—ST FRANCOIS COUNTY—
A county in the southeastern part of the State, irregular in form and
bounded on the north by Jefferson and Ste. Genevieve, east by Ste. Genevieve
and Perry, south by Perry, Madison and Iron, and on the west by Iron and
Washington Counties. Its area is 280,680 acres. The surface of the county is
hilly and undulating. In the northern part near the Jefferson County line
the ridge land is fairly productive. The soil, which is of a red or
yellowish ferruginous clay, is excellent for fruit-growing and grazing
purposes. The same conditions are found in the southern section, but in
places it is exceedingly broken and hilly. In the valleys the soil is a
fertile black loam and highly productive. In the central part around
Farmington are the richest lands in the county. A watershed divides the
county, the Big River flowing toward the north, and the St. Francis in a
southerly direction. The tributaries of Big River are Terre Bleu, from the
east, Flat River, Davis Creek, Koen Creek and Three Rivers. The tributaries
of the St. Francois are Charter Creek, Wolf and Back Creeks and numerous
smaller streams. Many springs abound, and the creeks are ample to furnish
water power all the year around.
Only about 40 per cent of the land is under cultivation, the remainder
mainly in timber, consisting of oak, ash, hickory, walnut, sycamore, pine
and gum. The uplands and forests afford excellent pasturage for stock, the
raising of which is a profitable industry in the county. The principal
cereals grown are wheat, corn and oats. Tobacco grows well in parts of the
county where it has been cultivated. Horticulture is receiving increased
attention, as apples, pears, peaches, plums and smaller fruits grow
abundantly. Included among the exports of the county in 1898 were 3,951 head
cattle; 5,218 head hogs; 2,327 head of sheep, 1,899 bushels wheat; 2,670
pounds clover seed, 665 pounds of roots, 4,620,000 pounds of flour, 150,000
pounds feed, 155,000 pounds poultry, 19,980 dozen eggs, 2,518 pounds butter,
72,267 pounds hides, 1,400 pounds nursery stock, 1,023 bushels apples, 105
baskets and crates small fruit, 6,660 pounds vegetables, and 2,770 pounds
dried fruits. The prosperity of the county, while mainly resting upon its
agricultural resources, is greatly augmented by the large output of the
mines. In 1897 there were shipped 149,940 tons of lead and pig iron, 4,160
car loads of ore and 1,199 cars of granite.
The country in the vicinity of Big River Mill, on Big River, was the
first section to be settled. In 1794 Andrew Baker, John Alley, John Andrews
and Francis Starnator located claims. Baker was the only one of the party
who built a house, the others lived in tents. Two years later they returned
to their homes in Tennessee and removed their families to the new country.
With them came other families and soon there was a thriving colony.
Among the arrivals in 1796 were William Patterson, Henry Fry and the
Miller family. In the article on Ste. Genevieve County will be found an
interesting account of Fry and his intended bride making a trip to Ste.
Genevieve to be married and being attacked by Indians in the Terre Bleu.
In 1798 Rev. William Murphy, a Baptist minister, born in Ireland, but for
years a missionary in Tennessee, accompanied by his son, William, and a
friend, Silas George, visited the present site of Farmington and located on
land a few miles south. While returning to Tennessee for their families the
elder Murphy and George died of fever. In 1801, David, the son of Rev.
William Murphy, located in what is known as the Murphy settlement and built
a cabin. The following year he was joined by his brothers, Joseph, William
and Richard, all of whom opened farms on land granted them by the Spanish
government. In 1804 their mother, Sarah Murphy, was given the land granted
her husband, and with her other sons, Isaac, Jesse, Dubart, a daughter and a
grandson, William Evans, and a negro servant, she joined her sons Joseph and
A few years later she started the first Sunday school west of the
Mississippi, which she taught for many years. Nathaniel Cook in 1800 located
on a Spanish grant in the southeastern part of the county in what is called
the Cook settlement. Soon after he was joined by James Caldwell, William
Holmes, Jesse Blackwell, James Davis and Elliott Jackson. All made
improvements, and the settlement became one of the most prosperous in the
Cook was an energetic man and became prominent in public affairs. He was
one of the first judges of the court of quarter sessions in Ste. Genevieve
District, and was a candidate for Lieutenant Governor when Missouri became a
State, and later was nominated for the State Senate in Madison County. About
the time that Cook settled in the county, Michael Hart and his son Charles
located on land about two miles north of Farmington. Hart's son-in-law,
David F. Marks, came later, and the same time Isaac Mitchel, Sr., Isaac
Burnham, Jesse Cunningham and John Robinson settled in the neighborhood.
Between the years 1800 and 1810 many settlements were made along Flat River,
Doe Run Creek and on the St. Francis.
Among the settlers were Lemuel Halstead, Samuel Rhodes, Solomon Jones and
Mark Dent. Some of their descendants still reside in the county. Previous to
the permanent settlements and as early as 1720 the section now comprising
St. Francois County was traversed and explored by Renault and La Motte and
others who first made the discovery of minerals in the district. In a few
places the mines had been worked, but not so extensively as in other
sections. The first mines to receive any important development were Mine a
Gerborre, which was one of the discoveries of Renault, and the Valle mines,
which were opened up as early as 1800. Other lead mines in the county are
Mine a Joe, on Flat Creek; Mine a Platte (Doggett mine), discovered in 1799,
and the mines at Bonne Terre (good earth) and the mines on Doe Run Creek.
Iron and zinc ore is found in the county in abundance. In the southwest
corner is the noted "Iron Mountain," at one time supposed to be a solid mass
of iron. This peculiar formation, which is mostly porphyry, is conical in
form and rises 228 feet above the level of the valley. This is located on a
grant of 20,000 arpens made to Joseph Pratte by the Spanish government and
confirmed to him by Congress in 1834. Granite of excellent quality is found
in different parts of the county, and near Knob Lick are extensive quarries.
John Simpson opened the first quarry, and from this was taken the first
granite block used for paving in St. Louis.
The county of St. Francois was established by legislative act of December
19, 1821, and formed of sections of Ste. Genevieve, Washington and Jefferson
Counties. The members of the first county court were James Austin, George
McGahan and James W. Smith. The first meeting of the court was held on the
morning of February 25, 1822, at the house of Jesse Murphy, and after
electing John D. Peers clerk, adjourned to meet in the afternoon at the home
of David Murphy. The divisions of the county at that time were the townships
of Perry, Pendleton, Liberty and St. Francois.
On April 1, 1822, the first circuit court for the county was held at the
home of Jesse Murphy, N. B. Tucker presiding, John D. Peers, clerk, and
Michael Hart, sheriff. Members of the first grand jury were D. F. Marks,
Archibald McHenry, G. Estes, Thomas George, John Baker, Henry McCormick,
George Taylor, William Gillespie, William Spradley, Dubart Murphy, Isaac
Murphy, Isaac Mitchell, John Burnham, James Cunningham, Lemuel Halstead,
Jesse McFarland, Eleazer Clay, Leroy Matkins, Samuel Kincaid and Vincent
Simpson. The chief act of the court was the appointment of Henry Poston,
John Andrews, William Alexander and James Hobart, commissioners to locate a
permanent seat of justice.
September 22, 1822, David Murphy donated fifty three acres of land, which
is now part of the site of Farmington, upon which to erect public buildings,
and his offer was accepted by the county court February 27, 1823. The next
year a log jail, built double, two stories, with a dungeon underneath, a
brick courthouse and a stray pen were completed. The jail stood on the site
of the present one and was burned in 1851 by a prisoner who wished to escape
and who nearly lost his life by smothering before he was rescued. In 1856 a
new jail was built at a cost of $4,400, and was used until 1870 when it was
replaced by the present one.
Until the first courthouse was built, sessions of the court were held in
the Methodist meeting house. In 1850 a second courthouse was built and the
present one in 1886 at a cost of $15,560.
The first indictments returned by the circuit court for St. Francois
County were at the session of April, 1828, Judge Alexander Stuart presiding.
John Bequette was found guilty of selling liquor without a permit, and Jesse
Blackwell, a slave, of stabbing another slave belonging to James Kerr. The
first important case before the court was at the July term, 1825, Judge John
D. Cook presiding, when John Patterson and George Wilson were tried for the
murder of James Johnson at Bequette's store. Johnson was a quiet, peaceful
man, and Patterson, a rough bully, forced him into a quarrel and beat him to
death. Wilson, who was charged with being an accessory to the crime, was
acquitted. Patterson was found guilty and sentenced to hang on the 31st of
August following. He was assisted to escape from jail by friends and was
never recaptured. January 23, 1880, Charles H. Hardin was hanged for the
murder of one Ferguson, near Iron Mountain, in the fall of 1879. This was
the only legal execution held in the county. St. Francois County has been
peculiarly free from the commission of capital crimes.
Early members of the bar who made their residence at Farmington were
Ignatius G. Beale, who came from Kentucky early in the forties; William D.
McCracken, who was also much of a politician, Secretary of the State Senate
a number of years, presidential elector in 1856 and a consul to some of the
South American countries, and died off the Cuban coast, and Walter A. B.
Brady, a native of Tennessee, who died in 1859.
The first sermon by a Methodist minister preached west of the Mississippi
River was preached by Rev. Joseph Oglesby in the house of Mrs. Sarah Murphy,
near the site of Farmington in 1804, and a meeting house, the first west of
the Mississippi, was built about two years later. In 1825 a church was
organized by Rev. James Halbert, about six miles west of Farmington, with a
membership of seven. A log church was built, the first of the Baptist
denomination in the section now St. Francois County. In 1830 Rev. Joseph M.
Sadd, a Presbyterian minister, visited Farmington and held a series of
meetings in the courthouse and organized a congregation, and a few years
later a church was built. In 1854 the first Christian Church in southeast
Missouri was organized by Elder S. S. Church, of St. Louis, and soon a brick
church was erected. While there were many Catholics among the early
settlers, those in St. Francois district attended the church at Ste.
Genevieve. Services were held in the houses of members at times. It was not
until 1870 that a church was erected at Farmington. Now there are in the
county thirty nine churches of different denominations.
The first schools of the county were run on the subscription plan. For
some years Mrs. Sarah Murphy taught the children who resided near her home,
and as the settlements increased additional schools were started. The public
schools were not instituted in the county until 1870, when a two-story frame
building was erected in Farmington. In 1884 another schoolhouse was built at
a cost of $8,000. In 1842 a school called Elmwood Academy was started by M.
P. Cayce and was successfully conducted for some years. This was the nucleus
of Elmwood Seminary, one of the successful private schools of Farmington.
The school population of the county in 1899 was 7,131; the number of public
schools 61; teachers, 90; total school fund, $37,828.81.
The first paper in the county was established in 1860 at Farmington, the
"Southern Missouri Argus," published by Nicol, Crowell & Shuck. The papers
in the county now are the "Times," "Herald" and "News," at Farmington; the
"Democrat-Register" and "Star," at Bonne Terre, and the "Flat River
Interest" at Flat River.
The principal business of the county is agriculture and mining. There are
nine steam flouring mills and three water-power mills. A few have sawmills
The assessed value of real estate in the county is $2,416,285; the full
value $6,000,000; assessed value of personal property $975,788; assessed
value of stock, bonds, etc., $555,257.69.; assessed value of railroads and
telegraph lines in the county $625,931.63. The number of miles of railroad
The population of the county in 1900 was 24,051. The townships of the
county are Big River, Iron, Liberty, Marion, Pendleton, Perry, Randolph and
The chief towns and villages are:
Iron Mountain Village;
De Lassus Village;
FARMINGTON —A city of the fourth class, the seat of justice of St.
Francois County, situated in St. Francois Township, two and one-half miles
from Delassus, its shipping point on the Belmont branch of the St. Louis &
Iron Mountain Railroad. It is pleasantly located in the center of the
richest farming section of the county. The town was laid out in 1822 on
fifty-three acres of land donated to the county, for the locating of a seat
of justice, by David Murphy, and was surveyed and platted by Henry Poston.
In 1823 a courthouse and jail was built. The same year the first store was
opened by John D. Peers, who was first clerk of courts in the county, in a
small log building on the west side of the public square. A few years later
he moved to the east side, and in 1826 his old stand was occupied by Joseph
Bogy, Jr., who had moved to the town from Ste. Genevieve.
In 1833 a partnership was formed by Peers and M. P. Cayce, who, with
Bogy, were the only storekeepers in the town for some years. The first hotel
was run by John Boyce in a building erected by Isaac Mitchell. In 1836 the
town was incorporated, but made little progress until 1852, when the plank
road from Ste. Genevieve to Pilot Knob was built. It ran through the town
and brought it increased trade.
In 1856 the first flouring mill was built by M. P. Cayce and C. E.
Douthitt, and in connection with it a carding machine was run. The mill was
later remodeled and enlarged, and in time became one of the flourishing
business enterprises of the town. Other small business places were
established, but up to 1860 the town did not have a population of more than
St. Francois County refused to issue bonds for the building of the
Belmont branch of the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad, and its projectors
built it two and one-half miles west of Farmington. This, instead of
injuring the town, assisted in its prosperity, and there was an activity in
trade that stimulated the growth of the place.
M. P. Cayce, who was a man of considerable energy, about 1842 started the
Elmwood" Academy. Later this was controlled by the Presbyterian Church, and
from it evolved Elmwood Seminary. During the war, owing to the active
working of the mines in the county, the town prospered. It contains about
125 business houses, including two banks, opera house, two flouring mills,
five carriage and wagon shops, a machine shop, electric light and ice works,
three hotels, several general stores and miscellaneous concerns.
There are eight churches; three Methodist (one of which is for colored
people), one each of Christian, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and
There is a large public school and three colleges—Farmington Baptist
College, Carleton Institute, under the direction of the Methodist Episcopal
Church, and Elmwood Seminary.
The town has a telephone system and connections with surrounding
The first paper published in the town was the "Southern Missouri Argus,"
started by Nicol, Crowell & Shuck, in 1880. After changing ownership a few
times, in 1869, it was changed to the "Herald," and in 1872 moved to De
Soto. In 1871 "The New Era," started at Libertyville, was removed to
Farmington, and in 1876 to Marble Hill. In 1872 the "Times" was started by
C. E. Ware and J. H. Rodehaver. This is one of the leading papers of St.
Francois County, and is published by Theodore D. Fisher. The "News" was
established in 1884 by P. T. Pigg, who still conducts it as a Republican
paper. The "Herald" was started in 1886 by Isaac Rodehaver, and is now
published by Charles Pratt.
Population, in 1899 (estimated), 2,500.