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Nodaway County, Missouri
Genealogy and History
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Nodaway County  History
By James Todd, Maryville


Part of Platte Purchase

The history of Nodaway County, which contains 848 square miles or 552,640 acres and is four-fifths as large as Rhode Island and nearly one half the size of Delaware, starts in 1835, when the county was a portion of the territory originally included in the Platte Purchase. Before that time it was occupied by several Indian tribes, the principal tribes being the Crees, Gros Ventres, lowas, Ottoes, Pawnees, Pottawatomies, Sauks and Shawnees. Parts of tribes of these Indians continued here as late as 1856. By the Platte Purchase, Nodaway County became a part of the State of Missouri. The purchase was made on September 17, 1836, and the Indians received in return for this territory four hundred sections of land in Kansas, $7,500 and other considerations.

At the period (1841) when the first act, naming and defining the county, was passed by the Legislature, the county was called Nodaway, taking its name from the River Nodaway, which flows on the west side of the county. Nodaway is an Indian name, signifying "placid."

First Settlers

The first white settler in the county was in 1839, Isaac Hogan, a native of Tennessee. He pitched his tent near what is now known as Brown's Spring, just south of the present village of Graham. Here he built a cabin. Hogan came with his brother, Daniel Hogan, Richard Taylor, a brother-in-law, and Robert M. Stewart, who afterward became governor of the state. They had a two-horse wagon and camp equipment, an ax, a shovel and grubbing hoe. They selected claims, Isaac Hogan 's claim being the tract of land where Graham is now situated. He remained until he had broken a few acres of ground and planted it in corn; the other members of the party, Daniel Hogan and R. M. Stewart, returned to Platte County, whence they had come. Isaac Hogan remained a settler of the county until 1850, when he left for California for the gold fields, and was killed on his way there by a band of Indians.

Late in the fall of 1840 Elijah Bunten, James Bryant and Harvey White explored the country along the White Cloud. Lorenzo Dow Vinsonhaler and Harvey Dillon found the beautiful Nodaway Valley and took claims therein. In 1840-41-42 immigration to this county began with considerable rapidity. Among these the first settlers of Nodaway County were Pliram Hall, Col. I. N. Prather, Burt Whiten, Thomas Adams, John McLain, William Cock, Daniel Marlin, Wesley Jenkins, Joseph Huff, the Pinches, Morgans, Groves, J. E. Alexander, John Jackson, the Swearingens, Mozingos, Grays, Vinsonhalers, Ephraim Johnson, John Lamar, Cornelius Brackney, Chauncey Dairymple, Samuel Nash, Joseph Hutson, Isaac Cox, James Noffsinger, James Penington, the Blaggs, Frank Conlin, E. S. Stephenson, and Thomas Haley.

In the history of Nodaway County one may easily trace its pioneer settlers back to their former homes, in some one of the eastern or southern states, or possibly, to some one of the European countries. The Pennsylvania German, the Buckeye and Hoosier, or the resident of old Kentucky, or Virginia and Tennessee, loaded their belongings into boat or covered wagon and put forth for the "Far West," as this county was known over a half-century ago. Again, another element became the foundation stones of Nodaway County; the sturdy New Englander with his Puritan character and impulses, all aglow with patriotism and thoughts of genuine freedom and liberty, the same as inspired his forefathers in the Revolution. The German Empire and the British Isles, together with France, all furnished their share in the settlement of the county.

Today the most that can be known of the struggles and triumphs of the men and women who sought to build for themselves homes in this county, away back in the early forties, necessarily must come from few of the men and women who were then but small children, or youths at most, when the county was first appropriated to the use of the white men. The balance must be from inference and tradition. The first comers to this county, in common with other western counties, were almost all poor people, hence caste and class were seldom known and never counted a badge of nobility, but all were equal, all working for the same object, the establishment of a home on the western frontier, which is now within the heart and garden spot of the Middle West. Sorrows were sometimes their lot and their joys were not a few. With few neighbors, they were on the best of terms. Envy, jealousy and strife had not yet entered into the society here. A common sympathy and common interest seemed to cement the few settlers together—in fact, they worked together almost like organized communists. Neighbors never stood on ceremony, men and women saluting one another whether they had ever been introduced or not. If a settler 's house was to be raised, no sooner was the fact known throughout the community than the settlers assembled to assist the newcomer. Was a settler's cabin burned or blown down, no sooner was the fact known than the settlers gathered to assist the unfortunate one to rebuild his home. They came with as little hesitation and with as much alacrity as if they were all members of the same family and bound together by ties of blood. One man's interest was every other man's interest. The very nature of things taught the settlers the necessity of dwelling together in this spirit. It was their protection. They had come far away from the well-established reign of law and entered a new country, where the civil authority was still feeble and totally unable to afford protection and redress grievances. Hence every man took it upon himself to be his neighbor's protector, and the thing any man might well dread was the ill will of the community. It was more terrible than the law.

Pioneer Life

The first buildings in the county were not just like the log-cabins that immediately succeeded them. The latter required some help and a good deal of labor to build. The very first buildings constructed were a cross between "hoop cabins" and Indian bark huts. But as soon as enough men could be gathered together to make a "raising" then the genuine log-house came into style. A window with sash and glass was a rarity and was an evidence of wealth and aristocracy which but few could support. These primitive windows were made with greased paper put over the opening cut or left in the log walls which admitted a little light. The doors were fastened with old-fashioned wooden latches and for a friend, or neighbor, or traveler, the string always hung out, for the pioneers were hospitable and entertained to the best of their ability. The following is a description of the old-time log palace:

'' It was usually of round logs, notched together at the corners, ribbed with poles, and covered with boards split from a tree. A puncheon floor was then laid down, a hole cut in the end and a stick chimney run up. A clapboard door is then made, a window is opened by cutting out a hole in the side or end two feet square and finished without glass or transparency. The house is then chinked and daubed with mud. The cabin is ready to go into. The household and kitchen furniture is adjusted and life inside on the frontier is begun in earnest. The one-legged bedstead, now a piece of furniture of the past, was made by cutting a stick the proper length, boring holes at one end one and a half inches in diameter, at right angles, and the same sized holes corresponding with those in the logs of the cabin the length and breadth desired for the bed, in which are inserted poles. Upon these poles clapboards are laid, or linn bark is interwoven consecutively from pole to pole. Upon this primitive structure the bed is laid. The convenience of a cook stove was not then thought of, but instead the cooking was done by the faithful housewife in pots and kettles and skillets on and about the big fire-place, and, very frequently, over and around the distended pedal extremities of the legal sovereign of the household, while the latter was indulging in the luxuries of a cob-pipe and discussing probable results of a contemplated elk hunt about the One-Hundred-and-Two and Nodaway rivers. '' Rude fire-places were built in chimneys composed of mud and sticks, or at best of undressed stone. These fire-places served for heating and cooking purposes ; also for ventilation. Around the cheerful blaze of this fire the meal was prepared and meals were not so bad after all and afforded the most healthful nourishment for a race of people who were driven to the exposure and hardships which were their lot. Another relic of the long-ago days when our grandfathers lived was the hominy block, used before many grist mills were set in motion. Sometimes one of these fearfully and wonderfully made "blocks" served a whole neighborhood. It was made from the butt of a hardwood tree, hollowed out with an ax and burned or charred smooth, and when completed resembled a mammoth mortar. Then, with a wooden mallet to fit the concave shape of the "block" the corn was bruised and battered until of suitable size to eat when properly cooked. Meat must not be forgotten in the pioneer bill of fare. Deer could have been seen daily from the cabin door. Elks were also found, as well as wild turkeys and prairie chickens in immense flocks. A few bear were to be seen roving about. There were plenty of wolves. Fishing in those good old days was sport supreme. In the good days of long ago they had no humane societies, no orphans' homes or homes for the aged or societies for the prevention of cruelty to dumb animals or a hundred and one more benevolent institutions that have come into existence since the log-cabin days. There were very few newspapers in the country, very few books, and many a pioneer family had no reading at all. Of the early settler it may be truthfully stated that he lived within his means, however limited, not coveting more of luxury and comfort than he could well afford to pay for. As a natural result, prosperity and contentment were ever his lot, and he always had room for one more stranger at his fireside and a welcome place at his table. It is sometimes remarked that there were no places for public entertainment till later years. The fact is every cabin was a place of entertainment, and they were sometimes crowded to their utmost capacity. Meals consisted of cornbread, buttermilk and fat pork and, occasionally, coffee. On Sundays, for a change, they had bread made of wheat "tramped out" on the ground by horses, cleaned with a sheet and pounded by hand.

The pioneers of the county had to undergo the hardship of going to mill and market a long distance. The nearest market points were thirtytwo miles and forty-five miles. The stage coach carried the mails from north to south and from east to west. Ten cents per mile was charged for a passenger to ride. Stage stations, where the relay of fresh horses was made, usually had an excellent but rude country tavern. In agricultural implements there were what they styled "bull plows." The mould-boards were generally of wood, but in some cases they were half wood and half iron. The first settler invested but little in machinery, first, because he had no ready cash with which to purchase it, and also because of the fact that such machinery, if it was to be had at all, had to be brought, at much expense, from the eastern markets where it was manufactured. There was the old-fashioned wheat cradle. Among the pioneer band were found many men who could do good millwright work, and many of them put in their time at constructing rude mills for sawing lumber and grinding corn and wheat. Going to mill in those early times, when there were no roads, no bridges and no ferryboats, was a task not enjoyed. The first of these mills was built on the One-Hundred-and-Two River in 1840 by William A. Cox, a native of Ohio. It was erected eight miles south of the present town of Maryville, at the place later called Bridgewater. The mill only had one run of burrs, which, with the mill irons, were brought from St. Louis via the Missouri River. A brush dam was thrown across the river and rock then piled in upon it, which was finally covered with dirt. The mill had no gearing, the burrs being located over the wheel and running with the same velocity as the water-wheel. People came from far and near with their grist and returned with meal and flour. The first cornbread and biscuit, black though the latter was, which came from the new mill were relished greatly.

The sports found in hunting and trapping and locating bee-trees, from which a bountiful supply of honey was taken, occupied the pioneers in the lonely hours. Snakes were numerous and often of immense size. Deer, turkey, ducks, geese, squirrels, and small game were found everywhere for the first ten or twenty years of the county's settlement. The furbearing animals were abundant, such as otter, beaver, mink, muskrat, raccoon, panther, fox, wolf, wildcat and bear. The matter of sweetening was largely provided for by the fine quality of wild honey found in the bee-trees. Among the pioneer day sports may be mentioned the shooting matches and quilting parties. The quilting parties were often conducted jointly with rail splittings. The men would split the rails and the women would remain in the house and do the quilting. Nearby and at times even faraway neighbors would gather in some pioneer house and spend the evenings.

County Organization and Courts

The legislative act creating Nodaway County was passed February 14, 1845, and the first term of the County Court was in April of that year, at the house of Col. I. N. Prather, about eight miles south of Maryville. The members of the court were Thomas A. Brown, James M. Fulkerson and John Lowe. They were called justices in that time. Amos Graham was appointed as clerk of the court and Green McCafferty as county surveyor. Bartlett Curl was sheriff and collector.

At the session of the County Court held in June, 1845, it was decided to locate the county seat on section 17, township 64 and range 35, and at the July meeting of the court it was ordered and declared that the seat of justice be called and known by the name of Maryville, the name being given in honor of Mrs. Mary Graham, the first white woman who lived within the limits of the county seat.

The first real estate records of the county are still in existence and are contained within a volume of about five hundred and fifty pages. It shows a mixture of promiscuous records, including mortgages, bills of sales, chattel mortgages, powers of attorneys, deeds of trust, etc.

The first term of Circuit Court was held September 14, 1846. S. L. Leonard was the judge.

Courthouse and Jail

At the meeting of the County Court in February, 1846, an appropriation of $250 was made for the purpose of building a courthouse at Maryville. The building was 32 feet long and 20 feet wide, with a partition wall, so as to make one room 20 feet long and the other 12 feet long and each 20 feet wide, all to be of good logs and durable timber. Rooms were nine feet between floors and all covered with good shingles. One door and window in the small room, and one door and three windows in the large room ; windows to be twelve lights, glass 10 by 8 ; a good stick chimney in the middle of the partition, so as to make a fireplace in each room. The courthouse stood on the ground partly used by the brick structure. In the fall of 1852 a small brick office was built in the courthouse square, a little south of the old jail site, for the use of the county clerk. This remained until 1868, when it was torn down.

The second courthouse was a brick structure and was built in 1853 at the cost of $3,500. This courthouse served until 1881, when the present one was built at the cost of $60,000.

The county jail was built in 1857 at a cost of $3,000, The present jail building was built in 1881-82 at the cost of $19,400.

The first poor farm and county home was established in 1871 and was purchased for $4,785, containing about sixty acres and a dwelling. A new and modern poorhouse wa^ erected in 1907, at the cost of $35,000. It was a brick structure.

Property Valuation

The valuation of property in the county in 1850 was: Real estate, $266,228 ; personal property, $90,819—total, $357,047, The total levy for the county was $993, county revenue being $645, poor fund $244, and grand jury fund $104. The total of all property in 1913 was $20,000,000.

Some First Things

The first railroad built in the county was in 1869. It is now the branch line of the Burlington. The Wabash was the second railroad built and it was in 1879. Then the Nodaway Valley branch of the Burlington, on the west side of the county, was built in 1879. On the east side of the county the Chicago Great Western was built in 1887. There are at present 124 miles of railroad track in the county.

The first church in the county was organized in 1840, in Hughes Township. It was of the Methodist denomination. In religion, Nodaway County people are strong, as every Protestant denomination is represented in the county and also the Catholic Church. At Conception the Catholics have an abbey and monastery, also college and convent, which surpass anything in the state.

The first school was started soon after the county organization, in 1845. The first county school commissioner was elected in 1852. Today there are schools in every town in the county, 181 rural schools over the county, a state normal school at Maryville and a school for Catholic boys and girls at Conception.

The lodges came into existence in the county in 1856 when the Maryville lodge, No. 165, A. F. & A. M., was instituted. The Odd Fellows were next and then came other lodges of today.

The first weekly newspaper published in the county was established by E. H. Snow, Sr., just before the breaking out of the Civil war. Now the county has fourteen newspapers.

The first bank established in the county was in 1868 in Maryville. Today there are twenty-four strong financial institutions in the county and the deposits of the Maryville bank amount to more than $2,000,000. The county deposits, including Maryville, amount to $4,000,000.

Agriculture and Stock Raising

The county is a favored spot in agricultural lines and it long has been recognized as one of the greatest agricultural districts in this or any other state. The story of the county is essentially a story of its farms. The great changes in agriculture have not been in farms and methods of farming alone ; the spirit itself has changed. The modern farmer is an ambitious business man ; he produces as much as possible and sells for as much as possible. The farmers started early, about 1870, in the stockraising business. Today the county is known far and wide as one that has very fine stock, such as Shorthorn, Black Angus and Aberdeen Angus cattle, Poland-China and Duroc-Jersey hogs, Percheron stallions and fine horses.

Representative Men

Nodaway County had many men who have made themselves and the county well known. Various state positions have been filled by men from the county. A. P. Morehouse was lieutenant-governor of Missouri and, at the death of Governor Marmaduke in 1887, succeeded to tlie governor's chair, serving as chief executive for more than a year. In education the county stands well up to the top of tlie list and has furnished many prominent educators well known over the state. The legal profession has brought renown to the county. It was this way in the early days and many of the county's first lawyers were called in cases all over Missouri and other states. It is the same today. R. M. Stewart, once governor of Missouri, was doubtless the first law student in the county. The honor of being the first pioneer attorney goes to James M. Dows, who came to this county from Kentucky in 1848. In the summer of that year he taught the first school in Maryville in the old log courthouse, also using it as an office room. From that day until this time Nodaway County has had many attorneys who are well known over the state.

War History

Nodaway County was organized just prior to the war with jMexieo (1846-48), hence but very few, if any, served as soldiers in that war. It is thought that just a few, if indeed any, went as soldiers from this part of Missouri, for it was then a very new, thinly settled country.

Nodaway County, as a rule, during the Civil war was loyal to the country's flag, but there is no authentic history of the part that the county took in that war. In the utter absence of any history of the various companies that went forth from the county, on both the Union and Confederate sides, it is only possible to secure a bit of history from those who remember those trying days. During the first year of the war the "bushwhackers" came into the streets of Maryville and destroyed the only newspaper in existence in the county, destroying its machinery and files and throwing its type into the street. There was no further attempt to edit a paper until about 1866, after the war was ended. Among the scores of battles fought on Missouri soil none were fought in Nodaway County and the nearest engagement was at Albany, Gentry County. The Confederate army was represented from Nodaway County by at least a part of two companies. One was raised in command of an ex-sheriff of the county, Thomas J. McQuiddy, from the west part of the county. As to the number of soldiers who went into the Union army from this county, it is difficult to determine. There were parts of companies recruited from Maryville and many citizens of the county enlisted at points outside the countj^ With the two opposing elements in Nodaway County during the years of the strife, communities were set one against another, churches were divided, lodges gave up their charters, schools were closed, business was totally demoralized and unrest prevailed in all her borders. The "bushwhackers" came in from other counties and had some following here and destroyed much valuable property and threatened death to the loyal citizens.

The last great war in which soldiers were active from Nodaway County was that between the United States and Spain in 1898. Company E was recruited at IMaryville and all but a few of its members were citizens of the county at the date of the war. Company E was not called into actual service, but was stationed at Camp Stephens, Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, for a few weeks, then at Camp Alger, Virginia, for three months; at Camp Meade (near Middletown, Pennsylvania) for three months. They were detached from the regiment for a few weeks as "bakery guard." They were then camped at Wetherill, South Carolina, for three months and were mustered out of service February 10, 1899. Company E was a member of the Fourth Missouri Regiment.

At the present time Maryville is the home of Company F, Fourth Regiment, National Guard.


During the first fifteen years of the organization of the county 1845 to 1860—party politics wielded but a slight influence in the local elections and general government of the various townships. It is true that many of the settlers from the earliest days possessed well defined political views and were radically partisan upon all questions pertaining to national and state elections, upon which an indefinite number of candidates were permitted to enter the race for office.

In the early history of the county the candidates traveled horseback over the county to meet the voters at their own fireside, to sleep beneath their humble roofs, and sit about their tables, and compliment members of the family. Newspapers were not common then. The candidates would attend camp-meetings, log-raisings, shooting matches, and every manner of device was adopted by each candidate to further his cause at the polls.

1845 to 1860 there were no political conventions held in the county. During that period the county was largely democratic. A whig was occasionally elected to office on account of his special fitness and personal popularity.

The first record of elections preserved in this county was the year before the Civil war, 1860. There were 1,335 votes polled at that election. Shortly after that election the Civil war broke out and then all political differences were forgotten so far as local government was concerned. There is no record of the election of 1863 or 1864. At the ending of the war the county was found to be in the hands of the republicans and there was little opposition against the reign of this party for the next three years. The democrats held their first county convention after the war in 1868. In 1870 the republican party was divided into the liberal republicans and original republicans. In 1874 there were three parties in the field in the county—the democratic, republican and independent. The independent party was from the Patrons of Husbandry and Henry George factions in politics. This year resulted in a victory for democracy, being their first real victory in twenty-four years. Then in 1877-78 the greenback party had its birth and many supporters in this county.

Since 1874 the county administration has been pretty evenly divided between the democratic and republican parties. Perhaps no county in the state has been more evenly divided between the two great political organizations than has Nodaway. The greenback and independent parties in their palmy days were unable to carry the county, and in 1912, with the progressive party in the field against the republican and democratic parties, they made a good showing, but will probably receive the same fate as did the greenbackers and the independents.

While Nodaway County did not feel the Civil war as many other counties on the south of us, still there was some destruction caused by the war. Many of the men of the county were in that great struggle. After the war was over and business resumed its natural state the county progressed along all lines

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


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