All transcriptions are copyrighted by the Jefferson County Historical Society and are available for your personal use only. They are not to be sold or reproduced for any commercial purpose, or used on any other web site.
History of Jefferson County
Prepared and read at the
Jefferson County Celebration
of July 4th, 1876
by Hon. Jno [John] L Thomas
The original speech was found in handwritten form and many years ago it was transcribed into a typewritten format. The original speech is currently unavailable and it was not noted who typed this document. Therefore, the answers to any questions regarding missing texts are not available. Data extrapolated from this speech include the following topics in a spreadsheet format: 1} Chronology of Events, 2) Surname Index, and 3) Place Names. It is my sincere desire to provide you with as accurate an account of what Honorable John L. Thomas recorded but also to provide any missing or potentially inaccurate information as well without taking away from Judge Thomas’ work or intent. The Jefferson County Historical Society has made suggestions and or corrections to historical data provided herein. A special note of acknowledgement goes to Wayne Wiley for his persistent dedication in brining this historical document to light and readily available to all. Areas highlighted in Yellow are areas where the text was missing, ineligible, or rather confusing due to sentence structure in the transcription and have been retyped here exactly as the original typist. Due to the nature of English Grammar and lack of specific spelling rules at the time this speech was written, proper names and words may have been spelt differently than we are accustomed to today – sometimes even in the same document! Suggestions for possible name corrections or alternate spellings appear in brackets in red [Suggestion/Alternate?]. If there are any actual facts that may have been incomplete or missing entirely, these documented facts have been highlighted in Blue. I hope this clarifies the work done here and that it is easy to read and understand.
Mary G. Blue
August 13, 2015
Prepared and read at the Jefferson County Celebration of July 4th, 1876
by Hon. Jno [John] L Thomas
I have been chosen by the Board of Directors of the Jefferson County Agricultural & Mechanical Association to prepare and give to you, to-day, a sketch of Jefferson County, in pursuance of the proclamation of the President of the United States, recommending the preparation of such sketches in every county, city and town in the United States in this centennial year of our national existence. This proclamation should have been issued last year, so that parties could have had more time to collect materials for these histories. Indeed, the time has been so short that no doubt many counties will fail entirely to attempt the enterprise and the time given me has been so short that I am not able to present to you, to-day, more than in general few of our county. The object that Congress and the President had in view in recommending these historical addresses no doubt was to obtain the details and materials from which future historians can compile authentic histories of our country. But let this suffice for a practice, and I will now proceed to give you, in a succinct a manner as possible, such historical information as I have been able, upon so short a notice, to obtain.
I will divide the history I am now going to give you into three epochs: 1st, From the discovery of the country comprised within the limits of Jefferson county till the United States acquired this Territory. 2nd, From the acquisition of this Territory by the United States until this county was formed. 3rd, From the formation of the county till the present time. The first epoch embraces a period of about one hundred and thirty years, the second of fifteen years, and the third of fifty-seven years.
In June, 1673, Marquette, a French explorer, and Joliet, a French Catholic priest, who visited the country lying between the mouths of the Missouri and Ohio rivers,[.] They came across from the Great Lakes of the north, and came down the Mississippi in a canoe. They went down as far as the Red River and returned. These two men sailed down the Mississippi 203 years ago alone. Not a white person on the Father of Waters north of the mouth of Red River. They returned and reported their discoveries to the government of France, and we find that Louis XIV, King of France in 1675, claimed all this vast territory from the river west indefinitely, by the right of discovery, and in 1712 the French laws and customs were extended to it for its government. The French then owned all of what is now Louisiana, and all the territory [----not legible----] of the Mississippi, and it was all called Louisiana. In 1762 this territory was ceded by France to Spain, but Spain never took formal possession of it until 1769, and in the meantime St. Ange [Louis Saint-Ange de Bellerive], who had been an officer under the French government in what is now Illinois, moved over to Ste. Genevieve and took charge of this territory without any authority from any country, and governed it by the universal consent of the inhabitants till 1769. During this interregnum the trading
End of page 1
post of St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve were established by the French, and some of the old records relate that the inhabitants then residing in Louisiana bitterly opposed the cession of the territory to Spain. But in 1769 the Spanish government sent to New Orleans Don Alexander O'Riley, who came with the title and rank of “Governor and Captain General of Louisiana.” He took possession here in the name of his sovereign, Charles III. It seems he was absolute in his government, but very few changes in the French laws and customs, and interfered but little with the settlers. He continued in this position until 1790, when he was succeeded by El Baron de Carondelet, who no doubt gave the name to the city Carondelet. De Carondelet remained in this office till 1797, when he was succeeded by Gayoso [Don Manuel Gayoso de Lemos]. He remained in office but a short time, and was succeeded by Juan Ventuas Morales, who remained in office till Dec. 20th, 1803, when the territory was ceded to the United States. About the year 1763 the King of Spain divided Louisiana into two districts, called Upper and Lower Louisiana. Our territory was included in Upper Louisiana, and for this territory a Lieut-Governor was appointed, who resided first at Ste. Genevieve, but in a short time removed his headquarters to St. Louis, where he remained ever afterwards. Louisiana was settled by French pioneers, and under both the Spanish and French rule the Catholic faith was the prevailing religion. St. Ange was the first Governor of Upper Louisiana, and remained in charge of the government until 1774 or 1775; Francisco Cruzat then taking command. He was succeeded in 1777 by Fernando de Luyba [de Leyba?], who continued in office till 1788. In 1788, Honuel [Manuel] Perez came in and remained in office till 1791. From 1791 to 1796 Estevon Miro was Lieutenant Governor of Upper Louisiana. In 1797 Zenon Trudan [Zenou Trudeau] came in and remained in till 1799, and was succeeded by Charles Dehautt de Lassus, and with him terminated the Spanish rule over us.
In order to induce men to settle and open up the country, these Governors offered liberal bonus to those who desired to settle permanently in the country. While O’Riley was Governor and Captain General of the whole country from the 1769 to 1790, homesteads were allowed to be taken only on the Mississippi, and the settlers could take up from four to six arpents front by forty back. This would give from 136 to 204 acres of land. Yet this rule was not uniform, either as to quality or location, but the taking up of more than these quantities or locating lands off the river were exceptions to the rule, and was granted as a special favor to parties for some [----not legible----] services rendered the government. This [----not legible----] appear to have been abrogated till 1797, when Gayoso became Governor and Captain General. Under Gayoso each head of a family might take up [to] two hundred arpents of land for himself, for each child fifty arpents , and twenty arpents for each negro he brought with him, not to exceed in all 800 arpents. Under Moroles [Morales], each head of a family was allowed to take up from four to six arpents front on the Mississippi, by forty arpents back, and off the river such quality as might be necessary for the use of the family and the pasturage of the stock - not to exceed eight hundred arpents.
Now after what has been stated, I ask: Are we celebrating the CENTENNIAL of our liberty? The territory comprised now in the limits of Jefferson county one hundred years ago belonged to despotic Spain. One hundred years ago there were only two settlers in Jefferson county - both of
End of page 2
these were on the Meramec. The balance of the country was indeed a howling wilderness, filled with Indians and wild beasts. But fortunately for us we have a centennial to celebrate. The first road in Jefferson county was established one hundred years ago. In 1776 St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve had become trading posts of considerable importance, but the country lying between was filled with savage Indians, buffalo, panthers, bears, and many other wild animals; and Francisco Cruzat, who was then Lieut-Gov. of Upper Louisiana, desirous of removing so many perils of a journey between these trading posts, offered a donation of 1,050 arpents of land to any one who would start a ferry across the Meramec. Jean Baptist Gomoche, a Frenchman, accepted this offer, and established a ferry across the Meramec at what is known to this day as the “Lower Ferry”, about one mile above the mouth of that river. For this service Gomoche got the tract of land at the mouth of the Meramec, which includes the Meramec bridge and Jefferson Station on the St. Louis & I. M. R. R., and about the same time a trail was marked out from St. Louis to Ste. Genevieve, called the “Kings trace,” which crossed the Meramec at Gomache‘s ferry, and ran thence by or near Pevely, and James McCormack’s, on the Plattin, to Ste. Genevieve. This is the only centennial event we can celebrate as belonging to us particularly. Yet many of us are descendants of revolutionary sires, and as such, the 4th of July is also our centennial. Aye more, Missouri contributes a part of this great republic - admitted on an equal footing with the original thirteen colonies, and on this account the 4th of July belongs to us as well as the older States. But to return from this digression. The first settler upon Jefferson county territory was about or a short time prior to 1774. John Heldebrand in that year was living on a place on the Meramec near the residence of the late Judge Sullens. He lived in a settlement called the Meramec settlement. No doubt he was the first settler in this county, for O'Riley was the Governor and Captain General of Louisiana, and he had only been Governor for five years from 1769, and it is not likely that the pioneers knew the laws governing land claims very well, and did not push back from the river for several years after his arrival. At all events John Hildebrand was the first settler according to the best information I could obtain. If this be true, our county has been settled 102 years. One hundred and two years ago, while Charles III was King of Spain, and Don Alexander O'Riley was Governor and Captain General of Louisiana, and Francisco Cruzat was Lieut-Gov. of Upper Louisiana, John Heldebrand, of French descent, entered the wilds of this territory under the protection of the Spanish monarch, and felled the first tree preparatory to opening a clearing. In 1776, under O'Riley and Cruzat, Jean Baptiste Gomoche settled at the mouth of the Meramec. One hundred years ago two families resided within our territorial limits. They were French and subjects of Spain. What difference did it make to them? They paid no taxes, and they had to protect themselves against the wild beasts and the savage Indians. Thos. Jones settled on a tract of land near Kimmswick prior to 1779 - in that year he was on the land making salt. Joseph Uge, Frances Leborge, Joseph Hortiz, Jacob Wise and Peter Dorivan [Donivan?] settled on lands at and near Kimmswick from 1776 to 1781. In 1780 the Meramec settlement where John Hildebrand had lived, and the settlement at Kimmswick were broken up by Indian depredations, and the inhabitants fled to St. Louis for refuge. Gomoche also left his place in that year on account of Indian incursions. However the damage soon passed
End of page 3
away, and the parties returned. In 1778 Wm. Belew settled on Belew’s Creek, and no doubt from him the creek took its name. In 1784 Peter Heldebrand settled on a tract of land near Maddox Mill, but on the opposite side of the river. In that year he was out hunting and was shot and killed by the Indians, on the bank of the river just below the present site of Maddox mill, and his family immediately removed to a settlement for protection. In 1786 Benito Vasquez, a Spaniard by birth, had a park on the Meramec land. He took up over 3,000 acres of land by special permission from the Spanish government. He had a great herd of cattle, and he manufactured salt. The trenches and rocks for his furnaces are still to be seen. Thomas Tyler, in 1778, lived on the place opened by John Heldebrand. At that time he had eighty arpents, about 68 acres, under fence, forty acres of which was cultivated in corn and tobacco. John Boli settled on Romine creek in 1788. He built a log hut and opened a little piece of land. He was driven away from his home several times by the Indians, and his cabin was burned by them. John Piatt settled on Big River, not far from P. P. Byrnes’s Mill, prior to 1790. In that year he was driven from home by the Indians, and he remained away till 1800, when he returned. In 1801 he was again driven away, and several of his neighbors were killed by the Indians in 1803. James Head settled at House’s Springs in 1795. He moved away in 1796, and Adam House moved on the place. House lived there till 1800, when the Indians killed him, cut his head off, put a piece of maple sugar (that the old gentleman had manufactured himself) in his mouth and put his head in the fork of an old elm tree by the Big Spring. This tree is still standing there. House’s son was badly wounded at the time, but he escaped, went to the settlement at Kimmswick and gave the alarm. All the settlers turned out, forming quite a company, with William Mars as captain, and they pursued the Indians who were of the Osage tribe, on to Indian Creek in Washington county, where they overtook them and gave them battle. The whites were victorious, killing many of the savages and driving the rest away.
In 1799, Francis Balle [Valle?], commander of Ste. Genevieve gave Francis Wideman and as many of his connections he could induce to come to the country, permission to settle, provided they would settle fifteen miles from the settlement. These settlements on Big River, Sandy, Joachim, Plattin, Belew’s and Glaize were made from 1799 to 1803, the most being made in 1800, while Charles IV was King of Spain, and Morales was Governor and Captain General of Louisiana, and Zenou Trudeau [Zenon Trudan?] and Charles Dehault DeLassus were Lieut-Governors of Upper Louisiana. All of the parties named or their heirs or legal representatives obtained homesteads by virtue of their settlements made by the permission of the Spanish officers. I should note right here that Spain retroceded this territory to France in 1802, but the Spanish officers remained in authority here till the United States government took control of it.
Under Spanish authority the people obtained permission to settle 126 tracts of land which were afterwards perfected by the United States. These grants comprise 85,000 acres of the best land in the county.
These were the men who first settled our county. Up to 1800 buffalo and elk were plentiful, but so many settlements were made about that time, that the animals soon disappeared from this section of the country. Indians were numerous. The Delawares and Shawnees lived
End of page 4
south of this in Ste. Genevieve. Parry [Perry] and Cape Girardeau, and the Osages lived near Union in Franklin county, and the Cherokees lived on White River. The Delawares, Shawnees and Cherokees were peaceable and friendly, but the Osages were very savage and warlike, and gave the settlers a great deal of trouble. In 1803 there was no post-office nearer than St Louis, and no road in the county. There were what were called trails, from one settlement to another. There was no store here then. John Johnston had a little mill at the place now owned by Douglas (the old Falkland Martin place). The wheel was made out of a large log, cut with grooves. Johnston would crack corn a little, but hardly made meal. Francis Wideman also owned a small affair of the same kind in 1803 near Morse’s Mill on Big River. It was a common belief among the neighbors that Francis Wideman was a sorcerer and necromancer, and could conjure the devil. His brother [----not legible----] him to permit him to grind a little at night for himself. Francis granted [----not legible----] but he told his brother he had better keep a sharp lookout for old nick. John went and set the mill agoing, and all at once the stones began to [----not legible----] with such velocity that he became alarmed and he shut off the water and went home without his grist and told it as a fact that his brother Francis had conjured up the devil and made him interfer[e] with the mill so he could not grind. These were the only mills in the county in 1803. During this year this territory was purchased from France and the First Napoleon signed the treaty by which we obtained it. He was then styled the “First Consul of the Republic of France.”
From 1774 to 1803 the settlers of this county did all of their legal business at St. Louis; they traded and got their mail there. The currency of the people was gold and silver and dressed or shaved deer skins. This ends the first epoch of our history, by which it seems the territory we inhabit has been under the jurisdiction of two monarchs and two republics. Under France from 1685 to 1762; under Spain from 1702  to 1802 , and under the French republic in 1803, and under our own republic till now. This territory has been subject to Louis XIV and Louis XV of France and Charles III and Charles IV of Spain and to the First Consul of the French Republic, Napoleon Bonaparte. Some of the old records relating to land titles and litigation are in Madrid and Paris.
Upper Louisiana was organized into a territorial government by act of Congress approved _____________ 1804, [March 26, 1804] and _____________ ______________ [Gen. James Wilkinson, Territorial Governor, on March 3, 1805] was appointed its first Governor, with headquarters in Vincennes, Indiana. By the territorial act of [apparently missing text] the Governor was directed to lay out the territory west of the Mississippi, into convenient districts. He accordingly made five districts: St Charles, St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve, Cape Girardeau, and New Madrid. St Louis extended from the Missouri River on the north to Plattin river on the south, and Ste. Genevieve extended to the Plattin on the north. Hence the territory now comprising Jefferson county belonged in 1804 to St Louis and Ste. Genevieve. Benj. Johnson, Sr., the father of Judge G. J. Johnston, was appointed Justice of the Peace, and he acted as the only Justice for all the territory lying between the Meramec and Plattin. About 1805 a town called New Hartford was laid out at or near Illinois station, and Christian Wilt & John W. Honey erected a shot tower there. They also had a store, the first ever established in this county. A court for the transaction of county business, called the Court of Quarter Sessions and Oyer and Terminer, was established and was held at St Louis. Benj. Johnston, Sr.
End of page 5
was one of the judges of this court in 1804. On the 20th day of December, 1804, John Boli was granted a license to keep a ferry across the Meramec, three miles from Fish Pot Creek. On the 15th day of April 1805, the Court of Quarter Sessions at St. Louis, made this order; “The Court order that the payment of all taxes for the use of this district may be made into shaved deer skins, at the house of the collector, at the rate of 3 pounds to the dollar.” June 18th, 1806, Bartholomew Herrington was excused from serving on the jury, on the account of wounds received by him in the revolutionary war. December 7th, 1806, the court made an order dividing St. Louis district into assessment districts, and appointed Benj. Johnston and Wm. Moss assessors for the district of Meramec and Plattin, extending from the south side of the Meramec to the Plattin. Dec. 18th, 1806, Bartholomew Herrington and John Romine were appointed overseers of the road leading from John Boli’s on the Meramec to Plattin River. On the first Monday of March, 1808 James Rankin, James Stewart and Thomas Comstock were appointed commissioners to locate a road from the town of St. Louis via Cololon’s ford [Colon’s, Coloon’s, or Collon’s] to the Meramec, to the river Plattin. This road was located near the route of the old Kings trace. On June 19 1806, the Court of Quarter Sessions fixed the total levy of tax for the whole district, at $1,559.71. In 1804 Peter Huskey, the grandfather of John Huskey, Sr. emigrated to this county from South Carolina. His sons, John, William and three daughters, Mrs. Ogle, Mrs. Ben. Williams and Lafayette Ramsey, and also Landon Williams, came with him. John Huskey, Sr.’s grandfather, on his mother's side, James Miller, also came along. These constituted eight families, and they all moved from South Carolina here in a cart drawn by four horses. Each family had one extra horse. They located near where the late James Hensley died on Sandy. Thomas Hearst came along with the Huskeys, but settled on the Mineral Fork near the western line of our county. Hearst and the Huskeys were of Irish descent. In 1805 the Huskeys moved to the Bethlehem spring, in the bend of the Big River, and were making preparations to put in a crop. They lived in tents. One day the old gentleman was out looking for his pony, when an alarm of Indians was given and they all got the old S. G. [----not legible----] back to the settlement on Sandy. This year James Miller a revolutionary soldier, originally from Virginia, and the grandfather of Uncle Jack Huskey died, and it is said he was the first white man buried on Sandy. Peter Huskey was the ancestor of all the Huskeys of this county, Benjamin Johnston, Sr. was from Virginia, of English stock, and is the ancestor of the Johnstons now living in the eastern portion of the county, Ben Williams and Landon Williams are the ancestors of many of the Williamses who are still here. Peter Helderbrand came from the south of this section in 1784, and is the ancestor of the Hildebrands now here. The Hildebrands are of French descent. Bartholomew Herrington, the ancestor of the Herringtons was born in 1740, of Irish and German parents, in Lancaster Co., Pa. He immigrated here with his family in 1800. Several families came with him. A part of the family came over land and a part by water. They came from Lexington, Ky. here. The party that came from Lexington by water came down the Ohio and up the Mississippi in a canoe made of a large poplar log. They called it a perogin [pirogue] in those days. Bartholomew Herrington put the first shingle roof on that [what?] was put on a house in Lexington Ky. The Wideman's came from S. C. here, and were of German descent. Bryant and Vansant were here at an early date, and
End of page 6
were from Eastern states. Wm. Moss, the ancestor of that family, came from Virginia, and was of English stock. So were James and Claiborne Thomas. Josiah Craft came from New Jersey in 1809 and was of German descent. His descendants are mostly here yet. Craft married a Miss Weatherby, a half sister of C. B. Fletcher. James Rankin, the father of L. J. and C. S. Rankin, was a Canadian by birth and moved to Herculaneum in 1808. Peter McCormack, the ancestor of that family in this county, was here about the beginning of the present century. He came from Georgia, and was of Irish descent. McClain, the ancestor of that family here now, came from Georgia in the year 1800, and was of Irish descent. Samuel McMullin, the ancestor of that family now here, came in 1805, from ____________, and are of Irish descent. Jas. And Eliel Donnell, the ancestors of that family now here, came from the south, and was of Irish descent. Wm. Null, the ancestor of that family now here, came from the south, and was of ______________ descent. Jacob Wise, the ancestor of the Wises, came from the south and was of German descent. Ed Butler, the ancestor of that family, came here about 1800. Wm. Hendrickson, was here at an early period. James Pounds, the ancestor of that family now here, came here about 1803, from the south, and was of Irish descent. Thomas Evans and Henry Metts were here about 1804. These constituted the first families of Jefferson county. These were all here at or before the organization of this territory under the act of Congress.
Herculaneum was the first town of any importance. It was laid out in 1808, by Moses Ashtin [Austin] & S. Hammond. In a short time two shot towers were erected there, and Herculaneum became quite a thrifty town. It was the shipping point for the lead made at Valle’s Mines, Richwoods, Potosi and the balance of Washington county. The first post-office of the county was established at this point, and it remained the only post-office for this county until 1837, when Hillsboro was located, and an office established there; and the people from Big River and Dry Creek, and everywhere else in the limits of this county, went to Herculaneum for their mail and what they wanted to buy. The first school taught on Sandy was by Benj. Johnston, a brother of Judge Johnston. He taught a school of seven or eight scholars, in a little log hut near the James Hensley farm, about the year 1806 or 1807. In 1812 James McCulloch taught a small school of twelve or fifteen scholars, near the Falkland Martin place. The children called him squealing McCulloch, because he had a fine squeaking voice. It is said he kept the skeleton in his school-room. These were three call months schools. These were the only schools taught on Sandy from the first settlements there till about 1820 - six months school for children in 20 years. Johnston and McCulloch taught nothing but spelling (using Webster's speller) and the first reader. In 1820 a Yankee by the name of Kellogg came in and established a high school for the benefit of those boys who had learned to read and spell. He taught in a house on the Falkland Martin place. He came to put the polish on. He taught spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic and geography. He taught six months, and turned out a lot of graduates. James Cochran taught school over on the Plattin, about 1813 – he taught six months. The school houses of the county, prior to 1820, were built of round poles, very small and low, with one little square window and one door, both with clap-board shutters, and the house had no floor except mother earth - the seats were three legged stool. It is to be presumed
End of page 7
they had schools on the Plattin, Big River and _____________ but I have not learned those teachers’ names. Wilson taught school in Herculaneum in 1815, Cathey in 1816, and Pemeter about 1817 or 1818. The first ministers of the Gospel who penetrated this territory, to make war on satan and his hosts, were Methodists and Baptists. A Methodist preacher, circuit rider, was here preaching as early as 1804. Thomas Donahue, of Perry county, a Baptist, walked up here and preached for the people in very early times. He organized the first Baptist Church here, on Sandy. A Methodist circuit rider, by the name of Harris, and Uncle Billy Walker, preached here in early times. From 1804 to 1820 the Methodists had camp meetings on Sandy regularly every year. Richard Hendrickson was a Baptist preacher here between 1804 and 1820.
The early settlers, up to 1815, used carts almost exclusively for hauling; and were usually drawn by oxen - seldom by horses. The first four wheeled vehicle ever brought to the county was in 1809. It was brought from St Louis and taken to Benj. Johnston's on one of his law days, for public exhibition. It was a common wagon with four wheels and iron tires. It was a great curiosity to the settlers, and created great excitement. During those days the settlers made their own carts, entirely of wood - tires and all; and lead was hauled on them from Washington county Mines to Herculaneum. From 1800 to 1820 very little wheat was raised. The people lived on corn-bread, venison, wild turkey, squirrel and fish, and sometimes bear meat. The wealthier ones raised a small patch of wheat, which they cut with what was called reap hooks. The reaping was done by throwing the left arm around the wheat stalks and cutting it off with the sickle or hook in the other hand. It is said that Uncle Billy Moss, as he was familiarly called, by some dextrous movement of his left knee and arm, could cut a wider swath than any of his acquaintances. Tradition has it also that Uncle Billy was in the habit of crossing the Mississippi on a log to see his sweetheart, who lived in Illinois. Such heroic courting won the damsel’s heart, and she married him. Every settler owned one gun and a dog at least. These were considered indispensable; for without them, the wild beasts would have invaded the yard and houses of those pioneers. Each raised a patch of flax, a patch of cotton, and a little corn. These were deemed necessaries. Wheat and wheat-bread were luxuries. The corn was ground at Johnston’s Mill on Sandy, or at Wideman's Mill on Big River; and very often it was beaten into a course meal, pestles in a mortar. It is a fact well known, that from the first settlement of this county, in 1774 to 1808, ninety-nine hundredths of the inhabitants never saw or tasted wheat bread. They manufactured all their own clothes out of the skins of wils [wild] animals, and out of flax and cotton. The old fashioned loom and the big and little spinning wheels were common furniture of the most of the homes. These machines were manufactured by the men, and the women knew well how to use them. The men wore buckskin suits, in coon or fox skin caps in winter; and suits made from flax or cotton, and straw hats in the summer. The shoes were made of buckskin tops and rawhide soles. These were called shoe-packs, or moccasins. The women wore home-made cotton goods and there was great rivalry between the ladies of those days in regard to getting up new and beautiful patterns of checked and stripped cotton dress goods. These articles were all made at home, and wore by all without distinction, but the wealthier ladies would frequently astonish our sturdy, honest and simple-minded forefathers and mothers, by dashing into meetings (they had no churches then) with calico dresses on, and sun bonnets made of the same material. Yes it is a fact, that a few ladies in those days
End of page 8
bought six yards of calico for one dress, at 25 cents per yard. The people had but little use for merchants. Jacob Wise at Kimmswick, and Thomas Jones before him, made what salt was consumed, and sold it at $5 per bushel. No iron or steel was in use, except for plow shires [plowshares]. These were obtained at St. Louis until the stores at New Hartford and Herculaneum were established. All the sugar that was consumed was manufactured at home, from the sap of the maple sugar. Coffee was a dollar per pound, and of course was out of the reach of the masses. The first plow in use was what was called bar share plow; and the first Cairy [Dairy] plow ever used in this part of the county was bought by Uncle Billy Moss, and brought here in 1808. This was a great event. The people bought no gearings but manufactured all they needed. Wooden hames, straw collars, cowhide traces, and hickory bark lines, constituted the plownam's [plowman’s] rig. These he made for himself. Whole families lived years at a time without having a dollar or wanting one. They neither bought nor sold. But common interests and common dangers made the different neighborhoods bands of brothers. A great deal of work was done in common. They had gatherings to clear land, to maul rails, to shuck corn, to roll logs, and to quilt quilts. These gatherings were called “clearings”, “rail-maulings”, “corn-shuckings,” “log-rollings” and “quiltings”. Many here today remember the fun they had at these gatherings, and they generally wound up with a dance at night. The beaus would appear in the ball room in their fringe deer skin suit, and the fair damsels would rejoice in their checked cotton dresses. These settlers were indeed happy and contented, and were not vexed by the ones that a higher civilization surely brings. Politics did not trouble our fathers much. Prior to 1804 there was voting in this section. The King of Spain governed us or rather let us alone. After 1804, the capital of the county was [----not legible----] the news of Jackson's victory at New Orleans, in 1815, reached here, Herculaneum was illuminated, as was also Harrisonville on the opposite side of the river. At the time of the change of the government here in 1804, no reliable estimate can be made of the extent of our population or wealth. That the people were poor is evident. The titles of their land were not perfected. Their other property consisted of a few horses and cattle. But from the settlements that were known to exist in 1804, it is probable our population was about 800. And it is not likely our population increased much from immigration until the State was admitted into the Union in 1820. This is inferrable from the fact that the public lands were not subject to entry or sale or homestead until it was brought into market about 1820. Your speaker was very forcibly impressed with a remark made by Uncle Jack Huskey, a short time since, when asked if his father or grandfather homesteaded any land. His reply was, “No, we got here one year too late.” “One year too late.” This impressed me forcibly I say, for Huskey got there one year after the territory passed from the control of a monarchy to that of a Republic. It occurred to me that our government should have been as liberal to actual settlers as Spain was. But many got here too late to get land, and this deterred others from coming. Hence we find in 1820 the population of our county had only increased to 1835 souls. A post-office had been established at Herculaneum; a few shot towers there, and one or two stores; a few wagons with iron tires, iron trace chains, cradles instead of the old reap hook had been introduced by the wealthier class,
End of page 9
and a few public roads had been opened. School facilities had increased somewhat, but then there was only an occasional school for three months at a time, kept up by subscription; and a few Methodist and Baptist Ministers had penetrated our solitudes, and a few churches were organized. Up to this time (1819) this section was settled by people from the Southern states, but principally from South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. The most of them were of German, French and Irish descent, with a few from English stock.
This county was organized by an act of the territorial legislature of Missouri, approved December 18th, 1818, some portions of St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve counties [----not legible----] through a trackless wilderness. The news of the election of Thomas Jefferson as president of the United States did not reach the people here for four months after the election. There was no newspaper published within hundreds of miles of them.
From 1800 to 1815 deer, panthers, wolves, turkeys, wild cats, catamounts, paraquets [parakeets], and ravens were plenty. Paraquets were as plenty as pigeons are now.
Benj. Johnston, Jr., Landon Williams, Wm. Moss, Claiborne Thomas, William Huskey, John Ogle, Thomas Print [Thomas Piatt or Pyatt?], James Pounds, and James McCulloch, Sr. served in the war of 1812 from this territory. When the county government went into operation on the 1st of January, 1819. The first deed recorded here was on the 21st day of January, 1819, and the first court was held at Herculaneum, on the 2nd day of March, 1819, with Nathaniel Beverley Tucker as Judge; Samuel Warron, clerk and Andrew Scott, Sheriff. Wm. Bates, Jacob Wise, Peter McCormack, Thomas Evans, Henry Metts and William Null were appointed commissioners to locate the new county seat of the county, and they reported to the court in March, 1819 that they had selected Herculaneum. No courthouse was built there, but a log jail was erected by Josiah Craft. Courts were held here until 1837 or 1838, when the county seat was moved to Hillsboro by an act of the legislature. On the 25th day of July, 1835, the court made an order to build a court house 20 by 25, of hewn logs, one story and a half high, with a shingle roof, to contain three rooms and two fire places. The court appropriated [----not legible----] to build this house, and appointed Bailey G Martin to superintend the building of it. No steps further were taken to build this house. In 1836 the court began to seriously contemplate building a brick or stone house. In 1838 Samuel Merry and Hugh O’Neill conveyed to Jefferson county 50 acres of land (the present site of Hillsboro), and in 1839 the court house was commenced, which was of brick and cost $4,000. This house still stands, and now belongs to the public school of Hillsboro. Samuel Byrns, father of Hon. Thomas Byrns, came here and settled near where John Heldebrand lived. About 1819 John Wiley, father of S. S. Wiley, and Eli Wiley, came here from Tennessee and settled on Dry Creek, at what is known as the stone house. Lewis Boyd and George Cupper came with him. Boyd lived on the Boulduc farm and Cupper on the Martin farm. When Wiley came here Michael McKee was living where his son Harvey now lives on Dry Creek. McKee was from S. C. Benj. F. Housel was here and lived at Reed’s Springs. John Byrns lived
End of page 10
where Eli Wiley now lives. Wm. Ryan lived a little lower down on the creek. Phillip O’Haven and John Thurman lived on Big River. William Graham, the ancestor of that family here, lived then on the Frissell place, on Big River. John McKean lived on Calico branch, and owned a small grist mill. Thomas Benton, John Strother and Don. Estuvon lived on Big River. William Mothershead came here about 1820 and settled on Big River. Parker and Strong [Stong] lived higher up on Big River. These were the settlers then in that portion of the county. In 1820 a man by the name of Rogers, taught a three months’ school on Gray's branch, which empties into Big River near Calvin Joh________’s [Johnson’s] farm. About 1825, Young Guffy taught school in a little log hut on Dry Creek, near Wm. Grahms [Graham’s?] farm. Only two small schools, on Big River and Dry Creek, from 1820 to 1825. Thomas Donnell was a Presbyterian preacher who visited Dry Creek and Big River about those times. A Yankee missionary Presbyterian, whose name I could not get, preached there. About 1820 we find the Baptists had control of lower Big River and Sandy; the Methodists of Joachim and Plattin; and the Presbyterians of Dry Creek and upper Big River. In 1820 the alluvial lands in the bottoms along the water courses only were in cultivation, and the high lands untenanted and untilled. The highlands from 1800 to a very late period, were covered with tall grass as high as a man's head, which served for feed for stock in summer, and was cut for hay for winter use. The timber on these lands was thin, and there was no underbrush. In 1820 the people from the whole county and Washington county had to go to Herculaneum for all they desired to buy, and for their mail. They did this for a period of about thirty years. Then a post-office was established at Hillsboro, and the state road leading from St Louis to Potosi, by way of Hillsboro, was opened, and a post-office was established at Glenfinlas (Solduc’s [Bolduc’s] farm’s farm on Big River) and also at the Paul Franklin place. These were about all the offices in the county till the building of the St. Louis & I. M. R. R. About 1826, Willard Fissell came to this county. He was from Moss [Mass.?], and was 22 years old when he came. He is still alive, and one of the substantial citizens of the county. A short time prior to this the Baker, McKay and Gibson families had settled in the western portion of the county; and in the same year the Hensley's settled on Sandy. Soon Calvin Johnson settled on Big River, and is still alive, and a respected, substantial citizen. C. B. Fletcher moved here in 1818, and settled at Herculaneum. He came from Maryland, and was descended from English ancestry. His son Thomas G Fletcher was born in this county, on the 22nd day of January, 1827. He was Governor of Missouri from 1864 to 1868. At an early date Falkland and W. F. Martin settled in this county. Falkland Martin became Secretary of State in _______ . Phillip Pipkin and Daniel Dunklin settled over forty years ago in this county. Dunkin [Dunklin] was governor of Missouri from _______  to _______ . Ferd B. Bennett [Kennett], L. M. Kennett and Jas. White established business houses at or near Herculaneum about _______. The immigration to this county was principally from the southern states, until after the late war, when there was quite an influx of northern men. About 1850 the German immigrants began to settle in the northern and western portion of the county; and about the same time the Irish immigrants began to settle the north-western part of the county; and after the building of the railroad many Irish settled along the road.
End of page 11
A large colony of Bohemians came and settled in Rock township about twenty years ago. Hence the people here are of the best European stock - German, French, English and Irish. The railroad was built through our county in 1856-7. Victoria was settled in 1857.
Our population, since 1774 is as follows: 1774, one family; 1804, estimated 800; 1820, 1,835; 1830, 2,592; 1840, 4,296; 1850, 9,928; 1860, 10,344; 1870, 15,360; 1876, estimated 20,000. This shows an increase of 20,000 in one hundred and two years, or 20,000 percent. The same rate of increase for the next century will make our county very populous.
In 1819 the Circuit Circuit [Court?] had jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters, of roads and all county business and of probate matters, but county and probate business was taken away from it in 1821, and vested in a county court of three judges.
The common school system in this county was organized about 1845. The School Commissioners of the county were as follows: P. H. Buren was a School Commissioner prior to 1845, and did much towards organizing the public school system in this county. From 1845 to 1855, P. Pipkin; from 1855 to 1862, A. Green; from 1862 to 1865, the County Clerk; from 1866 to 1872, M. C. Jennings; from 1872 to 1875, I. H. Brown. The school districts were principally organized under Pipkin and Green, from 1845 to 1858.
The first newspaper published in the county was by E. E. Ferber, in 1859 and 1860 at DeSoto. It became defunct on the breaking out of the war. It was styled the JEFFERSON COUNTY HERALD. The history of the newspaper enterprises since that, is known to you all.
My father taught a small Sunday School in 1845, at Bethlehem Church on Big River, but for a short time. Whether any Sunday school existed prior to that, I have not learned. Now school-houses and churches have been erected in every neighborhood in the county, and Sunday schools are generally kept up throughout our limits. All now, from the richest to the poorest, have an opportunity to attend church and Sunday school, and to acquire a common school education.
This about closes all I shall say in this address, yet I have left out much I would have been pleased to insert, and there is much information I could have obtained by going to see the old settlers who are still alive. So far as I can learn, there are only four persons now living in this county who were here in 1804 when France ceded this territory to the United States. These were Robert Stewart, Elizabeth Burgan, Joshua Herrington, and Judge G. J. Johnston. Robert Stewart is a son of John Stewart, and was born in the year 1796, in Kentucky. He came here with his father, at the age of three years. His father settled on the claim where C. G. Warne now lives, in 1799. Robert’s sister, Mary, was married to James Foster in 1806. Robert Stewart is now living on Doolin’s branch, about two miles south of House’s Springs. Elizabeth Burgan is a daughter of Isaac Heldebrand, who was a son of Peter Heldebrand who was killed by the Indians in 1784. She was born about 1800, in this county. She has been married three times, but she now is the wife of Isaac Burgan, and lives on Heads Creek, about
End of page 12
four miles east of House’s Springs. Joshua Herrington was born in Ky.’ In 1800.
He was a son of Bartholomew Harrington, who was born in 1740 and was a soldier of the Revolution. Mr. Herrington raised a large family of children. They are all married and gone. His wife died a short time since, and he now makes his home at his son-in-law’s, Louis Yeid.... [“Juede” pronounced YI-DEE] at Pevely. As to Judge Johnston, it is hardly necessary for me to say much. His history is written and preserved in the records of the county. He was born in Jefferson county, on Sandy, in 1802, and is a son of Benj. Johnston, Sr. He was enabled, through his father's means, to acquire a better education than the most of his comrades. He attended school until he was 18 years old, off and on, and then became a clerk in a store at Herculaneum. In 1825 he was constable of Joachim township. In 1828 to 1831 he was Sheriff, and he was on the county bench almost constantly from 1842 to 1873. He still lives on Sandy, near where he was born. His children are married, and his wife is dead. He lives at his home, but boards with his son Marion, who lives a few steps from him. These are the only persons connecting us with Spanish times and the Spanish government.
In the short space of seventy-six years and all the old inhabitants of 1804 gone, and been gathered to their fathers. These were here when Spain owned this territory, when France owned it, when it was ceded to the U. S. They have been here ever since and they are here yet.
I have given you the names of our fathers who came here long years ago to blaze the way for the civilization we enjoy to-day. They came into a pathless woods. They watched and toiled and lived in rude huts and in humble ways, to prepare this land for those who should come after. Those pioneers are entitled to receive, and do receive our heart felt gratitude for the privations and hardships they suffered.
Now ladies and gentlemen, I close. I have told you something of what we were in 1776, but who of you can tell me what Jefferson county will be a hundred years to come?
End of page 13.