A county in the south-central part of the State, bounded on the north by Morgan; northeast by Miller; east by Pulaski; south by Laclede and Dallas; and west by Hickory and Benton Counties ; area 437,000 acres. Camden is a county of hills and' valleys, scarcely any prairie lying within its limits. It is well watered and drained by numerous streams. Traversing its entire northern portion is the Osage River, navigable as far as Linn Creek, and which marks two-thirds of the northern boundary line. From the southwest it receives the waters of Maries, Fork of Rainey, Pearson's Creek and a number of smaller streams. From the west flows the Little Niangua, this unites with the Osage in the northern-central part of the county. Mack's Creek flows from the southwest into the Little Niangua, and the Big Niangua receives from the west the waters of Ausburis Branch and a number of smaller streams, and from the east Woolsey's, Bank Branch and Spencer Creeks. In the southeast are Dry Auglaize, Miller's Creek, Wet Auglaize and smaller streams, which find their way to the Osage. These streams afford excellent water power. Along them are bluffs and hills highly picturesque. A mammoth spring, called Lower Big Spring, and a "big cave," both in Township 37, Range 17, are places that will interest the seeker after natural curiosities.
The land in the valleys is highly productive, the soil of a rich loam, while the clayey, gravelly hillsides and uplands constitute the choicest horticultural tracts. About forty per cent of the land is under cultivation, the greater part of the remainder being well timbered with the different species of oak, black and white walnut, sugar maple, elm, ash, hickory, locust, basswood and less valuable woods. Stock-raising and fruit growing are the most profitable industries. According to the report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year 1899; in 1898 the surplus products exported from the county were: cattle, 2,768 head; hogs, 7,705 head; sheep, 1,966 head; horses and mules, 120 head; wheat, 1,150 bushels; oats, 500 bushels; hay, 34,500 pounds; flour, 4,550pounds; shipstuff, 7,250 pounds; lumber, 175,000 feet; walnut logs, 6,000 feet; crossties, 200,454; cord-wood, 804 cords; gravel, 20 car loads; lime, no barrels; wool, 3,550 pounds; tobacco, 450 pounds; potatoes, 150 bushels; poultry, 86,995 pounds; eggs, 99,710 dozen; butter, 530 pounds; dressed meats, 1,200 pounds; game and fish, 32,710 pounds; tallow, 640 pounds; hides and pelts, 940 pounds; fresh fruit, 13,650 pounds; dried fruit, 1,635 pounds; onions, 200 bushels; honey, 265 pounds; cider, 780 gallons; nursery stock, 3,978 pounds; furs, 1,390 pounds;. Coal, lead, iron and zinc have been found in the county.
In 1873 an iron smelter was built near the Osage, about twelve miles above Linn Creek, but was never operated. Recently efforts have been made to develop lead and zinc mines. When white men first settled in the region now forming Camden County, about the year 1827, it was occupied by tribes of Osage Indians. While they did not heartily welcome the white settlers, they were peaceful, and it is not related in tradition that they lived on any but the most friendly terms. The first settlers were from Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee, and were a sturdy class, inured to the hardships of frontier life. Early in the forties the "Slicker War," which was confined to a section of the country now embracing Benton and Morgan Counties, extended to the Camden County territory, and there was much trouble and some bloodshed. (See "Slicker War.")
On the Dry Auglaize, the first settlement is said to have been made by Reuben Berry, and about the same time William Pogue settled on the Osage. In 1830, Keaton Murray settled on the Osage and died about two years later. Aaron Grain, a Virginian, who for a few years had resided in Boone County, Missouri, settled with his family and other adult relatives on the Osage opposite the mouth of the Big Niangua. These are now supposed to have been the earliest settlers. In the next ten years a large number made homes for themselves in the county.
On January 29, 1841, Kinderhook County was organized by legislative act, and the county seat was located at Oregon. February 23, 1843, the name of the county was changed to Camden, after a county in North Carolina, and Oregon, the county seat, became known as Erie. Some years later the county seat was changed to Linn Creek. The commissioners appointed to locate a permanent seat of justice were Bartholomew W. Keown, of Benton County; Edwin Swink, of Pulaski; and John B. Fisher, of Morgan County, and they were directed to locate the county seat on the Osage. The commissioners met at the house of Thomas L. Pollard on the second Monday of April, 1841, and accepted from James G. Gunter and his wife, Mary Gunter, a tract of forty acres of land, and from Aaron Grain seven acres in Section 25, Township 39, Range 17 West, for county seat purposes.
On September 6, 1841, the commissioners filed with the county court their report and a plat of the town of Oregon. A public sale of lots was held, and from this sale $2,107.93 was realized for seventy-one lots. In 1843 the name of the county seat was changed to Erie. In 1846 a courthouse was built of brick at a cost of $4,046. This was used until the county seat was removed to Linn Creek. At the April term of the county court, 1855, a petition was presented for the removal of the county seat to Linn Creek. This was acted upon favorably, the conditions being that land for county buildings be donated to the county and that money by subscription be raised for the building of a courthouse, the same to be presented free of all expenses to the county. For a year after the removal of the county seat, the courts met in the counting room of Vernon & Churchill, in Linn Creek, and then purchased the building, which was continued in use until the present courthouse was built, in 1867.
May 10th of that year an order was made appropriating: $6,500 for a courthouse, which was completed the following year. The first jail was built in 1841, of logs, at a cost of $125. Upon the removal of the county seat to Linn Creek another jail was built, at a cost of $400. This was burned during the war, and early in 1866 another jail was built, at a cost of $1,150. In 1882 this jail was burned by a prisoner who tried to escape. About 1893 the present jail was built.
The judges of the first county court were Laban Joy, David Fulbright and Miles Vernon, with James N. B. Dodson, clerk, and Martin Fulbright, sheriff. Their first meeting was at the house of Thomas M. Pollard the first Monday in March, 1841. For one year the court met at Pollard's, then began to hold sessions at the house of O. D, Moffeit in the town of Oregon, which was the place of meeting for about a year; then the meetings were held in the house of Laban Joy, which continued the regular meeting place until the completion of the first courthouse.
The first meeting of the circuit court for Camden County was held at the house of Thomas M. Pollard, July 12, 1841, Honorable Foster P. Wright, presiding judge, Martin Fulbright, sheriff, and J. B. Dodson, clerk. The first indictment was against a number of persons for "riot." A trial by jury resulted in a verdict of "not guilty as alleged," and the parties were discharged, only to be arrested on assault and battery charges and "intent to kill." It is on record that these charges were not sustained and the accused were dismissed at the November term, 1842. Only trivial cases came before the court in its early period in Camden County. There have been a number of murders—one which created unusual interest being the shooting, in 1870, of United States Marshal Moses, by a moonshiner, named Felix Whiteworth, who was subsequently arrested and escaped from jail at Sedalia, and was never recaptured. In all, Camden County's criminal record is not a long one, and the citizens generally well behaved, peaceful and zealous in sustaining the good character of the county.
The sentiments of the people of Camden County at the outbreak of the Civil War were very nearly evenly divided. During the struggle the county furnished many troops to the Federal side and a few to the Confederacy. There were lively times in the county, there being much skirmishing and guerrilla warfare. On October 13, 1861, there was a lively fight on the Wet Auglaize, between Companies "A" and "C," of the Sixth Missouri Cavalry under Captain T. A. Switzler and a Confederate force under Major M. Johnson. It was a victory for the Federals, who surprised the Confederates.
The first religious denomination to establish a church in Camden County was the Baptist, which started a church on the Little Niangua in 1846. At present the Baptists, Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal South, Christian, United Brethren and Presbyterian denominations have churches in the county. Little progress was made along educational lines in Camden County until the close of the war, soon after which the public school system was inaugurated. The first schools were few, and, according to tradition, not of a high standard, the children receiving the best training at the firesides of their homes.
The first newspaper of the county was the "Weekly Stet" established about 1873, m Linn Creek, by L. S. Wright. About the same time a newspaper called the "Rustic" was established at Stoutland, and a year later moved to Linn Creek.
Camden County is divided into seven townships, named respectively:
The only municipal corporations in the county are Linn Creek and Stoutland, incorporated villages.
In 1897 the assessed value of real estate in the county was $1,153,952; estimated full value, $2,550,000. Assessed value of personal property, $109,877; estimated full value, $185,000: assessed value of stocks, bonds, etc., $82,131. Assessed value of railroads, $11,100. There are only three and a half miles of railroad in the county, the St. Louis & San Francisco, which crosses the southeastern corner. In 1897 the number of public schools was 80; teachers employed, 89; pupils, 4,785; and the permanent school fund amounted to $17,817.61. The population of the county in 1900 was 13.113.
Camden County Caves.—There are numerous caves in Camden County, some of which are of considerable size and beauty. One on the west side of the Auglaize River, near the hamlet of Glaize City, in the eastern part of the county, was discovered more than half a century ago. It extends half a mile from the opening and contains some large chambers, festooned with beautiful formations of lime. At what is known as Gunter's Springs, eight miles south of Linn Creek, there are a number of caves in the rocky hills. In one of these caves Indian ornaments and flints have been found. Another cave near by is called Robbers' Cave, near which is a mammoth spring that gushes forth more than 5,000,000 cubic feet of water a day. Coming from the spring, the water forms a large creek, which after flowing a short distance forms a lake, crescent in form, about one-half mile in length and a quarter of a mile wide. A short distance from this lake is a natural bridge over a chasm of some 150 feet in depth. A wagon road has been built through the chasm and under the bridge. Near this chasm is what is called the "Red Link," a circular basin about 300 feet in diameter and 150 feet deep. In this neighborhood are numerous other interesting natural formations.
"Slicker War."—The "Slickers" were local vigilance committees whose purpose was to rid the country of undesirable characters, and they grew out of the inefficiency of the courts in the punishment of crime. Their usual mode of punishment was to trice up the offender, and "slick" or whip, him with hickory withes, and from this came their name. They brought many to trial, "slicked" and banished many more, and executed a few. In some cases innocent persons suffered. It became known that, while the greater number of the "Slickers" were of the most respectable class, a number of thieves were also members, and made use of the organization to wreak vengeance upon personal enemies. This led to the formation of "Anti-Slickers," and in some regions long continued feuds existed between the two bodies.
In 1844, during the period of high water, small boats ascended that stream into Lincoln County, adjoining St. Charles County, in which neighborhood a large quantity of counterfeit money was set afloat, and many domestic animals were stolen and taken away. Beef cattle were even butchered on the farm of the owner and the meat taken to St. Louis by small craft used for that purpose and there sold. Captain James Stallard, of Lincoln County, organized a company of "Slickers" and began to hunt down the offenders. Early in 1845 the Lincoln County Slickers were informed that the sons of James Trumbull, who lived in Cuivre Township, St. Charles County, were confederates of the counterfeiters and warned them to leave the country. This they refused to do, and in April the "Slickers" visited Trumbull's house to enforce their demand. They found the building barricaded, and unheeding the warnings of Trumbull and his daughter, Sarah, made an attempt to enter.
Of the assailants John Davis was wounded in the head with a cornknife by one of the Trumbull girls, and his brother, Malachi, was shot twice by one of the boys, and died next day. After he was wounded John Davis shot both the Trumbull boys. James Trumbull died from his wound, and his brother, Squire, was paralyzed for life. The "Slickers" retreated. James Shelton formed a company of "Anti-Slickers" near Flint Hill, Cuivre Township, St. Charles County, for the purpose of dispersing the Lincoln County "Slickers." He set a guard over the Trumbull house, and several skirmishes followed, in which at least one man was killed and several were wounded. For several months the people of the two counties were arrayed against each other, and at times were on the point of a general conflict. Eventually the excitement subsided and both companies were disbanded. Two years later Captain Shelton was wounded by some concealed marksman from the Lincoln County side of Cuivre River. Jacob Boone, who had been a "Slicker," was brought to trial for the act and acquitted. Friends of each revived the old antagonisms, and the night following Shelton's friends were fired upon while returning home, but without effect. Several years intervened before friendly feeling was restored between the people of the two neighborhoods.
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