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

Marion County, Missouri
By George A. Mohan, Hannibal


Under Three Flags

Like the dashing Revolutionary dragoon captain, whose distinguished name it bears, Marion County always has been a province loving freedom and despising injustice; and if its people at any time seemed to depart, even in trifling affairs or contentions, from the lofty ideals which inspired them, the mistake was of the mind and not of the heart. The pioneers, men and women, who made the county what it is, by their sacrifices and tribulations, were mostly descendants of the soldiers who fought against British oppression and helped to form the United States and they came to Missouri, as their forefathers had come to America, imbued with the principles of pure democracy.

Though there is nothing wonderful to relate regarding Marion, in the nature of great martial conquest or amazing mercantile aggrandizement, that other counties of Eastern and Southern commonwealths have not experienced in similar degree, the county has had, at least, its share of bloodshed, misery, hardship and trouble, with the lights and shades of happiness and grief boldly accentuated, and in honor the people have acquitted themselves in the transitions, often menacing, leading up to peace, comfort and progress in modem agriculture and commerce and manufacture.

Every old land or district or city has its thrilling narrative of rise and fall, of servitude and independence, of renown and shame, and the older the place the more romantic is the history. Marion County, as a settlement, is still young; but its brief life is chequered with a diversity of stirring mutations glistening with the achievements of war and resplendent with the victories of peace. In 120 years, or the span of two or three generations, what is now Marion County has been the scene of many deeds, plans and denouements which figure with some prominence in the larger matters of the republic.

Marion County has been French, Spanish, French and American in its time and for an uncertain season it was under the British influence of territorial expansion, though never under British ownership or control. Its magnificent hills and plains have reechoed the tramp of the moccasined Indian bent on the hunt or slaughter, and the fearless wanderings of the indomitable trapper in quest of game and fur; its rough roads and pathways in the primitive wilderness were as avenues to daring missionaries; its rivers, streams and highways bore the crafts and vans of exploration and settlement; its cities, towns, hamlets and lordly hills displayed, as occasion demanded, the carmine aspect of war. And, after all the sufferings and contentions were ended, the smiling valleys blazoned with fields of corn and wheat, the knobs of the Missouri mountains or, more properly, the great hills along the Mississippi, gave forth their hidden riches for manufacture, and under the stimulus of agriculture and industry prosperous towns came into existence and grew into ever-increasing importance.

Indians and French

Before the torch of civilization gleamed from Lover's Leap at Hannibal up and down the silently swift Mississippi, and from summit to summit, the country was inhabited by various tribes of Indians, including the Sacs, Foxes, Iowas, Pottawatamies, and Missouris. Some of the red men were hunters and fishermen, living the simple life and content with winning their daily livelihood from forest and stream; but others were instinctively fighters, and they shocked the primeval quietude with alarms and massacres. The very earliest denizens of the wilds were the mysterious Mound Builders, whose identity is lost in the secret labyrinths of unknown ages, but who have left reminders of their habits and their artifice in scattered mounds, containing utilitarian devices made of clay and instruments of war wrought of stone.

The first white men to behold the green clad land of Marion were the celebrated French Jesuit priest, Marquette, and the intrepid French trader, Joliet. Their hearts moved by the spirit of religion and adventure, the gallant forerunners of Western civilization set forth on their memorable voyage down the Mississippi in June, 1673, with the dual object of spreading Christianity and finding a short route to the South Seas; for at Montreal the governor of New France, Frontenac, had heard from Indians and adventurers startling accounts of a mighty river which pierced the heart of the continent and swept into the ocean at land's end in the South. Frontenac appointed Joliet chief of the expedition, and the party left Montreal in May.

It was in June, 1673, that the courageous party, led by Marquette and Joliet, started from Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin, on their course down the great waterway, five men in two birch canoes and they passed by Marion in the summer or autumn of that year. They probably did not land, as they had no time or inclination to tarry anywhere, but they may have done so in pursuit of food, or they may have been attracted ashore by the surpassing beauty of the land before their wondering eyes. Here and there they halted and Father Marquette raised the cross and explained to the Indians the truths of Christianity and it is possible that the voice of the white man, in the French tongue, was lifted in Marion 232 years ago.

Louis Hennepin, the renowned French Franciscan priest, who was an associate of the great La Salle, was the first white man to set foot in Marion. History accords him this credit. Operating from Quebec, La Salle outlined a comprehensive plan to claim the Western and Southern territory for the French throne, and with three Franciscans he made his way through the Great Lakes and down the Illinois River to Fort Creve Coeur, near Peoria, Illinois, and at Creve Coeur (Broken Heart) established headquarters. La Salle delegated Hennepin and two comrades to explore the upper Mississippi, while he reserved to himself the expedition to the Gulf of Mexico. La Salle had to return to Fort Frontenac, but Hennepin launched out immediately on the perilous excursion, leaving Fort Creve Coeur on February 28, 1680.

About a month later, recorded in the manuscripts as about April 1st, Hennepin and two friends caught glimpses of the immense hills standing on the Missouri shore like giant sentinels, and they decided to land.

They found an entrance and paddled their pirogues into the Bay de Charles, as they named it, and stepped onto the inviting land some two hundred yards north from the inlet's mouth. Hennepin exalted a crucifix and celebrated mass. Hennepin remained on the site two days, negotiating terms of friendship with the natives, and resumed the voyage northward to the Falls of St. Anthony.

Wherever they landed, the French cavaliers nailed tablets of wood or metal to the trees, claiming whole empires for their king. By right of discovery all that vast stretch of land known as Louisiana Territory was annexed to France, and what is now Marion County, became a part of the expansive French colony in the New World. Louisiana Territory compromised, though the French statesmen, traders and soldiers of fortune could not realize it, the richest agricultural region in the world, priceless minerals, coal, ores and a land of timber, limestone and clays. Grain and cotton, lead and zinc, iron, oil, cementing stone and innumerable minor resources were the riches that France had won, but failed to appraise.

Gold was the guerdon that charmed the cavaliers. Spain and Portugal had inaugurated the era of discovery, and it was the prowess of their navigators that opened new domains to settlement and commerce. Astonishing tales related by the successful voyagers had engendered a "get rich quick" fever throughout Europe. England, France and the Netherlands followed the example of the maritime powers of the South, and their courtiers either led or encouraged expeditions to spread the monarch's sway, and incidentally acquire wealth or additional honors in knighthood for themselves. The noble gentlemen and professional soldiers of fortune who were electrified by the truths and fabrications concerning the New World were as human as humbler creatures, and they were not above feeling keen interest in their own welfare and setting honest store on the value of the most precious of metals.

Thus it happened that most of the early heroes searched for gold, and would be satisfied with nothing else. Individuals and corporations received from their governments vast tracts of land, covering what are many states today, and surrendered their grants because they did not at once discover gold. Very valuable articles of commerce were neglected with disdain. Yet, something may be said for the slighting of the land and wares, because, in many cases, if not in most, the cost of marketing commercial resources threatened ruination.

There was in France a certain friend of the court named Francisco Crozat. King Louis XIV, in 1712, gave Crozat the Louisiana Territory by letters patent, and Crozat appointed de la Motte governor. In the following year the governor located colonies at several places along the Mississippi River below the mouth of the Missouri. Crozat went about the work in a businesslike way, and la Motte adhered to the custom of looking carefully for gold and silver. Crozat abandoned the enterprise in 1717 and returned Louisiana Territory to the King. John Law and his Company of the West next came into possession of the territory, and there followed a season of "get rich quick" speculation. Law yielded back his charter in 1731. France ceded the territory to Spain in 1762, Spain ceded it back to France in 1801, and Napoleon sold it to Jefferson in 1803.

When Settlement Began

Settlement was begun in what is now Marion County under the French, while Louisiana Territory belonged to Spain. Though the country had been deeded to Spain in 1762, the actual transfer really did not take place until 1764, and it chanced in 1763 that Pierre Liguest Laclede, the head of a great trading corporation known as Maxent, Laclede & Co., obtained from D'Abadie, the French commandant, rights to the fur trade in a large district west of the Mississippi and north of the Missouri. Laclede came himself to America, founding St. Louis and establishing his headquarters there. Trappers in the service of the Louisiana Far Company operated in the present Marion County.

Zenon Trudeau, the sixth Spanish governor of Upper Louisiana, stimulated exploration, settlement and trading. He was a captain in Spain's army. While he was ruling the country from St. Louis, the first white settlement was made in Marion County. Trudeau seems to have had a progressive policy, which kindled the ambition of colonists and trappers in the promotion of commerce. He was liberal with land grants and other favors which might contribute to advancement of any kind. The movement toward Marion County had its inception under Governor Perez, in 1790, but it was Trudeau's admirable policy that gave substantial form to exploration.

Cotswold Sheep

Spanish cavaliers, in 1790, penetrated the wilderness two leagues above the river Auhaha (now Salt River), as called by the savages, and to the Bay de Charles, as shown by the chart of Hennepin, and they reported their observations to Perez; but there appears to be no record of their attempting colonization. Two years later, in the spring, Maturin Bouvet, a Frenchman resident in St. Louis, led an expedition up the Mississippi in a pirogue, probably bent on organizing somewhere a small mercantile colony for his own benefit and amassing an independent fortune.

Maturin Bouvet

Bouvet belonged to Laclede's party. He was registered in the directory of the colony as an artisan, and the old French land book of St Louis records him as a mechanic. From the best accounts obtainable, it must be concluded that he was a skilled workman, master of several useful trades.

Bouvet was the first white man to colonize Marion and make serious efforts at starting in business. From the French cavaliers who had visited the county, or from trappers or Indians, he had heard of saline springs in the wilderness, and he determined to examine the prospects for a salt factory, as there was a steady demand in St. Louis for salt.

Two boatmen and a guide accompanied Bouvet. The voyage was undertaken in a pirogue, according to the old manuscripts, yet it is authentically reported that Bouvet conveyed along three horses. Small as the expedition necessarily was, it lacked naught of heroism or preparedness. The head of the party evidently was resolved to overcome all difficulties, and he exercised the foresight of being situated to meet such emergencies, at least, as might be anticipated.

The voyage itself was uneventful. The quaint vessel pushed up the Mississippi with the impetus of the stout hearts that controlled it, turned into the Auhaha, or Salt River, and finally stopped at a point in Ralls County near the present town of Cincinnati. Bouvet and his comrades, carrying provisions, utensils and tools, marched in a northerly direction about a mile and a half, "to a point in the northwest quarter of the southwest quarter of section 25, township 56, range 6, Ralls County and located the salt spring which was the object of the quest. The place is now known as Spauldings Springs.

Experiments with the water satisfied Bouvet as to the possibilities for salt making, and he hastened back to St. Louis, by pirogue, for more help and additional material and supplies. No time was lost in the voyage, but, upon returning, with three men, Bouvet confronted his first misfortune. The Indians had destroyed all of his articles and effects and stolen his horses.

Bouvet, however, was a man of will and fearlessness. Undaunted by the circumstances, the leader and his companions cleared a large area, and in the summer and autumn of 1792 built a salt furnace, a dwelling house, a warehouse and other structures.

The year's labors were concluded with the manufacture of a quantity of salt. Bouvet dispatched three of his men to St. Louis, before winter, to buy provisions, and they took along many bushels of the product of Bouvet's factory. The men, falling ill, did not return, and Bouvet cached his goods and followed them to St. Louis by land. The prospector was disheartened in the spring of 1793, when he revisited the scene of his work, for the Indians had again raided his settlement, and he abandoned his project temporarily. Bouvet estimated his loss in the venture at $1,200, and March 17, 1795, he communicated his troubles to Governor Trudeau and prayed for a grant of land twenty arpens square, specifying the bastion as the center. Trudeau considerately honored the petition, with the stipulation that the survey be made at Bouvet's expense.

Bouvet resumed his enterprise. The factory and houses were rebuilt. But he decided not to reconstruct the warehouse at the Bastion, as it was called, because the difficulty of transporting the salt down the Auhaha, or Salt River, was too great. He needed a port on the Mississippi, and there he would locate the warehouse. Exploration convinced him that the best site for the warehouse was at a point near the mouth of the Bay de Charles, and he applied to Trudeau for a tract eighty-four arpens in length, "to be taken," as specified in the grant, "six arpens above the outlet of the Bay de Charles."

The first white settlement in what is now Marion County immediately resulted from Trudeau's second concession to Bouvet. The warehouse was built at the site on the Bay de Charles and a road made from the Bastion to the port. The first settlement in Marion was begun in July or August, 1795. A large field was cleared about the warehouse, and houses were built. How many persons settled at Bouvet's port is not known, but there is no doubt that the concessionaire made earnest efforts to bring as many families as he deemed desirable from St. Louis.

In the journal kept by August Chouteau, one of the early settlers of St. Louis and a trusted associate of Laclede, there is the following entry, in the autumn of 1798, concerning Bouvet 's settlement: "Father Anthony returned from the settlement on the Bay de Charles this morning, where he had gone to say mass and attend to some christenings. His boat upset near town, and he came near drowning."

The site of the first white settlement in Marion County was a slight distance south of the mouth of Clear creek. It is said to have been in the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 12, Township 57, range 5, or in the northwest quarter of the southwest quarter of section 7, ownship 57, range 4, or both.

Bouvet ran his factory five years. Competition from the sons of Daniel Boone and others impaired the business. There were salt factories on both the Mississippi and the Missouri, and all shipped their product by water to St. Louis. Besides the embarrassment from competition, there were hazards from the untamed Indians. The workmen and their families preferred the greater safety of the larger settlement in St. Louis, and Bouvet at last had only two or three assistants.

The owner of the factory and warehouse lived at the Bay de Charles settlement. In the spring of 1800 a band of ferocious Indians attacked the place, and Bouvet himself was the victim of their worst cruelty.

Charles Gratiot, another resident of St. Louis, bought the estates of Bouvet at auction the next year, and petitioned Charles Dehault Delassus, the successor of Trudeau as governor for Spain, for a concession of land "which will complete one league square in superficies, or 7,056 arpens." Gratiot said he intended to conduct a stock farm. The same day that the grant was made, Gratiot, who described himself as a merchant, applied to Delassus for a modification of the terms of the original Bouvet concessions, so that the property would be regular in its lines and conformations, and this plea was acknowledged favorably. Soulard, the surveyor-general, tried to make surveys. The Indians were causing unusual trouble at this very time, however, and Gratiot was obliged to delay putting his plans into execution.

After Louisiana Territory was sold to the United States in 1803, some Americans settled on the Gratiot lands, and the claims required the consideration of a board of commissioners. Many of the old French settlers testified concerning Bouvet's activities. The litigation continued for many years.

Settlement in this part of the country was retarded by the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain. The Indians took advantage of the opportunity to persecute the French, Spanish and American trappers and settlers who had entered Marion County, and the white people were driven back to St. Louis.

Carlos Friman de Lauriere, who had helped in the surveying on the Bouvet and Gratiot estates, had a salt factory near New London in 1812, and there was a James Ryan on the Salt River, at the mouth of Turkey creek, the previous year; but they and others were driven away by the cruel savages, and the district was deserted.

The annals of the county show conclusively that Maturin Bouvet was the first white settler in what is now Marion County; the first land owner; the first manufacturer; the first merchant; the first public officer, for he was a notary, and the first to build a hamlet. The records also show that there were births in the Bouvet settlement on the Bay de Charles. Bouvet was earnest in his attempts to found a lucrative business and a prosperous colony, and had he lived a few years longer, until the War of 1812 was over, he probably would have been successful. But Bouvet s was the luck of many of the original adventurers in the West.

Settlement and development in Marion County had their true beginning in Clarion in 1817, with the arrival of daring pioneers from Kentucky. From September, of that year, dates the progress of Marion.

There is some contention as to who was the first of the pioneer settlers, some holding that the honor belongs to John Palmer, and others asserting that Giles Thompson preceded Palmer. It is of record that Thompson was located at Freemore's Lick, on the Salt River, in 1818, and he then declared to the advance guard of the real builders of Marion that his was the only cabin north of the Salt.

Bourbon County, Kentucky, furnished the bold men who went about the project systematically of forming permanent settlements.

Edward Whaley, Aaron Foreman, Joseph Foreman, Aaron Foreman, Jr., and David Adams left Bourbon County in September, 1817, for St. Louis, with the idea of investigating prospects in Missouri territory. They moved onward into the Boon's Lick country, in Boone and Howard counties, and proceeded seventy miles up the Grand River, and then struck out eastward, hoping to find the Auhaha or Salt River. They thought the settlements in Boone and Howard counties were too crowded and their chances would be better at the Bastion or Bouvet's port.

Their journeys brought them to the North River, and they kept to the south back of the stream until they reached a point a short distance south of the present city of Palmyra. Then they crossed to the north side and camped, in order to do some exploring. The next day they continued on their way down the North River, and, going around the bluffs, entered the Bay de Charles, where they made a camp. After exploring the surrounding country, they pressed down the bay, and suddenly, to their surprise, beheld the Mississippi. At Hannibal, as they were traveling south, the huge hills forced their course to the rear; they went some distance up Bear creek, and then set out southward across the country, striking Freemore's Lick on Salt River, where they met Giles Thompson.

Thompson welcomed the newcomers effusively. He was delighted to hold converse with men who had traveled from Kentucky and visited virtually all of the settlements in northern Missouri, and they were glad to meet a pioneer qualified to give reliable information to aid their investigations. Thompson told them of the Bastion and Bouvet's port, and they inspected the site of the old salt factory. Each of the prospectors chose a place to live, and then returned to Kentucky, by way of St. Louis, to bring their families to the new homes in Missouri.

The surveying of what is now the county into ranges and townships, in 1818, facilitated exploration and settlement, and many former residents of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and other southern states, came to Missouri. Most of those arriving were descendants of Americans of the Eastern states, and they were chiefly Scotch, English and Irish. Some of the early French adventurers of St. Louis also settled in Marion, but they were decidedly few.

John Longmire, Martin Gash and Hawkins Smith settled along South river, as did also John Palmer.

Benjamin Vanlandingham, another Kentuckian, settled on the present site of Palmyra. Sons of Vanlandingham settled along South River with their families.

Major Obadiah Dickerson, the founder of Palmyra, arrived somewhat later.

In what is now Warren Township settled George See, William See and Carroll Moss, and in Miller Township, Samuel Miller.

Newcomers to County

Samuel Culbertson
Abraham Culbertson
G. L. Sams
Burdette Sams
Noah Donley
William Ritchie
Rev. C. L. Turner
John Gash
William Gash
Boone Gash
Benjamin Thomas
Anson Parish
Charles Smith
Jacob Mathews

Mathews brought the first wagon that ever crossed North River, and built the first house in Fabius Township.

Hannibal and Palmyra were laid out in 1819, which proved to be a flourishing year, as settlement increased rapidly. Hannibal was laid out by Thompson Bird, who held the proxy of Abram Bird, and Elias Rector, Thomas C. Rector and Laban Glascock.

Moses D. Bates acquired a half interest in Hannibal, which he sold April 17 to William Brigham for $800.

Palmyra was laid out by Samuel R. Caldwell, Joel Shaw, Obadiah Dickerson and John McCune. The first stores were established in 1820, Bates' in Hannibal and Vaughn's in Palmyra, in which everything the settlers might need was sold. The general store was the creature of necessity.

The Firsts

Before relating larger matters of history in the county, it is appropriate to refer to the "honor list" among the pioneers.

Adeline Palmer was the first American child born in Marion, the event occurring in 1818.

The first marriage, which took place in 1819, was that of Anson Parish and Betsy Smith.

Jacob Fry opened the first hotel, which was in Palmyra, and the first store was run in that town by James L. Vaughn

The first furniture dealer was Joshua Morris
The first blacksmith, A. Shannon
The first hatter, Abram Huntsberry
The first grist mill, a horse mill, was that of Hawkins Smith, in 1818 or 1819, on South River
The first distillery, also built by Hawkins Smith, near the mill
The first water mill, that of William Massey, on North River, near Palmyra
The first carding machine, that of William Ritchie
The first cotton factory. Kit Keyser's

Patrick McGee was the initial school teacher. He had been an officer in the United States army. The school was a little log cabin, in South river valley, and it was opened in 1823 or 1824.

South River Baptist church was the first church organized, in 1821, and it stood near Smith's mill and distillery. Reverend William Fuqua was the minister. Reverend John Riddle, a Baptist, in 1821, delivered the first sermon. He spoke in the woods, on South River, on what was afterwards Bowles farm. Palmyra had the first post office, and Obadiah Dickerson was the first postmaster.

County Organization

Marion did not obtain its identity as a county until December 23, 1826. When the United States, in 1803, bought the Louisiana Territory, what is now Marion was a part of the District of St. Charles. Governor Clark proclaimed St. Charles a county on December 14, 1818, and Marion continued to be part of St. Charles. Pike County was formed December 14, 1818, and Marion was included in it. When Ralls County was established November 16, 1820, Marion was embraced in it.

The Missouri legislature took the initiative on February 16, 1825, toward organizing Marion as a county. A law enacted by the assembly specified the boundaries of the new county to be formed from Ralls, and named it Marion. December 23, 1826, the legislature provided by law for the organization of Marion as a county, with Isaac Ely and Stephen Dodd, of Ralls County, and Charles C. Trabue, of Pike, as commissioners to select the seat of justice.

The first courts were to be held, as ordered by the organizing act, in the house of William Massie. But Massie had sold his property to Richard Bruer in the interim, and the county court held its first session in Bruer's house, in Palmyra, March 26, 1827. Four justices, appointed by Governor John Miller, were present, qualified to act. They were Elijah Stapp, James F. Mahan, William J. McElroy and John Longmire. Judge Stapp was chosen to preside. Joshua Gentry presented his commission from the governor as first sheriff, and Theodore Jones his credentials as first county clerk.

The court desired a larger place than Bruer's, and inquiry disclosed that the room best adapted for the conduct of judicial business was in the tavern of Abraham Frye. The court adjourned to the inn. There Daniel Hendricks presented his documents as fifth judge, and the court formulated rules of procedure. The first bill, for $20, was for blank books for the office of Circuit Clerk Richard Bruer.

Road Building

It is highly significant that the first important work which engaged the deliberations of the court was the construction of good roads, so as to provide highways between the principal settlements of the county and to put Marion into comparatively easy communication with the neighboring counties. Action by the court resulted in the building of the following seven roads: Prom Palmyra to the Boon's Lick settlement in Howard county; from a point in Wyaconda prairie to Wyaconda creek, and thence along the foot of the bluff to township 61, in Lewis county; from Hannibal to Muldrow's Lick, or Trabue's Lick, in Ralls County; from the crossing of the North Fabius to the Mississippi, opposite Quincy, Illinois; from Hannibal to John Thrasher's place on the Palmyra road; from the Palmyra New London state road to the Feazle and Bruer lands, north of Rush Hill, and from Palmyra to intersect the northern state road, so as to cross North Two rivers.

The Black Hawk War

Marion heard the mumblings of war in 1832. Black Hawk, the Sac Indian chieftain, had disturbed the North with his activities, and it was feared by Governor Miller that attacks might be made on settlements in the extreme northern parts of Missouri. Preparations for defense were made. Major General Richard Gentry, of Columbia, was empowered to raise 1,000 volunteers. Gentry ordered, Brigadier-General Benjamin Means to raise 400, Brigadier-General Jonathan Riggs, 300, and Brigadier-General Jesse T. Wood, 300. Means, of Palmyra, was in command of the seventh brigade of the seventh division of the militia, but the Marion County companies were under Gentry, who was in command of the third division.

Subsequently a mounted battalion from Pike and Ralls County was assigned to Means' command, one of the companies being from Pike, the other from Ralls. They were ordered to elect a major upon assembling at Palmyra. James Culbertson, the Ralls nominee, received the greater number of votes, but the Pike contingent declined to recognize him. Trouble brewed and for a while it looked as if there would be war at the rendezvous. Means averted a battle by threatening court martial against the captains, and he announced that there would be no major and no battalion.

The companies were separated. The Ralls Company was sent to Schuyler County to defend that section of Missouri, and at a point eight miles from the Chariton River they erected Fort Matson, named after their captain. The Pike Company built a fort ten miles from the mouth of the Des Moines River, in Lewis County, and called it Port Pike.

Two companies of mounted volunteers, under command of Captain David M. Hickman, of Boone, and Captain John Jamison, of Calloway, were detailed by Governor Miller to relieve the Pike and Ralls forces. At Palmyra there arose a misunderstanding between Governor Miller and General Means. Means, who was subsequently court martialed, was acquitted. Gentry approved the acquittal.

The capture of Black Hawk terminated the disturbance, and the volunteers returned to their homes.

In 1832 Marion County rejoiced in the publication of the first newspaper, the Missouri Courier, issued in Palmyra by Stewart and Angevine.

Asiatic cholera broke out in 1833, again in 1835, and again in 1849. The most deaths occurred in Hannibal and Palmyra. The ravages of the disease were terrible, and the people were almost overwhelmed with dread.

The Civil War

The Civil war is a record of history, and a few words, to indicate what Marion County did in it, should suffice. Nearly all the pioneers and early settlers had come from the South, and it was natural that they should be in sympathy with the South. With the arrival of settlers from Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states in 1836, an anti-abolition sentiment was fostered and the attempt to give the action a conspicuous aspect caused trouble. The founders of Marion City, Muldrow, Ely and their associates, were behind the move, and Marion College was looked upon as its seat. The first settlers had slaves, but it is recorded, even in 1836, that freedom had been granted in some cases and the masters had provided for their care. The activity of the anti-abolitionists resulted seriously in several instances. In 1847 a branch of the American Colonization Society was organized. Old reports show that the slaves were valued at $250 to $1,000 each. The agitation concerning abolition persisted until the beginning of the war.

When the war broke out, the people of Marion divided into sides, some being Federals and some Confederates. A Confederate flag was raised in the public square in Palmyra, March 30, 1861. Companies were organized soon thereafter, and preparations were made for hostilities. Governor Jackson had had powder distributed throughout the state, and the warriors had no difficulty in obtaining implements for the struggle. Many cannon were made in the foundry of Cleaver & Mitchell, in Hannibal, for the Confederates. There were, too, a large number of Unionists in Marion, and they organized their forces. The first Federal troops to enter the county from without came from Illinois, the next from Iowa and the next from Kansas. General Grant first entered hostile territory in Marion County at West Quincy.

The Federals desired to prevent Missouri from joining the South, if they could not preserve it to the Union. Missouri was a vital unit, and for this reason unusual efforts were exerted in the state to settle the issue with dispatch. The importance attached to Missouri brought Grant, Palmer and other leaders to the scene almost at the opening of the struggle. The Marion County Battalion of the United States Reserve Corps was organized in Hannibal on June 1, 1861. The Missouri State Militia was organized in the winter and spring of 1860-61.

Probably the events of the war which are told today with the warmest eloquence are the campaign of Colonel Martin E. Green in northern Missouri, the battles and activities of Colonel Jo C. Porter, and the Palmyra massacre. Residents of Marion County were busy, on one side or the other, in all the movements of Green and Porter. Green stirred this part of Missouri for the Confederacy with his exploits in surprising the Federals, evading them at pleasure, and leading them into danger from the Mississippi to the Missouri.

Porter, who had been with the Confederate forces in Mississippi and Arkansas, returned to Missouri to gather recruits and enthuse the people for the Southern cause. The Confederates in the summer of 1862 received him with acclaim, and he went from place to place, increasing his forces everywhere. He engaged in many conflicts with success, but the battle of Kirksville, which he had lost, reduced the number of his followers, and it was necessary that he should win another triumph to rekindle fervor and strengthen his command.

What is known as the Palmyra raid, or Porter's raid on Palmyra, was the colonel's final attempt to organize the Confederates in Missouri. With four hundred men Porter surprised Palmyra in the morning of September 12, 1862. Porter demanded that the town be surrendered, but Captain Dubach refused. After a hot skirmish. Porter released the prisoners and captured the arms and stores; he had planned no more than this. Seeing that he could not take possession of the town without heavy bloodshed, he decided to move forward and try another exploit. Soon afterwards Porter retired to Arkansas, where he achieved renown in the Civil war before his untimely death. He is described as a leader of fine qualities, and it is the general opinion that the failure of his strenuous efforts to organize the Confederate forces and keep them intact cast a pall over the Southern cause in Missouri.

Andrew Allsman, a contractor and builder, who had performed many services for the Federals, was captured in Porter's raid on Palmyra and carried away. Porter, when on his flight from Missouri, told every man "to take care of himself" and counseled Allsman to seek safety. Allsman replied that he feared to escape, as his enemies among Porter's men would kill him. Porter then permitted him to choose the men to accompany him. Allsman did this, but he was killed, nevertheless.

Incensed, General John McNeil gave public notice to Colonel Porter that, unless Allsman were returned in ten days, ten Confederates, then in Palmyra, would be executed in reprisal. On October 17, when it was apparent that Allsman would not appear, McNeil ordered the provost marshal, W. R. Strachan, to pick the men to be shot. Strachan went to the jail and selected the ten whom he classed as the most pronounced Confederates. Some of the men had been with Porter, others were non-combatants.

About noon, the next day, the doomed men were taken to the place of execution in government wagons, seated on their coffins. They were driven to the old fair grounds. The coffins were placed on the ground six or eight feet apart, and the prisoners knelt between them to pray. Their orisons done, the men took seats on the coffins, facing the executioners and bravely met death. Several volleys from the muskets ended the Palmyra massacre, which shocked the whole world.

Jefferson Davis demanded of Lincoln the surrender of McNeil, threatening the shooting of ten Federal soldiers if his request were not honored. McNeil was not surrendered; yet Davis did not fulfill his threat. Hon. Frank H. Sosey, editor of the Palmyra Spectator, has truthfully treated this execution in an entertaining book entitled "Robert Devoy, a Tale of the Palmyra Massacre.''

River Navigation

Modem progress owes most to the facilities of transportation. The crude and antique cart which our forefathers employed in their ruminations and journeys may not be classed as a convenience; it was simply a means for moving purposes. That quaint type of wagon, which enacted a highly important role in the settlement of the West, must not be ridiculed, though it made no pretentions to beauty or comfort.

The great waterways, the Mississippi, the Ohio and the Missouri being the best and safest highways, carried most of the traffic in the early days. With the rivers available for pirogues, canoes, barges, steamboats and all sorts of craft, the pioneers and adventurers had only to launch forth and row or drift to the port of hope. And from the very first day of exploration and settlement, commerce felt vigorous impulse from the facilities of transportation offered by the marine routes.

The steamboat era dates from 1809, when Fulton launched the Clermont in the Hudson. The New Orleans, the first Western steamer, was put into commission at Pittsburg in 1811. In the early days steamboats plied between St. Louis and Hannibal, and some vessels came to Hannibal from Pittsburg. In the heyday of William Muldrow and his fleeting town, Marion City, many Ohio River boats came to Marion County.

Hannibal was the leading port in Missouri, north of St. Louis, and the steamboats made it an influential mercantile center. Until the railroads offered more rapid transit, and provided more satisfactory accommodations, the steamboats handled the traffic.

Keel boats were popular until 1830, and in 1821 Moses D. Bates was building them in Hannibal. The General Putnam was the first commercial steamer to land in Hannibal.

River navigation will win back much of its former greatness. The Mississippi will again be a highway for commerce. There will be a great water route for freight, with the Mississippi as the main artery. Transportation by water is necessary, both to regulate freight rates and to convey tonnage which boats may haul better than railroads. The time is approaching fast when all the towns on the Mississippi will practically be seaports, with direct routes to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific. The restoration of water transportation for freight purposes is not a visionary hope, but a material promise based on new conditions and requirements.


Marion County has been an exemplar with regard to railroads. It has led the way for development in Missouri, and its pioneer citizens and statesmen forecast the commercial tendencies and fluctuations of the present day, as well as of years yet to come. Is it not amazing that the great importance of the Oriental trade should have been foreseen clearly by the men who cut down the wilderness and founded towns in swamps? The confirmation of their visions, which may have appeared absurd to many, is only another proof that advancement, especially in commerce, is based on substantial promise and can be read by the expert.

The first railroad construction in Missouri was done in Marion County. The first railroad to cross Missouri was a Marion County enterprise, and the first train that ever ran from the Mississippi to the Missouri, in this state, was operated over that road. The first extraordinary movement for stupendous railroad development in the Mississippi Valley had its beginning with a memorable convention in Hannibal.

William Muldrow, who has been immortalized under another name by Mark Twain, was founding, in the early thirties, several of the greatest cities in the world in Marion County, and the world's leading metropolis was to be Marion City. The builders of Marion City projected a line from Marion City to Philadelphia, with a branch to Palmyra and Ely City, which would extend into Shelby County and the far West. The ultimate plan was to prolong the road to the Pacific coast, so that Marion City and Ely City would be able to command the bulk of the Oriental trade.

Unfortunately, perhaps, the venture was not realized as contemplated and Marion City failed to dominate the commerce of the Orient. But the first survey and grade for a Missouri railroad were made on Railroad Street in Marion City in 1835 and continued across the valley and over the hills to Palmyra.

The Palmyra & Marion City Railway was projected in 1847, with Stanton Buckner as president; James F. Mahan, treasurer, and Joseph G. Easton, secretary. The construction contract was awarded to J. W. Shepherd. Considerable work was done on the line, but the road was abandoned when overshadowed by the project for the Hannibal & St. Joseph.

When ground was broken in Hannibal in 1853 for the Hannibal & St. Joseph there was great rejoicing. St. Louis organizations, military and mercantile, assisted in the demonstration.

The first train of cars was run between Hannibal and Palmyra about June 10, 1856, and passenger service between the cities was started in July.

The first through passenger train between St. Joseph and Hannibal was operated February 14, 1859, and this was the first regular train to cross Missouri. The event was celebrated in St. Joseph, and Marion County was prominently represented, taking a conspicuous part in the ceremonies.

The Quincy & Palmyra, which, like the Hannibal & St. Joseph, was absorbed by the Burlington System, was completed about April 1, 1860.

The Hannibal & Naples, now part of the Wabash, was launched in 1857, but was completed after the Civil war. The Hannibal & Central Missouri, now a part of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas, was organized March 23, 1867. The St. Louis & Hannibal was projected as the St. Louis, Hannibal & Keokuk; it is one of the best short lines in the West, although built in the early 70s.
The Hannibal Bridge, providing an entrance from the East, was built in 1870-71.
The St. Louis, Keokuk & Northwestern, part of the Burlington System, is a merger of the Mississippi Valley & Western and other small lines, projected mostly in the early '70s.

Hannibal was foremost in the movement to build the St. Louis-Keokuk line, and June 13, 1855, one of the most important railroad conventions ever held took place in the city. Delegates assembled from St. Louis, St. Charles, Lincoln, Pike, Ralls, Marion, Shelby and Lewis counties, Missouri, and Lee and Keokuk, Iowa, in Hannibal to arrange for the building of the Mississippi Valley Railroad. The convention lasted two days.

Marion has the transportation facilities and the commercial adjuncts of a great trading center. It has the Mississippi river, which is sure to be a traffic artery, carrying vessels direct into the sea. A transportation corporation located at Hannibal is operating barges which transport some of the cement that is used to build the Panama Canal and large quantities in Southern states and this utilization of the river is only beginning. Soon Hannibal will be really a seaport.

The Marion County railroads connect the cities and towns, by good, short lines, with St. Louis, Chicago, New York, Pittsburg, New Orleans, Kansas City, St. Joseph, San Francisco, Minneapolis and St. Paul.

In considering the commercial prospects of Marion County, the conveniences for manufacture must also be taken into account. For building purposes the resources of the Hannibal hills are practically inexhaustible. The completion of the water-power transmission line, in May, 1913, from Keokuk to St. Louis, will give Hannibal and other cities in Marion County exceptionally cheap power. There will be, therefore, additional inducements for the location of new factories here.

Officers in Early Days

Joshua Gentry was appointed tax collector. At the second day's session six licenses were issued for selling merchandise, six for retail liquor stores, and one for peddling. Fifty per cent was added to the state tax to produce funds for the county.

The next important business of the court was the formation of three townships on March 27, 1827. The first officers of Fabius Township were:

School land commissioners, John Gash, Joseph Trotter and William Muldrow
Constable, Jacob Mathews
Patrols, John Lear, Dabney Bowles and Henry Mathews.

In February, 1828, the Moses D. Bates house, occupied by William and Hugh Anderson, was selected for holding elections, and Eli Merrill, James B. Riland and Joseph Trotter were appointed judges.

The first officers of Liberty Township were:

School land commissioners, Benjamin Thomas, John D. Gash and George McDaniels
Constable, Lewis Vanlandingham
Patrols, Daniel Bradley, Marshall Kelly and Samuel Morton.

In February, 1828, the house of George C. Parker was selected as a polling place, and Benjamin Thomas, Andrew Muldrow and George C. Parker were appointed judges.

The first officers of Mason Township were:

School land commissioners, Edward Whaley, Moses D. Bates and William Ritchie
Constable, Thomas McLean
Patrols, John McReynolds, John S. Strode and Lewis Gillaspy.

The house or tavern of J. W. Brasher, in Hannibal, was selected as the polling place, and Daniel Hendricks, John Thrasher and Edward Whaley were appointed election judges.

The county seat was designated by the three commissioners, Isaac Ely, Stephen Dodd and Charles C. Trabue, who reported to the court on June 18, 1827, that they had selected fifty acres from land belonging to Moses D. Bates and David G. Bates, adjoining the north side of the then town of Palmyra and one block, 21, in town. The court approved the choice on November 26, 1827, and Obadiah Dickerson was appointed county seat commissioner.

The circuit court held its first session at the house of Richard Bruer, in Palmyra, February 19, 1827.

Nathaniel Beverly Tucker was the first circuit judge
Ezra Hunt, circuit attorney
Richard Bruer, clerk pro tern
Joshua Gentry, sheriff
Ezra Hunt and William Smith were admitted to practice as attorneys.

A seal of the court was adopted: ''Device, A mounted dragoon officer; legend, In large black letters, the word Marion."

Early Court Proceedings

At the June term C. B. Rouse, William C. Young and John C. Naylor were admitted to practice as attorneys.

The court validated the title of Moses D. Bates and David G. Bates to the town site of Palmyra. At the October term a grand jury was chosen, and Marshall Kelly was foreman.

The first civil suit was filed, Richard H. Newell vs. Moses D. Bates, two cases of debt and damage, each for $6,000. The cases were transferred to Ralls County.

Two cases were disposed of: George McDaniel, assignee of Joseph Gash, Jr., v. Martin Gash, Sr., judgment by default for $177.60.

Thomas Newell V. George McDaniel, issue joined. October 28, the First criminal case was called, James Whaley fined $1 and costs for assault and battery.

The first grand jury was impaneled in Marion County, at the June term, 1827, on the following venire:

First Grand Jury

Edward Whaley*
William McReynolds
Elijah Rice
Hugh Henry
William Lander
Ezekiel Parish
Richard W. Jones
Clement White
William McRae
Jasper Lewis
John Podman
Zachariah Feagan
Burdett Sams
Joseph Culbertson
William M. Lewis
William Garner
Benjamin Thomas

Judge J. P. Mahan, in March, 1827, rented two rooms in Richard Bruer's house, in Palmyra, for holding court, at a rental of $2 a day. County Collector Joshua Gentry reported taxes for 1827 amounting to $272.25.

Arrangements for building the courthouse interested the court and the people in 1828. Preparations went forward all year, until October, when the court appropriated $4,000 for the main edifice and jail. Judge James F. Mahan protested against the acceptance of block 21, donated by the town site company, declaring that the land belonged to the United States and no authority but the Federal could invest the county with a valid title. His opinion was weighty, and the court delayed the project until a title could be guaranteed. In August, 1830, Robert L. Samuel submitted to the court a petition from citizens for the construction of the court house on block 21, and with the petition he tendered a bond for $10,000 to protect the county from any loss on account of the title. The bond was signed by Obadiah Dickerson, Chris Kieser, Edmond Rutter, William Blakey, Thomas P. Ross, Thomas A. Young, James C. Hawkins and William Carson.

The bond satisfied with the court, and orders were given to start the work. Samuel C. Reed was appointed superintendent of public buildings, and he was instructed to submit to the court plans for the building. Reed contracted, in October, with John D. White, of Ralls County, for the brick work at $1,649. Certain changes brought the cost of the brick work up to $1,750. The building was completed in February, 1835. It occupied practically the same site as the present courthouse.

Marion held its first elections in 1828. The county had somewhat more than 2,409 inhabitants then, and of course the vote was small. At the elections in 1828 there was no voting in Fabius Township. Jackson carried Marion County against John Quincy Adams.

Palmyra was incorporated at the August term of court, 1830, as a town, by Daniel Bradley and others. The first board of trustees included Samuel C. Reed, Robert L. Samuel, Abraham Huntsberry, William M. Lewis and William Carman.

Marion County Towns and Villages

Palmyra | Hannibal

The County Today

The restoration of peace, with all the scores forgotten, brought happiness back to the people, and Marion County settled down to the arts of agriculture and commerce. Before the war there came the formative period; during the war conditions arose which would delay a while accelerated progress, as it was first essential that the residents should retrieve their losses, recuperate, and amass resources. In recent years the deferred prosperity has been manifesting itself with vigor, and Marion is animated by the ambition and energy not only of the natives, but also by the skilled and favored talents of farmers from Iowa, Illinois and other states who are settling here.

Marion County, according to the last census, that of 1910, had a population of 30,572. Most of the people are devoted to agriculture. In 1860 the total population was 18,700. There is exhibited a gain of 11,872, which is large for an agricultural community, and unusually large for a community that had to overcome the reverses of war.

The real estate of the county has an assessed valuation of $7,484,030, and the personal property an assessed valuation of $2,808,210, a total of $10,503,465. The actual value of the property is about $45,844,780, of which $37,420,150 represents real estate and $8,424,630 personality. There are 275,911 acres, assessed at $3,580,940, or $12.97 an acre, and 6,316 town lots, assessed at $3,903,090, or $617.96 each.

The assessment, as follows, on the personal property, gives some idea of the holdings in the county: Horses, $311,055, or $39.82 each; mules, $80,745, or $51.89 each; asses and jennets, $10,455, or $145,20 each; cattle, $164,170, or $14.54 a head; sheep, $19,570, or $2.03 each; hogs, $71,915, or $3,55 each; money, notes, bonds, etc., $1,003,485; bank stock, $697,5()0, and all other personal property, $449,315.

The agricultural production of the county is best exemplified by the shipments to outside markets. The Bureau of Labor Statistics gives the items, as follows, for 1911: Cattle, head 4,299; hogs, head 9,650; homes and mules, head 750; sheep, head 2,971; goats, head 12; live poultry, pounds 240,904; dressed poultry, pounds 32,008; eggs, dozen 137,180; feathers, pounds 3,202; honey, pounds 500; sorghum molasses, gallons 90; com, bushels 13,200; wheat, bushels 31,500; oats, bushels 9,400; timothy seed, bushels 300; clover seed, bushels 91; millet seed, bushels 60; hay, tons 174; straw, tons 5; popcorn, pounds 420; slough grass, tons 470; nuts, pounds 530; vegetables, pounds 74,532; potatoes, bushels 320; sweet potatoes, bushels 320; tomatoes, bushels 110; canned vegetables and fruits, pounds 396; miscellaneous fresh fruit, pounds 900; melons, 900; strawberries, crates 1,100; apples, barrels 58; raspberries, crates 2; cantaloupes, crates 2; blackberries, crates 15; grapes, baskets 42; peaches, baskets 60; roots and herbs, pounds 50; ginseng, pounds 50; nursery stock, pounds 1,000; cut flowers, pounds 4,375; wool, pounds 96,800; butter, pounds 174,924; ice cream, gallons 10,385; milk and cream, gallons 4,816; cheese, pounds 250; lumber, feet 144,000; logs, cars 2; walnut logs, cars 3; railroad ties, 14,000; fence and mine posts, 1,000; cord-wood, cords 1,421; game, pounds 18,400; fish, pounds 6,600; furs, pounds 13,606; gravel and ballast, cars 4,504; sand, cars 125; stone, cars 111; flour, barrels 86,200; bran, shipstuff, pounds 325,975; feed, chops, pounds 26,4()0; wine, gallons 6; vinegar, gallons 10; cider, gallons 60; natural mineral water, gallons 100; hides and pelts, pounds 140,718; dressed meats, pounds 9,292; tallow, pounds 216,050; lard, pounds 120,710; brick, cars 12; lime, barrels 87,600; junk, car 1; ice, cars 44.

The land along the river contains stone, minerals and clay unsurpassed for many industrial purposes, and these resources promise ascendancy in manufacture to Hannibal, which soon will have the extra advantage of cheap power from the Keokuk dam and transmission line.

Behind the bluffs there is rolling prairie and timbered land, unexcelled for agriculture. The land is fertile and productive. The country is settling up rapidly. Farmers from Iowa, Illinois and neighboring states, appreciating the value of the land, are moving into Missouri and Marion County is getting a large percentage of them. The increase in the population and the quickened development are stimulating advancement in all directions. Marion County is modern in all respects. The lands and properties are well maintained, and there are numerous evidences of wealth and progress.

The leading markets, St. Louis and Chicago, are near, and Marion has the best of transportation facilities. There are direct trunk lines north, south, east and west, the Burlington, the Wabash, the Missouri, Kansas & Texas, and the St. Louis & Hannibal, and the Mississippi affords conveniences for steamboat and barge traffic with St. Louis, New Orleans, Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The Marion County of the present is an area of comfort, happiness and prosperity. The troubles and reverses of the war are forgotten, and men and women who were foes from impulses of honest resentment are cordial friends, enjoying the blessings of accelerating prosperity. The lands and riches won by daring, self-sacrificing pioneers are, in many instances, in the possession of respected descendants of the brave souls who civilized the wilderness. Sons and daughters of the gallant pioneers, loving Marion as the best district in the world, are cooperating with equally patriotic newcomers in making the county a place of greater contentment and greater agricultural and commercial importance. It has one of the best managed and finest public school systems in the nation.

Marion's future is now marked out, and its people are working with systematized purpose to mold it well. The utility of all the natural resources has been ascertained, and the means of employing them has been invented and applied. For pursuits of agriculture Marion has the best hearts, the best talent, the best hands, in the world. For industrial progress and commercial offices, Marion has the sterling brains and the indomitable will. All the resources of the county are at last in use; yet advancement has only just begun. The full development of these resources points to population and wealth and influence many times greater than today's records show.

Marion County is now and always has been essentially a comity of splendid homes, having about them a delightful home life.

"Without the roundness and the glow of life
How hideous is the skeleton."

Without the pleasures and contentment of the home how bleak and barren is life.

''To make a happy fireside chime
To weans and wife;
That's true pathos and sublime Of human life."


  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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