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

Pike County, Missouri
By I. Walter Basye, Bowling Green


Who has not heard of Pike County, its famous men, its beautiful women, its schools and its churches, its undulating prairies, green carpeted valleys and sun kissed vine clad hills, its crystal streams, its macadamized roads rivaling the old Appian Way, its delightful climate, its fine farms, fruits and flowers? It is God's country. And who dare say it is not the veritable Lost Paradise, the Garden of Eden retouched in its pristine glory, rehabilitated and rededicated by the latest and best edition of the genus homo, the Piker

Come, step out from the rushing rabble throng that is passing by and let me lead you to this quiet nook inside the garden gate hard by the Missouri Pippin tree that Mother Eve used to climb and get apples to pelt his Adamic lordship. What! Not convinced? Skeptical of the identity of Pike County and the Paradisian garden? What other land than Pike County could Moses have had in view in his usual evening address to the children of Israel while journeying in the wilderness? He at least gives a description of the land that so completely fits that the burden of proof is on you to show that the great leader did not have Pike County in his prophetic eye. Vide Deuteronomy VIII: 7, 8, 9. "A good land, of brooks of waters, of fountains and depths that spring out of the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley and vines, and honey, a land in which thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack for anything in it.'' Isn't that Pike County? Again, Deuteronomy XI: 12. "A land which the Lord thy God careth for. The eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year, even to the end of the year."

To tell the story of the county, taking no thought of the time to tell it, no studied effort at literary merit, no ''apples of gold framed in pictures of silver," doing even a passing justice to the characters who contributed so much* to make that story fascinating, would not only require historical genius, but genius with the dip of inspiration. The Creator surely did care for the land as stated and He was so pleased with the new Piker that He took him into full partnership, gave him the keys to this western world, and whispered in his ear talismanic words for greater achievements. Nor has this partnership been dissolved. Baron Munchausen's fancy flights may yet be put to flight by the realities of the Piker. One day, some day he may be seen coming home from the North with splinters from the Pole with which to cook the evening meal. Some wise old philosopher said he could move the earth with a lever, if he only could find a place to stand. The Pike County product has found that place and is being noted for his skill in using the lever and making things move.

Older Than Its Mother

Pike County is old and venerable, with the anomaly of the child being older than its mother, the State of Missouri, by two years, seven months and twenty-four days, born and christened at St. Louis, Missouri, December 14, 1818. Quadruplets were born on that day, Pike, Montgomery, Lincoln, and Madison counties. Only seven came before, St. Louis, St. Charles, Ste. Genevieve, Cape Girardeau, New Madrid, Washington and Howard. Except the last two, the other children were six years old when Pike threw her hat into the ring, the birth of the other five corresponding to that of the Territory of Missouri, 1812.

In 1805 a young lieutenant of more than passing worth was trusted with an important military expedition up the Mississippi to find its source, establish forts and trading places and to make report to the government of any and all valuable information about the new country just purchased from France. Perhaps we were cheated. So began an inventory. Clark and Lewis fourteen months before had gone up the Missouri and on to the West. This last expedition was voluntary and not yet concluded when the former, which was the first military exploitation of the Louisiana Purchase, was begun. Clark and Lewis had well set their faces to the setting sun in the Rockies when, on August 9, Zebulon Montgomery Pike, a young man of twenty-six and of soldierly bearing, made his way through a mixed crowd gathered at the wharf at St. Louis. At his sharp word of command, one sergeant, two corporals and seventeen privates, with one guide, embarked in a seventy-foot keel boat. Another word of command, as the summer sun was setting, and the men bent to their oars, the vessel groaned and slowly put out from shore. This exploration was overshadowed by the much more pretentious one to the West and both overshadowed private searches, one up the Missouri river three years before Clark and Lewis, and one up the Mississippi fourteen years before Lieutenant Pike. Pike was an efficient officer and a very popular man. Seven years later, in 1813, he was commissioned a brigadier-general and was killed in attack before Toronto. Five years later, in 1818, his glory had not the least abated. Two of the counties formed in 1818 divide the honor of his name, Montgomery and Pike.

Pike County, being a lusty child, made its cry heard afar off. The rugged, impetuous mountaineer came clambering over the Allegheny and the Blue Ridge mountains to help shape her destiny. The immobile Carolinian, the blue blooded Virginian, the Hoosier schoolmaster, the "down Easter," and there came too, on horseback or in mountain wagon or gliding by boat down the Ohio and up the Mississippi, the Kentucky colonel. Each and every one of these immigrants, no matter how learned or ignorant, how humble or how lordly he was in his old home, brought to the new home elements that were to become the warp and woof of a new race, industry, grit, optimism and a heaped up measure of double distilled honesty. Many of them were poor, as property goes, but they were rich in hope and neighborly kindnesses. They nestled down side by side in a neighborly way, on the hillside, or in the rich valleys, helping one another, intermarrying and becoming the progenitors of a new, a composite race, leaders in every department of life in this western world. They were dreamers, big dreamers, practical dreamers, the advance guard of humanity, the toilers who with bent backs and sweating brow cut smooth roads over which mankind marches onward and upward from generation to generation. Were it not for such dreamers the American people would still be hugging the Atlantic. The present advancement is but the sum total of dreams of past ages made real. All honor to our dreamers who looked far enough into the future of this country to see our people emancipated from the narrowing, hampering fetters of their day. Let us honor the men who had the ability to foresee greater things, aye, and the nerve to make them realities.

Sources of History

Very much of the early history of the county, like that of other counties and the first few years of the state, has not been preserved in such a form as we now wish had been done. It has been only in the more recent years that we begin to find real joy in the faintest traces and incidents of our ancestral pioneers. Pike's honored citizen, Judge T. J. C. Fagg, from time to time contributed articles reminiscent of early days. Thirty years ago a voluminous history of the county was prepared by a non-resident, who failed to imbibe the interest he would have had, had he been a resident. Especially do I want to accord value to researches made some thirty odd years ago and printed in pamphlet form by Dr. Clayton Keith of Louisiana. Before publication his writings were submitted to pioneers then living, such as Levi Pettibone, Edwin Draper, the Rev. J. AV. Campbell and son, Gov. R. A. Campbell, yet living, and to others, getting information at first hand. From all these sources, from the records at the courthouse, from my ancestors, who were here very early, from historical clippings, and especially from two old records kept by the first merchant in the county, Uriah J. Devore, September, 1818 to 1826, the information in this chapter was obtained.

The Beginnings of the County

Of the seventh annual session of the territorial legislature, held at St. Louis December 14, 1818, Pike County was cut out of St. Charles County, which embraced all that part of the territory that lies north of the Missouri river, west of the Mississippi river, north of the British possessions and west of the Pacific Ocean. On the same day Lincoln County was outlined on the north of the present St. Charles County. Then came Pike, the articles of description reading: "All that part of St, Charles County lying north of the following lines, viz., beginning at a point in the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi river between townships 51 and 52, thence west with the township line to the range line, between 2 and 3, west of the fifth principal meridian, thence south to the township line between 50 and 51, thence west with said line to the eastern boundary of Howard County, thence north and west with the county line between St. Charles and Howard, to the most western point of St. Charles, shall be and is hereby laid off into a separate and distinct county, which shall be called and known by the name of Pike." Such, gentle reader, is the legal description of Pike County to which I introduce you, the home of Joe Bowers and his brother, Ike. Can anybody on earth make a plat of it? The south line, the southeast and the southwest comers fixed, the west vague, the northwest tacitly understood to extend to the ocean, no north, while the Father of Waters is supposed to be the east side. Imagine a huge comet with a fairly well-defined head drinking from the big river at the southeast corner of the county, while its tail indefinite and indefinable spread over the great northwest, covering Iowa, the Dakotas, and all the lands to the Pacific.

Such was the "State of Pike'' and such were its boundaries until 1820, when Ralls County cut off a big chunk on the north and sixteen years later Audrain County on the west was cut off. For three-fourths of a century Pike has neither gained in size nor lost any of the 620 square miles within her borders. Let us not be too critical of the legislature then sitting in St. Charles for the indefiniteness of the boundaries. They did the best they could, never dreaming of the extent of the empire which was theirs to cut up and apportion out among the thousands then hunting homes in the West.

The second war with England closed with the year 1814. Many of those who sought homes here were soldiers of that war and quite a number of soldiers of the Revolution also came, older in years, but drank in just as joyously freedom for the second time. Both of these wars were nominally with England but in each case in the West and Northwest the fighting was with Indians who were incited to bloodshed by whites. Those who fought in the War of 1812 were known as "Rangers.'' Some who had ventured to make homes in the county several years before the war, but had abandoned them and gone to St. Louis or other places of security, now came back.

Not the Home of Indians

Let us here correct an impression that almost universally prevails that this and contiguous territory were ever the real homes of the Indians, if they can be said to have had homes. It was their hunting ground instead and perchance their battle ground in conflicts between the tribes. The Sacs, Foxes, and other tribes lived to the north on Rock River in the Selkirk regions, on both sides of the river. Black Hawk, Keokuk, and other famous chiefs lived there, while to the south, near St. Louis, and on the Missouri River lived the Winnebagos, Osages and other tribes. But they had no homes in Pike. Here they hunted buffalo, deer and bear for food and the skins of which they bartered at the trading posts or used for clothing. They hunted other game, too, such as wolves, panther, elk and turkey. The prairies were the feeding places for the buffalo and their trails going to and from water courses are yet to be seen in various places, one distinct, one two miles northwest of Bowling Green. For centuries perhaps countless thousands of buffalo would go in herds and in course of time made deep road beds from two to six feet deep. The graves that have been found in a number of places, especially along the bluffs and water courses, belonged to previous races, as evidenced by the method of burial and by the contents buried with the bodies.

As the whites increased, the Indians became less frequently seen, although as late as 1856 Indians were seen coming single file into town, having their bows and arrows. They would shoot at coins set up in split sticks. Persons still live who saw them coming into Louisiana bringing nuts, game and trinkets, and they always walked single file, the squaws carrying the burdens. I started to school one morning in 1856. The school house was on the opposite side of the village from my home. The teacher was A. P. Rodgers, who still lives in Bowling Green. I did not know Indians were near and as I always had great fear of them, I fled, not home, for they were on that side, but to the school house. I was followed by a big buck, the biggest man I ever saw. I ran inside and closed the door. He followed and bolted in without ceremony and laughingly pointed me out to the teacher and said "him big fraid." Full fifty years passed when a few years ago I took coach at Yankton. South Dakota, to go out near the Rosebud reservation. I was on a big land deal, by which I was to get the hotel, store, mill and most of the little town. The deal had been worked up by letters to near the closing and I began to count my gains. We reached the place about nightfall and I, not knowing Indians were near, was greeted by a big Sioux about four times bigger than the one I saw when a boy. His "how-how" and the sight of hundreds of tepees on the hillside brought back that same old tremble of a half-century before, with added interest.

The First White Settler

In the last days of December, 1790, a young man lacking a few months of his majority, bade his parent's goodbye, seated himself in a little boat and started from the Falls of the Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky, and went down the Ohio River. His father sixteen years before had come from Fairfax, Virginia, and built the first house at Louisville. He went up the Mississippi River and landed at Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, January 1, 1791. That old French town for a week had been aglow with Christmas festivities. This unostentatious young man was destined to play a goodly part in starting a westward trend. He was a practical dreamer. More than a hundred years before that time his Huguenot ancestors had been driven from France because of their Protestantism. Three hundred years previously his forefathers had left Spain, near Biscay Bay, for France, that they might earn a more reputable living than by piracy and robbery, then practiced in that mountainous country. After a few days at Ste. Genevieve and Mine LaMotte, thirty-five miles inland, he went on up the river to St. Louis, a trading post containing about five hundred people, mostly French. From there he resumed the journey up the river to Fort Madison, stopping off in Pike County, where Louisiana now is. Returning, he made St. Louis his home for twenty-seven years or until March, 1818. He made frequent trips to the "upper country" and was frequently in Pike. It is said that he knew every man, woman and child in the Missouri territory when the land was purchased. The news of the transfer of ownership reached St. Louis March 10, 1804. He and John Allen, his old friend, were chosen to make the transfer of flags. That evening the Stars and Stripes were hoisted and the next morning the foreign flag was lowered. St. Louis then contained 825 people, all French except about 150. It was almost exactly one-half as large as Bowling Green is today. The name of John Walter Basye is in the list. That year a daughter was born to his wife and she was named Louisiana.

When he moved to Pike County in 1818, John E. Allen, his friend's son, accompanied him. Many others were attracted by the opportunities in Pike County. The records of St. Louis show several of his clearing out sales of land, preparing to take his permanent abode elsewhere. He entered the southwest quarter, section 13, township 54, range 2, near Louisiana, and at the same time the land where Bowling Green now stands. Louisiana, plat filed December 10, 1819, but was laid out in the spring of 1818. At the suggestion of John E. Allen, his friend's son, the town was named Louisiana, for the rollicking girl born at the time of the transfer of flags at St. Louis. The old family Bible bears out the date, and the facts given by John C. Basye, then seven years old, Joseph J. Basye, twenty years old, and Ann Watson, a daughter of David Watson, all of whom were present.

The statement sometimes made that the town was named for Lucinda Walker is not correct. She had married John Venable nearly a year before and had moved away. Besides the names are not alike.

Early Settlers

Judge T. J. C. Fagg says that in the year 1800, James Burns, of Kentucky, effected the first temporary settlement of what is now Pike County, at or near the present site of Clarksville. He returned to Kentucky, then came back brining his family and his brother, Arthur Burns, in the year 1808. This time he settled a little above Clarksville and erected the first log house in the county. Our public records show that on June 4, 1802, Frederick Dixon, a celebrated hunter and Indian trader, brother-in-law of James Bums, applied to the lieutenant-governor of Upper Louisiana, for a grant of eight hundred arpens, 680 acres, immediately on the north bank of Grassy creek. The grant was made, but Dixon never made settlement. Instead, he settled where Clarksville now stands and established a trading post with the Indians. In the years 1808, 1809 and 1810, other settlements were made by immigrants from Kentucky and the Carolinas.

The first families after the Burns brothers, if indeed not contemporary with them, was a colony in 1807 from York district. South Carolina, and Lincoln County, North Carolina, destined to leave distinct footprints in our history.
There were four brothers, John, James, David and Samuel Watson. In this colony also were John, James and Robert Jordan brothers.

Alex. Allison
William McConnell
Thomas Cunningham
John Walker
Abram Thomas
John Watson settled where Watson Station now is.
James settled near the mouth of Noix creek.
David, farther up the creek at what is now known as the Andy Scott farm.
John Jordan settled where Buffalo church now is.
Robert on the Fry farm adjoining.
James, a mile south of Louisiana, between the two creeks.
William McConnell settled on the Shy farm.
Alex. Allison on the Isrig farm nearby.
John Turner located on Little Calumet.
John Walker on Grassy creek.
Thomas Cunningham on the Price farm.

In each and every case, a spring of water was the objective point, more attention being paid to this than to the quality of land. Two years later, in 1810, another colony came from Kentucky and settled on Ramsey creek.
In this group were:

George Myers
Daniel McQuie
Andrew Edwards
Joel Harpool.
Eli Burkalen or Burkaleo.
Joseph McCoy, a noted Indian fighter.

John Mackay
James Templeton and his nephew.
Mijamin Templeton, the latter eleven years old, all settling on Buffalo.


A View at Stark Brothers Nursery

Cities, Towns and Villages

Bowling Green | Clarksville | Louisiana

Trouble with the Indians

The Indians were numerous and peaceably disposed, but by nature they were easily incited to depredations by the British agents similar to the "hairbuyer" (scalp purchaser) of Old Vincennes. In December, 1811, a conference was called of all the settlers, as trouble seemed to be portending by the mysterious actions of the Indians.

A fort was settled on and immediately commenced on the Alex. Allison farm, two miles south of Louisiana. Into this fort, called Buffalo, more than twenty families were gathered, taking turns at guarding and cultivating crops the next year. An underground passage was made to a spring not far away. In the year 1812, no harm came to them and they were thrown off their guard. They went farther away to work and began to think their preparation for defense was unnecessary. But in the following March, Capt. Robert Jordan and his son, James, were shot and scalped by the Indians while working on their farms. They were buried where they fell and were the first persons in the county to die, except a small child pf John Jordan, several years before. Today a memorial stone at their graves in the old Buffalo cemetery keeps the visitors continually reminded of those dangerous days.

The people were now thoroughly alarmed and requested Governor Clark at St. Louis to send soldiers for protection. Samuel Watson, one of the oldest, went to St. Louis to intercede with the governor, who refused, but agreed to send a guard to conduct the colonists to St. Louis. They bundled up such goods as they could, put them in a flat-boat and took refuge in St. Louis.

One of the soldiers, Peter Brandon, and Mary McConnell were married in the fort, and this is probably the first marriage in the county. There was no minister nor officer to legalize the marriage and it was performed by the good old Samuel Watson.

The settlement farther south also called a meeting at the Clarksville fort to devise means of defense. At this meeting was James O'Neil, who had come, four years before, and while at the meeting his wife and nine children were most brutally murdered and scalped. The youngest child, about one year old, was thrown alive into a large oven and baked. This settlement went to Fort Woods at Troy, or Port Stout at Auburn. A few of the braver ones remained in the fort at Buffalo, and others came to them from nearby settlements. There were probably no women or children left. In July, 1814, a company of sixty-four volunteers, known as rangers, came up from Cap-au-Gris, commanded by Capt. Allen Ramsey, for whom the creek was named. They started to go to Port Mason, near Saverton, and stopped at Buffalo Fort. From there, for some unknown reason, part of them returned to Cap-au-Gris. The others, under command of Captain Ramsey, continued toward Port Mason.

Somewhere between the two forts they encountered a band of Winnebago Indians, who were lying in ambush. A fight ensued, in which Captain Ramsey, David Whitesides, Levy Lansy, Mr. Duff and one other were killed. Alex Matthews, Daniel Griffith, John Lucas, and in fact most of the others were wounded, but their names are unknown. This battle, about which we know so little, is thought to have taken place on Mud Lick prairie. Some of the wounded got back to Buffalo Port. Some friendly Indians took David Whitesides, who was wounded, in a canoe, and started down the river to Cap-au-Gris, but he died before that place was reached. About six months after this battle, and in the early days of 1815, the war closed and the Indian hostilities ceased. The refugees began making preparation to return, bringing with them many new settlers.

There was as yet no Pike County nor was there to be such for nearly three years. At that time there was no Louisiana or other named town or creek, though they have been mentioned. The names of early settlers mentioned herein were, of course, not all who then lived in Pike County. There were many others.

Some Pioneer Settlements

From 1817 to 1820 there was a great rush to this new field, none doubting at that time but that the settlements were to be really permanent.

Daniel Draper came from Smith County, Tennessee, in 1816, stopping first in Lincoln County, bringing his six sons, at least three of whom were to become prominent in the county affairs, Daniel, Edward and Philander Draper, who were eminently fitted as leaders and business men.

Early in the same year came John Bryson and John Venable with their families from York County, South Carolina. They met the Jordan refugees at St. Louis and arranged to occupy the cabins already built until their return the next year.

This year also came Richard Matson and his brothers, Enoch and Peyton. They brought with them mill stones for grinding corn and the next year erected a mill at Peno creek. Prior to that time the settlers used hand mills or went to St. Charles, sixty miles away. Ninety-two years after the Matson mill was built, a grandson, A. P. Matson, took out a log that had been used in making the dam across Peno. The log, having been weighted down by stones, was perfectly sound.

About this time, possibly two years later, Mulharin, a brother-in-law of the Rev. Stephen Ruddle, built a mill on Ramsey creek. John and James Patterson, sons of the Revolutionary soldier, William Patterson, came in 1817, and that year erected a small mill near Rock Ford. These stones, as well as another mill, are yet at the place known as the Patterson farm. The Matson mill proved inadequate and he built a horse mill on Spencer and still a larger one on Salt River. Near this mill, which ground most of the com for many miles for both white and Indian, salt was manufactured and sold to the settlers through the stores at Louisiana, at 6¼ cents a pound.

In 1816 there came from Bourbon County, Kentucky, a county which furnished many newcomers, James Stark, who later became a county judge. The next year he returned to his old home and brought back, in a pair of saddlebags, seeds, scions and rootlets. He was an enthusiastic fruit grower and the contents of the saddlebags were the foundation for perhaps the largest nursery in the world, at Louisiana, now operated by the third and fourth generations of descendants of the founder.

Another settler came from Scott County, Kentucky, the Rev. Stephen Ruddle, who organized the first Baptist church on Ramsey creek in 1817. In 1780, when he was twelve years old, he with many others were captured by the Indians and most of his companions were murdered. Colonel Bird, having six hundred British and more Indians, claimed he could not control the latter. Ruddle grew up among them, married a squaw and did not return for years. He was tall, athletic, straight as an arrow, and wore his black hair hanging down his neck. He said he had accompanied the Indians on many expeditions and ''had murdered and scalped many white captives, often continuing the use of the tomahawk until his arm would give out from pure exhaustion."

Others who settled in these parts were John Mulharin, William and Joseph Holiday, William Biggs, David Todd, who became the first circuit judge of Pike County, Benjamin Gray, John and William McCune.

In the same year came Joseph Carroll, father of Thomas M. Carroll, from York district, South Carolina. He was a blacksmith, brought a bellows and other tools with him and opened a shop a few miles south of Louisiana.

With him came from Kentucky, the Caldwells, Maidens, Browns, Shaws, William Campbell, father of one of Pike County's truly greatest and best men, Rev. James W. Campbell, and grandfather of our well-known governor, Robert A. Campbell.

This year also came Maj. James Jones, first surveyor, later senator and sheriff and an all-round good citizen, Elijah Hendrick, a Revolutionary soldier, John Walter Basye, from St. Louis, first explorer of the county and founder of Bowling Green.

Mr. Basye came from Louisville in 1791. John E. Allen, the progenitor of the Allens and Rowleys, also came from North Carolina. Isaac Orr settled at Antioch, upon whose farm the first Cumberland Presbyterian church was built. That first church was organized in 1819, under a walnut tree, still standing on the farm of Robert Fullerton.

In 1818 from Bath County, Kentucky, came Joab Smith. In 1819 from Virginia came William Stephenson, school-teacher and first judge of the county court, settling on Grassy creek.

About this time came George Reading, a Revolutionary soldier, who later went to Lewis County and died there. Other soldiers of this war came in the early years and though well on in years they still possessed the nerve to commence life anew. Let us bow our heads in reverence to these heroes, who are buried in our county, some of them on the farms they tilled, this custom being quite common until later years.

Revolutionary Soldiers

John Poenix, buried in the family burying ground on Sugar creek, was born in Virginia, September 2, 1757, and died in Pike County September 11. 1839. He served under General Green and was present at the surrender of Cornwallis.

William Patterson, buried on his farm nine miles from Louisiana on the road to Eolia, was born in North Carolina, came to Pike County in 1818, and died in 1849.

Roland Burbridge, born in Virginia, died in Pike County in 1842, was buried at Buffalo cemetery. His tombstone inscription states that he was in the battle of Cowpens.

James Mackey, born in South Carolina in 1743, died in Pike County in 1855, was buried at Buffalo. The inscription on his monument reads: "An American patriot who lived to see the success of the American arms."

James M. McElwee, buried at the McElwee cemetery five miles west of Louisiana on the Paris road, was born in Greenville, Virginia, July 24, 1776. His name last appears on the pay roll of 1780, which reads: "Regiment in garrison at the siege of Charleston."

The Pike County records of March 6, 1821, show that Elijah Hendricks applied for pension and made affidavit that he "enlisted and served on the continental establishment March 7, 1776, to sometime in 1781, was with General Sullivan in his Indian expedition, marched to New Jersey to join Washington, was taken prisoner at Charleston and remained such until honorably discharged. I have a wife, Nancy, aged 62, and with me one son, Mose, aged 14. As to myself and wife, we are neither able to manage for ourselves, being quite infirm and of worn-out constitution. My son is and has ever been of a weakly nature and is in no wise able to render us any assistance." He and his wife are buried on the farm on which he lived, four miles southwest of Bowling Green. They were the parents of the late Moses, Johnson and Wesley Hendricks.

Cornelius Beasley, born in Carolina County, Virginia, was a soldier in the War of 1776, lived in Virginia until 1836, when he came to Pike County. He died in Bowling Green October 24, 1840, in his eighty-fourth year and was probably buried at Bowling Green by the side of his daughter, Mrs. Jacob Rhodes.

On August 9, 1819, Reuben Smithers presented to the circuit court a petition asking for a pension from the United States. The petition was accompanied by his affidavit and also that of Jonathan Oyler.

Samuel Baird died near Louisiana December 22, 1840, at the age of eighty years. He was a native of Virginia and served with the Virginia militia at the battle of Yorktown and the capture of Cornwallis.

William Sherwood, a Revolutionary war hero, came to Pike County in 1818, but no further record is found of him.

Descendants of nearly all the persons mentioned are now to be found in the county, to say nothing of many who have gone to almost every country of the world.

Records of a Pioneer Merchant

In the day book and ledger of the first store ever kept in Pike County, covering a period from September 12, 1818, to December, 1826, are found the names of a number of pioneers of the county. These books, aside from the mere entries showing who then lived in the county, contain perhaps the most valued history.

The store was at Louisiana and was kept by Uriah J. Devore, who came from St. Louis to establish the branch of a St. Louis store. The Louisiana store was kept in a log house on the southwest corner of Georgia and Second streets. Later the eccentric John Schwimmer bought it and twenty-six years afterward erected a brick building on the spot where he had so long kept store.

In the old books we find the name of Moses Kelly. Of him Judge Fagg says: "There was no better citizen. It seems to be generally understood in the early days that if a man could get to be sheriff and fill the office with credit, the next step in his advancement would be a seat in the legislature." Kelly served two terms as sheriff, 1832-36, and then served, with A. B. Chambers, as representative.

The name of Willis Mitchell appears as a patron. He performed the first marriage ceremony at Bowling Green, marrying the girl for whom the town of Louisiana was named, Louisiana Basye, to David L. Tombs.

October 14, 1818, Samuel K. Caldwell bought goods. He, with Joel Shaw, came for the purpose of laying out a town and did so. He was admitted to the bar at the first session of the circuit court, April 12, 1819, together with Augustus Le Grand and Ezra Hunt. He was the first assessor of Pike County, receiving his appointment from Governor Bates January 1, 1819. His bondsmen were Maj. James Jones, John E. Allen and John Campbell. Col. James Johnson purchased $58.75 worth of merchandise. He, together with Andrew Edwards, John Jordan, James Bryson and Peyton Matson, was appointed by the legislature to fix on "suitable places for courthouse, jail and permanent seat of justice," at Louisiana in 1818.

On October 17th Samuel Watson bought merchandise. To this man Ashley, by his munificent gift, is indebted for the famous Watson Seminary. He served on the first grand jury and was appointed by the court to locate a road from the salt works or the "lick" to Louisiana. Born in 1766, he served, though young, in the War of the Revolution.

John Mathews bought goods next day. He was an Old School Presbyterian preacher, the first of that denomination in the county. He taught the first school in the county, except the rather informal one taught in the fort. He organized the first Bible society at the county seat, performed most of the marriage ceremonies of those times, among which were the following:

James Templeton and Jennie Maekey, January 26, 1818
John Venable and Lueinda Walker, February 6, 1818
Andrew Jordan and Peggy Henry, October 18, 1818
Carroll Moss and Miss Maekey, December 18, 1818
John Hymen and Betsy Moss, February 7, 1819
James Orr and Betsy Campbell, May 11, 1819
James Lanes and Maria Phillips, June 22, 1819

He was asked by the court to pass on the fitness of applicants for the first surveyor. This office fell to Maj. James Jones.

There appears in the old store books also the name of John Walker He owned part of the ground on which the town of Louisiana was built.

There appears also the names of the Rev. Joseph Jackson Basye, son of John W. Basye, of whom it is stated that he was the first Methodist to preach in the county. He was an eccentric man and minister of the type of Peter Cartwright, with whom he often held meetings in Illinois. He married Ann Watson, daughter of David Watson.

James Culbertson bought two pounds of coffee for seventy-five cents a pound. He was killed July 6, 1840, by the overturning of an ox-cart, on which he was riding, between Bowling Green and Louisiana.

The name of Michael J. Noyes is found frequently in the books. He was first circuit clerk, which office he held more than twenty years. He was a very conspicuous character, a stout man with a red face and prominent eyes. He wore a broad-brimmed hat which he seldom removed from his head either at the sessions of court or in his home, even at the table. He was an efficient officer and did much to shape the destiny of the county until 1842, when he left the county and became an active citizen of Pittsfield, Illinois, where he died. It is said "he could write, whistle and converse with two or three persons at the same time without making an error or failing to put in an oath at the proper place.''

There appears, too, the name of Judge Ezra Hunt, a noble man. He was graduated from Harvard in 1816, taught school in Tennessee the next year, came to St. Louis in 1818 and to Pike County in 1819. He was a hard student, a just lawyer and a much-loved man. His home was at Bowling Green. He died suddenly at Troy, Missouri, September, 1860.

The names of John Miller, who subsequently became governor of Missouri,
Marshall Mann, who conducted a hotel,
Dr. Allison T. Crow, who was the first physician to practice in the county,
Willis Mitchell, one of the three appointed by the general assembly of Missouri in 1822 to "superintend the erection of a courthouse at Bowling Green,"
Capt. Obadiah Dickinson, at whose home the first circuit court of Pike County was held, and who at that time kept tavern on Georgia street where the National Hall now stands,
Captain Ralls, for whom Ralls County, Missouri, was named, are among the others found in these old record books.

These names were charged with merchandise between September 12, 1818, and July 31, 1820. The books were well kept, showing dates and details and are absolutely correct. The names are given here, hoping they may prove of value to their descendants. Space forbids taking up the other book, which carries an additional list, from 1820 to August 26, 1826. The names follow:

John E. Allen
Alexander Allison
Wach Allison
John Anderson
Uriah Anderson
Travis Angle
James Baird
John Barnett
Robert Barnett
Captain Benning
John Bishop
Harrison Booth
James Boyer
James Bruce
Capt. William Brown
Benjamin Burbridge
George Burbridge
James Burnett
Edward Byers
William Campbell
Richard Campbell
John Carr
Nathaniel Carr
Joseph Carroll
Archibald Clayton
Fountain Conway
Walter Conway
Wilson Cook
James Cox
James Crider
William Cunningham
Leonhard Dean
Jacob Dennis
Benjamin T. Dickinson
Edward D. Emerson
Thorp R. Estes
Daniel Ferguson
James Findlay
James Frier
Robert Fullerton
William Fullerton
John Galloway
William Givens
James Glenn
Bennett Goldsbury
Hugh Gordon
William Gwynn
William Hemphill
Alexander Henley
Moses Hicklin
William P. Holliday
Isaac Hostetter
Ezra Hunt
John Hymers
Elisha Jackson
David James
Ezekiel Jenkins
William Johns
Col. James Johnson
John Jordan
McGee Jordan
Matthew Kelly
Vincent Kelly
Samuel Kem
George Kincaid
Timothy Lamberton
John Lewis
Lindsay Lewis
John Lindsey
Andrew Little
Alexander Lord
James Love
John Markley
Enoch Matson
Samuel McCadam
Robert McConnell
Charles McGiffin
William McConnell
John McCune
Joseph Meacham
Samuel Megary
Nathaniel Montgomery
William Montgomery
Elisha Moore
John Morris
Carroll Moss
Robert E. Mott
Robert Muir
Benjamin Munn
James Venable Musick
Isaac Orr
James Orr
Anthony Palmer
Marshall Parks
Amible Partney
Ephraim Pearse
W. K. Pickens
Ira Pierce
William Robinson
Joseph Rodgers
Abram Ross
Thomas P. Ross
Charles Scanland
Joseph Scott
William See
Samuel Shaw
Samuel Small
Mijamin Templeton
P. A. Thacker
Joseph Trotter
John Turner
John Vallier
Lester Vashall
John Wamsley
David Watson
John Watson
James Watson
Samuel Watson
Hugh White
John Williams
Alexander Woodside
John Yates
Joseph Yates
Henry Yeater
William York

Court Proceedings

The legislature in session at the time of organizing the county probably fixed the place of meeting of the court. This was at the home of Capt. Obadiah Dickinson. It also fixed the time "from and after the first day of February, 1819," at which time the judicial existence of Pike County was to exist. Cases then in the courts affecting the interests of the people in the new county were to be certified for settlement. David Todd, though living in what is now Boone County, was a "Piker." He was designated by the governor as judge of the Northwestern circuit, including Pike and other counties. The judge appointed Michael J. Noyes clerk pro tem. The governor appointed Samuel K. Caldwell sheriff.

Pike County at that time had not been shorn of its immense size and the court busied itself carving out townships, appointing constables, justices of the peace and judges of election, and laying out roads. The four townships were Buffalo, Calumet, Peno and Mason, the last named including Ralls County. Dabney Jones, John Bryson and Willis Mitchell were made justices.

The first article of record was the commission of Dabney Jones, Book A, page 1. Page 2 of this volume records the contract of John Caldwell of St. Louis and James Johnson of Pike County, binding the former s two sons, Alva and Reigny, until they were 21 years old. Johnson binds himself "to teach the boys to the best of his ability the blacksmith and gunsmith trades and to teach them to read and write well and arithmetic, as far as the rule of three, to board and clothe them." Witnessed by James Jones, first surveyor, and by Walter Conway, first deputy sheriff.

Grand Jury

James Watson, foreman
David James
Willis Mitchell
Jesse H. Lane
Samuel Small
Samuel Watson
William See
Moses Kelly
Samuel McGary
William K. Pickens
John W. Basye
David Watson
John Turner
Hugh Gordon
James Maekey
John Venable
John M. Jordan
John Lewis
Samuel Green
Ephraim W. Beasley
James Crider

It had no business to transact. This court gave Samuel K. Caldwell license to conduct a ferry, he having stipulated in laying out the town to reserve ferry rights. The next session of the court was held August 9, 1819, and being unable to continue at the house of Captain Dickerson, it adjourned to meet at the schoolhouse. This was the first schoolhouse. At the third session, in 1820, the commissioners having announced the readiness of the new courthouse and jail on lot 24, the court was held there. Two years later, December 14, 1822, the general assembly appointed Willis Mitchell, William McPike and G. C. Trabue to superintend the building of a new courthouse at Bowling Green. This second courthouse was completed August 5, 1823. Nathaniel Montgomery, a brother-in-law of John W. Basye, contracted with the court to build the house for $75 and "to take it from the stump.'' It was built of round logs, was very low and covered with boards four feet long, which were held in place by poles. It stood northeast of the present courthouse. Sessions of the supreme court of Missouri were held in it. The third courthouse, being the second one at Bowling Green, was built by John and Walter Crow. It was a brick house and was used until 1844. The third courthouse at Bowling Green was built in 1844 by W. W. Blain and Samuel Kem. This building was burned on the night of March 18, 1864. The present courthouse was then erected.

Life and Customs

The earliest settlers came with the feeling of insecurity and that this was not their home. By 1820, however, all doubt was gone. The Upper Louisiana Territory had become the Missouri Territory. The settlers no longer thought of returning to their old homes except on visits and to induce others to come. They began to settle down, not only in security but in real happiness and often in prosperity. They did not look backward, but ahead and with optimism. The machinery of local government had become oiled and set in motion. Laws suited to their needs were being made. Learning, common sense and experience were happily blended.

The first settlements are always an era of good neighborly feeling, feeling of dependence that brings people nearer together and makes them feel the necessity of assisting one another, in the way of raising their cabins, clearing the forests, harvesting their crops and helping each other in the rude efforts to build homes for the wives and little ones. There is no era in the history of a settlement to which the old settler could look back with more pride and pleasure than that when he commenced life in the wilds, where luxuries were unknown and human nature had to be studied in the rough, the good separated from the bad and estimates made, not from appearances but from actual tests. The clear-cut characters of the pioneers, or at least of most of them, some rough diamonds and some cut and polished, all were jewels of some kind.

"God will reward those dead heroes of ours
And cover them over with beautiful flowers."

The census of 1820 showed 2,667 population, about one-sixth slaves. The cost of that census was $40. Audrain and Ralls counties were included in the census. In the census of 1910, ninety years later, Pike County alone shows a population of 22,556.

The crops grown were wheat, potatoes, flax, tobacco, cotton and com. Every family raised from fifty to one hundred and fifty pounds of cotton for its own use. As late as 1858 cotton fields of ten to fifteen acres were sometimes seen. The young people enjoyed very much the cotton pickings in the evening before the huge fires in the wide fireplaces. Later the Rev. John Mathews, the preacher-teacher, built a cotton-gin on Moses Kelly's farm and received most of the cotton to be picked for the whole county and more.

Corn was the principal crop raised by these pioneers. The blades were pulled off below the ear and tied in bundles for winter feed for horses. The tops were then cut off above the ear and tied in bundles for the cows. Late in the fall the ears were pulled from the stalks, hauled and put in two piles of equal size near the place where it was to be stored and then the neighbors were invited to a "husking'' some night. The crowd gathered and two captains were selected. They alternately chose from the huskers until all were taken. The slaves came also and were among the early ones chosen. Lanterns of the old style, tin ones perforated, were hung up for light for the shuckers. There was also a jug of whiskey furnished by the host. All drank from the same jug. The fun commenced and the side getting its pile shucked first was entitled to extra drams. No drinks were taken until the work was done. The house-raisings for homes, stables or tobacco barns were likewise enjoyed. Even the women frequently attended as spectators and it may be that some maidens were there to stimulate the young men to do their best.

Horse races were frequent and drew crowds. The bets were small, seldom more than five dollars. The races, in the main, were conducted fairly, winners and losers usually going away satisfied. If not, coats were deliberately drawn, a crowd formed around two men, who fought with their bare fists to a finish. They washed away the blood, the two shook hands and went away friends. At the dances were, perhaps, the greatest joys. They were more select in their company than at other amusements. The "Swing your partners," mingled with the sweet music made by Sambo on his fiddle, no doubt started many young couples waltzing into wedlock. Fun and pleasure in these days ran riot. Everyone enjoyed a joke and a laugh at the expense of another.

The following story is told of Robert Allison, more familiarly known as "Dandy Bob," and well known to everybody then and to hundreds of persons now living. He was by trade a tailor and his greatest delight was to show himself in fine clothes, always looking as if he "had just stepped out of a bandbox." He had sent away for the finest broadcloth suit possible to buy and he could afford it, too. Then even the well-to-do felt that jeans coats and pants, home-grown, were good enough for any man. The women, young and old, at church or wedding or dance, wore linsey-woolsey or cotton, homespun and handmade. The night for the party in question was very cold, but "Dandy Bob," determined to show his new suit, decided to wear underneath it dressed buckskin, which is impervious both to heat and to cold. He had thought only of keeping out the terrible cold. The crowd assembled and dancing time came. The ladies removed their wraps and were ushered to the glowing fire in the big, open fireplaces. In the meantime, "Dandy Bob," strutting like a lord, walked to and fro to attract the attention of the ladies. He was more than Chesterfield. As the dance was about to begin, he walked up to one of the big fires, getting nearer to it than he thought. He turned his back to the fireplace and spread his feet wide apart, brought his coat tails to the front and stood so several minutes. All eyes were fixed upon him him and he was lost in self-admiration. A little smoke was soon seen in his clothing, but no one gave the alarm. The buckskin began to burn him. The whole back of his suit was burned and brushed off by a stroke to put out the fire. ** Dandy Bob" reached for his beaver hat, leaped over the gate and went to do his dancing at home.

The Churches

Frequently the pioneers met for religious services. These services were held in the homes or in the open air, as there were no meeting houses. It was in a grove on the Fullerton farm, six miles southeast of Bowling Green, near Scott Spring, the first Cumberland Presbyterian church in Missouri was organized ninety-three years ago and there the next year, May 1, 1820, was held the first session of the Missouri Presbytery, embracing all of Missouri, Arkansas and Western Illinois. The associations of the nearby church, Antioch, are hallowed and its founder and pastor for a half-century, the Rev. J. W. Campbell, is revered.

About the same time the Baptists were active in building at Ramsy creek. Among their great preachers of the early days were the Reverends William H. Vardeman, William Hurley, Davis Biggs and M. M. Modisett. The Rev. John Mathews, of the Old School Presbyterian church, was an early and active worker from 1818 for many years. Later the Rev. J. J. Basye, Methodist, preached at Louisiana in 1818 and the Rev. Phineas Killibrue preached at about the same time near Frankford. The Rev. Anthony W. Cassod, who preached the first sermon ever preached at Bowling Green, was active in the work of the church in 1820 to 1822. 

  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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