Welcome to...
Scotland County, Missouri


The Bonded Debt

The history of the bonded debt of Scotland county is much like that of many other communities, in that the indebtedness is closely identified with the building of the railroads of the county. There was one railroad only partly built, however, for which the county was never held responsible for the bonds. This is due to the fact that a proviso was wisely inserted, making the result of an election null and void unless the road should be completed and running trains before said bonds could be issued. This came about in the year 1860, when a petition largely signed by resident tax payers of the county, was presented to the county court praying that an election be ordered for the purpose of ascertaining whether the citizens of the county were in favor of taking $100,000 stock in the proposed Mississippi & Missouri River Airline Railroad, which was then in course of construction from Canton, Missouri, in a northwesterly direction. The election was accordingly ordered (Justice Thomson dissenting), to be held September 17, 1860. The result was that the election carried, but it was conditioned as aforesaid, stipulating that construction should proceed to a point six miles northwest of Memphis. Henry M. Gorin was appointed by the county court as the agent of the county. The company at the back of the project having failed within the stipulated time to complete the railroad as stipulated. Mr. Gorin recommended that the county's interest in it be revoked, which was done in August, 1868.

In the year 1870. however, when the construction of the Missouri, Iowa & Nebraska Railroad was being agitated in this section of the state, a large petition was presented to the county court asking that body to subscribe $200,000 to the capital stock of said company. This also was conditioned on the construction and operation of the road through Memphis, the county seat, and thence to a point six miles west thereof This stock was to be payable in county bonds due twenty-five years from date, with interest at The rate of eight per cent per annum. This petition was headed by Charles Mety, H. H. Downing, H. A. Montgomery, David Guinn. R. P. Wayland, et al— 136.r) in all—and a remonstrance almost as large as the petition was headed by Levi J. Wagner. Prior to the delivery of the bonds, which had been ordered by the court, an injunction suit was instituted by Levi J. Wagner, et al, against Charleys Mety and other officers of the county to restrain them and prevent the delivery of the bonds. The ease was not brought to an issue, however. nor a decision reached until long after the bonds had been delivered. The cause was continued from time to time and finally taken to Shelby county on change of venue, and was tried before Judge John T. Redd, who decided in favor of plaintiffs, that the bonds were illegal and void and ordered them returned to and destroyed by the Scotland county court. Attorneys for the railroad company got the case taken to the federal court and there secured the reversal of the decision of Judge Redd. John D. Smoot, the prosecuting attorney of Scotland county, filed a motion praying the court to set aside certain orders pertaining to the bonds. This litigation continued for several years. The seeming conflict between the statutes of Missouri and the federal laws could not be settled. Meantime, in the year 1881, the members of the county court, acting under the state law, were taken up by the federal authorities for contempt of court. These judges were the late Judge Ben F. Bourn. E. E. Sparks and Judge Riley Gale. Judge Treat of the federal court, caused them to be arrested and placed in the jail at St. Louis for a term of three months. Finally a compromise was agreed upon. Mean while the costs of the litigation and accumulated interest on the bonds had grown to be nearly as large as the face of the bonds. But since that compromise was reached, a sixty cent levy has been made each year, by the county court, and at this time (July, 1912) a debt of nearly $400,000 has been reduced to about $145,000. Each year a large part of the interest fund is transferred to the sinking fund and paid on the original bonds. It is estimated that at the present rate of reduction in seven or eight years the railroad bonds will all be paid.

Schools and Churches

The proper training of the children has long since been considered a duty characteristic of the people of Scotland county. As in other counties the sale of government lands set apart for school purposes, established a nucleus of a fund from which the early settlers derived some funds to carry on the country schools in a crude way. It is claimed that Judge John C. Collins, father of George T. Collins, taught the first school in the county. This school was held in the vicinity of what was later called Edinburg. William G. Downing, once a prominent citizen of Memphis, who afterwards held the state office of railroad and warehouse commissioner, was among the earliest teachers of Scotland county. In 1841 he taught school in the Smoot neighborhood eight miles west of Memphis, tlfe place being styled "Pulltight" district.

Although the public school system was only crudely developed in those early times, they managed, by the use of the small public fund in addition to paying a small tuition, to pay the teachers from fifteen to twenty dollars per month, which was considered fair remuneration, in view of the scarcity of money.

But with the increase in population came improved methods of securing a fund as well as improved methods of teaching the "young idea how to shoot." Township and district organizations were formed and annual elections were held for the purpose of making a levy sufficiently large to maintain better schools for a longer period of time, and at the same time pay large enough salaries to justify teachers to adequately prepare themselves.

Under the new law of Missouri requiring counties to have a superintendent whose time is all taken with the work of visiting the schools and making suggestions for their improvement, the schools of Scotland county have made great advancement. County Superintendent I. M. Horn has taken hold of this work in a manner that is showing results". The rural schools are being graded up under his supervision, so that all the schools pursue the same course up to the eighth grade during each school term of six to eight months. Annual examinations are held at all of the approved schools, and the pupils passing the eighth grade requirement are entitled to enter any high school in the state as fresh men. This forms a correlation of the country schools with the city high schools, just as these city high schools correlate with the State University. Superintendent Horn is industriously engaged in bringing about the best results from this model arrangement. In May, 1912, of the number of rural pupils taking the examination in the eighth grade, eighty-seven earned satisfactory grades and were promoted to the high school. For such pupils, commencement exercises are held annually at the county seat, when the superintendent gives them their certificates.

There are seventy-two rural school districts in Scotland county, besides the independent district of Memphis.

While there is no college in the county at this time, the high schools maintain such high standards that any ambitious pupil completing a high school course has become so enthused with the possibilities of an education that he is not satisfied without going up higher, if such a thing is possible for him. Much stress is placed on music in Scotland county, and there are not a few boys and girls who develop to a high degree their talents in this line of learning.

Along with the development of the educational interests, the religious nature of citizens of Scotland county has in no wise been neglected. Within the boundaries of the county many church organizations are maintained, and most of them hold regular stated services. Rev. Mr. Smith, an early Methodist preacher, is said to have started the Methodist organization in the county. Rev. James M. Lillard, of Lewis county, organized the Baptist church at Edinburg on the 12th of May. 1838, Jesse Stice, who settled near Bible Grove in 1834, wrote before his death of the organization of a Christian church in 1836 under the preaching of Elder J. White, of Howard county. The Presbyterian church at Memphis was organized in 1844 by Rev. Joseph Anderson, the father of Judge John C. Anderson, former circuit judge of this circuit. The Cumberland Presbyterian church in this county was organized in 1840 by Rev. Mr. Briggs and others. The Methodist, Christian, Baptist, Cumberland Presbyterian, Southern Presbyterian, United Brethren, Catholic, Holiness and other churches are well represented all over Scotland county. The Catholic and Holiness churches are the weakest in point of numerical strength.

The Civil War

From 1861 to 1865, the period of the Civil war, Scotland county was a place from which many recruits were gotten, both for the Confederacy and for the Union. In those troublous times animosities were engendered that continued for a long time after the end of hostilities. The most troublous event, however, in that period was in 1862. The Federals had some men imprisoned at Memphis who were known to have been in sympathy with the Confederate cause. On the second day of July, 1862, Colonel Joseph C. Porter and his regiment entered Memphis, and caused the Confederates held here to be released. He also took several prison ers from here that were affiliated on the opposite side. From here he proceeded to Henry H. Downing 's residence eight miles west of Memphis. Here the execution of Dr. Aylward took place, he being hanged to a tree. Some of Porter's men, who were great admirers of the gallant leader, claim that the Colonel never knew of this execution. After resting there for the night, Porter's command proceeded to Pearce's Mill.

Crossing the bridge near the mill they marched up on the hill on the south side of the creek and entrenched themselves just over the brow of the hill, safe from the view of the road. Colonel Porter had information that a regiment far superior to his own in point of numbers and equip ment was in pursuit. The Union regiment was known as Merrill's Horse. While Porter's men were thus entrenched, he sent Lucien Durkee and another man back toward the bridge to decoy the enemy into the trap. They soon came along and wounded Durkee slightly, but he ran into the brush and escaped. When Merrill's Horse ascended Vassar Hill they knew not the fate that was in wait for them. But when they advanced within easy range, Porter's men opened tire, mowing the front rank down as with a giant scythe. Colonel Clopper, the Union commander, ordered a retreat; but after resting they renewed the charge. Seven times they charged on Porter and his men, but were repulsed with heavy losses every time. The Federal losses were eighty-five killed and a large number wounded. Porter lost two men killed and about a half dozen wounded. This battle, which was the only important engagement in Scotland county during the Civil war, is described in detail in a book written by Dr. Joseph A. Mudd, now of Hyattsville, Maryland, who was an officer in Porter's command. The book is entitled, "With Porter in North Missouri," and it seems to be a fair and impartial account of the military activities of that time.

Major Shacklett, who it is believed succeeded at one time in capturing General Grant, but released him on his word of honor, was also a resident of Scotland county, Missouri.

The Tallest Woman

Scotland county boasted of the tallest woman in the world. If any as tall has ever been discovered the fact has never yet been made known. Miss Ella Ewing, who was born in Harrison township, near where the town of Gorin now stands, was eight feet and four inches tall. She was a quiet, modest woman, intelligent, and possessed of many accomplishments. She had seen much of the world and in her travels had taken advantage of the education that comes to a close observer who has seen the ways of many people. Miss Ewing, when she was a young girl, was quite sensitive about her unusual size. When she went to public gatherings in company with other girls she would cry because the curious people would follow her and make remarks. She was the principal attraction in Ringling's circus several years and had also been employed at different times by other companies. She had made some money that way and built a bouse with high doors, constructed for her special use. Her bedstead was made to order and other furniture about the house was fashioned for Miss Ella's convenience.

Miss Ewing died at her late home in this county January 10, 1913, after being in ill health for a period of more than a year. She had in her lifetime an aversion to being buried as other persons are buried after death : fearing that showmen would rob the grave for the skeleton or scientists take the body away for other purposes, and because of this belief made the request that her body be cremated after death Her request was not complied with by her father, who could not bear the idea, but instead he had the body placed in a metallic casket and sealed and this imbedded in a concrete vault. The woman was universally liked and her funeral was one of the most largely attended of any funeral in that community in years.

County Officers

The present county officials of Scotland county are : Representative, Wesley M. McMurry; presiding judge of county court, John H. Barker; judge, eastern district. Thomas P. Smith ; judge of the western district, Anslum Corwin ; sheriff, J. O. Myers; collector, Alfred Vaught; treasurer. S A. Hammond : circuit clerk and recorder, R. W. Campbell ; county clerk. Walter B. Scott; surveyor, William H. Davis; assessor, W Frank Barker; probate judge, William T. Reddish; coroner. John P. Davis.

A History of Northeast Missouri Edited by Walter Williams Vol 1,

Return to

Scotland County


Genealogy Trails

Copyright © Genealogy Trails
All data on this website is Copyright by Genealogy Trails with full rights reserved for original submitters.