Missouri Genealogy Trails
Macon County History
By Ben Eli Guthrie, Macon
Macon county comprises twenty-three congressional townships. These lie between townships 61 and 55, north, and between ranges 12 and 18. However, there is a half township cut out of the northeast corner of the county and attached to Knox county, and a township and a half cut out of the southwest corner of the square and attached to Chariton county.
The Muscle fork of the Chariton river runs through range 17. The Grand Chariton river runs through range 16 the whole length. There is much bottom land in this range, averaging about three miles wide, with bluffs on either hand. Range 15 is washed by Middle fork of the Grand Chariton. The extreme eastern part of this range, as well as range 14, is drained through the whole county by the East fork of the Chariton.
The Grand Divide between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers lies in range 14, running a little west of north. From the Divide east the county is drained by the Middle fork of Salt river. The bottoms on these streams are large and the watersheds have many large plateaus. The general lay of the land is sightly, abounding in beautiful landscapes.
Many of the streams were skirted to a great extent by timber which extended well up into the hills. On the divides and plateaus were large expanses of prairie. The timber land has a lively soil. The prairie has less sand and the soil is apparently tougher and somewhat stiff. The timber soil produces tobacco, and, as a matter of course, corn, wheat and oats, and, when cleared and properly pastured, runs into blue grass. The prairie soils produce large crops of native grass, and, when cultivated, yield large harvests of tame grasses. There is sufficient clay in the soil to hold all fertilizers, and, as a consequence, the soil repays care and nursing as few soils do.
The timber of the county was of various characters of oak, hickory, walnut, cottonwood. linn, hackberry and sugar tree. The timber was ample for the early settlers, who built their homes, fenced their farms and kept themselves warm therewith.
There are some springs in Macon county. The clay retains the water and cisterns are therefore easily built. Living water is usually found in large parts of the county from fifteen to twenty-five feet.
The topography of the county would render road building somewhat difficult. But the drainage of the roads is good, and, when once built, they can be maintained with reasonable outlay.
There are a few historic trails across the county, the most ancient of which is the Bee Trace, which, coming from the south, struck the county about the center of range 14 on the Grand Divide and extended up that watershed, passing through what was then called the Narrows, near the present site of Macon City, then through what was called Moccasinville and on north to Blanket Grove, which was in Adair county, just north of LaPlata.
Another historic road was the Hannibal and St. Joseph stage road, that struck the county on the east and passed through township 58, passing by old Ten Mile post office, then on to Bloomington, the old county seat, thence on to Winchester and across the Chariton river on to Linneus in Linn county. This was the great highway of traffic east and west, until the building of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, some six miles to the south, in 1857-58.
Still another road was the old stage road from Glasgow and Boonville northward, and, as years passed by, reaching the Iowa line and finally on to Des Moines. It passed through Bloomington, the county seat, thence on to LaPlata and to Kirksville.
The territory above described was originally a part of that Mother of Counties, Old Howard, and when her daughter, Randolph, was separated by legislative hand, Randolph county then extended to the Iowa line. As a matter of course, the pioneer, with his natural restlessness and his shyness of the restraints and limitations of civilization, slipped up these roads and left no record behind him of the date he crossed the south line of Macon county. Doubtless it was away back in the '20s.
But Randolph was not the only county to the south. The present Monroe county was there and its people would naturally follow up the Salt river into Macon county. The same is equally true of Ralls and Marion counties. To the southwest was Chariton county, and its people would follow the Muscle fork into Macon county.
The southeast corner of the county, now known as Middle Fork township, was one of the earlier settlements, and at a very early date the country to the southwest was settled by the Morrows and others who preceded them. However, Mr. James Loe had made a settlement just south of Callao and some time thereafter built a mill on the Chariton river. It was claimed it was a considerable time before the Loe family saw any human being save the Sioux Indians on their hunting expeditions. Somewhat earlier, possibly, the Blackwell settlement near Moccasinville, which was about five miles north of Macon and just west of the Bee Trace, was started. Mr. Blackwell was quite a prominent man and gave the name to the settlement. Farther to the west and north, over in range 15, there was a settlement known as the Owenby settlement. This was largely developed in the early '30s. West of the Chariton, in township 57, sprang up, somewhat early, the Lingo settlement. These settlements on the south, like Topsy, just grew to the north.
In range 13 there was a very considerable settlement on Ten Mile creek and also on Bear creek, coming chiefly from Marion and Ralls counties.
The early settlers from necessity followed the usual course and located in the timber along the streams. There water was near, timber at hand for their cabins and comfort was found at the least outlay of labor and money. The wild turkey infested the woods. The deer had his run through the timber and, not far distant, the prairie chicken had his habitat. The rifle could be trusted for meat and a few acres of cleared ground could produce the necessary bread.
The settlers, like in all the counties to the south, were largely Virginians and Kentuckians. North Carolinians and Tennesseeans were also found in goodly numbers, and, not infrequently, these came through the old Northwest Territory. Natives of that territory likewise were in the number and New England was not without its representatives. A very considerable number were slave owners and brought their slaves with them and acquired land and commenced the opening of large farms. These were not numerous and were found more largely in the southern part of the county, though they were spread to the northern part in the early '508.
The general assembly in the winter of 1836-37 organized the county, extending from the north line of Randolph county to the Iowa line. The act appointed Joseph Baker and Henry Lassiter as commissioners to select a county seat. They located it in the Owenby settlement, in what was then known as Box Ankle and later Bloomington. It was the fifty-seventh county to be organized in the state.
The county court convened for the first time on the 1st of May, 1837, at Joseph Owenby's. The court consisted of John S. Morrow, Joseph Owenby and James Cochran. Daniel C. Hubbard was the clerk and Jefferson Morrow was the sheriff appointed by the governor. They righted up the old township bounds that had been made by the Randolph county court, and ordered an election for justices, and, among other things, appointed a commission to open a road commencing at Jones' mill on Middle fork of Salt river and running by way of Centerville. Fred Rowland's and Dan Crawley's and intersecting with the Bee Trace on the grand prairie, meaning, no doubt, to go to Moccasinville and on to the old county seat. The second meeting of the court was held on the 3d of July at the house of Dabney C. Garth, which became the capitol of the county.
The first term of the circuit court was not held until August 17. Judge Thomas Reynolds, being the judge of the second judicial circuit of the state, presided. Circuit court had seventeen civil and ten criminal cases on its docket the first year. The criminal cases were one murder case and various misdemeanors, such as marking hogs and gambling.
The first marriage was performed on April 30, 1837, by the Rev. Win. Sears, of the Primitive Baptist church, and united in matrimony Joseph P. Owenby and Nancy Garrett.
The court house was ordered built at the August term of the county court in 1838—a wooden concern. But the county court had some ambition, and, in November, 1839, ordered a brick court house, forty-five feet square, two stories in height and at an estimated cost of $30,000. The house was completed in 1852.
As stated above, tne great stage road from Hannibal to St. Joseph ran through the center of Macon county. So in 1853 when the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad was located it naturally fell within the boundaries of Macon county and runs through township 57. T he North Missouri Railroad was projected in 1853. Among its incorporators were some Macon county men.
After the war the Missouri & Mississippi Railroad was projected, running northeast from Glasgow, Howard county, through Macon. Knox and Clark counties to the Mississippi river. This road was located through Macon City. The county made two subscriptions, amounting to $350,000. The road was not completed and in the panic of 1873 it was abandoned. Later on the St. Louis. Macon & Omaha air line was projected, running from Macon in the direction of Omaha. This road had some work done on it. Its location touched old Bloomington. Hudson township subscribed $60,000 and Liberty $40,000. These bonds were defaulted and finally compromised and settled.
Pioneer Life The dwellings of pioneers in Macon county were copies of the well-known pioneer cabin. It is easy to see that this is a matter of necessity. He brought his axe with him, and maybe, occasionally, had a crosscut saw, and sometimes some fortunate fellow had an ill-assorted kit of tools, including an adze or broadaxe, possibly. Poles were at hand, growing in the timber. These were straight and could be found of desired lengths, from sixteen to twenty feet.
Doubtless the modern housewife would scare at the idea of a dirt floor and the immense amount of dirt that would go with it. Well, that depends somewhat. The dirt of the floor became packed until it often glistened in a way, and when brush brooms were used, as in some instances, and other brooms when broom corn would grow, the deft art of the pioneer housewife made those floors look clean and refreshing.
One wonderful thing about one of these cabins was its capacity to take care of people and house strangers. The latch-string was on the outside and no questions were asked, but the invitation was: "Come in, be seated and welcome."
The furniture of these houses was as varied as the tastes and ingenuity of the owner and his wife. A pioneer bedstead would be something interesting were there space to describe it. There is a little institution that existed in every home in those days that seems almost to have passed from memory. That is the trundle-bed. If it was not brought along, it was not hard to construct one. It was placed during the waking hours under the other bed and consequently occupied but little room and could be pulled out when occasion required.
The following story is told of the distinguished Methodist Bishop Marvin: Stopping one day in one of these cabins, he was put to bed at night with the children in the trundle-bed. In the night the little fellow beside him wakened him by crying and saying: "Mother, mother, this man's a serougin* me." The good bishop moved over and is said to have wondered if he had "scrouged" anybody else during his life. But there has been many a fellow "scrouged" in trundle-beds, as well as other places, in Macon county. These primitive devices for furniture gradually but slowly gave place to better.
But the round-pole cabin, while persisting in many places, eventually gave way to the hewed log house. It subsisted with some persistency, but gradually gave way, as the sawmill and the carpenter and a little money came, to the dignified frame buildings. These, setting back in great lawns, were signs of prosperity and wealth and gradually sprang up here and there over the county. Occasionally the brick residence raised its substantial form above the lawns and outbuildings of the thrifty farmer.
The early Macon county citizen was not without his diversions, not-with-standing the monotony of a new country. He found many directions where he could give vent to his surplus energies.
The streams abounded largely with fish and the only drawback was hook and line and net. These were costly, but, when once possessed, were stored with the jewels of the family. The squirrel inhabited the forest and was wont to chatter in his season. The rabbit infested the paths, roads and fields and could be taken by dog or gun. The wild turkey made the timber his habitat. The deer roamed the prairies and bivouacked in the timber and knew every crossing from branch to branch and from timber point to timber point. The early comers in Macon county occasionally found the bear, especially in the southeastern corner. The wolf howled and robbed. When he could find the time, the settler was found in pursuit of game. It filled his smokehouse and made his table rival the viands of the nobility. Major William J. Morrow claimed that for years, from the early frosts of October to the coming of the spring rains, his smokehouse was never without from two to a half dozen saddles of venison and from three to a dozen turkeys, to say nothing of smaller game.
In the spring after the crops were in and before corn plowing began, the farmers, or at least the young people, were liable to go on fishing expeditions to the nearest river and spend at least one night. Again, in the fall, after the wheat was sown, there was a hunting excursion. Maconites usually went to the Chariton river and those expeditions often lasted a week or ten days. All the young bloods of the neighborhood got into the company and there were scenes of social enjoyment, feats of physical strength, as well as exhibitions of pluck and marksmanship.
An incident will serve to illustrate: Old "Uncle" James Dysart was a pious Presbyterian elder and a dominant figure in his neighborhood and he believed in a hunt on the Chariton in the fall and the neighbors were much pleased to send their boys with him, because of the somewhat restraining influence of the old gentleman's presence. The old gentleman was given to keeping up his devotions, even in camp. One Sunday morning, however, the boys slipped out before the old gentleman awoke and got away, all except his young son, Jimps, who was quite a character and lived and died in Macon county. Young Jimps did not dare to breach the parental discipline and stayed in camp. When the hour for the morning service came, and while right in the midst of his father's prayer, Jimps heard the hounds a short distance from camp. He knew exactly where that deer was going to cross the branch and he quietly took his gun and slipped away while his father was still engaged in his devotions. In due course "crack*' went Jimp's rifle and in a reasonable time he appeared with the saddle of the deer, which he hung on a pole. The old gentleman came out and said: "Jimpsy, Jimpsy, Jimpsy!" The boy threw up his head and said: "Father, no deer's a going to run over me in the path, if it is a Sunday morning." The story followed the boy to his grave and he even laughed and told it himself long after he had become an ordained Presbyterian minister.
Another fall sport that was somewhat largely followed was shooting for beef. The neighborhood assembled and shot for the right to choose the pick of the beef. Dear as powder and ball must have been, it was not thought illy spent when used in this sport. It not only developed the rifleman, but it brought food for the family as well, and the winner was as proud as the victor at some modern state tournament would be.
Quilting Parties and Log Rollings
The surroundings explain the necessities for much bedding. Consequently quilting parties were active industries of the women. The quiltings brought together all the dames and daughters of the neighborhood. When the dinner hour came the quilt was hoisted above the heads, the table was spread and a sumptuous dinner laid thereon and there was room and to spare for all. So the wagging tongue, the laughing mouth and the sparkling eyes had their opportunity, whether they got to the first table or the second or third. And the boys and men always made it convenient to be around more or less at meal hours at least. With the sinking sun the quilt would go up among the rafters for the night, and while fathers and mothers, at least the older ones, may have wended their way home, the younger ones stayed to dance 'til morning's light.
Cupid plied his art with assiduity in Macon county and the records show that his dart was as fatal here as elsewhere. Weddings were grand social events. The friends were invited, or, failing invitation, came, and where it was at all possible the infare must follow, and the bride-groom's family must be just as liberal as the bride's. These were frequently followed by the dance and made much for the social development, as well as diversion, of the people.
Another phase of the social life is represented by house raisings, where the men assembled to help a neighbor build a log house. This may have lasted for one day or more, though generally for one day. It was hard work, but they were a jovial lot of men and workers, and the joke went 'round and the news was retailed and the questions of the day were discussed and the men swapped ideas. All this called for cooking, and, consequently, the good women of the neighborhood came in to assist and the men and women all met at the noon, if not at the evening meal.
The same incidents attended the great corn huskings, when the farmer was behind with his work and his corn had to be shucked. These were especially attractive to the younger element, and when the negro came in. as he very frequently did, his rich melody and jingling songs added to the interest and entertainment of the occasion.
Log rollings were not infrequent. Great trees that could not be split into rails were cut into proper lengths, because the land had to be cleared. These logs were rolled into great heaps to be burned. Even tobacco cuttings and strippings occasionally fell into the same line. The pioneer did not throw these opportunities away, but gathered them up and carried them home for reflection.
In the early days of Macon county musters were still in vogue. While intending to keep the militia in training, they served a far better purpose. It was the mixing and mingling of men, the sharpening of wits and the development of ideas and thought, as well as the dissemination of news and information. There is always in all new communities and settlements a *'bully." He is liable to attend any large gathering, and. next to the county court days, the muster was his favorite resort. But it was rather a fatal place for him to attend, because the sense and brawn, as well as the moral forces of the community, was felt at such places.
The following story may illustrate: One year the Macon muster was held at Huntsville. Among other Maconites was Basil Powell, a stalwart man, weighing 200 pounds, without a surplus pound of flesh—a North Carolinian—and as peaceable a man as a new settlement ever contained. The "bully" appeared, looked the field over and chose Mr. Powell for his victim. He jibed, taunted and teased in a way, but got no response or recognition. Powell simply ignored him. So, taking advantage of some circumstance, he taunted Powell in a way that touched the quick and brought rapid and unexpected action Powell arose from his knees, where he had been fixing his fire, seized the "bully" by the neck and with Herculean strength laid him flat on his back and sat on him. Then, holding his hands with iron grip and without breaking the skin or inflicting a blow, he simply sat there until the man begged to be released.
One of the early amusements in Macon county was horse raciug. Man likes a horse and likes to see him run. Moreover the horse likes To run. Man is a plunger and will bet on a horse-race. Macon county was not very old when she made a record in the courts which shows that the passion for horse racing, if not ruling, was at least active in the community. The race was run near old Bloomington. They disagreed about the payment of the stakes and suit was instituted which was finally carried to the supreme court. (Humphreys v. McGee, 13 Mo. 436.) Some nice things cannot be said about horse racing. Nevertheless, they played their part in the advancement of men and horses. The Humphrey-McGee race was run in November, 1847. There still remains in Macon county a witness of the race—Isaiah Lewis, who seems to have reached Bloomington in 1835 before the county was organized. He locates the track a mile south of Bloomington on a quarter-stretch.
A peculiar dread of the settler, especially in the fall of the year, was the dread of the prairie fire. The old settler expatiates in most vivid terms upon the grandeur and fearfulness of those wild agencies of destruction. One of Dr. Willis King's most famous oratorical efforts was his description of a fight against a great prairie fire. There was nothing equal to it. By the way, Doctor King was a Macon county man, and the prairie fire he described a Macon county incident of pioneer life.
Peace and Order
Taking the traditions that come down to us. as well as the records, in the early days of Macon county peace and order seemed to prevail to a remarkable degree. The above is true up to the war. That period from 1861 to 1870, however, was a period of revolution. All her rail-road towns were garrisoned. Negroes rushed into large garrisons, in-cluding the county seat. Her citizens became greatly divided on the questions at stake and were losing property by the strong arm of military rule, as well as the hand of the guerrilla and the robber. Strife was engendered and turbulence reigned on every hand. Everything was confusion and chaos and the old saying, inter anna, silent leges, was fully illustrated and exemplified. Not only the regular forces, but independent commanders, responsible to nobody, made the highways dangerous and the night hideous. Death, as a matter of course, followed, and famine and vendetta raised their reeking hands.
It must be said, however, to the credit of the county and its inhabitants, that, considering the circumstances, when we look at it at this distance, the damage and destruction was much less than it might have been. With the coming of peace, civil authority regained its power and the people settled down face to face with one another and began to take in the situation and slowly to accommodate themselves to the basis of peace and quiet and good order. There were here and there occasional outbreaks with telling consequences.
In no small sense, possibly, the above conditions resulted from the deep religious sense that animated the early inhabitants of the county. They were, as stated, largely from Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. They were only fifty years from the great Revival of 1800, and many of them brought with them the impulses received in that wonderful movement, and. when they found themselves in the wilderness of Missouri, away from every religious movement, they were a little lonesome and felt the loss of a great privilege. The consequence was that the missionary was looked for—longed for—and hailed with welcome when he came and his meetings were attended by throngs. The Baptists of various kinds, the Methodists and the Presbyterians got an early start in Macon county, as well as the Disciples (so-called Campbellites), and all stayed with us and have given us moral power and religious tone and have been a chief factor in making us what we are.
Macon county was some time getting its public school system under way. But it should not be inferred that it was indifferent to education. That by no means followed. The private subscription school was soon in vogue in many neighborhoods. The teacher was abroad and stirred up sentiment in favor of education. It may be well here to correct a not uncommon idea in regard to the pioneer, and especially the Missouri pioneer. He gets credit for being a dullard and an ignoramus. He is entitled to no such credit. He may have been dull, and often was; he may have been more or less ignorant, and sometimes was. But he was a man with nerve. He was a man whose contact with the world had made him dissatisfied with his own condition and that dissatisfaction had sent him into the wilderness to better himself and he knew that dullness and ignorance were not going to stay in that wilderness simply because he was there. He understood that his children would meet the children of learning and intelligence and he made this venture to get a vantage ground by which he might prepare his offspring to meet the coming wave of culture and refinement. Consequently, the intellectual, as well as the religious, culture of his children lay next to his heart and inspired him to sacrifice. The pioneer was a man of enterprise He had the sagacity to see visions and the nerve to attempt their realization.
At present there are 139 school districts in Macon county.
Macon county years ago adopted by popular vote the system of superintendents in lieu of the old commissioners when that was a matter of option, and the common schools of the county are fulfilling to as large a measure as in any county in the state the object of their creation.
There were many private teachers in different parts of Macon county to supplement the public schools. Religious denominations lent their aid in this direction, and we find Bloomington Academy, under the patronage of the Methodist Episcopal church. South, in a very thriving condition and disseminating knowledge at the county seat and thus over the whole county.
In 1853 MeGee College was opened by the Cumberland Presbyterians at College Mound in the county, and the early settlers, such as the Dysarts, McCormicks, Sharps, Caldwells, Pattons, and many others, were throwing their influence to build it up, so that in 1861 when the loug roll of war was sounded through the land it had an attendance of some 250 students, and its graduating class for the year numbered ten or more. Several of its students have spent lives of usefulness in Macon and adjoining counties, among whom may be mentioned Maj. A. W. Mullins. the distinguished attorney of Linn county, Maj. B. R. Dysart of Macon county, no less distinguished as a lawyer, Capt. B. F. Stone of Macon county and the Rev. H. R, Crockett and many others. That institution was stopped by the exigencies of the war, but opened again in 1865.
In 1867 there was established in Macon under the patronage of the Methodist Episcopal church an institution known as Johnson College. It ran for several years and was well managed and did good work. But the necessities of the early 70s following the great panic put it out of commission and it was never reopened.
In the early '80s the Reverend Ethelbert Talbot, rector of St. James Episcopal church in Macon, opened a school which he called St. James Academy. Mr. Talbot was well known for his energy, diplomacy and ability. The school was opened in a modest way and grew possibly beyond his expectations. Later on the school was conducted by Mr. Davis, a successor of Mr. Talbot as rector, and he did good work. In about 1890 Col. Frederick William Blees became the principal of the school and developed with considerable rapidity the military feature which had been introduced by some of his predecessors. He continued the school until about 1895. About that time Colonel Blees came into a fortune and in 1897 built, just south of the city of Macon, in a most beautiful location, what became known as Blees Military Academy, said to be the best designed military school building in the country.
The high schools of Macon county are quite numerous and all of them are in articulation with the State University and the great private and denominational colleges of the state.
Like all new counties, and especially lying as Macon county did. the early settlers had more or less sickness—chills and fevers and malaria being the dominant ailments. The enterprising physician followed in the wake of the advancing immigration. To every settlement soon came the physician. As far as tradition goes, the profession was represented by men of sterling worth, who helped to give tone and worth to the community. As a sample may be mentioned Dr. J. B. Winn, who in the early '30s settled in the Morrow neighborhood and rode far and wide wherever fever burned and disease raged. The touch of his hand, like the sound of his voice, was more or less inspiring to the racked patient. He was a strong believer in Christianity and a devoted member of the Methodist church. He stood at the head of every movement for the advancement of morality and religion.
There lives to-day in the county Dr. Josiah Gates, at LaPlata, who is far into the 80's and has ministered to the aches and pains of humanity all over the north half of the county since his early manhood.
It is impossible to name all the worthy individual members of the profession. We trespass to mention an old English doctor who came to Macon county in the early days, bringing with him his diploma from Oxford and Edinburgh and fitting himself with his elegance, learning and gentility into the crudities and rudenesses of frontier life, traveled over the eastern half of the county and was called in almost every consultation. The older people remaining to-day, who were children in Barron's time, continue to speak of him with great respect and dwell upon his peculiarities and his efficiency.
Dr. William I. Lowry, son of old Doctor Lowry of Fayette, was a doctor by nature and practiced widely in the southwestern part of the county before and during the war. Doctor Lowry was the father of Professor Thomas J. Lowry, who for years taught in the University of Missouri.
Another physician who was partly contemporaneous with Doctor Lowry in southern Macon county—a surgeon of the Fifth Regiment. Missouri Infantry, C. S. A., was Dr. Benjamin Dysart, who, after the war. settled in Paris, Mo., where he had an extensive practice and died a few years ago.
Dr. T. F. Owen, who came to the country from Kentucky during the building of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, got his start following the camps of the laborers on the railroads, and, later, settling at Callao, practiced extensively and died some years ago.
Dr. J. F. Campbell settled in the southwestern part of the county during the war and built up a large practice when he moved to Callao and practiced extensively up and down the Chariton river. He was a public spirited man and took a deep interest in public affairs and represented the county in the legislature.
Dr. T. F. Jackson, son of Lieutenant-Governor Hancock Jackson, was for years a prominent figure in the medical profession of the county. At the time of the Porter raids through the northeastern portion of Missouri, the doctor, by tradition at least, is credited with visits made during the shades of night to the secret retreats of Porter's sick and wounded.
Macon county has had for years a County Medical Association, which is connected with the state organizations and its members to-day are devoted to their profession and are studying its interests.
Bench and Bar
Macon county when organized was attached to the second judicial circuit, of which Judge Thomas Reynolds was the presiding judge. Judge Reynolds became governor in the election of 1840, and seems to have been succeeded for a short term by Judge James Birch, and then fol-lowed by James Clark and Judge Leland. These were all gentlemen of fine ability. They were followed by Judge William A. Hall of Ran-dolph county, who was a learned lawyer and a just judge. He had some peculiarities, but was a great thinker and understood his profession. He is said to have been on fine terms with the younger members of the bar.
Judge Hall was succeeded by Judge George H. Burckhartt of Huntsville, a great character and native of Randolph county. He was proud of the fact that he had never been outside of the great state of Missouri.
Then followed Judge John W. Henry, who served from 1872 to November, 1876. He saw justice and was quite prompt to take the right. Quick in his mental and physical action, he reached an opinion and was somewhat firm in it, but was always ready to reverse himself, which he could do with the greatest grace when convinced he was wrong. In 1877 he became judge of the supreme court. In November, 1876, he was succeeded by Judge Andrew Ellison of Adair county, who succeeded to the vacancy and continued on the bench until 1898. He was another of nature s noblemen. Not an over-bookish man, but a man who knew the meaning and purport of what he read and with a somewhat remarkable tenacity of memory as to the principles of the law and their application to the jurisprudence of Missouri, he made a most acceptable judge and could have"remained on the bench until his death had he so desired. But he went into private practice, and died a few years thereafter.
In 1899, Judge Nat M. Shclton of Schuyler county succeeded to the bench and has continued ever since. This last fact speaks more for Judge Shelton than could a page of words. Sometimes after his election the judge moved to Macon, which is now his home. The bar of Macon county has always been one of ability and devotion.
An incident may serve to illustrate pioneer life and jurisprudence: There lived at Bloomington, from the earliest period, one Absalom Lewis, commonly called Uncle Ab. When he was getting along towards his ninetieth birthday the writer was passing his house one day and saw him at the gate in the sunshine of a beautiful fall day. Stopping to Bay 11 howdy," the old gentleman would not be satisfied unless I stayed for dinner and said I could put up my horse and he would show me where the corn was. While doing so, he told me that he was for eleven years a justice of the peace at Old Bloomington and had had but two cases appealed and that both were affirmed. Then he said that Abner Gilstrap and Wesley Halliburton had a case before him one day "and they were running along all right, when Abner, he sprung a pint, and they argued her up and they argued her down, and I gave the pint to Abner. And then," he said, "they ran along and directly Wesley, he sprung a pint, and they argued her* up and they argued her down, and I gave the pint to Wesley. Then they ran on again and directly Abner, he sprung another pint, and they argued her up and they argued her down, and I gave the pint to Wesley, and Abner—he got as mad as hell. I told him if he did not sit down I would adjourn court, take off my coat and go into the yard and whip him. And," he said, "they quieted down and the case went on." It may be mentioned that the squire prided himself on his fighting ability as much as on his legal.
Among the young men who were circuit attorneys and afterwards became distinguished at the bar was John F. Williams. He was circuit attorney in 1858, and represented the state in connection with Attorney-General Gardenhire in the celebrated case of the State against Hayes. The case was quite famous in its day. Colonel Williams became a colonel of militia during the war. After the war he settled in Macon and practiced law in connection with Judge John W. Henry. After Judge Henry s election to the bench. Colonel Williams continued to be a most successful lawyer. He was an advocate and made a most telling speech to a jury, free from cant and always managed to find some point of merit in his case and present it with efFect and for all there was in it. Colonel Williams was also a good stump orator.
During Colonel Crittenden's administration, Colonel Williams was superintendent of insurance. He was a friendly man and especially so with the younger members of the bar, and the writer, as well as others, is under many obligations to him.
Space forbids the mention of many good and great men who have practiced at the Macon bar, among whom is the late John H. Overall, an able man and lawyer.
The present bar is of ability. The Honorable Benjamin R. Dysart, who was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1875. is at present the nestor and dean of the Macon bar. The writer may be permitted to say that Major Dysart is a good pleader, a close thinker and a fine judge of the law. and on a legal point makes a most plausible and convincing argument. For a fine Italian hand in the management of a case, and especially in giving plausibility to its weak points, he is a full match for his old schoolmate, the Honorable A. W. Mullins of Linn county. Mr. Dysart s age and eminence will justify this personal mention of the living while the rest of the bar are left unnamed.
Politics and Interstate War
Macon county from the first seems to have been largely Democratic, though there was a large intelligent and influential minority of Whigs who managed to influence in no small degree the civic destiny of the county. Its location put it on the route of the pilgrimages of the great political orators in campaign years, and tradition is rife with the great speeches made by the great men of the day, such as Claiborne F. Jackson. James J. Lindsey. James Clark, Thomas L. Anderson. James R. Rollins, James S. Green, Thomas Hart Benton and many others. Among the local politicians Fred Rowland soon pushed to the front and became representative. William S. Fox likewise became an active politician and legislator. Colonel Abner Lee Gilstrap also was a prominent politician and member of the convention of 1865. Wesley H. Halliburton was also quite a prominent man and became a member of the state senate.
The Benton split in the Democratic party created a good deal of excitement in the county, and it is believed the anti-Bentonites dominated. The great questions of slavery and states rights had their advocates and opponents and at times discussion grew warm, and the Jackson resolutions of 1849 became quite a subject of animated debate among all parties.
In 1860 the Breckenridge men ran for representative. Dr. James Weatherford of Bloomington—a good man and States Rights Democrat. The Douglas men ran Fred Rowland, a dignified thoughtful Democrat with little culture, blessed with good common sense, but a slow speaker. The Bell and Everett party were represented in the race by George Palmer of Macon, a young lawyer with a good gift of speech, quick to catch a point and apt to dodge a thrust. In that campaign his office was to advocate "The Constitution, the Union and the Enforcement of the Laws," but he was in fact principally engaged in goring his two opponents. He seemingly aimed to pet Doctor Weatherford and to go after Uncle Fred, because he was himself almost a secessionist and had the idea that his mission was to beat the Douglas men in the county. The issues were discussed with great earnestness, not to say warmth, and union and disunion, secession and coercion came in for heated declamation. The consequence was that Weatherford was elected and Douglas and Bell lost in the conflict in Macon county. The Whig and Democratic issue went out of the discussion and the Whigs, a great per cent, of whom were States Rights men of the strictest sect, were acting with the Breckenridge Democrats. Lincoln received no votes in Macon county it is said.
The legislature of 1860-61 called a state convention to take into consideration the "Federal Relations." The election of delegates to that convention engendered much strife.
There is a little incident that occurred in the early spring of 1861, which seems to have escaped notice in these late years. Macon City was a new railroad town and was enjoying her youthful notoriety. Early in April notice went out that there would be speaking on the political issues of the day by Col. Thomas L. Anderson of Palmyra, Mo., an ex-congressman, and a secessionist flag would be raised. The city made considerable preparation for the event. The crowd came, the train from the east brought Colonel Anderson, and all the political debaters of the surrounding country were present. The flag went up in the afternoon in front of the Harris house, and the crowd cheered, and, as its folds fluttered to the breeze, Colonel Anderson was introduced and made one of his telling and captivating speeches. He was followed by Wesley Halliburton in his most bitter and sarcastic vein. in which he dealt out facts that were damning to the East and the Republican party.
Soon after the pole raising at Macon, Bloomington announced a speech from the Honorable James S. Green, then a senator from Missouri. His fame and reputation had filled the nation by reason of his demolition of the Squatter Sovereignty doctrine of Douglas. The day came and a large crowd. Green seemed to have been in good condition, and spoke it is believed in his ordinary way, with possibly an increased enthusiasm by reason of the intense excitement that saturated the mind and thought of the community. He spoke his words as if they were hot and spit them from him as if to get rid of them. The audience was at rapt attention when a messenger came in and a telegram was passed to the speaker. He perused it and then read it to the crowd. It announced the taking of Camp Jackson by General Lyon. The crowd was still, as if trying to get hold of something, but the response came a little later, as it were, in a deep unconscious groan. Then Green proceeded, and in his way scored the act, denounced the actors and made his audience feel that the day of liberty had passed in Missouri. However, there was a seriousness and comprehension of the situation that sent the audience home deeply impressed with the sterner facts at hand. The theories had become facts and discussion had vanished before realities. This was followed in a day or two by a great meeting in Macon, which was simply a spontaneous running together from all corners of the county of men, anxious to know and learn and see and determine when and what was to be done. It is 6aid that this crowd in Macon was largely armed with old muskets, shot guns and rifles and the temper of the crowd was .anything but assuring for peace.
During all the preceding exciting events several organizations of men were exercising in the different neighborhoods, and musters and drills were frequent, but informal and ineffective. Pew real organizations existed. Among them were the Silver Greys of Macon City, under Captain Halleck, and the Macon Rangers, xinder Capt. William D. Marmaduke. These companies had some more or less organization and some systematic drill, especially the Halleck company. The preceding incidents attracted the Federal attention and early in June a couple of regiments under General Hurlbut reached Macon from the East. This created consternation and drove out a good many people. About the same time the proclamation of Governor Jackson, calling for fifty thousand volunteers at Jefferson City, sent quite a number of the Halleck and Marmaduke companies on their way, and they joined Gen. John B. Clark, brigadier-general of the third division, at Jefferson City and made a part of the first regiment of that division. This regiment played an important part in the battle of Wilson creek on August 10th. There may be others of that company remaining, but the only ono recurring to memory now is Maj. B. R. Dysart of Macon, who was severely wounded in the fight and fell in front of where General Lyon was killed.
About August 20th, there rendezvoused at Marshall three companies of Capt. James Scovern, Capt. Theodore Sanders and Capt. Ben Eli Guthrie, all of Macon county. This constituted the Bevier Battalion of the Third Division and operated with that division during the existence of the Missouri State Guard. This, with the contingent of about one thousand men under Col. Ed Price, joined General Price's advance at Nevada and took part in the battle of Dry Wood and there-after marched on to Lexington. There, great numbers of other Macon county people joined the various organizations to which they belonged, and the Bevier Battalion was increased to third regiments by the companies of Gross, Griffin and Smith and some three other companies, so that it may be safely said that in Price's army there was at that time in the neighborhood of twelve hundred Macon county people. These followed the fortunes of Price and from time to time additional recruits straggled in.
The Federal army doubtless had as many as two thousand Macon county men during the war in its various commands and militia. Some of them did valiant service, among whom may be mentioned Wm. T. Forbes, C. R. Haverly, John M. London and Ben F. Stone. These were all respected citizens. Garrisons were continually maintained at Macon City. Among the commanders at different times were Forbes, Ebberman, Gilstrap and Williams, who were disposed, as much as may be, to make a hard situation as easy as possible. The tradition among the people afterwards was that General Merrill was quite severe and his memory is not reverenced highly in the county. Col. Odon Guitar commanded for a while and General Fisk also.
There was a Federal prison maintained at Macon in which from time to time many of the old citizens of the county found a temporary abode. On the 25th of September, 1862, ten Confederate prisoners, tried by court-martial, were shot. Among the condemned was a boy who wrote the general the following note, which is preserved in the form in which it was sent:
general for god sake spare my life for i am a boy i was perswaded to do what i have done and forse i will go in service and fight for you and stay with yon douring the war i wood been fighting for the union if it had bin for others. J. A. Wysono.
There is a well authenticated report of a Confederate officer being hung in Macon in the fall of 1864, on the ground of intercepting the United States mails. The name has passed from the records.
The garrisons were not confined to Macon City. It is estimated at one time there were as many as seven thousand soldiers in the county, but this was only for a short time. But garrisons were kept along the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, and especially at the Chariton bridge, where a block house was built in 1863 for the protection of the bridge, which still remains and is now used for a better purpose, to-wit, a stable.
There was one stirring little campaign in Macon county in '64 when Colonel Poindexter made his raid through the country and took Kirksville. In his retreat southward he came into Macon county and crossed to the west of the Chariton, where he met a detachment which was trying to cut off his retreat, and a running fight occurred along the west bluffs of the Chariton, on what is known as Painter's creek, in which there was some maneuvering and a good deal of shooting and maybe one or two deaths. Some of his command were Macon county people.
Towns and Villages
Old Centerville seems to have been the first trading point in the county. It was situated in the southeast corner of the county, near the lines of the three counties—Shelby, Monroe and Randolph, and was in its day the center of considerable influence. Its name for years has been Woodville. It is still a trading post, having a blacksmith shop, store and postoffice.
About ten miles west of old Centerville. in years agone. stood the village of McClainesville. which the necessities of the pioneer life had called into existence and the rich prairies that surrounded it made it a point of much prominence and importance at one time.
Some six miles farther west, in about 1850, sprang up the little hamlet of Floretta. This was located on the main stage road from Huntsville to Bloomington. For many years large quantities of tobacco was bought and shipped.
In 1852 McGee College was located at College Mound, some two miles almost due west of Floretta. There were several stores, blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, boot and shoe shop, mill, tobacco factory and quite a number of other things that went to make a thriving little village around the college and overshadowed Floretta, which gradually declined. College Mound held its own during the war fairly well, and is still a flourishing town.
About two miles north of the old town of McClainesville the Wabash Railroad established a station, Excello, some time in the '80s. This became quite a village by reason of the mining of coal in the immediate vicinity.
In the early '90s the village of Ardmore, lying about half way be-tween Excello and College Mound, was laid out by the Kansas & Texas Coal Company, who opened their main store there in connection with several mines. It is a mining camp, having the usual luck of such villages.
In Morrow township on the southwest there has existed since the '70s a trading post called Kaseyville, near the Randolph county line, where they have stores and the usual shops. Some five miles north of Kaseyville is the postoffice of Barryville, which is a store where there is a fair amount of trading.
With the building of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, a station was established in Round Grove township on the east side of the county, which still continues to be a thriving trading point for a large and wealthy community. In the '90s the railroad company changed the name to Anabel.
The Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad placed a station five miles west of Macon and about four miles south of old Bloomington and called it Bevier. This was in 1858. It soon became a hamlet of some importance. In 1865 coal was discovered in great quantities. The original mines have been worked out, other mines have been opened and traffic goes on. Mining camps grew up at mine "61." Keota and other shafts were sunk and a railroad was built some ten or twelve years ago from. Bevier passing by these several shafts and villages, including Ardmore with its surrounding shafts and camps, and running into Randolph county. Bevier, today, is a good strong town of two thousand people, having many nice residences, hotels, business houses, churches and all the general features of an organized community.
In 1858, sometime in the late summer, the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad reached Callao, where its trains stopped for a while until its tracks could span the botton of the Chariton and reach the western bluffs. Prom that day to this, Callao has grown. It has a population of intelligent, refined and enterprising people and does business for a great country to the north and south, its trade extending into Randolph county.
The next stop in the county for the railroad was New Cambria, in range 17. The town for years has had an active, thriving trade, serving the great territory far into Chariton county to the south and extending even farther to the north, until its northern trade was somewhat clipped by the building of the Santa Fe Railroad.
In the early '70s coal was discovered along near the western line of the county and a station was located and named Lingo. Shafts were sunk and a large quantity of coal mined and shipped. The village grew around it and continues, notwithstanding the coal has been largely exhausted. The community is largely Bohemian—a cheerful and happy people.
On the line of the old Hannibal and St. Joseph stage road was a postoffice from the earliest times, called Ten Mile postoffice, in township 58, and, the country around being rich, it was not long until it became the nucleus for a village and was pushing ahead with vigor when the railroad came in 1857. It still remained a postoffice, but it was a "star router.''
Some ten miles north and west of Ten Mile postoffice, in the northern part of the county, out on the great prairie in township 59, and near the Salt river, was a little village called Vienna in the olden time, but later dubbed Economy. When the railroad came and, later, the war, its brightness began to tarnish, but, still, by reason of the wealth of the community around it, it is a considerable trade center.
When the Wabash Railroad pushed north from Macon in 1866, it established a station almost west of Vienna and called it Atlanta. From that day on Atlanta was a growing town. It is a good place to live in and will grow as the country developes. It has in this good year of 1912 established a local fair, and its first meeting in September would be a credit to any rural community.
In the latter part of the '70s there sprang up a store out on the prairie in range 15. This was called Barnesville. It was simply a necessity of a growing, thriving people, and it is still there. The start of this little town showed the growth of population and the spirit of business in the community. It is almost ten miles west of Atlanta.
Some six miles farther west there sprang up in the '90s on the eastern bluffs of the Chariton, a postoffice called Cash. There is a store there and its existence means that the Chariton bottom had begun to be drained and the farming community needed a local store.
There had in the meantime grown up a store and embryonic village called Dodd. It lay on the north side of the prairie, on the south of which old Winchester had formerly existed.
In the ante-bellum days in township 60, range 16, there grew up a trading post called Mercyville, situated at the foot of the bluff where Sand creek wound its way toward the Chariton river, and bespoke the fact that the second bottom of the Chariton in that country was being inhabited and cultivated. The old town is still on the map, although it has been absorbed in a measure by its younger neighbor—Elmer.
This brings us to another old town. At the edge of the timber on the Richland prairie in the earjy days was a store and postoffice and a little community called Newberg. This must have been in existence in the '40s. In fact, it seems to have been quite an early town of some importance. It was beautifully located and it was impossible to get up the divide in range 15 without going across this prairie and striking the timber to the west.
The principal rival of old Newberg was LaPlata, some eight miles to the east on the Wabash, although it existed as a town in the early '50s. But the coming of the Wabash in '67 gave it new life and the timber was hauled past old Newberg to LaPlata. and the stock came from all directions to the pens of LaPlata. The fact is that its active merchants, careful traders, daring shippers and the general enterprise and intelligence of its citizens make LaPlata the second town in the county. It has some two thousand inhabitants. The town is neat and clean. The residences are nice, tasty and comfortable. It has a fine school building and some six or eight churches. The Santa Fe and Wabash railroads maintain good stations and large yards. It made money off the timber trade and the shipping trade—horses, cattle and hogs—and is the mart for the farmers who own the highly productive fields around. It draws largely from the southern part of Adair county and has a large territory to the northwest and northeast. For its size LaPlata can be safely said to be one of the most enterprising and thriving little cities of the fourth class in the state.
In 1865 the Missouri & Mississippi Railroad was laid out from Macon City to Alexandria, Missouri. In Johnson township, in the northeast corner of the county, a town was laid out and called Sue City. As the road was slow in coming, the town did not wait, but moved ahead. The country around is broad prairie land with good farms and nice farm houses.
From 1858 to 1877 the Hannibal & St. Joseph and the North Missouri were the only railroads in the county. In the latter year the Santa Fe was projected, entering the county from Linn county just north of Bucklin, and running northeast for twenty-six miles, and passing into Adair county just northeast of LaPlata. The road was built in one year from Kansas City to Chicago, and the first train went over it on the 1st of January, 1888. It passed through a country that was sparsely inhabited, on west of the Chariton, and, as a matter of course, had to have stations, and that made towns. Southwest from LaPlata the first station is Lacrosse, where there has grown up an ordinary village, with stores and postoffice and doctor.
The next station to the west is Elmer, which was built just three-quarters of a mile southwest of old Mercyville, the object being, no doubt, to wipe the old town off the map and build a new one. It is certain they built a new one, and a nice town it is, with its bank, several stores, churches and schoolhouse, two or three timber factories, charcoal pits, etc. It is situated on the edge of the Chariton bottom and has a large country trade in all directions.
next town to the west on the Santa Fe is Ethel. It is a good town. It has a large territory to the northwest and immediately to the south and draws from the western bottoms of the Chariton—a most productive agricultural district. In fact, the pressing in of the population on the Chariton and its tributaries had the effect to bring under cultivation these great bottoms, which in that part of the country are large as well as productive. Ethel is a good shipping point for live-stock and it has the distinction of being the largest turkey shipping point in the state, the southwest of Adair, the southeast of Sullivan and the northeast of Linn being tributary to it for shipping purposes. It has quite a number of thriving stores, banks, poultry houses and school-house, churches and all the things that make a live rural village. The next point to the west is simply a stopping point called Hart. There is a general store for the convenience of the community, which thickened up with the coming of the Santa Fe, and the store is doing well.
In the early '80s there arose on the line between townships 59 and 60, about six miles north of Ethel, a town called Goldsberry. The movement of the population to the northwest and the opening of farms made a trading point a necessity. A general store, drug store, physician, blacksmith shop and such things needed by a farming community followed. It still remains, about the same and holds its own, notwithstand-ing the establishment of Ethel and Elmer.
Further up in the township, some six or eight miles to the northwest, had sprung up the postoffice of Tullvania, which meant there was a store and the people demanded postal facilities by reason of that growth. It still maintains the store without being specially more than a -crossroads with blacksmith shop, etc.
But long prior to these two villages, there had existed up in the township right on the west banks of Muscle fork, in 1848, a town called New Boston, and in its day it was something of a town. It had as many as two general stores, blacksmith shop and hotel. It continued to be a center until after the war, when its condition and unfortunate location in the bottom served to wipe it off the map, and in 1872 a town with the same name was started on the west bluff of the creek, which is in Linn county, and remains as a considerable center today. Doubtless its removal contributed quite largely to the building of Goldsberry and Tullvania. to say nothing of the village of Walnut to the northeast, situated on Walnut creek, which has grown to be quite a little center.
Among the early towns in the county was the village of Old Winchester, about half way between Old Bloomington and the Chariton river on the old stage road. It had some prominence as a tobacco center. It had a store and there was a splendid timber and prairie country, which would be attractive to early settlers, and it was close to the water and this made it still more inviting. It was some five miles north of the present town of Callao, and with the coming of the railroad and the ceasing of the stage its struggles for life began. The fates were against it, for the population to the north in the meantime began to have centers, such as Barnesville and Mercyville, to attract them, as well as the railroad towns of the south.
Some six miles to the east of Old Bloomington was the Richardson home, situated at the crossing of the stage road and the old Bee Trace. It had received the name of Moccasinville, tradition says, because at one time the men were compelled to wear moccasins for want of shoes.
In 1837, when the commission to name the county seat was appointed, these three towns—Winchester, Moccasinville and Box Ankle—were rival claimants. Possibly Box Ankle was the least known of these claimants. But it had some advantages. Its inhabitants were pushing and influential and it was situated very near the center of the county, as it was anticipated the county would be in the near future. The commissioners reported in favor of Box Ankle, which was confirmed by the county court. The court subsequently changed the name to Bloomington. After these events, as a matter of course, it got to be quite a considerable town. It was the center of a great country, and when the war came on it was not asking favors of anybody, not even of railroads, and let the Hannibal & St. Joseph go by. The war came and with it came many things, among them being the removal of the county seat. This did good old Bloomington up and it has settled down into quite a humdrum little crossroads town. Its appearance speaks of the past and not of the future.
In about 1900 some promoters started to build a railroad down to the Chariton river from Centerville. Iowa, called the Iowa & St. Louis Railroad. The road was in fact built as far south in Macon county as old Mercyville. The first station in Macon county was Gifford. But so great was the boom that one Gifford was not sufficient for the community, and a new town called South Gifford was started. The towns joiu one another. They have a bank in each town and stores and difficulties with the United States government about the postoffice. But they are both thriving little towns and while neither or both of them may ever rival St. Louis, it will not be the fault of the promoters if they do not. They are wide awake little villages and, as a matter of course, will be one town, as they' ought to be.
While Moccasinville has gone off the map, the settlement still remains, a thriving community, and about two miles and a quarter away is the station of Axtel, having a postoffice and store, being situated on the Wabash, showing that Moccasinville was not a dream but a necessity and now lives in another name.
When in 1857 the railroad reached the present site of Macon City, the town was laid out and plotted just north of its depot. After the contractors had moved on west, the town continued to increase and became quite a thriving village during that year. In 1858 the North Missouri Railroad reached a junction with the Hannibal & St. Joseph, and laid off a town some quarter of a mile south of the junction and called it Hudson. The parties that managed the site were thrifty men, consisting of James S. Rollins, D. A. January and Porter C. Rubey and others, and the consequence was that in 1858 the two town companies, as well as the two railroads, had a friendly understanding and they laid out a new town between Macon City and the railroad junction, and the name was changed to Macon. In 1859, :60 and '61, the town grew and made strides in business. A union depot for both railroads was placed at the junction and Macon grew and got its first great boom. All the country to the Iowa line and extending a very considerable distance east and west had come to Macon to get their goods and to ship their produce. Then the war came on and the garrisons that were in the town during that time tended to keep business very lively and there were thousands and thousands of dollars disbursed by the government to maintain the garrisons.
In 1864 a bill was prepared it is said at Macon, changing the county seat from Bloomington to Macon. There is no indication anywhere that the matter was mooted publicly, even in Macon City or Bloomington. The bill was prepared, it is said, and taken to Jefferson City, and in forty-eight hours the messenger returned with the bill passed and approved and certified and the matter was then made public. One would think rather swift, work. Yes, but those were rather swift days.
The next session of the circuit court was held in Macon City. The town company immediately laid out a large addition to the city, called the "County Addition," near the south line of which the courthouse was located, looking down the principal business street of the town— Rollins street. In 1865 the jail was built and also a very decent court-house for the times and conditions.
Life in Macon City during the war was not as pleasant as it might have been for the Southern people. Southern sympathizers all over the county detested the town. As a matter of course, the Union people praised it. This sentiment, however just or unjust, followed the town for years.
After the war the farms of the county began to be cultivated and provision made to take care of the surplus products. During the war large tobacco factories were opened in the city, but with the close of the war still larger ones were opened and every spring until way up in the '80s the city's barns would be loaded with tobacco and its streets crowded with tobacco wagons and its merchants were reaping something of a harvest.and getting their bills paid.
Macon today is a thriving city by reason of the great growing agricultural community surrounding it. Socially Macon is equal to any county seat in northeast Missouri. In civic pride she is among the foremost. She has a fine waterworks and electric light system, a large and extended sewerage system, a splendid telephone system, well connected with the large telephone systems of the country.
Business and Industry The primitive industry and the substantial one of Macon county has always been agriculture. As a matter of course, in the early days the settlers derived a large per cent of their cash from the sale of pelts. But it is to be remembered that the early settler, fortunately, did not require a great deal of cash. Barter was a great means of living and when he had nothing else to barter, he bartered his labor for the necessaries of life. He dressed in homespun and the domestic duties were spinning and weaving. The men and boys wore jeans and the women linseys and woolseys, and the wives and daughters were always busy with some part of these industries. Flax was raised in small quantities by some and this furnished the various grades of homespun linen. As a matter of course, in a short time the tobacco crop became the money crop. This was hauled to Glasgow or Hannibal, according to whether the settler was west or east of the Bee Trace and he came back with groceries for the year and such goods as were necessary. As a matter of course, these supplies were quite limited. As the farms opened the tobacco trade increased and money became more plentiful and supplies were bought in larger amounts. Up to the war the loom, the spinning wheel and the flax wheel were implements of domestic industry and kept the forces well employed. It was a matter of pride whose husband was dressed the best in homespun, to say nothing of the linseys and woolseys that the women wore. It should not be forgotten that many families had their calicoes and their silks and other fine materials. The men continued to wear jeans, but some had in reserve for occasions their broadcloth and other like apparel, because your ante-bellum Missourian was, among other things, a dresser.
Timber was for many years a source of great revenue, especially after the coming of the railroads. Scarcely a station on either road but had a timber yard connected with it. Ties became necessary for the construction of the road and were always needed. As soon as the engines were run they needed fuel and long lines of cord wood were found on every hand. The tie business continued to be something of an industry, but from '60 up to the late '90s it was a great natural industry of the county. With the opening of the mines came the need for props and that industry has flourished since 1865 and still survives. The sawmill business continues, the high price of imported lumber raising the demand for native timber. The timber business for many years appealed to the adventuresome and gave employment to the young man of the community who had the nerve to risk the work, and in that respect was a great developer of enterprise and brought the farmer boy in contart with the world and also with the risks of business.
During all this time it must be remembered that stock—hogs, horses and cows—were being raised. The farmers found wide range for their hogs, and when brought up in the fall they required no great amount of corn to equip them for the market. They were collected in droves in the fall and driven to Hannibal or Glasgow. It is even claimed in the early days that hogs were driven from this county to St. Louis. These facts give a vivid view of the imperiousness of trade.
The cattle trade has always been of interest in Macon county. The broad ranges and prairies and the rich grass served in the early days to raise and fatten the cattle. The great prairies furniqhed hay for the winter which supplemented the rapidly increasing production of corn in the county. The cattle industry in Macon county has thrived. Thousands upon thousands of head of cattle have been shipped since the railroads came.
Before leaving the subject it is well to consider for a moment the part played in the early development of the county by the patient ox. He was the beast of burden, indeed. A large per cent of the hauling was done by oxen. Most every farmer could get hold of a yoke of oxen and the better-to-do had sometimes several yoke. Even the donkey could not play the part performed by the ox. While he may have had the patience, he lacked the great power of the ox. In the summer season he lived on grass to a very considerable extent, though corn was good for him. In the winter prairie hay, supplemented by corn, kept him fit for service. The ox may be termed the settlers' friend. In fact, he deserves a monument for his contribution to civilization, and it should show him in patient action and unswerving determination to move civilization to the front.
Out of this cattle industry has grown the creamery business. Every train takes up the cream and returns the cans at every station. Macon has a first class creamery, doing an extensive business and drawing its cream from the local farmers. Many thousand dollars' worth of cream is sold in the county every year.
The Macon county boy loves a horse and always has. More than that, he loves a fine horse, and the consequence is the farmers of Macon county have always been great raisers of horses and mules. The sales of horses and mules are very large.
Some Macon countians have dared to claim that the Missouri hen was discovered in Macon county. At any rate she seems indigenous to the soil and perfectly at home, producing" her very best results. Every considerable town in the county has a large poultry house where eggs and chickens are brought, sold and shipped, and the carloads that go out of Macon county are wonderful indeed.
The sheep industry in Macon county is large and growing and yield-ing a fine return for those who pursue it, and some of them are quite skillful.
Macon county is not wheat producing, but still quite an amount of wheat is raised by the farmers. Rye is raised in limited quantities over the county. The oats crop is largely increasing from year to year and the yield under the improved methods of cultivation is likewise increasing. The cultivation of corn in Macon county is on the rapid increase. Farmers are maintaining connection with the Agricultural College of the University of Missouri and are receiving bulletins and studying the best practices in the growth of the crop and it would not be too much to say that in the last ten years the yield in the corn crop in Macon county has increased fifty per cent per acre. Silos are coming into common use and the shredding of the stock fodder has also increased the usefulness of the crop. Macon county exports little or no corn. Rather, she imports it, because of her large demand to feed her stock, the theory of the Macon county farmer being to drive his crop to market on foot and not haul it away in wagons.
Macon is a grass country. Consequently, Macon county produces beef and butter. Timothy is grown extensively. Large quantities of millet and cane are produced every year and fed upon the farms. Soja beans and cow peas are also cultivated in increasing quantities and are fast winning their way into the esteem of the farmer.
The enterprise of the farmer and the general interest in the above matters is shown by the fact that local fairs are held where the different products of the county including the livestock are shown. Fairs are held at LaPlata, New Cambria, Callao and Atlanta within the county, and at Jacksonville across the line in Randolph county, which is also largely prompted by Macon county farmers. Macon this year inaugu-rated a fair with a success that surprised the promoters.
Farmers in Macon county are not behind in the use of improved agricultural implements that mark this era. The implement trade is large in the county and every village has an implement house or an agent for some implement house, and the amount of implements coming into the county in the course of a year is quite large.
In 1865 the discovery of coal near Bevier in the county was followed by the sinking of three or four shafts. Large numbers of miners came to the county, a great number of them foreigners, mostly from Wales, and up until the panic of 1873 all thrived and did a good business. They helped to develop the county and put in circulation much money that otherwise would have passed by. At present the principal mines in Macon county are conducted by the Northwestern Coal & Mining Company and the Central Coal & Coke Company, both of which have offices and stores in the town of Bevier and mines to the south and possibly running as many as ten mines. The coal fields of Macon county are but fairly opened and the indications are there is a great business for the future.
The miners have always been a bright and intelligent people and have made good citizens. Many of them are enterprising as far as their means will permit. They can also be said to be quiet and orderly. They built the town of Bevier, which is a substantial monument to their thrift and industry as well as their regard for law and good order.
Macon county has quite a number of valuable institutions that have grown to meet the demands of and keep pace with the community.
Atlanta has a fine wagon factory, turning out quite a large number of wagons and meeting a ready sale over the county. Mr. Holbeck, the proprietor, simply built his business up as his means permitted and his experience dictated, and it is moving forward today in health and vigor.
Miller Brothers of Macon have a growing wagon factory, turning out a fair supply and meeting the expectations of their customers and keeping outlays within income.
Macon has the Blees Buggy Company, an institution that has been run in Macon for some twelve or fifteen years. They not only supply the local demands, but ship largely to the foreign trade and maintain quite a number of laborers.
The Macon Creamery has been mentioned under another head.
Having the debt hanging over it which has been mentioned in another place, Macon county lands for quite a while moved very slowly and the advance in price was quite gradual. But for the last few years, with the increased production of the lands, came a corresponding increase in the value of the lands, and lands that could have been bought twenty-five years ago for $10, $15, $20 and $25 an acre bring $40, $50. $75 and $100 an acre. The last census gave Macon county a population of some 36,000. These people are living in happiness and growing rich. However, it is equally true that they would be just as happy and get rich faster if there were just twice that many people. There would be plenty of land for all and plenty of labor, and all would make more money in a shorter time. In fact, it is quite possible that children now living in Macon county may see one hundred thousand people in the county living amid plenty and surrounded by all the comforts of life. Banks
The banks of Macon county speak in a certain quite definite way of the wealth, enterprise and thrift of the people. In this respect Macon county will favorably compare with any of the counties of her age. There are now some twenty banks in the county. Every little town of any size has one or two banks. These institutions are all doing a thriving, conservative business and have the confidence of the community.
We add the following items in regard to banks—Liabilities: Capital stock, $411,000; surplus, undivided profits, $162,181.69; time deposits and others, $1,994,036.14.
Resources: Loans, overdrafts, real estate, $2,005,496.69; cash on hand, $526,039.46.
These figures show that they are not exact, but are, however, sub-stantially correct.
Among the men who have been bankers in Macon county and have passed off the stage of action with credit, may be mentioned John Babcock, who for many years was connected with the First National Bank of Macon and was a safe conservative man. Another is William J. Biggs of LaPlata, who for thirty years was connected with the LaPlata Savings Bank. He was a man who had the confidence of the business community and built up a great and growing institution.
In Macon. Web M. Rubey has been more or less connected with banks for many years. John Scovern, the founder of the First National Bank of Macon, has for thirty years given his whole attention to the banking business, and is today the president of the State Exchange Bank of Macon, having a capital of $100,000 and a growing surplus, and is regarded as one of the safest and most conservative bankers in northeast Missouri.
After the War From the settlement to the war was a period of some twenty years in which the settler had established a home and gathered around him many of the comforts then known to rural life. He had stocked and equipped his farm and was reaching out with young and vigorous hand and with watchful eye to acquire the good things of this world. And this can be said to a greater or less extent of every portion of the county. But the war came. War means desolation, and here in Macon county where both parties came and went and where the intelligence and wealth of the community was largely with the weaker party, neither wealth nor intelligence had much protection. Returning peace was not cheered by the smoke from the chimney of the peaceful home, but too often was chilled by the lonely chimney and the ashes of the once happy home. WThere the home remained, often the son and father and husband were missing. Almost always the horses and stock were missing and plows and wagons and other implements of industry were scattered. These, singly, are small items, but when taken in a mass they meant a vast sum of money that in the five years of strife had been absolutely swallowed up and was gone beyond recall. How slowly a community reacts from such a thing can only be known by experience. It is first a fear and tnembling and an anxiety to get the necessities of today, and then all these means and implements of industry must be gotten together before a start can be made. After reassurance in some measure settles upon the community, credit is strained to the breaking point to supply the wastes of war. But in 1873 came the great panic, not so red-handed as war, but in a certain way more destructive of confidence and commercial activity and energy, and, as a consequence, credit is destroyed, defaults are common, the red flag flies at the courthouse door and at the cross-roads and the hard earnings of the last half dozen years are gone with but little to show for it.
Recollect, this period was not confined to 73. It hung on with a deadly fatality until in the '808. the sun of confidence began to climb the skies and invite men to real effort and gave them real hope and inspired them with early expectations.
From the '80s to '93 Macon county in a certain sense boomed. Not that her progress was phenomenal, but it was steady and forward and she grew in wealth and intelligence and her roads were improved and her confidence in herself and in her people and in the future returned. Consequently, in 1893 the panic was not to be compared with that of 1873. No banks failed and there were but few forced sales and only an occasional foreclosure, and, while the flood of business was stayed in its rapidity, it moved on by the force of its momentum with a steadiness and sureness that gave the community confidence. Macon county can be said to have done well during the trying years from 1893 to 1896.
The panic of 1907 struck the country with an unusual suddenness. In that fall and winter and the following spring the ordinary sales that occur among the farmers of stock and grain were largely attended and large amounts of property were sold. The terms at such sales were cash, or note at eight per cent. It was a remark at the time in the county that the banks got very few sale notes, which is another way of saying that the vast amount of property that changed hands at these sales was paid for on the spot in cash.
For the last fifteen years the farmers have been depositors in the banks and the cattle men and wealthy farmers have been the great borrowers of the banks. This wealth has been grown in Macon county since 1880. From the war to that period the people had just got started and had made back a small amount of what they owned at the beginning of the war and lost during its continuance.
A History Of Northeast Missouri by Walter Williams Vol. 1 of 3 1913
Macon County, Missouri Genealogy Trails
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