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Greene County

Walnut Grove Township

Description – Early History - The First Settlers and Settlements – Pioneer Life – The “Firsts” – Items – Miscellaneous- Pleasant Grove Church – Concord Church – The Town of Walnut Grove – Masonic Lodge – Biographies of Old Settlers and Prominent Citizens.

Walnut Grove township is the smallest civil township in Greene county, buy by no means the least in importance.  It contains 24 sections of land, the most of which is very valuable.  The grove of walnut timber from which the township took its name was widely known from the earliest period of the settlement of the country.  Large quantities of this valuable sort of timber have been taken out of this township and Boone, in recent years, and much of it shipped to the furniture manufactories not only of the United States, but even to England and Germany.
The township occupies the extreme northwestern part of Greene county.  It comprises the south twenty sections of congressional township 31, in range 24, beginning at section 13, and ending with section 36.  The municipal township was formed out of Boone at the session of the county court in June, 1872.

It is difficult at this late day to determine who was the very first bona fide settler of Walnut Grover township.  Allen Williams came in 1832 and located in section 21, but some time afterward removed to Texas.  The same year came Michael Walsh and located on section 22.  Walsh was an Irishman.  It is stated that one William Mallory built the first cabin which stood on the farm of A.J. McElmore.
On the head of Turkey creek and some of the tributaries of the Sac river, the first settlers were Hugh Leeper, from East Tennessee, who came in October, 1834, and started a settlement on sections 21 and 28.  The land was pre-empted at first, and in December, 1838, Mr. Leeper entered 520 acres, the south half of section 21 and the north half of sections 28.  Capt. John (“Jack”) Williamson came from Middle Tennessee, in 1836; then three were Wm. G. Sumners, from Middle Tennessee; Matthew Sims, from North Carolina, and Miles Carey, from Kentucky.
In this settlement the first marriages remembered by Capt. Williamson were those of Wm. Acuff to Elizabeth Kelley and Stephen Blake to Sarah Kelly, both of which occurred in 1842, but probably there was a marriage antedating these.  The first white child born was a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Miles Carey, and the date of its birth is believed to have been in 1837.  The first death was that of Boone Chastine, of Kentucky, who died in 1838, and was buried at the present site of a saw mill.
Dr. Constantine Perkins was the first physician; Rev. Hiram Savage, a Baptist minister, held the first religious services at the residence of Wm. G. Sumners; the first school was taught on the land of Mr. Sumners, and the first school house was of logs and built by the contributed labor of the settlers, the job being bossed by Allen Williams.
Hugh Leeper was born in Hawkins county, East Tennessee, Sept. 14, 1783, and died on the old homestead March 3, 1851.  His wife, Elizabeth Leeper, was born in Knox county, East Tennessee, Nov. 11, 1787, and died January 3, 1829.
In another portion of the township, on and near Clear creek, in the corner of section 1, in what is now Boone township, the first settler was Wm. Killingsworth, who came from east Tennessee in 1839.  His descendants now live further north.  Mr. Killingsworth died in October, 1866.
In Mr. Killingsworth’s neighborhood the first marriage remembered was that of James Killingsworth and Susannah Kelly, December 24, 1846.  Rev. John Gilmore performed the ceremony.  A daughter of James and Susanah Killingsworth, named Eliza, was born Aug. 29, 1848, and it its claimed that she was the first female child born in the community.
Dr. A.S. Clinton was a pioneer physician, and Rev. Wm. Tatum, a Baptist, held religious services at an early day at Mt. Pleasant church, on Clear creek.  The nearest school house in early days was the Kelly school house, on section 15, near Walnut Grove.  During the first few years of Mr. Killingsworth’s settlement, game of all sorts was abundant, and it was but little trouble to go out and kill a deer or a number of turkeys at almost any time.  Wolves, too were disagreeably plentiful, and exasperatingly bold.  The latter animals were often hunted on horseback, and this was considered rare sport, and no doubt it was.
Other early settlers in Walnut Grove township are named, as Gibson A. Williams, who came from Tennessee in 1831; John and Andrew Bartleson, who arrived in 1832; Joseph Welch and his sons, John, Michael, and Charles, all Tennesseeans, who settled here in 1832 or 1833; Isaac Looney, who came from Tennessee and located in section 13 about the same time.
The first preachers in Walnut Grove township were Bryant Nowlin and James Mitchell, Methodists, and Elijah Williams, a Baptist.  Religious services were conducted at the house of Hugh Leeper, as early as the winter of 1834-5.
The first school was taught by F.F. Walker in the summer and fall of 1836 or 1837, in a little log cabin that stood about one-fourth of a mile west of where Walnut Grove now stands.
It was a long road to market and a hard one to travel in early days.  The Leepers were accustomed to haul their wheat to Boonville, away up on the Missouri river, and with the proceeds of its sale purchase the family supplies.  Mr. James Leeper, still living, has a vivid recollection of making such journeys.

Upon the first settlement of Walnut Grove nearly all the goods consumed were brought from St. Louis.  The settlers clubbed together, and one furnished a wagon, another a yoke of oxen, and usually two others made the journey.  Going down often the wagon was freighted with deer skins, which were exchanged in St. Louis for “store goods.”  The trip often occupied a month.
The women of the settlement made all or very nearly all the clothing worn, from the raw material, without the assistance or intervention of tailors and mantua-makers – a practice still in vogue in many parts of the county.
At first mortars and pestles were used to convert the corn into meal.  The first mill put up within reach of the settlement was at Orleans, Polk county – or where now is Polk county – by Madison Campbell and Ransom Cates.  It was a water mill and was built on Little Sac.  The next mill accessible was Carey & Perkins’ (or McElhanon & Perkins’) on clear creek, down where now is Boone township.
Capt. John Williamson states that when he put up his first house in this township, a log one, he gave a house raising, as was customary in that day, and settlers came to help him from 20 miles away.  The people were nothing if not accommodating and disposed to bear one another’s burdens.
For some years after the first settlement the Delaware and Cherokee Indians passed through the country occasionally on hunting expeditions.  They were always friendly.  When Capt. Williamson came a small band of Delawares was still here.  The settlers bought their cattle from them, paying for them in salt.  The price of a milch cow was a gallon of salt; of a three-year-old steer, a quart.

It is said that the grandfather of Mrs. McElhannon, old James Barham, who died in this county in the year 1868, had served in the Revolutionary war and at the time of his death was 112 years of age.  Mr. Barham was a native of North Carolina.
A very distressing tragedy occurred in this township in the month of January, 1880.  A young man named Sigel Williams, of Texas, was visiting his uncle, David Williams, who lived some three miles from Walnut Grove.  Young Williams and his cousin, Miss Jemima Williams, were playing pranks on one another.  Sigel jerked a chair from under his cousin letting her fall to the floor and assume a very unbecoming and indecorous attitude.  Then he ran out of the house and looking in at a window laughed tauntingly at the success of his practical joke.  Miss Williams caught up a loaded gun, ran out of doors, pointed it at her cousin, fired and the bullet pierced his forehead, killing him instantly.  She declared that she was quite certain that the gun “wasn’t loaded,” and that she had only aimed it in sport, and expressed great regret at her fearful mistake.  Others thought differently, however, and she was arrested and brought before Esq. Rountree, of Springfield, where she waived examination and gave bond to await the action of the grand jury.
There are some prominent stock men in Walnut Grove township, and among them is Mr. James Leeper.  In March, 1881, Mr. Leeper sold one lot of mules for $1,840, and in the winter of 1876 one lot of cattle and hogs brought him $1,700.

This church stands on section 36, township 31, range 24, and was organized in the year 1854.  The original members were John Crawford, K.E. Crawford, John Hayter, Elizabeth Hayter, S.A. Edmondson, Allen Edmondson, May Edmondson, Adaline Lawrence, Wm. Hayter, Sarah Hayter, H. Hammontree, Susan McCluer, John R. Earnest, I.J. Edmondson.  The first church was a frame building; it was built in the year 1854, the same year of the organization.  The present building, a frame, was erected in 1876 at a cost of $1,200, and dedicated August 26 of that year, by Rev. W.J. Garrett.  The ministers that have served up to this writing are G.W. Montgomery, Garnett Davenport, R.J. Sims, H. Tucker, Wm. Denby, Wm. Freese, W.C.Wheat.  The present membership is 68.

No very full report has been received from this church.  It was organized in 1873, and the following were some of the original members:  Geo. Claypool, John Williamson, I.J. Kelly, A.C. Bradley, Polly Hurst, Mary Kelly, Christy Claypool, Polly Williamson, and Matilda Bradley.  The church building, which stands on section 29, township 31, range 24, is a frame and was built in 1875, at a cost of about $500.  The first pastor was A.C. Bradley; second, Geo. White; third, A.C. Bradley; fourth, Nelson Homer.  Present membership, about 40.

The town of Walnut Grove is located on the southwest corner of section 14, the southeast corner of section 15, the northeast corner of section 22, and the northwest corner of section 23 (in tp. 31,  range 24).  It is beautifully located and as a trading point is of great value and benefit to the people of the surrounding country.
At an early day Joseph Moss, a Kentuckian, purchased an improvement which had been made previously on the present site of Walnut Grove and became a permanent settler.  The first store in the place was opened by Nelson Montgomery, who was nicknamed and well known by the title of “Sorrel Top” Montgomery.  Mr. Montgomery kept a stock of general merchandise.  The first blacksmith shop was run by William H. Cook, who was one of the very first to locate here.  S.A. Edmondson was another of the first residents.  In early days the site of Walnut Grove was widely known as “Possum Trot.”
Other stores followed Montgomery’s, and several families came into the place, but the town was not regularly incorporated until 1866.  Its present population is estimated at 250.

O’Sullivan Lodge No. 7, A.F. and A.M., was instituted by T.W. Coltrane and others.  The dispensation was issued in October, 1866.  The charter bears date, October 19, 1867.  Some of the charter members and first officers were T.W. Coltrane, A.C. Sloan and W.C. Wadlow.  Present officers are J.W. Blakey, W.M.; J.O. Edmondson, S.W.; James M. Fryar, J.W.; H.Ivey, Treas.; F.A. Barclay, S.D.; Wm. Owen, J.D.; R. Davis, tyler; A.F. Kerr, Sec.  The lodge meets in a frame hall that was built in the year 1867, at a cost of $800.  The present membership is 40.

 Greene County, Missouri; St. Louis, Western Historical Company (1883); transcribed by S.Gruver

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