Carter County, Missouri Genealogy Trails

County History

Carter County.—A county in the southeastern part of the State, bounded on the north by Shannon, Reynolds and Wayne; east by Wayne and Butler; south by Ripley and Oregon, and west by Oregon and Shannon Counties; area 321,000 acres. The surface of the county is broken, hilly along the streams, and in places precipitous, with here and there cliffs of white limestone. There is considerable bottom land, which is a black, sandy loam, and forms the best agricultural lands of the county. The hills are stony and with soil of poor quality, though bearing heavy growths of timber.

The Current River flows in a southerly direction through the central part of the county. Its chief feeders are Davis and Rogers Creeks, which empty into it from the west. The northeastern part is drained by Brushy Creek and its numerous small branches, and in the southeastern part Little Black River and Cane Creek have their sources. The Current River is a clear, sparkling stream, and is the paradise of the piscatorial enthusiast, abounding in the gamest of fish, trout, perch, bass, buffalo, cat and other kinds of fish. It affords splendid water power, which is utilized in different parts in running mills. Plenty of game is found in the forests along the streams. The chief timber is pine and the different species of oak; there is also abundance of hickory, ash, walnut, locust, maple, cotton wood, papaw, dogwood, etc. The lumber industry is the most important of any in the county and gives employment to nearly half of the population. At Grandin, on Black River, are located the largest sawmills in the State, giving employment to several hundred hands.

Of agricultural products, corn and wheat are chiefly grown. Oats, rye, some cotton, tobacco and all the kinds of vegetables adapted to the climate are grown. The hills and uplands are excellent for fruit growing, and the industry is receiving increased attention. The cultivation of grapes promises to become one of the profitable pursuits of many residents of the county. Only about 20 per cent of the land is under cultivation. There are indications of iron, lead and copper in different sections of the county, but no attempt at developing mines has been made. Immense ledges of lime and building stone are along the streams and numerous quarries have been opened. There are also extensive beds of chalk and deposits of manganese. The first settlement in what now comprises Carter County was made about 1812, while it was in the "State of Wayne."

In 1812 Zimri A. Carter settled a few miles south of where Van Buren is now located, and soon after was joined by the Chilton, Kennard, Snyder and Kelly families, all of whom settled near the site of Van Buren. Carter County was created by legislative act, approved March 10, 1859, out of the northern part of Ripley and the eastern portion of Shannon County, and named in honor of
Zimri A. Carter.

Adam Lane, of Ripley; John Buford, of Reynolds, and D. C. Reed, of Shannon, were appointed commissioners to locate a permanent seat of justice. They met at the house of James Brown, near Van Buren, on the first Monday in April, 1859, and located the seat of justice at Van Buren, the old county seat of Ripley County, and the old log courthouse, erected in 1833, was utilized as a meeting place for the courts until 1867, when a new one was built. The county was attached to the county of Ripley for the purpose of representation in the General Assembly. The first member sent to the General Assembly from the county was William Lawson, in 1864, and he served until 1870, when he was succeeded by F. M. Coleman. The frame courthouse built in the sixties is still in use, though the citizens of the county at the present time (1899) are strongly in favor of building a more pretentious building. During the war times, as in other sections of southern Missouri, there were turbulent times there, but the county did not suffer severely in destruction of property.

Up to about 1874 there were only private schools, and only a few of them, in the county. In 1874 the school population was only 487, and, as no school districts had been organized, educational interests were sadly neglected. In his report that year, the county superintendent said: "Among other difficulties may be mentioned an indifference to the subject of popular education on the part of many citizens, and reluctance to be taxed for school purposes. Our schoolhouses are of a very inferior class, supplied with the rudest benches for seats, and destitute of blackboards or apparatus of any kind. Many of the houses in which schools are taught are unoccupied cabins, which have been erected and used for temporary dwellings, until the owner could furnish more comfortable apartments for his family." In 1897 the school population of the county was 1,691, with twenty-eight schools and thirty-two teachers.

The county is divided into five townships:

The chief towns are;
Van Buren;

There are forty-nine miles of railroad in the county. The Southern Missouri & Arkansas runs from the east to Hunter village in the center, and the Current River branch of the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Memphis runs through the central part from the west to Hunter, and the south terminating at Grandin. The Missouri Southern crosses the northern border and terminates at Carter Station. The assessed value of all taxable property in the county in 1897 was $1,186,816; estimated full value, $3,080,000. The population in 1900 was 6,706.
[Source: Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri Volume I; Edited by Howard Louis Conard; Publ. 1901; Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack.]




Carter County, Missouri Genealogy Trails
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