Callaway County, Missouri Genealogy Trails

County History


A county a little east of the center of the State, bounded on the north by Audrain, east by Montgomery, south by the Missouri River, which courses its border for about forty miles and divides it from Osage and Cole Counties, and on the west by Boone County; area, 517,726 acres. The surface is diversified, about one-third of its area being prairie. Not alone is this peculiar of its topography, presenting here and there tracts of rich prairie land, interspersed with densely wooded tracts, hills and valleys, but characteristic of the soil, which is so variable in its composition that adjoining farms present not alone different varieties of surface, but soils as well.

Along the Missouri River are long stretches of bottom land, ranging from a half to two miles in width, the soil of which is alluvial, porous and sandy, of wonderful fertility, year after year bearing good crops. Originally these lands were covered with heavy growths of timber, mostly cottonwood, sycamore, walnut, elm, hickory and dogwood. These bottoms generally lie from ten to twenty feet above the level of the river, and have been over flown only a few times in the last century. The limit of these bottom lands is marked by the bluffs of the Missouri, which are in some places rocky and precipitous, ranging to gradual hills, which are covered with a thin though productive soil, excellent for the cultivation of grapes, and the growing of certain kinds of cereals and tobacco.

Northward from the bluffs the country is hilly and broken, with here and there rich tracts of table land or prairie. This belt is about fifteen miles in width, and is adapted to a wide range of products. North of this belt the country is more undulating, with occasional tracts of prairie land of high fertility. The county is well watered by numerous streams, along which are narrow strips of bottom lands. Ninety-five per cent of all the land in the county is arable, and, while in places the soil is light, all is susceptible of high cultivation and productive of profitable crops. The county generally inclines toward the southeast, in which direction the larger streams have a general flow. Cedar Creek and its branches water and drain the western part, Aux Vasse and tributaries the center, and the Loutre the eastern part. There are numerous springs throughout the county.

The minerals of the county are coal, limestone, fire clay, potters' clay, cement, marble, ochre and other mineral paint, and lead and iron ore have also been found, but not in paying quantities. Coal and fire clay are extensively mined. It is estimated that there are 200,000 acres in the county underlaid with veins of coal from twenty-four to forty inches in thickness.

The chief cereals grown are corn, which yields an average of thirty-five bushels to the acre; wheat, sixteen bushels; and oats, twenty-five bushels. Potatoes and all the tuberous vegetables grow abundantly, potatoes averaging 150 bushels to the acre. About 80 per cent of the land is under cultivation, a small part of the remainder being in timber. The report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics gives the following shipments of surplus products from the county in 1898: Cattle, 4,094 head; hogs, 35,960 head; sheep, 10,177 head; horses and mules, 1,055 head; wheat, 56,158 bushels; corn, 3,305 bushels; flour, 541,312 pounds; corn meal, 43,865 pounds; shipstuff, 137,655 pounds; clover seed, 21,500 pounds; timothy seed, 270 bushels; lumber, 571,540 feet; walnut logs, 45,280 feet; cross-ties, 16,955; cordwood, 937 cords; cooperage, 85 cars; coal, 240 tons; brick, 1,016,600; stone, 24 cars; lime, 231,133 barrels; wool, 17,162 pounds; tobacco, 2,237 pounds; poultry, 1,060,988 pounds; eggs, 295,770 dozen; butter, 4,369 pounds; game and fish, 20,600 pounds; tallow, 101,380 pounds; hides and pelts, 144,304 pounds; apples, 470 barrels; dried fruit, 5,407 pounds; vegetables, 3,465 pounds; furs, 1,951 pounds; feathers, 2,812 pounds. Other articles of export are ice, cheese, dressed meats, fresh fruit, onions, potatoes, honey, molasses, vinegar, nuts, canned goods and nursery stock.

Many years before the arrival of white men in the territory now embraced in Callaway County, Indians known as the Missouris made it their living place, and according to Indian tradition were driven out of the country by the lowas, Foxes and Sacs. Soon after St. Louis was settled, in 1765, French hunters made expeditions into the country, and some years before the beginning of the nineteenth century established a trading post and built a village on the Missouri River bottom, which they called Cote Sans Dessein, from a large rock which occupied the bottom, extending for nearly a mile and rising to a height of sixty feet.

The residents of Cote Sans Dessein were a jovial lot, living by the hunt and the catch of their traps, and bothering themselves little with the serious affairs of life. The women cultivated small gardens, but no further effort at agriculture was attempted. The date of the founding of the village is not known. In 1800 the Spanish government granted the land upon which the town was built to one Baptiste Douchouguette, as is shown by the American State papers and the grant was confirmed to him in 1314, and two years later he transferred his title to Pierre Chouteau, of St. Louis.

The commissioners to locate a permanent seat of justice for Missouri at one time looked favorably upon Cote Sans Dessein as a site for the capital, but owing to doubt as to the title of the land abandoned it in favor of Jefferson City. Missouri River floods about 1820-30 drove the inhabitants of Cote Sans Dessein to the south side of the river, where was established what was long known as the French Village. Nothing remains of the original town today but the name, which is perpetuated by a station on the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad, near the site of the old town.

In 1808 Nathan Boone, acting as a guide for Captain Clemson, of the United States Army, led an expedition through Callaway County on its way to establish Fort Osage. The only pathways through the county at that time were Indian trails. In 1815 Nathan Boone, with a company of fifty men, marked out the Boone's Lick Road, which for many years was the only thoroughfare, excepting the Missouri River, from St. Louis to what is now Howard County. This road passed through the country now Callaway County, and soon after it was opened many settlers located upon land along it.

The pioneers were from Kentucky and Virginia and neighboring Southern States. In the fall of 1815 Jonathan Crow and John Ham settled upon land about ten miles southeast of the present site of Fulton, on Big Aux Vasse Creek, so named by Frenchmen, who, while crossing it with wagon trains, became mired. Crow and Ham were hunters, and for some time lived in camps; later they built rude cabins. In 1815 Patrick Ewing, a native of Lee County, Virginia, settled at Cote Sans Dessein, and the following year moved to near St. Aubert, where he built a house and resided for thirty-five years, when he took up his residence ten miles south of Fulton. He was a captain in the Black Hawk War and second sheriff of Callaway County. Captain Ewing had the distinction of building the first house outside of Cote Sans Dessein, in the county. In April, 1816, James Van Bibber, a Kentuckian, located on the Aux Vasse, at what became known as Van Bibber's Lick, nine miles east of the present site of Fulton. Van Bibber married Elizabeth Hays, the eldest daughter of Mrs. William Hays, the daughter of Daniel Boone, and the first white child born in Kentucky. Van Bibber assisted Colonel Nathan Boone in surveying part of what is now Callaway County. Some descendants of Van Bibber still reside in the county. In the spring of 1816 Aaron Watson settled on Boone's Lick Road, and in the summer of the following year Rev. William Coats, a regular Baptist minister, his brother, James Coats, John Logan, Joseph Callaway, Robert Read, Thomas Kitching, William Pratt and John Gibson settled in what is now the southeastern part of the county, on Coats' Prairie. Prior to 1817, according to the most reliable records available, besides those named in the foregoing, most of whom settled at or near Cote Sans Dessein, were Francois, Joseph, Lewis and Jean Baptiste Roi, Joseph Rivard, Joseph Tibeau, Francois Tyon, Louis Labras, Louis Vincennes, Nicholas Foy, Baptiste Groza, Baptiste and Louis Senoya and Louis Laptant, all -of whom were French Catholics, and Asa Williams, Thomas Smith, Jonathan Ramsey, Jesse and George Adams, Felix Brown and John French. In 1816 and 1817 Nathan Boone surveyed the eastern part of the county, and Joseph Evans much of the western part.

In the section surveyed by Evans were four Spanish land grants, embracing an area of 11,760 acres, and twenty seven New Madrid claims. In December, 1818, at St. Louis, the lands in the eastern part of the county were offered for sale, and in February, 1819, nearly all the lands in the western part were sold. At this time immigration was heavy, and the lands along the streams were settled rapidly. "House-raisings" were numerous, and it was common for "neighbors" to go fifteen or twenty miles to the home of another "neighbor" to assist in erecting a cabin. In 1818 the "horsemill" for grinding corn, operated within the limits of the county, and the first west of St. Charles, was built by J. T. Ferguson. Soon after another building was put up on May's Prairie, three and a half miles southeast of the present site of Fulton, by Henry May. The first settlers were hospitable, a happy, jovial people, who took great delight in assisting each other, and making the burdens as light' as possible. Callaway County was organized by act of the Territorial Legislature, November 25, 1820, and named in honor of Captain James Callaway, a grandson of Daniel Boone, who was killed by Indians near Loutre River. Upon organization the county seat was located on Ham's Prairie, about six miles south of the present site of Fulton, and was called Elizabeth in honor of the wife of Henry Brite, one of the pioneers of the county, at whose house the first court met. The meeting of the first circuit court was held February 5, 1821, Honorable Rufus Pettibone presiding.

The first county court met at the same place, February 12th of the same year, with Benjamin Young and Stephen Dorris as presiding justices. Irvine O. Hockaday was the first circuit and county clerk, and Wyncoop Warner, first sheriff. In 1825 George Nichols donated to the county fifty acres of land for county seat purposes, and by order of the county court this was laid off in town lots, and the town was called Volney, in honor of the noted French scientist and author.

Later the name was changed to Fulton, in honor of Robert Fulton, the builder of the first successful steamboat. The town of Elizabeth was abandoned as the county seat in 1826. The town lots of the new county seat were sold at public auction, John Yates, the son-in-law of Nichols, buying the first lot sold, and he erected the first house in the town. He was the first merchant in Callaway County outside the old town of Cote Sans Dessein, having established a store at Elizabeth when the town was started.

The first Courthouse was built by J. S. Ferguson, and was completed in the early part of 1827. It was of brick, two stories in height and thirty six feet square, and cost about $1,400. This was one of the finest courthouses west of the Mississippi River at that time. Much of the money used for building it was derived from a forfeited bond.

Hiram Bryan stole a horse, and William Bryan furnished a large bond for his appearance in court. The accused horse thief ran away, and the money forfeited by his surety was appropriated for building the courthouse. The courthouse was used until 1856, when it was sold at public auction for $400 to D. M. Tucker, who utilized the brick it contained in building a part of his residence at Fulton. The present courthouse was then built. Some repairs have since been made. The building is in excellent condition.

The first railroad built in the State was constructed in Callaway County, from Cote Sans Dessein to a point five miles north, to reach the extensive beds of cannel coal located there. The enterprise was poorly managed, the shipment of coal to outside markets found unprofitable, and in a short time the Eastern capitalists who had fostered the venture abandoned it, and the rails and rolling stock were, during the Civil War, sold under execution.

Rev. William Coats, a regular Baptist, was the first resident minister, and in 1817 preached the first sermon in the county. The same year Rev. John M. Peck and Rev. James E. Welch preached in the county. The first expositor of Presbyterianism was Rev. David Kirkpatrick, who was killed afterward by being thrown from his horse while traveling through the county to hold a meeting. Abraham Ellis, who lived in the western part of the county, was one of the first active Methodists, and near his home was the first camp meeting ground, where Rev. Andrew Monroe, the pioneer Methodist preacher, and a distinguished minister of the church, exhorted the people to become good Christians. For a number of years religious meetings were held in the houses of settlers. In 1826 the first church was built. It was a log building, twenty by thirty-six feet, and was located on the Big Aux Vasse, about twelve miles northeast of Fulton. It was built by the Presbyterians, and the church at that time had thirteen members. The congregation prospered, and in a few years the log church was replaced by a brick structure, for which, later, was substituted a stylish frame building. The Catholics at an early day built a small church on Hancock Prairie.

No record is obtainable of the first schools of the county. Among the first teachers was Theoderick Boulware, a native of Essex County, Virginia, who settled in Callaway County in 1827. Upon his arrival in the county he taught a school for young men and women about two and a half miles north of Fulton. For forty years he was pastor of the Old School Baptist Church at Fulton. The first paper in the county was published, in 1839, at Fulton, and was called the "Banner of Liberty." Later it was changed to the "Telegraph," and is still published. Callaway County, at the outbreak of the Civil War, was strongly in favor of the Southern cause.

Nearly all the citizens of the county were disfranchised during the war, but nevertheless they persistently sent to the Legislature men who represented their political faith, but who were not admitted by that body. It was during this period that the name "Kingdom of Callaway" became attached to the county. Incursions of soldiers and guerrillas caused the county to suffer much, but recovery from depression and disturbances was rapid.

Callaway County is divided into seventeen townships, named, respectively:
Cote Sans Dessein;
Nine Mile;
Round Prairie;
Saint Aubert;

The assessed value of real estate and town lots in the county in 1899 was $4,065,330; estimated full value, $12,195,990; assessed value of personal property, including stocks, bonds, etc., $1,848,905; assessed value of merchants and manufacturers, $211,520; estimated full value, $423,040; assessed value of railroads and telegraph, $868,311.40.

There are 76.60 miles of railroad in the county, the Jefferson City branch of the Chicago & Alton entering the county at the center of the northern boundary and passing in a southwardly direction to the southwest corner, and the Missouri, Kansas & Texas passing along the southern border, near the Missouri River. The number of public schools in the county in 1899 was 135 ; teachers employed, 150; pupils enumerated, 7,665; permanent school fund, county, township and special, $66,419.60. The population in 1900 was 30,000.

[Source: Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri Volume 1: Edited by Howard Louis Conard; Publ. 1901; Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack.]



Cedar City.An incorporated village on the Missouri River, opposite Jefferson City, in Callaway County, twenty-five miles southeast of Fulton, at the terminal of the south branch of the Chicago & Alton Railroad. It was laid out in 1869. It has a school, about a dozen business houses, and a weekly newspaper, the "Chronicle." Population, 1899 (estimated), 360.

[Source: Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri Volume 1: Edited by Howard Louis Conard; Publ. 1901; Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack.]

Big Island.An island in the Missouri River, near the southern shore, opposite Cote Sans Desseins, in Callaway County, now called- Dodd's Island. About the first settlement in what is now Osage County was made on this island (the first of the nineteenth century"). ~Jean Baptiste Paraw~

[Source: Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri Volume 1: Edited by Howard Louis Conard; Publ. 1901; Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack.]




Callaway County, Missouri Genealogy Trails
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