The following biographical sketch was published in THE BANNER newspaper of Bonne Terre, Missouri, on June 6, 1879, nearly 124 years ago! Milton P. Cayce, the subject of the sketch was still living at the time it was written.
We this week commence the publication of a series of biographical sketches of some of our citizens who by their energy, enterprise and public spiritedness have connected their names more or less prominently with the history of this county. The series will embrace only the names of those who are residents of our county, and are either natives of Southeast Missouri, or who, through a long series of years, have been identified with her interests.
Among the native Southeast Missourians who by energy and enterprise have made themselves names worthy of record our own place is not without a worthy representative.
The one name, however, which from long connection with the interests of this county, and from an unblemished record of near half a century, is entitled to head the list of our note-worthy citizens is:
Some years previous to the time of Mr. Cayce's arrival the county of St. Francois had been organized from parts of Ste. Genevieve, Jefferson and Washington counties, with Farmington as the county seat. The surrounding country was then almost an unbroken wilderness. True, a few hardy pioneers attracted by the fine farming lands had made a settlement in the vicinity of Farmington and Libertyville; but the "clearings" were small, few and far between, while unbroken forests in primitive grandeur and loneliness cast their umbrageous shadows over the virgin soil for miles and miles in every direction. Potosi, Caledonia and Ste. Genevieve were small settlements, while the greater part of the intervening distance was unbroken forests.
In 1838 he was elected sheriff of the county, which position he held for two years until 1840 when he was elected Treasurer, which office he held for about seventeen years. In the same year that he was elected Treasurer, he was also appointed Postmaster, which position he held for eight years, or from 1840 till 1848.
In 1861, when the heresy of secession had culminated in an open rupture between the government and some of the southern states, a convention was called for the State of Missouri; the chief object of which was to take into consideration the relations existing between this state and the Federal Government, and to adopt such measures as in their judgment the public safety might demand. Of this convention Mr. Cayce was elected a member and in conjunction with Charles Rankin and Col. Joseph Bogy represented the district composed of the counties of Washington, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve and Jefferson. In the convention, Mr. Cayce acted with the more thoughtful and conservative of the democratic members, striving to allay and prevent, rather than to cache passion and strife.
Four years after commencing business he formed a partnership with Mr. John D. Peers, under the name and style of Cayce & Peers. This partnership was continued about four and a half years, when it was dissolved by mutual consent, Mr. Peers retiring and Mr. Cayce resuming the entire proprietorship. He thus continued business until his sons, Ellis P. and Nettleton D. Cayce reached their majority, about 1857 when they were made partners, and the style of the house at present is M. P. Cayce & Sons.
In the mean time Mr. Cayce's active mind could not be confined to one line of business alone, and having invested largely in farming lands, he engaged in agriculture to a considerable extent and with varying success. Though he has latterly sold largely of his farming lands, he is still the owner of a number of valuable farms scattered all over the county.
In 1852 Mr. Cayce and Stephen E. Douthit conceived the idea of establishing a first class Flouring Mill at Farmington. The result was the erection, during that year, of the Farmington Mill, the name of which is not confined to one state. After about three years Mr. Cayce bought out Mr. Douthit's interest and continued to run the Mills until 1863 when Charles Evans became proprietor for two years, when Mr. Cayce bought it back. On the 29th of May, 1864, this valuable property was entirely destroyed by fire. Mr. Cayce, however, in conjunction with John A. Weber, rebuilt it the same fall and continued to run it until the first of January 1879, when these gentlemen sold to Mr. S. S. Boyce.
In 1828 Mr. Cayce united with the Presbyterian church in his native state, and in 1833 was made a ruling elder, which position he still retains. In 1824 he and a fellow clerk formed a mutual temperance association, they being the only members, mutually pledging each other to abstain the use of all intoxicating drink as a beverage, and this pledge, made when temperance organizations were unknown, he has kept sacred during all his long and eventful career. In 1828 he joined the first temperance organization ever known in Virginia, and has always been in active sympathy with the temperance cause.
Mr. Cayce has been twice married, his first wife having died December 29, 1843, having borne five children, two of whom, Ellis P. and Nettleton D. Cayce are still living and are two of our most respected and most worthy citizens. He was married to his present wife Nov. 6, 1850. To this union there were born seven children, 6 of whom are still living.
In all the relations of a man of business, a public officer, or a private citizen, Mr. Cayce has a record unblemished by a single dishonorable act. In his domestic relations he has ever been a model of kindness and affection. As a neighbor, he is esteemed most highly by those who knew him best. As a citizen he has always been the firm advocate of law and order, and obedience to the powers that be, holding that it is better to submit to bad laws for the time being than to attempt to set them at naught though we may know they are wrong. As a church member and a Christian he has always been active and earnest in his attachment to the cause of religion and abundant in labors for the promotion of the cause of Christ and the upbuilding of his Kingdom. And now when life's sun is hanging low in the horizon, and its declining rays fall dimly on his head, whitened with the frosts of nearly three quarters of a century, he can with that composure watch springs from a consciousness of a well spent life, contemplating the final hour and welcome the closing scene.
The following biographical sketch on Mr. Cayce and his family appeared in Goodspeed's History of Southeast Missouri, which was published in August, 1888: [Note: You'll notice that some of the dates in the following article are inconsistent with some of the dates in the preceding newspaper article. I have not attempted to make any changes or corrections, but have merely tried to transcribe each article exactly as it was published. If you feel there are any corrections or clarifications which need to be made, please make them in the form of a reply to this post.]
MILTON P. CAYCE. Prominent among the oldest and most enterprising citizens of Farmington stands the name of Milton P. Cayce, who was born in Charlotte County, Va., June 15, 1804. He is the son of Pleasant and Anna (Claybrook)Cayce. The father was born in Chesterfield County, Va., in 1767 and was a coach maker by trade. He learned his trade in his native county, and about the time he attained his majority he went to Charlotte County, where he erected a shop and began business upon his own responsibility. In 1830 he immigrated to Missouri, settling in St. Charles County but in 1834, he moved to St. Francois County and here bought 440 acres of land four miles north of Farmington. He was one of the pioneer settlers of St. Francois County, and died in 1840. His wife, Anna Claybrook, was born in 1770 in Charlotte County, Va, and died in 1822. Pleasant then married Mrs. Prudence Ellis, who was a native of Lunenburgh County, Va. She died in 1833. He was the father of eight children -- six daughters and two sons -- two of the children now living, Ann V., widow of John Kennedy and Milton P. The latter spent his early life on the farm, and at the age of thirteen entered a store at Charlotte, Va., and began clerking. He worked here for five years, and the following five years was engaged in the same business at Farmville, Prince Edward County. He served as salesman at Petersburg for eleven years, and in 1830 came to St. Charles County, Mo., with his father where he spent two years in tilling the soil. In 1832 he came to Farmington and established a general merchandise store on his own responsibility. Mr. Cayce was constantly engaged in merchandising from 1832 until 1885, a period of fifty-two years, in the same town, and his honesty and integrity were never questioned. He keeps a small stock of goods on hand at present, but for the past three years he has been too feeble to attend to any kind of business. In 1852 he and Ellis Douthit took a contract for building five miles of gravel road near Farmington, and this they completed to the satisfaction of all concerned. The following year, they erected a flouring mill in Farmington at a cost of $5,000, and about 1855 Mr. Cayce bought Mr. Douthit's interest. Mr. Cayce afterward remodeled the mill and greatly enlarged it until it was one of the best mills in Southeast Missouri. In 1874 it was destroyed by fire and his loss was about $30,000 with no insurance. Mr. Cayce was for many years interested in a blacksmith general repair shop, and in a tanyard and farming. He erected the first icehouse in the county and purchased the first piano. He is now in the eve of a long and prosperous life, and his memory will live in the hearts of the people long after his body was returned to its original dust. January 8, 1830, he married Miss Susan A. Ellis, who was born in Lunenburgh County, Va., November 6, 1814. Three of their children lived to be grown: Adaline F., who died at the age of eighteen; Ellis P., manager of the store of the Iron Mountain Co.; and Nettleton D., who died December 25, 1886, at the age of forty-eight. Mrs. Cayce died December 19, 1843, and November 6, 1850, Mr. Cayce married Miss Virginia C. Dupuy, who was a native of Prince Edward County, Va., born in 1828. To this union six children were born: Alice J., Elizabeth D. (wife of Martin L. Clardy, member of the Tenth Congressional District of Missouri), Nannie C. (wife of K. W. Weber, attorney and banker of Farmington), J. Harry, Milton P. (cashier of Bank of Farmington), and William D. Mr. Cayce has been a life-long Democrat, casting his first presidential vote for General Jackson in 1828, and has been one of the leading men of the party in St. François County for many years. In 1836 he was elected county treasurer, and at the subsequent election was re-elected and held the position for twenty years, or until his son, Ellis P., succeeded him. Thus the office of county treasurer has been in the possession of the Cayce family for a period of thirty-eight years, a very unusual circumstance. In 1838 Mr. Cayce was elected sheriff of the county and served two years, when he resigned, and was a member of the constitutional convention of 1861. He is at present president of the Gravel Road Company, of St. Francois County. He and wife are members of the Presbyterian Church of which he has been a member for sixty years and an elder for fifty-seven years. He is one of its most liberal contributors. He was postmaster at Farmington for two or three years.
Goodspeed's goes on to give the following biographical sketch on ELLIS P. CAYCE, son of Milton P. & Susan (Ellis) Cayce:
ELLIS P. CAYCE was born in St. Francois County, Mo. in 1835, and is the son of Milton P. and Susan (Ellis) Cayce. The mother is dead but the father is living at Farmington and is eighty-four years old. He was county treasurer for twenty years, and then E. P. Cayce was in the office from 1860 to 1878. Ellis was educated at Princeton College, N.J., and graduated from that institution in 1858. He then returned to Farmington, Mo., where he followed merchandising for eighteen years. About 1880 he came to Iron Mountain as general manager of the store. The firm carries a large stock of goods, such as is suitable for a mining town. Mr. Cayce is a first-class business man and a gentleman in every respect. He married Miss Emma W. Dupuy of Farmington, although she was reared and education in Summerville, Tenn. Three children were born to this union: Elsie, Paul and Adele -- two daughters and a son. Mr. Cayce is a member of the Princeton Alumni Association of St. Louis. He is a Democrat in politics and he and wife are members of the Presbyterian Church, of which he is an elder.
Interesting Footnote: According to the book "Farmington the First 200 Years", just after the end of the Civil War, a former slave by the name of Jeter" accompanied a family from Virginia when the clans moved to the west. Jeter had been the property of the Cayce family prior to the War between the states and he took on the surname to accompany his status as a free man. Shortly after crossing the Mississippi and settling in Farmington, Jeter bought a tract of land in the vicinity of First and Washington Street. His family was one of the first black families to settle in Farmington. Jeter had 14 children thus establishing a Cayce line in Farmington of African-American descent.