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Perry County, History
This page last modified Saturday, 20-Dec-2003 11:10:20 MST
Just a little history of Perry County while I have the books, "The Settlement
Patterns Of Perry County, Missouri, 1850-1900, " by Barber and "Church and
Slave in Perry County, Missouri, 1818-1865, " by Poole and Slawson.
Shaped like a camel's hump, Perry Co., MO consists of 471 square miles that
fit neatly into a wedge created by the confluence of Apple Creek and the
Mississippi River. Topographically, it is divided into lowlands and uplands. The
lowlands comprise about 1/8 of the county and lie for the most part along the
river. In the Northeast corner is the Bois Brule Bottom, meaning Burnt Wood, the
most extensive tract of lowland, approximately 15 miles long and 3 to 5 miles
wide. Its rich soil, coupled with its size, makes it the most productive
farmland in the county. Smaller in size but still important, are the Brazeau Bottom
on the Mississippi River below Cape Cinque Hommes and the bottom situated
near the mouth of Apple Creek.
The Uplands constitutes the largest part of the county and its topography
varies greatly. The best parts of it are in the central area where the soil is
generally good and the terrain nearly level or gently rolling. Rolling uplands
surround this central section and are bounded by the Saline Hills to the West
and the Mississippi River Hills and Buffs to the East and northeast.
In the eighteenth century the Perry County area, like the rest of the future
State of Missouri, was part of Louisiana. For most of the century the region
was uninhabited, even by the French of nearby St. Genevieve. The later was the
first permanent white settlement in the MO area. In 1764, when the terms of
the Treaty of Paris were announced in Louisiana, the French settlers found
themselves transferred to an alien domination, that of Spain. In general the French
were unhappy with the change of rule and the Spanish governance of the
territory was an uneasy one, occasionally punctuated by armed rebellion. In the St.
Genevieve area, the Spaniards, making a virtue of necessity, tended to let the
French govern themselves.
The first inhabitants of what is now Perry County, were the Shawnee Indians.
In the 1780s, they had crossed the Mississippi River from the East and spread
throughout southeastern MO. Their largest village, a population of some 400,
was located in the southern part of the county, just above Apple Creek, near
present day Uniontown. Within a decade of the Indian immigration, Spanish
authorities showed an interest in opening the area to colonization by Americans.
The first white settlers arrived in the region during the latter half of the
1790s and claimed rich land in Bois Brule Bottom. These Americans organized
the region's original Baptist Church in 1807. In the early 1800s, a second group
of American settlers crossed the Mississippi to take advantage of Spanish
land offers. These were Catholics of English stock, from north-central Kentucky.
They had originally come from Maryland to escape religious discrimination and
prided themselves on being descendants of Lord Baltimore's original colonists.
The first of these to settle permanently in the future Perry County was
Isidore Moore. He arrived in 1801 and became a patriarch of the area. Others soon
followed whose family names predominated the decades: Tucker, Fenwick, Cissell,
Hayton, Riney, Hamilton, Layton, Manning, and Ragan. Most of these settled in
the uplands around Perryville in a place called the Barrens because of its
New Bourbon: 1796 Census of North America
Free Blacks and Mulatto
New Bourbon: 1797 Census of North America*
*Heads of Households only Explained in the New Bourbon Census, which was a
French census and therefore different from a United States census.
When the region was transferred to American sovereignty in 1803-1804, the
Barrens became part of the Louisiana Territory. Prior to the admission of MO to
statehood in 1821, several new migrations altered the religious composition of
the future county. In 1817, a large group of Presbyterians from North
Carolina settled in the neighborhood of Brazeau, an area roughly bounded by the
Mississippi River and the Cinque Hommes and Apple Creek. These settlers organized a
church in 1819. They ere soon followed by Methodists from the same state
whose family names live on, like Abernathy, Farrar, and Rutledge. In 1826, they
built their first log meeting house, which was later replaced by York Chapel
Until 1821, the Barrens region formed the southern portion of St. Genevieve
County. When MO received statehood, Perry County was organized out of the
parent district. It was divided into three townships, Brazeau, Cinque Hommes, and
Bois Brule. Their boundaries, following natural geographical features, were
quite irregular. In 1856, the borders were made symmetrical and two new
townships, St. Mary's and Saline, were added.
After 1821, the descendants of French colonial families from St. Genevieve
trickled into Perry County, and in the middle of the next decade, their ranks
swelled by immigrants from France itself. They settled on the lands that were
near the present city of Perryville. At about the same time, a small group of
Flemings settled in the northeastern part of the county, with the present town
of Belgique as their center. There were also Swiss in the same area.
In the late 1830s, saw the beginnings of a heavy German immigration that
would permanently alter the ethnic balance of the county. In the fall of 1838,
more than 600 Saxon Lutherans, under the leadership of Pastor Martin Stephen,
uprooted themselves and migrated to MO, seeking to avoid enforced religious
conformity. They settled in the southeast corner of the county and moved inland
through a series of towns whose names enshrined both religion and nationality:
Wittenberg, Friedheim, Frohna, Dresden, Altenburg, and Paitxdorf, which was
renamed Uniontown during the Civil War.
Others that settled in the area were German Catholics, mostly from Bavaris
and Baden. They settled in the Barrens area. The Lutherans and Presbyterians
established churches in the region bounded by the 1856 township of Brazeau. The
Methodists located father west in the area that comprised the 1856 township of
Cinque Hommes. There they set up two churches, the first York Chapel, near
present day Longtown, abt 5 miles southeast of Perryville, and in 1836 a second
in Perryville itself. Then in 1844-1845, they divided between north and south
over the question of whether a bishop could own slaves. The two Methodist
churches in Perry County parted company, the city congregation going with the North
and the York Chapel siding with the South. The Baptists of the county tended
to congregate in both Bois Brule Bottom and in the area of Saline township. In
the first decades of the 1800s, they met in private homes.
More to come Hope some find this as
interesting as I did. Submitted
Helen L. Smith Hoke