Historic timeline: Part 2
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  Courthouse Courthouse Greene County Historical Society    
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Greene County
Historical Society
P.O. Box 3466 GS
Springfield, MO 65808

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updated on
January 4, 2011


A Historic Timeline [Continued]....

This page covers 1850 to 1879. To return to the first part of the timeline, click here.

1850 - 1859



The 1850 census gave Greene County a population of 12,785 and Springfield about 500.

The August 1850 election was the most exciting in the history of the nation, according to historian, Return Holcombe. There was the question of California's admission to statehood with a constitution prohibiting slavery along with other bills in Congress relating to fugitive slaves. In Missouri the Democratic party was split between the Thomas Hart Benton Democrats and the anti-Benton Democrats. The Whig party constituted the third party. The county went for the Benton Democrats. Nationwide, Zachary Taylor (Whig) was elected president but died in office and was succeeded by Millard Fillmore in July.

The California gold fever was still going strong with men from Greene County joining the caravan.



On October 4, Benton and anti-Benton Democrats met to resolve their differences and present a united front to the Whigs. The truce was characterized as a "hollow truce" as it only lasted for two years.

The Greene County Court ordered that dram shop (liquor store) licenses be suspended for a year. This was due to a perception of excessive drunkenness on the part of some and also as the results of the efforts of the Sons of Temperance.

  1852 On January 5, the anti-dram shop order of the previous year was repealed over the protest of the temperance people and to the delight of the anti-prohibitionists. In the face of continued discontent, the rescinding and reinstatement of the order continued for a time with the anti-prohibitionists finally coming out the winner.

The First Baptist Church was organized in July by B. McCord Roberts and composed of members of the Liberty Baptist Church. The first meeting place was a brick structure on Olive Street.

In August, Sterling Price was elected Governor on the Democrat ticket. There was also a Presidential election with Franklin Pierce the Democratic candidate and Winfield Scott the Whig nominee. Greene County favored Pierce over Scott with Pierce being elected nationwide.

On May 28, John Polk Campbell died at Oil Springs, Texas.

  1853 The Southwestern Flag newspaper was succeeded by the Lancet, a supporter of the Benton faction.
  1854 In the 1854 election, Congressman John S. Phelps switched his politics and ran as an anti-Benton Democrat. Phelps was reelected.
  1855 On May 3, the first number of the Springfield Mirror, a Know Nothing party newspaper, was issued by J. W. Boren. The Know Nothing party was the successor to the Whig party.

A County poorhouse was authorized in July. It was to be located on 200 acres of the James Douglass farm.

In September, a tax was levied for payment of $20,000, the amount of the first installment of the county's subscription for the Southwest Branch of the Pacific Railroad heading toward Springfield in its construction.

Citizens of Springfield and Greene County were provided some diversion in November when the 2nd US Cavalry passed through on their way from Jefferson Barracks to the Utah Territory to help quell the Mormons.

  1856 Farmer Township, later changed to Center, was established in April.

Springfield's population reached 721.

The August election of 1856 was both a Presidential and Gubernatorial election as well as a Congressional election. Two presidential parties nominated candidates. The Democratic Party, headed by James Buchanan and John C. Breckenridge, and the Know Nothing, headed by Millard Fillmore and Andrew Jackson. The Republican party ran its first ticket with John C. Fremont the presidential candidate. In Greene County there were only the Democratic and Know Nothing party candidates. The Democratic party carried Greene County, as well as the nation.

On September 1, pro-slavery men of Greene County organized to provide assistance to the pro-slavery element in Kansas who were determined that when Kansas became a state, it would be open to slavery.

In October, the first Greene County fair was held on the grounds of the Southwest Missouri District Fair Association about a mile and one half west of Springfield. Marcus Boyd was chairman of the Association.

Note was made of the new advertisements that began appearing in the Mirror in contrast to the plain and simple ads in previous years.

That fall a daily mail line was established between Springfield and Jefferson City.

  1857 In June, the two private female schools, Carlton College and the Springfield Female High School, held examinations. On August 21 the Springfield Male Academy held examinations.

October 3-6 marked the second annual Southwest Missouri Agricultural and Mechanical Association fair.

On November 18, the first number of the Weekly Missouri Tribune was issued by John M. Richardson. It survived only one year.

  1858 The Thespian Society gave a series of programs at the Temperance Hall that winter.

On July 4, the Presbyterian church in Springfield was dedicated.

By September, Springfield had two male and five female academies besides two music schools.

Also during this month Springfield instituted a curfew to control "loitering or wandering about" at unusual hours.

The first westbound Butterfield Overland Stage headed for California passed through Springfield on September 17 amid a tremendous celebration.

The third annual Southwestern Association fair held. A new attraction was added in which young men competed in a tilting match on horseback with a suspended ring. The winner would receive a gold chain and cross which he would subsequently present to a young woman of his choice as "queen of beauty". J.A. Foster won the match and presented the prize to Mattie C. Nevill.

On October 4, the county appropriated $3,000 to purchase the land from Charles Sheppard and J. B. Kimbrough as the site for a new courthouse. The same day $40,000 was appropriated for the construction costs that would include a new jail. Josiah Leedy was awarded the contract for the construction.

On October 22, the stage passed through Springfield on its return trip from San Francisco.

At the end of 1858, the population of Springfield was about 1,200. There were 16 mercantile houses, 2 drug stores, 1 cabinet shop, 1 furniture store, 7 blacksmith shops, 2 tin shops, 2 saddle and harness shops, 3 hotels, 3 wagon shops, 3 jewelry stores, 2 printing offices (the Mirror and Advertiser), 3 churches, 5 schools, 10 lawyers, 5 doctors, 4 clergymen, 4 lodges (Masons, Odd Fellows, Sons of Temperance, and Good Templars), 3 tailor shops, 2 milliners, 1 daguerrean gallery, 1 carding machine, 1 gunsmith shop, 3 butcher shops, 1 hatters, 3 confectionery stores, 1 livery stable, 3 boot & shoe shops, 1 dentist, a land office, a bank, 20 carpenters, 1 house & sign painter, 2 brick masons, and 1 saloon.

  1859 On January 5, a military company was organized. Their uniform consisted of a blue frock-coat, light blue pants, a cloth cap with plume.

Bids were taken in February for a two-story brick college building on the southwest corner of Campbell and State on a lot opposite the old cemetery.

In the spring Christian County was formed from Greene County.

In April, three new townships organized, Pond Creek, Wilson and Clay.

1860 - 1869



April 3 - Springfield was placed in telegraphic communication with the rest of the world when telegraph wires were strung linking Springfield with Bolivar and Jefferson City. The line was afterward extended to Fayetteville and Ft. Smith, Arkansas.

April 23 - The Democratic National Convention was held at Charleston, SC. The party split. The Regular Democrat candidate for President was Stephen A. Douglas. The Southern States Rights candidate was John C. Breckenridge. The Republican candidate was Abraham Lincoln. The Constitutional Union party candidate was John Bell. Statewide for governor, the Regular Democrat candidate was Claiborne Fox Jackson. The Southern candidate was Hancock Jackson. The Republican candidate was J. B. Gardenhire and the Union candidate was Sample Orr. This was the first time the Republican Party had a state organization listed on the ballot.

November - Abraham Lincoln elected President. In Missouri, Claiborne Jackson was elected governor. Greene County favored the Union Party and Bell. Lincoln received only 42 votes.

December 20 - South Carolina secedes from the Union. Six more states follow in January.

December 31 - The Missouri General Assembly convened in Jefferson City and the new governor was inaugurated. One of his first acts was to recommend the calling of a state convention to ascertain Missouri's position in regard to secession.



April 1 - Three rooms in the new Greene County Court House were completed and the clerks of county, circuit and probate moved into their offices.

August 10 - The Battle of Wilson's Creek was the first major Civil War engagement west of the Mississippi River, involving about 5,400 Union troops and 12,000 Confederates. Although a Confederate victory, the Southerners failed to capitalize on their success.

November - Abraham Lincoln elected President. In Missouri, Claiborne Jackson was elected governor. Greene County favored the Union Party and Bell. Lincoln received only 42 votes.

December 20 - South Carolina secedes from the Union. Six more states follow in January.

December 31 - The Missouri General Assembly convened in Jefferson City and the new governor was inaugurated. One of his first acts was to recommend the calling of a state Convention to ascertain Missouri's position in regard to secession.

  1862 February 12 - Price is forced to evacuate Springfield upon the approach of Union forces under command of Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis. Price's retreat and the pursuit of Curtis is extended into northwest Arkansas and culminates in the Battle of Pea Ridge, March 7-8. Springfield is once again occupied by Union forces.

March 27 - County Court and Judicial functions resume in Greene County after months of inactivity, uncertainty and confusion.

April 1 - Greene County farmers began their spring planting, assured that they would be protected by the presence of the Federal army occupying Springfield. Large amounts of military stores began to be concentrated in Springfield as it became a base of operations and supply for the Union forces in southwest Missouri.

July 22 - Organization of the Enrolled Missouri Militia, a force designed to control guerilla activities that were causing problems in the State. The 72 and 74 EMM were composed mainly of Greene County men.

Late Summer - Construction begins on the fortification of Springfield which involved the construction of five forts at strategic locations around Springfield to protect the large stores of government property. Only four of the forts were actually completed.

November 4 - The major issue of this election was emancipation in Missouri. The emancipationists favored gradual emancipation of slaves and compensation made to loyal owners. The anti-emancipationists, of course, were opposed. In the election, Congressman Phelps, an anti-emancipationists, was defeated by Col. S. H. Boyd, the emancipationists candidate.

  1863 January 7-8 - Battle of Springfield. An attack by Confederate General John Marmaduke in an attempt to capture the city of Springfield and its military stores. The attack was repulsed and Springfield spared from capture by the Confederate forces.

Quoting Return Holcombe in his 1883 History of Greene County,

"Among all of the Federal military commanders at Springfield, Gen. John B. Sanborn seems now to be most kindly remembered. His administration of affairs was at a most critical period, in 1864-1865, when the passions of men were most violently inflamed by the war, and they were the most difficult of control. The soldiery had become accustomed to scenes of violence and disorder, and the citizens were as hard to manage as the soldiers. Some loyalists were fanatical, some secessionists were desperate. Oftentimes the general was assailed by extreme radical Union men for his protection of the persons and property of 'rebels' from those who wished to 'vex the Midianites,' to spoil and spare them not, and again the Confederate partisans would denounce him for his unrelenting pursuit of bushwhackers, who were rendering so much property insecure, and so many lives unsafe. But Gen. Sanborn kept steadily on his course of repressing and repelling the violent of both factions, of protecting the good and punishing the bad, and with a wise conservatism so managed affairs that at last all but the most disreputable endorsed him."

September 25 - The Missouri Patriot was established in Springfield, edited by A. F. Ingram and Republican in politics. It succeeded the Missourian.

November - In the November election every township in the county went Republican for Lincoln. S. H. Boyd was returned to Congress, defeating John R. Kelso.

  1865 January 21 - The Radicals hold large meeting in Springfield to celebrate the passage of the emancipation ordinance by the State Convention on January 11.

March - a census of the county showed the population to be 13,899, an increase of 713 in five years.

April 9 - The surrender at Appomattox. Springfield celebrates the next day with a 200 gun salute from the forts.

May 13 - Kirby Smith's Trans-Mississippi Army, except a portion of Shelby's Brigade, surrender to Canby. Gen. Price, Shelby and other Confederate Missourians, about 500 in all, go to Mexico. Soon ex-Confederate soldiers begin returning home.

April 14 - The death of President Lincoln.

April 18 - The adoption of the Drake Constitution to be presented to voters on June 6. Anyone who had participated in or voluntarily aided or encouraged the rebellion, was disbarred from voting, holding office, or practicing their profession. The new Constitution was adopted by voters by only a 1,862 majority.

November 23 - The last of the Federal soldiers stationed in Greene County left for their homes.

October 17 - An Orphan's Fair at the Court House was held by the Orphan's Home Association to raise funds for the relief of the orphans of soldiers.

  1866 May - The "Regulators", a vigilante group headquartered at Walnut Grove, began terrorizing the county.

November - This election was unique in that all those who had been disloyal to the United States in any way were not allowed to vote. The contending parties were the new Democrats, represented by John Phelps, who favored a restoration of the seceding states, and the Republicans, also called Radicals, because they favored a more harsh, vindictive treatment of former rebels. Greene County overwhelmingly favored the Republican candidates.

  1867 April 4 - The first issue of the Springfield Leader, a Democratic paper, came out.

July 10 - The establishment of the National Cemetery.

  1868 Population of Greene County reached 12,792.

February 22 - A Republican Club was formed at Springfield with James Abbott, president.

May - Decoration Day was held in Springfield for the first time. S.H. Boyd delivered a speech.

July 4 - Ground was broken and work began on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad.

July 27 - S.H. Boyd was chosen by the Republican Congressional Convention for the district over Col. J.J. Gravelly and John R. Kelso.

August 17 - The Greene County Horticultural Society was organized with C. F. Levitt, president.

August 22 - A ratification meeting was held when news reached Springfield that Grant and Colfax had been nominated. A "Grant and Colfax pole" 145 feet in length was raised in the center of the public square.

November - The first presidential election since the war. The Republicans nominated Ulysses Grant and the Democrats, Seymour. The Republicans won, as would be expected with the southerners, who would ordinarily vote Democrat, not voting.

  1869 February - Five Sunday Schools were organized by Rev. W.J. Haydon.

September 17-18 - The first fair of the Greene County Horticultural Society was held.

November 27 - An organizational meeting was held for the purpose of establishing a Confederate Burial Association. The organization was to be responsible for the removal of the remains of dead Confederate soldiers in and around Springfield to a permanent cemetery. Land was purchased adjoining the Federal Cemetery on the north and Hazelwood Cemetery on the south. There were 501 interments, of which 238 were from Wilson's Creek and most were unknown.

1870 - 1879



February 2 - The town of Ash Grove incorporated.

April 21 - The completion of the Southwest branch of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad to Springfield. Later known as the St. Louis-San Francisco and still later the Frisco. Blacks celebrate the ratification of the 15th Amendment with a mass meeting and parade.

May 3 - The grand opening of the new railroad. Due to the influence of land speculators, the depot was located a mile north of Springfield. Dignitaries and others involved in the ceremonies had to be transported by carriage to the Public Square where the ceremonies were to take place. A rainstorm necessitated a move to the City Hall. Later that evening a ball was held at the City Hall. By May 19, trains were running on regular schedule.

June - The first black jury ever sworn and impaneled in Greene County was convened.

July 4 - The incorporation of the town of North Springfield where the depot was located. A street railway system connected the two towns, the town of Springfield becoming known as "Old Town." The east-west street separating the two towns was called Division.

July 25 - The Republican Congressional Convention met in Springfield. The 1870 contest was most heated between two wings of the Republican Party, the Radicals and the Liberals. The question was over universal amnesty and enfranchisement and repeal of the Missouri ironclad oath. These were questions involving the destiny of those who had supported the recent rebellion.

August 22 - The Republican County Convention met to select delegates to the State convention. Dissent was so intense that an agreement was impossible. The selection was left to a primary election in September.

September 26 - Liberal Republicans held their County Convention. Meanwhile the Democrats remained silent, hoping to benefit from the Republican split by attracting Liberal Republicans.

November - The Republicans surrendered their dominance in state politics to the Democrats thanks to the split in the Republican ranks. The constitutional amendments relating to abolishing loyalty oaths and similar issues carried.



January - The first permanent school building opened. It was located on the northwest corner of Olive and Jefferson.

September 7 - Metropolitan Hotel on College street was opened with a banquet and ball.

The Public Square at this time was still dirt and/or mud depending upon the weather. A wooden bell tower was erected to sound a fire alarm. The bell in the tower weighed 1000 pounds.

  1872 March 1 - The Springfield Wagon Company was organized with S.H. Boyd elected president of the company.

November - In the presidential election voting was once again extended to all eligible voters, both North and South. Greene County voters favored Grant, the Republican, over Greeley, the Democrat.


May 30 - Dedication of the Bailey monument at the National Cemetery. The monument honoring the Union soldiers killed in the Battle of Springfield was provided for in the will of Dr. T. J. Bailey.

June 23 - The Springfield Grange, first Grange in Southwest Missouri, was organized.

July 28 - Drury College opened in Springfield with 30 students and 3 instructors. The college was operated by the Congregational Church.

  1874 The 1874 election was a contest between the Democrats and the People's party, or Reform party. Democrats coined the term "Tadpole party" to describe some of their members, because they"were old Democrats gradually changing to Republicans," as a tadpole changes into a frog.

August 26 - The Democratic convention was held and nominated Charles H. Hardin for Governor.

September 3 - The People's party held their convention and nominated William Gentry for governor.

November - In the November election, Greene County favored the People's party candidate for governor. Statewide, the Democrat, Hardin, was elected.

  1875 Jonathan Fairbanks begins a 37-year term as Springfield Public Schools Superintendent.
  1876 July 4 - A Centennial celebration was held at Drury College.

July 22 - John S. Phelps is given an enthusiastic welcome home from the Democratic State Convention, complete with a parade from the Frisco Depot to "old town," where he had been chosen as the Democratic nominee for Governor. Phelps was subsequently elected.

November - The first Greenback candidates appeared on the ballot.

  1878 May 20 - The first regular train service on the Springfield & Western Missouri railroad began. For the first few years the train only ran as far as Ash Grove.
  1879 June 1 -The Springfield & Western Missouri railroad was transferred to the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf Railroad, assuring Springfield of rail access to Kansas City and the Gulf.

This information was researched by members of the Founders Park Research Committee and others including Jean Gaffga Rayl, Jean Fulbright, Mabel Carver Taylor, Charles Sheppard, Rex Edmonson, Leo Huff, and Hayward Barnett.

Research sources include: History of Greene County Missouri, 1883, by Return Holcombe, St. Louis Western Historical Company; Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri by Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck, A. W. Brown & Company, 1915; History and Directory of Springfield and North Springfield, Missouri, 1878; Edward M. Shepard, Missouri Historical Review, 1929; Historical Atlas of the United States, National Geographic Society, 1993; Selected Articles, Springfield Leader, Springfield News-Leader, Springfield Daily News, Springfield News-Leader & Press.


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