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Past and Present of Livingston County
Volume 1. History
by Major A. J. Roof. 1913
The creation of Livingston county was not effected until on the 6th of January, 1837, at which time the legislature prepared and passed an act, which was approved by Gov. Dunkin, making it a separate and distinct county, the name being given in honor of Edward Livingston. Previous to this act of the state law-makers, however, and as early as 1820, the territory now comprising Livingston county was part of Howard; then later and until 1833 it became a part of Ray county, but on the organization of Carroll county, it was included in that territory. The settlement of the county by the many pioneers coming into the territory, warranted the people in their demands for a separate county, their appeal in 1837 being recognized by the following enactment:
Be it enacted by the general assembly of the state of Missouri as follows: 1. All that portion of territory heretofore attached to the counties of Carroll and Chariton, in the following boundaries; beginning at the northwest corner of Carroll county; thence east with the northern boundary of said county to Grand river; thence up said river to where the range line dividing ranges twenty-one and twenty-two crosses said river; thence north with said range line to the line dividing townships fifty-nine and sixty; thence west with said township line to the range line dividing ranges twenty-five and twenty-six; thence south with said range line to the beginning; shall form a separate and distinct county, to be called and known by the name of Livingston county, in honor of Edward Livingston.
Originally the eastern boundary of Livingston county extended some three miles into what is now the western boundary of Linn county, but this error in bounds was corrected later.
After the approval of the act referred to above the county was divided into four municipal townships at the first session of the county court which was held on April 6th, 1837, at the cabin of Joseph Cox about four miles north of Chillicothe. Three judges were present, William Martin, Joseph Cox and Reuben McCoskrie, with Thomas R. Bryan, clerk and William O. Jennings, sheriff, these officials having been commissioned by Gov. Lilburn W. Boggs, February, 1837. By consent William Martin was made presiding judge of the court. The first business of the court was to divide the county into townships. The records show the boundaries of the four townships 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 25and 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 northwestern portion of the county, comprising the territory between the forks of Grand river, in what is now Sampsel and Jackson townships.
Medicine Creek. 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.
Grand River. 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 of the present townships of Fairview and the greater portion of the present Grand River.
All of 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.
Following the proceedings of the county court elections were called to be held, May 27, 1837, for the purpose of choosing two justices of the peace and one constable for each township. The polling places and judges of election were named as follows: Indian Creek township at the home of Jesse Nave, the judges were James Leeper, Andrew Ligett and Benjamin Hargrave. Shoal Creek township, at the home of John S. Tomblin, the judges were John Austin, Samuel E. Todd and Stephen W. Reynolds. Medicine Creek township, at the home of William E. Pearl, the judges were William Linville, Samuel Parks and James Cook. Grand River township, at the home of Benjamin A. Fewel, the judges were John Hall, John Stuckey and Benjamin A. Fewel. Sugar Creek township, at the home of George Perry, the judges were William P. Thompson, George Bunch and Philip Wild. Muddy Creek township, at the home of Daniel Duval, the judges were John Thrailkill, Daniel Duval and William Cochrane. In November following elections were held to choose two additional justices of the peace for Shoal Creek and Indian Creek townships. John Austin, Howard Maupin and Spencer Gregory acted as election judges for Shoal Creek township and our own Alex. Dockery, William Venable and Elisha Bucher, election judges for Indian Creek township.
During the deliberations of the court the dwelling house (log cabin) of Joseph Cox, was selected as the temporary abode of the seat of justice. Samuel B. Campbell was appointed assessor and Wm. E. Pearl, deputy county clerk. At the second session of the county court held in May, 1837, William Linville was appointed county treasurer, but was soon after succeeded by the appointment of Samuel Parks. At this term of court Sheriff Jennings was appointed county collector.
In 1838 the residents of the county experienced "pinching times" on account of the scarcity of money, the probable result of the suspension of the United States Bank. Those who were caught without money at this period found it impossible to beg, or borrow and the few who had a little money, refused every appeal for a loan, even at a high rate of interest. About this time, however, the three per cent fund distribution by the state came into the hands of Sheriff Jennings. This money was distributed by the state to aid in the construction of roads and bridges. The county court decided that Livingston county's allotment, amounting to six hundred and three dollars, should be loaned out to relieve the stress then existing and in less time than it takes to tell it the money was taken for one year at ten per cent interest by Jesse Nave, Wm. O. Jennings, W. E. Pearl, W. F. Ewell, C. H. Ashby, Giles Woclsey, Evan Odell and James L. Austin, the borrowers going security for each other, Pearl taking $50, Ashby $100, Jennings,. $100, and so on until the money was exhausted. When the money became due and payable to the county it was found necessary to bring suit to have it paid into the county treasury.
One official most prominent in the early records of the county, is the presiding judge of the county court. Even if the overworked clerk forgot to attest his record and not mention his name except on pay day, the records are sufficiently attested for evidence in all legal controversies by the name of the presiding judge. At the end of every term he attests the record with his name. In this way the continuity of the record is preserved. They show an unbroken line since that memorable April 6, 1837, when the first county court convened. The following men have held the office of presiding judge of our county court:
William Martin, April 6,1837 to April 1, 1838.
Wm. P. Thompson, April 1, 1838 to April 1, 1842.
Gilbert Woolsey, April 1, 1842 to January 1, 1844.
James Conner, January 1, 1844 to January 1, 1846.
Gilbert Woolsey, January 1, 1846 to January 1, 1848.
James A. Davis, January 1, 1848 to January 1, 1850.
George Pace, January 1, 1850 to January 1, 1858.
Abithal Wallace, January T, 1858 to January 1, 1864.
A. Cox, January 1, 1864 to January 1, 1865.
S. B. Deland, January 1, 1865 to January 1, 1867.
Carlile Curtis, January 1, 1867 to January 1, 1871.
Samuel W. McDowell, January 1, 1871 to January 1, 1873.
Wm. G. Davis, January 1, 1873 to January 1, 1874.
Robert B. Williams, January 1, 1874 to January 1, 1879.
William G. Davis, January 1, 1879 to January 1, 1883.
Robert B. Williams, January 1, 1883 to January 1, 1887.
Charles Stewart, January 1, 1887 to January 1, 1891.
Prentis Waite, January 1 1891 to February 2, 1891.
James C. Minteer, February 6, 1891 to January 1, 1893.
Samuel L. Forester, January 1, 1893 to January 1, 1895.
David A. French, January 1, 1895 to January 1, 1899.
James T. Hale, January 1, 1899 to January 1, 1903.
Chris Boehner, January 1, 1903 to January 1, 1911.
Fountain K. Thompson, January 1, 1911 to January 1, 1915.
Prior to the Constitution of 1875, changed the terms and membership of the court. In 1871 the court consisted of one presiding judge and one associate justice from each township in the county. Judge James M. Davis was a member of this court. He and Judge J. W. Donovan, who was elected from the Eastern District in 1878, have the distinction of being the only lawyers that ever sat in that court. The membership of the court was reduced at the next general election to four associate judges and one presiding judge. Then the Constitution of 1875 made the county court a court of record, and a distinct branch of the judicial system of the state. It provided that its members should not exceed three judges, and it should have sole jurisdiction over all county business and all other matters as provided by law. Since that time it has more stability, and within its jurisdiction and discretion has prerogatives as independent as any other court. From 1865 to 1871, the probate judge was ex-officio presiding judge of the county court. After that time the probate business and administration of estates was delivered over to the probate judge, who was constituted a separate court and from that time the county court ceased to do probate business.
On the first Monday in July, 1838, the county court held its first session in Chillicothe. They thereby transferred the seat of justice from the residence of Joseph Cox to this city, that from that date becomes the county seat of Livingston county. The session was held in a log house constructed on lot 5, block 11. The first court house was eighteen feet square, built of hewn logs, chinked and daubed, with a chimney at one end and a puncheon floor, and was seven feet to the eaves. It was used as the courthouse till 1841, when a courthouse in the square was completed. The county court then permitted the citizens of Chillicothe to use this building as a schoolhouse, and here at this place on March, 1841, was convened the first public school in Livingston county.