Dade County, Missouri Genealogy Trails


County History

Dade County.—A county in the southwestern part of the State, 130 miles south of Kansas City. It is bounded on the north by Cedar County, on the east by Polk and Greene Counties, on the south by Lawrence County, and on the west by Jasper and Barton Counties. Its area is 500 square miles, fairly divided between timber and prairie, and the latter is well distributed throughout the county.

The uplands bear a nourishing red loam, unsurpassed for wheat, corn and tobacco, while the bottom lands are of exceeding fertility. In the vicinity of the streams the country is rolling, and in places breaks into hills and bluffs. The Ozark range has its summit in the southwest, whence streams flowing south find their way to the Arkansas River, and those proceeding in other directions reach the Osage.

The Big Sac and Turnback Creeks, coursing from south to north through the east and central regions, offer excellent water power for mill sites. Smaller streams are Son's Creek, in the central part, and Horse and Muddy Creeks in the west, the former two flowing north into Big Sac, and the latter into Spring Creek. Excellent fish have been taken from the larger water courses. There are many fine springs, and a chalybeate spring, six miles east of Greenfield, is of known hygienic properties.

Among fine expanses of prairie is that in the north, known as Pennsylvania, named for Judge William Penn. Conner's Prairie, in the north also, bends and fringes the western border. In the southeast is Rock Prairie, and in the northeast Crisp's Prairie, the latter extending a length of twelve miles, with a width of three miles.

The woods are principally hickory, oak, walnut and elm; along Son's Creek are numerous groves of cedar, but the trees are only ornamental. There is abundance of fine building limestone, which has been used extensively in the United States building at Fort Smith, Arkansas. The deposits of white and red pottery clay are apparently inexhaustible. Large quantities of earthenware and tiling are manufactured near Rock Prairie, in the southeastern portion of the county.

Zinc was discovered in 1874, north and east of Greenfield, and lead was found soon afterward. In 1875 the mining industry was at its height, and the deposits were found to be abundant and rich. The Dade Mining &. Smelting Company was organized with local capital, and plants were established, out of which has grown the present mining town of Corry, northeast of Greenfield, and the business continues to be successfully prosecuted. Coal is abundant in the northwestern part of the county, and numerous small mines are profitably worked. Iron has been found in the northeastern part, but has not been developed. The principal towns in the county are Greenfield, the county seat; Lockwood, South Greenfield, Dadeville and Everton.

Railways traversing the county are the Stockton & Mount Vernon, and the Lamar & Springfield branches of the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Memphis roads. In 1898 the surplus products were: Cattle, 4,036 head; hogs, 23,400 head; wheat, 114,583 bushels; oats, 29,078 bushels; flax seed, 10,720 bushels; hay, 3,723,300 pounds; grass seed, 81,000 pounds; flour, 971,600 pounds; shipstuff, 2,004,000 pounds; poultry, 3,365,360 pounds; butter, 85,020 pounds; game, 68,910 pounds; lime, 50,720 barrels. In 1900 the population of the county was 18,125.

Dade County was created January 29, 1841, formed from Greene County, and was named for Major Dade, of Seminole massacre fame. Its northern boundary was ten miles within the present county of Cedar, and its southern boundary was nine miles within the present county of Lawrence; it was reduced to its present dimensions March 28, 1845.

It was provided in the organic act that the courts should temporarily hold at the house of William Penn, until the commissioners appointed, Josiah McCrary, of Barry County; William Caulfield, of Greene County, and Winfrey Owens, of Polk County, should select a permanent county seat.

Those instrumental in the formation of the county expected to locate the county seat on Pennsylvania Prairie, but a supplemental act of the General Assembly required that it be established within four miles of the center of the county. The commissioners selected the present site, taking for the purpose a tract of fifty-one acres donated by Matthias H. Allison.

A courthouse was erected by R. S. Jacobs and Joseph Griggs; it was a frame building, of one and one-half stories. In 1850 a brick building, two stories high, was erected by Dozier C. Gill. In 1863 it was burned down by Shelby's forces, the records being previously removed to the residence of Judge Nelson McDowell. In 1868 the present courthouse and jail combined, a two-story structure, on a stone foundation, was erected.  

The first jail was of hewed timbers; it was burned during the war period. Courts were held at the house of Matthias H. Allison from the organization of the county until June, 1842, when the courthouse was occupied.

The first county judges, sitting in 1841, were Nelson McDowell, William Penn and David Hunter, with Asa G. Smith as sheriff, these serving by appointment by the Governor. The court appointed Joseph Allen as clerk. The first transactions were the creation of townships, and the appointment of justices. Successors of the judges named, by election, were Eshan A. Brown, P. T. Andrews, Isaac Routh and D. S. Clarkson. Joseph Allen served as county and circuit clerk until 1845. Asa G. Smith, sheriff, absconded with the public funds in 1842, and was succeeded by William G. Blake, and he by M. H. Allison. B. F. Walker was surveyor from 1841 to 1846. Peter Hoyle was probate judge from 1845 to 1847, and was succeeded by Matthias H. Allison. In 1873, under the township organization law, the county was divided into four districts, with R. A. Clark as presiding judge, and Robert Cowan, Samuel B. Shaw, Thomas J. Carson and A. D. Hudspeth as district judges.

In 1875 township organization was abandoned, when J. M. Stookey became the first judge, and was succeeded by John N. Landers. In 1877 the county was divided into two districts, with Samuel E. Shaw as presiding justice, and James McClelland and George W. Whitesides as associate justices.

The first circuit court, of which there is record, was held by Judge Charles S. Yancey, in October, 1845. Two executions for murder have taken place, and one of these for crime committed elsewhere.

In 1843 Peter Douglass, a slave, was hung for killing his wife and two children; he attempted suicide after the commission of the crime.

In 1879, on change of venue from Cedar County, Thomas B. Hopper was convicted of the murder of Samuel C. Ham, and was hung June 25, 1885.

In 1881 Taylor Underwood killed Donald McElrath, in Greenfield. On change of venue to Barton County he was convicted of murder, and sentenced to be hung. The Supreme Court granted a new trial, when he plead guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to the penitentiary for life.

July 3, 1881, William Underwood, Frank Craft and James Butler, Jr., imprisoned under a charge of horse-stealing, and suspected of belonging to an organized band of marauders, were taken from the Greenfield jail and hung from trees in the courthouse yard.

The first settlers found evidences of previous occupation by white men. Seven miles northwest of Greenfield were the remains of a fortification and furnaces; it is conjectured that these were constructed by Spanish explorers.

The pioneers came late, in 1833 and early in 1834. The Crisps, William, Redden and John, located near the prairie which bears their name, and William Penn on Pennsylvania prairie, named for him. The Allison’s, Joseph, and his sons, Matthias H. and James, the latter a soldier in the War of 1812, R. D. and William McMillan, George Davidson, William Hampton, John Lack, John M. Rankin and Peter Hoyle all settled near the present Greenfield, and Matthias H. Allison upon its immediate site. William Downing located just above the mouth of Turnback Creek, and William and John Anderson, James Jennings and Jacob Yocum farther up the stream. Silas Hobbs and J. M. Leemaster settled on Sac River. Most of those named were from Tennessee or Virginia. In 1839-40 came Alexander M. Long and family, who settled on the Yocum place; Nelson McDowell and Samuel La Force and Jesse Findlay, on Crisp prairie; and Samuel Weir, a Cumberland Presbyterian preacher; Aaron Finch, Jonathan Parris and John C. Wetzel at, or near, Greenfield. In 1841 Jefferson D. Montgomery, a Cumberland Presbyterian preacher, located and married a daughter of Samuel Weir, and this was probably the first marriage in the county. About the same time came William K. Lathim, who had recently married Alvira Bush, in Polk County; they located in or near Greenfield. For many years the settlers were obliged to depend for their milling upon Madison Campbell's mill on the Little Sac, in Polk County; Campbell afterward built a mill seven miles northeast of Greenfield on the site of the later Engelman mill.

The county is rich in church history. Several religious organizations were formed before the establishment of the county. In 1838 the Christian Church of Dadeville had its beginning under Elder Hazleton, with James Hambree and wife, and Matilda and Nancy Hambree as members. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church, of Greenfield, was founded in 1839 by the Rev. J. D. Montgomery, with Mrs. Montgomery, the Rev. J. Weir and his wife, J. L. Allison and wife, M. H. Allison and wife, A. M. Long and wife, Joseph Leemaster and wife, and Leann Dycus as members. The membership was dispersed in war days, but in 1866 those remaining reorganized the church, and erected a substantial house of worship. In 184.2 Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, of Greenfield, was organized. In 1847, Elder Thomas J. Kelley organized the Sinking Creek United Baptist Church. In 1848 Elders David Stiles and S. L. Beckley organized the Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church, and Elder Beckley formed the Limestone Church in the year following. Numerous other missionary Baptist churches were formed in various parts of the county both before and after the war. In 1864 a Methodist Episcopal Church was founded at Greenfield by the Rev. William Denby. All churches now existing are united and prosperous.

During the Mexican War the county furnished a company, commanded by Captain J. J. Clarkson. At the beginning of the Civil War public sentiment was about equally divided; the people in the southern half of the county were generally Southern sympathizers, while those of the northern half were mostly Unionists. John T. Coffee enlisted a number of men for the Confederate Army, and a large number attached themselves to Price's army when it moved south. The county furnished almost the entire membership of Companies A and D of the Sixth Missouri Cavalry Regiment; Clark Wright became colonel of the regiment, and Thomas A. Switzler succeeded him as captain of Company A. Company D was commanded by Captain William H. Crockett. The county furnished to the same regiment one-half of the men of Company E, commanded by Captain Austin Hubbard, and one-third of the men of Company L, commanded by Captain Jesse C. Kirby. These men fought in Missouri and Arkansas, under Grant in Mississippi, and about Mobile. In 1862 a Union militia company formed in Greenfield were surprised and captured, and re-enlisted after exchange. In the Fifteenth Cavalry Regiment were two Dade County companies, Company E, Captain Edmond J. Morris, and Company I, Captain John H. Howard; their service was in Missouri and Arkansas.

No pitched battles were fought within the county, but there were numerous encounters between small bands, much destruction of property by fire, and many outrages upon individuals. In 1865 a new population began to come in, and the county was practically rebuilt. In 1870 the county was asked to subscribe $300,000 in bonds to the capital stock of the Kansas City & Memphis Railway Company, as a building fund, but the amount was subsequently reduced to $200,000. The bonds were issued in 1873, but the road was not completed until 1881. During this period the county defaulted on the interest account, and numerous suits were brought to compel payment. In 1881 a proposition to refund in 6 per cent bonds, on a basis of 70 per cent, was rejected by a majority of votes. In 1883 it was found that the debt amounted to about $390,000, and at a special election a refunding scheme was adopted, as contemplated in the original proposition.

The branch railroad connecting Greenfield and South Greenfield, two and three fourths miles long, was built by a local company in 1886. In 1886 an Agricultural, Mechanical & Stock Association was organized at Lockwood, and began a series of annual fairs.

Dadeville.—A village in Dade County, twelve miles northwest of Greenfield, the county seat. It has a public school, and Dadeville Academy, a non-sectarian school for both sexes, with five teachers and 120 students, occupying a building which cost $5,000. There are two churches, lodges of Masons and Odd Fellows, a gristmill and a sawmill. In 1899 the population was 450. It was known as Mellville until about 1865, when the present name was given it. The first settler was one Johnson, in 1840. A Christian Church was organized in the vicinity by Elder Hazleton, in 1838; in 1866 the congregation removed to Dadeville and built a house of worship. The town was one of the most prosperous in the county until the war, when it was mostly destroyed.
[Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri: Edited by Howard Louis Conard; Publ. 1901; Pg. 217; Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack]



Dade County, Missouri Genealogy Trails
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