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

Randolph County, Missouri
By G. F. Rothwell, Moberly


Location and Topography

The county of Randolph is located just north of the Missouri River and half way between the eastern and western borders of the state.

The nearest point upon the Big Muddy is at Glasgow, ten miles away while within fifty miles to the northeast at Quincy, rolls the Father of Waters. The Grand Divide between these two converging streams passes through Randolph County from north to south a little east of the middle line and forms its prairie lands. This belt of prairie plateau running through the county from north to south is narrowest in the middle, being there only about a mile and a half wide and then spreads out in fan-shape northward and southward to approximately eight miles in width. It has an elevation of eight hundred and twenty-five feet above the sea level. To the right and the left the waters of the county are parted. The streams rising upon the east of the divide flow to the Mississippi while those departing from the west empty into the Missouri river. In their descent of one hundred feet from the center to the borders of the county the gradually deepening and widening valleys of the streams give rise to corresponding hills and in this region remains all that is left of the great forests which once enriched their slopes. In these primeval gardens of the woods once grew the giant oaks and elms, walnuts and hickory, cottonwood and sycamore, in whose fastnesses the wild beasts had their habitats and beneath whose hospitable shades the first settlers found homes. But, like the first settlers, the first forests are now represented by a younger generation and the old monarchs of the glen have fallen in the clearing.

Organization and Area

Among the fifteen original counties which had been organized in the Territory of Missouri at the time of the admission of the state was Howard County. Out of Howard County the first General Assembly, in 1820, carved the county of Chariton and eight years later out of Chariton County was taken the boundaries of Randolph. Thus we stand related to these contiguous territories, not only by the bond of blood of a common ancestry but by heredity of soil as well. As originally organized the county of Randolph extended northward to the Iowa line. From this unwieldy scope she has been trimmed to her present symmetrical form of a rectangular card with the lower left hand corner folded down. The county is twenty-one miles wide and twenty-five miles long and contains 470 square miles of surface. The sections along the north line and those lying along the west side of its middle range overrun so that it contains but 432 sections. The soil of the prairie lands is a yellow loam turning to black soil in the low lands and along the streams. It produces with great fecundity all the fruits and vegetables, grasses and grains of commerce which are indigenous to this climate but is chiefly devoted to the production of coni and hay. Except in a limited portion of the central region, it is underlaid with a four foot vein of coal and a two foot vein above it. In many places this coal crops out along the hillsides. A deposit of shale one mile wide and eleven miles long and from eighty to one hundred feet in thickness runs east and west through the central part and is used for making vitrified paving brick. Fireclay and limestone also abound.

Randolph County was named for the shrill-voiced orator of Roanoke, Virginia, John Randolph.

When the First White Men Came

At the time of the organization of the county, January 22, 1829, there were within her borders nearly three thousand people. Ten years later the census of 1840 shows a population of 7,198. We do not know definitely when the first white man arrived. In 1810 one hundred and fifty settlers came from Kentucky' to Old Franklin in Howard County. The first settlement known to have been made in the locality now known as Randolph County was made in 1818 by emigrants from Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina. At some time between these dates we may infer that the land had been reconnoitered by pioneer trappers and hunters from the old settlements nearby. The early settlers entered the county from the south and made their settlements along the timber line. They took to the woods, chiefly because of the convenience of water and fuel and because the soil was richer and the sod easier to turn. In the timber they were safe from prairie fires and the green-head flies which, in vast numbers, tortured their beasts of burden to distraction in the open. The forest was also a shelter in the time of storm and the material was there at hand for his cabin which was built of logs.

This home of the pioneer was one of the institutions of his times. It pictures his family life, it measures his privations and suggests our progress. It has moldered into decay and passed from view. On its door posts he hung the strings of scarlet pepper like the red symbol of the Passover, but the grim reaper did not spare this first born of the wilderness. Posterity will not see the log cabin and taxidermy cannot preserve it. A brief description of it may deserve the space: "These were of round logs, notched together at the corners, ribbed with poles and covered with split boards from a tree. A puncheon floor was laid down, a hole cut in the end and a stick chimney run up. A clapboard door is made, a window is opened by cutting out a hole in the side or end, two feet square and finished without glass or transparency. The house is then chinked and daubed with mud. The cabin is now ready to go into. The household and kitchen furniture is adjusted and life on the frontier is begun. It was furnished with the one-legged bedstead which was made by boring holes in the side and end of the cabin the proper distance for the width and length and into these were fastened poles whose intersection was joined with a corner post at right angles. Clapboards were laid down across the poles and on this structure the bed was laid. The convenience of a cook stove was not thought of, but instead, the cooking was done by the faithful housewife in pots, kettles or skillets on and about the big fireplace and frequently over and around too, the distended pedal extremities of the legal souvenir of the household, while the latter was indulging in the luxuries of a cob pipe and discussing the probable results of a contemplated deer hunt on the Chariton River. The mealy if plain, was wholesome.

The amusements of the early settler were simple, in keeping with his primitive life. His labors were often lightened and converted into social pleasures at house raisings, log rolling, corn shucking and quilting bees. They would assemble from miles around and, at the close of their merrymaking, dined upon the first fruits of a virgin world. Nowhere on the globe can that life be ever lived again. The frontier is gone. The juicy venison and bear steaks, the wild honey and sweet milk, turkey and corn pone, cooked with the lid on the skillet, were placed on the boards. At the close of the meal cob pipes were filled with plain, honest, robust natural leaf and while they offered up a fragrant incense to the Goddess of Contentment and expectoration was flowing free, they talked about the things which concerned their daily life, "their homely joys and destiny obscure." They talked about the new comers and the probability of an Indian raid, about the prairie fires, the chills and fever, the green flies and the rattlesnakes, talked about their yoke oxen and bull-tongue plows and spinning wheels, the candles they had made and the yarn spun, about the time they had to borrow fire from the neighbors, about the big sleet, the cholera, when the stars fell and quoted "scripter." Their voices are hushed and their times are obsolete. Their tallow dips have sputtered out and the embers on the hearth no longer glow. The house is gone. The forest, where it stood, has been cut down. The prairie has been burned over and plowed. The pioneer sleeps here and there in the little clumps of locust trees which he planted, forgotten. Many of the old family names still cling to the soil in the vicinity of their preemptions and some of their descendants comprise the first families of the county while others of them have gone to occupy leading places in other states.

First Settlers

Only a few of the names of the first settlers of Randolph County are known. I will place them under the corner stone of this article for preservation, if not for reading. They are as follows:

Charles M. Baker, Jr.
Chas. Baker, Sr.
Jas. M. Baker
Rev. James Barnes
James Beatty
Tillman Bell
Robert Boucher
Geo. Burckhartt
Paul Christian, Sr.
James Cochran
Joseph Cockrill
F. K. Collins
Wm. Cross
James Davis
Uriah Davis
Rev. S. C. Davis
David R. Denny
James Dysart
Wm. Elliott
Chas. Finnell
Dr. Wm. Fort
William Goggin
James Goodring
T. R. C. Gorham
Thos. Gorham
Abraham Goss
Elijah Hammett
Joseph Hammett
John Head
Wright Hill
Squire Holman
Wm. Holman
Isaiah Humphreys
Saml. Humphries
Daniel Hunt
Nat. Hunt
Nathan Hunt
Hancock Jackson
Asa Kerby
Chas. Mathis
Thos. Mayo, Sr.
Val. Mayo
Dr. W. B. McLean
Jacob Medley
Neal Murphy
John C. Reed
Archie Rowland
Younger Rowland
Reuben Samuel
Thos. J. Samuel
Iverson Sears
John Sears
Hardy Sears
Capt. Robt. Sconce
Blandermin Smith
Jer. Summers
John J. Turner
John Viley
John Welden
Robert W. Wells
Joseph Wilcox
Robert Wilson

The Firsts

The first three named settled in the county as early as 1818, and some of the "Recollections" of one of these men, Squire Holman, taken from the Macon True Democrat, thirty years ago, are of such interest in detailing the pre-historic facts and incidents of early times that they are here incorporated:

"Squire Holman was born in Madison County, Kentucky, Oct. 31st, 1807, and with his father's family, immigrated to the Territory of Missouri in 1817. They settled just a few miles below Old Franklin, in Howard County, and from thence moved in the spring of 1818 to Silver Spring, in what is now Randolph County. His father (Win. Holman), James Dysart (the father of Rev. James Dysart, of Macon) and Joseph Holman (the uncle of Squire Holman) were the first settlers of Randolph County.

"When Randolph County was organized it included Macon and all the territory north to the Iowa line or Indian Territory.

"The Indians were numerous and frequently came into the settlements. Huntsville was laid out shortly after Squire Holman was grown but he does not remember the first officers. The early settlers had frequently to beat their corn in wooden mortars, and when they went to mill, had to go to Snoddy's Mill, near Glasgow. The first school ever taught, as far as he recollects, in Randolph County, was by Jack Dysart, who afterwards became colonel of the militia (and was father of B. R. Dysart of Macon) about 1822. This school was kept in a log house seven or eight miles southwest of the present site of Huntsville, on Foster's Prairie.

"The first church was a log house used by the Old School Baptists, near Silver Creek, and the first sermon preached was by the elder Merriman, between the years 1822 and 1825, the early settlers previously going to Mt. Ararat in Howard County to hear Elder Edward Turner.

"For a number of years the settlers of Randolph went to Fayette for such groceries and dry goods as they absolutely needed. The settlers, male and female, wore homemade clothes. Many beautiful young ladies were married in homemade striped cotton and handsome young men in homemade jeans.

"Mr. Holman remembers when the early settlers, of what is now Randolph, had to go to Fayette to court where Gen. Owens kept a tavern. The General used to laugh and say that he could always tell a Randolphian by the color of his clothes. The early male settlers generally wore jeans dyed with walnut bark. They would have passed during the war for No. 1 Butternuts. Squire Holman was married to Arethusa Barnes, of Randolph County, in 1832, and of their twelve children, raised nearly all.

"Mr. Holman believes that the first store opened in Randolph County was by Daniel G. Davis near the residence of William Goggin, which site was afterward made Huntsville. He did not remember the first post office, but said the mail was carried on horseback.

"The first mill was Hickman's horse mill between Silver Creek and Huntsville. The father of Mr. Holman also had a horse mill and cotton gin. In those days the settlers raised their own cotton for all domestic purposes.

"When Mr. Holman's father settled, in what is now Randolph County, the government had not offered any land for sale. The emigrant selected his land and settled on it and when the land came into market, purchased it of the government at Franklin, where a land office was opened.

"The wolves were very numerous, both gray and prairie. The wolves became so troublesome that a premium was offered and his father killed and took the scalps that brought several hundred dollars. They were good for paying taxes.

"About the year 1833 Mr. Holman, with several others, made a trip for honey between the Chariton and Grand Rivers and in three weeks time took eight barrels of strained honey and left fifteen bee trees standing, having no need of packing more. He remembers when elk were plenty within the present limits of Randolph and bears and catamounts were numerous."

Thus did the pioneers of old Randolph County live. The sons of these sires now pay taxes to hunt, rather than hunt to pay taxes, for Randolph contributes annually $500 to the state game commissioner. The Virginia quail and the common hare are the only surviving specimens of game. The wire fence has destroyed their breeding places in the weedy corners of the old rail fence and the bird dog and the automatic gun are gradually eliminating them. The noble ardor of the chase is turning its pursuit to the clay pigeon and the effete frog leg. "To such base uses do we come at last."

When we open the first records entered by the first courts which were instituted at the organization of the county we feel all the interest that is aroused by the first movements of an embryo society. At the same time these first pages are treasured as keepsakes like the little shoes in which babyhood learns to walk.


The county had been organized by law on the 22nd of January, 1829, and on the 2nd of February following, the three justices of the first county court met at the residence of Blandermin Smith, one mile northeast of the present seat of justice, for the purpose of convening the first court. This place had been designated by law as a temporary courthouse. James Head, Wm. Fort, and Joseph M. Baker, the men appointed judges, having assembled at the appointed time and place, exhibited to each other their commissions from the governor as justices of the county court. They qualified by taking the oath of office and elected James Head to be presiding justice and Robert Wilson to be the first clerk. Wilson was the clerk of the circuit court of that district and had come up to Mr. Smith's new county seat to show the county court how to put on the ermine. After the court had been sworn in it directed that all persons who wished to become candidates for the other county offices should file their applications with the clerk in writing. The court then adjourned from its arduous labors until the next day. On the second day it divided the county into four townships by the intersection of the township and range lines which intersect near Huntsville. The northwest quarter of the county was named Salt Spring Township, the northeast Sugar Creek Township, the southwest Silver Creek Township and the southeast Prairie Township. The governor had the appointment of justices of the peace but upon the recommendation of the court. The following were recommended and appointed as the first justices of the peace:

Blandermin Smith, James Wells and Archibald Shoemaker for Salt Spring Township;
John Peeler and Elisha McDaniel for Sugar Creek Township;
Thomas Bradley, John Viley and John Dysart for Silver Creek Township
Charles McLean for Prairie Township.

There is nothing of record to indicate whether the failure of the court to appoint a full set of justices for some of the townships was due to an exhaustion of legal talent or to the good behavior of the people. Constables were appointed for the above townships in the order named, as follows: Nathan Hunt, Abraham Gooding, John McCully and Nathan Floyd, with bonds of $800 each. Thomas Gorham was appointed first surveyor. Terry Bradley first assessor and Jacob Medley first collector. There being no money on hand for a treasurer to keep, the appointment to that empty honor was deferred. Eleven road overseers were appointed who were also without funds and their labors could not have extended further under their oath of office than to "support the constitution of the United States." Certified copies of the necessary records were ordered to be procured by the clerk from Chariton County. The court adjourned to May, and Randolph County was on her way. Those four townships have since grown to eleven, the nine justices to twenty-four and the eleven road overseers to about seventy and disburse a fund of $7,000 in addition to a road and bridge fund expended by the court annually.

At a special term held in March ensuing: the adjournment of the first court, the temporary seat of justice was changed to the house of William Groggin, and the circuit court ordered notified.

The first settlement with the collector was made in May showing: Taxes collected, $253.60; delinquent, $1.25; collector's commission, $20.20. By way of contrast as showing the growth of the county in 81 years succeeding the first collection of taxes, the county collector settled for the collection of $144,552.68 for all current and back taxes and licenses, for which his commission aggregated over $3,400 in 1910. For the succeeding year an increase of $23,117.20 was added to the tax books on account of the road and bridge fund with a further increase in commissions.

At the August term, 1830, the seal of the county was adopted with the American eagle for its emblem and that design has been continued without change to the present time. At the same term Robert Wilson, who was both circuit and county clerk, was appointed commissioner of the county seat and received deeds, without consideration, from William Goggin and Nancy, his wife, and Gideon Wright and Rebecca, his wife, Daniel Hunt and wife and Henry Winburn and wife, conveying four parcels of land of 12½ acres each for a county seat. The four parcels fitted together formed a square cut from the four corners of contiguous quarter sections of which the division lines are the diagonals, thus revolving the plat to an angle of forty-five degrees with the cardinal points of the compass and causing the streets of Huntsville to run in that direction. The county seat was named for one of the grantors, Daniel Hunt.


The first circuit court was held at the house of William Goggin in 1829 with David Todd, of Boone County, presiding. Robert Wilson was clerk and Hancock Jackson was the first sheriff and James Gordon prosecuting attorney.

The first grand jury returned two indictments, one for wife beating and the other against five Iowa Indians for murder. At the next court they were tried and acquitted and this circumstance was pointed to with pride, as evidence of remarkable integrity of the jury. It seems to have been contrary to the spirit of the age to let one get away. The names of the defendants are picturesque. They rejoiced in such sobriquets as "Big Neck," "Pumpkin," "Brave Snake," "Young Knight," and "One-That-Don't-Care." If, as it is said, the Indian receives his name from some personal trait of character, the latter at least might have been found guilty of contempt of court.

In this connection it may be said that only one white man and two Negroes have ever suffered capital punishment in Randolph County. This may be due to the skill of the bar in preserving to the citizen his presumption of innocence when in jeopardy. Of a surety we cannot claim to be wholly void of offences since the disbursements from the criminal cost fund for 1909 and 1910 amounted to $15,096.49.

Among the first officers of the county were men who afterward served in other capacities with distinction. Dr. William Fort represented the county in both branches of the general assembly. Robt. Wilson also served in both branches of the legislature and in the United States Senate. Robert Wells became attorney general. Even the justices of the peace served with distinction since fourteen marriages were recorded the first year.

The first court house was built in 1832, of brick, with a court room below and three jury rooms above. It cost $2,400, and was torn down in the winter of 1858-59. The second court house was completed in 1860, at a cost of $15,000. It was two stories high, built of brick, and was consumed by fire on August 12th, 1882, one month and a day after the burning of Mt. Pleasant College in Huntsville. A county seat contest between Huntsville and Moberly, for the removal of the seat of justice to Moberly in 1876, had failed of the necessary two-thirds vote by 2,453 for, and 2,271 against removal. Another contest had just been held preceding the fire in 1882 with the same result, failing by a vote of 3,481 for, and 3,068 against removal. It will be observed that the voting strength of the county thirty years ago was 400 in excess of the present count by the secretary of state. Feelings of bitterness had been engendered by these contests to such a crisis that the leaders of both sides effected a compromise whereby the insurance of the burned building added to private subscriptions, was used to restore the court house at Huntsville and bills were passed by the general assembly abrogating the court of common pleas, which had existed at Moberly with limited jurisdiction since 1875, and establishing instead the regular county, probate and circuit courts at Moberly with full jurisdiction coextensive with the county. No buildings were provided for the new courts, and the salaries of the new deputies, in the interest of peace and harmony, were temporarily made nominal, it being intended that "when the first bitter throbs of anguish had been softened into the gentle tear of recollection," such buildings and salaries would be provided. Although the old wounds have long since healed and the bulk of litigation is now at Moberly, these courts are still tenants by the leasehold.

The third courthouse at Huntsville was erected in 1883 at a cost of $35,000.

The first jail was a log building situated just north of the present site of the court house in Huntsville. A second jail was erected in 1865 which was found inadequate and torn down in 1871 and a new jail built of stone, with the sheriff's residence connected in front. It was constructed upon the plan of a dungeon, strong enough but cruel and wholly out of keeping with modern ideas of a sanitary jail. This latter jail was condemned by the grand jury in 1909 and a new jail and sheriff's residence, costing $27,742.66, was erected on the same site. It was built by an issue of bonds of $25,000, which brought a premium of $1,120. It is sanitary and humane in all its appointments and contains twelve chrome steel, tool proof cells with others for juvenile and first offenders, women and insane persons.

Besides these public buildings the county maintains a county poor farm one mile from Huntsville, purchased in 1878, at a cost of $2,000, in which an average of twenty-one inmates are kept at an average annual expense of $3,100. A superintendent is employed and his accounts audited by the county court.

Among the members of the first bar of Randolph County were strong men. John F. Ryland held the office of judge of the state supreme court. Joseph Davis was a colonel in the Indian war, commanded a brigade in the Mormon difficulties and served for twenty years in the legislature. General Robt. Wilson, previously mentioned, was a member of both the house and senate, of the constitutional convention of '61 and as United States senator in 1862. General John B. Clark became a member of congress and of the Confederate congress. Robt. W. Wells served as attorney general of the state and judge of the United States district court.

During Civil War Times

The history of Randolph County is a chronicle of peace rather than the annals of war, but her people have not been wanting in the martial spirit when occasions demanded. For the Indian insurrection of 1835 she furnished a company of seventy soldiers. For the Mexican war a company of one hundred men was raised in Randolph, of which Hancock Jackson, the first sheriff, was captain. They were presented with a silk flag upon their departure for the front, by the patriotic ladies of Huntsville and the emblem was carried victoriously in two engagements, and upon the company's return home, it was deposited with the names of those who marched under it, in the court house at Huntsville. The fire, which destroyed the court house in 1882, consumed these memorials of their arms.

A history of the Civil war even in its local phase, cannot be included in the space allotted. Out of the body of her population of 11,407 people, were enlisted between 1,200 and 1,800 men, divided about equally between the North and the South. The people were not, however, divided in their sympathies by the same ratio, as fully eighty per cent favored the Confederacy after the war began. Randolph County was one of the largest slave-holding counties in the state at the beginning of the war. Approximately $2,000,000 worth of slaves were held here at the beginning of hostilities. A state census taken twelve years earlier shows 2,024 Negroes owned by the other 6,787 whites, which would indicate the grounds of the sympathy. Their commercial aspect is brought vividly into view by the following advertisement published in the Independent at Huntsville, 1854:

Slaves for Sale

The undersigned will keep constantly on hand, Negro men, women, boys and girls in Huntsville. All persons who wish to buy Negroes can make it their interest to call on the subscribers, or address them by letter, giving description of the kind of Slaves desired. All Negroes warranted to come up to recommendations, or taken back or exchanged.
H. L. Ruthehford,
Wm. D. Malone.

The Negroes have only increased their numbers one-third in this county since the war while the whites have multiplied nine times as fast.

The names of the soldiers who took part in the Civil war must remain, of necessity, indistinguishable in the ranks but the names of their leaders are here recalled. Those raising troops for the Southern army were:

Southern Army Union Army
Colonel H. T. Fort
Colonel John A. Poindexter
Colonel C. J. Perkins
Captain Thos. G. Lowry
Captain John W. Bagby
Captain Benjamin Guthrie
Captains T. B. Reed
W. T. Austin
C. F. Mayo
W. S. Burckhartt
W. A. Skinner
M. S. Durham
Alexander Denny

After the departure of the regulars the worst phases of the prevailing social disorder were suffered by those who remained at home from the "bushwhackers" on the one hand, and the marauding militia on the other. Bill Anderson, the noted guerrilla chief, recruited a number of those who could "shoot with both hands" in this county and there are staid and sober citizens now living, who can remember how, in their younger days, they clipped the hands off the town clock in Huntsville without even looking through the sights.

One unique incident of that chieftain's visit to Huntsville on the day before the Centralia massacre, September 26th, 1864, was the spectacular method of opening the store doors adopted by one of his men when the town was raided. This soldier of fortune rode a large bay horse along the sidewalk on Main Street and at each store door would back his horse against it and touch the high-spirited animal in the flanks with his spurs. The doors opened. After selecting such articles of apparel as were required, the men drew their pay for that month out of the Huntsville bank with a crowbar, and in the evening departed for Centralia. Bill Anderson was killed just one month afterward.

The Spanish war awakened little general interest in enlistment for service and only one company, colored troops, was recruited.


Worse than the fear of war is the dread of pestilence. The healthful environments of Randolph County are not favorable to epidemics but three times when cholera swept across the country, it has visited us, the first time in 1832, again in 1849, and again just after the close of the Civil War. The mortality resulting at its first and second appearance is not recorded. At the third visitation sixteen died in Huntsville. It made a deep impression on the public mind. Neither the cause nor the cure was known to science and the suddenness and mystery of the death, coupled with a sense of utter helplessness created a state of dread strongly reflected in the public press of the times. All sorts of nostrums were advised and as a last resort "courage" was prescribed with the consolation that should death seize the victim he would have at least have escaped its fearful anticipations and acquit himself with dignity while awaiting the inevitable.

The Search for Gold

The love of gold is more contagious than cholera. In the year 1848 the first discoveries of the yellow metal in California by the advance guard of pioneers were heralded across the continent and many of our citizens caught the contagion. They forgot their fight against the reelection of Thos. H. Benton in their eagerness to get rich quick. Many of them made the trip across the plains. Some took with them their slaves and set them free upon the golden coast. Few of them realized their hopes of wealth and probably more money was deported from the county than was brought back by the emigrants. At the present time much is being said and written about the high cost of living with beef on the hoof at 10½ cents, and flour selling for $2.30 per hundred-weight, but the real thing seems to have been encountered by the '49rs who crossed over the old Santa Fe Trail. A private letter written to Captain Cooper, of Payette, from San Francisco in the spring of 1849 advising him to bring out a stock of goods, quotes some interesting prices and indicates why the Randolphians had to hurry back. Pork sold for $80 per barrel, lard for $50, flour for $30, blankets from $60 to $200 per pair, cotton shirts brought $10 each, cloth coats for $120, sugar for 25 cents a pound. Two barrels of whiskey, retailed by the drink, brought $14,000. These prices were in gold. I have been told that about that time on election days a barrel of free whiskey was rolled out on the street in Huntsville, the head knocked out and dippers hung around the barrel for the voters' use. Some of the more adept in the bibulous art would gallop their horses up and down Main Street, brandishing their dippers and as they passed the barrel, would plunge these shining weapons of Bacchus to the hilt and would quaff the libation while at full speed without spilling a drop.

Churches and Schools

Before Missouri became a state and long before Randolph County became a separate political part of it the earliest settlers of the territory in 1819 established the first church nine miles south of the present site of Huntsville. It was at first known as Happy Zion. The name was later changed to Silver Creek church. It was of the Old School Baptist faith, as were all the churches which were organized in the county prior to 1834. Nearly all the first settlers were Baptists. The first church house built in the county was made of logs and built by that denomination. The first Methodist church was organized in 1834. The first Christian church was organized in 1860, and the first Cumberland Presbyterian church in 1840. These were the pioneer churches which opened the way for others to follow. Now there is not a city, town or village in the county, and scarcely a school district which does not have one or more churches. All the leading denominations are represented. The Christian Science church and a $75,000 Catholic cathedral were built this year. Churches are not listed by the assessor and their property value in the county is not known, but may be conservatively estimated at $300,000.

Schools and Colleges

Prior to the constitution of '65 the educational interests of Randolph County were fostered by colleges and private schools. Mt. Pleasant College was organized in the year 1853 by patriotic citizens of Randolph County, and upon the advice of William A. Hall, was placed under the care and supervision of the Baptist church. Four years later, in 1857, a building was erected at Huntsville costing $12,500.

The Rev. William Thompson, LL. D., the first president, opened school the same year with one hundred and seventy students in attendance.

The faculty consisted of Dr. Thompson, president
Rev. J. H. Carter, professor of mathematics
Miss Bettie Ragland, principal of the woman's department

The college was destroyed by fire on July 13th, 1882. During the twenty-three years of its existence it was presided over by the following presidents:

Rev. Wm. Thompson, one year
Rev. W. R. Rothwell, twelve years
Rev. J. W. Terrill, seven years
Rev. M. J. Breaker, three years
Rev. A. S. Worrell was president for a brief time
Rev. J. B. Weber who was in charge when the college closed.

It turned out during this time 109 graduates, instructed many youths and exercised an elevating and refining influence on the entire community. J. W. Wight, Sr., of Moberly, was valedictorian of the class of 1863.

The first public school was partially organized in Huntsville some little time after the war, but the organization was not completed until 1877. At the present time this system of free education has expanded into eighty-three school districts which enumerate 9,000 children of school age, and distributes annually for their education $85,868. The county has a permanent school fund of $57,872.94, which is constantly augmented from fines and forfeitures. This fund is loaned on real estate security and personal collateral and the interest therefrom apportioned with the state funds pro rata. The county derived from the state at the last distribution, $14,000 for schools. The railroad school tax in the county, raised by the levy of an average rate of fifty-one cents, is $12,000. One hundred and fifty-two teachers are employed and receive a total payroll of $45,022, paid out at an average salary of $68.00 for men and $41.00 for women. There are 6,700 volumes in the school libraries of the county. The high schools at Huntsville and Moberly are articulated with the University of Missouri. Two hundred and forty-six pupils have been graduated from the public schools in the past three years. Nothing indicates more plainly the vitality of Randolph than the fact that forty per cent of its population is embraced in the school enumeration.

Finances and Railroads

The financial resources of Randolph County are held in twelve banking institutions with a total of 17,300 shares owned by two hundred and seventy two stockholders, aggregating in capital and surplus, $437,510 in 1910, of which a controlling interest of $250,000 is held by twenty shareholders. The resources of these banks approximate $3,000,000. In the past twelve years the deposits have grown rapidly from the proceeds of the sale of lands to northern and eastern buyers and the removal to town of the farmers. The sale of coal rights under the lands to large eastern companies, one of which holds 43,000 acres, has contributed as well as expanding industry to increasing our banking resources. Every town and village in the county has one or more banks and all are prospering.

The merchandising activities of the county are conducted by 331 merchants and fifteen manufacturers with stocks valued for assessment at $340,000. This represents but a small fraction of the actual value invested, as one corporation has a capital stock of $300,000 on which it guarantees a six per cent dividend.

The value of all kinds of property has more than doubled within the past ten years. The resources of the county for the year 1910, upon which a total tax rate of $1.42 for all purposes, state, county and school, is levied, aggregate $10,029,785.

The growth in population is shown by the census for the following years: 1830, 2,942; 1840, 7,198; 1860, 11,407; 1870, 15,908; 1880, 22,751; 1890, 24,893; 1900, 24,442; 1910, 26,182.

Few counties can boast better railroad, telegraph and telephone service than Randolph. Besides the Western Union Telegraph Company, six telephone companies with numerous private rural lines, make quick communication with every part of the county. The companies are:

Buffum Telephone Company
Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company
Moberly Telephone Company
New Century Telephone Company
American Telephone and Telegraph Company
Huntsville Telephone Company.

The evening papers can announce the result of elections in every precinct as quickly after the close of the polls as in a city ward.

All of the eleven townships in the county have railroad shipping facilities except two Chariton and Salt River. In the early days of railroad building it was customary for railroads to receive financial assistance from the counties through which they ran. Usually this was rendered by a subscription of stock through the sale of county bonds. Randolph County pursued a more direct method by taxation and as a consequence escaped the pitfalls into which many counties fell, and was never burdened by a long indebtedness. The old North Missouri Railroad, which was incorporated in 1853 and completed to Moberly November, 1858, and to Macon City in February, 1859, was the first railroad to enter the county. After the road had been finished to Mexico efforts were made to continue it by subscriptions to its stock along the proposed route. Randolph County subscribed $175,000 of its stock and paid for it in four years. This road entered the county at its southeast comer and, following the Grand Divide, passed through its middle line from north to south.

In 1858 the Chariton and Randolph Railroad Company was chartered to run from Brunswick in Chariton County to connect with the North Missouri at some convenient point in Randolph County. The war interrupted the construction of the road and its franchises fell into the hands of the older company which built it from Moberly to Kansas City. These roads now constitute the Wabash Railroad Company. The machine shops for the western division are located at Moberly and were secured by the city with a donation of 818 acres of land given for that purpose. Judge Wm. A. Hall was the commissioner to represent Moberly in presenting its claims and accompanied the locating officials on their tour of inspection from St. Louis to Kansas City. The shops were located April 2nd 1872, on 218 acres of this land lying in the T of its north and west extensions and exempted from taxation for twenty years. The city of Moberly raised $27,000 by the sale of bonds for the purchase of the land. When upon the expiration of the exemption limit, the constitution prohibited its extension, an agreement was entered into between the city and Superintendent Hays, that the city limits of Moberly should be changed, excluding the shops' ground, and in consideration of this relief from city taxation, the Wabash would erect a $40,000 union station in the city. The contract was ratified by a vote of the citizens and was carried out by both parties. Its completion was celebrated by a memorable banquet and ball in the new building.

It is the most complete and handsome station between Kansas City and St. Louis and advertises the city to travelers, but upon the other hand, the local properties of the Wabash have escaped an annual tax of $3,700 for more than twenty years with benefits continuing. The Wabash has a mileage of forty-four miles in the county. It has a payroll of $100,000 monthly and employs 2,000 men in the county, principally at Moberly and 1,700 men are at work in its shops at that place. Within the present year the road has passed into the hands of receivers and large improvements to its roadbed and rolling stock and machinery departments are being added. A hospital is maintained by the employees' association at Moberly for the western division.

The M. K. & T. Railroad was organized April 7, 1870, by the consolidation of the Tebo & Neosho with certain other lines. To this latter road Sugar Creek Township issued its bonds for $65,000. In 1874 it acquired by purchase the Hannibal & Central Missouri, which had been chartered in 1865, and thus opened the road from Hannibal to Sedalia, passing through Randolph County via Moberly and Higbee for a distance of twenty miles. The Sugar Creek bonds were funded in 1879 and have since been paid. It passes through rich coal fields in the southern part of the county.

The Chicago & Alton Railroad enters the county at its southeastern corner and crosses the county in its southern part, passing through Clark and Higbee. It was constructed in 1871 and has a mileage in the county of eighteen miles. This road passes through some of the richest agricultural and coal regions of the county. These three railroads have a total of eighty-three miles of road bed in Randolph and pay a yearly tax of $25,000 to the state and county.

Cities, Towns and Villages

Cairo | Clark | Higbee | Huntsville | Jacksonville | Moberly | Renick


Second only in importance to its railroads, are the highways of the county. Randolph County has not yet entered upon a systematic construction of permanent roads. It has 650 miles of earth roads reaching every section in it and the streams are spanned by one hundred steel bridges. All traces of the old plank road from Huntsville to Glasgow, built in the early '50s, are obliterated long since and its recollection serves to show the early resources of white oak now selling at $50 per thousand. Two years ago the statute authorizing county courts to levy up to twenty-five cents on the hundred for roads and bridges was adopted by a vote of the people and the limit has been levied. This sum added to the revenues of the two eight-mile road districts creates a fund of $30,000 which is annually disbursed for roads.

We have no navigable streams but the soil is watered by four hundred miles of creeks and small water courses.

Agriculture and Mining

This network of natural irrigation, aided by a mean annual rainfall of thirty-seven inches and an average July temperature of seventy-seven degrees, makes agriculture a dependable vocation. Sixty thousand acres of com and forty thousand acres of timothy hay smile at the contented herds of kind-eyed kine. The kind of blue grass that makes race horses in Kentucky grows here voluntarily, where it is not killed by dense woodlands. The surplus of the plow brings an average of $10 per acre for every acre in the county, while that which is fed, supports live stock values of $15 to the acre. As if this were not enough, the bottom as well as the top of this valuable county is producing wealth. All hut the central portion is underlaid with four feet of bituminous coal at varying depths of one hundred to two hundred feet. In many places it crops from the hillside. An annual output of half a million tons at $2.50 per ton, makes the mineral almost equal to the cereal products. The chief operator is the Northern Central Coal Company, holding 40,000 acres. Mining is conducted at Huntsville, Higbee, Renick, Elliott and Tates. Brick shale is also one of the valuable minerals of Randolph County. It is found in the central portion where the coal has been destroyed by the opening of a crevasse a mile wide and eleven miles long, which has filled with shale to a depth of eighty to a hundred feet. It is manufactured into a superior quality of paving brick at Moberly and shipped to Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois and North and South Dakota. The Moberly Brick and Paving Company convert this shale into 110,000 bricks per day, burning daily fifty tons of coal and working the year round. This shale has a blue color like soapstone and its analysis is so similar to decomposed granite that it is inserted for comparison: Hygroscopic water, 1.47; combined water, 5.42; silica, 66.34; alumina, 15.81; ferrous oxide, 5.12; lime, .97; magnesia, .78; potash, 2.97; soda, 1.24.

A few of the industries which once were remunerative have passed away. The manufacture of salt at Randolph Springs, the making of hoop poles and railroad ties at Renick and Jacksonville, and the cultivation of tobacco which in the '70s reached six million pounds are no more.

  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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