Keytesville, the county seat of Chariton County, and a beautiful and substantial city of enterprise, happy homes and cultured people, situated near the central part of the county, 101 miles east of Kansas City and 176 miles northwest of St. Louis, one and one half miles north of the main line of the Wabash railway with street railway connections, was originally laid out in 1839. James KEYTE, an Englisman and a methodist preacher, was the founder of the city, he having purchased the land in 1830, and two years later donated fifty acres to the county, upon which, in 1833-34, the court house and other public buildings were erected. For eleven years prior to 1833, the county seat was located at "Old Chariton", at that time a very promising village in the southern part of the county. The first court house building, however, erected in the county, was built in Keytesville in 1832-33. This was a square shaped brick building, two stories high and contained four rooms, one below and three above, but was destroyed in the war in 1861. The present courthouse, an excellent picture of which is given on page 13, was erected in 1868, at a cost of $75,000 and is 110x62 feet, two stories high. The first circuit court held in Keytesville met July 16, 1833. The first house erected in Keytesville, of which we have any authentic account, was a log cabin built by Mr. Keyte, near the bank of the Muscle Fork in 1841. About or near the same time he erected a similar building in his yard as a business house and post-office. The first house put up after the town was laid out was a log house just east of the courthouse by Thomas GIVENS, a business house conducted by Wm. A. WILSON. W. E. and G. W. HACKLEY, of Howard County, engaged in business there in '32. The first hotel, a double log house, was formally opened August 1, '42 by Issac W. REDDING. James KEYTE built a water-mill upon the present side of the Keytesville Roller Mills, while Peter LASSIN, a Dane, opened a blacksmith shop. At an early day Theodore CHRANE started a pottery. Wm. F. DAVIS, a brother to the late Judge John M. DAVIS, of Brunswick, was the pioneer lawyer, while David PETTIGREW prescribed pills and administered physics to the sick. Among other early settlers of Keytesville, who materially contributed toward the early growth and development of the town in pioneer days, we mention J. R. HORSLY, R. G. BEASLEY, John DOSS, Wm. BREEZE, Wm. R. ALLEN, Josiah PRICE, and Col. Nathan A. GRUBBS.
On February 3, 1868, under an act incorporating towns and villages, Keytesville was incorporated with the following trustees: M. G. HOLCOMB, John GASTON, Andrew MACKEY, Jr., E. M. BURR and F. M. REDBURN. In March 1883, it was incorporated as a city of the fourth class, when the following officers were chosen: J. M. DEMOSS, mayor; O. F. SMITH, clerk and city attorney; John D. BUTLER, treasurer; and John GASTON, marshall. D. B. KELLOGG, D. N. WHEELER, Hugo BARTZ and Richard LOWERY were selected as councilmen.
As the county increased in population and wealth, so has its county seat. To-day Keytesville has upwards of 1100 citizens, the bulk of whom are of high intelligence and thoroughly American in thought and action. Especially favored by nature with an exceptionally fine location, enterprising man has supplemented her efforts by tasteful and harmonious improvements. While Keytesville may possibly lack some of the features that make other towns attractive, it has some charms which are distinctively its own, and which are copyrighted features. It has in the past few years made some important strides forward, and can boast of a class of improvements, that larger towns might well be proud of. One of its characteristics is the large number of shade trees that are planted along the streets, in front of picturesque homes and beautiful gardens fille with choice flowers. The town offers social conditions which are highly desireable. Its public school system, the glory and pride of the city is par excellent. Most of the citizens are sturdy, intelligent people who insist upon the highest possible efficiency in their public school. Various religious denominations are represented by handsome, comfortable churches or meeting placers under the charge of able, earnest Christian ministers. Five fraternal organizations are represented in the city, and are loyally and enthusiastically supported.
It is not an exaggeration to say that in Keytesville are to be found generally such refined and progressive social conditons as are met in the larger and long established communities to the east. As a trading point, its influence is felt and recognized in other towns of the county. The business men are enterprising and progressive, thoroughly alive to the needs of the community. The business houses are nearly all of brick, and will favorably compare to those of the larger cities.
In a "souvenir edition" of the Keytesville Courier, published at Keytesville, Mo., and issued May 29, 1896, we take the following modest statement in reference to Keytesville excellent public school system.
"The glory and pride of this city is its public schools. Its people are nothing if not progressive, and are composed of a highly cultured and refined class, who thoroughly believe in keeping abreast of the age in which they live, not only in a material way, but in the development of the mental and moral natures of the young. In pursuance fo this idea and well knowing that education is the cornerstone of a liberal form of government, as also a foundation for a life of usefulness they have brought their system of public schools up to the point where they are second to those of no other city of its size in the state. The building occupied by the school for the white children is an excellent two-story brick structure above a basement, and is located three blocks east of the business portion of the city, where it is surrounded by commodious grounds of over a block in extent consisting of a smooth grassy lawn, set with a number of trees.
The interior arrangement of this building is particularly fine, and was made with reference to the sanitary condition and convenience of the whole. In the basement is located the furnace which does the heating and ventilating; here also is a full system of dry closets in use which destroys all refuse matter; this, together with the heating and ventilating system, is the most perfect extant, and is the same as that used in many of the largest buildings throughout the United States. The structure contains six class rooms and the neccesary halls and cloak rooms; these class rooms are numbered consecutively from one to six and the course of study included twelve grades, three of which are taken up in High School work. Six teachers are employed, the two highest grades of the high school being in charge of the principal and superintendant, Prof. A. F. WILLIS, who is an educator of many year's experience, and a gentleman, who is in every way competent to fill the responsible position of a teacher. Miss Carrie WILLET has charge of the second intermediate department. Miss Nettie M. MOORE, first intermediate. Miss Willie DAVIS, second primary and Miss Anne GRINSTEAD, first primary, all being teachers of a high class and enthusiastic workers in their chosen profession. Eight month's school is yearly maintained, this being divided into two terms of four months each. The enrollment of pupils for the term just past was 272, and the number is steadily increasing. In fact, the need for two more rooms, at least is beginning to make itself keenly felt, and they will have to be added sooner or later. The building erected in 1889 at a cost of $13,000, and the whole is looked after by a board of directors, six in number. The board at the present writing is composed of Messrs. W. C. GASTON, president; George H. APPLEGATE, vice- president; W. G. AGEE, treasurer; George N. ELLIOTT, clerk; H. R. RICHARDSON, and Capt. J. C. WALLACE, all being well known citizens and business men of Keytesville. Aside from the central school there is a good school of education for the colored children, it having a very competend corps of teachers and being looked after by the same board that has charge of the first mentioned institution. From the foregoing it will be seen that Keytesville has every inducement in the way of educational interests to offer to those who might be looking this way for a permanent location."
Methodism in Chariton county dates from 1817 when one Rev. John SCRIPPS preached at the home of a Mr. CLEMMINS, at the mouth of the Chariton river, this county being at that time a part of Boonslick circuit. In 1836 it was set apart and organized into a circuit, taking the name of Keytesville. The church at Keytesville, however, is supposed to have been organized in 1831, but previous to 1835, the records have been lost. The first building was erected in 1856, but during the war was occupied by soldiers and so badly damaged that it was afterwards sold to the colored organization. The present building, a neat and substantial brick building was erected in 1875 and has since been materially improved. During the past year (1896) Rev. C. K. SHILLING has been in charge as pastor, services being conducted 1st and 3rd Sabbath, morning and evening, of each month.
The Baptist Church of Keytesville was organized in 1848 by Revs. David ANDERSON, Thos. FRISTOE and Fielding WILHITE with Richard LONG and wife, Benjamin CARTER and wife, Robt. ELLIOTT and wife, Thos MCCART and wife, and Alton F. MARTIN as charter members. The first pastor of the organization was Rev. David ANDERSON. Services were then held monthly in a grove near the residence of the late Caswell COURTNEY, 2 1/2 miles north of town, but were afterwards held at the school house, court house and other public buildings of the town until 1857, when the Presbyterian church shared the use of their building with them until the erection of their own edifice in 1882. This building is a nice frame structure and originally cost $2,000. It was dedicated in August '82. by the Rev. W. Pope YEAMAN. Richard LONG was the first clerk of the church and was succeeded by Jackson J. MILLS. "Uncle" Thos J. ELLIOTT, the gentleman to whom we are indepted for these facts, was clerk from 1853 to 1874, while at present C. A. CHAPMAN acts as clerk. The present membership is about 130. Services are held upon the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month, Rev. C. F. D. ARNOLD of Lathrop, Mo., being the pastor in charge.
The Presbyterian church at Keytesville, was organized in 1853, two churches being erected that year, one at Brunswick and the other at Keytesville, but both were under the control of the Brunswick church. Two years later, 1855, the Keytesville church became a separate organization. Among the members were Richard S. HYDE and wife, Wm. JONES and wife, John C. CRAWLEY, J. S. MURPHY, Franklin B. SALISBURY and wife, Wm. STAPLES and wife, M. J. RUCKER, Wm. S. HYDE, Robt. S. HYDE, Martha J. DEWEY, Elizabeth GIRVIN, Margaret J. MILES, Elizabeth M. ALLEN, Harriet N. SALISBURY, and Elizabeth Ann HARVEY. Rev. S. J. M. BEEBEE was the first pastor in charge of the organization, who continued as such until 1863. The present church building is a nice frame structure erected at a cost of $2,400. A present it has a large membership. Services are held on the first Sunday of each month, Rev. J. J. SQUIRES, a very able and talented minister, being the pastor in charge.
The Christian Church of Keytesville, will date its organization from May 1896. Yet at the present time (August '96) the organization has only been partially completed. The deacons of the church selected in May were Messrs. B. H. SMITH, W. D. VAUGHN, Wm. EVANS, J. A. MEYER, Wm. A. TAYLOR, Warner FORD, and J. A. MEYER were chosen as trustees and B. H. SMITH appointed clerk.
A building committee was appointed in May to devise ways and means for the erection of a church building and as a result the means have been provided and the contract awarded for the erection of a very pretty building of modern style, the cost of which upon completion will exceed $2,000. the membership will embrace some 35 to 40 persons, residing in Keytesville and vicinity.
Not unlike other towns of Chariton County, Keytesville enjoys the influence of a number of Fraternal organizations that have proven of incalculable benefit in the social and moral development of the community. The first fraternal organization instituted in Keytesville was that of Warren Lodge No. 74, A. F. & A. M., established in January 1845, with seven charter members, charter bearing date of October 20, 1845. Since its organization this order has steadily grown in strength and usefulness, commensurate with that of the town. The present membership is 68. Regular meetins are held in their own hall on Saturday evening preceding the full moon of each month. Officers for 1896 are as follows: O. B. ANDERSON, Worshipful Master; B. H. SMITH, Senior Warden; O. L. DINES, Junior Warden; M. W. ANDERSON, Secretary; A. F. TOOLEY, Treasurer; O. P. RAY, Senior Deacon; James E. DEMPSEY, Junior Deacon; M. L. FINNELL, Tyler.
Chariton Lodge No. 177, A. O. U. W., the second oldest organization, was instituted with 13 charter members January 5th 1880. This has been a very active and sucessfull order, one that has proven of substantial benefit to Keytesville and vicinity. The present membership numbers thirty-eight. Regular meetings are held on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday evening of each month in the hall of ANDERSON & AGEE, one of the largest and finest lodge rooms in the county. Present officers are as follows: Past Master Workman, H. H. MILLER, Master Workman, John CHIVERS; Foreman, Charlie SCHELL; Overseer, Geo. N. ELLIOTT; Recorder, R. H. TISDALE; Reciever, M. W. ANDERSON; Financier, J. C. RUCKER; Guide, Ed WALTERS; Inside watchman, John CARROLL; Outside watchman, R. P. TRENT; Medical Examiners, Drs. H. T. GARNETT and S. W. DOWNING.
Keytesville Legion Select Knights, A. O. U. W., No 29 was organized with 26 charter members, being instituted and first regular meeting held July 14, 1882.
Launcelot Lodge No. 245, Knights of Pythias, was instituted June 30, 1892, with twenty-three charter members, and has had a highly satisfactory growth. The present membership embraces the names of 44 loyal, enthusiastic members, who in their daily avocations of life endeavor to exemplify the friendship, so beautifully manifested by Damon for his friend Pythias, who was condemned to deat by Dionysius, the Tyrant of Syracuse. Regular meetings are held every friday evening. Present officers are as follows: Past Chancellor Commander, J. A. COLLETT; Chancellor Commander, H. H. MILLER; Vice Chancellor, D. B. KELLOGG; Prelate; C. P. VANDIVER; Keeper of Records and seal, H. C. MINTER; Master of Exchequer, J. M. MASON; Master of Finance, B. H. SMITH; Master-at-Arms, J. W. ROBERTSON; Inner Guard, Clyde SMITH; Outer Guard, Henry FORREST.
Keytesville Lodge No. 227, I. O. O. F., was organized March 23, 1893, with twenty-three charter members, but has now increased until the roll contains the names of fifty-five members. Its growth, numerically and financially, has been very gratifying to the most enthusiastic supporter of the order, while the work accomplished has had a telling effect upon the community. Regular meetings are held upon the Monday evening of each week at the hall of ANDERSON & AGEE. Officers for 1896 are as follows: L. B. THRASH, Noble Grand; O. P. RAY, Vice Grand; F. M. VEACH, Secretary, and W. M. ANDERSON, treasurer.
Keytesville Tent, No. 83, Knights of the Maccabees, was organized in May 1894, with 40 charter members, but owing to removals and withdrawls, the present membership is 33. Regular meetings are held in the hall of ANDERSON & AGEE on the 1st and 3rd Thursday evenings of each month. Officers of '96 as follows: O. B. ANDERSON, past Sir Knight Commander; F. M. VEACH, Sir Knight Commander; J. M. MASON, Lieut. Commander; G. H. APPLEGATE, Record Keeper, H. C. MILLER, Finance keeper, H. P. EASTWOOD, Chaplain; B. H. SMITH, Sergeant; H. M. SIGLOCH, Master- at-Arms; Joe HELD, 1st Guard; Charles A. FRIESZ, 2nd Guard; and L. A. EMBREE, Picket.