County Histories of Northeast Missouri
Part of the American History and Genealogy Project

Adair County, Missouri


Early Settlements

Excepting those on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, Adair was one of the first counties of Northeast Missouri to be settled.

The first party of whites came in 1828, from Howard County. The men who composed this band of settlers, according to tradition, were:

Early Settlers

Isaac Gross Stephen Gross Jacob Gupp
James Myers Reuben Myrtle Nathan Richardson

All except Gupp are supposed to have been married. They located on the east side of the Chariton River about six miles west of the present site of Kirksville. They built three cabins, from which the settlement became known as ''The Cabins.'' This settlement was broken up the next year by what is known as the ''Big Neck War.'' Some Indians came down from Iowa, bent on making trouble. The little band, after having had some hogs killed by the invaders, sent to Randolph County for aid. Twenty-six men came to help the settlers rid themselves of the Indians. A battle was fought in which three white men, John Myers, James Winn and Powell Owenby, were killed. The Indians were well-armed and it is thought that the attempt of the whites to make them give up their arms brought on the fight.

After the contest the Indians withdrew to Iowa. The whites thought it best to retire to Randolph County, although by this time troops from several other counties and two hundred United States troops from St. Louis had arrived on the scene to protect them.

According to tradition the settlement of ''The Cabins" was restored in 1830. John Cain, Andrew Bozarth, Isaac Parton and possibly others came to the settlement about that time. It is said that John Cain bought the claims of the Myers family to the land around the settlement, for a pair of shoe leathers. Between 1830 and 1840, settlements were made in all parts of the county.

Persons who are known to have settled in Adair County before 1841, besides those already mentioned, are:

Frank Adkins
James A. Adkins
Hiram Bozarth
Washington Conner
Lewis Earhart
Samuel Eaton
Benjamin Ely
K. S. Filts
Jack Floyd
Nathaniel Floyd
William A. Floyd
Jesse Gilstrap
James H. Ginnings
William Hurley
Isaac Hargis
Charles Hatfield
William Horton
Samuel Hay
David James
William B. Jones
Jesse Jones
John Lesley
A. H. Linder
John Morrow
John Murphy
John Myers, Jr.
Robert Myers
Frayel Myers
Robert Miller
Canada Owenby
William Parcells
Hartin Parton
Thomas Parton
Josiah Rogers
Hiram Reed
John Shibley
David E. Stone
Edward Stewart
Coleman Stewart
John Stewart
Andrew Thompson
Jesse Walker

Many women and children also came into the county during that time.

There were no troubles with the Indians after 1845. In 1832, the year of the Black Hawk war, a fort known as Port Madison, was built in the northern part of what is now Polk Township, to furnish protection against the Indians. After about 1835, the red men did not offer violence to any of the whites, but contented themselves with killing their hogs and other stock.


The county was organized in 1841, being taken from the territory attached to Macon County. The territory to the north of the new county was attached to it for purposes of government. This was erected into Schuyler County in 1843, but was not completely severed from Adair County until 1845. Putnam County, which was organized in 1843, was attached to Adair County until 1845.

It is probable that there were less than one thousand people in Adair County when it was organized. The early settlers came from other counties of Missouri to the southward, especially from Howard and other counties bordering on the Missouri river. Some came also from Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Illinois. The life of the pioneer was hard, just as it was elsewhere. Farming was done under difficulties. Farms in the timbered region had to be cleared first and this meant much hard work. Because of the scarcity of oxen and plows, persons living near each other would often join and do the plowing on their farms together, taking them one at a time.

Grain was ground at first by hand-mills which the pioneers brought with them. Horse and water mills soon came into use and a steam mill was built about 1850 by a German colony near Nineveh. A tan yard was established in 1837 by Washington Conner.

The trading posts for the earliest settlers were Hannibal, Quincy and Huntsville, the two first named on the Mississippi river, to the east-ward, and the last named to the southward in Randolph County. Mail was carried across the county at first on horseback and later in stage coaches.

The County's Growth

Adair County has grown both steadily and substantially. The census reports show its population as follows: 1850, 2,342; 1860, 8,531; 1870, 11,448; 1880, 15,190; 1890, 17,417; 1900, 21,728; 1910, 22,700.

The county was one of the seven in Northeast Missouri that showed an increase in population between 1900 and 1910. An increase in the wealth of the county accompanied the gain in population. From $49,946 in 1845, the assessed valuation of property grew to $3,176,789 in 1880, and $5,840,078 in 1910. The actual valuation is, of course, several times the assessed property valuation.

When the county was organized in 1845 it was composed of five townships: Morrow, Benton, Liberty Pettis and Wilson. Five additional townships have since been formed: Nineveh, Polk, Clay, Salt River and Walnut.

County Officers

The first county officers were appointed in 1841 and held office until the election of 1842.

Samuel Easton, Joseph Ringo and John Morrow were the first judges of the county court
Isaac Eby was the first sheriff
David James was the first clerk of the county and circuit courts. Until 1872, when the office of county collector was established, the sheriff went around the county and collected the taxes.

First county officers

James A. Clark, circuit judge
B. F. Stringfellow, circuit attorney
Thoret Rose, assessor
W. C. Warrener, treasurer

The office of coroner was created in 1846 and David Smith was the first incumbent.
Grant Corbin was the first recorder, being chosen after the office was created in 1898.
The first county collector was A. J. Knight, chosen in 1873, and the first county superintendent was Robert Mercer, chosen in 1867.
Guy Chandler, chosen in 1869, was the first public administrator
J. D. Stephens, chosen in. 1879, was the first probate judge.

Present County Officers

Aaron P. Hopson, presiding judge of the county court
Jacob H. Shoop, judge of the county court from the first district
Seymour J. Reed, judge of the county court from the second district
U. S. G. Keller, probate judge
Ed Rorabaugh, clerk of the circuit court
John T. Waddill, clerk of the county court
Grove Lowrance, recorder of deeds
Glenn C. Weatherby, prosecuting attorney
George F. Williams, sheriff
Ulysses G. Downing, collector
W. S. Polley, assessor
H. C. Worman, treasurer
Foster R. Easley, coroner
George E. McDowell, public administrator
Tyler Paine, surveyor
L. B. Sipple, superintendent of public schools

The first court house of Adair County was a temporary, one-story brick structure, which cost about $1,000. It was built in 1843. A second building was erected between 1853 and 1855. This cost about $2,350, and was used until it was destroyed by fire in 1865. More than thirty years passed before Adair County had another court house. Four propositions were submitted before a fifth effort was successful. In 1897, at a special election, $50,000 in bonds was voted for a court house and jail. The vote was 1,933 for and 650 against the proposition. The building was completed in 1899.

The county had contracted bonded indebtedness for other purposes than building the courthouse. The First District State Normal School was secured for Kirksville by issuing $78,000 in bonds. This issue was authorized in 1871. In the following year $75,000 was issued for the Q. M. & P. Railroad. This amount was to be granted to the road as soon as it was built to Kirksville. Benton Township voted $40,000 and Salt River Township $6,000 for the same railroad. In 1906, $17,000 in bonds was voted to build a county jail.

In the Civil War

Adair County took an active part in the Civil war. Slavery had never been an extensive institution here, there being only fifty-one slaves in the county in 1850 and eighty-six in 1860. Many of the early settlers had come from Kentucky or were of Southern descent and there was much sympathy with the South, but when the issue became clearly drawn between North and South, Adair County sided with the North. Even many of the Southern sympathizers were unable to agree with the doctrine of secession, so the only thing they could do when the Southern states began to secede was to oppose their action.

The first expression of the county's attitude was probably at the election of delegates to the state convention called by Governor Jackson to consider the question of secession. This election was held on February 18, 1861, with two tickets in the field, one an unconditional Union ticket and the other a conditional Union ticket. The candidates on the first ticket, Frederick Rowland, of Marion County, Joseph M. Irwin, of Shelby County and John D. Foster, of Adair County, were elected by a decisive majority, carrying both Adair County and the district as a whole.

Several war mass meetings were held in Kirksville during the spring of 1861. W. T. Davis and Tom Brannon addressed those made up of Southern sympathizers. Meetings of Northern sympathizers were also held and it is said that at one large Union meeting, held on May 27, much enthusiasm was aroused by the sight of an aged man named Foster, the father of Adair county's delegate to the state convention, carrying an American flag. Mr. Foster was a heavy slave owner.

Confederate troops were recruited from this county during May and June, 1861. W. T. Davis and E. M. C. Morelock, editor of the Kirksville Democrat, a weekly newspaper, are thought to have been the leaders of the movement. In August, of the same year a part of the Third Iowa Regiment came to Kirksville and put a stop to this work. It is said that not less than three hundred men joined the Confederate army while enlistments were being made and that many others slipped out of the county later and joined the Confederates.

In some of the counties of the state, Union Sympathizers were permitted to kill Southerners against whom they had an old grudge and go unpunished. This was not true in Adair, however. On July 4, 1861, a Union man named Ward, stabbed and killed a Southern man named Sumter. As he had a bad reputation previously, while Sumter had been quiet and inoffensive, Ward was put in jail and a few nights later he was taken out and hanged. No investigation of the lynching was made.

Adair County furnished at least four hundred and seventeen men to the Northern armies. This number, which is one hundred and sixty more than was called for, is the number which has been credited to the county. It does not include those men who enlisted outside the county or those who enlisted in 1865.

Companies of Home Guards were organized in Adair County in 1861, some of which remained in the service only three months. There were at least three companies which disbanded after ninety days and there were many others organized during the war, which were in the service for several years. Some of these troops were organized into Companies A and B, of the Twenty-second Infantry, Missouri Volunteers. The work of recruiting men for these two Adair county companies and of getting them into service was facilitated by the arrival in Kirksville in July of some detachments of the Third Iowa Infantry, already spoken of, and the Sixteenth Illinois Infantry. These troops helped not only in recruiting Federal soldiers, but also in running down Confederate recruits and recruiting officers.

The first military event of the war in Adair County occurred on August 19, 1861, a few miles northeast of Kirksville, between a squad of twelve men from the two Adair county companies and a squad of Confederate recruits under Captain Robert Hagar, of Monroe County. The Union men were scouting around, trying to find a Colonel Green, who was a successful Confederate recruiting officer. When at dinner at the house of a Union man, the Union troops were attacked and Corporal Hervey Dix, of Company D, Third Iowa Infantry, their leader, was killed in the fight that ensued. The appearance of Confederate reinforcements under Captain W. S. Richardson, of Lewis County, compelled the squad of Federals to flee as best they could.

Some of the Union soldiers from Adair County saw service in the South. In the Twenty-seventh Infantry, Missouri Volunteers, there were companies, C and D, which were made up largely of men from Adair County. This regiment was first sent to Rolla, Missouri, then ordered to Vicksburg, where it participated in the capture of that place. It was also in Sherman's march from Corinth to Chattanooga, and took part in the fights at Tuscumbia, Lookout Mountain and Mission Ridge. Later it took part in the siege of Atlanta and the march to the sea, assisting in the taking of Savannah. It was also in the engagement against General Joe Johnston at Bentonville, North Carolina, and was mustered out of service June 13, 1865.

Adair County troops in the Thirty-ninth Infantry of Missouri Volunteers were in the famous Centralia Massacre. Company A, under Captain James A. Smith, and Company B, under Joseph R. Good, were made up largely of men from Adair County. The companies of the regiment were recruited in August, 1864, and in September, of the same year, were put on the trail of bushwhackers in Northeast Missouri. During the movements, Major A. V. E. Johnson started from Paris with parts of Companies A, E and H, and followed the trail of Bill Anderson, the famous guerrilla, until he found him at Centralia on September 27th. Coming into Centralia with only about one hundred and seventy-five men. Major Johnson, against the advice of citizens of Centralia, decided to attack Anderson, who had stationed himself in the timber near the city. Anderson had the advantage of position and superior troops as well as of numbers. Johnson had to leave fifty of his men to take care of the horses and wagons, while Anderson had more than three hundred men ready to fight. Company A was almost wiped out in the struggle that took place. Few of Anderson's men were killed or wounded. According to Lieutenant Colonel Kutzner's report, one hundred and twenty-two Federal troops, including Major Johnson, were killed, all within a few minutes.

The Battle of Kirksville

Of Adair's part in the Civil war, probably the most important part remains to be told, the battle of Kirksville. Although relatively unimportant as a battle, it was the only engagement of any size that took place in the county.

Joseph C. Porter, a lieutenant colonel in the Confederate army, was enlisting troops in Northeast Missouri. He was trying to gather as large an army as possible and move it to Arkansas, where it could join the forces that were gathering there. The Federals decided to attack the Southern troops and crush them before they became too well organized. Colonel McNeil, of St. Louis, with twelve hundred and fifty men, largely directed the attack.

From a camp in Lewis County. Porter started southward, keeping constantly on the move to escape attack and to increase the number of his enlistments. He was reinforced when he reached Callaway County, so that he had in all two hundred and sixty men. Porter then turned northward again, sending detachments to Paris and Canton to capture these places. A courier from Captain Tice Cain brought him the in-formation that Cain and his Schuyler county men had entered Kirks-ville and had taken it. This news caused Porter and his men to join the combined force under Porter now numbered about two thousand. Cain at Kirksville, near which place they might bring on an engagement. Of this number only about five hundred were well armed, while five hundred were fairly armed and one thousand were not armed at all. The large number of unarmed men is accounted for by the fact that Porter was gathering up recruits rapidly, many of whom had no arms of their own and could not get any until they reached the main Confederate army in Arkansas.

On reaching Kirksville, Porter warned the people to get out of town. Some of his troops barricaded themselves in houses and drew up his main line of defense behind a rail fence. Kirksville was then a small village, having a population of less than eight hundred.

McNeil's forces arrived at the edge of Kirksville about 10 o'clock on the morning of August 6th. After ascertaining the position of the enemy at the loss of several of his men, McNeil attacked Porter. After a hot fight in which Porter's men were driven out of a cornfield by a battery of five guns and the public square was taken after a struggle, Porter was driven out of the town. McNeil's troops were too fatigued to offer pursuit very long, so most of Porter's army escaped, although they lost some supplies. The loss on both sides is unknown. The number of Union men killed has been given as five by one authority and as twenty-eight by another. Of Porter's two thousand men, only about five hundred were able to take part in the battle. The number of Confederates killed is variously estimated all the way from thirty-five to one hundred and fifty; the wounded from seventy-five to four hundred; and the captured from fifty to two hundred and fifty. McNeil's force is said to have consisted of about one thousand men, of which number probably more than half took part in the fight.

The Confederate wounded were in a frightful condition after the battle. Finally, John L. Porter, then deputy circuit clerk and recorder of Adair County, a Southern sympathizer as well as a friend of McNeil, succeeded in getting a Federal surgeon to attend to the wounded. The Federal wounded were cared for east of Kirksville until they could be brought into the city. If the citizens had not acted on the advice of the Confederate leaders and left the town, many would have been killed. As it was, one woman, Mrs. Elizabeth Coots, was mortally wounded.

Confederates Captured

On the day of the battle, fifteen Confederates, who had been captured in the fight, were executed because of alleged violation of their paroles.

William Bates
R. M. Galbreath
Lewis Rollins
William Wilson
Columbus Harris
Reuben Thomas (or Thompson)
Thomas Webb
Reuben Green, of Monroe County
James Christian
David Wood
Bennett Hayden, of Shelby County
William Bailee
Hamilton Brannon, of Marion County
John Kent, of Adair County

On the second day after the battle Colonel Frisby H. McCollough, a successful Confederate recruiting officer, was also executed.

The importance of the battle of Kirksville has never been recognized by some. The Union officers congratulated themselves because they were rid of a dangerous enemy. Porter was never able to recover fully from the defeat he met with at Kirksville. He kept up his recruiting, but was less successful. What he might have done had he won the battle instead of losing it, is problematical. It was an important part of the desperate effort made by the Confederates to force Missouri out of Vie Union.

The Religious Progress

The earliest religious denominations in Adair County were the Baptists and Methodists. It is impossible to tell which came first. The first preacher who is known to have preached in the county was the Rev. Abram Still, father of Dr. A. T. Still, who came to Macon County in 1836. He frequently preached in what is now Adair County until he left for Kansas in the forties. He is said to have delivered the first sermon ever preached in Kirksville.

Religious services were held at first at very irregular intervals.

Then circuit riders began to have regular appointments. It was some time until services were held every Sunday, however. The lack of regular services was often made up for by having camp meetings at which religious meetings were conducted for several days. The first camp meeting in the county is said to have been one held by the Rev. James Dysart and the Rev. Robert Mitchell at Lesley's Ford on the Chariton River, sometime in the forties.

Church buildings, when any were erected, were simple, inexpensive frame structures. The Civil war brought about peculiar conditions in the churches of the county. In an effort to get on their feet again, they permitted doctrinal differences to get the better of them and denominational strife became bitter. Nearly every sermon was doctrinal and any stranger could tell to what denomination the preacher belonged by listening to him a few minutes. Religious debates began to be held. They seem to have been most frequent and most thoroughly enjoyed in 1878. Probably the most interesting debate was one held between Dr. Jacob Ditzler, a noted Methodist preacher, and Professor Jamison, a Liberalist residing in Kirksville at the time. The four propositions discussed by the debaters were:

(1) The Old and New Testaments are the inspired revelation of God to man. Ditzler upheld the affirmative.
(2) The Bible is merely a human production, abounds in contradictions and conflicts with success. Jamison upheld the affirmative.
(3) In-fidelity and materialism tend to immorality and to the injury of society. Ditzler upheld the affirmative.
(4) The Christian religion and the Bible tend to immorality and the injury of society. Jamison upheld the affirmative.

Argumentative addresses of all kinds were frequent. Spiritualism and astronomical subjects were among those discussed. President Bald-win, of the State Normal School was one of those who spoke in opposition to spiritualism. The debates were not only between the orthodox and the heterodox, but were sometimes between those who were strictly orthodox. Baptism and predestination were favorite subjects for these discussions.

The denominations now represented in the county include the Methodists, the United Brethren, the Presbyterians, the Missionary Baptists, the Free Will Baptists, the Christians, the Catholics and the Episcopalians.

The Methodist Episcopal church has congregations at Kirksville, where they have a fine church building; Brashear, Novinger, Connelsville, Sabbath Home, Bethel, Cater Memorial and Bullion.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, has churches in the county, also. The church at Kirksville has a large brick building. There are also congregations at Brashear, Trinity, Gibbs and Curtis, in Clay Township.

The United Brethren have congregations at Brashear, Gibbs, Prairie View, Green Grove, Prairie Bend and one six miles northeast of Kirksville. This denomination has split into two branches. Some of the congregations in Adair County belong to the branch known as the Liberals, some to the branch known as the Radicals. There are churches at each of the places named above; at Gibbs there are two.

The Baptists have always been strong in Adair County. The oldest Baptist organization in the county is the Bear Creek church, which was organized in 1840 by the Rev. Talbot Hight. The denomination also has churches at Kirksville, Novinger, Millard, three in the country in Clay Township, Wilsontown, and one in Walnut Township called Morris church. The congregation at Kirksville expended $12,000 in rebuilding their church building in 1910, after it had been badly damaged by fire.

There are four Free Will Baptist congregations in the county, at Jewell, Connelsville, Bethel and Sublett.

The Christian church has congregations at Kirksville, Brashear, Gibbs, Illinois Bend and Star.

The Cumberland Presbyterians were a denomination of some strength in Adair County when they united with the Presbyterians in 1906. The Cumberlands had a good church building in Kirksville, which is now used for the united congregations. There is also a Presbyterian congregation at Millard. The Cumberland churches at Mulberry and Mount Moriah became Presbyterian churches at the time of the union.

There is an Episcopal church at Kirksville and there are Catholic churches at Adair, Kirksville and Novinger. The Catholic Church at Adair is very strong. The Lutherans, Universalists, Swedenborgians Spiritualists, Holiness church and Salvation Army have had congregations in the county at different times.

Schools in the County

The schools in Adair County in early days were, like those elsewhere, not up to the standards of today. In 1855 there were only six school buildings in the county. There were six teachers, all men, who received an average salary of $13.00 a month. Out of one thousand and thirty-seven children of school age only one hundred and sixty-eight were enrolled in these schools.

Interest in schools soon began to increase, however. By 1857 the number of school houses had increased to twenty-six and the number of teachers to thirty-eight, five of whom were women. The percentage of enrollment had also increased, for out of an enumeration of 2,913, 1,152 were enrolled in the schools.

The Civil war caused practically all the schools of the county to suspend or at least continue irregularly. The condition at the close of the war was as good as could be expected. Out of an enumeration of 13,937, 2,574 were attending school. There were seventy-one teachers, of which thirty-seven were women. The decrease in the proportion of men teaching in the schools is noticeable in Adair County as elsewhere.

Efforts made throughout the state from 1865 to 1875 to unify the school system brought good results in Adair County. By 1872 there were seventy-four school districts in the county. At the present time there are eighty districts. Each district, with the exception of five, has a board of directors composed of three members elected for three years, one member retiring every year. Kirksville, Novinger, Brashear, Connelsville and Wilmathsville have boards of six members, two retiring every year.

The size of the districts varies. In the western part of the county they are three miles square, as a rule, but in the eastern part they are of several different sizes. There has been little tendency toward district consolidation, although there is need for it in several instances.

The schools of the county cost about $50,000 a year, of which the state pays about $10,000. The average teacher's salary is about $42.50.

At Kirksville there are three public schools, occupying substantial brick buildings. There is also a good high school, which is accredited by the University of Missouri. Good schools are also found at Novinger, Brashear, Gibbs and Connelsville as well as in country districts.

The First District State Normal School of Missouri is located in Adair County, at Kirksville. It was established by act of the legislature in 1870, which created two normal school districts in the state, and made provision for the location of a state normal school in each. The first normal school was located at Kirksville, while the second district normal school was located at Warrensburg. The citizens of Adair County had voted bonds not to exceed $100,000 in all for the location of the first district school at Kirksville. Livingston County offered $60,000 to have it located at Chillicothe. The proposition made by Adair County was accepted unanimous by the board of regents appointed by the legislature after the people of the county had voted in favor of it, 629 to 189. The actual expenditure by Adair County was $76,000.

State Normal School, No. 1, Kirksville

The buildings occupied by the North Missouri Normal School were taken over by the state normal and President Baldwin, who had founded the first named school in 1867, became president of the new institution. A new building, to cost $51,400, was begun. It developed after the contract had been let that this amount did not call for a completed building, but only for the enclosure, so the legislature appropriated $50,000 to complete the structure.

The school has had four presidents besides its first one. President Joseph Baldwin. John R. Kirk is the present president. The school has had for several years an enrollment of considerably more than one thousand each year. For the year ending August 31, 1911, the enrollment was 1,405.

Joseph Baldwin

Besides the public educational institutions, Kirksville also has a school which attracts students from all over the United States, the American School of Osteopathy. It was founded by Dr. A. T. Still, founder of the science of osteopathy. When Doctor Still made his discoveries, he was living at Baldwin, Kansas, the home of Baker University, a Methodist institution which he and his relatives had helped materially to get started several years before. When he asked the privilege of explaining his new found science in the school, he was flatly refused. Finding Kansas an unwelcome field he came to Missouri in 1875 and settled at Kirksville. Doctor Still and his sons made slow progress in spreading the discovery, but after some years of hard work, success came to them. By 1891 patients began to come to Doctor Still from all parts of the country. Sometimes he would have from one hundred t" 125 in a week. In May, 1892, Doctor Still incorporated the American School of Osteopathy. The school has grown from humble beginnings to an institution of much influence. The enrollment has increased rapidly and in 1910 there were 153 in the graduating class, making a total of 2,997 graduates of the school. The science of osteopathy has been legalized in Missouri and has also been given recognition by law in forty-one other states and territories, and one province in Canada.

From 1897 to 1900 there was a second school of osteopathy in Kirksville, the Columbian School, This was founded by Dr. M. L. Ward. The school went out of existence after many difficulties.

History of the Newspapers

The first newspaper published in Adair County was the Kirksville Enterprise, established about 1856. L. F. Walden is said to have been its first editor and publisher.

The newspapers and periodicals published in the county et the present time are:

The Democrat, the Journal, the Graphic, the Van Guard and the Daily Express, the first four weekly and the last named daily, the Normal School Index, a weekly, and the Journal of Osteopathy and Atlas Bulletin, monthlies, all published at Kirksville; the Free Press, published at Novinger; and the News, published at Brashear. The last two mentioned newspapers are weeklies.

The county has been Republican most of the time since the Civil war, although nominees of that party have been defeated several times. During the life of the Greenback party in Missouri the Republicans were beaten by a fusion of Greenbackers and Democrats. At the present time the county court is Democratic for the second time since the war. All but one of the other county officers are Republican, however.

Farm Interests

The chief industry of the county is, and always has been, that of farming. The county ranks third in the state in the number of tons of coal mined, but its agricultural interests exceed even its mining interests. The comity has a corn acreage of about sixty-three thousand. The acreage of hay and forage is even greater than this. Some oats and a little wheat are grown.

The county also ranks well in livestock. Cattle, sheep and hogs are found in large numbers. The livestock of the county is estimated to be worth about $3,000,000. Much poultry is also raised.

The largest manufacturing establishment in the county is the factory of the Friedman-Shelby Shoe Company, whose home office is at St. Louis. This factory was built in Kirksville in 1908, after the citizens had given the company $60,000 in cash, a free site for the building and had promised free water for five years. The factory employs three hundred people and the weekly payroll is about $2,500. The daily output of shoes is twelve hundred pairs.

Coal Mining

The county began to be important in the mining of coal about 1900. Coal had been mined since 1688, but the county did not rank among the leading counties in the state until 1900. Since 1902 it has produced from five hundred thousand to seven hundred and ten thousand tons of coal a year. In 1905 it ranked second among the counties in the state in the number of tons mined. Since that year it has ranked third. The coal fields are for the most part in the western and north-western parts of the county. There are at least three veins of coal deposits. The first one is found in the hills in and around Stahl and seems to be confined to that part of the county altogether. The second vein extends rather generally throughout the coal fields of the county and is found at a depth varying from fifty to seventy-five feet. The third vein underlies the second at a depth of about one hundred and fifty feet and has been found at Stahl, Connelsville, Novinger and perhaps elsewhere. The veins vary in thickness from twenty-four to forty-four inches. There are in the county now shaft, slope and drift mines in operation. The first mining machinery in the county was installed at Stahl in 1907.

The coal industry of the county has given rise to several towns, as well as increased the size of others. Stahl, Novinger and Connelsville owe their existence to the fact that under and around them lie great beds of coal which have been operated to a great extent. Novinger, especially, has benefited by the coal industry. While ten or twelve years ago it was a little village of about a dozen houses, it is now a town of two thousand population and has just begun its growth.

The first coal company to do business in the county that represented much capital was the Pennsylvania Coal Company. This company purchased, in 1837, the mines at Stahl and Danforth and operated them both. The company's name has since been changed to the Stahl Coal Company. There are now four large mining companies at Novinger, the Kansas City Midland Company, the Manufacturers' Coke and Coal Company, the Great Northern Fuel Company and the Rombauer Coal Company.


Four railroads pass through Adair County. They are the Iowa & St. Louis, the Quincy, Omaha & Kansas City, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe and the Wabash.

The first to be built was the Wabash, which was known at first as the North Missouri Railroad. It was built from St. Louis through Adair county and northward to the Missouri-Iowa state line by December, 1868. There was a great celebration when the road was completed as far as Kirksville on July 4th. On July 18, 1868, an excursion train was run over the new road from Macon to Kirksville. This was the first time a railroad train had ever been seen in Adair County. It stopped at each station along the route while the band played. Two hours were required to make the trip. The name of the railroad was changed, in 1872, to the St. Louis, Kansas City & Northern. It was taken over by the Wabash Company in 1889.

The Quincy, Omaha & Kansas City Railroad was built through the eastern half of the county to Kirksville in 1872. The road was later built on to the westward. The Burlington has acquired this rail-road and it is now known as the "O. K." or Quincy route. It runs from Quincy to Kansas City and Omaha.

There are two railroads, the Santa Fe and the Iowa & St. Louis that do not pass through Kirksville. The Santa Fe was built through the county in 1888. The only important station on the Santa Fe in Adair County is Gibbs. The Iowa & St. Louis Railroad was built through the county in the last ten years. It runs from Sedan, Iowa, to Elmer, Macon County, Missouri. The road is now owned by the Burlington system. It was originally built to open up rich coal mines. Yarrow, Youngstown, Novinger, Connelsville and Hiberton are all on the route of this road through Adair County.

There are ten banks in the county. Four of the banks are in Kirksville. There are two at Brashear and Novinger and one at Connelsville and Gibbs. The first bank organized in the county was the Kirksville branch of the Bank of St. Louis, which was opened for business in November, 1859. The second bank, the Kirksville Savings Bank, was established in 1873. All the other banks have been founded since 1890. There has never been a bank failure in the county.

County Towns

The largest town in Adair County is Kirksville, the county seat. According to the 1910 census, it had a population of 6,347. It was laid out in 1841, at which time Jesse Kirk, David E. Sloan and possibly others were living in the vicinity. It was incorporated in 1857.

The city was visited by a cyclone on April 27, 1899, in which twenty-eight people were killed. Much damage was done to property. Some little damage has been done from time to time by water.

Kirksville has been without open saloons for the last five years. At an election held in June, 1912, the city voted against the sale of liquor for four years more.

Brashear, in the eastern part of the county, on the Quincy, Omaha & Kansas City Railroad, was laid out in 1872. It had a population of 458 in 1910.

Nineveh was founded by German communists who came from Bethel, Shelby County, Missouri. Their leader was Dr. William Keil. The colony was dissolved soon after the death of Dr. Keil in 1877. The com-munity still exists, however. Most of its members have joined other churches.

Connelsville, incorporated in 1904, has a population of 652. Coal mining is the chief industry in this vicinity.

Novinger, founded by and named for John C. Novinger, who lived in the neighborhood, is the junction point of the Iowa & St. Louis and Quincy, Omaha & Kansas City Railroads. It has a population of about two thousand and is a coal mining center.

Gibbs, in the southeastern part of the county, on the Santa Fe Railroad, has a population of about 250. It is a grain and stock ship-ping center for farmers in three counties.

Stahl, a coal mining town on the Quincy, Omaha & Kansas City Railroad; Shibley's Point, three miles northeast of Stahl; Adair, a Catholic community; Wilmathsville, in the northeast part of the county; Sublett, a shipping point on the Wabash; and Millard, also a shipping point on the Wabash, are unincorporated villages.

Other communities in the county are Danforth, Youngstown, Nind, Yarrow and Wilsontown. Danforth is on the Quincy, Omaha & Kansas City and Youngstown and Yarrow on the Iowa & St. Louis Railroad.

  Northeast Missouri| Missouri Counties | Books on AHGP

Source: History of Northeast Missouri, edited by Walter Williams, Volume I, Lewis Publishing Company, 1913


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