Clinton Co. Historical Society
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John Livingston: a brief biography
[based on writings of Carrie Polk Johnston]
The arrival of a baby on this vertiginous globe called Earth is a trivial local incident except to the idolizing parents. Yet a baby may be one of those trifles, "tremendous trifles," as Gilbert Chesterton observed, destined to exert a special creative influence. John Livingston, a red-headed baby was born in 1800, and the effect of this feeble infant's birth was, thirty years later, Plattsburg, Missouri.
The chain of cause and effect is infinite, and one might trace the genesis of Plattsburg, Missouri back to the occasion of George Schmidt's stepping from a boat upon American soil.
George Schmidt immigrates to America
George Schmidt, an only
child, came with his parents from Germany about the year 1735, and settled near the head
waters of the James river. His parents died when he was young. A Col. Buchanan
took George to his home in Botetourt county, VA. George changed his name to
Smith. He married a sprightly Irish girl, Rebecca Bowen.
They were industrious and prospered until the war with England began. Leaving his
wife and children he shouldered his musket and went to do his part. Early in 1784,
George, his wife, Rebecca, and eight children migrated to Holston Valley,
Tennessee. Later, they moved into Powell's Valley, Kentucky, which was 100 miles
from Vaughn's Mill. After their supplies were exhausted they lived for some time on
berries and milk. The whole family had not come, only George and the two oldest
boys. At this time the family consisted of eight sons and five daughters. One
of the sons, Elder "Raccoon" John Smith, became well known as a
preacher throughout Kentucky and Missouri. One sister of Elder John Smith's was Mary,
and her name came by word of mouth down the generations of her family. Mary married Thomas
Livingston and the son that came was John Livingston.
imagined. She knew the lore of the woods, the sounds of the clearing, and the drudgery of the large family with the tools of primitive furnishings. Labor-saving gadgets were hidden in the realm of the uninvented. Buttons, for instance, were carved out of hickory sticks or bones and were sewn on homespun. There were no "pink and blue" showers for expected babies, and a homespun infant blanket was a treasure. I saw one years ago. The discussion of expected babies was strictly verboten, although the coming event was occasionally mentioned in sly whispers across the frames of a quilting bee, or at a carpet rag tacking. There was no Hollywood to influence the naming of the new comers and no lovely announcement cards for the thirteen babies of George and Rebecca Smith. Probably they rated "nothing ever happens around here."
(Mrs. Johnston's article states that Mary's husband, Thomas, must have died in Kentucky or Tennessee, as there is no mention of him or any brother at the period of the emigration. It further states that John Livingston brought his mother west with him. She was blind for twenty-five years and died at the age of 94. She was buried in the Livingston lot in the Old Plattsburg cemetery. She was a real Daughter of the Revolution but probably never stressed the importance of that relation. The only other known Daughter of the Revolution buried in the city's cemetery is Sarah Birch. I believe the Probate Records of Clinton Co., MO dated Dec. 13 1847, for William Livingston, is the same as Thomas Livingston. It lists Mary Livingston as the widow of William Livingston, Sr. and shows their children as: John Livingston, William Livingston, Samuel Livingston, Thomas Livingston, Nancy Livingston Buckridge, Margaret "Peggy" Livingston McKown, Ira S. Livingston, Nathaniel Livingston, Isabel Livingston Roberts, Fanny Livingston Gage and Adaliza Livingston McKown. John & Susanna Livingston are also buried in the Old Plattsburg Cemetery.)
When John arrived in Clinton County, he had
one sister, Margaret, but always called "Peggy," living with her husband John M.
McKown in the Starfield community. The article states that Peggy and her brother
John Livingston had a famous uncle in Kentucky, a preacher, who later organized many
churches in that state. He would come to Missouri to visit his sister Mary Smith
Livingston and others, and he preached over a wide area. The preacher uncle still
lives in the pages of history. He sometimes wore a coonskin cap and this won for him
the designation "Raccoon" John Smith.
(Mrs. Johnston gives a short history of each of the children of John
and Susanna Collins Livingston. They were the parents of ten
children: Rosanna, Susan Elizabeth, Mary Ann, George Cornelius, Rebecca, Louvisa
Adeline, James, Walker, Thomas and John Collins.)
SUSAN ELIZABETH LIVINGSTON was
born Feb 23, 1834, on the Madison Young place, and died July 18, 1910, at Braley,
MO. She was married by S. S. Trice to Wiliam Johnston, July 24, 1857 at the home of
her parents north of Plattsburg. (License issued in Clinton Co.) She always
lived in Clinton county. Her health broke, and for twenty-three years she was a
semi-invalid. William Johnston was a son of John Johnston, a brick mason of Dublin,
Ireland, who came to America by sail boat and settled in Vermillion county, Indiana, where
he married Ann Ferguson. Their son William was born there August 22, 1833, and came
to Starfield with the family in 1838. He died Jan. 24, 1913 at Maysville, Mo.
William and Susan Elizabeth Johnston were the parents of four children: John Oliver,
Charles T., Louvisa Adeline and William David. They lived north of Plattsburg most
of their lives, farmers, and for a brief time operated a livery stable. Susan
Elizabeth and Mrs. Hill were much alike in appearance and characteristics, and both had
the red "permanent" of their father. John Oliver Johnston is the last
survivor of this family. David and his wife Rosa Mary Hill Johnston lived forty
years in St. Joseph and died there, he in 1948, and she in 1949, and they are buried in
Ashland cemetery, St. Joseph. She was a member of Wyatt Park Christian church.
Other deceased members of the family are buried in Greenlawn cemetery at Plattsburg.
LOUVISA ADALINE LIVINGSTON and her husband, Joseph Crain, were the parents of six children: Pearl, Eva, William, Laura, Charlotte and Josephine. (Louvisa Adaline & Joseph Crain are buried in Greenlawn cemetery, Plattsburg, Mo. The cemetery records show Louvisa Adaline b. 1858 - d. 1911 and Joseph b. 1852 - d. 1941.)
MARY ANN LIVINGSTON was married to Oliver Ivins Jackson August 22, 1833. (License issued in Clinton Co.) Mrs. Johnston states they moved to Bonham, Texas, after they returned from a gold rush to California. Their marriage ceremony was read by John Biggerstaff who had just been appointed as the first Justice of the Peace for the county and the handwritten license is filed in the Plattsburg courthouse vault. John Biggerstaff had married a daughter of Ezekiah Jackson and thus was a brother-in-law of Oliver Ivins Jackson. A history of the Jackson Clan written by Hulen L. Jackson of Duncanville, TX that a bachelor brother of Oliver Ivans Jackson, William Riley Jackson, had gone to the California gold rush in 1849 but then about 1852 moved and settled in Fannin County, Texas for about 1853 he influenced the Oliver Ivins Jackson to join him in Texas. The Jackson family at that time had 9 children: Didama, Collins, Carlton, John Joseph, William Riley, Duke Young, Susan Jane, James Oliver and Delila Ann. In Texas three more children were born to them: Robert Andrew, Sarah Elizabeth and Parmeliah Francis. Mr. Hulen L. Jackson states that his father, Oliver Ivins Jackson, was the firstborn of Robert Andrew on July 31, 1880.
GEORGE CORNELIUS LIVINGSTON, a well known carpenter and a quiet man, was married to his own cousin Susan Dorser. Their children were John, James, Ida Emma and Florence.
REBECCA LIVINGSTON married Anderson
Breckenridge. (Marriage license issued in Clinton County shows Anderson
Buckridge.) They were the parents of several children some of whom, it is said, went
to California. Rebecca was known as a spiritualistic medium and she presided at
seances where she produced mysterious rappings. This role was distasteful to her and
she finally refused to appear in spiritualistic demonstrations. (The 1870 census of
Clinton County shows: A. Buckridge 40, Rebecca 28, Will H. 15, John J. 10, Lucinda
8, Thom. D. 6 and James 1.)
The surviving grandson of John and Susanna Livingston is John Oliver Johnston of Lathrop, born north of Plattsburg April 18, 1852. He is the oldest native of Clinton county. He was married to Carrie Polk, April 16, 1884, and they have two sons, Ellis Thomas Johnston and Oliver Polk Johnston. Ellis was married to Merle Winter Sept 6, 1916, and Oliver was married to to Sue Mary Wolf, July 19, 1923. John Oliver Johnston and wife (Carrie) have eight grandchildren and eight greatgrandchildren, all living in short driving distance of the Johnston home.
(Another article written by Mrs. Johnston and published in a later issue of the Leader tells more about John Livingston. I will quote parts of the article:)
A spot in Clinton county became Plattsburg because John Livingston, for some reason unknown, halted his wandering feet southeast of the court house. Plattsburg became his eleventh child.
John Livingston was born in Overton county, Tenn., near Livingston, the county seat, April 14, 1800. John Adams was president, and the population of the nation numbered a little more than 5 million. Missouri and Tennessee have this in common - they share the distinction of being the only states bounded by eight states.
John Livingston and Susanna Collins of Madison county, Ky., were married in Howard county, MO. She was born March 8, 1800. They lived for a while in Howard county, then Clay county and in 1828 settled on the Madison Young place which was located on the east side of the 6-mile lane (now State Highway "Y"), about a mile north of Plattsburg.
It is said there were five families living in Clinton county when they came. No doubt they had to struggle with that feeling of loneliness which presses heavily on those who have severed all the endearing ties of home. Ruggedness, courage, hard work, could not dispel occasional nostalgic yearnings. Other families came about this time. As Mrs. Rosanna Hill said, "They all came out together": the families Hill, McKown, Breckenridge, Dorser, perhaps Jackson and some Biggerstaff. This is conjecture, but names and dates seem to agree and indicate customary community spirit of emigration.
The forest gloom and the vast stretches of uninhabited prairie land seemed not to dismay John Livingston. One wonders why he decided in 1833 to build a pole cabin southeast of the courthouse near Broadway street. Quite likely the idea of the future town never entered his consciousness, but the ensuing years revealed that he was the destined founder of Plattsburg. It was his good fortune to witness the rise of the town of which he had laid the foundation. When he completed the cabin, Plattsburg, unknown to him, stepped forth a coy, timorous debutante. It is obvious the town began the struggle for existence in humble circumstances. In fact, Plattsburg started poor.
Henry F. Mitchell laid off the town and one of his assistants was John Livingston, who received $4.50 for his services. This pittance would have been increased if time and a half for overtime had prevailed in the economic thought of those days.
The "History of Clinton County" (1881) says: "Mr. Livingston was fond of hunting, and during his first winter here, he killed forty-eight black bears; twenty-two of these were killed on a large elm tree which stood upon the present site of the courthouse"
John Livingston was first and last a farmer and livestock man in an unpretentious way. He enjoyed no price supports for his crops and livestock; no pension for his blind mother, and no subsidized housing. There was no welfare agency to supplement his meagre income; no old-age pension, and no paternal government to say, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and sit on my lap." The only security he ever knew was a clear brain, a strong arm and a stout heart. He bought, settled, cleared land and traded along the north of Plattsburg, from Log Church west to Starfield. The last farm he owned is now the property of Mrs. Sarah Bryan, whose father bought the farm from Livingston. She was born on that place and lived there until recent years.
Livingston was brawny, with red curly hair and was of medium build. He visioned homes, schools and churches in a new country, and he had the determination to work the way out and a will to help where needed. He had a large family to support and the responsibility of caring for his blind mother. Four of his grandchildren are living: Mrs. Friend, Mrs. Henry Glenn, J. O. Johnston, and Mrs. Claude Norris of Weston. Three generations from Livingston to grandchildren, span the history of the United States almost from the beginning of the government.
Susanna Collins Livingston died near Plattsburg, April 16, 1865. He followed his wife in death February 7, 1868. His death occurred at 506 Walnut Street, and his grandchild, J. O. Johnston, was present when the final summons came.
When John Livingston built his pole cabin he little thought that his dust was destined to mingle with the son of a spot just one block south. He, his wife and his mother sleep the years away in the Old Plattsburg cemetery in the Livingston lot "Which though neglected, lonely, Mid wilted leaves it lies, Above their dust forever, God's golden stars will rise."
(Note: The dates these articles were in the Leader is unknown They were in an old scrap book of a local historian "Bill Porter" and he has been dead probably thirty years of more. Statements that are in parenthesis are added by Helen Russell from personal research in the Recorder's office of Clinton County and census records of Clinton County. The History of Clinton and Caldwell Counties published in 1922 states that the only surviving child of John and Susanna in May 1922 was Mrs. Rosanna Hill of St. Joseph. She died June 26, 1923 at the age of 94 in full possession of her faculties. The Clinton County portion of this History Book was prepared by Carrie Polk Johnston. In regard to her article published in the Leader, it is stated that she deserves an accolade from lovers of local history, for much of the material she presents would have been lost forever had it not been for her patriotic impulse to rescue it from oblivion.)
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