The following article was prepared by member Sue DeLaporte. It is a very good condensed history of Ralls County History written nearly 65 years ago.
First Ralls Settlement Early as 1774
Earlier Settlers Came Seeking Salt Springs; Became County In 1820
NEW LONDON, Mo., June 30—The first settlement within the limits of Ralls county was made by French traders, near the salt spring at Saverton in 1774.
Samuel Gilbert, a Kentuckian, came to this point in 1808 with his family seeking a home in the new territory. He stopped at Cape Au Gris and was told of the "salt springs" up the river located at a point known as "Little Prairie". Victor La Grota, one of the settlers, had some sort of a claim to the springs an (sic) adjacent territory and was the leader of the settlement. Gilbert bought his claim and having secured sufficient kettles began the manufacture of salt for commercial purposes.
Another settlement of this area as reported, was Bouvet’s Lick or Bouvet’s Salt Springs later called La Bastain – now known as Spalding Springs. This was a flourishing salt center of the later part of the eighteenth century, about 1790.
And then Freemore’s Lick, settled about 1799 by James Freemore De Lauriere, the scene of one of the bloodiest massacres that ever occurred in northeast Missouri. The early settlers had little trouble with the Indians except for an occasional outbreak until the war of 1812.
The women and children being in comparative safe quarters, the men were at liberty to go to war and pursue the savages with greater success. Captain Musick, Captain Riggs and others with small companies of daring determined volunteers operated in this section. Captain Musick, with a few men, encountered a band of Indians near Gilbert’s Salt Works, just south of the present site of Saverton and fought a fierce combat in which the whites were defeated, losing five or six of their number. John Duff, Levi Tanzey and Charles Lucas, besides others whose names have not been learned, were left dead on the field of battle and John Whiteside was mortally wounded.
An Early Battle
Fort Mason stood on the ground of Martha A. Taylor, just about two miles south of Gilbert’s Salt Works and was used as a rendezvous for the rangers under Captains Musick, Calaway and others until destroyed by fire, supposedly set by the Indians.
The conflict here spoken of, is the only one which took place within the present limits of Ralls county, during the British war. But we have an account of another that took place somewhere along Spencer creek, as told by descendants of some of the pioneers. At this point there was a flourishing salt manufacturing works, located here, owned and operated by De Laurier and that the Indians became resentful because the men, being at the scene of the salt springs, kept the buffalo, deer and other wild game from coming to get the salt they craved, and thus ruining their hunting grounds.
The Indians set upon the camp and killed and scalped all with the exception of De Lauriere and the story is that he escaped and rode his horse until he gave out and then ran until he reached Fort Buffalo below Louisiana.
Freemore’s Lick for many years, was a rendezvous for lovers of the mineral waters that ebbed from this spring, and was a meeting place for neighbors and persons over the county, out for their Sunday drive.
In 1870 Thomas Barkley bought the five acres surrounding the spring and deeded it to the Ralls County Court in the hope that it would be made into a county park, but inadvertently this transaction was lost sight of as the road leading to it, although a county road, has been closed off and these springs now being fenced and treated as private property.
New London, the present county seat of Ralls county, although not incorporated or formally laid out until 1819, bears the anomalous distinction of being older than its mother, Ralls county 1820, and its grandmother, the state of Missouri 1821; was founded in 1800 by William Jameson, a Virginian who had moved to the new territory, being employed by the Spanish lieutenant governor De Lassus to assist and locate homeseekers in this vast new territory. Mr. Jameson laid off 800 arpens, about 680.56 acres, on which New London is located, and bought it for $49.50. Perry, Missouri was settled in by many hardy settlers as early as 1818 but it was not until 1866 that Perry was incorporated as a village.
Henry Wolfe a native of Canada, operated the first store and post office there in 1832.
Perry is located twenty miles southwest of New London on state route 26 and is served by the Hannibal St. Louis railroad and now has a population of better than 900 people.
It is a thriving metropolis being in the center of a good agricultural community and the land is heavily underlaid with coal that is mined for commercial purposes.
Center, a town of 600 inhabitants is located ten miles southwest of New London, and is the geometrical center of Ralls county, being laid out and plated in 1880.
Center is served by the Hannibal and St. Louis railroad and tural (sic) community.
Saverton, formerly known as Little Prairie was settled by Samuel Gilbert in 1808 and was laid out in 1819. Madisonville was laid out in 1836 and was for years a trading center, and gave indications of being one of the county’s larger towns for many years. Rensselaer, on the M.K. & T. railroad was laid out in 1861 by Joshua P. Richards. There are several other small hamlets in the county. Ilasco, started after the Atlas cement plant was built near Hannibal 35 years ago, is the largest unincorporated place in the county.
About 1816, a man by the name of Foreman erected a small grist mill about a mile a little north and east of New London; this mill was afterwards known as Shepherd’s Mill and still later owned by Colonel Dick Matson, and for many years was known as Matson’s Mill. Colonel Matson enlarged it and improved it – adding to it a saw mill and flouring machinery, making it not only the first but the best mill north of St. Charles.
On the 16th of November, 1820, begins the history of Ralls county as an integral part of the state of Missouri. When the territory of Missouri was first formed, St. Charles county embraced all that territory lying north of the Missouri and west of the Mississippi rivers, reaching north to British Canada, from the Mississippi west to Howard county.
On December 14, 1818, the counties of Lincoln and Pike were formed, Lincoln embracing the same area as it now covers, and Pike extending north to British Canada, from the Mississippi west to Howard county.
In the first legislature, Pike had two representatives, Colonel William Johnson and Daniel Ralls. Soon after the meeting of the legislature, Daniel Ralls was taken sick, and on October 20, 1820, he died.
On the 16th of the following month the northern boundary of Pike county was set as it now stands and all the territory to the north was made into a new county and in honor of the deceased Daniel Ralls, the legislature named it Ralls county, as it was in this portion of old Pike county, near New London, that Daniel Ralls resided.
Ralls county was a county of magnificent proportions, having an area larger than many of the states, stretching north to the Iowa line, and west to a line between ranges 13 and 14, comprising the territory now taken by Audrain, Monroe, Marion, Shelby, Clark, Lewis, Knox and the present Ralls counties, as well as a strip six miles wide from the eastern edges of Randolph, Macon, Adair and Schuyler counties.
The act of November 16, 1820, forming Ralls county, designated Dabney Jones, Jerry Garnet, Richard Jones, Stephen Glascock and Francis Grant as commissioners to locate the county seat; also provided that the courts be held in Ralls county should be held in the house of William Jameson until the commissioners should provide a suitable courthouse and jail.
Accordingly, the first court of the county was held at the Jameson home on the 18th day of March, 1821, and the first county court at the same place on the 9th day of April in the same year.
Rufus Pettibone was the first judge of the Ralls county Circuit Court which opened in the Jameson home in New London on the 18th day of March, 1821. R.W. Wells, appeared as deputy for Edward Bates, the then attorney general of the State of Missouri; Green De Witt as sheriff, and Stephen Glascock as circuit clerk. The first grand jury to serve in Ralls county was composed of Robert Jeffries, foreman; John Jeffries, Robert Jeffries, Jr., James Chitwood, Silas Brooks, Joseph Wright, William Babney, Jacob Clawson, John M. Turley, Josiah Fugate, Jr., Chauncey Hovey, Isaac Lard, Richard Chitwood, John Tapley, Seth Chitwood and William Cole.
The first attorney at law enrolled in the county was Ezra Hunt, who later became the first regular circuit attorney.
Early County Officials
In the early days of Ralls county’s existence as a county the offices of county clerk, circuit clerk and recorder of deeds was held by the same individual, Stephen Glascock, the first to be named to this office being appointed by Governor McNair in 1821 and serving to 1828.
This office was held by the following in the order named and for the time specified: Charles Glascock, 1828 to 1836; Harrison Glascock, 1836 to 1838; John Ralls, 1838 to 1848.
In 1848 the county clerk’s office was made a separate office and William O. Young was named to this office which he held until his death on March 12, 1858. Oliver P. Ledford held the office from March, 1858, to 1859, when James W. Leer was appointed serving until he was removed from office in 1862 by the county authorities being replaced by Albert G. Lancaster, who held the office until 1866. George E. Mayhall was named county clerk in 1866 and served until 1874 when he was replaced by William H. Stevens who held the office until 1878.
In 1848 Samuel K. Caldwell was elected circuit clerk and recorder of deeds, serving until 1865 when he was ousted from office by the Drake amendment with Reuben St. John being appointed to finish out the term. In 1866 Samuel K. Caldwell was again elected to this office, winning vindication, and served in 1868. Eli W. Southworth served from 1868 to 1871 when James W. Leer was elected.
Stephen Glascock, along with his other duties, served as probate judge from 1834 to 1827 (these are dates specified in original copy) when that office was abolished and jurisdiction in probate matters was given to the county court.
In 1856 the probate court was reestablished as a separate court, but Ralls county did not elect a probate judge until 1866 when Nathan S. Dimmitt was elected, serving until 1870. In 1870, 1874 and 1878 Judge John Megown was elected to this office.
Peter Journey, Peter Grant and William Ritchie were the first judges of the Ralls County Court, receiving their commissions from Governor McNair in 1821, and held their first court in the Jameson home that year, being called justices at that time.
When Justice Journey was elected to the legislature in 1822, Samuel Lippincott was named to replace him.
On February 6, 1825, Samuel Lippincott, Lewellen Porter, John Longnaire, Hugh Muldrow and John Barton were selected and Samuel Lippincott was again named in his place. In August of the same year, Judge Muldrow died and Daniel Hendrick was named to replace him.
On the 5th of November, 1827, Walter Caldwell and Andrew Rogers presented their commissions from the governor as justices of the court and these two composed the court until June, 1828, when Walter Caldwell, as president, and John Chitwood and Richard Boyce were appointed by the governor. These gentlemen served until 1831 when they were elected by the people for three years.
In 1834 William Foreman, French Glascock and William Lotland composed the court. William Lotland was replaced by Dabney Jones in 1837.
In 1866 the probate court was reestablished and the probate judge became ex-officio president of the county court. At the November election of that year, William E. Harris and Nimrod Walters were reelected judges of the county court and Nathan S. Dimmitt, judge of probate. In the forepart of the year 1870 a lew (sic) was enacted changing the organization of the court and deposing Judges Dimmitt and Walters, when Joseph W. Buchanan and Samuel Megown were appointed to succeed them till the first of the next year. In 1872 Reverend William Priest was elected to replace Judge Harris.
In 1876 the court was composed of Judge James Underwood, Judge James Bell and Judge William Priest.
Ralls County Representatives From 1821 to 1876
Peter Journey, a former justice of the county court of Ralls county, was elected to represent Ralls in the legislature in 1822 and served until 1824 and was succeeded by the following men:
Achiles McGinnis, 1824-1826; Richard Brewer, 1826-1828; James C. Caldwell, 1830-1832; Richard Matson, 1832-1834; Dabney Jones, 1834-1836; James D. Caldwell, 1836-1840; William Gerard, 1840-1842; Harvey Wellman, 1842-1846; Luke M. Watkins, 1846-1848; William Newland, 1848-1856; Charles F. Clayton, 1856-1858; French Glascock Jr., 1858-1860; William P. Samuels was elected in 1860 and died soon after, so Robert B. Caldwell was elected to his place; John D. Biggs, 1862-1864; Eli W. Southworth, 1864-1866; Luzene Buckley, 1866-1868; Eli W. Southworth, 1868-1870; Luzene Buckley, 1870-1872; Lloyd H. Redman, 1872-1874; Henry H. Priest, 1874-1876.
Sheriffs and Collectors
In the early history of the county the sheriff also served as the collector of state and county revenue. The first of these was Green De Witt in 1821; William R. Smith, 1824; Robert R. Carson, 1826; Joseph Wright, 1828; John Jameson, 1829; Dabney Jones, 1830; Chappell Carstarphen, 1834; Nathaniel Pierce, 1838; John Jameson, 1842; Robert B. Caldwell, 1846; Samuel R. Smith, 1850; Robert B. Caldwell, 1854; George S. Muldrow, 1858; William Newland, 1862; Samuel Smith, 1865; John H. Steers, 1867; Samuel McCune, 1869; Robert B. Caldwell, 1873; John D. James, 1877.
At the outset the clerk of the county court also served as county treasurer so in 1821 Stephen Glascock was also county treasurer until January 6, 1826, when the county court appointed Asa Glascock as county treasurer. Abel M. Conner was appointed in 1833, but resigned the same year and Henry A. Harris was appointed to replace him. Thomas J. Rhodes was appointed in 1836; Alexander McMurty, 1837; Thomas J. Rhodes, 1842; Hanford Brown, 1844; George S. Hayes, 1862; Samuel S. McCune, 1864; George S. Hays, 1866; Edgar H. Ralls in 1876.
Assessors of Ralls
Clement White was the first assessor, holding the office 1821, ’22 and ’23; Joseph Gash in 1824 and 1825; John Muldrow in 1826; Richard Boyce in 1827; James D. Caldwell in 1828; Dabney Jones, 1829; Nicholas Boyce, 1830; Robert Caldwell, 1831; Nicholas Boyce, 1832; Jonathan Abbey, 1833; Thomas J. Rhodes, 1834, Samuel Stowers, 1835; Walker Carter, 1836; Joseph Gatewood, 1837; William Brown, 1838; Jesse Boarman, 1839, ’40, ’41 and ’42; Samuel Smith, 1843 and ’44; William O. Young, 1845, ’46 and ’47; John F. Hawkins, 1848, ’49, ’50 and ’51; William Campbell and John Ralls in 1852; John M. Dooley, 1853, ’54; William Campbell, 1855, ’56; John Ralls in 1857.
In 1860, Nathan S. Dimmitt was elected; in 1861, Christy Gentry; in 1862, John Megown; in 1863, Samuel Megown, also in 1864; Stewart Self in 1865-66; John Megown, 1867-68; W.D. Bishop received the certificate of election in 1869 but his opponent, Thomas C. Rice, contested his election and Rice was chosen assessor by virtue of a court order; Rice was reelected in 1870; Stewart Self in 1871-72; John D. Dooley, 1873; Robert Kendrick in 1874, ’75, ’76; and James A. Abbey in 1877-78.
In 1821, Edward Bates, the attorney general for the State of Missouri, prosecuted all cases for the state and the county and the same was true under his successor, Rufus Easton and Robert Wells and in 1827 Ezra Hunt was selected as Ralls county’s first circuit attorney serving until 1834; Adam Chambers served in this capacity from 1834 to 1837; George W. Houston, 1837 to 1838; Gilchrist Porter, 1838 to 1844; George W. Buckner, 1844 to 1846; A.W. Lamb, 1845 to 1852; William L. Hawkins, 1852 to 1854; from 1854 to 1872 the following men served in the order named: David H. Moss, William H. Hatch, Walter M. Boulware, and Martin Hollister.
In 1872 the office of circuit attorney was abolished and the county prosecutor plan installed with the following men serving in this capacity in the order named: Oliver P. Leesford, Thomas A. Frazer and William Christian.
In 1832, pursuant to a call for troops in the Black Hawk War, two companies were raised in Ralls county, one captained by Captain Richard Matson, was in active service; the other, with John Ralls in command, was held in reserve but never ordered into active service.
By authority of Governor Edwards, a company of mounted volunteers was organized in this county to serve during the Mexican War. It was commanded by Captain William T. Lafland, mustered into the service of the United States at Independence, Missouri, about May 1847, and served during the entire war.
As to the Civil War, the records of Ralls county are very meager, but the sympathy of the people was largely with the Confederate States and sent many more men to aid the South than she did to aid the Union.
In the Spanish-American War and the World War, Ralls county sent her share, the exact number it has been unable to ascertain.
**Historian – Facts for the history appearing on this page are taken largely from the records of the late Judge John Megown recognized by the Missouri State Historical Society, as the authentic historian of the county. The Courier-Post is indebted to Attorney Benton B. Megown, his son, for use of the records.
*** Relic Of 18th Century Explorers In Ralls - This hand-wrought kettle is one of two taken from Freeman’s (sic) Lick in Ralls county and is believed to have been imported by French explorers in the 18th century. It is the property of Edward Brashears and was obtained from the lick by his grandfather, James A. Cox, who settled in that section in 1818.