Madison County Early History

 

 

 

A 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.

 

Its 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 fruit-growing.  

 

The 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.

 

In 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 dried fruit.

 

Owing 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.

 

In the county the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway has twenty-three miles of track. 

 

The 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.

 

About 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.

 

The 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.

 

About 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 residence.

 

In 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 their land.

 

In 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.

 

Pierre 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.

 

The 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.

 

Among 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.

 

John 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. Genevieve.

 

Tribes 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 County.

 

The 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, Liberty, St. Francis, Castor, Twelve Mile and German.

 

The 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.

 

 

November 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.

 

 The 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 for larceny.

 

In 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. 

 

One 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.

 

At 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. 

 

In 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.  

 

The 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.  

 

Other lawyers who lived in the county previous to the Civil War were Samuel Caruthers, D. M. Fox, Samuel Collier and W. N. Nolle.  

 

During the War of 1812 a company was organized in Ste. Genevieve, and many residing in that portion now comprising Madison County became members.   

 

During the Civil War the county furnished soldiers to both Federal and Confederate sides.   

 

On 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 battle.

 

The 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.

 

In 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 bishop.

 

 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.  

 

In 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.

 

 

The 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.

 

The 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.

 

The 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.

 

The principal towns and villages in the county are Fredericktown, Mine La Motte, Marquand, Jewett, Cornwall and Saco.

 

The population in 1900 was 9,975.

 

 

 

 

Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, Vol. IV., 1901

 

                                                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

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