Transcribed by Nalora Burns
Chariton, the best county, in the best state of the Union, embracing an area of 740 Square miles and containing 466,891 acres of land valued according to the last assessment as $3,846,093, was organized November 16, 1820, being a part of the territory then embraced by the boundary of Howard county, thus almost four score years have come and gone since this, one of the oldest and fairest daughters of the mother country came into existence; and the events and changes, discoveries and inventions that have taken place within this period have indeed been many. At the time of the organization of Chariton County, all that territory now embraced in the counties of Linn, Sullivan, Putnam and a part of Adair and Schuyler were embraced by its bounderies. The county seat was established at the town of Chariton, situaged in the southern part of the county near the mouth of the two rivers of the same name, which streams were called after some early French traders who had a fur agency at this point. These men are supposed to have been the first white persons to press the soil of Chariton county. Just when they made their settlement is unknown, but it is certain they were here as early as 1804.
The earliest permanent settler of the county of whom we have any account was one George JACKSON, who located in the southern part of the county, near the Missouri river, in 1812, and who afterwards represented the county in the General Assembly. The next settlement was made on Yellow Creek, north of Brunswick, by John HUTCHINSON, and sons and their families, about 1816, though the exact date of this settlement is controverted.
In 1818 the Missouri river bottom, west of the Grand Chariton river was settled by James EARICKSON, afterwards Senator and State Treasurer, his son-in-law Galton TURNER, Archibald HIX, Samuel WILLIAMS, Col. John M. BELL, John MORSE, Henry LEWIS, Richard WOODSON, John DOXEY, and others settled the county as far north as Bowling Green prairie.
About the same time settlements were made in the forks of the Chariton by Joseph VANCE, Colonel Hiram CRAIG, Abraham LOCK, Nathaniel BUTLER, Thomas WATSON, Peterson PARKS, Robert HAYS, Samuel BURCH, Samuel DINSMORE James HERYFORD, James RYAN and Albert FINNELL. Durin the same year Major Daniel ASHBY, Abram SPORTSMAN, Alexander TRENT, John HARRIS, John SPORTSMAN, and Edward B. CABELL made a settlement on the Bluffs, and John TOOLEY, Samuel FOREST, Joseph MADOX and Thomas ANDERSON settled Chariton township.
Thomas STANLEY, a noted hunter and trapper, who dwelt in a huge sycamore log, and spent much of his time in the woods among the streams, was the original pioneer settler on the bandks of the Grand River. With wild food as his subsistence and a sycamore splinter dipped in raccoon oil for light, STANLEY spent his long winter evening perusing the current literature of the day happy and contented, perhaps as a prince.
While the list given above does not include all the pioneer settlers and the places they settled in the then Chariton county, yet there were many among the pioneers who penetrated the "Western Wilds" and settled amid the savage Indians and dangerous beasts, and suffered hardships of frontier life while carving out comfortable homes for themselves, their wives and children. Many were the hardships they endured. Besides the encounters with the Indians, the dangers, feat and dread of that race, which they had constantly to endure, they were without roads, bridges, mills, blacksmith shops and many other thing so essentially neccessary to the welfare and convenience of a community. Yet, withal, they lived happily, save the fear and dread of the Indians. Every settler owned one gun and one dog, at least. These were considered indispensible, for without them the wild beasts would have invaded the yards and houses of these pioneers. Each raised a patch of flax, a patch of cotton and a little corn, as these were deemed necessaries. They manufactured all their own clothes out of skins of wild animals and out of flax and cotton. The old fashioned loom and the big and little spinning wheels were common furniture in most of the houses. These machines manufactured by the men and the women knew how to use them. In winter men wore fox-skin caps and straw hats in summer. Shoes were made of buckskin tops and rawhide soles and were called shoe packs of moccasins. The women wore home-made cotton goods and much rivalry existed in those days between the ladies in regard to getting up new and beautiful pattersn of checked and striped cotton dress goods. Sugar, in those days, was made at home out of the sap of sugar or maple trees, while coffee, beign a foreign article, was so costly that it was a luxury these pioneer settlers could not afford. Venison, bear meat, wild turkeys and wild honey abounded in great abundance and those who had cows to produce milk really lived in "a land flowing with milk and honey." Bee trees filled with honey could be found everywhere, and the honey cost only the labor to get it. Wild game was so abundant that the early settlers kept their families well supplied with it. With these meats, wild honey, wild fruits, and plenty of "hoe cakes" the pioneer housewife could set a table "good enough for a king."
In 1820 the tide of migration was directed towards Chariton county and immigrants from the tobacco regions of Kentucky and Virginia came pouring in and other settlements rapidly followed. Farms were opened, mills and manufacturing establishments erected and the settlement of the county commenced in reality. Finding the soil and climate both well adapted to the grown of tobacco, it soon became the staple product and in fact still holds an important position in agriculture. At that date transportation facilities were very crude and simple, being carried on by wagons, keel or flat boats. In navigating the Missouri river on their return trips these rudely constucted boats would have to be cordelled up stream. Due to the swiftness of the current and innumerable snags, it was then thought that the river could never be navigated. The fallacy of this argument was soon after proven by the successful trip of a steamboat to this point.
Chariton was laid out in the Spring of 1817 by Duff GREEN, one of the most prominent and distinguished citizens of the State, who afterwards acquired a national reputation as a politician, and as editor of the "United States Telegraph", at Washington; Governmental printer, and later as editor of a journal published at New York, called the "Republic." He was born in Georgia about 1794 and died at Dalton, of that state, June 9, 1875.
VISITED BY JOHN M. PECK D. D.
In January of 1819, John M. PECK, D. D., visited Chariton, the guest of General Duff GREEN, and in speaking of his visit in his memoirs, said the town at that time contained about thirty families, a number of whom were very respectable and intelligent, and several unquestionably pious. On January 3rd, he preached at the 12 o'clock and again at night. At the latter service he suggested the formation of a Female Mite Society, to assist in spreading the Gospel. The following week an organization was effected with 22 members, who subscribed $36. The first Sunday School west of St. Louis was commenced at this place in the following spring.
OUTRIVALED ST. LOUIS
In 1820, Chariton was a very promising city. A historian of the county in speaking of the town says: "Everybody had high hopes of Chariton being a great city, it sprang up as all western towns, by magic; the people being intelligent and enterprising, it soon looked on as one of the to be "future great" cities of the state. Persons owning lots in St. Louis exchanged them for lots in the city in the forest. Alas, however, for human expectations, St. Louis is the "future great" and the city of Chariton is one of the things of the past" At one time the town had a population of 1,200 people.
EARLY BUSINESS MEN
Among the early business men of Chariton were the firms of John ROSS & Co. (Composed of John ROSS, William GLASGOW, and John CULL); General Duff GREEN and Stephen DONAHOE. Captain WHITE opened the first saloon. Joseph BREWER was a manufacturer of hats and Frederick BEANBRICK, at that time the only German settler of the county, was the taylor. Lewis GREEN, a slave, who at the time was the property of John MOORE, was the blacksmith. The first hotels were kept by Issac CAMPBELL and Robertson MOORE. James SAMPLE, afterwards a United States Senator from Illinois, and a brother- in-law of Duff GREEN, and GREEN himself were the pioneer lawyers. James KEYTES, afterwards the founder of Keytesville, administered to the spiritual wants of the people as a methodist preacher. Doctors John HOLMAN, John BULL, (afterwards a member of congress from Missouri) and Willis GREEN, (a brother of Duff GREEN) were the pioneer physicians. In 1820 a "Loan Office Bank" with Colonel Henry F. WILLIAMS as manager and cashier, was established at Chariton, but collapsed in 1822, occasioning some little excitement among those pucuniary interested in it.
A WOMAN PREACHER
At a very early day Chariton had two schools, one taught by a Baptist minister by the name of Ebenezer RODGERS, and the other by a gentleman by the name of John BROWNJOHN. In 1824 a woman came to Chariton and wanted to preach to people, but the idea of a woman preaching at that day and place was so far in advance of public favor, that the people thought her mind was unbalanced and advised her to leave.
FIRST STEAM MILL
The first steam mill put up in the county was erected near Old Chariton in 1820 by a man named FINDLY; but was destroyed by fire during the winter of 1823-24, entailing a great misfortune to the people of that locality.
A THING OF THE PAST
In 1825, the fortunes of the little town so auspiciously begun in the wilderness, began to wane, due to the Chariton river overflowing its banks and the unhealthy climate conditions that followed. By 1840 the town was entirely abandoned, since when the once thriving and ambitious little city has existed only in the imagination.
EARLY MAIL FACILITIES
Prior to 1833 there were no mails north of the Missouri River, west of "Old Chariton". In that year, however, arrangements were made for carrying the mail from Chariton to Liberty, in Clay County, a distance of one hundred and thirty miles by the route traveled, it requiring sice days to make the round trip. A son of James WILSON was the first person to carry the mail, but was soon succeeded by Charles MANN. In October of 1833, the late Judge John M. DAVIS, of Brunswick, who was then a youth of 15 years, took charge of the mail and performed its duties for three months, his compensation being $9 per month and his board and expenses, he furnishing his own horse.
Tobacco Growing in Chariton County virtually dates back from 1833, when Judge John M. FEAZLE, of Virginia, came to Chariton and posted written notices throughout the town promising to purchase all tobacco the farmers could raise for three years at $2.50 per hundred. Very little tobacco had previously been grown in the county, but since that date Chariton has been one of the banner tobacco growing counties of the State.
The first circuit court ever held in the county met in the town of Chariton, February 26, 1821, and was presided over by Circuit Judge David TODD. Edward B. CABELL recieved the appointment of Clerk and John MOORE that of Sheriff. The first trial by jury was a case entitled "John GAITHER et al., vs. Uriah F. HEUFFMAN," a civil action appealed from a Justice of the Peace court. The jury failed to agree and were discharged. The grand jury empanelled at this term of court were composed of the following gentlemen: Henry LEWIS, James HERYFORD, Samuel DINSMORE, Able LEE, Absalom MCDANIEL, Samuel FOREST, William CRAWFORD, Isham DOUGLASS, James MCKOWN, Lewis WHITE, John GAITHER, Joseph BREWER, Leonard BRASSFIELD, Abram LOCK, Samuel WATSON, William JONES, Nathaniel BUTLER, Archibald HIX, Benjamin CROSS, Abner CHAPEL, Banks THORNTON, Robertson DANIEL, and Charles HARRINGTON. Court met again June 25, 1821. All of the gentlemen metioned above have long since departed to the great unknown, Nathaniel BUTLER being the last survivor, who died in 1868 at the age of 74 years. Major Daniel ASHBY, James EARICKSON and J. M. BELL composed the first county court organized. Major ASHBY was a prominent personage in the settlement of the county and was honored with a number of positions of distinction and trust. He lived to a ripe old age and his memory is kindly cherished by many now living.
The second term of court met June 25, 1821, and a grand jury impanelled with Daniel ASHBY as foreman. The first state case was "The State of Missouri against Seth BOTHS and John MOORE." After the finding of two other indictments the grand jury was discharged.
The third term of court met in October, 1821, and continued two days, where two or three criminal cases and a number of civil cases were disposed of. At this term of court a license to practice law were granted Henry T. WILLIAMS, Peyton R. HAYDEN and Abiel LEONARD.
After a space of about eleven years the county seat was moved to Keytesville, where the first court house in the county was erected.
Below we give the names and dates of some of the earliest marriages that occurred in the county. Among those given no doubt some of our readers will recognize the names of their ancestors.
January 13, 1820, occurred the marriage of John MONTGOMERY and Elenor MOORE, J. M. FOWLER, a Justice of the Peace, officiating. Mr. FOWLER also officiated at the marriage of Absalom MCDANIEL and Polly WOLFSCALE, October 12, 1820.
Samuel GIBBS and Mary BARNES were made one on the 23rd day of July, 1821, by Will W. MONROE, also a Justice of the Peace in and for the County of Chariton.
James SLAYTOR and Mary MCDANIEL were married August 2, 1821, by Martin MORGAN, another Justice of the Peace.
On the 13th day of August, 1821, the rites of Matrimony between William FLEETWOOD and Patsy ASHBY were duly celebrated by James EARICKSON, J. P.
Josiah SHOCKLEY and Nancy CLARK were married October 11, 1821, the ceremony being performed by Henry LEWIS.
George BURKHARTT performed the ceremony on the 3rd day of March, 1822, that joined in the holy bonds of wedlock, John COOLEY and Polly KITCHENS.
Martin LEARY and Matilda KIRBY were
married December 16, 1821, the ceremony being solemnized by Charles HARRYMAN,
a minister of the Gospel.
Return to Chariton County Home Page