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

Lincoln County, Missouri
By H. F. Childers, Troy


Physical Features

Lincoln County is bounded on the north by Pike County, on the east by the Mississippi River which separates it from Calhoun County in Illinois, on the south by St. Charles and Warren counties, and on the west by Montgomery County. It has an area of 620 square miles, or 396,148 acres.

The county is drained on the east by the Mississippi and some of its tributaries, the principal ones being Bryant's Big Sandy, McLean's and Bob's creeks, and the Cuivre River which forms a portion of the southern boundary of the county. All that part of the county lying west of the dividing ridge before mentioned is drained by Cuivre and its tributaries. This river is formed by the flowing together of Sulphur Fork, Sandy Fork, and other small streams in the northwestern comer of the county in Waverly Township. It then flows in a southerly direction to the mouth of Big creek at the southern boundary of the county and thence north of east on a very tortuous line on the county boundary to the Mississippi.

The timbers comprise all the serviceable wood except pine and poplar. Lincoln is the best timbered county in North Missouri. In it are found oak, walnut, cherry, ash, maple, birch, elm, hickory, linden, cottonwood, sycamore, locust, pecan, hackberry, mulberry, willow, dogwood, hornbean, box-elder, sassafras, persimmon and some others, showing an excellent variety for domestic, farm and manufacturing purposes. Of the eighteen species of oak found in this state more than a dozen are here; of hickory, six; locust, sycamore, maple and elm, three each; walnut, two, and so on. This list embraces all that is required in nearly the whole range of manufactures, including, as it does, an admirable variety of hard, soft and finishing woods, and the supply may be said to be inexhaustible.

The minerals of Lincoln County are almost entirely undeveloped. In the southwest part of the county coal is found to the thickness of twenty-seven feet, the layers containing cannel, bituminous and block coals. An analysis of cannel coal from this mine by the chemist of the state geological board, exhibits: water 1.15; volatile matter 41.25; fixed carbon 49.60; ash 8.0. Several shafts have been sunk, hut owing to want of transportation facilities, only enough coal is mined to supply local demand.

Over a large area of the northern and northeastern parts Trenton limestone is found in layers of from ten to twenty-five inches in thick-ness. It is light yellowish gray or drab in color, fine crystalline, very hard and compact, with smooth conchoidal fracture and susceptible of a fine polish, in many cases resembling a marble. In the southeast is the St. Louis limestone, hard, fine crystalline, and of a light blue and drab color. Over the remainder of the county are the Encrinital and Archimedes limestones.

The soil of Lincoln County is varied in kind and quality. It ranges from poor to extremely rich. While none is too poor to make fair return on labor judiciously bestowed, none is too rich for careful and thorough cultivation to pay over slovenly tilling.

The Early Settlements

The history of Lincoln County properly dates from the first year of the last century when Major Christopher Clark erected his cabin and made the first permanent settlements within its present limits. About five years previous a few persons located on Spanish grants, in the eastern part of the county, adjacent to the Mississippi and Cuivre rivers. These were mostly French trappers and hunters, whose residence was only temporary. It is estimated that at the commencement of the last century only about forty acres of land had ever been put in cultivation in the county.

Major Clark was born in Lincoln County. North Carolina, in 1766. His father, James Clark, was a native of Ireland, and his mother, Catherine Home, of Scotland. They settled first in Winchester, Virginia.

Christopher Clark in 1788 settled in Lincoln County, North Carolina. He married Elizabeth Adams, by whom he had six children, James, Sarah, Catherine, David, Hannah and Elizabeth. He served as lieutenant in a company of volunteers, guarding the frontiers of Kentucky, and also during a campaign up the Wabash River in 1790. He came to Missouri in 1798, bringing with him his horses and cattle. On this occasion he came on a prospecting tour as far north as the present site of Troy, where was then situated a small Indian village, the wigwams being placed in a kind of circle around the spring. The following year he brought his family in a pirogue, or large keel-boat, down the Kentucky and Ohio and up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and landed at St. Charles. He settled at what is now known as Gilmore. A few days after his arrival his wife died. He returned to Kentucky and purchased a black girl to do the housework in his new home and in April, 1801, he moved into the limits of this county, being the first white man to cross Big creek with a wagon, and built his cabin three and a half miles southeast of Troy, on the St. Charles road. This was the first permanent settlement in the state north of present limits of St. Charles County.

At that time his nearest neighbor was Anthony Keller, who lived on the south bank of Big creek, four miles off.

Shortly afterward came Jeremiah Groshong, a native of Pennsylvania, who had lived a few years in St. Charles County, near the Missouri River. He settled half a mile northeast of Clark's.

Next came the families of Zadock Woods and Joseph Cottle, from Woodstock, Vermont, who settled in Troy in 1802.

At the time of Major Clark's settlement, this country was commonly called New Spain. Its official designation was the Province of Upper Louisiana. After its purchase by the United States it was added to the Territory of Indiana, of which Gen. William Henry Harrison was governor. General Harrison on December 21, 1804, com-missioned Christopher Clark a captain of volunteers and he was sworn into service February 9, 1805. Clark's company used to muster at Zumwalt's spring, now known as Big Spring Mills, near Flint Hill.

The only murder known to have been committed by Indians in Lincoln County before the breaking out of the War of 1812 was the massacre of the McHugh children. Doubtless some others were perpetrated as some of the descendants of the pioneers remember to have heard the facts stated; but names and circumstances are alike forgotten.

In 1804, William McHugh sent his sons, James, William and Jesse, to hunt the horses, which they found about a mile from home up Sandy creek. On their return they fell in with Frederick Dixon, a famous Indian scout. The two older boys were each riding a horse and Jesse, a lad of ten or twelve years, got up behind Dixon. At the ford of Sandy creek, while their horses were drinking, they were fired on by Indians concealed behind a large sycamore. The two older boys were killed instantly and Dixon and Jesse were thrown to the ground by their horse. Dixon, unarmed, fled, and Jesse was killed.

A Mississippi River Scene

The War of 1812

The apprehensions of the early settlers as to the Indian attitude were greatly increased by the news of the declaration of war with Great Britain. The population within the confines of Lincoln County did not exceed five hundred. The exposed condition of the inhabitants would invite the hostile attention of the five or six tribes who considered the county their hunting ground.

The people lost no time in building stockade forts and providing for the defense of their homes. Major Clark, with the assistance of two hired men, built a stockade at his residence, and it was called Clark's Fort. He put up seven thousand pounds of pork to cure with other provisions for the use of family that would seek shelter within its walls after being driven from their homes.

A large stockade was built at Troy and called Wood's Fort, Stout's Fort was built on Port Branch, near Auburn, and another large stockade was built on a bluff between Chain of Rocks and Cap-au-Gris. This was called Port Howard.

Most of the rangers who volunteered from Lincoln County, as far as known, served in the companies of Capt. Christopher Clark, Capt. Daniel M. Boone, Capt. Nathan Boone and Capt. James Callaway, the last named a grandson and the two Boones sons of Daniel Boone. All three were from St. Charles County. A few were under a Captain Craig, who was killed in Lincoln County.

The County Organization

To the first settler of Lincoln County was reserved the honor of securing its establishment as a separate county and also of selecting its name. In the territorial legislature which convened in St. Louis in December, 1818, the organization of several new counties was discussed. Major Clark, who was a member, proposed a new county out of the area of St. Charles, of about twenty-four miles square, with the boundaries corresponding very nearly to the present ones. The county was organized and was the sixth one set off by the territorial legislature, not including the county of Arkansas, which has since been made an independent state.

The act creating the county and a supplemental act fixing the time and place for holding courts had been passed only a short time before the organization of the county began. The first court convened at the home of Zadock Woods, in Troy, on Monday, April 5, 1819. It was a circuit court, but under the provisions of the law it exercised the functions of a county court and kept separate and distinct records. David Todd, of Howard county, was the first circuit judge; John Ruland, the first circuit and county clerk; and David Bailey the first sheriff. The commissioners to locate the county seat were David Bai-ley, Daniel Draper, Hugh Cummins and Abraham Kennedy.

Frist Grand Jury

Joseph Cottle
John Null
Prospect K. Bobbins
Samuel H. Lewis
Thacker Vivion
Job Williams
Alembe Williams Jr.
Jeremiah Groshong
John Bell
Jacob Null Sr.
John Hunter
Elijah Collard
William Harrell
Jacob Null Jr.
Isaac Cannon
Hiram Millsaps
Alembe Williams Sr.
Zachariah Callaway

"Who after being duly sworn and charged, retired to their room, and after some time returned without making any presentment and were discharged."

On the second day the clerk was ordered to apply to the clerk of St. Charles County for all orders relating to public roads heretofore established in this county. The court then proceeded to divide the county into four townships. The county lines, the fifth principal meridian running through the center of the county running north and south and the line between townships forty-nine and fifty, running through the center east and west, constituted the boundaries of the townships, which were named Monroe, in the southeast, Bedford, in the southwest, Union, in the northwest, and Hurricane in the northeast.

Prospect K. Bobbins, James Woods and Joseph Oldham were appointed judges of the election for Monroe; Elijah Collard, Benjamin Blanton and Alembe Williams, Jr., for Bedford; Robert Jameson, Philip Sitton and Samuel Gibson for Union; and Benjamin Allen, John Ewing and Jesse Sitton for Hurricane.

 The places the election was to be held were also named, in three townships at the home of one of the judges. In Bedford Township the home of Zadock Woods was the polling place. James Woods was appointed a constable of Monroe Township, Lee F. T. Cottle of Bedford, Thacker Vivion of Union, and Allen Turnbaugh of Hurricane. Their bonds were fixed at one thousand dollars each, a large amount for those days.

The first justices of the peace in the county, appointed by the governor, were

Benjamin Cottle and James Duncan for Bedford
Daniel Draper for Union, Benjamin Allen for Hurricane
Prospect K. Robbins for Monroe Township

The election provided for was held August 2nd, and a delegate for congress was voted for. Samuel Hammond and John Scott were the candidates. Hammond carried Lincoln county, sixty-nine to five, but Scott was elected. He was then the incumbent, having held the office from 1816; he continued until Missouri was admitted as a state, and then was elected as a member of congress three times, retiring in 1827.

County Court Proceedings

The first county tax ordered to be levied and collected by the sheriff, was as follows: On each horse over three years old, fifty cents; neat cattle same age, six and a quarter cents; on each Negro or mulatto slave between the ages of sixteen and forty-five years fifty cents; on each billiard table, twenty-five dollars; on each able-bodied man, twenty-one years old and upward, not possessed of property to the value of two hundred dollars, fifty cents; on mills, tan yards and distilleries, in actual operation, forty cents on every hundred dollars of their valuation.

At the third term of court, December, 1819, the first petit jury was impaneled, consisting of:

Petit Jury

Ira Cottle foreman
John Lindsey
Onion Gibson
Jacob Williamson
George Jameson
Samuel Gibson
Robert Jameson Sr.
Thacker Vivion
Isaac Cannon
Abijah Smith
Hugh Bernett
Andrew Cottle

The case was that of the "United States vs. Robert McNair, for hog stealing." Robert McNair was a brother to Alexander McNair, the first governor of the state of Missouri.

The commissioners to fix upon a county seat reported that they had selected Monroe and that a jail had been erected there, and the court thereupon ordered that the courts be held afterward at that town. The first accounts ever presented against the county were allowed at this term.

The court met at the new county seat for the first time on Monday, April 3, 1820. The first change in the boundaries of the municipal townships was made. Part of Monroe was cut off and added to Bedford. Little else was done besides appointing judges of election, which was to be held on the first three days of May, 1820, for a member of the convention to frame a constitution for the admission of the state into the Union. This election was the second held in the county and was the first in which all four townships participated. In the first election held in the county no vote was cast in one township. Four candidates were voted on in the election, Malcolm Henry, Sr., receiving 119 votes, Meredith Cox 81, Joseph Cottle 42 and James Duncan 6. These were all pro-slavery men and all but Cottle came from slave-holding states.

At the January term, 1821, Bennett Palmer appears on the records as county and circuit clerk. The first county court as a separate body was then in session. Jonathan Riggs and Ira Cottle produced commissions from Gov. Alexander McNair and took their seats as county judges. In the April term, John Geiger produced a like commission and took his seat.

The selection of Monroe as the county seat was never satisfactory to the people of the county. By reference to the session acts of the legislature for 1822, will be found an act providing for its removal from that point. In the preamble it is set forth that the inhabitants of the county suffer great hardships and inconveniences occasioned by their seat of justice having been located at Monroe, which is situated in the southeast corner of the county, and that a good majority of the citizens had presented a petition to the general assembly for the passage of a law for the removal of the seat of justice to the center of the county or some suitable spot not more than three miles from the center. The legislature thereafter appointed Robert Gay, of Pike, Francis Howell, Sr., of St. Charles, and William Lamme, of Montgomery, commissioners and empowered them with full authority to select a suitable site in accordance with the petition. The courts were to be continued at Monroe until the erection of a court house and jail at the new county seat.

The last term held in Monroe was in November, 1822. No mention is made on the records of any compliance with the terms of the legislative act before the removal of the county seat; but on the first Monday in February, 1823, the county court convened at Old Alexandria, the point selected by the commissioners as the new county seat. The books and papers had been sent up the previous Saturday and deposited in the only dwelling house in the place. This was a hewed log building, one and a half stories high, with one window containing twelve lights of eight by ten glass, clap-board roof, floor and door of rough wood and mud chimney with stone back, capable of holding a six-foot log. A small room adjoining was used as a kitchen. This was quite a stylish and comfortable residence for the frontiers of Missouri in that day, and it was with no little pride that the good lady of the house surrendered the "best room" for the use of the court, and retired to the kitchen.

In 1828 three-fifths of the voters of the county petitioned the county court to remove the county seat from Old Alexandria to Troy. The court appointed Felix Scott, of St. Charles County, Thomas Kerr, of Pike, Richard Wright, Philip Glover and George Clay, of Montgomery, commissioners for selecting a court of justice. The commissioners chose Troy and their selection was approved by the circuit court. An election was held December 8th at which the people of the county ratified the removal by a vote of 211 to 2. The last session of the county court at Old Alexandria was held on January 3, 1829, and the first one in Troy was on February 9, 1829.


Eight new townships have been created in Lincoln County at different times. They are Waverly, Clark, Prairie, Millwood, Nineveh, Burr Oak, Snow Hill, and Hawk Point.

From the assessment list of 1821, the earliest one preserved among the records, is found the list of the then resident tax-payers. The list together with the widows and the estates of deceased persons made the number 276 tax-payers. The taxes paid ranged from two and one-half cents to $12.41½ the latter sum being the amount paid by Shapley Ross. The average was about 95 cents. Ross was the largest slaveholder in the county as well as the largest tax-payer. He had seventeen slaves and also much other property, including 504 acres of land, on which stood a saw and grist mill, thirty-nine town lots, twelve horses, eighteen cattle and one watch. He was taxed on these things, according to the records.

Several Revolutionary soldiers were among the early settlers of Lincoln County. Among those known to have lived in the county are Noah Rector, Isaac Hudson, John Chambers, John Barco and Alembe Williams.

Noah Rector lived at Millwood until 1849, when he died at the age of 102 years.
Isaac Hudson moved to the county from Kentucky in 1819 and settled in the present Nineveh Township. He was a blacksmith and a farmer.
John Chambers, a veteran of the battle of Monmouth, lived in Clark Township.
Williams and Barco were natives of North Carolina.

The first letters of administration granted in the county were granted to Dr. Benjamin English, on the estate of Daniel Epps. They were dated May 10, 1819. The first guardian was James Murdock, appointed to the heirs of William Lynn, April 3, 1820. The first divorce granted in the county was that of Samuel Smiley from Elizabeth Smiley. The charge was desertion. The first foreigner naturalized was Eleazer Block, a native of Bohemia, February 6, 1827.

The present court house was built in 1870 at a cost of about $27,500. The present jail was built in 1876 at a cost of about $7,500.

The "Slicker" War

During the years 1843, 1844 and 1845, there raged in Lincoln County what was known as the "Slicker" war. The term originated elsewhere, probably in Benton County in 1841, and came from the peculiar mode of punishment inflicted by the regulators, whipping with hickory withes or "slicking," as the backwoods parlance of that day termed it. An organized band of counterfeiters and horse and cattle thieves existed in many counties of Missouri and other western states, and about the period mentioned above, the people of the eastern part of the county found it necessary to organize for the protection of their property, so extensive were the depredations. It has been said that the persons who operated in Lincoln County sold twelve hundred horses during a single season at one sale stable in St. Louis. Of course, not all of these were taken from Lincoln County. Their operations in beef cattle were on as large a scale. Sometimes the thieves would be taken with the stolen property in possession, but would always manage to have enough convenient witnesses on hand to secure acquittal, and would march off with the stock before its owner's eyes. This aroused the greatest indignation which was heightened by the fact that the prevalence of counterfeit money, both metal and paper, seriously affected the transaction of business. A company of regulators was organized with James Stallard, of Hurricane Township, as captain. Some of the very best men of the eastern half of the county went into it. Brice Hammock drew up its constitution and by-laws. Had the spirit of these been strictly followed, some blood-shed and much ill-feeling might have been avoided. Some inexcusable excesses were committed, partly the result of the excitement of the times, but more from the fact that a few unprincipled men took the opportunity, either as active members of the organization or as pretended friends, to settle personal grudges. When the evidence against a suspected person became satisfactory to the regulators, such person was either "slicked" or ordered to leave the county by a given date, or both; and the penalty for a refusal or a failure to leave was either "slicking" or death, according to the merits of the case. The principals all fled.

The Civil War

The people of the county were profoundly interested in the stirring political events that followed the presidential campaign of 1860. Their sympathies were largely with the South and when Governor Jackson issued his proclamation calling for volunteers to defend the state against the invasion of the Federal troops, no county responded more enthusiastically and more freely than did Lincoln. Her soldiers were in every considerable engagement fought in the state.

They were in the first great battle, that at Springfield, in a regiment that went into action with 232 men, killed the Federal commander, and almost unaided drove back two of the finest regiments of the opposing army, and answered rollcall next morning with 105 men, and not one missing, having the severest loss in the army. The same bravery and patriotic enthusiasm were shown by them on a hundred battle fields, ending at Blakely on Mobile Bay, where the last gun of the war was fired, and by Lincoln County men under Lieutenant-Colonel Carter, who kept up the battle for more than, one hour after the last Confederate flag had been furled for the last time.

If the career of the Lincoln county soldiers who entered the Federal service was less brilliant from force of circumstance, it was none the less honorable. They fought over nearly the same ground as did their brothers on the other side, and they were ever distinguished for bravery, a strict obedience to discipline and a heroic devotion to the cause for which they contended. Further than this, which is only a just tribute to the brave men who fought on either side for their conviction of right, I shall not speak.

Schools and Churches

Railroad History

There are three railroads in Lincoln County, one in the eastern, one in the central and one in the southern part of the county. The St. Louis, Keokuk & Northwestern, which is a part of the Burlington system, was completed through the county in 1879, and is one of the best lines in Missouri. The St. Louis & Hannibal Railroad was completed through the central portion of the county in May, 1882. The line first mentioned was built without any aid from the county. The latter road, however, has cost a vast sum and the county has not yet paid all of the debt incurred. The third road was built in 1904, by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company, from Old Monroe to Mexico, Missouri, and forms a short line between St. Louis and Kansas City. This line of road has been used jointly by the Burlington and Chicago & Alton for passenger service between Missouri's largest cities. It is expected that the Burlington will ultimately complete this line from Mexico to Kansas City.

The history of the creation of the original debt of $300,000 in aid of the St. Louis & Hannibal Railroad is fresh in the minds of the people. It is sufficient to say that it was created in 1870, and that interest was paid on it up to and including 1876; then the county court refused further payment of interest on the ground of the invalid nature of the debt. Litigation ensued which ended in judgments by the United States supreme court against the county. Finally, in 1883, by a vote of the people the county court was authorized to compromise the debt and issue six per cent bonds in lieu of the old ones. This required the issue of $372,000 in new bonds. Five years later $325,000 of that debt was refunded at five per cent and on January 3, 1899, $100,000 of the five per cent bonds were refunded at four per cent. At the present time the debt amounts to $30,000 and the interest to $1,200 a year. The debt will be fully paid on or before February 1, 1914.

These railroads give the citizens of the county ample shipping facilities to the markets of both St. Louis and Chicago, while the passenger and mail service on the roads are excellent. In addition to these ad-vantages, the southern border of the county is only about seven miles from the Wabash Railroad and some portions not so distant.


Troy, the county seat of Lincoln County, is the largest town in the county. It has a population of 1,120. It is on the St. Louis & Hannibal Railroad, sixty-eight miles from Hannibal and sixty miles from St. Louis. It is a shipping point for a large area. It has six churches, a flouring mill, a good graded school and a high school.

Troy was surveyed and laid out September 16, 1819, almost two years before Missouri was admitted to the Union. The owners of the land were Joseph and Lee F. T. Cottle and Zadock Woods. The town as originally platted contained two hundred building lots. The first house built within the limits of the town was a log structure erected by Joseph Cottle. Zadock Woods' house, built not long afterward, was the first tavern or hotel in the county. For protection against the frequent depredations of the Indians of that early day, a stout blockade was built which enclosed the houses of both Mr. Woods and Mr. Cottle, as well as the public spring, which had to be relied upon for water in case of attacks from the Indians.

The second town in point of population is Elsberry, which has 1,018 people. It is on the St. Louis, Keokuk & Northwestern Railway. It was laid out in 1879 on lands belonging to Robert T. Elsberry.

Silex, with a population of 276; Foley, with 227; Hawk Point, with 299; Old Monroe, 251; Winfield, 422, and Whiteside, 129, are other towns in the county.

The population of the entire county in 1910 was 17,033. In 1900 it was 18,352 and in 1890, 18,346.


Lincoln County is Democratic in politics by a majority of between eight hundred and a thousand. For president in 1908, the vote was: Bryan, Democratic, 2,555; Taft, Republican, 1,620.

The county officers at the present time are all Democrats, except the superintendent of schools, which office is non-political. The officers are:

Benjamin W. Wheeler, presiding judge of the county court
Frank L. Dawson, judge of the county court from the first district
Fillmore Story, judge of the county court from the second district
James W. Powell, probate judge
Abe Stephens, circuit clerk
J. Forrest Johnston, county clerk
Charles H. Thompson, recorder
Stuart L. Penn, prosecuting attorney
Richard T. Bennett, sheriff
William E. Swan, collector
Lee H. Fisher, assessor
Clarence B. Tucker, treasurer
Edward A. Hicks, coroner
Robert S. Martin, public administrator
Andy J. Brown, surveyor
Miss Zula Thurman, superintendent of public schools.

The representative in the state legislature is Wiley Huston, of Troy, a Democrat. The county is a part of the eleventh state senatorial district, which is represented by Robert D. Rodgers, of Mexico, a Democrat. Champ Clark is the representative in congress of the congressional district of which the county is a part, the Ninth district.

  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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