Chariton.—The first seat of justice of Chariton County, laid out in 1818 near the mouth of the Chariton River, in view of the Missouri. In 1821 when it was at its height of prosperity it contained about thirty-five families, a courthouse, school, a steam mill and a store. It promised to become an important town, and valuable property in St. Louis was exchanged for Chariton town lots. In 1824 an overflow of the Missouri River did much damage about Chariton and the place became so unhealthful that people began seeking homes elsewhere. In 1832 the town was abandoned, and at the present time (1900) the old town site of Chariton is part of a farm and no evidence remains to speak of its one-time greatness. There is a station on the Glasgow branch of the Wabash Railroad located on a part of the former town site.

Chariton County.—A county situated in the north-central part of the State, bounded on the north by Linn and Macon Counties; east by Macon and Randolph Counties; south by Howard County and the Missouri River, which separates it from Saline County; and on the west by Grand River, which separates it from Carroll and Livingston Counties; area 490,000 acres. The county presents a comparatively level surface, consisting of upland, prairie and timber land, undulating in places and sufficiently inclined to afford excellent drainage for surplus waters. Numerous streams water and drain the county. The Chariton River enters near the northeast corner and flows in a southwestwardly direction, until it reaches within about four miles of Keytesville, where it takes a southeastwardly course to the Missouri River. Its principal feeders in the county are Chariton Creek, East and Middle Fork of Chariton, both of which are in the southeastern part. The Grand River winds along the entire western border and has as its tributaries and sub tributaries, Elk, Turkey, Yellow and Little Yellow Creeks. Along the Missouri, Grand and Chariton Rivers are tracts of rich alluvial bottom land, rich as any in Missouri, and highly productive, bearing great crops annually. The general character of the soil is a rich sandy loam. In sections of the county are what were called swamp lands. These tracts, with little labor, have been converted into the richest of farming land. Sufficient timber remains in the county to serve for many years the requirement of the inhabitants. The chief woods are black walnut, ash, oak, elm, hickory, boxwood and other less valuable woods. About eighty-five per cent of the total area of the county is under cultivation and in pasture. The minerals of the county are bituminous coal, which is mined for home use, and seems to exist in almost inexhaustible veins, fire clay, and limestone of excellent quality for the manufacture of lime and for building purposes.

Agriculture and stock-raising are the chief and most profitable occupation of the residents of the county. The average production of the leading cereals are corn, 35 bushels to the acre; wheat, 15 bushels; oats, 30 bushels; potatoes yield from 150 to 300 bushels to the acre. According to the report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the surplus products shipped from the county in 1898 were: cattle, 11,619 head; hogs, 36,490 head; sheep, 2,971 head; horses and mules, 764 head; wheat, 79,125 bushels; oats, 938 bushels; corn, 145,420 bushels; hay, 98,500 pounds; flour, 2,973,400 pounds; shipstuff, 168,000 pounds; timothy seed, 18,348 pounds; lumber, 82,400 feet; logs, 36,000 feet; walnut logs, 48,000 feet; piling and posts, 24,000 feet; cordwood, 3,128 cords; brick, 123,000 feet; tile and sewer pipe, 3 cars; wool, 34,400 pounds; tobacco, 224,585 pounds; potatoes, 4,460 bushels; poultry, 771,012 pounds; eggs, 704,160 dozen; butter, 26,379 pounds; game and fish, 34,199 pounds; tallow, 14,518 pounds; hides and pelts, 58,596 pounds; fresh fruit, 12,860 pounds; dried fruit, 8,165 pounds; vegetables, 1,588 pounds; onions, 970 bushels; honey, 5,198 pounds; molasses, 15,329 gallons; cider, 3,255 gallons; nuts, 12, 690 pounds; and others in less quantities, including canned goods, nursery stock, furs, feathers, dressed meats and sorghum seed.

The first white men to visit the section now Chariton County were venturesome French fur traders. The exact date of their entry into the county is not known, but some of them had made trips as far as the Chariton River before the beginning of the nineteenth century. One of these traders was named Chariton or Charaton, and with his companions he located his trading camp about a mile from the Missouri River, near the mouth of the stream which, after him, was called Chariton River. In the journal of Lewis and Clark it is stated that on June 10, 1804, while ascending the Missouri River on their famous expedition, they passed the mouth of Big and Little Chariton Rivers, both of which at that time had separate outlets into the Missouri. Since then the erosion by the high waters has caused both streams to unite about a mile from the Missouri River.

The Indians who resided in the county when the white men first settled in it had a tradition that at the forks of the Chariton Rivers was a large lake which was one of the favorite fishing places of their ancestors. Evidence of this lake, even at this period, is plainly visible. The fur traders were the only settlers in the county until about 1806 or 1808, when a few Americans who had lived in other parts of Missouri went into the country. Notable among those pioneers was one George Jackson, a native of Georgia, who for a while resided in Howard County territory, and became a member of the State Legislature. Martie Palmer was one of the very earliest, and there is a creek (Palmer's) named in his honor. The few settlers that first attempted to make homes for themselves in what was to become Chariton County, on account of the hostility of the Indians, went into Howard County territory and other parts of the State where they remained until the Indian War was over. In the autumn of 1815 John Hutchinson and a few others from the vicinity of Fort Cooper, in Howard County, settled on Yellow Creek, about twenty miles from Brunswick, and the next year a few other families settled in other parts of the Chariton River country.

In 1818 the first land sales were made and immediately following there were many settlements made. Near the mouth of Chariton River, a town was laid out called Chariton. It was situated a little above the mouth of the stream and "within near view of the Missouri River." For a few years the town was prosperous and one of the most important west of St. Louis. Its location was found to be unhealthful, and about 1830 it was abandoned as a residence place.

Among the settlers who made homes for themselves in Chariton County country in 1817-18 were James Earickson, later a State Senator and State Treasurer, Talton Turner, Archibald Hix, Colonel John M. Bell, John Morse, Samuel Williams, Henry Lewis, John Doxey, Richard Woodson and others, all of whom took up land west of the present site of Keytesville. John Tooley, Samuel Forest, Joseph Maddox and Thomas Anderson, settled in what is now Chariton Township.

Between the Chariton Rivers, the first to take land were Joseph Vance, Abraham Lock, Colonel Hiram Craig, Nathaniel Butler, Thomas Watson, Peterson Parks, Robert Hays, Samuel Burch, Samuel Dinsmore, James Ryan and Abner Finnell. On Salt Creek, William and John Beatty and a few others were the first settlers, and Thomas Stanley on Grand River. Stanley was a hunter and trapper, and the first winter he was in the country he lived in a mammoth hollow sycamore log. It was sufficiently large to afford him good sleeping accommodations, but he did his cooking outside his abode. Nearly all the pioneers were men of intelligence, brave and thrifty. The Indians made occasional visits into the section and committed numerous petty depredations. There were few conveniences in early days, and the luxuries of to-day were an unknown thing in the county.

All the clothing of the settlers was homemade. During 1818 and 1830 there was considerable immigration into the country. Then soldier land grants and "New Madrid Claims" worked to retard settlement. Congress granted each soldier of the War of 1812, who had been honorably discharged, 160 acres of land and the same to widows and orphans of those who had died or been killed in service. Many of these claims passed into the hands of speculators, non-residents who hoped that improvements in the new country would enhance the value of their holdings. New Madrid claims were located also in the county, and these, too, were manipulated by land grabbers, much to the detriment of the country. For more than a quarter of a century these claims interfered with the progress of the county.

Chariton County was organized by legislative act, approved November 16, 1820, and was named after the town of Chariton, which had been founded two years before. The boundaries of the county were outlined as follows: "Beginning in the Missouri River where the western line of Howard County strikes the same; thence to and with said line to the northwest corner of Howard County; thence with the Howard County line eastwardly to the sectional line, which divides Range 16 into equal parts; thence north to the line between Townships 56 and 57; thence with said line west to Locust Creek; thence down same to Grand River; thence down the same to Missouri River and down the Missouri to the beginning." The county as then defined extended from the Missouri River to the Iowa line.

Chariton was the first county seat and there a log courthouse was built. The first circuit court was held by Judge David Todd. Edward B. Cabell was the first clerk of courts. The first county justices were Colonel Hiram Craig, Colonel John M. Bell and Meshach Llewellyn. John Moore was the first sheriff. There were few important cases—in fact no serious criminal matters— to take up the attention of the early courts. Chariton remained the seat of justice until 1832, when its location was found to be unhealthful and was abandoned.

James Keyte, an Englishman who had taken out his naturalization papers, laid out the town of Keytesville, and donated a tract of land to the county for county seat purposes. This land was sold in the usual way, at public auction, and with the proceeds a good courthouse was built in 1832. In 1836, according to "Wetmore's Gazetteer of Missouri," Keytesville had "a good courthouse, four stores, three taverns and all the mechanics' shops that are requisite in a farming country." According to the same authority at that time, "where the main road issues from the town and crossed a good bridge a sawmill and a gristmill with two pairs of burrs run the whole year." Four other mills in the county were then in process of construction and the writer stated that "Mr. Keyte, the founder of Keytesville, is beginning another town he calls Brunswick near the mouth of Grand River." September 20, 1864, the courthouse was burned by Confederates under Thrailkill and Todcl. Only a few of the records were lost. In 1867 the present courthouse at Keytesville was built. It is a two-story brick structure, 50 x no feet, and substantial and finely furnished. Slight repairs have been made to it at different times. In 1870 a jail and a residence for the jailer were built at a cost of $13,000.

Among the early residents of Chariton County who gained much prominence were General Duff Green, who lived in the old town of Chariton and later moved to Washington, D. C., where he edited the "United States Telegraph"; General Sterling Price, and Judge Lisbon Applegate, who was county judge of Chariton County for many years and a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1845.

Among the earliest preachers of the gospel in the county was Rev. John M. Peck, who preached in Chariton, in 1819, and organized a "mite society," and was instrumental in starting a Sunday school, which was one of the first, if not the first, west of St. Louis. John Bowler, a Baptist preacher, located at Chariton, in 1820, and preached there and in other settlements in the county.

The first mill of any pretentious size was built in 1820 at Chariton and was known as Findley's mill. It was run by steam. It burned in the winter of 1823-4. In the summer of 1824 much of the bottom land along the Missouri River and the Chariton was inundated and caused serious losses to the settlers, and was one of the chief causes of the abandonment of the town of Chariton.

During the Black Hawk War a company of militia was organized in Chariton County, and under command of General John B. Clark took part in the campaign against the Indians. The county supplied soldiers for service in the Mexican War, and during the Civil War furnished men to both the Northern and Southern Armies. There were numerous raids made in the county and much guerrilla warfare carried on during the War between the States. Confederates under Thrailkill and Todd raided Keytesville on September 20, 1864, and burned the courthouse and murdered the sheriff, Robert Carmon. In all, the county fared much better than other counties of the central section of Missouri and recovered quickly from the depression occasioned by the conflict.

Chariton County is divided into sixteen townships:
Bee Branch;
Bowling Green;
Mussel Fork;
Salt Creek;
Yellow Creek.

The assessed value of real estate and town lots in the county in 1900 was $4,217,767; estimated full value $12,653,301; assessed value of personal property $1,410,701; estimated full value $4,232,163; assessed value of merchants and manufacturers $135,797; estimated full value $305,373; assessed value of railroads and telegraphs $1,168,240.

There are 89.60 miles of railroad in the county. The Wabash passes through the county in a circuitous route, entering south of the center of the eastern line, and the Omaha Branch leaving the county near the northwest corner; while the main line to Kansas City leaves the county near the southwest corner. The Omaha Branch leaves the main line at Brunswick. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe passes in a southwestwardly direction from about the center of the northern to the center of the western boundary, and a branch of the Burlington system passes diagonally through the northwest corner.

The number of schools in the county in 1900 was 132; teachers employed 200; pupils enumerated 6,767. The population of the county in 1900 was 26,826.

Chariton River is made up of three branches, East Fork, Chariton, and Brush Creek, which rise in Adair and Sullivan Counties and flow south, through Macon, Randolph and Chariton Counties, a distance of ninety miles, uniting in a common stream, which flows into the Missouri River three miles above Glasgow.

Salisbury.—A city of the fourth class, in Chariton County, on the Wabash Railroad, eight miles east of Keytesville, 108 miles from Kansas City and 167 miles from St. Louis. It was laid out in 1860, by Judge Lucius Salisbury, but did not grow any until the close of the war, so it’s founding practically dates from 1866. In 1868 it was first incorporated. Two miles east of the town are extensive coal deposits, and, in fact, a bed of coal underlies the town. The city has a fine graded school for white children, a school for colored children, Baptist, Methodist Episcopal, German Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Cumberland Presbyterian and Baptist and Methodist Episcopal Churches for colored people. It is the seat of a private academy. It has two banks, two flouring mills, a carriage and wagon works, an opera house, leaf tobacco storehouses, two weekly newspapers, the "Democrat" and the "Press-Spectator," and more than sixty other business concerns, large and small, including stores, lumber and coal yards, shops, etc. Population, 1899 (estimated), 2,300.

[Source: Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri Volume V: Edited by Howard Louis Conard; Publ. 1901; Pgs. 424-427; Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack.]

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