Monroe County Townships

Paris and Jackson Townships

In the early days, before the organization of the fair association, there was a race course at Paris, southwest of town, and here the pioneers gathered to witness the racing feats of such horses as "Tom," and "Charlemagne," belonging to the Bufords, Kentuckians, as will be recognized by their names. People came for miles and money and whiskey were generally waged on the result, more often whiskey, as it was more plentiful. Here also was the muster field, where General R. D. Austin drilled his daughty warriors.

Perhaps the history of Jackson Township would not be complete without mentioning names like Curtright, Grimes, Ragsdale, Barker, Arnold, Bridgford and McCann, associated with the early agricultural and stock interests of the county and still inseparably identified with these industries. First the most famous shorthorn man in the state, both breeder and importer, Jefferson Bridgford, afterwards became the main factor in the development of its saddle horse industry, winning the prize for the best gentleman rider at the Columbian exposition at Chicago on his famous "Artist Montrose" when a man of seventy-five. Avory Grimes owned "Black Patsy" and "Ned Forest," the foundation almost of the horse stock of Monroe County, the Arnolds owned "Tom Hal," and the McCanns and Ragsdales were cattle men.

The Early Physicians of the town included Dr. Abner E. Gore and Dr. Long, later Dr. Ben Dysart, surgeon of Cockrell 's fighting brigade, also Dr. D. C. Gore, the Gores, father and son, both being honored with the presidency of the Missouri Medical Association. These men continued down until the new order in medicine was practically established, and, along with Dr. Loyd, were regarded as among the brightest physicians in the state. The elder Gore used to tell this story of his early struggles as a young practitioner: He was young, but had already acquired a wife and one boy, afterwards Dr. D. C. Gore, then of Marshall, but patients were few. Finally an epidemic of pneumonia broke out south of Paris and he was kept busy day and night. During his absence one day a stranger rode up to the gate where his young hopeful of a son was idly casting rocks and inquired for him. Where is your father?'' he asked. "Dunno," replied the boy. "Gone to see his patients?" "Nop, patients all dead," said the boy tersely and resumed his rocks.

The elder Gore, as indeed also his son, were men of wide culture and fine wit. Dysart ranked as one of the greatest surgeons of the state in his day. They were men whose names are still loved and revered and are enshrined in the town's traditions.

Aside from Major Howell the Early Bar at Paris included such names as that of Theodore Brace, afterwards supreme judge of Missouri, Humphrey McVeagh, who quit the law for business and grew rich at Hannibal. James R. Abbernathey, and Colonel Philip Williams, Virginian, miser and hermit, owner of a hundred slaves, who died unmarried and without direct heirs and whose estate was the subject of one of the greatest pieces of litigation in the history of Northeast Missouri, Senator Vest and Judge Samuel Priest, then a young barrister, being among the opposing counsel. The estate went to a niece, Mrs. Annie Williams Magreiter, the old hermit's housekeeper, who speedily dissipated it, and as mysteriously disappeared. A clause in the old miser's will is worth reproduction in the "Green Bag." It mentions a woman he had known in Virginia, refers to an alleged illegitimate son, and says:

"I do not of my own knowledge know that said Williams is my son, but it being ungallant to dispute the word of a lady in such matters, I hereby bequeath him the sum of $10,000."

Colonel Williams was one of the historic figures of early Paris and lived in a picturesque grove east of town. Later came A. M. Alexander and R. N. Bodine, both elected to congress from the second district, and it may be said that the Monroe County bar has always been a brilliant one. It included T. P. Bashaw, Jas. H. Whitecotton, Judge W. T. Ragland, Senator F. W. McAllister and other men of note throughout the state. Like everything else in Monroe County, it is well supplied with tradition.

Back in the days of the Tobacco Industry two men obtained their start at Paris and subsequently became famous in both business and philanthropy in this section of Missouri. They were Daniel and William Dulaney of Hannibal, founders of the Empire Lumber Co., and their names live today on account of good deeds associated with them. At one time they bought and prized tobacco at Paris.

The Masonic lodge at Paris was organized March 1, 1835, and boasts a continuous charter, being the fourth oldest lodge in the state. Its first master was Stephen Barton and it owns and occupies its own structure, a three story building. Monroe Chapter was organized in 1861, with Dr. Gore and W. F. Buckner as its leading spirits, and Parsifal Commandery was organized in 1884.

Paris Odd Fellows lodge was organized March 2, 1848, and retains today the traditions of its founders as does the Masonic lodge, both being agencies for good during their long history. The charter members of the Odd Fellows lodge were Wm. Taylor, Joseph Lefever, A. J. Caplinger, P. A. Heitz and others.

Monroe Township

Monroe Township has a larger infusion of northern and eastern blood than any other township in the county, though Monroe City, its only town, is distinctly southern in its ideals and standards.

The town of Monroe City was laid out in 1857 by E. B. Talcott, a contractor building tracks for the new Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, then in process of construction, and was born in time to acquire a most eventful history, being the scene of the biggest battle fought on Monroe County soil during the bitter civil strife that followed.

This checked its growth, but on the restoration of peace it speedily recovered and in 1910 was the largest town in the county, having a population of over two thousand. The first church in the town was St. Jude's, an Episcopal congregation organized in 1866. The Christian church followed in 1869, the Baptist in 1870, the Presbyterian in 1871 and the Methodist in 1876, the large Catholic church there coming at a comparatively recent date.

Its public schools were organized in 1867, and the Monroe City Bank followed in 1875, John B. Randol being president and W. R. P. Jackson, cashier. The latter organized the Farmers and Merchants Bank in 1886, and the two institutions, Mr. Jackson still being at the head of the latter, are among the strongest country banks in the state. The old bank is now in charge of Dr. Thos. Proctor, a member of the family which has been identified with the growth and development of the township from the beginning, mainly as farmers, stockmen and financiers. The first house in Monroe City was built by J. M. Preston and the first regular dry goods store was owned by John Boulware. Dr. Proctor, above mentioned, was its first physician.

The most famous institution in Monroe City from a historical standpoint was the old Monroe Institute, erected by a stock company in 1860. It was in this building the Federal troops took refuge to beat off the attack of General Harris and his raw Confederate recruits during the Civil war and an examination of the names signed to the articles of incorporation discloses that Monroe City, like the rest of the county, has changed little in blood strains and in family lines. There were then the Baileys, Proctors, Warners, McClintics, Boulwares, Sheets, Fuquas and Yates and the same names and the same families continue today. Monroe is a fine cattle producing township and enjoys an especial ascendancy in the Hereford strain, an outgrowth of the Monroe Hereford Association organized in 1874.

Indian Creek Township

Closely identified with Monroe Township, and associated with its growth and development, is Indian Creek Township, home of the first Catholic colony to settle in Monroe County and which yet preserves both its racial and religious solidarity. Indian Creek is an inland township merely skirted by a railroad and there has been little perceptible change in it for fifty years. There history has unfolded evenly, without the too sudden exception, and in most respects it remains today pretty much as it was when the historic spire of St. Stephens, visible for miles across the rich prairie, was first reared by the devout Celts who came to make the rich land their own.

The names of Yates, Parsons, Mudd, Buckman, Miles, Lawrence and McLeod are connected with its material development, as well as its social and religious growth, and they are still associated with its life and its activities. Swinkey, or Elizabethtown, once a village of 350, has dwindled with the coming of rural routes, but at one time was an important trading center, laid out by a man of the same name in 1835, and subsequently changed to Elizabethtown, in honor of his first wife, whose name was Elizabeth. The history of St. Stephens's church is not obtainable, but it is one of the oldest religious bodies in Monroe County, dating back to 1833, and has exercised a profound influence over the lives of the generations that have grown up within its shadows. Indian Creek township, if the legend be correct, has never had an inmate in the county infirmary, and for years elected neither constable nor justice of the peace, two facts showing the character and quality of the religion inculcated by the succession of good fathers who have ministered to the people of this little Arcady. All events in Indian Creek are reckoned from the destructive cyclone which occurred there March 10, 1876, and which practically destroyed the village of Elizabethtown. Historic St. Stephens church, the first house to be built - was crumpled up like a straw and of the entire town there remained, when its fury was spent, but four houses, among them the parochial residence. In all fourteen people were killed, the storm cutting a pathway of death and destruction practically through the entire township, and the little community never fully recuperated. St, Stephens was rebuilt, the new church being a beautiful building capable of seating eight hundred people, but was burned in 1907, being rebuilt in 1908-09 and dedicated by Archbishop John J. Glennon in one of the most notable services of the kind ever held in this section of the state. Its present shepherd is Father Cooney.

Union and Marion Townships

These townships lie along the western edge of the county and next to Jackson and Jefferson are of most interest historically.

Among the early settlers of Marion Township were the Farrels, Overfelts, Swindels, Davises and Embrees.

Madison was laid out by James R. Abbemathey in 1837, and the ninety lots brought him $1,100. The first house was put up by Henry Harris, who came from Madison County, Ky., and was used as a tavern. James Eubank came out from Tennessee in 1838, and started the first store, Dr. Nicholas Ray being the first physician. Among its first citizens were Joel Neel, James Ownby, Ezra Pox and other Kentuckians.

Madison Masonic lodge was organized in 1844 and the Madison Christian church in 1838, by Elder Henry Thomas and Martin Vivion.

Holliday, the second town of this township, both being on the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad, was organized in 1876 and was laid out by W. B. Holliday and Brother, sons of that Holliday who was among the commissioners appointed to organize the county over forty years before. No man of the name, save a former Negro slave, remains in the county at this time.

Union Township was the home of the Pox and Whittenberg settlement, referred to elsewhere, and was settled largely by Virginians, Middle Grove being one of the points of real historic interest in the county. It took its name from two facts, first, because it was a half way point between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers on a route much traveled in those days, and second, that it was the most central point on the first mail route established between New London and Payette. It was located in a belt of timber bordering on the Grand Prairie, from which came the Grove part of the name and was famous as a stopping point for the early travelers en route from river to river, the old Glasgow and Hannibal road, it is presumed, being one with the Payette and London road, known earlier as the "London trace." The town was properly laid off in lots by John C. Milligan in 1840, and soon became a thriving village and one of the best trading points in Northeast Missouri. It is notable in Paris, the county seat that nearly all of its established families came originally from Middle Grove or Florida, Most of the county's moneyed men of the older generation laid the foundation of their fortunes at Middle Grove and its place in local history and tradition is fixed.

Milligan, who was a Virginian by birth, was its first postmaster and first hotel keeper and John Myers was the first mail carrier over the London-Fayette route, going as far as old Franklin on the Missouri River.

Edward Tucker was the town's first tailor and Henry Lutz the first carpenter.

The first school in the township was established in 1830 and its teacher was William Maupin from Howard County.

The Christian congregation built the first church as early as 1825, and William Reid was the officiating minister.

At Middle Grove also was opened the first store in the county, its owners being Glenn & Parsons.

Among the famous early homes of the township was that of Ashby Snell, called "Hunter's Rest,'' and noted for its hospitality. Here gathered the wit and beauty, the culture and courage, of an early day and mine host was never so happy as when his house was filled. A famous hunter himself, many pleasing traditions yet exist regarding the quality of his venison and the fame of his pack. Owner of a hundred slaves and the father of six handsome daughters, his home was a retreat for travelers and the resort for the socially elect living between the two rivers. Mrs. Snell was in her maidenhood Susan Woods, eldest daughter of that Anderson Woods who was among the most noted of the county's pioneer citizens. It was to "Hunter's Rest" Colonel Lebius Prindle, of fame in Price's army, came to get his bride, Miss Nora Snell and the romance of the wooing of the young Virginia soldier is still one of the pleasing legends of the county.

Union township, in an early day, was the scene of one of the most revolting and for a time mysterious crimes in the county's history, the murder of Mrs. Amanda Davis by a Negro slave who had become infatuated with her. Mrs. Davis was a daughter of that Joel Stephens who had been seven times elected to the legislature from Monroe County, and in some manner offended the slave, who was overseer on the farm and one of her husband's most valuable men. He slew her with an axe, beheading her completely, and when the husband returned, being absent from home at the time, he found her body lying across the well top. The Negro disappeared and a week's hunt with blood hounds failed to locate him. It was believed he had escaped to free territory, but years afterwards his skeleton was found in a grove adjacent to the house, where he had shot himself.

It was in Union township near Middle Grove also that Alexander Jester is supposed to have murdered Gilbert Gates, younger son of Asa Gates, and brother of the late John W. Gates, of Steel Trust fame. Jester was an old man, an itinerant preacher, who fell in with young Gates in southwestern Kansas in the fall of 1871, both being on their way back home, one to Indiana and the other to Illinois. Young Gates had a span of good horses and a buffalo calf which he was exhibiting, and the two traveled together as far as Middle Grove, where the boy mysteriously disappeared. His father took up the trail and finally ran Jester down, finding him in possession of his son's clothing. The accused man was placed in jail in Paris, took a change of venue to Audrain County, and in 1871 escaped from jail at Mexico. Nothing was heard of him until the summer of 1899, when he was betrayed to the authorities by his sister, Mrs. Street, the couple then living together in Oklahoma. How the trail from Kansas to Indiana was picked up by the Pinkertons after thirty years, and the money spent by the older brother, then a multi-millionaire, in his effort to convict the aged murderer, need not be retold. Jester was tried at New London the following summer and acquitted, dying a few years later in Nebraska without throwing any light on the grim mystery.

An instance of primitive justice in Monroe County is embodied in the story of John Burton, one of the pioneer justices of the peace in Union Township. His brother, Reuben Burton, had lost a hog and finding it in possession of one Rious, a free Negro, brought suit before his brother John to recover it. Plaintiff was present with his lawyer, J. C. Pox, but defendant had no attorney. After all the evidence had been heard Justice Burton arose and asking Pleasant Ford, another prominent citizen, to swear him, gave testimony on his own account, declaring himself in possession of evidence that had not been brought to the court's attention. He had hunted with the Negro, he testified, knew the hog to be his, and rescinding to the seat of justice decided the case against his brother. There was something Roman in the act and modem judges stumbling over the obstacle of "judicial knowledge'' might well copy his example.

South Fork Township

South Fork Township, the richest agricultural section of the county, was organized in 1834 and Santa Fe, its one town, was laid out in 1837 by Dr. John S. Bybee, a Kentuckian. The first business house in the town was built by Henry Canote and was followed by Clemens Hall with a general store. South Fork is an inland township, settled mainly by Virginians, and Santa Fe has been an important trading point from the beginning.

Its first physician was Dr. D. L. Davis and its first tailor Alvin Cauthorn.

The Methodists had a church house there as early as 1840, South Fork Presbyterian church was organized in 1853 and the Santa Fe Christian church in 1855.

Among the pioneers of this rich township were the Criglers, Prices, Bybees, Tanners, Hannas, Hizers and Davises. Later came the Trimbles, Creighs, Cowherds, Quisenberries and others whose names still figure largely in its life and activities.

From South Fork came Colonel Pindle of sharp shooter fame in Price's army, before mentioned, and there lived Dr. William Houston, who, amid rebellion on all sides, continued to uphold the Union cause during the Civil War.

Dr. John S. Drake, Kentuckian, has been one of the revered figures of this fine community for fifty years.

The names of Bates, Vaughn, Brashears, Fleming, Peak, Ragsdale and others of the early families continue in perpetuity and Monroe County possesses no finer or more progressive body of people.

At Strother in the northern portion of South Fork township was once located one of the county's chief institutions of learning. It was established by John Forsythe, Jacob Cox, Joseph Sproul, William Vaughn, Hiram Bledsoe and others before the war and continued up until the late seventies, when it burned, having in its time many renowned instructors, the last being Prof. French Strother, now making his home in Virginia. South Fork has had the educational impetus from the beginning and has furnished the county with some of its most illustrious citizens.

Woodlawn and Clay Townships

Woodlawn Township lies along the northwestern border of the county and is also an inland township, as is Clay, its neighbor on the southeast. Its early settlers were the Atterburys, Millions, Robinsons, Jennings, Stephens and Woods. It has two villages, Woodlawn and Duncan's Bridge, the latter in the western end of the township. For many years Woodlawn had the oldest Masonic lodge in the county outside of Paris and many of the names familiar to the student of local history originated there. It is a rich farming country and has as large an infusion of northern and eastern blood as Monroe, the flat lands early attracting buyers. Woodlawn's history has been uneventful in a measure, its most potential figure in days past being Judge Woods, one of the members of the county court in the eighties and a man of fine native ability and much force of character.

Clay Township, which lies just northwest of Jackson, was named for Chas. Clay and its history is closely associated with that of its neighbor. Among its early settlers were the Hangers, Stalcups, Henningers, Sidners, Sparks, Kippers, Bartens and Webbs.

Granville was at one time one of the county's most prosperous towns and is still a good trading point.

Its earliest religious body was the Christian church, organized in 1858, Rev. Alfred Wilson being its first pastor.

Tirey L. Ford, ex- Attorney-General of California, hails from Clay and his family was among the pioneers who settled there.

The roll-call and reunion of the Granville Christian church, an annual event, brings home-comers each year and observation leads to the conclusion that Clay Township has furnished the country at large a multitude of useful and potential people, active in all the walks of modern life.

Washington Township

Among the oldest townships in the county, and one about which tradition clusters in myriad forms, is Washington, settled by the Coombs, Maupins, Raglands, Crutchers, Harts, Dulaneys and Bufords.

Old Clinton, famous as a muster point, was established in 1836 and was laid out by George Glenn, Samuel Bryant and S. S. Williams, who built the first store and operated the first mill in the town.

Jacob Kirkland was a pioneer blacksmith there and among its early citizens were Major Howell, afterwards the county's leading lawyer, and Daniel Dulaney, muster captain, subsequently the Hannibal lumber king, legends of whose doughty plume still survive among the older men who remember it and the man who wore it on these annual events.

Clinton was at one time an enterprising town, but the completion of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad a few miles north, resulted in towns like Shelbina and Hunnewell and it soon began to decay. Today nothing remains of it but a few ramshackle buildings and ragged cabins to speak a former glory. It is located in the North Fork hills, one of the most picturesque sections in north Missouri, and long ago lost even the likeness of a town.

Jonesburg, Clinton's rival, built by Colonel Gabriel Jones in 1836, and separated from its neighbor by only a narrow alley, died along with its more ambitious rival, and nothing but the merest legend remains concerning it or the unconscious element of grotesque humor that led to its organization.

Among the first merchants at Jonesburg were Blakey & Lasley and Coombs & Gough. The names still survive in the life of the county today, as does that of Ragland, the founder of which family became famous as keeper of the historic tavern at Clinton, which, in its day, entertained United States Senator James S. Green and many other honored guests. It might be mentioned in this connection that Senator Green, when a young man, spent several years at Paris as a hatter's apprentice, and that he never failed to capture the suffrage of Monroe County.

Jefferson Township and Mark Twain

Jefferson Township, lying along the eastern border of the county, has more actual history perhaps than any other township in the county unless it be Jackson, but the wealth of legend regarding its early life, particularly that at Florida, is lost sight of and obscured by the one supreme fact of its existence, it was the birthplace of Samuel Lang home Clemens, known to American letters as Mark Twain, who first saw light at the then busy little village in 1834.

In the shadow of this important event the historian is prompted to overlook and ignore the dry facts and details of lives not known outside the traditions of the county, and would in a measure perhaps be justified. Yet while Florida, by some sort of accident, produced the king of American letters, it was not lacking in other good human stuff, which might have shown genius fully as commanding under like circumstances.

One of the earliest settlements in the county was at the point where the great humorist was born and the names written on the headstones in the burying ground there today are those that were prominent in the day when the town was thought to have a future and when it drew settlers from far and near led by the belief that the dream, later embodied in "The Gilded Age,'' might by some happy chance, come true.

Among the early pioneers in this oldest of townships was Major William Penn, whose wife was godmother to Clemens and whose oldest daughter. Miss Arzelia, afterwards Mrs. William Fawkes, was the first sweetheart of America's greatest literary genius. Along with Penn were the Hickmans, Stices, Scobees, McNutts, Buckners, Violetts, Poages, Merediths, Chownings, Quarles and a host of others whose names are readily recognizable to Monroe Countians.

Florida is located upon a high point of land between the middle and north forks of Salt River and seems to have been looked on as a likely spot even by the prehistoric people who inhabited this continent, as so-called Indian mounds in various states of preservation are to be found all around it.

Owing to the presence of water power it was in the early days a great milling point. The first mill, that on South Fork, was built by Peter Stice, a German whom legend describes as "jolly" all millers in ye olden time were jolly and that on North Fork by Richard Cave.

The Stice mill was purchased by Captain Hugh A. Hickman in 1830 and was operated by him for nearly forty years.

The Cave mill was bought by Aleck Hickman from Dr. Meredith, a New Englander, in 1852, and from 1845 to 1860, the two plants were the most famous in this section of the state, doing the largest milling business perhaps ever done in the county. They shipped flour to Hannibal, Mexico and other surrounding points, and the fame of their product finally reached the St. Louis market, with the result that several boats loaded with flour were run down Salt River to the Mississippi by Hugh Hickman and floated from there to St. Louis, where it found a ready sale. Captain Hickman was a large, handsome, muscular man, a gentleman of the old type, and is still remembered lovingly, though his dams have washed out and his burrs are dust.

Among the early merchants at Florida were John A. Quarles and John Marshall Clemens, father of Mark Twain, who were brothers-in-law. Clemens was a visionary, but Quarles was an essentially practical man and one of the strongest figures and most forceful characters in the history of the county. Both were Tennesseans and both married Lamptons, who were Kentucky women. Quarles came to Florida first and later sent back for his improvident brother-in-law and family. Clemens failed at Florida, as he did subsequently at Hannibal, and Quarles, alternately merchant and farmer, finally hotel keeper at Paris, attained a measure of success, though dying poor.

The influence he had upon the subsequent life of his nephew by marriage, who bore a striking resemblance to him, both in his physical aspect and in his whimsical personality, was emphasized and elaborated in an article by the writer appearing in the Kansas City Star during May, 1912.

It was at the home of his uncle, Judge Quarles, which he visited each summer until a boy of twelve, that Mark Twain became saturated with the unwritten literature of his race, drinking it in from the stories told him in the slave cabins behind his uncle's house and hearing it afresh as sifted through the fine fancy of the man who was every bit his equal in the high gift of story-telling, perhaps his superior in the quality of an exquisite and refined humor, for which he is still famed in the history of the people among whom he spent his life. The story of "The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,'' which made two continents roar, traces by the clearest sort of literary genealogy back to Judge Quarles' story of the frog he encountered while taking refuge in a deserted Tennessee Negro cabin to await the subsiding of a storm. To occupy his time he began to catch flies and toss them to the frog and when there were no more flies, began to cast the shot from his ammunition pouch at the hungry amphibian. These exhausted, he caught a Pandering yellow jacket, which he stripped of its wings, and tossed at the frog, and at this juncture came the climax to a story which has since gained world-wide fame. On its way down the dying yellow jacket stung the frog and with one titanic effort, for a frog, it the frog - coughed up the flies and along with them the Judge 's shot, enabling him to return home without violating an ancient superstition of hunters which looked on an empty ammunition pouch as a bad omen. The Judge used to describe in detail, the efforts of the frog to move with the shot weighing it down and his hearers invariably convulsed with laughter. He used the story with many another to draw custom while a merchant at Florida and many an old man in Monroe County relates it today, who never heard of "The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," and with no idea that he may be infringing on copyright.

It was this same Judge Quarles who, while landlord at the old Virginia House at Paris during the war, became impatient over the complaint of a captain of Federal cavalry anent the condition of a roller towel in the wash room and who in retort said:

Sir, two hundred men (referring to a troop of rebels who had been in town the preceding day) have wiped on that towel and you are the first to complain."

Judge Quarles lies buried in the old cemetery at Florida, beside his first wife, and a big marble mausoleum, graven with Masonic emblems, covers them both. A short distance away, the grave covered with brambles and wild roses, sleeps little Margaret Clemens, the older sister of Mark Twain, who died in 1835, at the age of twelve years. Time has almost eroded her name from the little fluted headstone.

Of Judge Quarles the great humorist himself wrote: "I have never known a better man and I have never consciously used either him or his wife in a story. That was a heavenly place for a boy, that farm of his." And that is one small admission of the undoubted influence the elder man had on his life. Mark Twain passed through Monroe County on his way to Columbia in the summer of 1902 and great crowds turned out to do him honor along the route. Old men all remarked on the striking resemblance he bore to his uncle. In this connection it might be well to state that the great humorist was not born in the house pictures of which have been circulated so widely throughout the country and which was torn down by would-be vandals and made into souvenir canes the year of the Chicago exposition, but in a little log room behind the store, then kept by his grandfather Lampton, afterwards the first church in Florida. His mother was staying there at the time, the story being vouched for by the only man who can know, Rev. Eugene Lampton, a first cousin and childhood playmate, now living at Louisiana, Missouri. Mr. Lampton also explains away the quaint contention of Mark Twain that the family forgot him and left him behind when his father moved to Hannibal. He was forgotten, but not on this particular occasion, it being on one of the weekly Saturday visits paid by the family of John Marshall Clemens to the home of Mr. Lampton's father, who lived in the country five miles from Florida. The mother had taken the remainder of her brood out on Saturday afternoon and left Samuel to come with his father Sunday morning. The elder Clemens, being an absent-minded man, came away and forgot the boy and was not conscious of the fact until he arrived at his destination and was confronted with the anxious inquiries of the mother of the future great. Mr. Lampton's father had to mount a horse, return to Florida, and get the boy. It was a way, says Mr. Lampton, Sam had of occupying the center of the state.

With the settlement of the county seat fight, the removal of Clemens with his restless and disturbing spirit, and the realization on the part of the people that Salt River was not navigable, Florida as a possibility began to wane, though it remained a trading point of importance until 1869, when the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad was built through the county and left it some ten miles to the south. Following that it became a prey to the slow decay that saps inland towns. Its isolation was rendered more pronounced with the advent of the rural mail route and the abolishment of the local post office, the route now serving it running out from Stoutsville, it's busy and modem rival located on the railroad ten miles north. Bitter hurt was added to this humiliation when Stoutsville tried a few years later to remove the historic Masonic lodge to that place, the Grand Lodge of Missouri interfering to save it the final mortification. Barring diminution in population, it is today pretty much as it was seventy-five years ago. The old Buchanan House, the pride of the town in the days of the humorist's childhood, and its social center, still stands in a fair state of preservation, and frowns seemingly on the busy little smithy nestling beneath its shadows and on its pretentious modern rival, a concrete bank building further down the roadway up which General Grant marched fifty years ago, breaking for the first time on the vision of the nation. The house is of brick, is a majestic structure, and its ivy-covered walls seem redolent, almost vocular, with the legends of the quaint hamlet of which it was once the pride. The last person living in Florida who actually knew the Clemens family was Aunt Eliza Scott, nee Violett and she died in the early years of the present decade. With her death passed the succession of oldest persons who could tell all one wished to know and the town has given up the hopeless task of any longer furnishing first-hand information. On account of its isolation Florida has preserved its racial and community solidarity more than any other place in the county. It drowses over its delectable memories like some old hidalgo, oblivious of the ruin and dilapidation about it. The silence there is all-pervasive, the indolence infectious. It is at once the most beautiful and the most historic town in Monroe County.

Preparations are already in progress to erect the Mark Twain memorial shaft there, provided for by state appropriation, and it is to be located at the intersection of the two roadways leading into the hamlet.

The first resident physician in Florida was Dr. Willis, who was drowned, some supposed killed, in Salt River while paying a professional visit. In the cemetery stands a handsome granite shaft to the memory of that Dr. Chowning to whose doses of medicine Mark Twain referred as being so large and so generous, castor oil in particular.

Stoutsville was laid out in 1871 and was named for Robert Stout, a wealthy Kentuckian and farmer, who lived near there. The first business house was erected by Dennis Thompson and the first general store opened by J. R. Nolen and Henry Dooley, the latter subsequently county judge for many years and among the historic figures of the county.

The Old School Baptists erected a church there in 1840, long before the town was thought of, and the congregation, one of the few remaining in the county, still has a building at that place. Hiram Thompson, William Wilkerson, W. J. Henderson, Job Dooley and Underwood Dooley were among its charter members.


© 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