jordan Graves, Cyrus Graves, Dr. Marshall, Dr. May, John Ure, Wm. M. Watson, Levi Lingo, Dr. Wm. Keith, Baldwin B. Gill, John Slack, George W. Warder, and Clayton Keith. Walter King was elected speaker by acclamation and his brother E. L. King, clerk. A janitor was employed and a supply of wood for the winter laid in. Friday nights during the winter were the evenings for meeting. It continued until the first Friday night in April, 1861. Before the next Friday night came, Fort Sumter was fired on and the legislature adjourned sine die. During these sessions many important bills were presented and discussed and voted on. Many measures of local interest were considered, and altogether, everyone who participated in the proceedings was benefited. One of the most heated discussions during the session was soon after Mr. Lincolnís inauguration. The resolution was a follows: "Resolved That the Inaugural of President Lincoln Means War." Such men as A. M. Woolfolk and Walter King denied, while Smith Turner and I. P. Bibb affirmed. The house was not evenly divided. Dr. Clayton Keith said he was happy that he could see nothing warlike in the augural. And in closing his speech quoted Mr. Lincolnís own words: "So far as it is possible, the people everywhere shall have that sense of perfect security which is most favorable to calm thought and reflection; and with the view and hope of a peaceful solution of the national troubles and the restoration of fraternal sympathy and affection. I need address no word to those who really love the Union." What a grand and noble sentiment!

"About the time the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad was being completed, I was stationed Chillicothe,: said the late Bishop Hogan of Kansas City, a few years ago. "It was my custom to visit Linneus and Jamesport and Princeton once a month, going and coming in a two-horse buggy. On one occasion in crossing Medicine creek on my way to Linneus, in March, when the creek was high from recent rains, I missed my bearing drove into deep water and as a consequence got thoroughly wet to the skin. My horses lunged forward and reached the bank in safety. I drove at once to the nearest house and asked the lady for permission to change my clothes in a room by a fire. She informed me that her husband was not at home and that she could not grant my request. In answer to my question, where is your husband? She said; he is at Linneus on the jury and will not be back until ten oíclock tonight. Well, Madam, said I, I am truly sorry to hear it. I am a minister of the Gospel and teach others to be good and have all my life tried to be a good man and lead a pure life. If you will vacate one of your rooms, where I can make a fire and dry my clothes, you will never have cause to regret it, indeed you will have the heartfelt gratitude of a man who may sometime befriend you and your family. She gave me a searching look from head to foot, and then said, if you are a good man, you are welcome to make a fire in that room, pointing to it, and dry out, but if you are not I tell you now you had better move on. I was very willing to let it go at that and going to my buggy brought in my valise and proceeded to build a fire in the open fireplace. When I entered the room, I was surprised to find a suit of flannel underwear belonging to her husband. She had hunted up the clothing and placed it there for my comfort while drying my own. In two or three hours I was ready to start. When about ready to leave, I rapped at her door which was securely locked and offered to pay for the privilege of the room. She refused to accept a cent and wished me better luck next time. I have had a higher estimation of women ever since that day. Had she positively refused to permit me to enter the house, I would have been compelled to drive about two miles to the next house. This exposure in wet clothes on a chilly day in March would have given me pneumonia and perhaps cost me my life. As it was I drove into Linneus and held service that night and felt none the worse for my swim in Medicine creek."

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