Dunklin County, Missouri Genealogy Trails

Pioneers of Dunklin County

The first settlers in Dunklin county were Howard Moore and family, who were natives of Virginia. They came to the county in 1829, settling about four miles south of Maiden. They lived here for a short time and later bought the cabin which had been erected by the Indian chief, Chilletecaux, near Kennett. Here Mr. Moore made his home until the time of his death. He left a large family and m^ny of his descendants still live in the county. His son, David H. Moore, who was born July 10, 1832, was the second child born in the county.

Another of the pioneer citizens of the county was Pascal Rice, who moved to the county in 1830. He was at the time about 12 years of age and spent the rest of his life in the community to which he first moved, near Hornersville. At the time he tame to the county it was the home of many Indians and he became well acquainted with these Indian chiefs and attended many of their war dances.

The first child born of white parents within the limits of Dunklin county was Thomas Neel, Jr., who was born in May,. 1832. his father, Thomas Neel, having moved to the county in February preceding and settled in the south part of the county near the little town of Lulu. He grew up under the pioneer conditions of life and became acquainted with the Indians and knew all the customs which distinguished them.

One of the earliest settlers was Michael Branum, who moved to Dunklin county from New Madrid, having been in New Madrid during the time of the great earthquake. His family, including Tecumseh, named for the great Indian chief, and daughters, Lizzie and Victorine, who became Mrs. Horner, lived in Dunklin county for many years. Mrs. Horner was for a number of years preceding her death the oldest citizen in the county.

Besides these whom we have mentioned, there came to the county in the early times Jacob Taylor and his family. He located close to the stream which is known is Taylor slough, named for Jacob Taylor. Branum, Taylor and Rice came in the same year and were assisted over the country and in the selection of places of settlement by the Indian chief, Chilletecaux. In 1831 Moses Norman settled on West Prairie and in 1832 Thomas Neel, Sr., and his fatherinlaw, Ray, came to the county and located near Hornersville. While moving to their destination, Mr. Ray was killed by being thrown from his cart and was buried at the old Hornersville burying ground near Hornersville and is said to have been the first white person buried in the county.

In 1833 James Baker and Riley Clarkson settled on Buffalo island and in the same year Russell and William H. Horner made a settlement at the place afterwards called Hornersville.

The home of Evan Evans was just in front of a row of cotton wood trees on the public road four miles south of Kennett. McCullough and Lafayette Sexton came to the county in early times, also. Adam Barnhart settled on the old Baker place. Among his neighbors were Hugh Shipley, the families of Suter, Shultz and Jackson. Frank Lee lived three miles north of Hornersville.

In the north end of the county Dr. Given Owen located a claim on Rush creek in 1841; in 1844 A. D. Bridges settled on a creek near Four Mile; Jordan Lacey. John Holtzhouser, James Faughn and "William Greer were other early settlers in the north part of the county. Somewhat later, Dr. Allen and Thomas Hatley located near Maiden.   In the vicinity of Clarkton, about the same time, were John Gunnells, Jesse Long, Mrs. Floyd Montgomery, John McMasters and Dick Skaggs.

Among the settlers on West Prairie were Ephraim Thornberry and James Harris. Some settlers also came to Holcomb Island about the same time, among them families named Barnes, Holloways, Lewis Holcomb, Millers, Dr. Bozark, John Lowery, H. D. Flowers, Hiram Langdon, John Scott and Price. Johnson's Island, south of Kennett, was named for William Johnson, who was one of the early settlers there. In the neighborhood of Caruth the families were those of A. Thompson, Mrs. Welch, C. B. Bancroft, H. Spencer, Whitney, Joseph Pelts and Robert L. Glascock. Besides these, Riley Clarkson, James McGrew, Joseph Langdon and David Harkey had begun to open farms in the neighborhood of Cotton Plant.

Just west of Hornersville the settlers were James P. Neal, J. McDaniel, John B. Walker and James Williamson. All these that we have mentioned came to the county before 1850.

Within the next decade a large number of families, later prominent in the history of the county, moved within its bounds. It is not possible to give a complete list of these families, but the names of some of them as its pioneer settlers will be of interest. On the hills west of Maiden, Dr. Jacob Snider settled in 1850; with him were Charles Vincent, William Cross and Mrs. Skaggs.

About the same time in Clay township there were the families of A. T. Douglass, E. J. Langdon, Edward Spencer, Lewis Chandler, Isaiah Jones, John Marsh, James Bradley, John Dougherty, Richard Cook, James Herrman, Absolom Farris, A. B. Williams and David Finley. In the north end of the county there were such well known families as that of John P. Taylor, Judge Hodges, Henry James, J. M. Waltrip, A. B. Douglass, James Oxley, H. A. Applegate, William H. Shelton, R. W. Stokes, John Wright, I. A. Waltrip, G. M. White and E. C. White. Among the early settlers were also Daniel Harkey, Brannon Marshall, Enoch Shelton, Humphrey Donaldson, A. C. Austin, W. M. Satterfield, Moses Farrar, C. N. Lasley, David Rice and James A. Smyth.

All these men who came to the county in its early years have passed through the usual experiences of the pioneer days. The country was very different then from what it now is. Many of the pioneers made their living largely from hunting. Two of these men were Nathaniel Baker and Joseph Pelts. Baker was the son of James Baker, who settled on Buffalo Island in 1833 and later removed to Cotton Plant. Pelts came to the county about 1,840 and there made his home the rest of his life. Both of these men were typical pioneers; they farmed but were also fond of hunting.

Riley Clarkson, who came with his father to the county in 1834, lived on Horse Island. He was a famous hunter and helped to kill some of the last buffalo in the county. Buffalo Island was named from the fact that it was the home of a great many buffalo. Mr. Clarkson was also a great bear hunter, having killed as many as fifty bear in a single season. He and his family passed through all the experiences of pioneer life, at the time of their coming there being not a single physician, church or school or postoffiee in the entire county.

One of the prominent and influential men in the early history of the county was Judge Donaldson, who came to the county in 1855. He was a man of education and became a well known and highly respected citizen of the county.  He was a Tennesseean by birth, but thoroughly identified himself with all the interests of his adopted home and was elected to public office, being for a time a member of the county court of Dunklin county His family are still prominent in county offices, his son was a well known citizen and one of his grandsons is now a practicing lawyer at Kennett.

In 1854 David Finley came with his family to Dunklin county, opening a farm not far from the present site of Cotton Plant. He was a typical pioneer, having interests in farming and in hunting and in all the affairs of the county.

One of the large and influential families in the south part of Dunklin county was the Harkey family, who were descendants of Daniel D. Harkey a native of North Carolina, who came to Dunklin county in 1853, settling on the land near Nesbit, where the family continues to reside. Among the members of this family were Judge J. H. Harkey, Wilbur D. Harkey and W. M. Harkey. They were sons of the founder of the family and their descendants are both numerous and influential at this time.

Perhaps the man who made the greatest impression on the life of his day in the county was Edwin J. Langdon, who was born August 7, 1819, at Middlebury, Vermont. The family was of Scotch descent and this son seems to have inherited the great qualities which distinguish the Scotch. Before coming to Dunklin county, E. J. Langdon received a good common school education and for a time taught school. In 1839 he made his home in Dunklin county near Cotton Plant; he soon formed a partnership with Isaiah Jones and together they conducted a carriage and blacksmith shop. In 1847 he was married to Sarah A. Glasscock, the daughter of Robert L. Glasscock, also one of the pioneers of the county.

From his business as a carriage builder young Langdon turned his attention to contracting and together with his father they built the first court house in the county, in 1846. One year later he secured the contract for building the levee across Buffalo creek on the main road south of Kennett. With the proceeds of this contract he opened a store at Cotton Plant and from this time until his death he conducted this business. While he was always interested in mercantile pursuits, Judge Langdon did not confine his attention to this form of business. He tried to develop water transportation and built one of the first flat boats on Little river at Hornersville. It was his intention also to encourage the raising of cotton and to do this he erected one of the first cotton gins in the county. He also became convinced of the value of land about Cotton Plant and invested largely in these lands. The town in which he lived was built entirely on his property. He refused to dispose of any of it largely because he wished to be able to prevent the sale of whiskey in the town. For many years he was the postmaster at Cotton Plant and at one time was presiding judge of the county court for a period of six years. Judge Langdon was interested in all matters looking to the improvement of the community and the county, building roads, establishing the cause of churches and other public matters received encouragement from him.   At the time of his death he was the owner of large tracts of valuable land. The children of this family were William H. Langdon, who lives in Texas, C. V. Langdon of Cotton Plant, and A. J. Langdon of Hornersville, and one daughter, Hettie D.

In 1838 Judge Given Owen, then twenty years of age, came to Bloomfield from Hickman, Kentucky, and began the practice of medicine.   A few years later he made his home on a farm in what was then the south part of Stoddard county. He was elected a member of the county court in Stoddard county, but in a short time that part of Stoddard county in which he lived was transferred to Dunklin county. After becoming a citizen of Dunklin county he was elected to various offices, being judge of the common pleas court at Clarkton and of the county probate court and also of the county court. During all his life in the county he continued the practice of medicine and was regarded as an able physician and a most highly respected and intelligent citizen of the county. He was the son of Ruben Owen, a native of Georgia. His second wife was Louisiana Bozark, who survived her husband a number of years and was perhaps as well acquainted with the early history of the county as any person living in it.

In 1859 David Young Pankey, a native of Virginia, came to Dunklin county and made his home near Clarkton. He had formerly lived for a short time in Tennessee, just across from New Madrid. He engaged in farming in Dunklin county and was successful and was popular with his friends and neighbors. On the breaking out of the war he became first lieutenant in a company organized by Captain Pickard; this company waff made part of a regiment of which Mr. Pankey was made lieutenant colonel, seeing service with a regiment which was a part of the Missouri state guards. On the expiration of the term of the state guards, Colonel Pankey enlisted in the confederate service and took part in the engagement at Fort Pillow and was with General Price in several skirmishes and battles, winning credit and distinction for himself in all of them. At one time Colonel Pankey was collector of Dunklin county and during all his life was a respected and influential citizen. His son David Ballard Pankey is cashier of the Bank of Kennett and one of the most prominent citizens of the county. No account of the pioneers of Dunklin county would be complete without a mention of Hon. David Rice, who was a native of Tennessee, and came to the county in 1853. At first he lived northwest of Campbell, where he married, but within a short time he removed to a farm east of Senath, where he lived until his death. He devoted himself principally to farming but was also interested and active in all affairs of public concern. Just before the war he was assessor of the county and from 1872 to 1876 was public administrator and later served a term in the general assembly.

Major W. C. Rayburn, a native of Alabama, came to Dunklin county in 1865, locating near Clarkton. He was immediately recognized as a man of ability and character and soon came to occupy a prominent place in the affairs of the county. He was always interested in schools and churches and served as a county surveyor for a number of years. His son, Moore M. Rayburn, served throughout the war in a regiment of Arkansas infantry and at its close came home to devote himself to farming and stock raising. He was for four years sheriff and constable of the county and carried on the activities which had for many years interested his father. One of his sons, M. B. Rayburn, is cashier of the Bank of Maiden and a highly respected citizen of that town.

Dunklin county was created February 14, 1845. Stoddard county was divided by a line . running on the parallel of 36 degrees and 30 minutes. All that part of Stoddard county south of this line of division was called Dunklin county. In 1853 the north line of the new county was moved to the north nine miles. The territory included within the limits of the county, with the exception of this nine mile strip, was a part of the territory which was originally left in Arkansas, but was added to Missouri through the efforts of John Hardeman Walker and others.

The town of Kennett was selected as the county seat of the new county. The town was named for Hon. Luther M. Kennett, though when it was laid out in 1846 it was called Chillitecaux. It was later known for a year or two as Butler and then received its present name, Kennett. The county was named for Hon. Daniel Dunklin, who was at one time governor of the state.

The circuit court was probably organized in 1845 by John D. Cook, who was the judge of the circuit which included this county.

The first county court in Dunklin county is said to have been composed of Moses Farrar, Edward Spencer and Alexander Campbell; Joseph S. Houston was the first clerk and Lewis Holcomb the first sheriff; Houston was soon succeeded by John H. Marsh, who held office until 1861. The first court house in the county was a log building erected in 1847 in the middle of the public square where the present court house stands. This building was destroyed during the war; it was not until 1870 that another was erected, which was a large frame building, and was burned in 1872. For a number of years this county had no court house and the courts were held in an old frame store building on the corner of the square now occupied by the Tatum building. In 1895 the present twostory brick court house building was erected. About the time of the building of the first court house a log jail was erected; it was destroyed by fire and another of the same character was built. In 1882 a frame building was erected on the corner now occupied by the Shelton office building. It was used as a jail until 1910, when the present structure was erected.

The present townships are Independence, Cotton Hill, Union, Freeborn, Holcomb, Salem, Buffalo, and Clay.

The legislature created Mississippi county on February 14, 1845; the territory being cut off from the south part of Scott county. The commissioner selected Charleston as the county seat, and the county court was organized there April 21,1845. The judges of the court were: William Sayres, Absolom McElmurry and James M. Overton; George L. Cravens was the clerk of the court. The meetings of this court were, for a number of years, held in the store house of Henry G. Cummings. A court house was not erected until 1852. At the time the present building was erected by James T. Russell.

At the time of the organization, the county was divided into five townships. These were: Tywappity, Mississippi, St. James, St. James Bayou, and Wolf Island. In 1847 Mississippi township was divided and a new township created which was named Ohio. In 1858 Long Prairie township was formed from parts of Tywappity and St. James.

The circuit court was organized September 29, 1845, by John D. Cook. The meetings of the court were usually held in the Methodist church, until the erection of the court house.

History of Southeast Missouri by Robert Sidney Douglass





Dunklin County, Missouri Genealogy Trails
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