Lewis County, Missouri Genealogy Trails

Lewis County History

By Arthur and E. C. Hilbert,

 Canton The First Settlers

Lewis county, organized January 2, 1833, was named in honor of Capt. Meriwether Lewis, a native of Virginia, at one time private secretary to President Jefferson. In 1803, he and Capt. William Clark made the famous Lewis and Clark expedition. In 1807, he was appointed governor of Louisiana Territory, with headquarters at St. Louis.

Lewis county is on the west bank of the Mississippi river, and in the second tier of counties from the Iowa line. It is bounded on the north by Clark county, on the west by Knox county, on the south by Marion and Shelby counties and on the east by the Mississippi river, which is the dividing line between the state of Missouri and the state of Illinois.

Some time soon after the war of 1812, a Frenchman named LeSeur, came up the river from St. Louis, and built a cabin on the Mississippi, at or near the present site of La Grange; he remained for some years engaged in trading with the Indians.

In the spring of 1819, John Bozarth came from Grayson county, Kentucky, and opened a small farm in the Mississippi bottom, a short distance below the present site of La Grange; he settled on the southeast quarter of section 11, township 60, range 6. He was accompanied by his son-in-law, John Finley, and his son, Squire Bozarth, and was the first white settler of the county. He built a house, which consisted of a log cabin, and that year planted twenty acres of corn; the following fall he returned to Kentucky, and in the latter part of November brought his family; he was accompanied by another son-in-law, Jacob Weaver, and his slaves, eighteen people in all, all of whom came to make their permanent home. They crossed the Mississippi river above Alton. Illinois, landing in St. Charles county on the 19th day of November. From there the journey was made by land on the Missouri side.

The following account given in 1874 by Reason Bozarth, a son of John Bozarth, will be of interest: "When we came to this county, in the fall of 1819, it was then a part of Marion. We put up a log cabin which had no chimneys; it had a hearth in the middle of the room and it required an open roof for the escape of the smoke; when our day's work was done we laid down to sleep around the famih' hearthstone: eighteen of us occupying the only room of which the house consisted; our food was principally boiled corn and honey, the latter which we procured from bee trees, which we made a business of hunting: our bread was made from meal which we obtained by pounding corn in a mortar and our clothes were made from buckskin, which we tanned ourselves; our nearest neighbors were twenty miles away; we had chills but nobody died until a doctor came to the county."

The part of Lewis county in which Bozarth settled was a pQint where the bottoms push back the bluffs for about a mile, forming a horseshoe, this land is still in cultivation and is one of the most fertile farms in the county. He entered this land at Bowling Green, Pike county, April 20, 1819. His son-in-law, Jacob Weaver, settled near the river, but the overflow soon drove him out; he afterwards located in Clark county, Missouri. His other son-in-law, John Finley, located near his father-in-law.

Following the settlement of the Bozarth family, the next settlers in the county were John Taylor, Llewellyn Bourne, Robert M. Easton, Isaac Norris, Edward White and Robert Jones; all of them settled in what is now known as Union township. "William Pritchard settled on or just below the present site of Canton. They all entered land about the same time, in the year 1819.

In the year 1822, John McKinney built a grist and saw mill on the Wyaconda river, a short distance above where it empties into the Mississippi river, the first mill built in Lewis county. The town of Wyaconda in Lewis county was laid out about the same time; it gave promise of being a thriving town but it never fulfilled its promise and in a short time became obsolete. The mill was washed away in a short time and was never rebuilt. In the year 1832 the town of La Grange, a short distance below where the mill stood, was established, now one of the principal towns of the county.

Settlements were made slowly for the next few years. A few persons came in 1824 and 1825, among whom were Churchill Blakey, Lockwood Chaflin and Elijah Rice, who located on or near the present site of Canton.

In the year 1829 there was considerable immigration and the population increased rapidly, most of the settlers coming from Kentucky; among the number were: John G. Nunn, John Wash and his son, John Wash, Jr., and Thomas Creasey and others. At this time there wras the Bozarths, Chauncey Durkee, Gerry McDaniel, Thomas Threlkeld, James Thomas and James S. Marlowe, most of whom located in what is now Union township. About the same time there located at not far from the present site of Canton, Capt. William Pritchard, Robert Sinclair, Elliot Sinclair, Robert M. Easton, Gregory Hawkins and a number of others. Emigrants pushed farther westward into the interior of the county. The first settlers found the bottom lands unhealthy, soon abandoned them and moved into the interior of the county and on high ground.

The following includes the names of a number of those who settled in Lewis county during and prior to the year 1830. many of whom have descendants now living in the county:

Jos. Loudemilk, April 16, 1829. Chas. 0. McRoberts, October 6, 1830. Thomas LaPon, August, 1830. John McAllister, November 20, 1830. John Norris. November 19, 1830. Chauncey Durkee, Julv 23, 1829. Edward White. June 30. 1829. John Bozarth, Sr., April 20, 1819. Abner Bozarth, March 8, 1828. John S. Marlowe, February 26, 1829. Eli Merrill. June 25. 1825. Lucien Durkee. November 29, 1830. Joseph B. Buckley, December 3, 1830. John G. Nunn. January 4, 1830. John Thompson, August 6, 1825. John Wash, Jr., January 4, 1830. Steward Matthews, June 24, 1830. John Taylor, April 20, 1819. Wm. Bourne. November 29, 1825. Dabney Bowles, November 29, 1825. Llewellyn Brown, June 2, 1819. Jeremiah Taylor, October 12, 1825. Saml. K. Taylor, December 20, 1830. Gabriel Long, August 11, 1828. Jacob Jones, October 3, 1829. Saml. King, November 23, 1830. George Vaughn, July 21, 1830. H. H. Brown, October 5, 1830. Edmond Weber, October 5.1830. William Ewing, December 22, 1829. Thos. Francis, June 15, 1830. Thos. LaFon, November 22, 1830. Stephen Cooper, September 17, 1829. Saml. Brown, June 15, 1830. Abel Cottrell, June 26, 1830. Robt. Jones, April 24, 1819. Wm. Pritchard, April 21, 1819. Isaac Bland, October 5, 1829. Nathaniel Brown, November 7, 1829. Wm. Duncan, July 8, 1829. Gregory F. Hawkins, March 13, 1829. Samuel Bland, October 12, 1829. Samuel Morton, January 9, 1830. James F. Jenkins, November 18, 1830. Thos. Creasy, August 16, 1830. Wm. Anderson, November 3, 1828. Benj. Jones, November 6, 1828. Wm. McReynolds. October 30, 1830. Nathaniel Richardson, October 18, 1830. Benj. Williams. October 18, 1830. John C. Johnson, April 19, 1830. Silas Reddish, March, 1830. George Railey, November 20. 1830. William H. Edwards, December 9, 1830.

Pioneer Public Affairs

When the Territory of Louisiana was purchased from France in 1803 by President Thomas Jefferson, the land now within the border of Lewis county formed a part of the District of St. Charles. In the year 1812, St. Charles county was organized and included the territory extending from the Missouri river north, and to the northern boundary of the state. Upon the organization of Pike county in 1812, what is now Lewis county became a part of that county. At the time Ralls county was organized, in 1820, it became a part of that county. In 1826, the legislature formed the county of Marion; the act establishing Marion county attached the territory that is now Lewis county, to Marion county, for all military, civil and judicial purposes; so in reality Lewis county never formed a part of Marion county, but was also attached to the same for the certain purposes mentioned.

At the first session of the Marion county court, held in March, 1827, one of the first acts of the court was to establish a road beginning at a point in the road nearly opposite the northeast corner of John Bozarth's field to Wyaconda creek, at Sugar Camp ford, thence to the foot of the bluff of the Mississippi bottom, and along the foot of the bluff to the north line of township 61, which terminates south of the present limits of the town of Canton.

Marion county was divided at first into three townships, Liberty, Mason and Fabius; Fabius township included all the territory embraced within the borders of Lewis and Clark counties, as well as a part of Knox and Scotland counties. Lewis county remained a part of Fabius township until 1830; in May of that year Canton township was formed. Its boundaries were declared to be a line beginning at the mouth of the Fabius river in the Mississippi, thence up the Fabius to the junction of the North and South Forks; up the South Fork to township 60; thence west to range line between 9 and 10; thence north to the northern boundary of the state; thence east to the middle of the Mississippi, and then down to the beginning. The territory included within Canton township consisted of what is now a portion of Marion county and all of Clark and Lewis counties and contained nearly seven hundred thousand acres of land and had less than one hundred taxable inhabitants in the year 1830. The first justices of the peace of Canton township were Edward White and James Thomas. Thomas refused to serve and Stephen Carnegy was appointed in his stead.

The first election was held at the home of Edward White. The total number of votes cast was thirty-seven.

In July, 1831. the Marion county court created Union township, which was bounded as follows: Commencing at the mouth of the Wyaconda river, thence up the main chaunel to the north side of the tract of land owned by Stephen Cooper; thence west to the dividing ridge between Wyaconda and Durgans creek; thence west to the ridge to range line between ranges 9 and 10; thence south to the township line between townships 59 and 60; thence east to the Mississippi river.

The first election in Union township was held at the home of John Bozarth, below the town of La Grange, which had been designated as the temporary seat of justice. Court was convened on Wednesday, June 5. 1833; there were present only two of the justices, Gregory F. Hawkins and John Taylor; the sheriff was Chilton B. Tate and the clerk was Robert Taylor, all of whom had received their office by appointment of Gov. Daniel Dunklin; on the following day Judge Alexander M. Morrow. who was not present at the opening day of court, appeared and tendered his resignation, and Judge James Richardson was subsequently appointed. Not much business was transacted at this term; the sheriff was appointed collector; a change of road was granted in the road leading from Bozarth's mill to the town of Canton. The county was divided into two townships named Union and Canton. The next term of court was held at the Bozarth home, commencing on July 8. During this term of the court J. H. McBride was appointed treasurer of the county and the bond fixed at $500. Sometime in October of that year McBride resigned as treasurer and Robert Sinclair was appointed to fill the vacancy.

On the 22d day of October Judge Richardson was present for the first time. At this term of the court the first letters of administration ever issued in the county were upon the estate of Henry Smith, deceased. This was the last term of the court held at the home of Mr. Bozarth. There is today a small table in the circuit courtroom, at Canton, made from one of the walnut logs taken from the old Bozarth home, in which the first court of the county was held. This table was presented by A. Bozarth, a descendant of John Bozarth.

The next court was held at the home of Morton Bourne in Canton, September 2, 1833. Judges Hawkins and Taylor were present at this term of court. The first attorneys ever enrolled in the county were admitted to practice, Stephen W. B. Carnegy and Thomas L. Anderson. At this term the first ferry license was granted by the court. This was issued to Jeremiah Wayland and authorized him to keep a ferry across the Des Moines at a point called St. Francisville. Canton was designated as the temporary seat of justice of the county. A name was selected for the county seatóMonticello. The fourth term of the Lewis county court met on December 2d at the home of V. S. Gregory in Canton. The commissioners who had been appointed to prepare a plat and plan of the county seat presented the plat for the county seat, which was approved by the court and Mr. Reddish, the commissioner, was ordered to sell half the lots.

The fifth term of the court was held at the home of Joseph Trotter, in Canton. At this term the court contracted with J. B. Buckley to build a courthouse at Monticello. The contract price was $210. All lots remaining unsold in Monticello, the county seat, were ordered sold.

The next or sixth term of the court was held at Monticello, in June, 1834.   All the judges were present.   The courthouse had been completed. It was a log structure and very small and had few conveniences, even for that day. Thereafter all other terms of court were held at Monticello, the county seat.

Lewis county was attached to and made a part of the second judicial circuit and the time for holding the first term of circuit court was fixed by law on July 14,1833, but on that date Judge McBride failed to appear. On the third day the sheriff adjourned the court until the next regular term thereof, in accordance with the law then in force.

On the 14th day of October, 1833, the first term of circuit court ever held in Lewis county was opened at the home of V. S. Gregory in Canton. All the officers were present. The attorneys present at this term of the court were: Thomas L. Anderson, Uriel Wright and Stephen W. B. Carnegy. The visiting attorneys were: John Anderson of Palmyra and Ezra Hurt of Lincoln county. At this term of the court was convened the first grand jury that ever met in Lewis county. This grand jury found no indictments. The first indictment ever returned by a grand jury was in 1834. and was for adultery. The parties against whom the indictment was returned were Joseph Fry and Elizabeth Jones. The case was never tried but was at a subsequent term of court dismissed. The first session of the circuit court ever held at Monticello was convened on the 10th day of June, 1834, and was held in the new court-house. Among the number of attorneys enrolled in Lewis county, in the early days of the development and settlement of the county, is the name of Stephen W. B. Carnegy, who contributed much to the development of the county and especially to the development of Canton. Not only was he active as an attorney but in the promotion of various business enterprises.

Early Settlements

The development of the county was slow but steady from the time of the early settlement up to 1845. From that time on it was more rapid and it continued up to about the time the Civil war commenced. The people had become prosperous and more energetic in their efforts to develop the resources of the county and to accumulate for the future. The inhabitants were mostly engaged in agricultural pursuits, some stock raising, but not to any large extent. The towns had grown between 1840 and 1850. The towns developed more rapidly and at the close of the forties La Grange and Tully had become towns of considerable importance; Monticello and Canton were small; there were no other towns of importance in the county.

Lewis county was reduced to its present limits by the organization of Clark county in 1838, Scotland county in 1841 and Knox county in 1845.

In the spring of 1851, there was more than an ordinary overflow of the Mississippi river. The town of Tully was overflowed and partly destroyed. The flood sounded the death knell of the town of Tully; from that time it rapidly declined. After the flood Canton became more prosperous and grew rapidly and by 1860 had attained a population of more than 1,500. Canton became a town of considerable commercial importance and so did La Grange.

During the Civil War

Lewis county, like most all other counties situated on the border of the free states, suffered a setback during the Civil war. There were a number of home guard companies organized in the co unty. One of those companies was organized at La Grange, and waa under the command of Capt. J. T. Howland. It consisted of about sixty men. There was one organized at Deer Ridge. It was under the command of Capt. Felix Scott. There were others organized at various parts of the county. There had been some companies organized in the county whose sympathies were known to be with the secessionists. The sentiment was much divided and the excitement was high. On the 5th day of July, 1861, the first Union troops were sent into the county. They were under the command of Col. John M. Palmer. They num-bered about eight hundred and were sent from Quincy, Illinois. They came by a steamboat up the Mississippi river; they quartered their men in the university building on the hill and in the church and school building of the M. E. Church South. It was while here that they took United States Senator James S. Green a prisoner while he was trying to make his way to Monticello. He was brought to Canton and subsequently released on parole, which he kept during the war.

The first shots fired in the county were between a part of Colonel Palmer's men, who were under the command of Lieutenant Thompson, and a few secessionists who were supposed to belong to Captain Richardson's company. Colonel Palmer remained in the county until about the 13th of July, when he left for Monroe City.

The direct cause of the sending of the troops under Colonel Palmer into the county was the shooting of Capt. John Howell, of the Canton Home Guards by Richard Soward, who was the proprietor of the Soward hotel, wfhich was located on the southwest corner of Fourth and Lewis streets. This was on the 4th of July. It seems that Charles Soward, who was a son of Richard Soward, with a number of others tried to take a flag away from the ensign of the German Guards of La Grange, which company was in Canton on the 4th day of July to celebrate. Captain Howell came to the aid of the ensign, and in the melee that took place struck young Charles Soward. There are some who say that some feeling had existed between the elder Soward and Captain Howell. As to this we are uncertain, except that their sympathies were on opposite sides. In the evening Captain Howell was coming up from the river, where the trouble had taken place over the flag. When he reached the northeast corner of Lewis and Fourth streets, the corner on which the Hank of Canton now stands, and which was diagonally across the street from the Soward hotel, Richard Soward came out of his hotel with a double-barrelled shotgun in his hands and called out, "John, defend yourself." In a moment more Soward fired, Captain Howell fell mortally wounded and died a short time afterwards. This shooting caused much excitement and feeling ran high but nothing of a violent nature was done. Soward was placed under arrest but was never brought to trial. For some time he was under restraint, sometimes under the control of the state authorities and part of the time he was held by the Federal authorities.   He finally left the county and located in California.

Colonel Woodyard procured from General Fremont the authority of recruiting a regiment. He raised four companies of about three hundred men in all. The Home Guards were at Canton. There were four companies under the command of William Bishop, colonel, and H. M. Woodyard, lieutenant-colonel.

Tlie Confederate forces were on the North Fabius, northwest of Monticello at a point called Horse Shoe Bend. The companies were under the command of Capt. W. S. Richardson. Captain Duell, Captain Porter and Captain Carlin. When Judge Martin E. Green heard that Colonel Palmer was in Canton, he at once set out for the camp of the Confederates. When the officers were selected he was selected as colonel, and Captain Porter was selected as lieutenant-colonel. Both of these selections proved to be wise, as they soon gave good evidence of their ability. As leader Colonel Green steadily arose until he became a brigadier-general. Captain Porter also rendered valiant service to the cause he had espoused.

Of the actual battles in the county, the first skirmish occurred at Clapp's Ford in the northwest part of the couuty on the night of the 14th of August.  One man was killed on each side and six or seven wounded.

There was a skirmish at Monticello. No one was killed in the skir-mish and only three wounded. From this time there was considerable happening incident to the war; and the people came to realize what real war meant. Business was at a standstill. In August, 1862, a raid was made on Canton to capture arms believed to be at Canton. In a short time most all the county was under Confederate control. There was the skirmish at Grass creek, not far from the present site of Maywood. where one Federal was killed and one wounded; there was considerable bushwhacking and small skirmishes in Lewis county, but no battles of any considerable importance were fought. A number of men enlisted on the side of the cause they favored and went to the front.

Since the War

The close of the Civil war found the business of the county demoralized. There was general satisfaction that the war was over. There were some extremists on each side, but as a whole the people counselled peace and harmony and they returned to their farms and business and in a short while each was trying to better the conditions for their families and for themselves.

Considerable feeling was engendered over the new state constitution which deprived a large part of the citizens of the county of a voice in governmental affairs.

The county officers were removed by Gov. Thomas C. Fletcher and Republicans appointed in their stead. By the adoption of the Drake constitution some of the leading ministers and teachers of the county were prevented from carrying on their callings and professions, until that part of the constitution had been declared unconstitutional by the supreme court of the United States. Since the Civil war the county has steadily prospered and grown in wealth and influence.

In all the elections held in the county after 1870, the county uniformly went Democratic.

The local option law was adopted in the county in 1911, and is now in full force throughout the county. The county buildings are only fair and not in accord with the wealth and prosperity of the county. Our taxes are low and we have no bonded indebtedness; our roads are being steadily improved and we have several miles of macadamized roads in the eastern part of the county.

Political History

In the month of August, 1833, the first election was held in Lewis county. This was a general election to choose a representative in congress as Missouri was entitled to two, one of which had been chosen the previous year. They were chosen from the state at large. At this time two townships were in the county, Union and Canton. The successful candidate at this election was Dr. John Bull, a Jackson Democrat. At this election there was cast and counted in all eighty-four votes. Perhaps about twenty-five or thirty voters did not attend the election or cast their votes.

The first presidential election in which Lewis county participated was held in 1836. The leading candidates at that election were Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison. The vote in this election resulted: Van Buren, Democrat, 289; the vote for Harrison and the opposition candidates being 197.

The campaign of 1840 was one of more than ordinary interest; the opposing candidates were again Van Buren and Harrison. Again Lewis county registered a majority of votes for Van Buren. The total vote cast this year was 1,144. In the campaign of 1844, Polk carried the county over Clay. The campaign for presidential preference in the year 1848, in Lewis county, resulted in a tie vote between Taylor and Cass; each received 479. At this election Austin King, Democratic candidate for governor, carried the county. In the presidential campaign of 1852, the county cast its preference for Franklin Pierce, and it again gave its preference for the Democratic candidate for governor of the state, Sterling Price. In the campaign of 1856 Lewis county's presidential preference was James Buchanan, Democrat. The campaign preceding the election of 1860 was an exciting one; owing to the dissension that sprang up over the matter of slaves the Democrats were divided.   There were four candidates voted for, Bell, Breckenridge, Douglas and Lincoln. The vote resulted: Bell 833, Breckenridge 597, Douglas 466, Lincoln 43. There was much disatisfaction in the county over the success of Lincoln. The sentiment of the county, at that time, was very much in favor of the South and against emancipation, or interference with slavery in any form. Following Lincoln's election there was considerable talk of secession. Among the strong advocates of secession was Senator Green. A number of public meetings were held. Among the number was one at Monticello, in December, 1860, a short time before South Carolina seceded. At this meeting was a large number of prominent and influential citizens of the county. There was some difference of opinion, but the sympathy of a large majority of those present was with" the South. James G. Blair offered a resolution, which was adopted, stating in subtance, that if the dissolution of the Union should take place, that we swould be forced to join the Southern Confederacy. Other meetings were held in the county from time to time and a large sentiment was developing to remain neutral in the impending conflict. A strong bond of sympathy existed with the South, many of the inhabitants being bound to the South by kinship, birthright and association, and believing that their rights were much in common, hesitated to express an opinion or array themselves on either side of the impending conflict. Most all men, either Union or Secessionist, were at that time against the abolition of slavery. Slavery had existed in the county to some extent, ever since the early days of the settlement of the county, up until they were freed by the emancipation proclamation; but it had not flourished in this county as it had in other counties in the state, owing to the fact that it had not proved as profitable here as in some other parts of the state. A number had disposed of their slaves long before the crisis came. Some had freed them, while others had retained them up until the time they were freed. The slaves owned in this county were uniformly well treated by their owners, many of them remaining in and around the premises of their masters long after they were free.

Lewis county was originally divided into two townships, Canton and Union. Another township, called Dickerson, was organized in December, 1833. Another township, Allen, was organized in March, 1836, composed of a part of what is now Lewis county and also a part of the territory now within the boundaries of Knox county. Highland township was organized in March, 1838. Salem township was organized in June, 1841, and Reddish township was organized in August, 1841.

At the March term of the county court, in 1866, the county court organized Lewis county into eight municipal townships, named Canton, Lyon, Reddish, La Belle, Dickerson, Union, Highland and Salem, and these townships have continued as then fixed

Citizens in High Office

Many of the citizens of Lewis county have been called upon to occupy positions of high official preferment and trust by their fellow-citizens. They have filled these positions with distinction and honor. Among them were James S. Green, who was elected to congress in 1846, from the state at large and re-elected in 1848; in 1853 he was appointed by President Pierce to the Republic of New Granada, to represent the United States, from which position after serving a short time he resigned and returned home in 1856; he was again elected to congress; the following year he was elected to the United States senate. James J. Lindley was elected to congress from the district of which Lewis county formed a part; James G. Blair was elected to congress in 1870; John M. Glover, then of this county, was elected to congress in 1872, 1874 and 1876.

Those who have served with credit and distinction in the state senate from this county are James Ellison, Samuel Stewart, Gen. David Moore, "Wm. G. Downing, Francis L. Marchand and Emert A. Dowell. The last two named are now living and reside in the county.

In 1865 David Wagner, of Lewis county, was appointed judge of the supreme court. He was elected in 1868 and 1870, without opposition. This position he filled with distinction to himself and his fellow citizens. He was a man of rare ability and learning in his chosen profession. The Revised Statutes of Missouri, 1879, are named after him, the Wagner Statutes of Missouri.

The present congressman from this district, James T. Lloyd, was born, reared and educated in Lewis county; he was admitted to the bar and practiced law in the county until 1885, when he moved to Shelby county, his present home.

The River and the Railroads

There flows along the eastern boundary of Lewis county, from north to south, the entire length of the county, the Mississippi river, the greatest river of the United States, which for a long number of years furnished the only avenue for commerce that the early settlers of the county enjoyed. The first surplus products of the county were sent down the Mississippi river, in small boats and rafts to St. Louis. Engaged in this business for some years, among others were Eli Merrill, George Wright and J. P. Harrison. Probably the first steamboat to ascend the river as far as Canton in Lewis county, was the General Putnam. This boat was a small stern wheeler and carried a cargo of merchandise for the lead mines at Galena and Dubuque, in June, 1825. The boat made several other like trips that year. There was established between Quincy, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri, in 1836, a regular run by a boat named Envoy, which made regular trips between those points carrying freight and passengers. In the year 1837, the first boat to land and discharge any freight on the shores of Lewis county was the William Wallace, which made landings at the town of Tully and at another place called Smoot's Landing, about two miles south of the present town of Canton. Other boats visited the shores of the county bringing freight and taking away the surplus products of the county, but without much regularity until the latter part of the "Forties," when regular packet lines were established.  After the boats commenced to visit the county its progress was much more rapid, for they afforded a market for the surplus products that it produced and a market in which to buy the supplies needed. The boats that plied the river in the early days did much to develop the re-sources of the county. Packet lines now make regular trips daily from Keokuk, Iowa, to Canton, LaGrange and Quincy and return during the navigable season. There is a regular packet line from St. Paul to St. Louis and a number of fine excursion steamers that ply the waters of the Mississippi river each season.

Railroad building in Lewis county came slowly at first. The first railroad chartered in the county was to run from Canton to Bloomfield, Iowa. This was in April, 1860. It was helped by donations and by bonds issued, and in the latter part of the year considerable grading and bridge work was done and iron laid, and construction trains run out as far as Bunker Hill, in Lyon township, Lewis county. The Civil war stopped the building of this railroad. In 1864, the owner of this railroad sold the iron rails on this road to the United States government, and they sent officers to remove the same. Iron was wanted for use in the South.

There was an effort in 1866, after the war, to build this road again. In 1868, it was sought to rebuild the road under a different name and charter, with considerable deviation in the route, to call it the Mississippi & Missouri River Air Line Railroad, and to start it at West Quincy, Missouri, and terminate it at Brownsville, Nebraska. There was some work done on this road and the grade was completed through the county. In the year 1870, the West Quincy & Alexandria Railroad Company was chartered and took over the Mississippi & Missouri Air Line Company, and thereafter it became the St. Louis, Keokuk & Northwestern, and having passed through numerous changes, is now known as the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company. In 1871, the road was completed through the county; in April of that year it reached Canton, adding much to the development of the county. It has been gradually improved, until today it is one of the principal lines west of the Mississippi river. The road travels the county from north to south, along the eastern boundary of the county, following closely the Mississippi river. The principal stations along the line in Lewis county are Canton and LaGrange.

In 1869, there was incorporated the Quincy, Missouri & Pacific Railroad Company. This road runs through the county from the west to the east, passing nearly through the entire county in a southeasterly direction. In the south part of the county the first train on this road reached La Belle in January, 1872. Along the line have sprung up several small towns and villages, among them Maywood, Durham, Ewing, Tolona, Lewistown and La Belle. Until the advent of the railroad La Belle was only a small trading point, but since that time it has developed into one of the principal towns of the county. This road is now known as the Quincy, Omaha & Kansas City Railroad.

The County Bar

Among the leading attorneys of the early days was Thomas L. Anderson. His home was at Palmyra, in Marion county, but he was for a number of years engaged in the practice in this county. He was a man well fitted for the practice of his chosen profession. He and Stephen B. Carnegy were the first attorneys ever enrolled in the county. Stephen B. Carnegy at that time was residing at Palmyra in Marion county, moving to Lewis county at an early date. He was for a number of years active in the practice in the county.

Adam B. Chambers, of Pike county, was the first circuit attorney who appeared in the circuit courts of the county; this was in 1834.

James Ellison, who was enrolled in the county in 1836, was actively engaged in the practice in the county. He was a man of fine qualities, with a large amount of legal talent and was among the leaders of his profession; his descendants seem to have inherited much of his legal talent. One of his sons, James Ellison, is a member of the Kansas City Court of Appeals; which position he has filled for a number of years with credit to himself and his profession. Another son, Andrew Ellison, now deceased, was for a number of years judge of the judicial circuit in which he resided. His home was at Kirksviile, in Adair county; he was an able and competent jurist and left behind him an honorable and upright record. Another son, William C. Ellison, whose home is at Maryville, in this state, is circuit judge of the judicial circuit in which he resides. George Ellison, who resides at Canton, is a man of fine legal mind, whose advice and counsel are much sought.

On the roll of attorneys at an early day appear the names of a large number of eminent attorneys, many of whom did not reside in the county but who practiced in the courts of the county. Among this number was Samuel T. Clover, of Palmyra; John S. Dryden, and Addison Reese, enrolled before 1840. In 1840, James S. Green was admitted to practice and enrolled in the county; he developed into one of the leading attorneys in the state. He was an eloquent speaker and his arguments were clear and convincing.

H. M. Woodyard enrolled as a lawyer in 1842; Thomas S. Richardson in 1846, and James J. Lindley in 1846.

In the year 1854, M. C. Hawkins was enrolled among the list of attorneys in the county. He resided at Canton. The same year John C. Anderson was admitted to practice in the county. They were men well versed in the law and soon won distinction as lawyers of ability. John C. Anderson was called upon to fill the office of circuit attorney and afterward became judge of his judicial circuit, which place he filled with distinction and credit to himself and his profession. Another attorney who was admitted to the practice of law in this year was James G. Blair. He was one of the leading attorneys of Northeast Missouri for a long number of years and engaged actively in the practice up until the time of his death, which occurred in 1907. He was uniformly successful in his cases, a man capable of drawing fine legal distinction and of presenting his cases with force and effect. He served in congress one term.

Among the notable attorneys who have commenced the practice of law in the county since 1860, is Francis L. Marchand, who commenced the practice of law in 1863. He has ever since that time been actively engaged in the practice. He is a lawyer of high standing, with fine legal talent and has for many years enjoyed the distinction of being one of the leading attorneys of Northeast Missouri. John J. Louthan was an attorney of ability, and enjoyed for a long number of years a large practice in the county.

F. L. Schofield is a lawyer of high standing and attainments who has won distinction in the state and federal courts. For a number of years he was a member of the Lewis county bar.   He now resides at Hannibal.

O. C. Clay, of Canton, was admitted to the practice of law in 1876. He is a man of fine legal mind, a hard worker and has forged ahead until today he is one of the leading attorneys of Northeast Missouri.

Judge B. F. Thompson, of La Belle, is a man of much ability. He for a long time was actively engaged in the court practice, but has in later years directed most of his time to banking and his office practice.

Among the notable lawyers who practiced in the county for a number of years are James T. Lloyd, of Shelby county, the present member of congress from this district; S. B. Jeffries, of St. Louis, who practiced in the county before being appointed assistant attorney general of the state under General Crow; W. G. Downing, now deceased, late of Great Falls, Montana, who served as prosecuting attorney of the county and also in the state senate.

The bar of Lewis county, at the present day is made mostly of young men, ranging in age from 30 to 50 years. They are active, energetic and well learned in the law and endowed with good judgment and discretion, and are the equal of any bar in the state.


The town of Monticello, county seat of Lewis county, is located in a commanding position, on the east bluffs of the North Fabius river. It has at the present time a population of 350, which has increased but little for the last quarter of a century, owing to the growth of the river and railroad towns of the county, which had the effect of diverting trade.

Monticello, meaning "little mountain/' was established in 1833, as the county seat. Silas Reddish surveyed and laid out the town site. In December, 1834, Judge J. A. Richardson selected a lot on which to build a jail and another for a church and schoolhouse.

The first houses were built by William Graves and William Smith; the first hotel by William Ellis. The old Pemberton hotel was built by W. S. Pemberton in 1836. Two hotels are now conducted in the town. The first school was taught in 1835-36, by Miss Bradley, in the court-house, which was a one room log building. The present courthouse is a two story brick building and compares favorably with other Northeast Missouri county buildings. It is situated in a beautiful grove of fine trees overlooking the fertile river valley and the verdure clad hills, which stretch away in every direction.

Strong sentiment prevails in and about the historic town, and much practical work has been done toward procuring an electric road here, through the town, which would revive its prestige and make it again an important center for a rich territory. It lies directly upon the line of a prospected road which will extend from Quincy to Des Moines, when completed.

The Lewis County Journal, a bright, newsy, well arranged weekly, edited by R. B. Caldwell, has been in existence for forty years. It was established December 18, 1872, by John Moore.

The town has two general stores, two hotels, two drug stores, a feed mill, livery stable, blacksmith shop, restaurant and a flourishing bank, the Monticello Trust Company, organized in 1904, as the successor to tne Monticello Savings Bank, three churches, the Methodist Episcopal, South, the Christian and the Baptist, and a well conducted school and high school.


The town of Canton is the oldest in the county. It was regularly laid out in the winter of 1830, by Edward White, Robert Sinclair and Isaac Bland. The plat was filed in the office of the circuit clerk of Marion county, on the 15th of February. Edward White built the first house, which was used as a tavern. Mr. Block had the first store, which stood on the levee, somewhere near the foot of Lewis street. Thomas Gray had the second store, in a one story log building above Block's.

Canton is beautifully situated on the west bank of the Mississippi river, within twenty-five miles of the great dam that has been built at Keokuk. It is here that the river takes its boldest sweep westward, and making a beautiful serai-circle around the town, furnishes an attractive landscape.

Canton's principal lines of business are manufacturing, shipping, merchandising and education. Upon the bluff west of the town stands Christian University, the first institution of learning west of the Mississippi to establish coeducation. The main building was erected a few years ago at a cost of $45,000, most of which wTas contributed by the generous citizens of the community. Just south is the new Stockton-Culver gymnasium and dormitory; which with its heating plant, was erected in 1912, at a cost of $80,000; these buildings, with a group of modern brick cottages occupied by students, and the fine campus give the institution a property value of $150,000.

Under the brow of the hill is the St. Joseph school, erected by the Catholics of Canton and immediate neighborhood, which is also flourishing.

A large planing mill, two pearl button factories and a large elevator give employment to more than two hundred people. The fishing industry also affords employment to nearly one hundred. A new button and finishing plant, built by the Canton Commercial Club in 1912, will give employment to from two hundred and fifty to three hundred men and women.

With the advantage of the Burlington railroad and of cheap river transportation, farm products bring higher prices in Canton than at any interior point for a radius of fifty miles. The public schools are flourishing. A new school building with modern appliances was completed in 1911, at a cost of nearly $25,000 and is capable of accommodating six hundred pupils. Quite a large number of pupils from various parts of the county attend here.

Eight churches, well maintained, indicate that the citizens are preparing for the future as well as caring for the present.

Canton has her own system of electric lights and water works, fifteen miles of graded and macadam streets and many beautiful residences. It has a population of about 2,500, but its rapid growth since the census of 1910 gives assurance that by 1920 it will have doubled or trebled its population.


Williamstown, situated in the northwest part of the county, was platted in 1856, on the west half of the southwest quarter of section 21, township 63, range 8. It is an ideal site for a town, being situated on a beautiful rolling prairie and on the old Canton, Monticello and Memphis state road. At the commencement of the Civil war there was but two stores and few dwelling houses. It now has a number of good stores, a bank, a mill, and two hotels. It has a population of about three hundred. It has no railroad but undoubtedly will be connected with an electric line in the near future.

Deer Ridge

Deer Ridge is a small village situated in the west central part of Reddish Township, between the North and the Middle Fabius. It was so named by the pioneers from the number of deer found by them. A post-office was established and called Deer Ridge in 1846; and a store was established at the same time; this was the origin of Deer Ridge. It is now a small village, has two general stores, wagonraaker's shop and mill. It has a population of about fifty.


Steffenville is situated in the southwest part of the county, in one of the richest farming communities in the county. It has good stores, a bank, two churches and schools.


Lewistown was laid out in 1871, on part of section 17, township 61, range 8. The first building erected in the town was by William Fible. Mr. Fible opened a large general store which he conducted for a number of years. It has a population of about five hundred people. It has a number of good stores, two banks, mill, electric light plant, a number of churches and a good school. It is situated on the Quincy, Omaha & Kansas City Railroad.


Ewing is a village of about 350 inhabitants situated in the south central part of the county on the Quincy, Omaha & Kansas City Railroad. The growth of this village began when Antoine Sedlemier, formerly of Steffenville, located here and started a general store. It has a number of good stores, a newspaper, a mill, electric light plant, creamery, salting works, two banks, lumber yard, a number of churches, and good schools.


Durham is a small hamlet laid out in 1872, and is located on a part of section 27, township 60, range 7. It is on the Quincy, Omaha & Kan-sas City Railroad; has two or three stores, a bank, creamery, churches and schools.


Maywood is situated on the Quincy, Omaha & Kansas City Railroad and is about fourteen miles from Quincy, Illinois. Its railroad station was established in 1872. It is a prosperous little town, with a number of good stores, two banks, several churches and good schools.

La Belle

La Belle is one of the principal towns of the county. It is situated in the west central part of the county, near the Knox county line. It is built on parts of sections 4 and 5, township 61, range 9. In 1857, William Triplett established a general store in the present site of La Belle, the first resident of La Belle. La Belle is some times called the "Queen of the Prairie." It is situated in one of the finest communities of the county and occupies a sightly position. Any direction the eye may reach you will see fine farms with commodious dwellings and other improvements. It increased slowly from the time of the establishment of the store by William Triplett until 1871, when the town of La Belle was regularly laid out. From that date it increased more rapidly. The post-office was established in 1858. William Triplett was the first postmaster. With the advent of the railroad, which was so far completed that the cars reached La Belle in 1872, and by the end of five years it had a population of over 350; since that time it has been gradually increasing in population until the present day and it now has a population of about twelve hundred.

It has a number of large and commodious business buildings, many beautiful dwellings; it is well supplied with good stores, has an electric light and water works system, two of the largest banks in the county, a live newspaper, and a number of churches and good schools.

La Grange

La Grange is situated in the eastern part of the county, on the Mississippi river, a short distance south of where the Wyaconda empties into the Mississippi river. It is one of the oldest and principal towns of the county. It was laid out in 1830, by William Wright. John F. Marlowe was the first settler on the present site of La Grange. He located there some time during the year 1828. The first merchant was Campbell, who had been an Indian trader. La Grange is surrounded on the south, north and west by a fertile and productive agricultural community. La Grange gradually increased in population and business until it reached its present position.  In the latter part of the forties to 1861 it was at its most prosperous time. It commanded a large and extensive trade, it had a number of large stores, wholesale and retail, and a number of other business enterprises. Trade came to it for many miles; not only to purchase from the ample stores with which it abounded but to find a market for their surplus products. The war brought La Grange's growth to a stand still, business became stagnated and demoralized; for a number of years there was no improvement in La Grange; after the war there was established some large business enterprises which flourished for a time and then were abandoned. For a number of years the town remained almost at a standstill. La Grange today has a number of good stores, two flourishing banks, a live newspaper, electric light and water works system, a number of pearl button blank factories and one finishing plant, a large foundry, a thriving creamery, a lumber yard and various other business enterprises. It affords good markets and enjoys a large share of trade of the surrounding community. It has good schools and a number of churches. It is becoming somewhat famous as a summer resort. It has a fine spring of mineral water and a number of summer cottages have been erected by C. N. Thomas, an enterprising citizen, on the high bluff of the Wyaconda overlooking the Father of Waters, at one of the most sightly points along the river.

Here is located La Grange College, an institution for the education of both sexes. This college is supported by the Baptists. It was established in 1857, and is in a flourishing condition. A fine dormitory building has just been completed.

A History Of Northeast Missouri by Walter Williams Vol. 1 of 3 1913 


Lewis County, Missouri Genealogy Trails
All data on this website is Copyright ©2007 by Genealogy Trails with full rights reserved for original submitters.