Madison County - Genealogy Trails
Madison County Early History
county in the southeastern part of the State, bounded on the north by St.
François; east by Perry and Bollinger; south by Bollinger and Wayne, and west
by Iron County; area 316,000 acres.
topography is irregular, ranging from valleys to high hills and mountains.
West of the St. Francis River the greatest elevation is reached, Rock Creek
Mountain, the highest,
being 575 feet. Elevations of other
mountains are, Blue, 551 feet; Daguerre, 492; Block, 467, and Smith, 432.
There is little soil in the mountain district,
which is covered with flinty rock and broken porphyry. Generally the valleys in the elevated
sections have a light covering of red clay, which in places produce good crops
of wheat. In the northern part is a plateau,
with soil based upon syenitic rock, which by careful cultivation bears fair
crops, but is chiefly valuable for
county is drained by the Castor and St. Francis and their tributaries. The
Castor flows in a southerly direction through
the eastern part, having its source in the northeast, and from the east
receives the waters of Dry and Ground's Creeks, and from the west the feeders
are Kelly's and Mouser's Creeks. The
St. Francis flows through the western part and is fed by Brewer's, Stout's,
Marble and Leathenvood Creeks from the west, and by Cedar, Turkey, Twelve Mile,
Little St. Francis, Piney, Dry and Trace Creeks from the east. In the bottomless
along these streams the soil is a sandy loam, and in places of great fertility. Only about thirty-five per cent of the land
is under cultivation, the remainder consisting of barren mountains and timber
which is plentiful, consisting mainly of oak, hickory, pine and ash. The minerals in the county are lead, zinc,
iron, cobalt, nickel, some copper and silver, though the last two metals are
not known to exist in paying qualities. Lumbering and mining are the chief
industries besides stock-raising and agriculture.
1897 there were exported from the county 3,826 head of cattle; 8c. head of
hogs; 1,080 head of sheep; 1,190,375 pounds of poultry; 257,775 dozens of eggs;
40,000 pounds of tallow; 52,564 pounds of hides; 750 bales of hay; 12,703 barrels
of flour; 3,000 pounds of cheese; 5,517 pounds of furs; 1,864 pounds of
feathers; 1,720 tons pig lead; 100 tons nickel ore; 34 cars stone; 4,330,000
feet of lumber; 11,040 railroad ties; 14 cars cooperage, and 23,871 pounds
to many small mining towns the farmers find at home a market for the greater
part of their product. The total assessed value of property in the county in
1897 was $1,003,822; full estimated value, $2,717,662.
the county the St. Louis, Iron Mountain
and Southern Railway has twenty-three miles of track.
first white men to make exploration in what now comprises Madison County
were Renault and La Motte and their companions about the years 1721-23. They
discovered minerals, principally lead, but owing to their finding no silver ore
no settlement was made at that time. According to the report of Moses Austin,
made to Captain Stoddard in 1804, giving an account of the mines in what was
then Missouri Territory, in 1723 Renault discovered
mine La Motte.
two years later "La Motte opened and wrought the mine" named after
him. Between 1725 and 1800 the settlements in what is now Madison County
were migratory. During a few months of the year, some of the settlers at Ste.
Genevieve and New Bourbon would work at the mines, taking such ore as could be
easily reduced by primitive processes.
first person of whom there is any record of his settlement upon land in the
county for agricultural purposes is John Callaway, a Kentuckian, who in 1799
was granted land on Saline Creek at the mouth of the Little St. Francis.
the same time a number of sons of Nicholas Lachance settled upon land on Castor
Creek. Lachance, pere, was an early settler of Kaskaskia, and held land there
under one of the first French grants. Later he moved with members of his family
to New Bourbon. He had nine sons, and from information contained in the American State papers, it is evident they were of
a roving disposition, and some of them had frequently changed their places of
1800 grants of 400 arpens of land each were made to thirteen people. The records
show that these grants were located upon Big River.
However, the recipients settled near the present site of Fredericktown, on the
Little St. Francis, at the mouth of the Saline, and, as was the French custom,
formed "a village which they called St. Michaels, and from it cultivated
this settlement were Antoine Lachance, Nicholas Lachance, Jr., Joseph, Francis
and Michael Lachance. Testimony adduced before the land commissioners, some
years later, tends to show that the place was not made the permanent home of
the Lachances, excepting Nicholas, Jr., who, in his claim for 500 arpens,
offered testimony to show that previous to 1803 he had built a cabin on Maple
Creek and made maple sugar.
Chevalier, who also was a resident of Kaskaskia, located upon land near St.
Michaels, as did also Paul, Baptiste and Andrew De Guire, Gabriel Nicolle,
Peter Veriet and John Matis.
records show that Peter Veriet in April, 1800, purchased from Nicholas Lachance
and Judith, his wife, their claim to land near the Castor. Before the land
commissioners, his title to this land was not affirmed.
other early settlers in the county were William Easum and James and Samuel
Campbell, who settled prior to 1803 and built cabins near the St. Francis, and
cultivated the land.
Mathews in 1802 was granted 1,070 arpens on the St. Francis, and other early
settlers were Christopher Anthony, who laid a foundation for a house in 1802;
John L. Petitt, William Crawford, Daniel Philips and Thomas Crawford. With
few exceptions the earliest settlers were from Kaskaskia, New Bourbon and Ste.
of Kickapoo, Chickasaw and Osage Indians lived near the St. Francis, and their
depredations prevented a rapid settlement of this section. As early as 1763
Chickasaws killed one of the Valle family at Mine La Motte, and for some years
so terrorized the people that the mine was left unworked. On
account of these depredations and fears of attack the early settlers formed
villages for protection, and no doubt this is one of the reasons why pioneers
of Madison County cultivated land at other points than designated in their land
grants. In 1806 Elijah O'Bannon, a Virginian, located two miles west of St.
Michaels, and in 1818 burned the first brick and erected the first brick house
in the county. About the time of O'Bannan's arrival the Whiteners and Mousers
settled upon the creeks which bear their names.
Madison County was organized by legislative act December 14, 1818,
and was named in honor of President Madison. The county then extended
to Black River, and was reduced to its present limits in 1857, when a portion
of it was included in Iron
first county court was held February 12, 1821, at the house of J. G. W.
McCabe, the justices being William Dillon and Henry Whitener, with Nathaniel
Cook, clerk. Then the county was
divided into Castor Township, eastern part; St. Michaels, western, and Liberty, northern part.
Two new towns were added, German and Twelve Mile. St. Francis Township was
organized in 1845, Arcadia in 1848 and Union in 1850. Arcadia
and the greater parts of Union and Liberty were
cut off by the organization of Iron
County in 1857. The present townships are Polk, St. Michaels,
Francis, Castor, Twelve Mile and German.
first county seat was St. Michaels, and in 1819 the commissioners appointed to
locate a permanent seat of justice—Theodore F. Tong, John Burdett, John
Bennett and Henry Whitener—selected Fredericktown, two and a half miles distant
from that place. Up to 1822 courts were
held in private houses in St. Michaels.
That year a brick courthouse was built at Fredericktown, and in November
was occupied by the court. The building, which stood in the center of the
public square, was used until November, 1899, when it was torn down to make
room for a new building.
5, 1899, by order of the county court, bonds for the building of a new
courthouse were issued to the amount of $10,000 and bids for the construction
of a fine building were advertised for.
The county was free from debt and had more than $10,000 in its treasury.
With this amount and from that derived from the sale of the bonds the building
was completed in November, 1900, at a cost of about $22,000. It is one of the
most substantial and handsome public buildings in southeast Missouri.
first jail was built of logs. This was
burned by a prisoner named Farland.
Indictments were also returned against George Wear for corn stealing, Frank Mires for horse stealing and J B. Stephens
none of the cases were the charges sustained, and the defendants were
discharged. J. B. Stephens was accused of stealing a large
sum of money from D. L. Caruthers. He
was indicted, arrested, tried and discharged for lack of evidence.
John Duncan, who had arrived in the county from Tennessee, planned to secure for his own use
the money supposed to be in Stephens' possession. Representing himself as one desirous of
purchasing land, he went to the house of Stephens, about two and a half miles
from Fredericktown, who, with his two young sons, was in the woods near by.
Calling upon them, Duncan
stealthily secured an ax and gun they had and murdered the three. Returning to the house, he killed Mrs. Stephens,
but left unharmed two small children with her. He spent some time in searching
the premises for the money he expected to find concealed, but none was
found. A few days later he was arrested, tried, found guilty and sentenced
to be hanged on April 5, 1821. On the
appointed day he was executed northeast of Fredericktown, and on the scaffold
made a full confession, exonerating two citizens who were indicted for
complicity in the crime. This was the
only legal execution in the county.
the November term, 1827, Conrad Cathner, on change of venue from Cape Girardeau, was tried
for the murder of Charles Hinkle. He was found guilty of manslaughter and
sentenced to one year's imprisonment and $500 fine. >Every alternate month of his sentence the
court directed that he work in Elisha Bennett's blacksmith shop in Fredericktown, chained to an anvil and be returned to the jail each night.
February, 1844, A. W. Smith and John Vincent quarreled over a broken fence between their farms. Smith bore a bad reputation. He waylaid and shot Vincent, who lived long enough to crawl to the house
of a neighbor and tell of the affair. Smith was arrested, tried and sentenced to be hanged. Pending an appeal to the Supreme Court which
his attorney had made he was confined in the jail at Fredericktown. An election drew together a number of
Vincent's friends and they determined to lynch Smith. The sheriff and a number of citizens guarded
the jail and refused to deliver the prisoner. The lynching party agreed to abide by a decision by vote whether or not
Smith should be lynched. The sheriff reduced the number of guards about the
jail, dragged out the prisoner and after summoning a Methodist preacher, Rev.
Jesse P. Davis, and compelling him to offer prayers for the condemned man,
carried out their plan of execution.
first members of the bar to locate in Madison
County were William M. Newberry, a
native of Frankfort, Kentucky, where he was born in 1800. At the
age of eighteen he located in Missouri
and for a while taught school. As early
as 1826 he practiced law.
lawyers who lived in the county previous to the Civil War were Samuel
Caruthers, D. M. Fox, Samuel Collier and W. N. Nolle.
the War of 1812 a company was organized in Ste. Genevieve, and many residing in
that portion now comprising Madison
County became members.
the Civil War the county furnished soldiers to both Federal and Confederate sides.
October 21, 1861, there was a battle at Fredericktown, the Federals under
Colonel Plummer being victorious. The Confederate forces were under the command
of Colonel Jeff Thompson. . Until the
close of the war there was some skirmishing in the county, but no other
pioneers of Madison
County were mostly
Catholics. Up to 1820 services, at long intervals, were held in the houses of
members. In 1820, in what was known as New
Village (founded in 1814 after the
overflow of St. Michaels by the Castor and St.
Francis Rivers) a small log church was built.
1827 it was taken down and removed to Fredericktown, and a regular parish
formed, with Father Francis Cellini, Pastor. Father Cellini in early life was a surgeon in the Italian Army. After locating in Fredericktown he
manufactured a number of proprietary remedies, which were sold under his
name. Besides attending to the
spiritual wants of the settlers, he looked after their health as well and
acquired a wide reputation as an excellent surgeon as well as that of a good
priest. As a housekeeper he employed a
Mrs. Smith, a benevolent woman of considerable wealth. She donated to the parish the site for the
church at Fredericktown, also much of the means for the erection of the
necessary buildings. She passed her
later days at a convent in St. Louis,
where she died. Father Cellini was
Pastor at Fredericktown until 1842, and a year later was succeeded by Father
Savelle, who in 1845 was transferred to another parish and the place was filled
by Father Tucker, a native of Perry
County, who remained
pastor until his death, in December, 1880. Father Tucker lived a frugal life
and at his death left considerable money, which was found concealed in
different parts of his house, to the Little Sisters of the Poor and to the
In 1846, under his direction, a brick church
was built, and later a parochial house.
In 1814 the Baptist association organized Providence Church
in a small log house on the St. Francis River,
not far from Fredericktown. Later a
church was built on Castor
River. In 1814 John
Farrar, a resident of the section now Madison
County, was ordained a minister of the
Baptist Church and resided in the county until
1825. The present Baptist
Church at Fredericktown
was organized January 18, 1870.
1838 the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized and a church built at
Fredericktown on the site of the present church, which was erected in 1880.
earliest schools were run on the subscription plan. The Catholics about 1828 established a school
for girls, which was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph, and about the same
time a school for boys was started.
public school system was not inaugurated in the county until 1880. The number
of public schools in the county at present is 60; teachers, 75; pupils, 3,640;
permanent school fund (1897), $3,173.03.
first newspaper in the county was the "Espial," published by John
Lindsay, established in 1847. It was the first Free Soil paper published in
the State, and had a life of about two years.
principal towns and villages in the county are Fredericktown, Mine La Motte,
Marquand, Jewett, Cornwall and Saco.
population in 1900 was 9,975.
Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, Vol. IV., 1901