General history of Macon County, Missouri

To perpetuate in a graphic and lively form somewhat of the present progressive and interesting epoch in the history of Macon county, Missouri, and exhibit to its people an impressive portraiture of the chief actors, events and items of interest therein; to show forth in vivid colors the earlier history of the county — the hurry and struggle, the unrest and the labors, the failures and successes, the pleasures and privations of its founders — in accounts of their activities given by themselves or by others who knew them; to display the present state of progress and prosperity, and the mighty achievements in industrial and commercial life which have followed in the wake of the pioneers, that race of veritable heroes; and to indicate in a measure the trend of action and the results to which it points, is the purpose of this work.

It contains biographical sketches of the progressive men of the county in earlier and later days — those who came hither when all was a wilderness and by their prowess and strength of character bade the opposing forces of Nature "stand ruled," and those who have since carried forward the work of development and improvement with such marvelous progress — and is illustrated with portraits of many of them. It indicates comprehensively the various industries and lines of productive energy which have distinguished the people of the county and poured into the world's treasure house wealth of almost every kind and great in its aggregate.

Macon county has at present nothing thrilling or spectacular in its daily history, yet its heroic age has not passed away — only the form of its heroism has changed. Its people are no longer called upon to defend themselves from savage fury "of man or beast, or spend their strength in transforming the wilderness into systematic fertility and beauty. They are not now torn asunder by sectional strife or oppressed by relentless war. They have not even the waste from the iron heel of that bloody monster to repair. They have progressed to the higher duties of developing the material bounty around them and making it serviceable to mankind, and of augmenting, elevating and intensifying the moral, intellectual and spiritual agencies at work among them. That they are performing these duties the record contained in this volume will prove. They realize that "Today is a king in disguise," however commonplace and trivial it looks, and they are unmasking the king as he passes by making the most of their opportunities in building up their civil, educational, industrial and commercial institutions to the highest degree and widest expansion of usefulness.


Table of Contents

"The State of Macon" — Sheriff Had Wide Jurisdiction — Trouble - some Indians — Importation of Bluegrass from Kentucky — First Cotswold Sheep and Shorthorn Cattle — Organization of Macon County — Rivalry for County Seat — Log House for Court Rooms 7

The Pioneers — James Loe — William Blackwell — Captain William Griffin — Captain William Smith — Squire Holman — Attacked by Wolves — Saved by Blast from a Horn — Major Joseph D. Butler — Levi Cox — Absent from Home 21 Years — R.L. Shackleford — Bill to Run Steamboats Up Chariton River — Clever Election Ruse — Frederick Rowland — Encounter With Indians — William Morrow — Robert Gipson, Oldest Man in United States — Mrs. Polly Baskett 10

The Indians — Last Battle With the Whites —"Chief Pumpkins" — Retreat of the Whites — A Rear Guard Action — A Second Expedition Planned — Indians Driven Back — A Buried Treasure — Sanguinary Battle Between the Foxes and the Sacs — Search for the Treasure — Stone Tomahawks and Arrowheads on Battlefield — The Indians' Fishtrap — Pioneer Water Mills — Corn as Legal Tender — Death of Anthony Hammock, Head Miller — The Mill on East Fork — Yule-tide in a New Country 19

Early Courts and Records — First Indictment for Murder — Some Quaint Court Orders — Negro Sentenced to Terrible Punishment — The Mormon Trial at Moccasinville — Act of Legislature Repealed by County Court — Last Replevy of a Slave in Missouri 29

Official Weather Bureau at Macon — Hottest Day in Ten Years — The Great Drought of 1854— January 1, 1864, Coldest Day on Record — Ground Warmed to Dig Graves — Grasshopper Plague and Governor Hardin's Proclamation for Prayers — High Water in the Chariton Valley — Cyclone at Macon — The Drought of 1901 — Water Sold at 10 Cents a Bucket - Reservoir Empty and City Supplied from Blees Academy Lakes — The Flood of 1909 41

Early State Roads in Missouri — Era of the Stage Coach — Pony Rider in Macon County — When Bloomington "Was a Stage Division — A Railroad Convention — Queer Opposition to Railroads — "Bob" Stewart — George H. Davis — I.N. Wilber — W.C. Brown — P.H. Houlahan- A Fast Mail Run — The Pony Express — Railroading in War Time — First Great Disaster on the "Joe" — Block Houses — Engineer Jim McIntosh — The North Missouri Road — The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe — A Big Suit Over Hardpan — Groat Idea of Two Young Railroad Men 53

The Printing Press — Salutatory of First Macon County Paper — Reminiscences of Captain Lacy, Macon's First Editor — The Mulligan Guards — Some of the Pioneer Papers — Major Frank M. Daulton — Macon Paper Awarded Medal for Superior Typography — The Man Who Subscribed for 500 Papers — I. Jeff Buster, Who Introduced Country Correspondence — Eugeue Field's Owl Club — Improvement in Country Journalism — "Stories of a Country Doctor," by Willis P. King, M.D. — "Love vs. Law," by Mary Anderson Matthews — A Circuit Rider's Quaint Book — Oldest Bible in State Owned by Macon County Man 82

Mines and Mining — The Pilgrimage to California — Phil Armour and Ned Croarkin — A Miner's Dream — Discovery of Coal in Macon County — Alexander Rector — Thomas Wardell — Strikes, Panics and Then Prosperity — "Shooting Off the Solid" — Riots of 1899 — A Mine Disaster — A Journey Through Gloomy Avenues — A Mining Town That Died — Miners Are Long Lived — Statistics from State Mining Report — Early Gold Excitement in Chariton Valley — Development of Valuable Ore at New Cambria 97

Schools and Academies — The Blue Back Spelling Book — Singing Geography — An Instructor "Who Taught Manners — W.A. Mathis — F. Theo Mayhew — McGee College — St. James Military Academy — Colonel Blees's Magnificent Enterprise — Consolidated School at Elmer — The Macon High School — School Statistics 133

The Churches — Strenuous Revivals — "Gabriel" as Prosecuting Attorney — Debate Between Dr. Anderson and the Rev. "Jimps" Dysart — Hollis and Dysart — Baptists Chagrined Over Result — Primitive Baptists — Yellow Creek Association — McGee Presbytery — Organization of the Churches — Bishops Talbot and Hendrix — "Father" Gay — The Holiness Campmeetings — Institution at College Mound — The Tenth Legion 153

Wars and Soldiers' Reunions — Macon County's Fighting Men - Trek of the Mormons — Call to Arms in '61 — Macon as a Military Post — Martial Law — A Victim's Tombstone — The Harris House Prison — Battle of Painter Creek — Ordered to Burn Bloomington — Raid of the Guerrillas — A Courier's Ride for Life — Augustin Bradsher Drafted — Men of the Black Flag — Veterans of 1812 — State Encampment at Macon — Daughters of the Revolution 176

The Law — The Line of Circuit Judges — Strange Murder Case, Yet Unraveled — The Tracy Killing — A Gold Brick Game, and a Trial at Macon — Board's Criticism of a School Teacher — "The Unwritten Law" — Why Did George Anderson Kill His Wife? — Judge Ellison's Sentence of Death — The First Legal Execution — Incidents on the Day of Hanging — A Noted Trial from Shelby County — Whitecotton's Remarkable Appeal to the Jury — Birth of the Three-Fourths Jury Rule — A Hanging Without Trial — Two Thousand Words Without a Punctuation Mark — A Noted Steer Case — La Plata Circuit Court 197

The Bond Indebtedness — First Subscription to Missouri and Mississippi Railroad — Mandamus by Supreme Court Compelling Issue of Bonds — Mass Meeting Approves Court's Order — The Second Subscription — General Protests — Determined Efforts to Find Money to Build Road — Litigation Scares Financiers Off — The Growing Debt — Efforts to Compromise — County Court Against It in 1894 — Proposition Overwhelmingly Defeated — Mr. Gary's Plan for a Settlement in 1904 — Strong Campaign For and Against — Views of Both Sides — Advocates of Settlement Defeated by Small Majority — Present Status of the Debt — The Legal Phase of the Case 227

The Geology of Macon County — Tobacco — Agriculture — The Dairy — Stock Raising — A Town Lot Auction at Hudson — "The City of Maples" — Modern Municipal Improvements — Ladies Civic League — Macon Charity Society — Drainage Work in the Chariton Valley — Wealth of the County — Some Noted Characters — Pioneer Coal Operator — John Jones and His Cave House — Why Mr. Beach Wouldn't Wear a Hat - Patriot Who Wouldn't Cut His Hair Until a Democratic President Is Elected — John Henry Griffin — "Depot" Smith —Two Lively Rival Towns— The Postal Service 245

Biographical 271


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No need to tell the older residents of Macon county that Senator Thomas H. Benton's stentorian voice gave utterance to the words. The use of the term, "citizens," was peculiar to Benton. Those who knew him declared that he never said "fellow citizens." Some say his reason was that he refused to acknowledge the intimacy. In spite of that, from all accounts. Senator Benton was very courteous to the large crowd he addressed in the grove at Old Bloomington that day, in the year 1856, when he was making his campaign for governor, the last political fight of his life. Two years later the nation mourned at his bier.