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Past and Present of Livingston County
Volume 1. History
by Major A. J. Roof. 1913
We are under obligations to one of Livingston county’s pioneers, the Hon. Luther T. Collier, a gentleman of culture and education, now a highly respected and honored citizen of Kansas City, for the following interesting article descriptive of pioneer days:
A large portion of Central North Missouri has been styled "The Grand River Valley" – a region of great fertility of soil, diversified by numerous water courses, large bodies of timber and prairie, and when its other natural advantages are taken into account, it may well be classed as the equal of any other section of Missouri.
I do not know that the exact limits of what is called "The Grand River Valley" have ever been defined. It may, however, be safely assumed, that the region in question includes all the territory watered by Grand river and its tributaries, thus embracing the counties of Chariton, Carroll, Linn, Livingston, Caldwell, Daviess, Grundy, Harrision, Mercer and Sullivan, a splendid domain, a magnificent group of counties.
Livingston county occupying a central position among the counties named, was organized pursuant to an act of the General Assembly of Missouri, in February, 1837. Few persons now, I apprehend, are aware of the close relationship existing between Livingston and Howard counties. In fact, and to use a metaphor, Livingston may well be called the daughter of Howard - "the mother of counties." In an address some years ago, at Huntsville, Missouri, at the annual reunion of the Pioneer Settlers of Randolph and Macon counties, the late Col. W. F. Switzler, the veteran journalist and author of the "History of Missouri," made the following statement:
Take a position on the Missouri river at the mouth of the Kaw, now Kansas City, proceed due north to the southern boundary line of Iowa, in truth, several miles beyond that line, into the territory of Iowa, then due east to the high ridge of ground, known as the headwaters of Cedar creek, now forming the boundary line between Boone and Callaway and descend the Cedar to its confluence with the Missouri river, at Jefferson City, thence down the Missouri to the mouth of the Osage river, thence up that crooked stream to a point near Schell City, in Vernon county, then due west to the Kansas line, thence north along that line to the place of beginning; this was Howard county, now comprising thirty-six counties of the state - twenty-two and a part of three others south of the Missouri river and fourteen and a part of five others north of it - an area of twenty-two thousand square miles - larger than ancient Greece, larger than Saxony and Switzerland combined; larger than Vermont, Massachusetts, Delaware and Rhode Island united.
The peculiar topography of Livingston county must have made it a very attractive region for the Indian of the early days. Here was found the ideal of the Indian's hunting ground; with Grand river, having branches heading in the state of Iowa, flowing down in a southern and southeasterly direction uniting and forming the main river at a point three miles west of Chillicothe, thence flowing on to the southeast corner of the county emptying into the Missouri river, about a mile west of Brunswick, and augmented throughout its course by numerous tributaries, some almost rivers of themselves and skirted with heavy bodies of timber, covering the bottoms on either side, extending in many instances to the foot of the high prairies and there terminating in dense thickets of brushy growth. Under such favoring conditions, it is easy to conceive that here was a favorite resort for deer, elk and fur-bearing animals of the various kinds. Nor should it excite any wonder that it was here the Indian delighted to rove, pitch his tent, establish villages and prosecute his daily hunt for game; such was actually the case, for it is a historical fact, that as late as the year 1828 and for many years prior to that date, a French trading post was maintained, in the south part of Livingston county on the bluff opposite the mouth of Locust creek and established to trade with the Indians. The Indians furnished their pelts and peltries and other fruits of the chase, and in exchange received from the trader their coveted supplies of tobacco, whiskey, guns, ammunition, blankets, flour, sugar and coffee. About the year 1828 this post was abandoned, owing to the fact, either that the Indians' source of revenue was fast becoming exhausted, or that preparations were then under way looking to their removal further west, to give way to the advancing tide of civilization. Some years after the post was abandoned and on the same site, the first village in Livingston county was located and went by the name of "Coon Town," afterwards called Granville, where more or less business was done until about the year 1855, the town was abandoned and its buildings torn down and removed.
To-day, a brush thicket occupies the site of the former bustling village and as the name of "Coon Town" was first adopted by its inhabitants, it may be inferred that at that date, while the larger game had measuredly disappeared in that section, the coon still remained and flourished in the heavily timbered bottoms of Grand river and its tributaries, and thus furnished the basis of a large trade in "coon skins," a commodity then as now, in demand for the manufacture of hats and other uses, and it may be further inferred that on the wane of the coon the business in that direction languished and finally ceased altogether. In this connection it may be observed that in the "History of Caldwell and Livingston counties" published in 1885, it is claimed that Daniel Boone, the illustrious pioneer of Kentucky, after his removal to St. Charles county in this state, and about the year 1800, spent a winter on Grand river erected his hut or cabin and set his traps for beaver and otter, but on wandering some miles from his camp he discovered unmistakable signs of the presence of Indians in that locality and a deep snow having fallen, he feared they might discover his place of retreat, and hence remained in his cabin twenty days when a thaw came, releasing his canoe from the ice and thus enabling him to retire in safety down the river on his return to his home in St. Charles county. But the correctness of this statement has been disputed. Some years ago the late Col. W. F. Switzler, in a letter to the writer hereof and in reply to an inquiry as to Daniel Boone's alleged presence on the Grand river at the time mentioned, uses this language: "No difference what anybody says, old Daniel Boone never made an excursion up Grand river in 1800 or any other time and never was on the territory now occupied by Boone, Howard or Livingston counties." This statement was corroborated some years ago by the Hon. Phil E. Chappell, now deceased, once State treasurer of Missouri and remarkably well informed as to the early history of Missouri.
In a previous paper descriptive of Livingston county, allusions were made to the abundance of game and fur animals of different kinds found within its limits, while the Indians still continued "Monarch of all he surveyed." They were here and he pitched his tent and devoted himself to the chase for a livelihood and trade with trappers who had established their posts along the lower part of Grand river, long before Livingston was organized as a county; with them, the Indians exchanged their furs and peltries for such articles of merchandise as their wants required. This trade continued until 1833, perhaps later, when it ceased altogether. Pursuant to a treaty then formed the Indian title was extinguished, and the "Red Man" removed to regions further west and north. During his occupancy of the territory now embraced by Livingston county, he had a number of towns and villages. There was one about three-fourths of a mile west of the present site of the city of Chillicothe; another on Medicine creek near the site at which Collier's Mills were afterwards erected; still another, on the bluffs of the east fork of Grand river, some three miles southeast of the present town of Springhill and one further up the river, and west of Farmersville, now a small town about twelve miles north of Chillicothe. All these villages were, of course, abandoned pursuant to the treaty above mentioned and the way was cleared for the incoming of white settlements.
According to the most reliable source of information obtainable, Samuel E. Todd was the first white settler in the county, coming into its territory before its organization as a county, in the spring of the year 1831. It is not questioned, however, that he planted and raised the first crop of corn ever raised in the limits of Livingston county. He settled on a tract of land situated about a mile west of the town of Utica and erected first a horse mill, then a water mill on the west bank of Grand river, near the town on which site, Hoy and Chadwick erected their costly mill in after years. At the time of his location his nearest neighbors were the Indians on the opposite side of Grand river, and the white settlements of Ray and Carroll counties, but he was not long left alone; the rich vacant land of the county was not unknown to the people of the river counties. For a number of years hunters from the older settlements came up every fall, hunting bees and honey, then found in great abundance in the timber bottoms between the two forks of Grand river. They came in wagons, camped on the ground and in a few days, they filled their barrels with honey and returned to their homes. Truly, nothing was lacking to make this region the rival of the one famous in history, "Flowing with milk and honey," but the milk, and this was soon supplied by the hardy pioneers who came to this section in large numbers from 1833 to 1840.
The advent of Reuben McCoskrie, John Austin and Abe Bland, with their families, into the southwest corner of the county was memorable as the season of the great meteoric showers, or "shooting stars," that occurred on the night of November 12, 1833. The same night Elisha Herriford, another pioneer, camped on the banks of Medicine creek, seven miles east of Chillicothe. These early settlers were joined by many others in a few years, coming as they did from Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina, as well as from the older settled counties along the Missouri river.
That portion of the county lying between the forks of the Grand river attracted more of the early settlers and filled up more rapidly than others, doubtless caused by its peculiar natural advantages. The extensive bottoms on both sides of Grand river were covered by a heavy growth of timber of various kinds, and furnished luxuriant range for stock, while the uplands of fertile soil and abundant timber abounded in numerous springs, a desideratum highly prized by pioneers of those days. Although the county was about equally divided between prairie and timber, it was not till a later day, that the prairies were settled and brought into cultivation. For a long time it was thought that the bottom land, or swamp lands as they were called, were unfit for farming purposes, except as range for stock, but in this later day, they have been cleared up, ditched and drained and are now considered equal to any other portion of the county in the way of production and command as high prices.
Among the first settlers between the forks of Grand river were the following:
Jesse Nave, Levi F. Goben, David Girdner, Sr., his two sons, J. M. Girdner and David Girdner, Jr., Jonathan Smith, Riley Brassfield, David Gibbs, William Shumate, Thos. Laten, John Kirk, John Hargrave, Joseph S. Haskin, Matthew Gibbs, Warren S. Pond, Noah R. Hobbs, David Curtis, Elias Guthridge, William Venable, John W. Boyle, John Doss, Alex. Dockery, Jr., Robert Dockery, R. W. Reeves, Alex Dockery, Sr., Samuel V. Ramsey, W. F. Peery, W. Ware, Chas. Rosson, W. 0. Jennings, W. S. Miller, Daniel Y. Kesler, James Leeper, Andrew Ligett, Mark White, Alex. Martin, Jas. A. Davis, Benjamin Hargrove, Isham Ware, Alex. Ware, David Hicklin, John L. Leeper, John Stewart, Robert Stewart, Robert Landerdale, Willis E. Dockery (father of ex-Governor Dockery), Dr. Wm. Keith, Thomas Hutchinson, John Simpson, Joshua Bevelle and the eccentric and humorous Sam Thompson.
The following were the early settlers in Shoal Creek township, now embracing the townships of Greene, Mooresville and Monroe:
Spence H. Gregory, Thos. R. Bryan, James Austin, John Austin, Abraham Bland, Perm Bland, Isaac McCoskrie, Robertson Bryan, Zaac Lee, W. P. Frazer, John T. Cudgell, W. B. Moore, James J. Lawson, Ami Lawson, William Hudgins, John Hudgins, John Stucky, Asa T. Kirtley, H. S. Mellon, John Stone, George Stone, Roderick Matson, John S. Harper, Elisha Wells, Sam E. Todd, James Todd, John Rockhold, Nathaniel Matson, John L. Tomlin, William Meade, Gilbert Woolsey, Thomas Field, and A. J. Austin.
Further east and south of Grand river, among the first settlers were Jacob Burner, James N. Byrd, Geo. W. Cranmer, Robert Browning, Fielding J. Rawlins, Spence A. Alexander, Geo. Monroe, Alex. Davis, John Silvey, Reuben Leaton, Joseph Wolfskill, John Wolfskill, R. R. Mills, A. M. Rowley, Joseph Jones, Thomas Jones, Wm. L. Barron, B. A. Fewell, Geo. Wolfskill, W. C. Wright, Cyrus Ballew, Henry Duncan, Asa Lanter, Sol. Lewis, Wm. L. Brown, Daniel G. Saunders, Joshua Cameron, Judge W. Wallace, Dr. Caldwell Bynside and A. F. Walden.
North of Grand river and east of Medicine creek, embracing the townships of Wheeling and Medicine the following were the early settlers:
Ezekiel Norman, Nathan H. Gregory, Joseph Miller, Geo. W. Gish, Henry Nay, James Littrell, Adam Bathgate, D. S. McCullough, J. N. Hastings, S. W. Haynes, Geo. W. Babb, N. E. Kidder, H. Bird, Jacob Iberg, W. W. Edgerton, Daniel Bowers, P. P. Peugh, D. A. McHolland, Amos Hawker, W. J. Wallace, David White, Robert Phillips, John Brown, Chapman Lightner, John J. Jordan, John H. Perkins, Thos. Utley, John Wright, W. B. Manning and James Turner.
In that part of the county north and east of Grand river and including Chillicothe and Cream Ridge township, the pioneer settlers were:
John Graves, Wm. Y. Slack, Thos. R. Bryan, J. N. Bell, Geo. Pace, James Bell, Nova Johnson, Edward B. Waples, Asher C. Waples, James Bradford, Henry Manning, J. H. B. Manning, H. R. Manning, James Manning, Robert Turner, Joseph Wisecarver, Henry Wisecarver, Jacob Palmer, Joseph Slagle, Drury Moberly, Thornton Myers, J. L. Myers, Solomon Bargdoll, Amos Bargdoll, Joseph Bargdoll, Lewis Bargdoll, Dr. John S. Williams, Hiram Taylor, Abel Cox, Joseph Cox, Solomon Hooker, Gabriel May, James May, John Ryan, Elisha Herriford, Wash. Kester, Rice G. Kester, David Mumporver, W. H. H. Smith, Solomon Hoge, Morgan Hoge, James Hutchinson and Wm. Hutchinson.
The foregoing list embraces the main body of the early settlers of Livingston county, and for intelligence, industry and public spirit they averaged well with other and older settlers of the state and fitted for the work of laying the foundation and promoting the development of the new county.
Before the organization of the county in 1837, some towns had been laid off and platted among which was "Astoria" on Grand river in the southeast corner of the county but it proved to be only a town on paper.
On the 12th day of August 1836, three residents of Boone county, David S. Lamme, Caleb S. Stone and David M. Hickman entered 160 acres of land on the north side of Grand river viz: The S. W. ¼ of Sec. 21, T. 57, R. 23, lying about four miles southeast of Chillicothe. On the 24th of November following they platted about twenty-five acres of the tract for a town which they called "Jamestown." As this land was about the center of the county and bordering on Grand river, they anticipated that it would be selected as the county seat, and eventually grow into a place of some importance. A few lots were sold and a store house erected, but the enterprise proved a failure. The selection of Chillicothe on higher and more suitable ground for the seat of justice put an end to the hopes cherished by the founders.
The following are the towns of Livingston county:
Bedford, at first called the town of "Laborn," was platted and laid off as a town in 1839, and is located on Grand river in the southeast corner of the county.
Springhill was laid out and named in April, 1848. It is located on the N. E. ¼ of Sec. 6, T. 58, R. 24, but it is considered that Jesse Nave was the original founder, who located in 1836 and erected a small store and for several years the place went by the name of "Navetown" by which it was called until the town was regularly organized and named in 1848.
Farmersville, situated about twelve miles north of Chillicothe was laid off and platted in January, 1870, by Joseph King and others.
Chula is a small town located about ten miles northeast of Chillicothe and was established about the time of the completion of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad through the county. This was in the year 1885 or thereabouts.
Sampsell lies about ten miles west of Chillicothe and in Sampsell township. It was laid off about the time the Wabash railroad was built through the county.
Utica is one of the oldest towns in the county and to Roderick Mortson is awarded the distinction of being its founder. In April, 1837, the town was laid off and platted and it is situated on the Burlington railroad and five miles west of Chillicothe.
Moorseville, ten miles west of Chillicothe, is on the Burlington railroad. It was laid out by W. B. Moore, April 25, 1860.
Dawn, located about ten miles southwest of Chillicothe, on Shoal creek, and near the line of the Milwaukee railroad, was laid off by William Hixon in March, 1853.
Avalon is located on the southeast quarter of Sec. 14, T. 56, R. 23, and was laid out by David Carpenter, November 12, 1869.
Wheeling is located on the east side of Sec. 57, R. 22, on the line of the Burlington railroad, ten miles east of Chillicothe, and was laid off October 7, 1855, by Henry Nay, and by him named for Wheeling, W. Va., the place from which he emigrated.
Chillicothe was, on August 7, 1837, ordered by the county court to be laid off and established as the county seat of Livingston county. It is located on the S. W. quarter of Sec. 36, T. 58, R. 24, named Chillicothe by order of the county court and John Graves was appointed as commissioner to lay it off into lots. Twenty blocks were ordered to be surveyed before September 4, 1837. The first sale aggregated the sum of $1082.65, and the next sale amounted to $1,807.00 and the sales thus made were on a credit of six, twelve and eighteen months. Chillicothe was incorporated by the county court August 16, 1851, and later as a city, by act of the legislature, approved March 1, 1855.