Chapter 4
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Chapter 4 - History of Henry County Missouri 1883



Mexican War

      The next few years were uneventful ones so far as local affairs were concerned. The Mexican war, which began in 1846, sent a thrill of excitement through the hearts of the people. The regular army was not able to cope with the Mexican forces on account of superiority of number of the latter, and a call for volunteers was made. The southern states, being nearest the scene of conflict, rushed their volunteers to the front, but it was not long before it was shown by the people of the country that the treasonable and cold-blooded utterance of an Ohio member in the halls of congress had no resting place in the hearts of the people: "That Mexico should welcome our soldiers with bloody hands to hospitable graves." General Taylor opened the fight at Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma and Monterey, but it was done at the loss of the brave and gallant Ringgold, who met his fate at Palo Alto, and a host of others, who gave their lives to their country's glory. And it will do no harm to mention here the initial steps in the Science of war taken by a number of gallant officers, who proved themselves heroes upon more than one battle field of the Mexican war, who on broader and more extended fields attracted by their skill and daring the attention of the world. These young heroes of the Mexican war were Grant, McClellan, Lee, Beauregard, Hill, Jackson, Sherman, Hooker, Longstreet, Buell, Johnston, Lyon, Anderson, Kearney, Thomas, Ewell and Davis. And of thirty officers mentioned by General Scott for their skill and daring sixteen were generals in the Union Army and fourteen were generals in that of the Confederacy. It was not until 1847, when a second call for troops was made, that two companies were formed-one commanded by Captain Nathaniel B. Holden, of Warrensburg, and the other by Captain John Holloway, of Warsaw. Into these two commands something like a hundred volunteers came from Henry County, some joining the former and some the latter company. Captain Holden's company belonged to the Twelfth United States Infantry, while Captain Holloway's was Company C of the First Regiment of Missouri Mounted Volunteers under Colonel Sterling Price. Colonel Price and his command, and the triumphant march and famous battles of General A. W. Doniphan and his heroic men, have won a glowing page in the history of our country. Some of that band of gallant men who lived to return, wearing bright garlands of victory, were from Henry County.


"A thousand glorious actions that might claim

Triumphant laurels and immortal fame."


      Among those who did not return, but whose bones now lie on Mexican soil, was Cyrus D. Fletcher. He died at Camp Calhoun, March 29, 1847. He was under Holloway and in General Price's command. Benjamin W. Coats joined Capt. John N. Conant's company of Texas mounted volunteers, and also died. Then there were E. Preston Davis, Isaac N. Shooks, John B. East, James J. East, and Joseph Burks, who were in Captain Holden's command, who left their bones to bleach upon the soil of our foe, and joined on the golden shore the brave Ringgold, the gallant Clay, the intrepid Yell, and the noble Hardin, who wreathed their brows with the garland of death. And these names of the gallant dead, with those of Taylor, Scott, Price, and Doniphan, will go down in history, their fame growing broader and deeper as time rolls on.


Their Return

      Others returned to their homes to receive a joyous greeting. Thomas E. Owens, now in Colorado, joined the Texas Rangers, and in Holden's company was Dr. J.J. Grinstead, B.Q. Mitchenor, Paris Pinkston, James Davis, Hezekiah Major, William Bull, Dr. B.F. Smith, John W. Hall, and many others whose names it has been impossible to obtain. In Captain's Holloway's company was James W. Williams, Richard Taylor, Jesse Priggins, and many others. These all returned. Captain Holloway passed through this County on his way to Warsaw with his men, dropping them along as they reached their homes. He and his men took dinner at George W. and Preston Walker's, in Shawnee Township, on their return. He had about thirty men. The next morning they took breakfast at Thomas W. Jones', about half way between Clinton and Warsaw, and the same night were received with open arms by the patriotic citizens of that town, who gave them a big supper and showed unmistakable joy at their return. Captain Holloway, in 1849, left for California, and he who had stood in the van of battle and escaped, died on his way to California and was buried on the banks of Green River.

      The war shed a lustre upon American arms, and they who lived and returned to their country received the plaudits of the people. Those who died in defense of their homes can have no higher tribute paid to their heroic deeds than the cherished memory that is ever in the hearts of the American people.


"And they who for their country die

Shall fill an honored grave,

For glory lights the soldier's tomb

And beauty weeps for the brave."


The Land of Gold

      The war with Mexico had scarcely closed when astounding news came in fitful gusts from the Pacific Coast. The report was that gold had been found in that western land; that the waters of the Pacific Ocean actually washed a golden shore, and that among the mountains and on the plains, on hill tops and in gulches, the golden ore was found. All this came to the ears of the people, and when corroborated created the wildest excitement. Talk of frenzy, the madness of the hour, the surging of the wild sea waves when the storm king lashes them to fury, listen to the clamor of contending hosts when the god of battle urges on the serried ranks to slaughter and to death! Think of all these combined into one terrible onset, and you can then have only a faint conception of that mighty throng who truly proved the madness of the hour, and whose pathway became a charnel house of sorrow and death, while the road became whitened with the bones of the victims who had failed to realize their hopes and dreams and never reached the golden shore. In that far distant land, where the white-capped waves kissed the pebbly beach on the Pacific's sunlit coast and sang the soft lullaby of a murmuring sea, or where the storm king in his wrath goaded the grand old ocean to fury, there gold, bright, yellow gold, had been found. The rush for the wonderful land was as the charge of a mighty host. In wagon, on foot, on horseback, everywhere the tide to the western border of our state, and there the vast throng "Crossed the Rubicon," until the plains were white with their covered wagons and tents, and they entered the portals of an unknown beyond, some to pass the arid waste, others to leave their bones to mark the pathway for those who followed. It was many days, days of terrible suffering, before those prisoners of a trackless plain saw the light breaking and the golden land appear in view, for which they had longed with yearning hearts and looked for with eyes dimmed by expiring hope, but seen at last. Despair gave way to joy too great for utterance. The El Dorado had been reached; would their hopes be realized?


They Crossed the "Dark River"

      That hegira has left terrible footprints upon the pages of time. History has recorded in words of burning intensity and vivid brightness the hardship and sufferings of thousands who sought fame and fortune on the shore of that distant land. How many succeeded, or how many, after suffering and enduring all in the hope of a brighter day, failed, will never be recorded. The stream of surging humanity kept on for years, for many had gained a fortune, and California, the land of precious metals, became to the poor man a veritable land of promise, but in reaching it many weary days and nights were passed, and many dropped by the wayside - crossing not the plains which bordered the land of their hopes and desires, but over the "dark river," with their fate unknown, until Gabriel's trump shall sound.


Gold Fever in Henry

      Henry County did not escape the intense excitement which ruled the hour, and many of her citizens caught the fever in a violent form, and probably over a hundred of her hardy and most enterprising sons left for the wonderful land. Many of those who started had been pioneers of the county - men who had blazed a pathway for the car of progress and endured the privation and sufferings of all those who lead the van of civilization, and what they had seen and endured here, they were ready to endure again when the prospects seemed so bright, for the reports came thick and fast that it was indeed a wonderful land, and gold could be had for the picking. Still other reports came to hand, of hardships untold, of suffering and death, yet it abated not one jot or tittle of the eager desire and determination of all to seek wealth in the land of sunset. They had endured, and could endure again, and they proposed to work as man never worked before, and believing they would realize great results, left for the promised Elysium. Just how many left Henry County is not of record. That over one hundred, as before stated, left, is very certain. Some returned to their homes happy, with a competency, others sank by the wayside, while others became residents of the country, making it their choice for a future home.

      Those who returned well supplied with the "root of all evil" were very willing to make it known that they had "made their pile," but the size of said pile was one of those things "no feller" ever could find out. Those who returned to Henry County and their homes were not all wealthy by any means; still, just what they did have was not known. Some spent money, bought farms and stock, improved the old place and gave evidence of being well to do, and things did brighten up considerably on their return, and Henry County seemed to grow and expand as money circulated and energy took possession of the helm. Henry County undoubtedly secured her share of the wealth found and gathered in the Golden West, and she also had her sufferings and her losses of that wonderful period.

      Of those who left for the land of gold only a partial list can be given, and is as follows:


John W. Williams

Samuel K. Williams

Major S. M. Peeler

John Peeler

Samuel Garth

John Garth

John Sweeney, died on the way

Richard Taylor

James P. Pinnell, died in California

John Slavens

Charles Sweeny, died on the way

George Slavens

Wash Ashby, died in California

Benjamin Barker

H. B. Witherspoon

Porter Bone

Samuel Burnside

John R. Tennison

Bird D. Parks

Monroe Duncan

Israel Putnam

Rufus Putnam

John R. Gilmore

Aaron Cunningham

Isaac Cunningham

Captain Gillette

George East

Nathan East

John William Thornton

James Kimsey

George W. Squires

John Wilson

Ward Drake, died in California

Benjamin McDaniel

Walker Wallace, died in California

Samuel McDaniel

David Ross, died on Green River, going out

James Davis

Charles Drake, died in California

T. C. Davis

Free Nichols

James Witherspoon

John Henry Royston

Dr. Edward Royston

Michael Gillette

Samuel January

Peter January



      Not much can be gathered of those who returned, only that those who went overland, unless well prepared, suffered terribly. Those who went around the "Horn" fared but little better. Not many incidents happened to mar the monotony of their existence. Major Peeler and Dr. Ed. Royston being together one day, succeeded in killing a buffalo. The Major shot, and the Doctor came gallantly to his aid with his scalpel, and this is about all that can be gathered of interest. In fact many days had not passed before the constant tramp, tramp, began to tell, and but little energy was expended outside of their daily travel.


Some Facts

      The first white child born in Henry County was Susan I. Avery, October 6, 1832, on section 10, Tebo Township, now Mrs. Roberts.

      The first male child born in Henry County was R. P. Blevins, October 20, 1833, on Section 16, Shawnee Township.

      The first child born in Clinton was Ermie Nave, now Mrs. Hall, born on section 3, Clinton Town and Township, February 12, 1836.

      The first child born in Henry County was Julia Ann Sherman, a colored child, born June 14, 1832. The mother belonged to Robert Means, Sr. The father of this child lived to the age of 105 years. The child lives in Windsor City, at the age of fifty years.

      The first death was a colored boy belonging to John Barker, who lived on fractional section 6, Springfield Township. He died August 15, 1832, soon after their arrival in the county.

      The first white child that died was that of John Buchanan, about one year old. It died in October 1832.

      The first preacher was Rev. Addison Young, Cumberland Presbyterian, who preached to the first settlers in 1830. He was soon joined by the Rev. Abraham Millice, Methodist, a circuit rider, and Rev. Thomas Keeney, a Baptist. The former preached as early as 1831, and the latter came in 1832. The first resident minister was Henry Avery, July 10, 1831.

      The first school taught was in 1833, but whether the claim can be given to Windsor Township, or Fields' Creek, is hard to tell. An Irishman by the name of Johnson taught school at John Nave's, at William Swift's, and at Sears', but Rev. Colby S. Stevenson taught a school in Windsor Township in the fall of 1833, in an old log cabin, down on Tebo Branch, about two and a half miles south of Windsor.

      In 1835 there were three log school houses erected in Henry County, built by the neighbors, and they were subscription schools.

      The first resident physician in the county was Dr. Richard Wade, from Kentucky. He settled on section 4, Tebo Township, in 1833.

      The first horse mill in the county was put up by Dr. Wade in the fall of 1833, on section 4, on one of the branches of West Tebo Creek.

      The first county court was at Henry Avery's, section 10, Tebo Township, May 4 and 5,1835.

      The first circuit court was at William Goff's, fractional section 1, September 21, 1835.

      The first post office in the county was established 1835, and William Goff was postmaster.

      The first water mill erected in the county was put up by Littleberry Kimsey on Henry Creek, on section 4, in the year 1837. The mill stood on the property now owned and occupied by Benjamin Barker.

      The first hanging in Henry County was on July 31, 1846. James Lester was hung for the murder of Scott D. King. The gallows was erected near or upon the site of the present Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad depot, south of the town.

      The first reward ever paid by Henry County, was the sum of $100 paid to E. S. Pike, May 1881, for the arrest of John W. Patterson for the murder James G. Clark.

      The present president of the "Old Settlers' Reunion" is George W. Walker, since October 1, 1879.

      The oldest chair in the county is 240 years old, was made in Maryland of oak with a drawing knife, and has a splint bottom. It is the property of Mrs. James M. Lindsay. The Wall family first took it in to North Carolina and was brought by Mrs. Lindsay from that state with the North Carolina Colony, which settled in Henry County in 1839.

      The first loss sustained by the county was in 1866. Something like $10,000 in Henry County property, which was sent to St. Louis and deposited with Miller & Kaist for safe keeping, during the the troubles of the civil war. The firm busted.

      The second loss amounted, January 1, 1883, to over $900,000, but as the loss is still going on and will continue so for from five to ten years to come, a future historian will have to make the footing and present a balance sheet to the people.


Legal Documents - Marriage Certificates


      I do hereby certify that on the 12th day of November 1835, I joined together in the rights of matrimony as husband and wife, Mr. Thomas A. Knox and Miss Nancy Allen.

      Given under my hand this 3d day of December 1835.


Ordained Minister of the Gospel

      The above seems to have been the earliest marriage after the county was organized. There was another certificate of a marriage on the 9th of December, and one on the 24th of the same month.

      Two more certificates are given, first, because of their brevity, and for the reason that turn about was fair play, it looks as if the sisters had. swapped brothers; undoubtedly these young ladies met, and one said to the other, I will give you my brother for yours, and it looks as if the bargain was closed at once. Here are the models:



Solemnized marriage between John Sears and Dorcas Prigmore, the 3d day of December 1835. - C. T. STEVENSON, E. C. C.

Solemnized marriage between Daniel Prigmore and Mary Sears, on the 17th day of January 1836. - C. T. STEVENSON, E. C. C.

      The last three letters are supposed to stand for " Elder of the Christian Church."


First Will

      The first will of record is given below. Mr. Cecil came to this county in 1834, and settled on section 35, of township 42, range 24, in what is now known as Springfield Township. The will reads as follows:


      I, Philip Cecil, of the county of Rives, and state of Missouri, do make and ordain this my last will and testament, in manner and form as follows: I bequeath to my wife Polly, one-third part of all my estate, both real and personal, during her natural life. I bequeath to my four daughters, viz: Allelia Trollinger, Penelope Cecil, Almira Surface and Anna Legg, two hundred dollars each, to be paid them as soon as the money can be collected out of the money owing and now due to me. The balance of my money I leave and bequeath to my four sons, viz: William W., John F., Sebastian J. and Philip W. Cecil. I will and devise that the best half of my stock, and of the produce of my farm be kept on my farm for the use of my family, and that the balance be sold, and the money arising therefrom be equally divided between my four daughters, aforesaid. I further devise that out of the money above devised to my four sons, that so much be reserved as may be necessary to purchase the quarter section of land to which I now hold the right of preemption, for the use and benefit of my wife during her natural life, and at her decease to descend to my son Philip W. I also will and bequeath to my wife my negro boy, Huland, for ten years from this date, and then and thereafter to my son, William W. I devise that my farming utensils and tools of all kinds be kept for the use of the farm. I also devise and bequeath the money arising from the sale of my land in Virginia, to my four sons, to be divided equally among them, and likewise my share of the money coming to me out of my mother's estate.

      I do hereby appoint my wife, Polly Cecil, my executrix of this, my last will and testament, revoking all others. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 23d day of July, in the year of our Lord, 1836.

PHILIP (his X mark) CECIL

Signed and sealed in presence of Joseph Montgomery and Cyrus V. Robinson


Trust Deed

      The first deed of record proved to have been a trust deed to secure what in those times was called a store debt. There are quite a number of these deeds of record for the years 1836-7 Deeds of real estate were few, for not many of the early settlers had secured their patents, and therefore when they squatted on the land their ability to sell was only their improvements and the desirability of their location. More or less of claims changed hands from year to year, for man is inclined to be a roving animal, and it at times requires a strong incentive to make him contented in one place for any length of time. However, this was supposed in those days to have been "God's own country," and not many at this day will deny that it is one of the fairest spots to be found on this green earth, and very few who chanced to find a home upon the bountiful soil of Henry County ever cared to leave it. And this is found in the lives of so many old settlers living today, and the graves and names of all those who pioneered the advance guard of Henry County's stalwart sons and graceful and handsome daughters.

      Deeds of record for patents received began to come in more often in the year 1837. As above stated, the first deed of record was a trust deed upon personal property, and the following is a true copy:

      Know all men by these presents that I, John Anderson, for and in consideration of the sum of one dollar in hand, paid, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, hath bargained, sold and conveyed, and by these presents doth bargain, sell and convey unto George B. Woodson the following property, to wit: Three yoke of oxen, the lead oxen of the two yoke being red steers with white faces, and the third yoke being one a dark red and the other a black. The right and title to said property to the said Woodson I hereby warrant and forever defend.

      The condition of the above conveyance is such that, whereas, the above named John Anderson is justly indebted to Hall & Fletcher in the sum of fifty-one dollars and sixty-two cents, by bond bearing date August 24, 1836, and payable twelve months after date, and the said Anderson being desirous to secure the above named Hall & Fletcher in the aforesaid sum, hereby conveys and transfers to the said Woodson the above mentioned property, in trust, nevertheless. The said Woodson, in case of the default on the part of the said Anderson, when required by said Hall & Fletcher, after said note becomes due, shall, after advertising the time and place of sale for thirty days previous, at three of the most public places in the County of Rives, proceed to sell to the highest bidder, for cash, the above property, or so much thereof as will be necessary to satisfy the debt aforesaid with interest, and pay over any balance, should any remain in the hands of the trustee, after satisfying the same, to the said Anderson. Now if the above named John Anderson shall well and truly pay and satisfy the above named Hall & Fletcher in the above mentioned debt as foresaid, then the above conveyance to be void, else, remain in full force and virtue.





Widow's Dower and Distribution of Slaves

      As years hence there may be a curiosity to know something of slaves and slave times, there is given below the distribution of the slaves of the estate of Reuben Parks, deceased, as an illustration of how slaves were generally held at the South. When the estate was unable to keep them the slaves generally were allowed to choose their master among those wishing to purchase. In the case above the slaves, thirteen in number, were divided among the family, the widow having first choice, the children following according to their ages, or if they preferred, to settle it without. These slaves were valued as follows: Big Jim, $450; Little Jim, $600; Kesiah, $500; Grey, $425; Henry, $325; Harriet, $400; Ben, $300; Tabitha $200; Laban $175; Jack, $100; Fanny $450; Judy (old), 000.

      The widow, Mrs. Nancy Parks, had as her dower right one-third interest. She chose Grey, $425; Fanny $450, and Jack (the toddler) $100. She also took Judy and agreed to take care of her without charge. She was too old to work but she was given a good home the remainder of her life. The children selected, or divided the others among themselves, leaving just one for each of the children as his.

      It was all settled satisfactory and the returns made to the court. When one got the best he paid the other heirs the difference. For instance, the amount each was to have at the slave's valuation after the mother took her share was $368.75. Now Byrd Parks drew Little Jim, $600, and he paid the difference over ($368.75) to the other heirs, who took, say Henry at $325, or Laban valued at $175. The commissioners who had charge returned the report as above and it was approved.


An Orpan Cared For

      The following order appears of record at the August term 1846, and shows how they took care of the orphans in those early days. It reads:

      "Ordered that Elijah E. Gates, a poor child, without parents, guardian or estate, aged thirteen years on the 16th day of July 1846, be bound to Asaph W. Bates until he shall arrive at the age of twenty-one years, and thereupon the said Bates came into court and entered into an indenture that he would instruct and teach the said Gates in the mysteries of the trade of a blacksmith and such other employment as he may lawfully require of him, and that he will cause the said Gates to be taught to write and read and the ground rules of arithmetic, and at the expiration of the time of service will give him a new Bible, two new suits of clothes, to be worth $40, and $10 in the current money of the United States."