Franklin County, Missouri Genealogy Trails

Early Society, Customs, etc.
Source: Goodspeed's Franklin County History, 1888, Goodspeed Publishing Co
Transcribed by: Barb Z. © 2009

—In the early times in the history of this county there were two distinct classes in the community, the mere hunter and the true settler. The first class took no root in the soil, neither did they cultivate anything that did take root in the soil. The individual components of this class forever hovered on the borders of approaching civilization, preceding the true settler and advancing at his approach. In habits and customs he was a compromise between the Indian, whom he fol­lowed, and the white man, whom he preceded, and on the whole, was a sad commentary even on compromises, having, as a gen­eral thing, a preponderance of the barbarous element in his com­position. One of his many peculiarities was that he hated the Indian because the Indian was in his view a barbarian, far behind the advancing civilization of the age; and, at the same time, he found it impossible to affiliate with the white man, because he thought the white man was too far in advance of the civilization of the age. The white man, however, he regarded as the more useful of the two, because from him he could readily replenish his exhausted supply of amnmnition and whisky—his two great necessities of life—while the Indian he regarded as the proper receptacle for his missiles of destruction, deriving more satisfaction from the close of the career of a red man than from the death of a buffalo, catamount, panther or bear. This class has long since disappeared, following the trail of the Indian, and continually forming a kind of protection, however inade­quate at times, to the genuine settler, who came to convert the mountain side and plain from a howling wilderness to a beau­teous garden, and to make them bloom and blossom as the rose. It must be admitted, however, that for a time the habits and customs of the early settler bore a striking resemblance to the hunter and trapper, in whose wake he so closely came. His situation, before the earth had time to yield bountifully of her richness, required that he too should enter into the exciting pleasures of the chase, and fill his larder with the flesh of wild animals hunted in the woods or with fish caught in the clear, beautiful and bountiful streams. Hi3 occupation as a farmer gradually grew upon him, as nature's storehouse became impoverished, and it may perhaps be truly said that, even in the case of the genuine settler, he accepted the situation reluc­tantly, because of the more confining and laborious life imposed, when to till the soil became the only means of support for his family and himself; but, in time, habits of industry and economy became to him a kind of second nature, and, as his field shone forth in the golden beauty and rich bounty of culture, he grad ually became glad that circumstances had impelled him to the cultivation of his farm.

But while these incipient steps were being taken in the clear­ing and improvement of the country a remnant of the Indian tribes remained behind. These Indians were of a peaceful dis­position, and lacked the love of useless warfare upon the all-conquering Anglo-Saxon, whose future sway appeared even then to have no limit but the sea. This remnant of the Indians, left behind in the grand westward march of the main body of the red men, remained some years in the county, in friendly inter­course with the early settler. They belonged to the once power­ful tribes of Shawnees, Delawares and Osages, and had a village of 200 or 300 cabins in the valley of the Bourbeuse River, named Shawneetown, near the farm of Anderson Ooleman. They afterward moved to the vicinity of the Prairie Church, next to the Enloe settlement, in the southwest part of the county, and thence, still later, toward that westward bourne, from which no red man returns. They are now chiefly remembered as great lovers of the horse race.

The inhabitants of Franklin County were at this time chiefly distributed in a few settlements along the Missouri River, mainly on " Spanish grants," tracts of land ceded by the Spanish governor of St. Louis. These settlements were known as the "Labaddie" settlement,the "DuBois" settlement,the "St. John" settlement, the "Newport," the "Boeuf" and the "Berger" settlements. A list of these Spanish grants may be found later on in this history.

The life of the settler of that day, as has been already inti­mated, was essentially that of the backwoodsman—that of the pioneer on the frontier, as known in all parts of the United States, in one stage of their progress. In many instances the new settler came into the new country with his entire family and all his earthly possessions upon the back of a horse—except the horse. His chief implement and carpenter's tool was an ax, and the many uses to which the ax could be applied would be, if seen, simply wonderful to the modern dude. The early houses were mostly small, rude log cabins, though occasionally there was erected one of a more pretentious nature, and still more occa­sionally a hewed-log mansion was built. Into the structure of the cabins, from turret to foundation stone, nothing entered but wood; not a scrap of iron—not even a nail found its way into a single shingle on the roof; the doors and windows were of wood, and swung on wooden hinges, the chimney was of wood, and the fire itself was uniformly of wood. All the furniture and appoint­ments of the interior were as simple and unpretentious as the little log cabin itself. But to infer, from the rude exterior, that happiness was denied to the rude inhabitants of the houses would be a great mistake. Happiness is not repelled by rough­ness. The clothing of all, men, women and children, was made of buckskin and " homespun," which was manufactured entirely by the family, from the cultivation of the flax and cotton to the spinning and weaving of the cloth. The woman on the frontier of civilization is not like the lady in the rear of civilization. She is not fearful of spoiling her complexion nor of soiling her hands. She is, indeed, a helpmeet for her hus­band, and not of use merely as an expender of his spare shekels.

For some years after the Indians had departed Indian corn was almost the exclusive crop cultivated. It at once most readily furnished hearty, wholesome food for man and beast. The imple­ments mostly used in its cultivation would now more appropriately find an asylum in a collection of ancient curiosities than in a corn field. The leading implements were known as the trowel hoe, and the "barshear" plow. It was then thought that the latter implement was the acme of perfection, and that, if any man was not satisfied with that implement, it would be a difficult thing to satisfy him, even if he had the privilege of choosing for himself. The first store in Franklin County was established at New­port, previous to which time the people traded mostly in St. Louis, and, as an illustration of the tenacity with which habit clings to members of the human family, it is a curious fact that many of the people of Franklin County still go to St. Louis to buy their commodities as well as many other things. At this original store in Newport, conducted by Pres. G. Bule, was kept a small stock of dry goods, groceries and hardware. The extravagant luxuries of calico and brown domestics could be indulged in only by the opulent,  the prices for such goods  ranging from 25 cents to 37 1/2 cents per yard. The aristocrat  of   that  day  who would cap his caput with a bell-crowned hat  had  to pay at  least $10 for  the  distinction,  and that, it should be remembered, when money was worth at least three times what it is to-day. Hard money was then the only kind of money in circulation, and the man who was so fortunate  as occasionally to have a little money in his buckskin purse took great delight at such times in permitting his fellow sufferers to listen to the musical jingle of the Spanish dollar, the quarter, or the pistareen in his pocket. But most of the money used in those days was what was called "cut money,"  that is, the   pieces  resulting  from cutting the Spanish dollars into eighths, so called, but, as it was very diffi­cult to distinguish the difference between an eighth and a ninth, or even a tenth, it was not infrequently the case that a dollar was cut into nine or ten pieces, each ninth or tenth, as well as the  eighth, passing as a  " bit," or 12 cents. This  was when the people were  more honest  than in  these degenerate days.  But in those days, in which we are all so glad we do not live,   hospitality was  more   unbounded, and   amusements were enjoyed with more abandon and zest than in our more strict and prudish times. Every excuse was seized upon for a gathering of the people young and old, corn huskings, log rollings,  house raisings, cotton pickings, general musters, etc.; but the greatest frolics of all were at the weddings, the festivities of which lasted for two or three days, or even an entire week. The fiddle and the dance enlivened the assemblages on every occasion, except religious ones. The modern innovation of the use of the fiddle, or, more appropriately, perhaps, in this connection, the violin, to assist church choirs in rendering sacred music, had not then been dreamed of, and if any one had had the temerity to make the suggestion of its use, the proposition would undoubt­edly have been considered a sacrilege. At these wedding festivi­ties one of the curious customs, to which great interest attached, was called "running for the bottle." This was a race on horse­back from the house of the bride to that of the groom, the winner in which was rewarded with a bottle of whisky. It is probably safe to assert, however, that the horses, which had done most of the hard work of the race, were not permitted to participate in the tonic and exhilarating effects of the intoxicant.

Jeffries' Letter.—
But the life of that day is well described in a letter by C. S. Jeffries to G. O. Hardeman, of Gray's Summit, who read a historical sketch of Franklin County at the cen­tennial anniversary, at Pacific, July 4, 1876. To Dr. Hardeman's sketch this history is largely indebted. Mr. Jeffries' letter was, in part, as follows:

My recollections of the history of Franklin County, when we immigrated to Missouri, now about fifty-six years ago, and being then a boy, must neces­sarily be very imperfect. In 1819, about the first of December, of that year, our party crossed the Mississippi River at St. Louis, then a small French vil­lage. The party consisted of my father's (Achilles Jeffries) family, Henry Brown and family, Charles Williamson and family, Zachariah Hale and family, Ambrose Ranson (single), Cuthbert Williamson, Daniel Moore. E. Kinuon and Miss Martha Pankey, with a, number of American citizens of African descent. On the 6th of December, of that year, we pitched our tents east of Labaddie Creek, near the house of James North, who had preceded us one or two years. The party then set about hunting winter quarters, some one place, some another. Williamson procured shelter in log cabins, near the point of the bluff where Labaddie Creek enters the Missouri bottom. My father wintered in a log cabin on the Crowe farm near by. The cabin was 12x14 feet, with a sort of smoke­house adjoining, which we used as a parlor. With the cabin arrangements, and putting double covers on the wagons, we passed the winter admirably. Occa­sionally, when we had visitors, the boys would resort to a fodder pen with their buffalo robes, lying on one and covering with the other, where we would pass the night very quietly. Being winter, there was no danger from snakes, but it would not have been so safe in summer, owing to the great number of rattle­snakes, copperheads, spreadheads and other reptiles equally poisonous. At that time the county of Franklin was in a great measure a wilderness, covered over with peavine, brush, rushes, buffalo grass, and every variety of growth and flowers. Stock kept in fine order winter and summer, with but little attention. There was but one road in the direction of our travel leading west from St. Louis, running near the Shaw mill-trace, crossing the Bourbeuse River, below where Goode's mill now stands. The settlements were mostly confined along the Missouri River. The public lands were all vacant. What was tilled was held by virtue of improvements, and woe be unto him who dared to enter an improvement over a neighbor's head.

The old settlers of the county, so far as I can now recollect names, were the Ridenhours, Calvins, Reeds, Robersons, Steeles, Zumalts, Bells, Deckers, Pursleys, Groffs, Coles, Henrys, Boles, Fullertons, Crowes, Duncans, Edwards, Farrars, Andersons, Caldwells, Sappingtons, McDonalds, Baileys, Maupins, Bull ins, Heatherlys, Browns, Greenstreets, Heasleys and many others, not necessary to mention. And here let me bear testimony to the truth that a

more honest, hospitable people was not to be found anywhere. One would be ashamed to have a lock on his door, among such people. They had neither locks nor bars. They had their hunting and bear dogs—no bull and watch dogs to guard off the thief. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

At that day our farming operations were limited. Corn, wheat, tobacco, cotton and flax were the principal crops raised, and for home consumption only. Farm rigging, bark collars, rawhide (tug-trace) harness, and single-trees of wood without iron; sleds and truck-wheel wagons, all wood. Milling was done at dif­ferent places, according to distance. We had the rawhide band wheel and the cog wheel mill. The most of the Labaddie settlers had their milling done at

or near Glencoe, on Hamilton's Creek, at a mill owned by Ninian Hamilton, one of the best men that God ever made. Our trading was done at St. Louis. Peltries, venison, hams, wild turkeys and furs, with cut money, nine "bits" to the dollar, were exchanged for such articles as were absolutely necessary for the family; no imaginary wants were gratified. Out of the cotton, flax and wool most of the clothing was manufactured by the wives and daughters. Not
much calico was worn then, only five yards to the dress, now twenty-five. Sub­sequently we did our trading at Newport, with Pres. G. Rule, when we began to use a little more calico.   * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * *

Each neighborhood manufactured its corn into the straight, the pure juice. All you had to do was to call and fill your canteen with the " agility," and report from time to time as the heavy dew or snake bite required. Doctors were few and far between, so were lawyers. Occasionally we would have a judge and an attorney or two along the river route, who held court at some barn or private shelter, dispatched business in a day or two, went their way, and nobody hurt.

Our spiritual wants were supplied by the Methodists and Baptists. There was no peddling or merchandising the gospel. The preachers went forth without purse or scrip, declaring the unsearchable riches of Christ. Those were the days of ignorance, when, I suppose, God winked at us. But, now a new light has sprung up, we only repent of not having obtained the highest seat in the synagogue, thereby obtaining a policy against fire."


Franklin County, Missouri Genealogy Trails
 © 2006 - 2008 by Genealogy Trails -  All Rights Reserved - With full rights reserved for original submitters.