Chapter 6
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Chapter 6 - History of Henry County Missouri 1883




Failed to Materialize

      It was as early as 1839 that the farmers of Henry County first took up the idea of forming an agricultural society, and the County Court granted an order for an election for the purpose of organization. What became of it, or what it amounted to, is not known. This was in February. The matter slumbered then for two and a half years, and then the same identical order was made at the August term of the court in 1841. It seemed to have then slept the sleep that knows no waking, for it slumbered no less than seventeen years. In 1858 the first agricultural fair was held in Henry County, but it came near being a success a year sooner.

      In the meantime the courthouse was approaching completion. Two payments had been made, and in August 1839, the contractor reported his work done. The commissioners reported that the same was completed, "except the circular glass over the door, and a bar across the south door." The county court accepted the report of the commissioners, and ordered the payment of $833.33, when the two little matters spoken of were attended to. The court took a look at the building, which seemed to satisfy them, and they felt that their dignity would not be compromised when they took possession of the building, but what clearly filled their souls with horror was the debris which surrounded this stately edifice (which is now an eyesore to the aesthetic culture of the present day). The court thought it knew itself and its proper standing in society, and promptly withheld $25 of the contractor's pay until he cleared that stuff away, and the surroundings were such as would not disgrace them or detract from the handsome appearance of their new temple of justice. The courthouse completed cost $2,565, without the commissioners' salaries who superintended its construction. The $65 being for extra work in changing the roof.

      In the last payment the county fell short in funds to the amount of $713.70 and the majority of the court decided to borrow it from the road and canal fund. Judge Kimsey promptly dissented, saying that that fund could not be legally used for any such purpose. That it could only be used for roads and canals, and be loaned out expressly for the increase of the road and canal fund. The majority of the court, Judge John F. Sharp, and Judge Francis Paraztte, admitted that Judge Kimsey was right, and they at once borrowed the money, themselves giving their notes, with a majority of the county court as their security, in the name of the County of Rives. They then handed the money over to the commissioners to settle up in the manner and exceptions before noted.


Cedar Township

      The territory south of St. Clair County was also a part of the territory of Rives, or rather under its civil and military jurisdiction, but there were few settlers and the distance so great that it had not, up to this time, appeared in the proceedings of the Rives County Court. The first settler was believed to have been John Crisp, who settled on Sac River, near the center of the county, and where afterwards the Montgomery & Dunnegan Mill was erected. He afterwards moved south in Dade County, on what was afterwards called Crisp's Prairie, but still in Cedar Township. The organization of this territory into a township was done by an order of the court in February 1840. The territory included in this township covered all the territory now known as Cedar, Dade, and Lawrence Counties. The following is the order of organization made at the above date:


      "Ordered by the court that an additional township be laid off in this county to be called Cedar Township, as follows: Bounded south by the county of Newton, east by Polk, west by Bates and north by the south boundary of township 37, of ranges Nos. 27 and 28."


      This order seemed to have swung around to the west and taken in Jasper and Barton Counties as well. None of these counties were organized at that time. Bates County included Vernon, and Jasper being organized first included Barton, the latter County not being taken off of Jasper until 1855. The other counties, Dade and Jasper, were organized in 1841, Cedar in 1843, and Lawrence in 1845. So Cedar Township began to be curtailed of her immense proportions soon after her organization as a township. John G. Williams was appointed a justice of the peace for Cedar Township. There was an election in August for a constable and Mr. Stephen R. Wright was elected. He brought the returns of that election of Cedar County to the Henry County Court and received $5 for bringing them. He traveled some 150 miles, required about a week's time, paid his own expenses and received the above munificent remuneration. Some of our official friends who claim the title of constable would hardly go across the street for such pay at this day. This election was held at the mill of John G. Williams, and the judges of the first election were Obediah Smith, William Ainsworth and John G. Williams. As St. Clair County was the next year 1841, organized out of that part lying immediately south, Rives County had no further jurisdiction, and St. Clair, with her two townships of Waubleau and Monegaw, was then an independent municipality.


More Township, Salary

      Up to this time Rives County had consisted of but four municipal divisions, viz.: Big Creek and Grand River on the west, and Tebo and Springfield on the east. It was decided to make another township to be called "Deepwater" and this was done by taking the territory off of the south part of Grand River. It was and is the southwest township in the county. Deepwater Township line was slightly changed in February 1841, and again varied a little in an order dated May 2, 1842.

      Prior to the year 1840 the justices of the county court received one dollar and fifty cents a day for their services, that is, for services actually performed. In the beginning of the year 1840 the justices allowed themselves $2 per day for each day's attendance at court. The census of 1840 was taken by the sheriff but what number of inhabitants Henry or Rives County had was not entered of record, but will be given under the head of population. It took the sheriff Phillip J. Buster, sixty-five days to complete his work and his compensation was $97.50, or $1.50 a day. There was little change going on. The county seemed to grow and prosper, keep out of debt and pay promptly its bills.


St. Clair and Henry

      The people of St. Clair County believing that their population was sufficient, and that they were capable of managing their own affairs, petitioned the general assembly for an act of organization to become a full sister in the galaxy of counties, and cast off the clothing of a dependent. The petitioner was received by the legislature and acted upon January 29, 1841, and henceforth she was free, and allowed to "paddle her own canoe" In a manner which to her seemeth best. At this same session of the general assembly Rives County became a thing of the past, and Henry County succeeded to the title, interests and emoluments of all that was once, but never to be again, Rives County.

      In 1840, the Hon. John C. Rives, of Virginia, became a Whig in politics, and as Rives County was a strongly Democratic one, was named after the distinguished Virginian, because of his fame and his Democracy. On learning he had been false to his faith, and had wandered from the "true fold," the people became exasperated and decided to change the name of the county from Rives to Henry, this last in honor of the great oratorical light of the American Revolution of 1776, Patrick Henry. In the legislature of 1841, the people secured the passage of the following:


An Act to Change the Name of Rives County

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Missouri, as follows:

      SECTION 1. That all that portion of country bounded as follows, to wit: Beginning at the southwest corner of section 30, township 44, of range 28; thence south, to the line between townships 39 and 40; thence east, to the line between ranges 23 and 24; thence north to the southeast corner of Johnson County; thence west to the beginning, shall compose the county of HENRY.

      SECTION 2. All laws in force relating to the county of Rives shall be construed to apply, in all respects, to the county of Henry, and all acts and things done and performed, and contracts made, or which may be done or made, before the first day of September next, in the name of the county of Rives, shall be as valid and binding in that county and all others, as if made or done in the name of the county of Henry; and all matters and business which is commenced, or which shall before the said first day of September, be commenced in the name of the county of Rives, shall be continued in the name of the County of Henry, and all officers, civil or military, appointed, or to be appointed for the county of Rives, shall be deemed and taken to be appointed for the county of Henry, and are hereby authorized to act as such.

      SECTION 3. All courts, heretofore established and directed by law to be held in the county of Rives, shall in all respects apply to the county of Henry."

Approved February 15, 1841


      This act to take effect from and after its passage.

      It was because of the apostacy of the Hon. William C. Rives to his political faith, which had been Democratic, who turned and had become a follower of Henry Clay, that caused the name of Rives County to be changed to Henry, and the deliberate treachery of Martin Van Buren to General Lewis Cass and the Democratic party, caused the name of the adjoining county of Van Buren to be changed to Cass.

      A man may change his politics and his party without in any way affecting either his honesty or his manhood, if that change is from personal conviction, but when attempting to carry out a spirit of revenge, or to secure the power and spoils of office, they are simply traitors to party, and but an apology for true manhood. So we have here in this changing of names in counties lying side by side a proof that the spirit and conceptions of the people, at heart, are right, and that treachery will receive condign punishment at their hands in every case. Farewell, Rives, welcome Henry. And we trust that in after time, if the occasion should arise, that this name may arouse in the hearts of the people the spirit of true patriotism and love of liberty, as his magic voice and inspired words, "Give me liberty, or give me death," shook the halls of congress in the crisis of American liberty, and brought forth that great "Declaration of Independence," which has ever since been the beacon light of hope, no longer deferred, to the oppressed of all nations and climes. And those inspired words aroused congress to action and gave courage and hope to the already battle scarred heroes of many bloody fields, and if in the recall of this name it shall inspire our people to action and deeds of heroic valor, all will be well. They can tell their children of him, and of the great war of Independence, and to cherish in their memories the trials and the valor of the heroes of 1776, and to emulate their deeds and virtues. If this is done the future of Henry County will never be imperiled by armed foes.

      The organization of St. Clair County required from Henry a settlement of its affairs, and an account of Henry County's stewardship while under its jurisdiction. The principal item was that of the school fund, some of the sixteenth section having been sold under the direction of the county court of this county. The court made an order at once to find out the amount of funds in its hands, money, notes, & etc., and to turn the same over to the representative duly authorized to receive the same of St. Clair County.



      The groceries, or the general stores, had held a monopoly of the liquor traffic since the organization of the county, there being no regular licensed saloon in the county up to May 1841. On May 3, Preston Wise presented a petition for a dramshop license, as it was then called, and he secured the coveted prize for six months, by paying to the collector of the county $15 to the State and $22.50 to the county, and the advalorem tax on each. This license was for a saloon in Clinton, and at the same time M. Arbuckle and Sabine Jones received licenses for dramshops in Henry County. They paid the same fee for the same length of time, six months.

      The license granted to Matthew Arbuckle was to go to Tebo Township as then organized and was said to have been located at Calhoun. The other license, the place was not mentioned. It was to open a dramshop in Henry County. From this time on for several years licenses were granted to all who applied. There were in later years some opposition and Grand River Township was the first to oppose the granting of licenses for dramshops in their township.


Proposing a Suit

At the May term, May 4, 1841, the following appeared of record:

      "Jonathan T. Berry, one of the justices of this court, submitted the following for the consideration of the court, viz.: Whereas, the legislature, by an act passed 10th February 1835, entitled an act concerning the road and canal fund, among other things provided: If by any order of any county court, any part of the fund shall be misapplied to objects other than roads, bridges and canals, the members of the court present at the time of making the order and consenting thereto shall be individually liable for the amount so misapplied, and the same may be recovered by Suit in the name of the county for the use of the said fund; and it appearing from the report of the treasurer of this county that $1,226.30 has been used by the county for other purposes than those provided in said act; I as one of the justices of the county court of Henry County, move said court to enter suit for the recovery thereof."

      "And after mature consideration thereon by the court the said motion was overruled."

      Exactly, there were two against one and the "protest" got the benefit of a record. Over $700 of this fund went to pay the last payment on the courthouse of which two former judges, Sharp and Parazette, gave their individual note to the fund for security. Judge Berry, in the abstract was right, but it was scarcely just.


Valuation - Election

      The assessed valuation of Henry County was first placed upon record in 1842. It then footed up $197,059. There were also 505 polls. The assessed value of 1845, which was the next found placed upon the record, was $351,308, almost double in four years.

      The first school township organized in the County was in November of 1842, being in congressional township 43, range 26. Mr. William Akens was appointed school commissioner.

      At the election in August 1841, William R. Owen and Philip J. Buster were candidates for the office of sheriff and collector. Buster got the certificate and Owen at once entered a protest, and contested the election. The suit was decided in favor of Owen, who took possession January 1, 1842, Mr. Buster retaining the office only a little more than three months. But the peculiarity of the case came out when Mr. Owen coolly brought in his bill against the County, of $161.43, as the amount it cost him, as he said, to secure his just rights. The county court slightly demurred to this, in fact refused downright to pay a penny of it. This, of course, precipitated matters, and Mr. Owen's attorney promptly asked for a writ of mandamus, to compel the county court to fork over the money for this bill of costs. This seemed to the court a pretty hard case, and they called in their legal adviser and consulted upon the course to be pursued, and it was thought best to join issue and let the circuit court try the case. They made the following rejoinder:

      "The county court of Henry County, in answer to said writ of mandamus for cause of non-payment of the sums certified to be paid, say, that the cost accrued in the contested election between William R. Owen and Phillip J. Buster, for the sheriffalty of said county, to which suit the county nor this court was a party, nor, as the court conceives, are in any way interested in the event thereof, therefore they conceive that they are neither equitably or legally bound to levy the same upon the county for payment. Which answer is ordered to be certified to the circuit court."

      The suit was decided, nevertheless, against the county, and they paid the $161.43, and as the judgment added, "the cost of this suit."

      There was still a sale of lots going on in the town of Clinton. Now and then a purchaser would come forward, and the prices would go right up. Lots 107 and 108 were sold for $9 each; five years before they could have been bought for $5. The cheapest sale seems to have been ten acres in the southwest part of the town, which were sold to Asa C. Marvin for $15.

      Among the incidents of that time was the residence and death of a soldier of the war of 1812, living in Henry County, and also the parents of several others, who had died or been killed in battle while in the United States service. William Baylis, a revolutionary soldier, died in this county June 18, 1843. He was from Kentucky, and had been a lieutenant in the army of the revolution of 1876. He had received a pension of $320 a year from 1831, although the law was not passed until 1833. This sum was divided into two semi-annual payments.


Half Sheet of Foolscap

      It is a notorious fact, a fact that has been handed down to us from generation to generation, because instilled into our minds by practice and precept, that our ancestors were a penurious race in the use of paper, and there is not a particle of doubt but what the very justices who made the following order were in their home life as careful of the scraps of paper as those who came into court with a petition on the back of an old letter or on a blank page of some old book, or still worse, a scrap of paper torn off some sheet of foolscap not over an inch wide, to bring into court an account, a report or a petition. However that may be, the court, whether they practiced economy in the matter of paper or not were heartily tired of receiving such scraps, which were too small to file or keep in any respectable shape for reference, and made this order:

      "It is ordered that all papers presented to this court hereafter must be on not less than a half sheet of foolscap paper, and that the court will not act on no paper less in size than the above, notes, receipts and vouchers of settlement of estates excepted."


The First Bridge

      The first bridge of any account built in Henry County was started in the fall of 1845 and completed in May 1846. It cost $1,470, and the contractor was to keep it in good repair for two years. Fifteen hundred dollars had been appropriated. The bridge was built across Grand River at a place known as the "Big Ripple," on the road leading from Clinton to Harmony Mission, in Bates County.



      Another well was built in the courthouse yard, completed February 1845.

      Judge John F. Sharp delivered the patent for the quarter section of land on which Clinton was located, to the county court in November 1844. That patent, however, is not of record, nor does any one at this day know what has become of it.

      A debtor and credit account was ordered to be kept, and the county clerk was charged to keep it, so the court could tell the condition of the county finances at any time.

      The clerk of the county court showed up his financial reports of receipts and disbursements for the fiscal year ending May 1847. The county had run behind, or had fallen in debt just $47.56.

      All the lots in Clinton, not sold, were ordered to be, either by private or public sale, as the commissioner might see fit.

      Thomas B. Wallace resigned the treasurership February 1846. He had been treasurer for nearly nine years.

      There was on hand, the first day of May 1846, the sum of $3,730.64, belonging to the road and canal fund.

      The first fence around the courthouse square was to include one acre of ground. John Sweeny took the contract to build it.

      Henry County joined what was called the "Osage River Association," and paid $626.95 for the privilege. The court then turned over the share that Henry County held in the Osage River to the state, and declined to invest any more.

      The Mexican war commenced in 1846.

      It cost $350 to keep the courthouse in repairs from the time it was erected up to 1848.

      First mention of the issue of county warrants was in 1850; $991.95 had been taken in for taxes by the collector.

      The delinquent lists of all kinds, real and personal, for 1854, was only $44.83.

      Andrew M. Tutt made the first plat of the township of Henry County in 1853. There were seven in all.

      The first School commissioner of the county was George W. Miner, who was appointed in November 1864.

      The sum allowed for the treasurer, salary, from 1848, for several years, was $80. It was then raised to $100, and kept at that for several years.

      The field notes of Henry County were purchased in 1853, for the sum of $40.

      In 1853 $1,500 was appropriated to improve and finish off the courthouse.

      Benjamin F. Owen offered to put up a well house over the old well on the southeast corner of the public Square, if the county court would grant him an exclusive lease of it for fifteen years. Mr. Owen got it.

      It was this same year that the temperance element out voted the dramshops in Grand River Township, they getting an order that no dramshops should be licensed in that township for twelve months, ending May 1854.

      Persons who turned their cows in the courthouse yard were fined $2.50.


No Probate Court

      All the probate business of Henry County had been transacted by the county court, and in many other counties of the state they had done the same. In fact, there was little of it done outside of large cities, by any other officers than county court justices. A law was passed, however, in the winter of 1848-9 by the general assembly in session, known as a "Probate act," appointing a judge and defining his duties. This act was left optional with the people of the several counties of the state to accept or reject the law, which was to take effect only on receiving a majority of the qualified voters of the county. Henry County did not seem to take much interest in the matter, and though it was voted upon at the annual August election (1849), only a light vote was polled. The vote for a separate probate court was returned and showed ninety-eight votes in favor of the new court and ninety-one against it. The majority of the county court at once decided that the vote was a failure, that a majority of the qualified voters of Henry County had not voted in its favor, and consequently there was no probate court in Henry County, nor was there any for many years after, or until 1872.

      Justices C.C. Bronaugh and Jonathan T. Berry decided that as the act did not say that "a majority of the qualified voters voting in its favor, etc., but a majority of the qualified voters of the county, so read the law." To this view of the case Justice John VanHoy dissented, but he was a minority, and that ended the business. It was thought that it was less expensive to the people to keep matters as they were.



      There was considerable increase in the population of the county, and immigrants came in in groups and formed settlements. The majority were still from the southern states. The township grew so that two of them, Tebo and Grand River, were each divided into two voting precincts, the order of the court being here given:

      At the July term 1856, Tebo Township was divided into two voting precincts, the boundaries of which were as follows:

      "Precinct No. 1 to include all that part of Tebo Township on the east side of the road running from the township line near William A. Gray's to Calhoun; thence following the road to the high point of Tebo by way of A. Atkins, and that the poll books for said precinct be opened at the church in Calhoun."

      "Precinct No. 2 to include all that part of Tebo Township lying on the west side of the road running from the township line near William A. Gray's to Calhoun; thence following the road to the high point of Tebo, by way of A. Atkins, and that the polls be opened at M. Arbuckle's store in Calhoun."

      At the same term of the court and date the township of Grand River was also divided into two voting precincts, known as Nos. 1 and 2, and their metes and boundaries were described as follows:

      "Beginning at a point on the line between Henry and St. Clair Counties, where the road leading from Osceola to Clinton crosses the same; running from thence along said road to Clinton, and from Clinton along the main road to the Grand River bridge. All that portion of said township south of said road shall be known as Precinct No. 1, and the poll books for said precinct be opened at Major Marvin's office in Clinton.

      "And all that portion of said township lying north of said road shall be known as Precinct No. 2, and the poll books for Said precinct shall open at the courthouse."