POPULATION, DEVASTATION AND EXULTATION
Population of Henry County
While Henry County was settled in 1830, and a local census was taken in 1838, yet there is no record until the United States census of 1840 was taken. What it was by townships is hard to tell, yet as there were but four it was probably nearly equally divided. Grand River Township was the smallest in agricultural population, but undoubtedly Clinton made up in the general aggregate. This may, also, be said of 1850 and 1860.
The change in townships in 1858, and again a few years later, would give but little of what the present townships had under the late division. Henry County had a population in 1840 of 4,726, St. Clair County then being a part of her territory, and her population included in the above figures. In 1850 the census gave a population of 4,052, and these figures were for Henry County, alone, St. Clair having been organized in 1841. In 1860 Henry County had a population of 9,866. Here was an increase of 144 percent in ten years. The increase was exceeded by only seven counties in the state for the decade. The decade between 1860 and 1870 is reported in the latter year by townships, and is here given:
Census of 1870
The town of Clinton is concluded in the aggregate of Grand River Township.
The only town reported was Clinton with a population of 640. What other towns were in the county were reported in the total figures of the township.
The census of 1870 was the worst fraud ever put upon the people. There were many towns in Henry County which should have be reported, then some idea of their growth during the decade could have been known, but this was not done, and in many cases the returns were not correctly reported. Calhoun, Windsor and Leesburg, are old towns. Should have been reported separately.
Census of 1880
Shawnee Mound and Coalsburg each have a population probably of from thirty-five to forty souls, and there are a few cross-road stores, but this is about all.
How It Has Advanced
To show what Henry County has advanced the past half century a summary is given of her population by the Census of different years and the percent of her gains given, leaving out the fractions:
Population 1840, 4,726; 1850, 4,052, St. Clair County taken off; 1860, 9,866, gain 144 percent.; 1870, 17,401, gain 76 percent; 1880, 23,906, gain 37 percent.
As the state gained but twenty-six percent the last decade, Henry County has gained eleven percent above the average, and there is no reason that she should not gain even more rapidly during the present decade. Certainly the productive quality of the soil, the mildness of the climate, the amount of cheap lands yet in the market, are inducements that only need be known to be appreciated and utilized. Let the people of Henry County show to the world these advantages, and immigration will flow in until the Waste lands will blossom like the rose, and by increase of taxable wealth, reduce taxation to all. Advertise to the world that Henry County will welcome the immigrant, and that besides the welcome it can be added that she has every other attractiveness of soil, climate, and lands at low prices.
The Grasshopper Plague
It was the year 1875 that will long be remembered by the people of at least four states, as the grasshopper year. The scourge struck western Missouri April 1875, and commenced devastating some of the fairest portions of our noble commonwealth. They gave Henry an earnest and overwhelming visitation, and demonstrated with an amazing rapidity that their appetite was voracious, and that everything green belonged to them for their sustenance. They came in swarms, they came by the millions, they came in legions, they came by the mile, and they darkened the heavens in their flight, or blackened the earth's surface, where in myriads they sought their daily meal. Henry County was visited from about the first week of May, and remained until the 1st of June 1875, and during that time, every spear of wheat, oats, flax and corn were eaten close to the ground. Potatoes and all vegetables received the same treatment, and on the line of their march, ruin stared the farmer in the face, and starvation knocked loudly at his door. The chinch bug also added to the horror, and they filled the air at times, as though a snow storm was in the grandeur and height of its power.
The people were thoroughly alarmed, and the rich and able were called upon to help support their suffering fellow-beings. Meetings were called, and the farmers were advised to plant everything that was possible to arrive at maturity, even if it depended, in a measure, upon a fall. Corn meal had been furnished, and the scene at the depot in Clinton was riot only an impressive one, but told with ghastly effect the wholesale devastation that the myriads of pests had wrought upon one of the fairest spots on God's green earth. Not far from 200 wagons were collected in the vicinity of the depot at one time, their anxious owners waiting, with an eagerness truly painful to witness, to secure their little donation of corn dispensed by the grange for the benefit of the poor and needy. It is needless to add that many hungry teamsters wended their way homeward with a feeling of thankfulness swelling in their hearts to the giver of all good for raising them up a helper in their time of need.
On May the 14th, 1875, the citizens of Clinton became aware that the resources of their own could not meet the wants of the suffering people looking to them for succor, and to keep the wolf of starvation from their door a meeting was called to decide upon a course of action and to carry it out, as no time was to be lost.
The meeting was organized by calling Dr. J. H. Britts to the chair, and Thomas Day, secretary. The chair appointed William A, McLane, R. Z. Fewell, M. Woods, J. B. Gantt and G. Y. Salmon committee to draft a programme. The report of said committee was received and committee discharged. Report was discussed and adopted. Motion offered for the chair to appoint a committee of five as an executive committee to receive contributions, distribute the same, and exercise a general supervision of the wants of the destitute. Motion adopted. Motioned that the executive committee be requested to seek a reduction of freight. Moved that the township board and trustees be requested to forward the names of the destitute to the executive committee. Motion carried. Moved that the executive committee be empowered to fill all vacancies in township committees. Executive committee appointed by the chair, William H. McLane, G. Y. Salmon, J. B. Colt, M. Woods, M. Stewart, J. H. Britts and R. W. Majors. Moved that the resolution as to planting be adopted.
MR. CHAIRMAN - Your committee having consulted, have come to the conclusion that we have not the means in our midst to relieve the necessity of our poor. Great destitution is alarming. We must have aid! We are now in the midst of a famine! The people of Henry County have always contributed liberally when other sections needed our aid; believing then that an appeal to those portions of our country that have been blessed will bring contributions of corn and bacon for our poor, we are in favor of sending duly authorized agents to solicit aid from the people of other portions of the country, and especially the great center of commerce.
WILLIAM H. MCLANE, Chairman
J. B. GANTT, Secretary
Owing to the fact that there is now great and wide spread alarm among all classes of citizens of this county at the ravages of the grasshoppers and chinch bugs, and that much harm will necessarily ensue to the growing crops of the county, and in many instances the flax crop is already destroyed, therefore, be it
Resolved, 1st, That to prevent the destitution that must necessarily follow if the crops of the county are destroyed and not replenished, we earnestly recommend that farmers do not cease planting as long as a crop is likely to mature at all; that after it is too late to plant corn, we recommend Hungarian and millet be sown for the purpose of supplying the deficiency of the hay crop.
2nd, That it is only by earnest and persistent effort that we will be able to supply the loss caused by these pests, and to some extent prevent the calamity that now threatens us.
A resolution to memorialize the state board of equalization was adopted. Committee appointed, W. H. McLane, B. G. Boone and J. B. Gantt.
Moved that the county papers be requested to publish the proceedings of this meeting. Carried.
Moved that executive committee have power to fill vacancy in their own board.
J. H. BRITTS, Chairman
THOMAS DAY, Secretary
Active work at once commenced and an appeal was made for assistance, which met with a generous response, even an Iowa town, a distant place, contributing a car load of corn by the appeal of one of Henry County's farmers who had formerly lived in that state, and from many eastern towns came a welcome supply.
The hoppers reached Clinton between the 10th and 15th, and they moved upon the fields outside, and in twenty-four hours a Mr. Rosebaugh's garden, potato patch and young corn was completely eaten out. They then moved like an army upon his oat field. That which was promising of a handsome yield was within the short space of twenty four hours a desert waste.
On the 15th of June quite a large lot of early corn was received and dealt out in limited supply to all who were ready and willing to plant, to the poor without price, to those able to pay at the cost of delivery, and at that date and for two weeks later supplies or rations were still issued to the poor. The grasshoppers began to take their departure about the 20th of June.
One cannot exactly say "Meadow County" for it only existed like some railroad projects, on paper, but there was a time when the mention of Meadow County would raise a tempest of anger in the hearts of some people while joy unspeakable would shine out on the faces of others like the silver lining to the black and sombre clouds which hung o'er the darkened heavens. Up in the northeast part of Henry County on a rise in a beautiful prairie, lies the spot which conceived and wicked men who brought forth the audacious idea of a "Meadow County." The spot aforesaid has for years been known by the name of "Windsor." It is not of the game cock breed for it is too small, but belongs to the bantam, and according to its inches can make as bold, as daring and as game a fight as any "cock of the walk." But, notwithstanding its fighting qualities, the wickedness of its attempt and the outrageous, and if might be said its dastardly conception, it was doomed to meet with disappointment and failure, and without wishing to deepen the line of sorrow upon which our little bantam was overwhelmed, about the time that its failure became known, that silver lining took a southwestern shoot and the tempest of anger aforesaid found a resting place in the bosom of our aspiring young bantam, "Windsor." It was a despairing blow to dissatisfied ambition, and while the people of Henry County were perfectly willing that it should swallow Sedalia they were slightly opposed to its making a meal also of Clinton. This may be called selfishness, but it is the truth, nevertheless, "and that's what's the matter with Windsor."
The attempt was made at the session of the general assembly, in the winter of 1870-1, and the county was to be carved out of Pettis, Johnson, Henry and Benton, and to raise the proud city of Windsor to the exalted position of a county seat, Warrensburg, Sedalia, Warsaw, and Clinton, were to be stuck up in one corner of their respective counties. Certainly there was a whole volume of modesty contained in this simple request, and it is really a wonder that that and succeeding legislature failed, in slang term, "to catch on."
However, there was a good deal of noise made, and when the news reached Clinton, on February 21, 1871, that the bill had been favorably reported, the people actually thought they had been struck by lightning. The bells rang out a peal and a meeting was called, and sixteen of her most prominent citizens were made a mass delegation to go to Jefferson at once, and sit down on the infernal scheme. Just why they did not pick up the bantam as they passed and wring its neck, has never been explained. They sat down on it, however, until the life was crushed out of it. The scheme was once more presented to the legislature at the session of 1872-3, but it never rose to the dignity of being able to raise an alarm, and its second attempt died of undigested ambition. This ended "Meadow County," for all time, or in fact, any other attempt to change the present municipal divisions which form our commonwealth.
The swamp lands of Henry County was a splendid contribution to the educational fund of the county, and had wisdom and business talent conducted its disposition, Henry County's school fund might have been increased many thousands of dollars. In the swamp land management there is no disputing the fact that it was both reckless and unbusinesslike, and it may be said that Henry County was not alone in its wasteful or reckless management of its school funds, in the disposal of these swamp and overflowed lands, so-called, but in reality, some of the choicest lands in the county was among them. From the time those lands were ready for the market until they were finally disposed of, it seems as if the county court could not rest. Sales were ordered every few months. The price first was $1.25 per acre, but this did not sell them fast enough, and the price was lowered to 75 cents per acre. The land still seems to burn the fingers of the county court and another fall in price was made to 50 cents per acre. Just two years from the first sale, in February 1854, the court evidently could not stand it any longer, and so they made an order virtually giving them away, and they evidently determined to close them out. The order was made at the February term, 1856, to sell the remaining swamp and overflowed land at 25 cents per acre, and the sheriff was not only ordered to advertise the same within the county, as usual, but to advertise in the Osceola Independent and in the Warsaw Democrat. Even this frantic endeavor failed to relieve the county court from its burden, and had it not been for the charitable act of George Y. Salmon and Robert Allen, the court might have been bereft of senses in trying to get rid of what they believed was an enormous elephant on their hands. Messrs. Salmon and Allen kindly took what was left, nearly 4,000 acres, off their hands at the nominal price of 25 cents per acre. The court was saved, and the land went to swell the private pockets of its purchasers, while the school fund held but a moiety of what it should have received. Of course all the purchasers were right in taking these lands at the price offered, and but few would have been willing to have invested so largely as the two last purchasers, who had to hold and pay taxes on them for years, for in the natural course of events it was not to be expected that they could so soon dispose of what the county had believed was an untold evil on their hands. There was no county debt, no great number of schools needed just then. The sixteenth sections were being sold off from applications, and the state school money was increasing yearly, but that court gave themselves no rest until every acre of swamp was sold.
How and When Sold
From February 13, 1852, to October 1, 1855, over 25,000 acres of land were placed upon the market, and 6,566 99-100 acres sold. Of this 5,237 24-100 acres was sold at government price, except here and there a lot which went higher, where it was wanted by adjoining proprietors, and 1,329 3/4 acres was sold at seventy-five cents per acre. Up to June, 1856, there were three sales which numbered in the aggregate 8,218 42-100 acres which were sold at fifty cents per acre, and 6,899 70-100 acres at twenty-five cents per acre. Quite a large portion of that sold at the different prices named went over the regular price for special lots. Over 4,000 acres of the first lot sold at twenty-five cents, realized thirty-three cents per acre. Here was a sale of swamp land (in acres) of 21,685 11-100 and it realized to the county $12,984.54. Mr. Robert Allen was appointed by the court to select this land, and he received for the work $597.16. The returns of the survey and selection of these lands was made November 14, 1853. Of this swamp land fund there was in the hands of the county treasurer, drawing interest at the rate of ten percent per annum, $7,575.81, there was cash on hand of $171.25 on January 1, 1867 making a total of $7,747.06. This was the report of the county court after a full examination by them of the swamp land funds reported that the disposition that had been made of the funds appeared to stand as above.
Here was a small clerical error of $5,237.48 less expenses, and also less the sum of $1,269.70, which was loaned to the use of the road and canal fund, which leaves the net expenses of the sale, locating and surveying, $3,967.78, or a trifle over 31 percent of the total received.
The state reports that Henry County had of swamp and overflowed lands 25,298 12-100 acres. This would leave as yet on hand 3,613 acres, and about this number of acres was the purchase made by Messrs. Salmon and Allen at the December term 1856, when they proposed to the county court that they would take the remaining swamp lands belonging to Henry County at their advertised offer of twenty-five cents per acre, and the court promptly closed with the offer.
Here seemed to be the end of the swamp land business so far as the land was concerned, only except the land in Taney County, but it did not end what became of the funds, and there seems to have been another discrepancy and another elephant in the management of this fund.
What became of this odd $4,000 and upwards the records do not state. Neither is it referred to. The fact that it was gone seems to have been sufficient. However, there was an evident mistake in this report, as was also in the statement that was made - "that the swamp land bonds amounted to $14,285.52." That probably included the fines and penalties and other county funds that may have been entered together.
The state superintendent's report of schools in 1872 gives this statement:
These extra acres are probably the forfeited lands.
The Swamp Land Fund in 1876, $10,022.88; in 1879, $9,645; in 1881, $11,231.88.
The fund is now nearly at a stand. The interest being paid annually to the township, per capita, for school purposes.
As the writer of these pages had heard much of these lands, and as was stated, sacrificed, it was thought best to give all the facts which could be found of record. Every statement here made is of record, and as it extended over a period of nearly sixteen years, it took time and patience to place it in a clear light before the reader.
Mr. A. C. Avery was appointed county agent to confer with the state authorities in regard to some lands claimed by the state, and to look after Henry County's interest in the matter. His work is not yet completed and of course no report has been made. The county has also, as a part of this swamp land gift, 1,680 acres in Taney County. Lewis P. Beatty was authorized in 1877 to go and look after it, and see what it amounted to. He did so, returned and made his report. The above was the number of acres belonging to Henry County, of which up to this date none has been sold.
After two requests had been made, and commissioners appointed to select land for a poor farm, and both proved a failure, it was decided by the county court to purchase an improved farm for county purposes. The purchase was accordingly made in April 1871, of the east half of the northwest quarter, and west half of the northeast quarter of section 33, township 42, range 26, and also the east half of the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of section 17, in township 41, range 26 ; making a farm of 160 acres, twenty acres of wood land; purchased of Frederick Chrisman, for the sum of $7,200, to be paid in three equal annual installments of $2,400 each, with interest at the rate of ten percent per annum. The bonds were made payable to "bearer," and worded: "For the purchase of the poor farm, purchased of Frederick Chrisman."
Mr. Robert Allen was put in charge as superintendent, and Dr. J. W. Stewart, county physician. Previous to this Mr. Samuel Jones had been acting as superintendent, but at that time the paupers were boarded at different places, any where that the people would take them. D.A. Henry was made farm manager. Mr. Robert Allen resigned in 1874 and Dr. Stewart was made both superintendent and physician for the county poor. Some talk was made of the doctor's management, but an examination fully exonerated him, and he remained in charge some four years, when he, to, resigned. At the time when Dr. Stewart took charge D.A. Henry retired, and Richard Woodeson assumed the position of manager of the poor farm. This was in 1874. In 1877 the resignation of Dr. Stewart having been accepted, Dr. A. N. Kincanon was appointed superintendent and accepted, as also the position of county physician. Mr. Woodeson continued as farm manager. Dr. Kincanon made his first annual report in February, 1878, to the county court then in session, of his management. His report of expenses for the last quarter of the year, November, December and January, winter months, amounted to $518.23 and that he had sold farm produce to the amount of $596.77, being a surplus of $78.54 still in his hands. This report seems to be perfectly satisfactory to the court for it was the first time that the farm had been able to pay one-fourth and over of its expenses. Mr. Richard Woodeson was still manager.
In 1879 Dr. James P. Dimmitt was appointed county physician and superintendent, with Daniel E. A. Price as farm manager. These gentlemen were followed in 1880 by Dr. B. H. Land as superintendent and Eli Wade as farm manager. This position Mr. Wade retired from in February, 1883, with the expectation of making Lafayette County his future home. The past year the superintendent has been Mr. James F. Land. The home has now nine tenants. It is one of the best farms in the county, within two miles of the county seat, and is a most pleasant and comfortable home for the unfortunate.