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Holt County

Holt County History

By Howard W. Mills, Mound City Part OF Platte Purchase

Holt County is a part of the territory originally included in the Platte Purchase. For several years prior to the acquisition of the Platte Purchase by the Government, the residents of Missouri desired the annexation of this territory, now constituting the counties of Platte, Buchanan, Andrew, Holt, Nodaway and Atchison. Some of the richest, best watered and best timbered lands in the state would thus be opened for settlement, and the state would then have a natural boundary line, the Missouri River, between the white settlers and the Indians. The settlers in contiguous territory could also avail themselves of the Missouri River for a waterway, without being compelled to cross the territory inhabited by the Indians to do so. Through the senators and representatives of the state, a movement toward this end was started in 1835, which culminated September 17th of that year in the making of a treaty at Fort Leavenworth between William Clark, representing the United States Government, and twenty-six chiefs of the tribes of loways, Sacs and Foxes. Through the terms of this article of agreement, the above named tribes surrendered all their title to the lands comprising the Platte Purchase, the Government paying them therefor the sum of $7,500, and other considerations.


Holt County, when first organized, embraced not only the present boundaries, but also Atchison County, that part of Nodaway lying west of the Nodaway River, and extended north ten miles into Iowa, as Missouri then claimed jurisdiction over a strip of country ten miles wide along the southern part of Iowa. This boundary line dispute was settled at a later date. The original boundary lines as specified in the act forming the county, were as follows: "That portion of territory included within the following described limits, to-wit : Beginning in the middle of the main channel of the Missouri river at a point where the range line dividing 36 and 37 would intersect the same; thence north with said range line to the middle of the main channel of the Nodaway River ; thence up the middle of the channel of said river, to the northern boundary line of the state ; thence west with said boundary line, to the middle of the main channel of the Missouri River ; thence down said river, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to the place of beginning; shall be called Holt, in honor of David R. Holt, Esq., late representative from Platte county, any law to the contrary notwithstanding.''

In January, 1841, all that part of Holt County lying north of a line running from a point on the Missouri River, opposite the house of H. Wallace, later the G. Shulte place, to the main crossing of the Big Tarkio, about a mile above Craig, thence northeasterly to the state line, was cut off by the Legislature, and named Allen County. February 14, 1845, Allen County was abolished, Atchison and Nodaway were organized, and Holt County was reduced to its present form.

David Rice Holt

A brief life sketch of the man for whom Holt County was named will be appropriate and interesting at this point. Hon. David Rice Holt was born in Virginia about the year 1805. He was both a minister of the gospel and a physician, the church with which he was connected being the Presbyterian, "Old School," in which he had been reared. From Virginia he moved to Saline County, Missouri, about 1830. When the Platte Purchase was opened for settlement, Doctor Holt came to Platte County, locating on wild and unsurveyed land. The County of Platte being soon afterward formed, and the selection of a representative becoming the duty of the citizens, they at once expressed their preference for Doctor Holt. However, the constitution at that time prohibited ministers of the gospel from serving in the Legislature. The people of the county believing he was the only one who could properly attend to all the important details connected with the organization of the new county, he finally decided that he would sever his clerical relations with the church, and was elected to the Legislature in August, 1840. His death occurred at Jefferson City in December, 1840, and his body was interred in the State Cemetery.

First County Court

March 24, 1841, the first County Court of Holt County convened at the house of William Thorpe, on the northwest quarter of Section 12, Township 59, Range 33, now in Lewis Township, adjoining the west line of Forbes Township. Following is the record of official business transacted by this body:

"Harrison G. Nowland, James Crowley and Joshua Adkins, then and there produced from His Excellency, Thomas Reynolds, governor of the state of Missouri, their several commissions appointing them justices of the Holt county court, together with the oath of office therein endorsed. The oath of office was taken before Wm. Thorpe, Jr., justice of the peace."

Harrison G. Nowland was made presiding officer of the court, and Bayless B. Grigsby was appointed clerk pro tem, and before adjournment clerk until the legal termination of the office. The second order was the enrollment of John W. Kelley as attorney to practice in this court. On the second day of the session it was ordered that Joshua Horn and Josiah Shelton be granted a grocers' license for the ensuing six months, by paying a state tax thereon of $10, the store to be kept at their residence. R. M. Barkhurst was granted a license to keep a ferry across the Nodaway River, at the rapids thereof, for the time of twelve months, without paying license thereon, the following rates to be charged: "For crossing a man, 6I/4 cents ; man and horse, 121/2 cents ; two-horse wagon and team, empty, 37l^ cents; two-horse wagon and team loaded, 75 cents; sixhorse wagon and team, empty, 50 cents; six-horse wagon and team, loaded, $1.00; for crossing loose horses and cattle, each, 3 cents; hogs and sheep, each, 1% cents." Green B. Thorpe was appointed assessor for the year 1841, "and his bond was fixed at $500, with Wm. Thorpe as his security. Adjournment was made to meet at Wm. Thorpe's on the second Thursday in the month following

At the adjourned term of the County Court on the second Thursday of the April following, the division of Holt County into municipal townships was effected, only three such townships being at that time formed, which were : Nodaway, which extended north about sixteen miles into what is now Atchison County, and also included a strip of the present Nodaway County; Lewis Township and Nishnabotna Township. Out of these from time to time there have been formed twelve townships, namely, Benton, Bigelow, Clay, Forbes, Forest, Hickory, Lewis, Liberty, Lincoln, Minton, Nodaway and Union.

The First Election

In May, 1841, occurred the first election of justices of the peace in Holt County, with the following results: Lewis Township, John Gibson and Gallatin Adkins, justices of the peace, and John Lewis, constable ; in Nodaway Township, Abraham Brown and James C. Templeton were elected justices of the peace ; in Nishnabotna Township, John H. Jackson and Jacob McKissock were elected justices of the peace, and James Handley, constable.

Selection of County Seat

The most important order of business for the County Court in session June 23, 1841, was the rendering of a report to that body by the county seat commissioners, which was as follows : "In pursuance of an act passed by the late Missouri legislature, appointing the undersigned as commissioners to select a permanent seat of justice for Holt county, and in pursuance also of an order of the county court of Holt county, and having first been duly sworn according to law, proceeded to discharge the duties devolving on them, according to the acts of the legislature, and the requisitions of the order of the county court. After having made an examination for a suitable site whereon to locate a permanent seat of justice for said county, we have selected the following quarter section of land, for said county seat, lying in range 38, township 60, and the east half of the southeast quarter of section 27, and the west half of the southwest quarter of section 26, which said seat of justice is to be known and called 'Finley. ' Given under our hand this 23d day of June, 1841. John A. Williams, Edward Smith, Travis Finley."

It will be seen by the above report of the commissioners that the county seat of Holt County was first named Finley. This name was changed to Oregon at the session of the County Court, October 22, 1841, at which time the commissioners presented the court with a plat of the town, which was ordered certified to the recorder's office for record, and the following additional order was made :'' Ordered that the county seat of Holt County be called and known by the name of Oregon, and which name is hereby given to said county seat."

At this same session of the County Court, which was convened at the residence of Gilbert Ray, it was '' ordered by the court that the commissioners for the seat of justice for this county, proceed to lay off said seat of justice into lots, 80 feet in front, 150 feet in length, and squares containing 8 lots, with an avenue 60 feet wide, and one alley 14 feet in width, making four streets, two north and south, and two east and west, one of which on each side of the public square, each 80 feet wide; all other streets to be 60 feet wide ; the stake stuck by the judges to be the center of the public square. Provided that he divide into lots, avenues and alleys, from the said public square east, only one square, south two, and west two, and north two squares, and that he make to this court, at its next session, a report of his proceeding, making a plat of the town." The first sale of lots in the new town site of Oregon, the county seat, took place on October 21 and 22, 1841, a more detailed account of which is given in the history of the Town of Oregon, elsewhere in this chapter.

County Was Poor

In that early day, real problems of liow to make one dollar do the work of two, faced the County Court. This is evidenced by the records, an order of the court at their September term, 1841, being of interest : '' Ordered, that whereas it is the opinion of this court that as the county is poor and thinly settled, it is not the interest of this county that the grand jurors thereof should be paid. It is therefore ordered that no compensation shall be paid to the grand jurors of this county." Another order in this term is as follows : " It is considered by the court that $500 is necessary to be raised for defraying the expenses of the county for the present year, and that on subjects of taxation the county tax shall exceed the state tax 100 per cent; and on all licenses, ferries excepted, the county tax shall exceed that of the state 100 per cent; on ferries the county and state tax shall be the same. '' At the October term the county collector reported the total of county revenue collected for the year to be $82,371 1/2. At the January term, 1842, Gilbert Ray, treasurer, made settlement for the preceding year, and reported a balance of twentyfive cents on hand. He was "therefore charged with the same." The sheriff also came into court and made settlement for county tax for 1841, and is charged with the sum of $266.23.

First Circuit Court

The first term of Circuit Court in and for Holt County was held at the house of Wm. Thorpe, beginning Thursday, March 4, 1841. Hon. David R. Atchison, appointed by the governor, was the first judge of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit, and he presided at this first session in Holt County. Gen. Andrew S. Hughes was appointed clerk pro tem. The names of the first grand jurors are as follows : Joshua Adkins, Isaac Massic, Gilbert Ray, George Drane, Harmon G. Noland, Green B. Thorp, B. B. Grigsby, R. H. Russell, Thomas Crowley, Roland Burnett, John Gibson, John Russell, John Starrill, James Kimsey, Henry Holder, John Morgan and David Jones. The first case that came up for trial was State vs. Joseph Roberts under indictment for trading with the Indians. The sheriff reported that he was unable to find the defendant and thus was the first case disposed of.

First Records

The first instrument recorded in Holt County was a chattel mortgage given by Tolbert Bass to Henry Holder. The security consisted of the following property : One roan mare and colt, one yoke of oxen and wagon, and one cow and calf. This was to secure the payment of a note of $31.81.

The second instrument recorded is a lease, between Jonathan Keeney and Lazarus and Jeremiah Phillips. The property leased is described as follows: "The farm and improvements thereon, on which the said J. Keeney now resides, together with the distillery and all appurtenances thereto, two wagons and three yoke of oxen, two plows and three hoes, and fifty head of hogs."

Early Marriages

The first marriages recorded in Holt County were the following : On July 7, 1841, John A. Benson and Miss Kimsey; August 9, 1841, John M. Briggs and Elizabeth Follen; November 17, 1841, Wm. Barrett and Miss Mary Jane Jones ; December 9, 1841, Cain Owen and Mary Nichols; December 19, 1841, Absalom Taylor and Mrs. Parmelia Walton; January 18, 1842, Crittenden A. Root and Phoebe Ann Baldwin.

First Settlements

The red man, with his accoutrement oŁ tomahawk, bow and arrow and wigwam, had scarcely crossed the Big Muddy when the tide of white settlement began to break over the lonesome but very fertile prairies of Holt County. Where had echoed only the cry of the wild bea,st and the war whoop of the savage, now resounded the ax blow of the pioneer and the teamster's shouts. The wigwam was replaced with the rude, but hospitable log cabin, and the squaw bedecked Avith the brilliant hued blanket or animal skin gave place to the brave wife of the pioneer, willing to share with her helpmate the vicissitudes and dangers of a life in the wilderness. To these heroes and heroines, our foreparents, is due reverent homage, and with thankful hearts we should, in a brief review of this early history, try to imagine ourselves back in their time and surroundings.

How wonderfully far we have come since the early '40s. How many of the comforts and luxuries which we have now come to look upon as necessities, those sturdy settlers were deprived of. Transportation— an occasional steamer up and down the river, horseback riding, ox team ; fuel—the wood cut and carried from the surrounding forest. Clothing—homespun ; literature—the Bible and McGutfey 's speller; amusements—hunting, fishing, checker playing; society events—quilting, husking and spelling ])ees, and log raisings ; no railways, no daily mail, no telephone, no automobile. But the conditions were uncomplained of, for they had come to conquer a new country; they expected difficulties and privations, and with cheerful hearts they went bravely into their tasks. All hail to the pioneers—they were heroes!

First Settlers

Among the older states, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee were perhaps more largely represented in the settlement of the Platte Purchase than any others, and many of the present citizens trace their ancestry to these early pioneers.

In the settlement of Holt County, how^ever, the first pioneers were from the State of Indiana, coming in the early spring of 1838. They were Peter Stephenson and his brother from Parke County, Indiana. These men settled about five miles southeast of the present Town of Oregon. In the spring of 1838, Judge R. H. Russell, John Sterritt, Jolm Russell and James Kee came from Indiana to the Platte Purchase. Judge Russell went by steamboat to Clay County, where he remained until the month of August, raising a crop of corn, when he was joined by others who had come overland. The whole party then came on to Holt County, locating near the Stephenson brothers.

Judge R. H. Russell was the first postmaster in the county, the post office being at Thorp's Mill, and was kept in Judge Russell's house. Thorp's Mill was named after John Thorp, who built the first mill on Mill Creek, about two miles southeast of the present site of Oregon. John Baldwin also came from Parke County, Indiana, in the fall of 1839,. as did also George and Smith Mclntyre, and all settled in the same locality. John M. Briggs, the Widow Jackson and family came in 1840.

Roland Burnett, Harmon G. Noland, John Gibson and others settled in the vicinity of the present location of Oregon in 1839. Burnett established a claim on what is now the site of Oregon, but it was afterward decided that the county possessed the title, and Mr. Burnett moved to a farm north of that town.

The Blairs and the Baldwins were the earliest settlers in Benton Township. John M. Blair, with his sons, Uriah and James, reached Holt County in April, 1839, and located south of the present site of Mound City. The Blairs left Indiana in 1827, went to Illinois, afterward to Iowa, and came to Holt County in 1839. John M. Blair died in the summer of 1849, on Carson River, Nevada, while enroute to the California gold fields. In this same settlement Jeremiah Baldwin and his brother, Daniel, and son, Lambert, located in the fall of 1839. W. A. and Abraham Sharp settled in the locality still known as Sharp 's Grove near the present site of Craig, in 1841, and about the same time Robert and John Nickols gave the name of Nichols Grove to their neighborhood in the east part of the county.

German settlers were the first to begin the improvement of the northwestern part of the county and these were followed by others of their countrymen, who, with their descendants, are among the most prosperous and influential citizens of the county. Among these John H. Roselius was the first settler, and he was closely followed by Henry Bankers, Henry Peters and Andrew Buck.

Whig Valley, it might be assumed, was first settled by a man of that political persuasion, and that is true. Theodore Higley, an enthusiastic whig, was the first settler, and gave the name to this fertile valley.

Topography and Soil

Holt County has a diversity of topography as well as soil. The west part of the county extends into the Missouri River Valley, and the east part into the valley of the Nodaway River, and here is found the very rich bottom land. A range of bluffs extends from southeast to northwest through the county and along these is found the peculiar loess soil, especially adapted to fruit growing. Along on either side of this line of hills are located some of the finest apple orchards in the state and Holt County holds high rank as a producer of this popular fruit. Orchards of forty to eighty acres are not uncommon and the orchardists are giving scientific care of their trees special attention. The finest of corn, wheat, oats, hay, and especially alfalfa are also raised in abundance. The made soil of the second bottom seems to be peculiarly adapted to the raising of alfalfa and during the past few years this has become one of the most valuable crops of the county.


The great Missouri River forms the western boundary line of Holt County, separating it from Kansas and Nebraska on the west. Other important streams that flow through parts of the county are the Nodaway, Big Tarkio, and Little Tarkio rivers.

Mound City

In 1840 Thomas Ferguson settled at the mouth of the south fork of Davis Creek and built at the foot of the bluff at this point a double log cabin, in which he entertained the travelers. He had bought this claim from a man named Davis, from whom this creek was named. About 1844 Ferguson sold the place to Andrew P. Jackson. For years afterward this place was known as Jackson's Point, and became a noted stopping point for stage travel from St. Joseph to Council Bluffs, then called Cainsville. This stage line was originally started by a company of Mormons and they afterward sold out to Frost, the great overland mail contractor. The first post office in what is now Benton Township was located here and was called Jackson's Point post office. In 1855 this post office was moved across Davis Creek to the only store, then on the site of the present Mound City. It was then kept by Galen Crow and the name of the post office was changed to North Point. In 1853 Jackson sold out to Galen Crow and moved to California. This building, which was once a famous hostelry, is now owned by W. C. Andes and, though it has been remodeled and repaired, for the most part the old landmark stands intact. As early as 1852, there stood on the east boundary of the present Town of Mound City, a blacksmith shop, operated by E. Peter Forbes. This was the first house to stand on the site of the town, which was laid out in 1857. In 1855 Galen Crow put up a building in which he placed a stock of goods. This location is now occupied by an old brick structure in which is the W. M. McKee poultry store. It was into this store that the post office was moved from Jackson's Point and named North Point.

On February 18, 1857, a town was laid out on the north of Davis Creek, and incorporated under the name of Mound City. The promoters of this enterprise were Wm. Jones, Galen Crow, Ira Peter, Geo. E. Glass and John Burnett. The first sale of town lots occurred May 25, 1857, at which time forty-two lots were sold, ranging in price from $180, paid by F. Ruffner for lot 1, in block 3, to $22 paid by George P. Terhune for lot 6 in block 42. The first residence erected on the town site after it was laid out was a small frame building on State Street, the present site of the Midland Hotel. In August of the same year the first schoolhouse was built, a small frame building on lot 12 in block 40. This building was afterward converted into a residence. In the fall of 1857 the town company made up a bonus of several hundred dollars and persuaded Absalom Hoover to erect a steam sawmill in the east part of the town site.

When the Civil war broke out the town did not contain more than a dozen houses, and the troublesome times of the '60s almost made an end to the young city. In 1870 John H. Glenn, of Whig Valley, secured a controlling interest in the town, the business establishments including two small stores, one of which was kept by A. N. Glenn and Major Dill, and the other by Hurd Brothers. There was also a blacksmith shop. The town did not make much growth until the spring of 1873, when a "boom" developed, and with more or less steady growth, this city, the metropolis of Holt County, had attained a population of about eighteen hundred. Located as it is in almost exactly the geographical center of 'the county and enjoying good railway facilities, the town has a large business patronage. Its schools are the best in the county, fourteen instructors being employed, and the high school is listed in the firstclass rank. A new $50,000 modern school building was completed in 1915, and is one of the best in the state. A eomplete sewerage system, a complete waterworks system, twenty-four hour electric service for both lights and power, and splendidly lighted streets give to Mound City metropolitan prestige that brings to it the best of citizenship. In 1914 State Street, the main business thoroughfare, was paved, and this improvement will be extended to the residence sections of the city. An elegant "White Way" of ornamental lights was also installed throughout the business section in 1914.

Four church organizations maintain pastorates in Mound City, namely, the Methodist, Christian, Presbyterian and Evangelical. The lodges that meet regularly are the Masons, Odd Fellows, Woodmen of the World, ^Modern Woodmen, Rebekahs, Woodmen Circle, Yeomen, and Knights and Ladies of Security. The town had two newspapers, the Mound City News and the Jeffersonian, until February, 1914, when they were consolidated under the name of the Mound City News Jeffersonian, by Howard W. Mills, who owns and edits the paper. This paper has a large circulation, and is printed entirely at home.

One of the greatest steps of progress in the development of Holt County has been the reclamation of a large area of the Missouri River bottom lying west and north of Mound City, through the efforts of the Mound City Land Company, of which John S. Smith, president of the Holt County Bank in Mound City, is president. He was elected president of the land company about thirty years ago when the enterprise was inaugurated. Through a thorough system of drainage, in the establishment of which many thousands of dollars have been expended, a great tract of splendid, producing farm land has taken the place of a series of lakes and swamps. Corn and small grain of the very best quality are here raised in abundance, and the land has advanced from a few dollars per acre to from $100 to $165. Across the valley from Mound City to Bigelow, where for many years there was an impassable road during a large part of the year, there is now a fine graded highway, made and maintained by the business men of Mound City and other enterprising citizens. This land, which was once the duck hunters rendezvous, now yields its wealth of good corn, wheat and alfalfa.


As mentioned earlier in this chapter, Finley, now Oregon, the county seat of Holt County, was laid out June 21, 1841. In October, 1841, occurred the first sale of town lots in Oregon. The prices paid ranged from $2.06 to $13.20. This sale was held by the commissioners appointed to locate the county seat, who were named in an early part of this chapter. On account of an error in the original platting of the town, whereby the town site was located on two different quarters, the County Court ordered at their April term, 1842, that all purchasers of lots at the first sale be given the privilege of relinquishing their lots, provided that the relinquishment be made before May 14th of that year. Several purchasers availed themselves of the benefit of this order. To straighten out this error, it was finally necessary to secure a special act of Congress legalizing the location of the town site, and twelve months was given the commissioner wherein to enter the land. On his appearance a day or two before the end of the year, the authorities at the land office at Plattsburg, refused to accept the tender. The matter was finally decided in favor of the town by the United States commissioner of the land office at Washington, and on May 16, 1842, occurred the second sale of lots by special order. At this sale the prices ranged from $36 to $115.

In the fall of 1841, Daniel Zook, Sr., emigrated from Ohio and settled in Holt County, near the present site of Oregon. He brought with him a small stock of merchandise, and sold a few goods that season. The following winter he went back to Ohio, returning with his family. His sons became prominent business men, and the family is still very influential, being one of the wealthiest in the county. Daniel Zook, Sr., built the first house in Oregon. This was on a lot south of the present site of the courthouse. In this house, in June, 1842, he and his son opened for sale the first stock of goods in Oregon. In the fall of the same year Daniel Zook, Sr., died, and on the occasion of his death the County Court located the cemetery at the southeast corner of the town site and there the body of Daniel Zook was buried, the pioneer merchant of the first town in Holt County. His son, William Zook continued to operate this business left by his father and also was engaged in business at Forest City. He afterward entered the banking business and died at St. Joseph in 1876, a well known financier of this state. The second store started in Oregon was opened by McLaughlin and Robidoux in October, 1842. Poor and Ross started the first blacksmith shop in the same year. The third store established in the town was moved in the fall of 1842 from a trading post at Iowa Point Landing, about five miles southwest of Oregon on the Missouri River, by Mcintosh and Banks.

The first school in Oregon was taught by John Collins. It was opened in the fall of 1843 in a squatter's cabin which stood in the northeast part of town. The first minister of the gospel who preached in Oregon was the Rev. F. M. Marvin, afterward a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church. His first sermon was delivered in the fall of 1842 in the old frame courthouse, the first erected in the county. In those days the bishop-to-be was a circuit rider and it is said that on his first visit to Oregon his clothing presented such a dilapidated appearance that the pioneer merchant, Mr. Zook, presented him with jeans sufficient to make him a suit of clothes. The first post office established in the county was in Lewis Township and when the Town of Oregon was established the office was moved to that place from Thorp's Mill, The first hotel in Oregon was a log house with four rooms below and two above. In that day this was an important structure and stood on the northwest comer of the public square. It was in this building that occurred one of the worst disasters in the history of the early pioneers, when six persons lost their lives. On the evening of July 8, 1851, the building was struck by lightning. The bolt exploded a barrel of brandy, one of alcohol, and one of whisky. The burning liquid flooded the barroom and of the seven men who were in the room only one escaped alive and he was terribly burned.

The first newspaper published in Holt County was the Holt County News, its first issue appearing July 1, 1857, and printed at Oregon. S. H. B. Kundiff was the editor. Since that date there have been several newspapers born and passed away in Oregon. At present one paper, the Holt County Sentinel, published and owned by D. P. Dobyns and Tom Curry, serves well the citizens of the town and tributary territory and also has a wide circulation throughout the entire county. The Sentinel was established in 1865.

Oregon is now a handsome little city of about one thousand two hundred people.  The descendants of the pioneers whose names we have mentioned, are now wealthy and with good taste they have erected beautiful homes upon the ground where once stood the log cabins of their parents and grandparents.

One of the enterprises of which the Oregon people are justly proud is their interurban railway, connecting that city with the main line of the Burlington at Forest City. This railway was built in 1908 at a cost of about one hundred thousand dollars, and the capital was all furnished by the citizens of Oregon. Good passenger and freight service is maintained and it is said that the stockholders are receiving a fair rate of dividends on their investment. At any rate, it is a monument to the pluck and enterprise of the people of the town, who were shut in from the ordinary means of traffic and thus, with great financial effort, literally placed their beautiful little city "on the map."


Maitland is located in Clay Township. The official plat of this town was filed with the county recorder in the year 1880. It is now a thriving little city, serves a large trade territory, and is surrounded by very valuable and productive farming lands. The town grew so rapidly that an addition was found necessary. Within a little over a year after the first plat was filed, an addition was laid out. At the present time there are no vacant residences in the town and a large amount of business is transacted. It is on the Nodaway Valley branch of the Burlington Railway. The Nodaway River forms the town's east boundary. The first improvements in the town were erected by J. M. Wensch & Co., of St. Joseph, who erected a lumber office in June, 1880. The second house was moved from "Whig Valley by E. F. Weller and located on the south side of Main and First streets for a store. Mr. Weller was the first postmaster. C. D. Messenger came from St. Joseph and built a store in which he placed a hardware stock; Garnett and Swope then erected a store building, and placed therein a drug stock; then came David Kennedy, W. M. Ritchie and others, all of whom finished their improvements before August, 1880. The first church was erected by the Christian denomination in 1880 and the organization was effected by Elder W. F. Waite. The Methodist Church was also erected in 1880 and the Rev. James Showalter was the first pastor. The only newspaper, the Herald, was founded in 1881, under the name of the Independent, J. J. Moulton being the first proprietor. 0. R. King became the editor and proprietor later. Under his management the increasing business required the enlargement of the paper, and he was receiving the loyal support his efforts merited. In June, 1914, 0. R. King was called by death from his duties, being stricken while working at his desk. The responsibility of editing and publishing the Herald now fell upon the daughter. Miss Mayme King, who with splendid zeal and pluck is keeping up the standard of the paper, and is making a financial success of the business, too.


One of the busiest towns of the county is Craig, located in Union Township, on the main line of the Burlington Railway between St. Joseph and Omaha. This town was laid out in the fall of 1868 by Robert "W. Frame, Christ Shultz and Samuel Ensworth. The first merchant was A. W. Hawley, who opened his place of business in the fall of 1868. Soon afterward Shultz and Frame, who were selling goods and keeping a post office at a trading point called Tarkio, 1 3/4 miles northeast of the site of Craig, moved their stock to the new town, J. A. Orange erected the first building in the town in 1868, a hotel, which he called the Grant and Sherman House. In 1874 A. P. Davenport built a flouring mill which was in operation for several years.

The first school in the town was taught by C. A. Doughty. The first bank was managed by Bilby and Heaton, and was opened in 1877. The first newspaper published in Craig was the Enterprise, which was established in 1871 by C. H. Clark. This paper suspended in 1879. The Gazette was afterward started but it ceased publication in 1881. The Leader is the present newspaper of Craig and is ably edited and managed by the owner, W. H. Hambaugh. The Leader is a worthy representative of the prosperous town which supports it.

Mr. Hambaugh is also postmaster of Craig, being appointed to that position in 1914.

Forest City

Forest City, an important trading point in Forest Township, is on the Burlington main line of railway between Kansas City, Denver and Omaha. It is one of the oldest towns in the county. Until the building of the railway eliminated the river traffic for shipping purposes. Forest City was an important point as a destination for great amounts of merchandise for this section of the country. Both incoming and outgoing traffic and the importance this business gave the town made of it a lively place until the summer of 1868, when the fickle Missouri River suddenly made a swerve to the west, leaving Forest City several miles inland. This fact seems incredible today, but the old brick warehouse, through which thousands of dollars worth of merchandise was annually loaded and unloaded to and from the Missouri River steamboats, still stands in good preservation, mutely telling of the vagaries of Nature. "Where once flowed the deep channel of the Missouri, there are now valuable farming lands, raising great crops of corn, wheat and oats. The shouts of the boat hands are succeeded by the conductor's "All aboard," and the locomotive's whistle is heard where once the river steamer 's blast reverberated from the Missouri bluffs to the Kansas and Nebraska hills.

The Town of Forest City was laid out by a company composed of Tootle and Farleigh, Zook and Patterson, and Nave and Turner. The land on which the town was laid out was purchased of Joel Baldwin. The first sale of lots took place May 15, 1857, and the place at once began to be settled and built up rapidly. Many of the names which composed the first business firms will be recognized by persons familiar with this section of the state as members of wholesale and retail firms in the city of St. Joseph, for several of Forest City's early business men here amassed the foundations of fortunes which were afterward invested in the larger business opportunities of St. Joseph. The first store building was erected by Tootle, Farleigh and Company, in the summer of 1857. In the same year. Nave, Turner and Company, put up a store building that was later occupied by Ford and Smith. From the time of its beginning until 1868, Forest City was a place of considerable importance as a shipping point. From this port vast amounts of produce was shipped by water. Hemp was a great staple in those days and as many as thirteen steamboats have been lined up before the Forest City wharf, waiting for their cargoes of hemp and other products. The caving of the river banks about the time the Missouri bade adieu to Forest City, destroyed about a third of the town's residence section. In the summer of 1868 the last boat landed at Forest City and was moored to the rails of the Kansas City, St. Joseph and Council Bluffs Railway which that year had been completed to that point. This last steamboat was the "Carrie P. Kuntz" and on this vessel the Zooks made their last shipment by water. This shipment was 3,700 sacks of corn. On the following day the Missouri River was flowing 2^ miles west of the town and between lay a vast area covered by the sediment of the forsaken river bed. In its palmiest days the mercantile business of Forest City amounted to as much as three hundred thousand dollars annually, besides the vast amount of shipping that was done. The first newspaper in Forest City was the Monitor, started in 1858. A number of newspaper enterprises have been launched and shipwrecked in the meantime, and at present the Forest City News seems to have established itself permanently under the capable management of Mr. and Mrs. Fred W. Beavers, who are giving the town an excellent paper.


Corning is farthest north of the towns of the county. It is located on the main line of the Burlington Railway and is also the junction where the Tarkio branch connects with the main line. The town was laid out in the fall of 1868, by Horace Martin, who came from Ohio to Missouri. He was a man of distinguished scientific attainments, being a member and collaborator of the Smithsonian Institute at Washington, D. C, and was an observer in the employ of the United States Signal Service. He was one of the first settlers of the town. The first merchant was Conrad Grab, who moved his store in 1868 from Hemme's Landing, about two miles west of the site of Corning, to the new town. Shortly afterward, Saunders Brothers opened a stock of goods in this town. The first postmaster was Conrad Grab. He was appointed in 1868 and was succeeded in 1869 by R. W. Frame. The first newspaper was published by J. R. Dodds from 1878 to 1881, in the interest of the greenback party. The Corning Eagle was started later and in 1882 was moved to Fairfax, Atchison County. The Corning Mirror, established ten years ago, is edited by C. N. Dobyns.


Bigelow is located in Bigelow Township, on the main line of the Burlington Railway, and is 3% miles west of Mound City. The town was started in 1868, when Capt. H. L. Williams opened a store, the business being conducted by W. A. Bostwick, who was succeeded in 1869 by H. C. Haines. In March, 1869, T. D. Frazer and Brother started a general store, which continued business for a number of years. Dr. J. P. Jackson in 1870 opened the first drug store and in 1875 sold out to C. S. Armstrong. The first blacksmith was C. H. Graves, who settled there and opened his shop in 1869. He sold his shop to John L. Spohn, in 1881. The first hotel was built in 1869 by Robt. Notley. The first postmaster was H, C. Haines, appointed in 1869. Until the building of the Nodaway Valley Railway in 1880, Bigelow being the junction point Avhere this branch connects with the main line, the town was one of the best shipping points in this section of the country. This new railway gave new shipping facilities at Mound City to the large territory to the east, and thus much of the business of Bigelow was transferred to Mound City. The town is still an important trading point, however, and has some splendid brick business buildings.


Forbes is located in Forbes Township, in the extreme south portion of Holt County. It was laid out in 1869 by Levi Devorss. As early as 1839, Jonathan Keeney preempted the quarter section on which the town now stands. This was afterward entered by Thomas Mulholland, who in 1851 sold it to Levi Devorss. The town was established upon the completion of the Kansas City, St. Joseph and Council Bluffs Railway and the first train of cars ran through the site of the town August 9, 1868. The first building erected after the establishment of the town was the store building in which Herron and Taylor sold goods during the summer in which the road was building. In 1876 Shirley and Taylor built at Forbes the first steam flouring mill in the township. It was destroyed by fire soon after the mill was in operation. The first postmaster at Forbes or, as the office was then called, Elm Grove was Levi Devorss, the founder of the town. At present Forbes is a live trading point, and an important center of the apple raising industry.


Fortescue, the youngest town in the county, was established in the year 1886, shortly after the building of the St. Joseph and Denver branch of the Burlington Railway. This is an important shipping center, large amounts of wheat, corn and hay being shipped from here. Thousands of acres of the fine valley wheat land lie adjacent to Fortescue and it is from this point that most of the grain is shipped. Among the men whose means and influence had much to do with the establishment and development of Fortescue were Abraham Welton, Dr. I. M. Minton, Henry Alkire, John Q. Shepherd and J. E. Slater.

New Point

New Point is an inland village, located in Hickory Township. The splendid farming country surrounding the toM^n and the long distance from larger market places, make the few stores and other business establishments here a great convenience to the citizens of that locality. The town was first started by L. D. Barnes, the pioneer merchant of the place, who commenced selling goods there in a building he erected in 1869. The town and post office were first called Grant, but the name was changed to New Point in 1875, another town of the same name having been established in the state. In earlier days quite a thriving business was done here, there being at one time several general stores, a drug store, a wagon shop and a shoe shop.


Richville is another inland village, located in Nodaway Township. A store is the only business house at the present time. The village was laid out in 1860 by Thos. Templeton and his son-in-law, Mr. Gregg, was the first to sell goods here

Extinct Towns

Jackson's Point—hotel and store was founded in 1840 in Benton Township. It was absorbed by Mound City in 1855.

The little Town of Tarkio, 1% miles northeast of the present site of Craig, also known as Big Spring, was located at the foot of the bluff. It was the regular stopping place of the stage travel between St. Joseph and Council Bluffs. The Town of Craig finally absorbed the business interests of this village.

Whig Valley was first settled and named by Theodore Higley, in 1846. It was afterward known as White's Ford, from a crossing on the Nodaway River. The first store was opened in Whig Valley in 1870. The town was abandoned when Maitland was founded in 1880.

Dallas was the name of a town started in Forbes Township in 1843, one mile above the mouth of the Nodaway River. It was for several years an important shipping point and for a considerable time a hemp press and several large warehouses stood here.

West Union was the name of a rival town of Dallas, laid out between Dallas and the mouth of the Nodaway in 1844. The enterprise failed.

Hemme's Landing was established in 1844 by a German, Henry Hemme, and was about two miles west of the present site of Corning. At one time it was the most important trading point between St. Joseph and Council Blufs. The encroachments of the Missouri River drove the residents of this town to Corning, the location being deserted in 1868.

At Thorp's Mill, near the present site of Oregon, was the first post office in Holt County. It was established in 1839. At that time they had mail once a week and four letters were considered a heavy mail. Postage in those days was 25 cents a letter.

Finley, laid out in June, 1841, was the name of the place selected as the county seat. The name was changed to Oregon in October, 1841. Lewisville was a town enterprise that was laid out March 5, 1860, on Section 19, Township 62, Range 40, by Jasper G. and Elizabeth Lewis. Nothing ever came of the project.

Marietta was the name of a town that was laid out on Section No. 20, adjoining Lewisville, four years after the laying out of that town. The small stores established there soon failed, and the towns were only boat landings.


The first railroad commenced in Holt County was known as the Platte Country Railway and had been constructed as far as Savannah in Andrew County, when the breaking out of the Civil war caused a suspension of the building. The grading and masonry were almost completed through the southern part of the county as far as Forest City, but the road was never completed. Holt County had subscribed $75,000 toward this road and issued bonds for half that amount. These bonds were promptly paid when due after the war, though no benefit ever came from the expenditure.

The Kansas City, St. Joseph & Council Bluffs Railroad was built through the county in 1869. It is now owned and operated by the Burlington Railway Company, and is their main line between Kansas City, St. Joseph and Omaha. The Nodaway Valley branch of the Burlington Railway was completed in 1879. It connects with the main line at Bigelow. The Tarkio Valley branch of the Burlington was completed in 1881. It connects with the main line at Corning and crosses the northwest corner of Holt County.

The Oregon Interurban Railway was built in 1908 and connects Oregon, the county seat, with Forest City, on the main line of the Burlington. It was built by private capital furnished by citizens of Oregon. The road handles all kinds of freight and a good passenger service is maintained.

Early Ministers and Churches

The first minister in Holt County was the Rev. G. B. Thorp, a Hardshell Baptist. He preached in the first church building erected in the county, which stood on Section 36, Township 60, Range 38, about two and a half miles southeast of the present Town of Oregon. The building has long ago disappeared. The members of the congregation at the organization were : Judge James Kimsey and wife. Judge James Adkins and wife, the Rev. G. B. Thorp, John Thorp, Abraham Brown and Ethelbert Brown. The Rev. Thorp began his ministry in Holt County in 1841 and continued a period of thirty years, dying in 1871. He was also a physician and practiced medicine in Holt County.

The first person to preach the gospel in Benton Township was the' Rev. E. Marvin, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, who in later years became a bishop. He preached the first sermon in this township at the home of J. N. Blair, south of Mound City.

The first church edifice erected in Bigelow Township was located on the east bank of Big Tarkio, on the southeast quarter of Section 32, Township 61, Range 39. This church was built in 1860 by the Methodist Episcopal Church South. The first sermon was preached in this church on July 4, 1860, by the Rev. Dodd of Calloway County. In the winter of 1871 this building was destroyed by fire.

The first church or class of the Methodist Church organized in Holt County was formed in the winter of 1841, at the home of Elias Davidson, two miles north of the present Town of Forbes. The Rev. Edwin Peary officiated.

The first Sunday school in the county was organized in 1841 by the Rev. William Hamilton, of the Iowa and Sac Mission, in an old log cabin schoolhouse near the present site of Oregon.

The first person to preach the gospel in Hickory Township was the Rev. Jacob Bird, of the Methodist Church, who began his labors there in 1845.

The Old School Presbyterian Church, erected in 1853, was the first church building in Oregon. The church was organized by the Revs. S. M. Irvin and William Hamilton, of the Iowa and Sac Mission in Indian Territory.

The first church built in Forest City was by the Methodist Church South, in 1860, and the first to preach the gospel in Forest City was the Rev. Benjamin Baxter of that denomination.

The Liberty Church in Liberty Township was built in 1876, by the Baptists. Prior to that time public services were held in the homes of the pioneers, among them being William Kennish, who with his family moved to Liberty Township from the Isle of Man in 1870. Their home was a popular meeting place for religious services.

One of the earliest religious organizations in Holt County was effected in Nodaway Township in 1840 by the Missionary Baptist Church, of which the Rev. Ebo Tucker was the first pastor. The first meetings of this organization were in groves during the summer, and in schoolhouses in winter. The congregation finally built a brick church in 1860 and called it the Nickol's Grove Church.

The first church erected in Union Township was by the Christian denomination in 1877, about four miles south of the present site of Craig. It was called the Kelso Church.

The History Of Northwest Missouri by Walter Williams Volume 1 of 3 1915


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