St. Clair County, Missouri Genealogy Trails


County History

A county in the southwestern part of the State, ninety miles southeast of Kansas City, bounded on the north by Henry County, on the east by Benton and Hickory Counties, and on the west by Bates and Vernon Counties. Its southern line is irregular, and touches the counties of Cedar, Polk and Hickory. Its area is 690 square miles; nearly three-fourths of the land is under cultivation and in pasture. July 1, 1899, 3,325 acres of public land were open to entry. The surface is undulating prairie, and broken woodlands. The county is abundantly watered. The Osage River enters the central west and flows eastwardly to Osceola and thence to the northeast. Its principal tributary is Sac River, which enters the county near the central south and discharges into the Osage near Osceola. The Osage receives Big Monegaw Creek from the northwest, the Peshaw, or Big Clear Creek, from the southwest, and Little Weaubleau Creek from the southeast. Coon and Brush Creeks flow into Sac River from the southeast. There are numerous fine springs, the most noted of which are the Monegaw Springs.

The soil is a black loam, with excellent subsoil, and is exceedingly fertile. Timber is abundant and includes walnut, cherry and cedar, as well as the more common woods. Underlying the county are coal, lead, zinc and iron, which remain undeveloped; and excellent limestone and sandstone, which are quarried in some localities. In 1898 the principal surplus products were: Corn, 87,791 bushels; oats, 10,318 bushels; flax, 20,368 bushels; corn meal, 54,000 pounds; ship stuff, 97,900 pounds; timothy seed, 12,050 pounds; poultry, 513,247 pounds; eggs, 190,622 dozen; cheese, 172,990 pounds; vegetables, 60,095 pounds; cattle, 7,364 head; hogs, 33,172 head; sheep, 5,015 head; wool, 4,500 pounds; hides, 31,663 pounds; lumber and logs, 46,300 feet; cross ties, 19,976.

There were 111 public schools, 162 teachers and 6,420 pupils; the permanent school fund was $44,184.79. Railways are the Springfield Kansas City branches of the St. Louis & San Francisco, and the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Memphis, passing southwardly through the eastern part of the county, and the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway, touching the extreme northwest. The county seat is Osceola. Other important towns are Appleton City, Lowry City and Collins.

The first white man of whom there is record was Jacob Coonce, a hunter, who came in 1827. In 1831 he built a cabin, the first in the region, near the Sac River, about three miles northeast of the present site of Roscoe.

This he soon abandoned to make his home on Brush Creek, in the southern part of what is now St. Clair County. In 1833 Ebenezer and William Gash located on Coon Creek. The Culbertson brothers, Isaac, Joseph and Ira, settled near by in 1835, and later the same year James and Robert Gardner settled farther southeast in the Coon Creek neighborhood.

Other early settlers were Daniel, Joseph and Calvin Waldo, on the Sac River, south of the present site of Osceola. Calvin made his home in the big bend, where he opened a store, the second in what is now the county. In 1834 Joseph Montgomery located on the Osage River, south of the Monegaw Springs. He was one of the first county justices and became a State Senator and surveyor for Cedar and Dade Counties. The same year came to the same neighborhood Jesse, Charles and Lindsey Applegate. Charles and Lindsey put up a small watermill. Jesse was a surveyor, and did much surveying for the United States.

The first settlers on or near the present site of Osceola were Daniel Perrin, Jonas Musgrove, Philip Crow, Reuben S. Nance and Ashby Peebly in 1835, and Dr. Pleasant M. Cox, with his brothers, William and Joseph, in 1836; Richard P. Crutchfield later the same year. All were from Kentucky or Tennessee. Nance was county surveyor from 1841 to 1861. Among the settlers of that day was Littleton Lunsford, a "hardshell" Baptist preacher, noted for his wonderful command of language and fervid oratory, though an uneducated man. The development of the county will be found at greater length in connection with the various towns.

St. Clair County was named for General Arthur St. Clair, of Revolutionary War fame. Its boundaries were defined by act of the General Assembly, January 16, 1833. February 11, 1835, it was attached to Rives (now Henry County) for civil and military purposes, and May 5, 1835, it was designated as St. Clair Township in that county. November 4, following, it was divided into two townships, named Weaubleau and Monegaw, and at an election held December 10, James Gardner and Jesse Applegate were chosen justices of the peace for these townships respectively.

The County of St. Clair was organized by act of the General Assembly February 15, 1841, and then included portions of the present counties of Benton, Hickory and Cedar. Its present boundaries were established in 1845. Joseph Montgomery, Calvin Waldo and Thomas F. Wright were named commissioners to hold an election for location of a county seat. Osceola was chosen after a bitter contest, in which Jesse Applegate endeavored to secure the location at Wyatt's Grove, about one mile east of the present village of Roscoe. The majority in favor of Osceola is variously stated at seven and seventeen. The Wyatt's Grove party sought to overturn the election through court process, but their motion was overruled by Judge Foster P. Wright. (See "Osceola.") In 1880 an attempt was made to remove the county seat to Appleton City, but it was defeated at the polls. Under the organic act the first county court sat at the house of William Gash, the judges being Joseph Montgomery, William Gash and Hugh Barnett, Sr..

The next session was held at the same place and two succeeding sessions were held at Wyatt's Grove. In November, 1841, the seat was established at Osceola. The first circuit court was also held at Gash's house March 29, 1841, Judge Foster P. Wright presiding. Charles P. Bullock was clerk and John Smarr was sheriff. A succeeding session was also held there, and the third court term was held at the house of Pleasant M. Cox, in Osceola, November 29, 1841. Nathaniel Bell was the first representative in the Legislature, elected in 1842.

From 1854 to 1858 21,813 acres of so-called swamp lands, which had been patented to the county, were disposed of at prices ranging from seventy-five cents to $2.67 per acre. The prices were considered good for the times, but most of the lands went into the hands of speculators, and the advancement of the county was slow, due in some degree to the disturbed border conditions. During the Civil War nearly a thousand men entered the Confederate service. A smaller number joined the Union army. Captain Cook organized a company for the Sixteenth Regiment of Enrolled Missouri Militia. September 23, 1861, General "Jim" Lane with a party of Kansans entered the county and burned a portion of Osceola. After peace was restored the county was repopulated and the work of reconstruction begun, but led to extravagance, and, in some quarters to criminality in use of public moneys. In 1870 the county adopted township organization, but abandoned it the following year, returning to the system of county justices.

St. Clair County is in the Sixth Congressional District, in the Sixteenth Senatorial District and in the Twenty-ninth Judicial Circuit. The population in 1900 was 17,997.

[Source: Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri Volume V: Edited by Howard Louis Conard; Publ. 1901; Pgs. 424-427; Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack.]

St. Clair County Railroads.—The first railroad projected through St. Clair County was in 1849. On March 10th of that year a law was enacted (see Session Acts of 1849, page 279) incorporating the Missouri & White River Railroad Company, with a capital of $3,000,000. This company was authorized to construct a railroad "commencing in the town of Independence, in Jackson County, and running thence to White River, at the most convenient point on said river, at or near the town of Forsyth, in Taney County," etc.

There were directors of the company named in the law creating it from each of the counties through which it was supposed the railroad would pass. Those from St. Clair County were Waldo P. Johnson, Hugh Barnett and William C. Douglass. The annual election of directors was required to take place at Osceola on the first Monday in May of each year, from which it may be fairly inferred that Osceola was to be the location of the general offices and management. So far as is known, this company failed to do anything toward the construction of the proposed railroad, and the charter was permitted to lapse.

In 1860 the Legislature incorporated the Tebo & Neosho Railroad Company, and William L. Vaughan, a prominent citizen of St. Clair County, was named as one of the directors. This company was to construct a railroad "commencing at any point on the Pacific Railroad (now the Missouri Pacific) between the Lamine River and Muddy Creek, in Pettis County, thence to a point on the State line between the northwest corner of Jasper County and the southeast corner of McDonald County." This company was making preparations to build when the Civil War broke out. After the war it resumed operations, making its beginning point Sedalia. The director named from St. Clair County was killed during the war, and his place was filled by some one from another county. The railroad was constructed from Sedalia to Windsor by July, 1870. Then the Tebo & Neosho Railroad Company was absorbed by the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway Company.

Meanwhile the route was changed so as to go from Sedalia to Ft. Scott. The railroad by the new route was completed in the winter of 1870. St. Clair County obtained only a few miles of it, across the northwest corner, and one station, Appleton City, which has since become a very flourishing town. The Tebo & Neosho Railroad Company above referred to had a very comprehensive charter, which authorized it to extend branches into any county in the State. Before its absorption and consequent disappearance it projected two branches northwesterly and southeasterly from Clinton. The latter was called the Clinton & Memphis branch, and was to run in the direction of Memphis, Tennessee, to the southern line of the State. The route lay through St. Clair County, amongst others. The charter of this company also permitted the county courts of the various counties through which the railroad or its branches might be projected to subscribe to the capital stock thereof, and to issue bonds to pay for the same, and no vote of the people was required to sanction it.

St. Clair County, through its county court, issued $250,000 in bonds to the Clinton & Memphis branch of the Tebo & Neosho Railroad Company in payment for 2,500 shares of its stock for which it had subscribed. This was done in the fall of 1870. A company, formed by the consolidation of the two branches, and known as the Kansas City, Memphis & Mobile Railroad Company, graded a road bed from Clinton to Osceola, and from Kansas City to Harrisonville, and then went into bankruptcy. The bonds had been sold to the ever ready and expectant innocent purchaser, and when the county refused to pay because the railroad had not been built, suits were brought from time to time until all the bonds, except about twenty that were bought in by the county, are in judgment. These judgments are no longer owned by innocent purchasers, but are held by speculators who bought most of them at nominal rates, knowing that they were discarded and repudiated by the county. The contest is still in progress between the county and the holders of these judgments, but there is no doubt that sooner or later an equitable compromise will be effected.

After the Kansas City, Memphis & Mobile Railroad Company disappeared in bankruptcy the roadbed constructed by it was sold, and after some years came into the hands of John I. Blair, of Blairstown, New Jersey. Using what was left of this roadbed, Mr. Blair, as promoter of the Kansas City, Osceola & Southern Railway Company, completed the railroad from Clinton to Osceola in 1885, and from Clinton to Kansas City in 1888. In 1898 he extended it from Osceola south to a connection with a branch of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company, then leased the entire road to the Frisco company, which is now operating it, giving St. Clair County through trains passing from Kansas City to Galveston.

In 1885 the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Memphis Railway Company constructed what is known as the Clinton branch, from Olathe, Kansas, to Ash Grove, in Greene County. This passes through St. Clair County and the county seat, giving, by connection at Springfield, through transit to Memphis, Birmingham and New Orleans. The entire railway mileage in the county is 63.56 miles. The assessed valuation in the county is $3,462,985.
Thomas M. Johnson.

[Source: Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri Volume V: Edited by Howard Louis Conard; Publ. 1901; Pgs. 424-427; Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack.]





St. Clair County, Missouri Genealogy Trails
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