County Histories of Northeast Missouri

Mexico, Audrain County Missouri

So intimately connected with the history of Audrain County, is that of Mexico, that necessarily a considerable portion of its history is woven into that of the county. It was first incorporated by special act of the legislature, approved March 5, 1855. By that act it was styled ''The Town of Mexico," and the corporate limits confined to the original town and the county addition, as accepted by the commissioners when the county seat was located. The corporate powers were vested in a board of trustees, consisting of seven members chosen by the qualified voters. This board was authorized to select a chairman and also a town clerk, and the county court had power to appoint for the town, a justice of the peace, who should have the same power as other justices of the peace in Salt River Township. This board also had power to appoint an assessor, collector, treasurer, constable and any other officers as might be necessary. Of course this board had power to enact ordinances for the government of the town. The act provided for the election of the board of trustees on the first Monday in April, 1855, but the organization of the town under that act, was neglected and as a consequence the town was not organized until the legislature passed an amending act providing for the election of the board of trustees, on the first Monday in January, 1856. This act also provided that the trustees hold their offices for a period of one year, and for the election of trustees thereafter.

At the election held for that purpose R. W. Bourn, Jacob Coons, John H. Slaughter, S. A. Craddock, A. Cauthorn, M. Y. Duncan and S. Scott were elected a board of trustees and subscribed to support the constitution of the United States and of the State of Missouri, and to faith fully demean themselves in office as trustees of the town of Mexico, on January 27, 1856, before Charles R. Ward, justice of the peace. R. W, Bourn, now living in Mexico, was elected chairman of the board. The first set of ordinances was adopted March 3, 1856.

The first chapter devoted itself to the office of assessor, his duties and the assessment of property for taxation. The second chapter pre-scribed the license for confectioners and the third was devoted to the regulation of persons exposed to or having smallpox. The fourth pro-vided for a town constable and provided his duties. Chapter V pre-scribed ten different misdemeanors, one of which prescribed a punishment ''of ten stripes on the bare back, to be laid on well by the constable instanter" against a slave for getting drunk within the limits of the town.

Section 52, Chapter VI, on nuisances, regulated the use of fire-places, chimneys, stoves and flues. Chapter VII provided a license for peddlers, especially clock peddlers. The remainder of the ordinances were such as towns of that size would usually have at that time.

In 1855, John P. Clark, and in 1856 John P. Beatty, L. N. Hunter, John A. Pearson and S. W. Davis laid off additions to the town which were outside of the corporate limits.

The legislature, by an act approved February 17, 1857, granted the town a new charter, extending the corporate limits from the center of the court house square one-half mile in each direction, and changing the name to ''The City of Mexico." The permanent officers by this last act were mayor, city council, clerk, recorder, marshal, assessor, treasurer, city attorney and street commissioner. The first mayor under the second charter was Israel Lander.

The town remained under that charter until 1872, when it was amended by an act of the legislature, giving the city some additional powers and extending the corporate limits one-fourth of a mile to the east, west and south.

The city remained under that charter until March 27, 1874, when an act was approved repealing the former charters and enacting an entirely new charter for the city. There was very little change in the charter of 1874 from that of 1857 and its amendments. The corporate limits remained the same.

The city remained under that charter until March 4, 1892, when by a vote, the third-class charter was adopted. By an ordinance approved March 24, 1890, the corporate limits were extended so as to include one mile south of the court house square, three-fourths of a mile north and remained three-fourths of a mile east and west. There being some dissatisfaction about this ordinance, the matter of extending the corporate limits as above stated was submitted to a vote of the people, and the limits were extended at an election for that purpose, the 21st day of March, 1892, by a vote of 259 for the extension and 31 against. In the meantime numerous additions have been made to the city, until now there is scarcely any land left within the corporate limits that has not been laid off into lots and blocks.

The inhabitants of Mexico in 1860 were about 1,500 or 2,000; in 1870, about 3,000; in 1880, 3,835; 1890, 4,789; 1900, 5,099, and in 1910, 5,939.

Of the first merchants in Mexico very little is known accepting that the first mercantile business was that established by Jennings & Fenton, prior to the location of the county seat.

They were succeeded by James E. Fenton, who sold dry goods, groceries and intoxicants under a license.

Then George W. Turley kept a tavern in which he had license to sell intoxicants.

Then Lycurgus L. Ramsey, Robert C. Mansfield and James H. Smith established first what would now be known as a grocery store.

Then came John B. Morris and W. H. White and George F, Muldrow.

Thomas Stone was the first cabinet maker in the town.

Reuben Pulis, Harry Norvell and David Cad were the first blacksmiths. James L. Stephens was one of the early merchants.

The first gunsmiths were John and Did Welkins.

Charles R. Ward in 1845 established a blacksmith shop and auger factory here.

The county court reserved two lots, No. 6 and No. 7 in block No. 6 for a seminary, lot No. 8 in block No. 21 was reserved for a school house and the block in the northwest corner of the donated addition was reserved for a cemetery. The first grave was that of William Cardwell, brother of the county judge.

Numerous were the merchants of that time, but it would be uninteresting to give an account of all those engaging in business.

The first bank established in the town was the private bank of A. R. Ringo, in 1861, J. E. Dearing was the cashier. Ringo's bank, as it was called, continued in business until about the year 1867, when a corporation was formed called the Mexico National Savings Bank, with a capital stock of $100,000, but the word national was soon stricken out and that bank has been known as the Mexico Savings Bank ever since. The first president was A. R. Ringo, J. E. Dearing was the first cashier, S. M. Locke, today cashier of that bank was assistant cashier. Dearing at his death was succeeded by John M. Marmaduke, who remained there something like thirty years. The first directors were A. R. Ringo, C. T. Quisenberry, R. W. Bourn, James E. Ross and William Stuart.

The Mexico Southern Bank was organized in 1867 by Charles H. Hardin, William M. Sims, William Harper, James Callaway, and Joseph W. Carson. Hardin was made president, and Carson cashier. In 1878 Carson resigned and was succeeded by Hiram A. Ricketts, cashier, and Redmond Callaway, assistant cashier. The capital stock of the original organization was $100,000. In 1888 the bank was reorganized, the capital stock being increased to $150,000.

In 1870 the Farmers and Traders Bank was organized with Henry Williams as president and R. R. Arnold as cashier. This bank was soon succeeded by another. The Mexico Exchange Bank, and in 1882, it was converted into a national bank with a capital stock of $50,000, now the First National Bank of Mexico. R. W. Tureman was the first president and R. R. Arnold the first cashier. The board of directors, in addition to the president and cashier were Edward Rines, B. B. Tureman and Jos. M. Coons.

In 1903 North Missouri Trust Company was organized with a sub-scribed capital of $150,000, one half paid up. W. W. Pollock was made president and James C. Mundy, secretary. The first directors were Wm. Pollock, W. W. Pollock, D. H. Mclntyre, S. P. Emmons, R. M. White, George Robertson, George A. Ross and R. J. Lawder.

Prior to the Civil war the schools of the town were mainly private schools. There is no record extant of the public schools back of 1870. Soon after the Civil war, the public school system of the town was developed and school after school added, a high school created, until the public school system of Mexico became equal to that of any town of its size in the state.

In 1858 an effort was made to establish a school exclusively for girls on the grounds afterwards occupied by Hardin College. Five thousand dollars was donated by William Kirtley, John P. Beatty, J. M. Gordon, M. Y. Duncan, John P. Clark, C. P. Wade, S. W. Davis and R. W. Sinclair and a frame building was erected.

School was begun and conducted very successfully by Professors Skelton and William P. Hurt, until the Civil war closed its doors. This school laid the foundation for a girls' school in Mexico. In May, 1873, Gov. Charles H. Hardin purchased these grounds and with a donation by him of $40,000 established Hardin College. The corner stone for Hardin College was laid July 23, 1874, with much ceremony in which participated all of the Masonic orders, the Odd Fellows and all other societies in Mexico.

The first faculty of the school was composed of W. A. Terrill, president, with the following:

Miss V. C. Vaughan
Mrs. Rebecca Terrill
Miss Viccie A. Sears
Miss Jeannie G. Morrison
Miss Eliza Marshall
Mrs. R. W. Harris

School opened in the fall of 1874 with ninety students. The first class graduated was in June, 1876, and was composed of the following:

Ella Forrest, Mexico
Ella Hitt, Mexico
Laura Clark, Mexico
Ada Marshall, Mexico
Mattie Craddock, Mexico
Nellie Boulware, Fulton
Nannie Garrard, Centralia

From that day to this a little less than one thousand young ladies have gone forth from the different departments of Hardin College with their certificates of graduation.

In 1879 President Terrill was succeeded by Mrs. H. T. Baird, she by A. K. Yancy in 1885, and Yancy by the present president, J. W. Million, in 1897. Each adding to the work of the other has made Hardin College one of the best young ladies schools in the West.

In about 1873 Howard M. Hamill established a school for boys on Jackson Street, in the brick house now the residence of R. R. Arnold. It continued three years and ranked high in its class. He was assisted by Howard A. Gass mentioned ante. Hamill was an ex-Confederate soldier from Alabama and now resides in Nashville, Tennessee, where he is engaged in church work.

In 1891 Colonel A. F. Fleet, from the Missouri University established the Missouri Military Academy, with an able corps of assistants. It became one of the leading military schools of the West. Unfortunately it was destroyed by fire in October, 1896, whereupon Colonel Fleet removed to Culver, Indiana, having charge of Culver Military Academy until his death.

In 1901, aided by the citizens of Mexico, A. K. Yancy and W. D. Fonville established a military school under the name of the first school of that kind at Mexico. It continued to flourish under these gentlemen until Mr. Yancy's death a few years ago, and being continued under W. D. Fonville until 1911, when it was taken charge of by Col. W. A. Kohr, formerly of St. Charles Military Academy.

In 1879 William Pollock established the Mexico City Mills which have for a number of years been known as the William Pollock Milling & Elevator Company. It is one of the largest enterprises of this kind ever established in northern Missouri, and was the first mill to create a local market for grain in this section of the state.

Mexico and vicinity produces a fine quality of fire clay and several efforts have been made to establish fire brick works at this place, the most successful of which is the Mexico Brick & Fire Clay Company, employing a capital of more than $100,000, with a payroll of $2,000 a week and an annual output of something over $200,000 under the management of A. P. Green.

In 1906 Morris Brothers of St. Louis established at Mexico a shoe factory with a capital of $50,000. It has a weekly payroll of $2,000. It was lately transferred by them to the Freidman-Shelby Shoe Company of St. Louis, and is conducted under the management of William Morris.

Another thing in which Mexico is famous is its saddle horse industry. As early as 1867 C. T. Quisenberry located at Mexico, introduced into the county from Kentucky, the horse known as Missouri Clay. A famous line of stallions since that time has been Royal Gold Dust, brought here by Joseph Stanhope, Black Squirrel by L. B. Morris, Artist by Robert Edmonston, Artist Rose by Joseph A. Potts and finally, Rex McDonald, a native of the county stands at the head of the list of saddle stallions of the world.


© Missouri American History and Genealogy Project
Created August 16, 2017 by Judy White

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