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Early History of Dawn
Published in a special edition of the Dawn Clipper on July 3, 1886.

Later published in "The Reporter", Dawn, Missouri on July 26, 1926.

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The enterprising and prosperous little town of Dawn has begun to emerge from its primitive simplicity. During the past, its growth and development has been steady and slow, carrying with it assurance that it is the outgrowth of a common prosperity and the result of careful and judicial management upon the part of the people; we now feel assured, however, that the time has some for our businessmen and all others interested in the common welfare to unite in the grand boom which must inevitably must come in the near future. In the past we have fought our way through the swamps of Shoal Creek bottoms trying to reach a market, while a few more months will bring the glorious music of the railway cars. In this issue of the Clipper we have endeavored to collect all the facts of interest concerning the history of Dawn from the first settlement to the present time. Owing to the absence of old settlers and official documents a great many difficulties have presented themselves to the writer, regarding the early history, but the account, as given, is substantially correct.



Many years ago, when the beasts and reptiles fought for supremacy on the western prairies, a few hardy pioneers of kindred spirit with Daniel Boone organized a hunting expedition and explored the country north of the Missouri almost to the Iowa line. This cavalcade of sun bronzed bee hunters came from Boone and Howard Counties, traveled in a Northwesterly course, passing through Chariton, Carroll, and Livingston counties. On the return trip they stopped on the verdant shores of Shoal Creek where Dawn now stands. No sound save the gentle rippling of her limpid waters, could be heard. No human habitation was known to exist between them and the Arctic Ocean except the wigwams of the savages in the frozen north. Here they pitched their tent and explored the surrounding country.



Among those who were camped there on that occasion Joshua Whitney, a native of Massachusetts and a miller by trade. Having observed the fertility of the broad prairies which extended from Shoal Creek, he determined to return with his family and form a settlement. The following spring he returned and built a mlll.

There seems to be a great difference of opinion regarding the actual date of this settlement. Some of the older settlers assert that they helped build the mill dam in 1829, which is perhaps more nearly correct than the account given in the "History of Caldwell and Livingston Counties," recently published under the auspices of the National Historical Company of St. Louis. That work stating that "the origin of Dawn are the old institution on Shoal Creek known as Whitney's Mill, which was built by Joshua Whitney in the year 1837." The mill was doubtless built several years prior to 1837, but the exact year, yet remains a mystery unsolved. One thing remains certain, however; Whitney was the first settler, built the first house and sent up the first prayers for the future welfare of the unsettled regions surrounding him.



Here also was built the first public bridge in Livingston County, or in fact the first bridge of which we have any knowledge, north of the Missouri River and west of Chariton County in the winter of 1841. This bridge was used for many years and remained in good condition 'until 1867, when it was washed out. Hannibal Bridge Company erected a poorly constructed affair in 1875, which two years later fell of its own weight. Three small children of James Bench were on the bridge and one was severely crippled. The remaining two escaped uninjured. During the year 1876 the present elegant iron bridge was constructed by the Missouri Valley Bridge Company. The bridge has two spans, supported by a strong central pier. In durability and practical utility, there is, perhaps no superior bridge in the county.



After the settlement of Whitney, numerous families came from the same locality and began a settlement along Shoal Creek bottom and about the year of 1832 a rumor became current among them that the Black Hawk Indians of Iowa were coming down to annihilate the settlements in north Missouri.

This terrified the inhabitants and a portion of them returned. The Yankee miller and a few others remained and to their joy the rumor proved unfounded. No outbreak had been made nor was there any occasion for the alarm.



About the year of 1833 the Mormons began a settlement of Caldwell County and a large portion of them came from Kirtland, Ohio, across the unsettled prairies by means of ox-teams. Their trail led through Livingston County passing over "Scott's Mound" where Avalon now stands, following the prairie by Whitney's Mill until they reached the settlements in Caldwell. Among the Mormons who camped here, who afterward became prominently associated with that church may be mentioned Brigham Young, Sidney Ridgon, Jos. Dr. Lee, Joseph and Hiram Young. Jos. Young camped at Whitney's Mill three days in the autumn of 1837, only a few days prior to the inhumane massacre at Haun's Mill, in which, by the way, Whitney took an active part.



The name of that settlement was known as "Whitney's Mill" until the year 1853, when William Hixon laid out the town, purchased the old mill and began selling goods in a rude log cabin which he had erected where G. H. Clark's livery stable now stands. He named the prospective village Dawn, by which it has since been known. So far as has been ascertained no signification was attached to the name. Mr. Hixon erected the first dwelling house within the present limits of the town. It was a frame structure, built of native lumber. The venerable old building yet stands "A fortress, formed by Freedom's hands," and is occupied by J. H. Kittredge. Mr. Hixon remained the only merchant until 1867 when he was succeeded by. Geo. Dancingburg. The stock of goods was very small and more remarkable for variety than richness. Of course there was no money in circulation among the early settlers. The medium of exchange consisted principally of beeswax and coon skins. A coon skin rapidly traded for a quart of genuine home made "Tanglefoot."



The little village if it might be called such, was not damaged to any extent by the ill fortunes of the Civil War. During the year 1863 a body of Jim Lane's men camped here and borrowed a few chickens and pigs; otherwise no damage was done. Fifteen or twenty or Price's cavalry made a raid through the country raid in 1864 and captured "Uncle" Abraham Brown. Mr. brown was known to be a strong advocate of the Union and, withal a most excellent citizen. He had taken no active part in the rebellion and the only pretext for the arrest was that Brown had two or three sons who were members of the militia. He was arrested and taken a short distance from home to a little ravine where he was given "five minutes for prayers." During the interval which elapsed while the old gentleman was offering a fervent prayer, the Capt. of the guerrillas was suddenly attacked with an epileptic stroke which resulted in the release of Mr. Brown and the death of the captain.



Almost immediately after the war the tide of immigration set in and the town began to assume a more business appearance. G. H. Clark a downeaster from New Hampshire, located here in 1865. He purchased the mercantile establishment of Mr. Dancingburg and by industry and efficient management succeeded in establishing a good trade. He was afterward joined in the enterprise by H. Bushnell, a native of New York Afterward came Hugh Jones, Dr. Lewis and others who engaged in the mercantile pursuit. The business houses were then small, one-story wooden structures, with merchandise of quantity and quality to correspond.

Those pioneer houses have begun to fade away and more imposing buildings tower above them. H. Bushnell and W. A. Fisher led the way by erecting substantial two-story brick houses and filling them from cellar to attic with merchandise. Following rapidly after these were good comfortable dwellings, school house and church. Then came Mattingly Bros., of Virginia, who erected a large steam flouring mill with full roller patents of 100 bbl. capacity, at a cost of $15,000. W. A. Fisher came forward with his usual public spirited liberality and built his elegant hotel, "The Fisher House," at a cost more than $5,000. Rapidly following this, was the Dawn Creamery, which was built by a stock company at a cost of $6,600. Other improvements have been gradually coming forth as the natural outgrowth of prosperity and public enterprise, until our little town may be justly ranked as one among the most busy and thriving inland town in North Missouri. In this statement we are borne out by the universal testimony of all commercial traders who daily throng our streets.



Although the conflagrations which have taken place within the past few years are limited only three, they have been attended with considerable loss H. Clark lost his residence by fire in December, 1883. Almost everything was destroyed, but fortunately was covered by insurance. The excellent mill of Mattingly Bros. was totally consumed by fire in May, 1884. The fire originated on the third floor, about 12:00 a.m. The flame was discovered a few minutes after it burst forth, but it swept rapidly through the roof and, with the aid of a brisk breeze the whole building was soon wrapped in a solid sheet of lurid flame. There were no means for extinguishing such a dreadful outburst of fire and the entire building, with all its contents was totally destroyed. Everything tended to prove that the fire was the result of spontaneous combustion. Only a small percentage of the first loss was covered by insurance. The loss of this mill was a great trial for Dawn. The town was just beginning its great boom. Trade was better than ever before, the streets were crowded with teams all parts of the country. Times were brisk and money plentiful; the enemy met us and we were theirs. The residence of Tom Ward was destroyed by fire in February 1886. The building was a neat, commodious cottage and was not covered by any insurance. A noticeable and peculiar feature of these fires is that they were all consumed at almost the precisely same hour of the day, 12:00 a.m.



Unlike many of the pioneer villages in this country, the town of Dawn has been fortunate in not being visited by drunken quarrels and tragic deaths, No one, so far as the writer an learn, has lost his life through the hands of another. The town, it is supposed, had its share of old fashioned "fist and skull" fights, but unfair means has rarely been resorted to. Hugh Jones, a merchant and postmaster of Dawn, fell off the bridge on Christmas eve, 1879, and was instantly killed. He left the village with the intention of returning home. he was alone and no one saw the disastrous fall, but it is supposed that through carelessness he made the fatal step. Mr. Jones was an intelligent and respected citizen, had been a merchant during many years and was postmaster at the time of his death. He was a member of the I. O. O. F. and was carried to his last resting place with appropriate ceremonies by that fraternity.



One day in December 1883, Frank Green, editor of the Dawn Clipper, committed suicide by taking a large dose of laudanum. Mr. Green was a gentleman of fine talents and good education. He had been connected with the newspaper business for several years, was a member of the G. A. R. Post of dawn, and appropriately interred by that body. He left a wife and four small children to mourn his untimely death. No cause was assigned for the act, but it was supposed to be the result of despondency, caused probably financial reverses.



The public school house is a substantial frame building of two rooms, erected by Travilla and Reed, contractors, of Dawn. The building is well ventilated and supplied with modern fixtures. The school tax of the district is kept at the highest limit allowed by law, thus enabling the director to secure good teachers. The primary department was conducted by Miss Frances Barry during the past year, and the grammar department by Prof. William C. O'Neall. The curriculum of study embraces the higher branches of mathematics, literature and science.

Dawn has little to boast of in the way of churches. In fact the town may be considered as rather backward in this respect because there are several religious denominations which hold services, but there is but one church building. This a commodious frame structure which cost originally about $2,500. It was built by the Presbyterians in the year 1872. The Sabbath school is among the most successful in the country, being attended by all denominations and superintended by E. J. James.

During many years the school house was used by the citizens for all classes of entertainment but as the town grew larger a demand arose for a larger and more suitable building which was built by Bushnell and Elliott in 1884. The building is about 40 by 60 feet.



An institution of which the village may well be proud. It was organized in 1879, with J. Drake as leader. Charles B. Reed was leader and instructor during the years 1883 and 1884. In 1885 Peter Glick became the leader. The band is now being instructed by J. E. Hill, a thorough musician, recently of Yale College. The band is supplied with excellent instruments but has not as yet purchased a wagon. The present members are Peter Glick, leader; Charles B. Reed, J. H. Price, James Roberts, Joseph Culver, Ben Owens, Jeff Fouch, Frank Fouch, Frank Elliott, Edward and Thomas Snyder.



In connection with the general description of the town and its Business industries, it may be well to remark that Dawn is the home of secret orders. We boast of several large and successful orders -- including the I. O. O. F., A. O. U. W. and G. A. R. The present membership of the I. O. O. F. is about 50 members, of the A. O. U. W. about 30 members. The G. A. R. post, entitled General Wadsworth Post No. 60, has 76 members, with H. Bushnell as commander.



The Dawn Creamery Company was organized in January 1884 with a paid up capital of $1,200. A stock company was organized with D. W. Lewis as president. There were 72 shares of stock, of which the following are the largest: H. Bushnell took 11 shares; Holden and Hall, the builders, 10 shares; Wiley Elliott 6 shares; W. A. Fisher and George Helman 5 shares each; W. Lewis 3 shares; H. Bunch 2 shares; James Hudson 2 shares; J. Travilla 2 shares; William Koenaker 2 shares; W. R. Jones 2 shares; W. W. Brown 2 shares; G. W. Smith 2 shares; The creamery building is constructed of excellent hard pine and built in the most approved manner, and supplied with the best of modern machinery. The main Creamery building is 36 foot by 44 foot; the Ice House is 36 foot by 44 foot; the Fuel House is 10 foot by 15 foot; divided as follows, and for use as described: Main part divided into seven rooms: The Cream Room is 14 foot by 24 foot, elevated four or five feet above the sills, used as a cream tempering room. The Churn Room is 9 foot by 34 foot, has floors on a level with sills, slanting toward the Butter Room, with good drains. The Butter Room is 13 foot by 17 foot, with a drain that connects with the drain from Churn Room. The Wash Room is 10 foot by 20 foot and is the same apartment as the Engine Room. The Engine Room is 10 foot by 16 foot. Cold Room No. 1 is 13 foot by 17 foot and used principally for storage.

Cold Room No. 2, which is used for storing butter is 12 foot by 16 foot is built inside the Ice House and surrounded by ice. The raised floor of the Receiving Room is constructed for convenience in handling the cream. Cream taken into the Receiving Room is strained and poured into vats, from which it is transferred to churns through conductor pipes, saving all lifting of cans, etc. The Creamery has a capacity of manufacturing 2,500 pounds a day. There are at present, 16 men and teams employed in hauling cream, some of which is brought a distance of 25 miles. Mr. George H. Heldman, the efficient and polite secretary and manager informs us that the business is in a prosperous condition. On being asked the number of patrons he replied, "We have three times as many as we had this time last year. The number of pounds manufactured last year was 76,000. This year that amount will probably be doubled." Mr. Fred Turner is a butter maker "To the manner born" having served in that capacity for leading creameries of Missouri and Iowa.



H. Bushnell, now engaged in the mercantile business, is a native of Otsego County, New York. He took a prominent part in the Civil War, after which in 1868 he re-located at Dawn and began merchandising. He has long been recognized as a man of great enterprise and public spirit. He began business with a small capital, but by liberal and fair dealing has built up a princely trade. His stock of goods embraces everything kept in country stores; dry goods, boots and shoes, hardware, clothing, farming implements, and a thoroughly equipped harness shop.

W. A. Fisher , erected his two-story brick drugstore and began the drug business in 1876. In 1884 the Fisher Hotel was built. This building is three stories in height and cost over $5,000. The rooms are large, airy and well furnished. The tables are supplied by the best the country affords. The manager of the hotel, David E. Llewelyn, dispenses with hash and smiles like to all.

Fisher and Carr , This firm began business in 1884 and has already gained an enviable reputation among the businessmen of the town. They carry a full line of hardware, tinware, queensware, glassware, fancy and staple groceries. They also manufacture an excellent picket fence, which is being adopted by a number of the leading farmers.

  1. J. James does a large and growing business. He has gained a wide acquaintance, and has become well known in business circles as an energetic and wide awake merchant. He deals in general merchandise and farm implements of all kinds.

Charles B. Reed began the drug business in 1884. he is a young man of good habits and business ability. He has served a thorough apprenticeship as a druggist. Charley was postmaster during 1884 and 1885, but lost his position through offensive partisanship. He claims that Cleveland "cut him off at the pocket," because he was active in organizing a Blaine and Logan club. Charley is also engaged in raising fine chickens and ducks, among which are Plymouth Rock, Light Brahma, Partridge Cochin and Pekin Ducks.

Thomas Griffiths embarked in the mercantile business in 1882. He carries groceries, queensware, and notions. Mr. Griffiths has a wide circle of friends and does a good business.

R. L. Patrick is an old settler of Dawn. He began business here many years ago and still stands at the helm; directing a drug and grocery store. He is a polite and sociable gentleman, and is readily pointed out by a stranger as one who wells in the midst of contentment and ease.

G. H. Clark is now engaged in the livery business. He has a large stable which is well supplied with horses and carriages, and he does a thriving business. The "Colonel" came to Dawn in 1865 and has taken a leading interest in the general growth and prosperity of almost every public improvement since his arrival. He was one among the first merchants and served in the capacity of postmaster for a number of years.

J. H. Kittredge conducts a neat little business. He began on a small scale and has been increasing his stock as his trade demanded it. The jewelry business of Dawn is not very extensive, but it is growing, and Dr. Kittredge, by low prices and fair dealing, has succeeded in establishing a lasting reputation.

As our space is "growing beautifully small" we'll close the article by giving the business directory. Thus enabling the reader to see at a glance the business interests which are represented here.

Barton, Joseph, Attorney at Law

Barton, N., dealer in Groceries

Brooks, Frank, Editor of Clipper

Bushnell, Henry, General Merchandise

Bramel, W. T., Tinware

Brown, Jno., Proprietor of Restaurant

Bowen, Charles, Blacksmith

Clark, G. H., Proprietor of Livery Stable

Carey, Arthur, Painter

Carr, A. J., Groceries and Hardware

Creamery, D. W. Lewis, President

Davis, W. M., Physician and Surgeon

Fisher, W. A., Druggist

Fisher, James A., Groceries and Hardware

Fouch, J. J., Carriage and Wagon Maker

Fouch, Mrs., Millinery and Dressmaking

Griffiths, Thomas, Groceries, Notions, and Queensware

Graham, Bridge, Bus and Hack line to Utica

James, J. J., General Merchandise

James, E. J., Notary Public

Jones, Anna M., Dressmaking

Jones, Emanuel, Proprietor of Livery Stable

Koenaker, William, Jones, Anna M., Dressmaking

Jones, Emanuel, Proprietor of Livery Stable of Saloon

Kittredge, J. H., Jeweler and dentist

Llewelyn, David E., Manager of the Fisher House

Morgan, Daniel, Postmaster

Mossbarger, John, Druggist

Nelis, Mrs. J. J., Millinery and Dressmaking

Patrick, R. L., Doctor and Druggist

Rice, M. C., Harness Maker

Reed, Charles B., Drugs

Reed, Robert, Contractor and Builder

Shriner, John, Wagon and Carriage maker

Schroeder, Edward F., Saloon

Shinogle, Charles, Blacksmith

Stagner, William, barber

Travilla, J., Contractor and Builder

Tracy, L. E., Physician and Surgeon

The present population is about 250 people, although a larger number is claimed by many. With the advent of the great Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad, which will be built during the coming year, many new industries will spring up and the town may well look forward to a grand boom. Evidence is now apparent on every hand that the time for investment has come. Numerous channels will be opened up for investment in legitimate business. This is doubtless the best location for a mill in North Missouri. The surrounding country is undulating prairie, very productive and highly cultivated, while the farmers are enterprising and progressive.

What better opening could one wish for a bank, a lumber yard, an exclusive boot and shoe store or a grist mill.

To the stranger who may be thrown among the citizens of Dawn, we all say, you will find a generous and progressive people, liberal to faults and confiding with strangers.

Long may the wand of prosperity and happiness be waved over the people of Dawn.


The afore history of dawn was published as an extra edition of The Dawn Clipper, July 3, 1886, by Frank Brooks, Editor.

We felt our fellow townsmen and countrymen, as well as many former dawn citizens would be interested in the splendid article as a matter of history and we submit the same for your pleasure.

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