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Livingston County History
Celebrating 150 Years, 1821-1981
Published by The Retired Senior Volunteer Program
Earlier histories of the county state that “the origin of Dawn was the old institution on Shoal Creek known as Whitney’s Mill, which was built by Joshua Whitney in the year 1837.” (A special edition of the The Dawn Clipper published on July 3, 1886, suggested that some early settlers, helped build the mill dam as early as 1829.)
The Dawn Clipper (editor, Frank Brooks) continues: “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.”
The settlement remained “Whitney’s Mill” until 1853 when William Hixon laid out the town and named it Dawn. He built the first dwelling in the village limits of native lumber, and was the only merchant until 1867.
Immigration and movement across the country increased following the Civil War, bringing from Iowa in 1865 the first Welsh settlers, Thomas and Mary Lewis and family. Thomas Lewis’s son, Joseph A. Lewis, was an agent for the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad and wrote many letters to Y Drych, a Welsh newspaper publisher in New York, and it is believed these letters influenced Welsh people from other states to come to Dawn. A letter from R. M. Richardson of Dawn written in the 1900’s to an editor, describe the Welsh as “model farmers” and states it would be an advantage for farmers “from the bare hills of Wales” to come to Missouri to farm. At the end of 1970 there were about eighty-five Welsh families in the Dawn area, a population of 425 in all. Gravestones in the Welsh Cemetery, located southeast of Dawn, name some of the early settlers who were born in Wales and inscriptions in Welsh are engraved on some of the markers.
William Hixon was succeeded in business by George Dancingburg. G. H. Clark from New Hampshire purchased the firm, locating in Dawn in 1865, and was later joined by H. Bushnell, a native of New York. These were small one-story wooden structures, and Bushnell and W. A. Fisher later built two-story brick buildings. Fisher also built “The Fisher House” hotel. Mattingly Brothers of Virginia erected a large steam flouring mill, which was destroyed by fire in May, 1884. The Dawn Creamery Company was organized in January, 1884, with D. W. Lewis as president of the stock company.
At the time of the Clipper’s report in 1886, a partial list of the business directory included: H. Bushnell - dry goods, hardware, clothing, farm implements and harness shop; W. A. Fisher - began drug business and three-story Fisher Hotel managed by David E. Liewellyn; James A. Fisher and A. J. Carr - hardware and groceries; J. J. James - general merchandise and farm implements; Charles B. Reed - drug business; Thomas Griffiths - groceries, queensware, notions; R. L. Patrick - drug and grocery stores; G. H. Clark - livery; Bridge Graham - bus and hack line to Utica; Anna M. Jones - dressmaking; Edward F. Schroeder - saloon; William Stagner barber; and L. E. Tracy - Physician and surgeon.
The public schoolhouse in 1886 was a frame building of two rooms, built by Travilla and Reed, contractors, of Dawn. The primary department was conducted by Miss Frances Barry and the grammar department by Prof. William C. O’Neal at that time.
In 1886 there was only one church building, built by the Presbyterians in 1872, but used by several denominations. Sabbath School, according to the Clipper, “is among the most successful in the country, being attended by all denominations, superintended by E. J. James.”
The Welsh Baptist Church (later the Cambrian Baptist Church) was rural, located a few miles east of Dawn, originating in about 1868. Services were first conducted only in Welsh, later in English and Welsh. The ministry of Rev. T. M. Griffiths began in 1891 and lasted 25 years. The church was shared with the Welsh Methodists and Reverend Hugh X. Hughes served as pastor alternately with Reverend Griffiths.
The Clipper report speaks of a demand for a larger and more suitable building than the schoolhouse for entertainments. A building was erected for this purpose by Bushnell and Elliott in 1884, about 40 by 60 feet in size.
A band was organized in 1879 with J. Drake as leader. Charles B. Reed was leader in 1883 and 1884 and Peter Glick assumed the leadership in 1885. Members of the band in 1886 included Reed, Glick, J. H. Price, James Roberts, Joseph Culver, Ben Owens, Jeff Fouch, Frank Fouch, Frank Elliott and Thomas Snyder, and an instructor, J. E. Hill, “a thorough musician, recently of Yale College.”
W. H. Phillips of Chillicothe wrote a description of Dawn in the late 1920’s in which he mentions the Federated Church and Reverend S. G. Gutensohn, pastor. Records show that the church was established in 1927. The federation was formed by the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational churches. The building used for the church (and still in use) was formerly an “opera house” for traveling Chatauqua programs and other entertainment events.
Phillips also writes about the business firms of the community. Stores were operated by W. L. Warnick, Lowrey and Vanzant, and Mr. and Mrs. B. W. Purcell (Purcell Mercantile Co.). The R. E. Lee Lumber Co. had been functioning for five years, with John Hinkle as manager and J. G. Bridenthal as assistant. The garage of U. G. Shields provided a filling station and a repair department. J. K. Edwards had been postmaster since 1923 and there were four rural routes. Druggist was Dr. F. R. Fullerton, assisted by daughter Ellen, a registered pharmacist. There was a blacksmith shop, harness shop and a restaurant. A gravel pit at the edge of town had recently been acquired by Cooley Gravel Co. Important to the community was the Farmers Produce Exchange, in charge of George A. Evans, and the Dawn Shipping Association, James Baxter, manager.
Orla Creach was principal of the consolidated school, “a handsome building, situated on a rising swell of ground in the southwest part of town.” A. T. Cunningham and A. J. Riedel were running the Community Bank, with deposits running “over $200,000.”
Mrs. Minerva Evans was operating the city “hotel” or boarding house.
At this period in the town’s history, a weekly newspaper, The Reporter, was headed by Albert Cullen, with Miss Pearl Wooden gathering news, (as she did later for many years as correspondent for The Chillicothe Constitution- Tribune.)
The by-laws of the Dawn Community Improvement Association were adopted by the board of directors on December 26, 1957, a non-profit corporation charter having been issued by the Secretary of State on December 2, 1957. The association was the result of concerned and determined planning for some type of organization to assume responsibility for community needs and activities, especially for the youth, after the former Dawn school was consolidated into the Livingston County R-I district. The site of the school was removed to a central location to serve the four towns of Dawn, Ludlow, Mooresville and Utica. It was hoped that some former project of the local PTA could be incorporated into the plans of the new community organization. Purposes stated for the Association were: (1) To advance the economic, social, cultural and citizenship interests of all the people in the Dawn community; (2) To serve as a clearing house and correlating agency to help community organizations develop more effective activities in their respective areas of interest.
In March, 1958, The Missouri Farmer magazine published an article entitled “Dawn Begins New Day,” and in March, 1959 published an article entitled “These Folks Did What They Set Out To Do!” The subject of both was the town of Dawn and its Dawn Community Improvement Association. There was also a write-up, “Dawn is on the Move,” in the Missouri Ruralist for October 25, 1958.
D.C.L.A. sponsored the low-income housing project, the Dawn Retirement Home, Inc., which opened for occupancy in January 1970. It was behind the establishment of Dawn Firefighters, Inc., the rural fire department, to which was added trucks, smoke inhalation equipment, a fire house, first aid equipment, and fire training meetings for its volunteer personnel.
The Dawn community assumed the leadership in working out a plan for a central water system to serve the four-community area of Dawn, Ludlow, Mooresville and Utica. The system went into operation in 1965 and contributed much to the successful implementation of a number of other projects and improvements.
Original D.C.I.A. board members were Donnell Carey, C. J. North, Dale Wood, Melvin Watkins, Reverend James Hazen, Hugh Pat Anderson, Mrs. Jean Jones, Mrs. Virginia Mead, and Mrs. Ethel Evans.
-- Patricia North