Butler County was established in the year 1849 by a division of Wayne County.
Probably there is an interesting story concerning the reasons and the
political maneuvering back of the formation of the new county.
With the passage of over 100 years the arguments have been forgotten and we can
only guess at the answers. After much thought and study we believe the
isolation of the settlements in the southern part of Wayne County from the
county seat at Greenville created most of the dissatisfactions leading to a
division of the county.
The main settlements in the north part of the county were separated from
the settlements in the south part of the county by a rather wide belt of hilly,
rocky and heavily forested country, not suitable for agriculture and
consequently having only a few settlers.
Furthermore there was very little contact or acquaintances between the
settlers in the two areas. Most of the people who settled in the Butler County
area prior to the Civil War came from or through Kentucky or Tennessee.
They crossed the Mississippi River by ferry at Cape Girardeau, then went around
the "Big Swamp," crossed the St. Francis River at the Indian Ford, continued
west to Big Black River, crossing that stream in the vicinity of Hendrickson.
A few of them settled along Big Black River but more of them continued west to
Cane and Ten Mile creeks and Little Black River. They then fanned out to
the south occupying the valleys of those three streams and the gently rolling
table lands in the central part of the present Butler County. Also some of the
immigrants went into the range of low sandy hills just west of the St. Francis
River and named the Ash Hills.
It was a long and wearing journey from the settlements along Cane and Ten
Mile creeks, along Little Black River and in the Ash Hills, to Greenville. But
no matter how difficult and inconvenient or how long he tried to put it
off nearly every citizen would sometime have to make a trip to the county
From Brannum's Mill on Little Black River to Greenville must have been a round
trip of 80 or more miles. The so-called roads were little more than trails
along the hollows and ridges with ruts, chuck holes, rocks and stumps ever a
In the summer there was dust and in winter mud. All of the streams had to be
forded as there were no bridges. When the settler just had to go to Greenville
he had three choices of transportation. He could go in a wagon drawn by
horses or oxen, by horseback or afoot. In good weather the trip must have
taken two or three days and in bad weather with rain, mud and swollen streams,
nearly a week. We cannot blame these pioneers for agitating for a county seat
We have no information as to when the settlers in the south part of Wayne
County commenced to urge a new a new county. Probably it was several years
before 1849. Did the citizens prepare a petition and present it to the
General Assembly? Did a committee go to Jefferson City and make a personal
plea to the General Assembly? Was there much opposition from the citizens of
the north part of the county to the division?
It would be of Great interest to have the answers to these questions and also to
know the names of the men who pressed for the new county.
Chapter II THE FORMATION OF BUTLER COUNTY
February 27, 1849, the General Assembly of the State of Missouri approved an
Act creating a new county by dividing Wayne County. The Act went into affect
immediately so the birth-date of butler County is February 27. The Act
described the territory involved as follows, "All that portion of Wayne County
now lying south of a line beginning at the mouth of Black Mingo, on the
line dividing the counties of Wayne and Stoddard, and running from thence due
west till it strikes the line between Wayne and Ripley," was to form a new
county. The north boundary was the only line which needed to be described as
the remainder of the boundary was determined by the seat by the St. Francis
River. At a later date some changes were made in the Butler-Ripley county line
which established the Butler County boundaries as they are today.
The General Assembly gave specific instructions to aid the new county in
getting underway as a governmental unit in the State. The county was named
"Butler" in honor of William O. Butler, of Kentucky. John Stevens of Cape
Girardeau County, William Henly of Stoddard County and Martin Sandlin of
Ripley County were appointed commissioners, to select a permanent seat of
government for the new residents of the county as judges of the county court to
serve until the general election in 1850 and until their successors were
elected and qualified and he was to appoint a sheriff under the same terms.
We quote directly the language concerning the meeting place of the courts: "The
circuit and county courts to be holden in said county, shall be held at the
house of Thomas Scott until the permanent seat of justice shall be
established, or the county court shall otherwise direct." Instructions were
given concerning the cooperation of Wayne and Butler Counties in existing tax
lists and assessments and in the work of administrators, executors and
guardians in cases which could now be transferred to Butler County.
Justice of the peace who had been appointed by Wayne County were to continue to
serve in their respective townships in Butler County. For the purpose of
representation in the General Assembly Butler County was attached to Wayne
County. The county court and the circuit court were to appoint their own clerks.
The next item contains one of those expressions over which we can smile a
little. The county court was to appoint as assessor and "some competent
person" as county surveyor. No emphasis was placed on the court clerks or the
assessor being "competent."
Reference: "Laws of Missouri, 15th General Assembly, 1848-49."
We assume that "Black Mingo" was a tributary of the St. Francis River. Was it on
the east side or the west side of that river? Does anyone know the source of
the name, "Black Mingo"?
Note: In 1849 Carter County had not been separated from Ripley County so the
north line of Butler County extended in Ripley County.
CHAPTER III WILLIAM O. BUTLER, OF KENTUCKY
To appreciate the rich history of our county we need to know something of
the biography of the man whose name our county bears. William Orlando Butler was
one of the most distinguished of the many distinguished sons of Kentucky. He
was of Irish descent and of a family of great military prominence. In the
Revolutionary War the five sons of Thomas Butler were so outstanding that
General Washington gave a toast: "To the Butler's and their five sons," and
Lafayette supplemented with : "When I wanted a thing well done I had a
Butler do it." In 1748, Percival Butler, one of the five sons of Thomas Butler,
moved to Kentucky. There he married Mildred Hawkins and settled in Jessamine
County where William O. Butler was born April 19, 1791.
In 1796 Percival Butler moved to the mouth of Kentucky River, establishing a
large estate near the town of Carrollton, once called Port William. On a knoll
above the valley of the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers he built a large two room log
house with a runway between the two rooms. Here young William grew up.
Later as the family fortunes prospered a red brick house of eight rooms was
built on a plateau higher up on the knoll. The approach to the brick house
is by a long tree shaded drive beginning near the south edge of Carrollton
and continued south up the gently slope of the knoll. At the rear of the big
house was a large kitchen built of stone and connected to the house by a
covered passageway open at the sides. The cooking was done in a huge
fireplace at the south end of the kitchen. The well was by the side of the
kitched but has been filled as a safety measure. The house is now open to
the public during the day as a museum. It is furnished in authentic furniture
of its period of his father, Percival Butler.
William O. Butler graduated from Transylvania University in 1812 and then
commenced the study of law in Lexington, Kentucky, under the celebrated Robert
Wickliffe but this was soon interrupted by the War of 1812. He enlisted as a
private, went to Michigan and was taken prisoner in the Battle of the River
Raisin. He escaped the massacre following this disaster to American arms.
After much privation and suffering in prison camp in fort Niagara he was
exchanged, made his way back to Kentucky and was commissioned a captain. He
recruited a company of volunteers and joined the forces of General Andrew
Jackson. The troops under Captain Butler's command performed valiantly and
successfully in the battles of Pensacola and New Orleans. From June 17, 1816 to
May 31, 1817, he was aid de camp to General Jackson and was then a brevet
major in military rank. The military genius of Major Butler was so outstanding
that General Jackson urged him to make the army his career and was very
disappointed when he resigned his commission May 31, 1817, to resume the study
of law. Upon completion of his law courses he returned to Carrollton where he
established a very successful law practice.
After the outbreak of the war against Mexico President Polk appointed Mr.
Butler a major- general or volunteers with assignment to General
Taylor's command. He campaigned vigorously, was second in command at the
battle of Monterey and was with General Scott at the capture of Mexico City.
On February 18, 1848, General Butler was appointed commander of all the American
armies in Mexico which position he held until the treaty of peace was ratified
May 28, 1848.
During the Civil War period General Butler was a Union Democrat and worked hard
for the preservation of the Union, though now too old for military service. He
was one of Kentucky's delegates to the Washington Peace Congress in
February, 1861, which conference was an attempt to avoid civil war.
The military record of Butler gave him outstanding political opportunities. He
was very active and very influential in the Democratic Party in his own state
and in the nation. In 1848 he was the nominee of the Democrats for vice
president on the ticket headed by Lewis Cass.
We have considerable curiosity to why a new county in Missouri should be named
for General Butler. We must guess at the reasons we do not have the arguments
used in the General Assembly. First, General Butler, in 1849, was at the peak of
his popularity for his services in the war against Mexico. Second, many of the
citizens of Missouri had migrated from Kentucky and some of them were great
political leaders in Missouri. We feel it was very natural for these
Kentuckians, now Missourians, to wish to honor a famous man of their former
park near Carrollton, titled, "General Butler State Park." The part
includes land once a part of the famous Butler estate, the Butler home and
the Butler family cemetery.
August 6, 1880, General William O. Butler died, then in his ninetieth year,
great in service to his country as soldier, lawyer, public leader and
farmer. The Butler family cemetery, enclosed by a low wall of stone, is tucked
away in a tree shaded glen not a far from the house. Here a modest headstone
of white marble bears this inscription, "Maj. Gen. Wm. O. Butler, Born Apr.
19, 1791. Died Aug. 6, 1880." By his side is a similar white stone inscribed,
"Eliza A. Todd, Dau of Gen'1 Rob't and Ann Todd, Wife of Gen'l Wm. O. Butler.
Born Jan. 22, 1796. Died Apr. 16, 1863." A few feet away is a marker for
"Gen. Percival Butler, Son of Thomas butler and Eleanor Parker, His Wife, of
Kilkenny Ireland. Born Apr. 4176. Died Sept. 9, 1821. He was a Captain of the
Revolutionary Army and the last of the five gallant Butler's of the PA Line."*
By his side is a stone for, " Mildred Hawkins, Wife of Gen'l P. Butler, Dau of
John Hawkins and Mary Langford. His wife, of Virginia." Nearby is a stone
for Major Thomas B. butler, a brother of William O. Butler.
In this tiny cemetery fifteen headstones of white marble mark the resting
places of the Butlers and their kin by marriage, two of them generals and one a
major. Quite a historic place.
We close our story of a great Kentuckian and a great American, William O.
Butler, in whose honor our county was named Butler. As citizens, all of us, we
have every right to be proud of the heritage of patriotism and public service
bequeathed to us in the name of "Butler."
*Percival Butler came to Kentucky from Pennsylvania.
References: "Dictionary of American Biography," and a leaflet on the
Butlers distributed by the Kentucky State Park Board.
CHAPTER IV FIRST ITEM OF THE BUTLER COUNTY COURT
Governor Austin A. King appointed Solomon Kittrell, Jonathan Sandlin and
John Stevenson as a members of the first county court. These men had, of
course, been recommended to the Governor and we would assumer were among the
most successful and influential men in the county. We have been unable to
secure any information about Sandlin and Stevenson but considerable
information has been preserved on Kittrell. He was probably the wealthiest man
in the county, owned and operated a large tract of land on Cane Creek,
operated a general store, a distillery and a tanyard. His home was near Goose
Creek just northeast of the crossing of that creek by Highway 60, about
eleven miles west of Poplar Bluff. The Old Military Road was in front of his
Local government begins in Butler County with the first meeting of the County
Court, June 18, 1849. Since this first session is a very important event in our
county we quote in full the first paragraph of the Court Record, as
follows: “Records and proceedings of the County Court of Butler County in the
State of Missouri, at its, adjourned term begun and held at the house of
Thomas Scott in said County, on the 18th day of June, in the year of our
Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-nine –present the Hon’l John
Stevenson, Hon’l Solomon Kittrell and Hon’l Jonathan R. Sandlin, Justices
of said Court.” The reference to the session, why is it an “adjourned
term” puzzles us. Since it is the first session, why is it an “adjourned
term”? We believe the answer is in the first payment allowed to the Justices
for their services. In the Act creating Butler County the General Assembly
directed that the first meeting of the court was to be the second Monday in
May, 1849. On June 19, 181849, the second and last day of the term, the Court
allowed Kittrell and Stevenson six dollars each for three days service and
allowed Sandlin four dollars for two days services. From this payment we
conclude that Kittrell and Stevenson met at the house of Thomas Scott on the
second Monday in May as directed by the General Assembly but in the absence of
Samndlin refused to transact any business. They adjourned to June 18th but no
minutes were kept, or if kept, were never transcribed into the Court
Jacob C. Blount was appointed Clerk of the Court. Evidently this was
prearranged as Blount was present and offered securities which were accepted.
Blount was clerk of the County Court and of the Circuit Court for a ten or
more years and Also performed other public duties when requested by the County
Court. About the only personal information we have about him is that he was
a good joker and was “excellent at a social game of poker”.* John Stevenson
was chosen President of the Court.
The Court then recognized that Martin Sandlin of Ripley County, one of
the Commissioners to select a site for the permanent seat of government, had
“departed this life,” and appointed John F. Martin of Ripley County to fill the
The next order of business was the appointment of officers we now term
school enumerators. Thomas R. Davis was appointed “to take the number of school
children in Black River Township”, and Gabriel Davis was appointed to the
same duty in Otter Creek Township. These townships have been organized by
Wayne County. The enumeration was important as the permanent school funds of
the State were apportioned to the counties on the basis of the number of
children enumerated. The County Court could then loan the school monies to
citizens of the county. Money was very scarce so any opportunity to secure
money for use in the development of the county was eagerly sought. The
interest on the school loans could be used in support of public schools but
there is no evidence that any public schools were operated in Butler
County before about 1870.
The Court then adjourned with the following statement, “Where upon the
Court adjourned to nine o’clock tomorrow morning.”
The second day of the term, June 19th, the Court licensed Gabriel Davis to
operate a ferry to cross Big Black River on the road, “Leading from Brannum’s
old mill to the Indian Ford on the St. Francis River.” We will give further
discussion to this ferry in a later article on early day ferries.
We quote in full the next order of the Court. “John N. Yarber a justice of the
peace in Otter Creek township is hereby appointed Road Justice in said township
whose duty it shall be to lay off into proper divisions all the roads in the
said township and make report thereof to the next regular term of this
Court.” Thomas R. Davis was appointed Road Justice in Black River township
with the same duties as described for Yarber.
The Court then ordered that hereafter and until otherwise directed the
courts of Butler County were to be held at Daniel Epps’ house. The sheriff was
to advertise the change by putting up handbills at six of the most public places
of the County. The handbills and the typewriter had not been invented. No
reason was given for show that Solomon Kittrell had married Lucy Epps, a
daughter of Daniel Epps.
The first account ordered paid by the Court was for $5.48 to Zenas Smith, a
pioneer merchant in Greenville, Missouri. The Court Record does not name the
service or merchandise covered in this account but we have a strong feeling
it was for the merchant’s account book used by the Court for its record and
possibly some office supplies. We have previously mentioned the fees
allowed the Justices for their services. Newton Wallace was allowed three
dollars for two days services as sheriff. Wallace was the first sheriff of
Butler County and had been appointed by Governor King.
“Whereupon Court adjourned to Court in course to meet at Daniel Epps.
*Quoted from “A View of a Growing Town” by Richard L. Metcalfe.
CHAPTER V THE CIRCUIT COURT
In the development of the United States the English tradition of rule by law
closely followed the frontier. In Missouri the County was the unit of law
enforcement but since most counties did not have enough legal business to
occupy the full time of a judge several counties were grouped together by
the General Assembly to form a judicial circuit. Each circuit was presided
over by a judge who “rode the circuit,” holding court in each county each term
for as many days as the number of cases on the court docket required. It is not
a mere figure of speech to say, “The judge rode the circuit”. Sometimes he
could use a carriage but usually he had to rid horseback from county seat to
county seat carrying with him whatever papers and extra clothing he just had
to have. The roads were poor, some of the larger streams could be crossed by
ferry but she smaller streams had to be forded as there were only a few
bridges. Eating and sleeping accommodations were almost nil, especially in the
newer and more remote counties. Carl Sandburg, in his great work on Abraham
Lincoln, “The Prairie Years,” gives this description of “riding the circuit”,
was a hard and arduous life for the judge and for the lawyers who also had to
follow the circuit.
Butler County was born into the Tenth Judicial Circuit as the parent county of
Wayne belonged to that circuit when Butler County was organized in 1849. With
the formation of Butler County the Tenth circuit included the following
counties: New Madrid, Cape Girardeau, Scott, Madison, Stoddard, Wayne, Ripley,
Dunklin, Mississippi, and Butler. The circuit was larger in square miles than
the same counties now, as Carter, Pemiscot, Bollinger and Iron Counties
were organized, all or part, from some of the counties once in the Tenth
Circuit. The Judge of the circuit was, Harrison Hough, who lived in Wolf Island
Township in Mississippi County. He was a native of Hardin County,
Kentucky, an able and successful lawyer, and very popular with the var and
with the people. In the Civil War struggle he was a Union man and was a member
of the Peace Conference which met in Washington, D. C., February, 1861, in an
attempt to prevent civil war.
In 1849 the General Assembly directed that the Courts of Butler County should
meet at the house of Thomas Scott. We do not know the exact location of this
house but it was near the present Cane Creek School, about ten miles west of
Poplar Bluff, and was on or near the Military Road, which made it accessible to
most people having business with the Courts. The first and only session of
the Circuit Court at the house of Thomas Scott was the September Term,
September 15, 1849, with Judge Harrison Hough presiding. Only two items of
business were transacted by the Court during this term. In the first item,
Newton Wallace, the first sheriff of Butler County, presented his bond which
was approved. His bondsmen were John Macom, Samuel Morrison, Isaac
Shipman, John Stevenson, Ephriam B. Keener and B. F. Hill.
The second item of business resulted in the most important decision ever
made in Butler County. John F. Martin and John Stevens, two of the
Commissioners appointed by the General Assembly to select a site for the
permanent seat of government, appeared before the court, reported their
selection of a site and gave its legal description. The site chosen was about
150 acres of uninhabited wilderness land in the public domain on the banks
of Big Black River and near the geographical center of the county. The
Court approved the report and ordered that so soon as title to the tract could
be secured from the United States it was to be the site of the permanent seat
of government of Butler County.
The court then adjourned with the following order: “Ordered that the Court do
now adjourn till Court in course.” (signed, H. Hough).
Thus the brief and direct court order of September 15, 1849, approved a site for
the county seat of Butler County by the drama, the romance, the human interest
and the pioneer setting which surrounded the Court that day are unrecorded
and can be reconstructed only in the imagination. The house of Thomas Scott
was probably a one room log cabin with the furnishings common to the
frontier: loom, spinning wheel, fireplace and handmade tables, chairs and
beds. Here in this clearing in the woods Judge Hough held Court one hundred
and fifteen years ago. If the weather was fair, as is often the case in
September, perhaps Court was held outside the cabin. Was the Judge provided
with a chair or did he sit on a split log bench or possibly on a log or stump?
Did he have a table, perhaps of split logs with legs cut from saplings?
“Court Day” was always an excitement on the frontier. The trials and hearings
were of great interest to the people as they concerned neighbors, friends and
relatives. Also it was considered a great honor for the Judge to come into the
community. When not on the bench the Judge shook hands, visited, made friends
and brought news to a people starved for news. He was a man of stature from
the outside world. What would he give for an eye-witness account of this Court
session on the banks of Cane Creek? What would be our thrills if we could
see and hear Sheriff Wallace calling Court into Session in this clearing in
the forest, see the Judge taking his place, see the settlers standing or
sitting wherever they could and then witness John F. Martin of Ripley County
and John Stevens of Cape Girardeau County face the Court and report their
decision for a site for the permanent seat of Government of Butler County? High
drama, of course it was. It was the greatest decision ever to be made for the
County. The citizens wanted a county seat, a place to go to transact their
business with the county government. Of course the site was miles from the
homes of most of the settlers, a place in the wilderness where Big Black
River broke away from the hills and meanders southward through the vast and
fertile delta lands of the Mississippi River, a site still a part of the
public domain because it was so isolated and unattractive that a settler
had never thought it worth claiming. On this day destiny rode with Judge Hough,
John F. Martin and John Stevens for on the site selected would one day be built
a fine Court House for the business of the County and beyond the Court House
in all directions would rise one of the fine cities of Missouri, by name, Poplar
CHAPTER VI THE FIRST TRIALS AND FIRST JURIES
The first trials and the first juries in Circuit Court in Butler County were in
the second term of the Court, September 13, and 14, 1850, [“at the house of
Thomas Scott”]. This second term was in the town of Poplar Bluff which had been
born in the spring of 1950, and was the first termoof Circuit court to be held
in the county seat of Butler County. The location of the house or building in
which Court was held is not known to us but it had to be in a privately owned
building as the first Court House was not built until 1852. On the first day
of this term, Judge Hough presiding, the court heard its first case in
Butler County, an appeal from the justice of the Peace Court. The cause of
dispute is not recorded. The case was dismissed with defendant to recover
his coats of the suit from the plaintiff.
The first grand jury of Butler County reported its findings to the Court on
the second day of the term. The jury members were: W.R. Griffith, foreman;
William Hill, R.L. Brown, David Ellison, William Whittington, Shelby R.
Rutherford, Christopher Right, Lemuel L. Burgen, Exum C. Scott, Charles
Applebay, James Craft, and John L. Davis. The jury returned nine
indictments, three for selling liquor without a license, three for failing
to work road, one for forgery. A very interesting side-light on this grand
jury is that it indicted one of its own members for selling liquor with
out a license.
The first jury trial in Circuit Court in the County was on the second day of
this term. The charge was “Failing to keep roads in repair.” The defendant
was found guilty and fined ten dollars. The jurors were: David Gower, Jacob
Jones, G.W. Young, Francis Whittington, Thomas Honeycutt, Eli Hillis, Robert
Hillis, Wm. Sutton, S.B. Kittrell, Wm. Crunk, T.C. Hasten and William
Bledsoe, “twelve good and lawful men.”
On the morning of the second day Court convened at seven-thirty o’clock.
Evidently Judge Hough believed in early rising.
*--Goodspeed’s History of Southeast Missouri gives the name of this juror as
Note: Harrison Hough, first Circuit Court Judge in Butler County, died in 1864
on his farm in Wolf Island Township, Mississippi County, Missouri.
CHAPTER VII SOME PROBLEMS OF THE NEW COUNTY
On a June day in 1849 local government in Butler County started under the
leadership of John Stevenson, Soloman Kittrell and Jonathan Sandlin, the first
judges of the County Court. June is usually an almost perfect month in Butler
County but that was about the only really pleasant thing to encourage these
officials on this opening day of Court. Problems beset them on every hand the
population was small, about 1500 people; men, women and children, about two
persons per square mile, and this slender population, true to the American
pioneer tradition, was scattered over the county, each family on its own
farm. There was not a collection of houses any place in the county which
could be termed a village or town. There was not a bridge in the county and the
few roads were little more than trails through the wilderness. There were a
few grist mills but not a saw mill. The treasury of the County was absolutely
empty and would remain so until some taxes were paid. County revenue for 1849
was $164.56. The county did not own a county seat site, hence could not build
a court house or found a county seat town.
There was not a printing press in the county and it was to be twenty years
before one was hauled in by ox team from Cape Girardeau and newspaper
started. Twenty-three years would go by before a railroad would be built
through the county and thirty-seven years before there was a bank the
financial report of the county treasurer was in this fashion: amount collected,
amount expanded and balance “in hand”. And that was exactly what the
treasurer meant. The balance was “in his hand” for the Court to see and count.
Education was limited to subscription schools and as could be given in the home.
A system of public schools was started about 1874.
The economic life of the county was stern and hard. Of course the soil of the
newly cleared lands produced enough food for everyone and this was richly
supplemented by nature with a wide variety of games and fish but the settlers
had very little money to buy things to ease the burden of the backbreaking
labor necessary to provide food, clothing and shelter for the family. Surplus
farm products were almost worthless as there was no way to get them to market.
In the forests were millions of board feet of the finest hardwood timber in the
world but money-wise it was almost worthless and would remain so until
adequate transportation could be developed. Actually it was to be the year
1880, more than thirty years after the founding of the county, before well
financed companies came in to harvest the timber. Tremendous potential wealth
was almost seventy-five years before drainage and flood control programs
were developed enough to permit the profitable cultivation of these rich lands.
[Insert: A bank was organized. Before]
The citizens wanted a county seat, a place to go to transact their business with
the county government. Of course the site was miles from the homes of most
of the settlers a place in the wilderness where Big Black River broke away
from the hills and meandered southward through the vast and fertile delta
lands of Mississippi River, a site still a part of the public domain because
it was so isolated and unattractive that a settler had never thought it
The pioneer settler was subjected to the chronic aches and pains of malaria
fever. It was most prevalent in the swamp and overflow lands and along the
streams but no part of Butler County was entirely free from its ravages. In the
year 1834 a traveler, G.W. Featherstonhaugh, came through what is now Butler
County. Fortunately for us he published a book about his experiences. In early
November, he visited Fredericktown and then continued to the south. We quote
his comments on malaria fever in our area; “From this mount in at the foot of
which fragments of galena have been found, we descended three miles to
Greenville, a collection of four or five wooden cabins, where the
inhabitants die by inches of chills and fevers. It is a most distressing
thing to arrive at these settlements on the water-courses at this season; the
poor people, feeble, emaciated, beginning to recover from the malaria of the
county to many of the persons whom I saw life seemed to be a burthen.”*
The late Dr. J. Lee Harwell, in his delightful little book, “them Harwell’s,”
relates the following incident: “My Grandfather, Edwin S. Harwell had been in
Missouri about a year when he got one of our Missouri chills. Not being
familiar with them, he decided to take exorcize to get warm. They say he ram
about a mile, or until he got up a sweat, then went to bed and never got up.”
(Edwin s. Harwell settled in Butler County in 1859.)
It was to be well into the twentieth century before the scourge of malaria
was removed from Butler County.
Though the citizens of the new county faced many problems they had a trait
which would cope with any problem. They had unlimited courage. With courage and
bare hands they went to work to work to found a county seat town, build a
court house, build bridges, cut roads through the wilderness, plan for a
railroad, promote navigation on Black River, promote drainage and flood control
and to meet and solve many other problems, even to surviving civil war. The
story of the work of such men as Solomen Kittrell, John Eudaley, James S.
Ferguson, James W. Morrow, William Vandover, Nathaniel W. Hendrickson,
Phillip L. Varner, John N. Yarber and many others, is an epic of public
spirited self-sacrifice. For their long hours of work and often of great
physical hardship in public duties they received very little reward in money
but they left the heritage of a solid foundation for the thriving Butler
County of today. *--Journey Through The Slave States, by G.W. Featherstonhaugh,
published in London, England, in 1844.
CHAPTER VIII THE FOUNDING OF POPLAR BLUFF, PART ONE
The locating of the county seat in a new county in Missouri was closely
regulated by law. In 1845 the General Assembly directed that the General
Assembly itself should name three non-resident commissioners to select the
site of the permanent seat of government of new counties as they were
organized. The commissioners could not own land in the new county. The site
selected had to be approved by the Circuit Judge of the judicial circuit in
which the new county was located. Thus the citizens of a new county were
protected against selfish interests of people who might seek personal profit
or advantage in the location of the county seat.
The commissioners were required to hold a public hearing in the county, the date
and place to be advertised in a newspaper published, or of general circulation,
in the county and by notices posted in ten public places in the county. At this
hearing the citizens could express their views as to the best location of the
county seat. In selecting the site the law directed that due regard should be
given to situation, quality of the land, extent of population and
convenience and interest of the inhabitants. The Commissioners were to
purchase the sit selected or accept a sit as a gift, secure a deed to the site
and have the same recorded in the name of the county. If the site was purchased
it must contain at least 50 acres and not over 150 acres.
The Commissioners named for Butler County were John Stevens of Cape Girardeau
County, William Henly of Stoddard County and Martin Sandlin of Ripley County
but Sandlin died, so far as the records show, before the Commissioners met.
June 18, 1849 he was in Cape Girardeau County in the area to become a part of
Bollinger County on its organization in 1851. He was the first post-master
and a member of the first County Court in that County. John F. Martin too was
a prominent farmer and landowner near Oxly in Ripley county. He is buried in
the Martin Cemetery south of Oxly and about 200 feet west of the Military
Roadd. His name is legible on the gravestone but the dates of birth and death
are indistinct. We have no biographical information on William Henley.
The Act creating butler County directed the Commissioners to meet the first
Monday in April, 1849, at the house of Thomas Scott. We have not found a record
of the meetings of the Commissioners but we assume they met at Thomas Scott’s
house and sometime, someplace held a public hearing, as required by law. Since
the County did not have a newspaper we suppose the hearing was advertised by
notices posted in ten public places, though it may have had a notice in a
St. Louis or Cape Girardeau newspaper but this would have had every little
circulation in Butler County. We feel the hearing was well advertised by
word-of-mouth as the citizens must have been keenly interested in the site of
the county seat. We feel the hearing was well attended by the citizens,
including the members of the County Court. We believe the Commissioners advised
fully with the County Court on the best site.
Whatever the deliberations, whatever the conflicts about where the county seat
should be, the Commissioners were ready with a decision to report to Judge
Harrison Hough when he convened the first term of Circuit Court ever held
in Butler County, September 15, 1849, at the house of Thomas Scott. The site
selected was the southeast fractional quarter of Section Three, Township Twenty-
four North, Range Six East, a little less than 150 acres and Government land
or as many settlers said, “Congress” land. Judge Hough approved the report and
ordered that the site was to be the permanent seat of government for
Butler County as soon as title was secured in the name of the County.
How well did the site meet the criteria stressed by the General Assembly in
1845? In “situation” and “quality” of the land”, the site was satisfactory. The
situation was near the geographical center of the County and the land was
suitable for a town site. As for the third criterion, “extent of population,”
the site simply did not fit. It was surrounded in all directions by an almost
uninhabited wilderness many square miles in extent. Nearly all of the
settlers lived to the west and northwest, from four or five miles to fifteen
or more miles from the proposed county seat site. Evidently the fourth and
last criterion, “the convenience and interest of the inhabitants,” was
the deciding factor in the selection. Why was a site chosen so far from the
homes of most of the settlers and so difficult of access to them?
After careful study of the minutes of the Butler County Court we believe the
decision was based on the fact that this site was at the head of
possible commercial navigation on Black River. This was the factor, “the
convenience and interest of the inhabitants,” that determined the site of
present day Poplar Bluff. The civic leaders of the County realized it would be
many years before they could secure a railroad or a good wagon road to link the
County with good markets but they knew economic progress was impossible
unless some kind of transportation could be developed. They hoped and believed
that Black River could be opened to navigation thus giving commercial
access to towns down river in Arkansas. We now have no way of identifying by
names the courageous and clear thinking pioneer settlers who, laying aside
the immediate convenience, looked ahead for a better future and insisted that
the county seat be located where Black River broke away from the hills, entered
the lowlands of the Mississippi River delta and might be developed into a
navigable stream. Whoever they were, every citizen of Butler County today owes
to them a deep debt of gratitude for their foresight and courage. We cannot
over emphasize that passaged a city instead of a small town.
Goddspeed’s History of Southeast Missouri, 850. We are indebted to Mr. C. A.
“Check” Doherty, Doniphan, Mo. for research on John F. Martin.
CHAPTER IX THE FOUNDING OF POPLAR BLUFF, PART TWO
After the county seat site had been selected the next step was to secure title
to it. Since it was government land there was one problem, money, or rather, the
lack of it. The united States owned many millions of acres of land and was
willing to see it to settlers many millions of acres of land and was willing
to see it to settlers very reasonably, one dollar and twenty-five cents per
acre, but it had one firm idea, it wanted its money before title was given.
Judge Hough had decreed that the County must have the title before the site was
officially the county seat. The County Court did not have enough money to pay
for the land, however, as was characteristic of these pioneers, they
resolutely went ahead with the resources they had, including large measures
of faith and courage.
Today Butler County is part of a “money” civilization. True, money often will
not buy much but a person who considers himself poor will handle more dollars in
a year than many pioneers would have in a lifetime. Trade was carried on mostly
by barter. A man would give so many days of work for a fat pig, a horse or a
cow or exchange one article for another article. If he had a few furs he
would trade them to a merchant for sugar, salt, coffee, cloth or other items
he could not grow or make. It is almost impossible for us today to realize the
full implication of the expression, “There was very little money,” or “Money was
scarce.” A debt of one hundred dollars incurred in the purchase of a parcel of
land could be a burden on a man’s back for many years.
Since the United States Government would not accept fat pigs, horses, cows or
furs in payment for its land the Court had to enter into a series of maneuvers
to get the $180.65 needed. The first step was an action of desperation. We
quote the order of the Court, Nov. 13, 1849, “On Motion the court ordered
that Obadiah Epps be appointed to receive the sum of ten dollars or more from
any person who will advance that sum for the purpose of raising funds to pay
for the lands selected for the permanent seat of Justice of the County of
Butler—and that he obtain what shall be convenient by the fourth Monday of
December next.” (Dec. 24, 1849) The Court hoped Mr. Epps could obtain up
to $150.00. The loans were to bear ten percent interest and were to be
repaid out of the proceeds of the first lots sold in the town site.
Mr. Epps had a difficult time in his task and was unable to borrow as much
money as was needed. From the Court orders authorizing the payment of
county monies we identify seven loans totaling $100.00 as follows: T.C.
Cattron, $10.00; Simmons R. Haviell, $20.00; John Casinger, $18.00; Allen
McElmurry, $10.00; Johathan Sandlin, $10.00; Kittrell & Ferguson, $22.00 and
Dan Griffith, $10.00..
On February 11, 1850, James S. Ferguson, County Treasurer, made his financial
report to the Court as follows: Amounts received, $145.35; Warrants
issued, $104..72; Balance, cash in his hands $40.63. The court then ordered
that forty dollars of this balance be used to help pay for the county seat
site. This left a balance of sixty three cents in the County Fund “in the
hands” of James s. Ferguson.
In the third and last action the Court entered into a little slight-of-hand.
The State of Missouri had a “Road and Canal Fund,” which was annually
distributed to the counties as aid in the development of roads and canals.
Butler County had received its share for 1849. On May 14, 1850, the Court
borrowed $45.00 from this fun, “For the purpose of entering the County Seat
and for laying out the County Seat.” After five frustrating months the Court
had $185.00, enough to pay for the site.
The County Court records do not show the date the purchase money was given to
the Commissioner but we suppose it was soon after May 14, 1850, the date the
fund was completed. On October 24, 1850, John Stevens and John F.
Martin, two of the Commissioners, executed a deed to Butler County to the
site which we have already described, 144.52 acres for $180.65, which was
one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre. The deed was recorded December 7,
1850, by Jacob C. Blount, Recorder of Butler County.
The United States District Land Office was in Jackson, Missouri. We assume
the Commissioners filed an entry in this office on the land selected as soon
as the decision was made by them. Otherwise the site would still have been in
the public domain and subject to entry by anyone wanting it. The transfer of
the tract from the United States of America to John Stevens and John F. Martin
was completed December 1, 1851, the patent being signed by Millard fillmore,
President. Finally Butler County had a legal home for its government.
As time goes on we lose the memory of people who made history by doing their bit
when needed. Obadiah Epps found only eight men who could or would advance money
to buy the county seat sit. We wish to kindle anew some memories of these men
so that we may better appreciate their public spirit. Three of them were very
young, three were in the prime of life, one well past the prime of life and
one was not a resident of Butler County so we have no information on his
age or place of birth. The seven men who were residents of Butler County all
lived in the Cane Creek and Ten Mile Creek areas from ten to fifteen or more
miles distant from the proposed count residents, Jams S. Ferguson, was born
T.C. Cattron we believe to have been Thomas C. Cattron, Clerk of the Wayne
County Court, and a resident of that County.
Simmons R. Harviell was a young farmer, 23 years old, born in Illinois, with a
young wife, Nancy, 20 years old, born in Missouri and a daughter, Elizabeth,
eleven months of age. In his household was Merit Haviell, 75 years old, born in
North Carolina, and by trade, a cooper. Sim Haviell was to have a very
substantial career in Butler County. He was probate judge and a member of the
county court. He entered business in Poplar Bluff and was very successful. He
helped promote the building of the Iron Mountain Railroad (now the Missouri
Pacific) by agreeing to ship timber over the railroad. Also he entered into
a contract to keep a supply of wood ready at the railroad stations from
DeSoto to the Arkansas line for use of the wood burning locomotives used
by the railroad. For his unstinted support of the railroad the Company
named a station, “Harviell,” in his honor. He moved to Poplar Bluff and lived on
Main Street at the present location of the Bank of Poplar Bluff.
John Casinger was a young farmer who could not read or write. He was 22 years
old, born in Kentucky and his young wife, Masse, 20 years old, was born in
Missouri. They had a son, William, one year of age. In 1849 he was one of
three Commissioners appointed to mark out a road from Solomon Kittrell’s to
Joseph Wilson’s on the County line. (Butler-Ripley line). This is all we know
about John Casinger.
Allen McElmurry was a farmer, 36 years old, born in Kentucky. In this house hold
were Mary McElmurry, 54 years old, born in South Carolina and Charlotte
and John McElmurry, ages 22 and 20 years respectively, born in Kentucky. This
completes our information on Allen McElmurry.old, his wife Elizabeth, was 18
years old and they had a son, Thomas, one year of age. In addition to his
mercantile business he also operated a farm as at that time in Butler County
it was almost impossible to make a living in a trade, business and public
life. He was county treasure, probate judge, clerk of the county and circuit
courts and performed many other public services in his comparatively short
life of aobut forty-four years. In 1858 he moved to Poplar Bluff and the
following years built the first frame house in Poplar Bluff. This house stands
on the lot just south of the present Dunn Hotel. It was destroyed by the
tornado of 1927.
Finally we come to Obadiah Epps who, by horseback and by foot, sought out people
who might be coaxed into advancing money to buy the county seat site. Mr. Epps
was 38 years old, a native of Tennessee and a son of pioneer settler, Daniel
Epps. His wife, Delila, was 34 years old and born in Tennessee. Six children
were at home, Tabitha, Matilda, Newton, Absalom, Mary and Nancy, aged twelve
to one year. Mr. Epps was the first Commissioner of the Town of Poplar Bluff
but resigned March 18, 1850. He had heard the call of the plains of Texas
where there were no rocks or stumps. Near McKinney, Texas, he purchased
2,500 acres of land.
CHAPTER X THE FOUNDING OF POPLAR BLUFF, PART THREE
The third and final chapter in the founding of Poplar Bluff is the platting
and naming of the town. The new town had to be under direct control of the
County Court as there was nothing in a wilderness site to incorporate.
As soon as the County Court had assurance that a site had been selected it went
ahead with plans for a town, even though the deed had not been received. The
Act of 1845 regulating the formation of new counties directed the County
Court to appoint a County Seat Commissioner in case a new town had to be
organized. Usually he was referred to as the “Town Commissioner.” The
Commissioner was to direct the platting of the town, advertise the sale of
lots, give title to lots sold and look after the business of the new town as
directed by the Court. He was to furnish a bond of $1500.00 for faithful
performance of his duties.
On December 24, 1849, Obadiah Epps was appointed the first town
Commissioner. He resigned March 18, 1850, and migrated to Texas. On the same
day the Court appointed John Eudaley to the position. Mr. Eudaley was to
have great influence in the development of Butler County. Other positions
and duties held or performed by him were, county assessor, township school
commissioner, school enumerator, election judge, road overseer, agent to
bring money from Jefferson City and member of the County Court. His name
appears as “Party of the first Part” in the transfer of title to town lots from
Butler County to private ownership during the time he was Town
Commissioner. He was then 39 years of age and was born in Virginia.
In 1850 there were six children at home ranging in age from three to fifteen
years. Three of the children had been born in Tennessee and three in Missouri,
indicating that the family had migrated to Missouri about 1840. By occupation he
was a farmer and lived in the northwest part of the County near Cane Creek
about fifteen miles from Poplar Bluff.
The Meeting of the County Court March 18, 1850, is very important in Butler
County History as on this day the Court took official action to start a County
Seat town. Since the flavor of our American English has changed after the
passing of more than one hundred years we quote directly some of these early
orders of the Court.
First, the Court arranged for a survey of the town site as follows, “Ordered
that John Eudaley employ some competent persons to survey and lay out County
Seat of Butler according to a plat presented to the Court by John Stevenson.”
John Stevenson was President of the Court. This original plat has been lost. We
cannot find the name of the surveyor in the records so cannot recognize him for
his part in our local history. The second sstep was to order a sale of town
lots as follows, “Ordered that the Town Commissioner advertise the town lots
for sale at Poplar Bluff on the seventeenth day of May, 1850, and that he
advertise said sale as extensive as his means will admit of by post bills,
and it is further ordered that no lots be sold for less than five dollars, and
it is further ordered that the said lots be sold on a credit of twelve
months.” When the above orders were made the Court was in session at the house
of Daniel Epps on the west side of Ten Mile Creek on the Old Military Road.
The town site was not platted “square with the world”. The north-south streets
then as today, slant northeast and southwest such that they are parallel to
Black River. This brings adds emphasis to the thesis that the early civic
leaders valued the town lots near it to have especial value. The cross streets
are at right angles to the river and to the north-south streets.
Evidently an error was made in the survey of the northeast corner of the plat
for on Nov. 13, 1850, the Court made a correction order as follows, “Ordered
that so much of the order of the Court heretofore respecting laying off the
County seat of Butler County upon the northeast fraction be rescinded and the
Commissioner refund to the purchasers their notes and money for the same.”
The original order is not in the minutes. The lots involved would be in
Davidson’s Subdivision and probably explains why the lot numbers in the
“Original Town” begin with Lot 7. Only fractional parts of Lots 7, 8, and 9 are
in the “Original Town,” and no lots are numbered one through six. The tenor
of the correction order indicates the Court may have tried to purchase part of
the northeast quarter for part of the town site but failed to do so.
The original site did not front on Black River. Consequently the County Court on
Aug. 11, 1852, purchased from Jesse A. Gilley the fraction of the southwest
quarter of section two on the west side of the river and adjoining Poplar
Bluff, 11.93 acres, for $50.00. Part of this was platted with the rest of the
site and is a part of the “Original Town.” This purchase gave the county Court
control of the entire right bank of Black River form the north boundary to the
south boundary. Personally we believe the Court sometime in 1849 or early in
1850 entered into an agreement with Mr. Gilley whereby he was to enter this
tract from the public lands and then transfer it to the County. The fact that
portions of the tract were platted as part of the “Original Town” prior to
the sale of lots May 17, 1850, supports this view. The court could not make the
entry directly as the total site would then have exceeded the legal limit of 150
acres for a purchased site.
The “Original Town” is bounded on the west by Eight Street on the east by
Black River, on the south by Henderson Avenue and on the north by the north
line of the southeast quarter extended to Black River. About two blocks of Elm
Street are in the “Original Town”. The portion of the County Seat site south of
Henderson Avenue is not a part of the “Original Town.” On May 13, 1851, the
Court ordered the Commissioner to sell at public auction on the second Monday of
August next, all the land of the site lying east of Black River, 4.34 acres.
This is overflow land in the bend of the river south of the “Original Town.”
No report on the sale of lots May 17, 1850, is recorded. The honor of being the
first recorded purchaser of a town lot belongs to C.B. Arnold for Lot 11, for
$9.75, cash. The transfer is dated May 18, 1850, the day after the public sale
so we assume the lot was purchased in the auction. The next deeds were made
Aug. 12, 1850, Lot 19 for $35.00 to Solomon Kittrell and James S. Ferguson and
Lots 13, 18, 23, and 28 to David Humphreys for $35.00. The next transfer is Nov.
13 1851, Lots 39 to Charles S. Henderson for $20.50. the sale of lots
moved very slowly. The above lots are about one-fourth acre in size.
We assume the County Court selected or approved the Name, Poplar Bluff, for the
new town but a formal order to that affect was never entered in the records.
Consequently we do not have the date on which the town was named nor do we have
any information on other names, if any, were suggested. The first written record
of the town’s name is in the County Court minutes March 18, 1850, as
follow, “Ordered that the Town Commissioner advertises the town lots for
sale at Poplar Bluff.” The origin of the name “Poplar Bluff” is well
established and gives our town a unique and distinctive personality.
The first hunters, trades and settlers to see our present town site cam upon a
stand of huge tulip poplar trees growing along the east face of the Bluff along
the west side of Black River. The tulip poplar is one of the largest, one of
the tallest and one of the most inspiringly magnificent trees of the American
eastern forest. When growing in forest conditions it reaches great heights.
There are claims that in the Alleghenies there were poplar trees 150 to 190
feet tall and ten feet in diameter. Our Missouri specimens were probably not
that large but they did reach magnificent proportions. The trunk of this tree
in a forest is free of limbs to a great height giving it the appearance of a
tall, straight column. Its leaves are large, dark green and in spring the tulip
shaped flowers are orange yellow and very striking in appearance. The
tree is not a poplar but botanically a magnolia, the Liriodendron
The appearance of these tell columnar trees along this stretch of Black River
was so impressive that the early visitors used it as a descriptive reference or
place name, calling it “The Poplar Bluff.” Before the county seat site was
selected the County Court heard a petition for a road toward Greenville,
“commencing on the east bank of Black River at opposite the Poplar Bluff.
“Unfortunately the extent of the poplar grove is not now known. We believe
it commenced near Municipal Light and Water Plant and extended down to near the
present Missouri Pacific Passenger
Station. With such a natural phenomenon at hand and already named there probably
was very little opposition to naming the town “Poplar Bluff”.
Note: We are indebted to Mr. Frank Hearne, Poplar Bluff, for bontanical
inform-ation on the tulip poplar.
CHAPTER XI A SUCCESSFUL PIONEER SETTLER
There is recorded on page 2, Book A, deed Record of Butler County, a
contract in which Thomas R. Davis sold his improvement and most of his
possessions to be a James Kelley of Arkansas. Mr. Davis sold out, “Lock, stock,
and barrel,” or “Hair, hide and tallow,” take your pick of two long-age
expressions meaning a complete break with things as they were.
Thomas R. Davis was a successful man, By hard work, thrift and good management
he and his family were living well. Today we would speak of such a man as “well
to do,” but in the light of his times we like the term, “Well heeled,” now in
disrepute, implying “loaded with money,” but a hundred or so years ago it
complimented a man. In the fall of the year the provident farmer “heeled-in”
apples, potatoes, turnips and other vegetables by covering them with straw
or hay. It was a form of storage and, if well done, protected the fruits and
vegetables against freezing throughout the winter or until used. Hence the
“well healed” citizen accumulated, stored or gathered together enough useful
things that he and his family lived in the comfort of the times. He always
had something on hand for his family to eat, meal in the barrel, apples and
vegetables “heeled-in” or stored in a cave or cellar, hams and bacon in
the smokehouse, a cow giving milk, or dried fruits and vegetables and other
items to make life more livable. We humbly tip our hat to the “well heeled”
settler for he was of the stuff that made civilization.
This document is now 115 years old and has a personality of its own. Any
attempt on our part to discuss it piece by piece would detract from its
interest. It is a fine example of the simplicity of English language by people
who did not use big words and long phrases. We quote it in full, taking liberty
only to add some punctuation for greater clarity. The early scribes used
commas and periods sparingly. We leave the spelling as is. Sometimes it may
be a trifle original but it may also be in the accepted custom of its
“State of Missouri, County of Butler. Know all men by these presents that I,
Thomas R. Davis, of the County of Butler and State of Missouri, have this day
bargained, sold and delivered unto James Kelley of Randolph, State of Arkansas,
for the sum of three hundred fifty dollars, to him in hand paid, the receipt
of which is hereby acknowledged, the following described property, to wit:
one improvement on which the said Davis now resides, lying and being in Butler
County and State of Missouri on Ten Mile Creek, containing something like twenty
five acres of cleared land, four head of horses (to wit) Kit, Fly, Pedlar and
Jerry, ten head of cattle, eleven head of sheep, six hundred pounds of bacon,
twelve head of geese, three ploughs and clevises, three pare of geers, two
axes, 1 smooth board gun, one cupboard with all the cupboard furniture,
four beds with their bedding and bedsteads, one falling leaf table, one
square table, one side saddle, one more saddle, one loom, two wheels, one
reel, twelve chairs, one clock, twenty head of hogs, fifteen bushels of
corn at Levi Carpenter, what corn is at this time in the crib, six bushels
of wheat, with all other house hold and kitchen furniture which he, the said
Davis, may at this time possess. Also a debt, nine dollars and forty eight
cents, due by James Frank to said Davis to be paid in work when called for. In
witness whereof I, the above named Thos. R. Davis, have hereunto set my hand and
affixed my seal this 16th day of March, 1850.” (singed, Thos. R. Davis),
Attest: Newton Wallace, Obadiah Epps, E.C. Scott. Filed for record March 18,
A considerable number of the pioneer settlers did not take title to the land on
which they lived. If they decided to leave they sold their “improvements”,
which included fences, buildings and whatever land had been cleared for
cultivation. This practice seems strange to us now but it was based on the
realities of pioneer life. The United States District Land Office was at
Jackson, Missouri, a hard and wearisome trip of 200 or more miles to file
claim on a tract of land. The set price of the land was one-dollar and
twenty-five cents per acre, fifty dollars per forty acres. Many of the settlers
might take several years to save that much money to complete title to the
land. Some of the settlers arrived before the land was surveyed so had no
legal description to the land on which they lived. Also land was
plentiful. Most prospective settlers respected an “improvement” and kept going
till they found an unoccupied tract to their liking. In fact we feel that
anyone tired of living could quickly end it all by attempting to run a settler
away from his “improvement.”
We note the clevises were specifically mentioned as belonging with the plows.
Without them the plows would not have been of much use. Also we have to
meditate about the “six bushels of Wheat.” A modern combine would thresh
that much wheat in a few minutes. In 1850 it represented many hours of hand
labor. After the wheat was grown it was cut by a cradle or scythe or possibly
a hand hook, as in Biblical times. Then the grains were broken loose from the
heads by beating them with a flail. Finally the grain was separated from the
straw and chaff by tossing it into the air until the wind had blown the
Yes, Mr. Davis and his family had bacon and hams, milk and butter goose feathers
for bedding, wool for clothing and wheat for wheat bread to relieve the
monotony of a steady diet of corn bread. He had livestock, farming tools,
household and kitchen furniture beyond the ordinary in a pioneer home.
Where did Mr. Davis go? We wish we knew more about him and his family. On
November 13, 1849, the County Court appointed him assessor for the county. On
March 18, 1850, the same day his property sale was filed for record, he
resigned from office. In the 1850 census a “Thomas Davis” is enumerated,
possibly the same as Thomas R. Davis but of this we cannot be certain. Thomas
Davis was then 42 years old, born in Virginia, his wife, Ruth, was 32 years
old and born in Missouri. There were three children, James 13, Sarah 10 and
John 7, all born in Missouri. In his household also were Samuel Howe, age
50, born in Pennsylvania, a tanner by trade, and Mary Wills, age 18 and born in
Anyway, Thomas R. Davis vanished from Butler County. It is interesting to note
that zero wagons are listed in the items sold to James Kelley. Possibly Mr.
Davis kept his wagons and enough horses to move westward, maybe to Texas or even
to the call of gold in California. Wherever he again settled we are sure a
community gained a worthwhile citizen.
Also we have searched forty years of the deed records of Butler County but
failed to find a transfer of land from James Kelley so do not know the location
of that twenty-five acres of cleared land on Ten Mile Creek. From the position
of names in the census we believe Mr. Davis was a neighbor of Simmons R.
Harviell and Martin Epps, near the crossing of Ten Mile Creek by present
CHAPTER XII THE FIRST BUTLER COUNTY COURTHOUSE
Butler County has had only one county seat site, the Town of Poplar Bluff.
Although the Courts met for several months in the private homes of Thomas
Scott and Daniel Epps it is incorrect to refer to these homes as the “County
Seat” of Butler County. There were only temporary meeting places for the
Courts until a permanent seat of Government could be established. Until this
was done the county officials did not have any place which could be
considered “home for the business of county government.
The first step toward a government home was made August 13, 1850, by the
following Court order, “Ordered that the sum of two hundred dollars be
appropriated for the purpose of building a court house in Town of Poplar
Bluff”. This was the last meeting of the Court at the house of Daniel Epps as on
the same day the Court ordered, “that the Courts of Butler County hereafter be
held at Poplar Bluff”, and “That the Sheriff advertise the removal of the Court
by three hand bills”. The transfer of the Court sessions to the County Seat
was probably made as soon as a building had been erected in the new Town of
Poplar Bluff in which the Courts could be housed. It should be remembered
that the site selected for the County Seat was uninhabited and,
presumably, did not have any buildings until after the initial sale of lots, May
The minutes of the County Court do not mention the meeting places of the
Courts in Poplar Bluff before the Court House was completed. The earliest
printed record we have found on the subject is a booklet titled “A view of a
Growing town”, written by Richard L. Metcalfe and published in 1884. Here is
Mr. Metcalfe’s description of the first County Court meeting in Poplar
Bluff,, “Accordingly on the 11th day of November,1850, Sheriff Newton
Wallace mounted a stump on the river bank, near the old bridge, and with
customary “Oh yea, Oh yea”, ushered the few spectators into the presence of
the first County Court held in Poplar Bluff, the bench of which was
occupied by Abraham Romine, presiding justice, John N Yarber and William
Vandover, associate justices. Jacob C. Blount was Clerk of the Court. Judges
Yarber, Romine, and Vandover had been elected to office in the month of August,
1850. On this day Court was held in a rail pen or shed on the bank of black
River near the foot of what is now known as Vine Street.” The utter
primitiveness of the situation in 1850 is made clearer by quoting Mr.
MetCalfe’s description of the site at the time, as follows, “The county
had been organized but a short time, and at the date we write of “the place
known and designated as Poplar Bluff” was but “a lodge in the wilderness,” where
the pioneer hand had laid low a tree here and there and erected a cabin. At
that time Poplar Bluff was simply the name of a certain section of
wilderness so named by virtue of the large growth of poplar timber on the
place which presented then as it does now, the appearance of bluff from a
river view.” In another section of his narrative Metcalfe makes this statement
about Poplar Bluff during the Civil War, “There can be nothing told of the
place at that time more than it was a perfect forest with only a few tees
cleared here and there.”
Judge D.B. Deem in his History of Butler County states that the County Court met
for a time in a small log building on the northeast corner of the public square.
Metcalfe give the following picture of the first grand jury system in Poplar
Bluff was made in the year 1850,when twelve men “all loyal and true,” assembled
here, and being sworn in by Judge Hough, were marshaled by Sheriff Wallace to
pen made of joists from the house in which,*- on a spot of woods, which would
now be designated as the northeast corner of the public square. Into this pen
the grand jurors climbed and when seated in the interior on boxes and
miscellaneous logs, presented a more intelligent then dignified appearance.”
Probably Deem and Metcalfe refer to the same building. Mr. Deem was more
charitable in describing a crude building that was Mr. Metcalfe. In regard
to the Circuit Court in Poplar bluff Metcalfe states that “Judge Hough held
Court in a house opposite ‘opposite the Courthouse square which stands today
(1884) and is conspicuous for its large rock chimney.” Which direction was
‘opposite the Courthouse square’? Also, was the building on the northeast
corner of the Public Square a “squatter’s building” or had it been built by
order of the County Court? The Court minutes do not mention this building.
Apparently the Courts met in more than one building and the County Court and
Circuit Court did not necessarily use the same building. Only one clue is in the
County Court minutes as to the ownership of at least one of the buildings used
Courts. On November 13, 1850, Charles S. Henderson was allowed five dollars
for “house rent”.
The County Court appointed Jesse A. Gilley to plan the Courthouse and to
superintend its construction. November 12, 1850, Mr. Gilley presented a plan
which was accepted. The next day the Court ordered him to “let out the Court
House on the 1st day of December adjourned term, to the lowest bidder,” and
“advertise the letting in each Township in the County.” December 16, 1850, he
Court appointed Phillip L. Varner, “superintendent for building the Court
House.” He was to give bond for $500.00 for the faithful performance of his
duties. No explanation is given for the displacement of Mr. Gilley but it was
probably due to his appointment as County Treasurer. He was to turn over to
Varner all the books and moneys pertaining to the office.
To date we have not found a photograph of description of the first Courthouse.
But Judge Deem and Metcalfe state that it was a small frame building on the
southeast corner of the Public Square. Metcalfe states that it was a one room
building but on February 10, 1852, the Court appropriated six dollars to build
a “petition” in the south room, indicating at least two rooms in the
building. In the original plan the intent may have been is use wide boards for
siding and to cover the cracks between boards with wood strips and to finish
the interior with unmatched lumber. Thus the building would have had to
appearance of a shed or granary as used on farms. Whatever the original plan had
been the Court made a change on May 16, 1851, providing for the building to
weather-boarded on the outside and finished on the inside as follows,
“Ordered that there be an appropriation made of fifty four and a half dollars
for the purpose of weatherboarding court house with plank and sealing same with
plank with is to be dressed and put on in workman style and said weatherboarding
is to be 6 inches wide, ¾ of an inch thick, show five inches to the weather,
and dressed. The sealing is to be of plank ¾ of an inch thick, tongued and
grooved and put on in workman style. Petition is to be made out of inch
plank when dressed and tongued and grooved and all of said plank is to be of
good sound cypress and is to be sealed over head in same way and out of same
Thus the new County was coming up in the work, was acquiring status. A
building constructed of dressed weatherboarding and sealed on the interior with
dressed and match lumber made a much better appearance than if made of
unmatched and undressed boards. The pioneer citizens of Butler County could
now be proud of their neat appearing little Courthouse.
Seemingly there was no beating of drums, no speeches of dedication when the
building was finished. The County Court simply moved in and did not think it
necessary to note the date in the Court minutes. From such information as we
can piece together we believe the building was occupied during the summer
of 1852. To the interested citizen of today we suggest that he go to the
Public Square, look at the southeast corner, the close his eyes and see in
imagination a small weatherboarded building, the Courthouse of more than one
hundred years ago.
*--Here a phrase seems to have been omitted in printing Metcalfe’s narrative.
Note: References to Deem and to Metcalfe refer respectively to “History of
Butler County” by D.B. Deem and to “A view of a Growing town” by Richard L.
CHAPTER XIII MORE ON THE FIRST COURTHOUSE
The total cost of the framed Courthouse is unknown to us. The only
information available is the original appropriation of two hundred dollars when
it was decided to weatherboard the building and to finish the interior with
matched and dressed lumber, a total of $254.50. The Court minutes do not contain
a record of the expenditures. Since there was not a bank in the community all
money had to be carried “in hand” or “in pocket.” Apparently the money
appropriated for a specific purpose was given into the “hands” of the person
appointed by the Court to supervise the project. Bills were paid directly in
cash. Any money left over after the completion of the project was returned to
the County Treasurer who reported it as money charged to him. Probably the
supervisor of the project made a verbal or written report of expenditures to
the Court but such reports were not entered in the minutes. After all,
life and conditions were simple and uncomplicated. Everyone concerned knew that
was going on so why enter into the records information which already was
known. When a scribe was written with a quill he was inclined to be sparing
The name of the contractor who built the building is not in the minutes so we
cannot give him credit for his part in the history of our County. Neither is
there any record that the building ever was painted.
The furnishings of the new Courthouse were few and simple. The Court appointed
Jesse A. Gilley “to procure for the County twelve chairs and a table twelve feet
long and a desk, to have at least twelve pigeon holes in it, and the said Jesse
A. Gilley is to be paid for the above articles out of the County treasury of
Butler County. Phillip L. Varner was appointed to supervise the construction
of a judges bench and bar and tables in the Courthouse. The cost of the
furniture secured by Mr. Gilley and
Mr. Varner is not recorded. The Court appropriated forty dollars for the
purchase of two stoves, and appointed Daniel L. Jennings, a young attorney who
had recently come to Poplar Bluff, to supervise this purchase. (The purchase of
two stoves is another indication that the Courthouse had two rooms). Finally
on December 4, 1855, the Court ordered Mr. H. H. Bedford, an attorney of
Bloomfield, Missouri, to contract for the making of a “bookcase suitable for
preserving the books and records belonging to this County.” The cost of this
book case cannot be identified in the Court records.
The frame Courthouse remained on the Public Square until 1867. By that date
the second Courthouse, a brick structure, had been completed. On January 24,
1867, the Court made the following order, “Sheriff sell for cash the old Court
House, February 1, 1867, advertise same by five written hand bills, cash in
hand, house to be removed from Public Square in 20 days from date of sale.” On
May 6, 1867, the Sheriff, James F. Tubb, reported receipt of $56.00 for sale of
old Court House for which he was allowed a fee of three dollars. Apparently
Benjamin R. Moore was the purchaser for on May 8, 1867, the Court, in
considerable annoyance because the building had not been removed, ordered as
follows, “Benjamin R. Moore, failing to move old Court House ordered to do
so within 30 days, and if not Sheriff to remove same at Moore’s
Richard L. Metcalfe, in “A View of A Growing Town” states that the old Court
House was torn down and the lumber was used in building a frame residence on the
corner of Sixth and Vine Streets, owned in 1884 by Mrs. E. C. Biggers purchased
the west one-half of the above lot. We conclude that Mr. Moore used the old
Courthouse in the construction of a residence building on the southeast
corner of Sixth and Vine Streets.
Note: The Butler County Historical Society desires more information on the
first Courthouse. If anyone remembers seeing a photograph of the building or
hearing an “old-timer” describe it, please tell us about it.
CHAPTER XIV SOME EARLY FERRIES IN BUTLER COUNTYD
The ferry was a great boon and convenience to the settler and traveler in
crossing the larger streams. Without a ferry the larger streams had to be
crossed at a ford where the water was shallow enough for horses and oxen to
wade across. In dry weather this could be done readily enough but if the streams
were swollen by heavy rains the crossing was hazardous and sometimes
impossible, entailing a delay, perhaps of several days, until the flood
waters receded. Under the tediousness of waiting in camp there always was a
temptation to attempt a crossing while the water was too deep and too swift for
safety. The attempt could end in disaster, the wagon
being swept downstream with the loss of precious food, supplies and
equipment destined for the new home in the wilderness.
In the new communities enterprising men were quick to establish ferries where
the immigrants were moving westward. Sometimes the location of a suitable
place for a ferry determined the course of the trail or road. The tolls
charged for crossing on the ferry were a source of “cash” money to the ferry
owner in a time when money was very scarce.
In Missouri the establishment and operation of ferries was regulated by law.
The County Court had power to issue a license to a ferry operator and fix the
tolls he could charge. Thus the County Court could and did protect the settlers
and travelers against unreasonably high charges by an avaricious ferry owner.
It is probably now impossible to determine the location of the first ferry in
the present Butler County and the name of the first ferryman. Prior to 1849,
the ferries in our County would have been licensed by the County Court of
Wayne County. Unfortunately Wayne County lost all of its early records when
the Court House burned many years ago. Since there had been settlements in
Butler County thirty years before the County was organized we believe it very
probable that the Wayne County Court had licensed ferries in the area.
The first record of a ferry in Butler County is in a County Court order on June
19, 1849, the second day of the first session of the County Court, at the house
of Thomas Scott. The Court licensed Gabriel Davis to operate a ferry across
Black River. The Court order tells the story better than we can retell it so
we quote it in full as follows, “On the application of Gabriel Davis to keep
a ferry at the crossing of the Big Black River leading from Brannums old mill
to the Indian Ford on the St. Francis River and the Court being satisfied he is
a competent person to keep such a ferry and that it is not probably that much
profit will arise from such a ferry, the Court therefore order that a
license be granted him to keep such a ferry ffor one year and that no tax be
levied upon him as such ferryman and that he be allowed to charge at the
following rates to wit:
For a 6 horse mule or ox team and wagon…………… .75
For a 4 horse mule or ox team and wagon…………… .65
For a 2 horse mule of ox team and wagon…………… .50
For a man and horse………………………………….. .10
For a single man or horse or cow beast………………. .05
Whereupon the said Gabriel Davis presents his bond as such ferryman with
securities which bond the Court approves of and order to be filed.”
Brannum’s Mill was on Little Black River, now a place named, Ball’s Mill, The
Indian Ford was near the present crossing of the St. Francis River by the
Frisco Railroad. Gabriel Davis owned a tract of land on Black River about one
mile northeast of the present crossing of Palmer Slough by Highway 60. We
believe this land was the site of his ferry.
The tract is in an almost direct line between Brannum’s Mill and the Indian
Ford. The road between these points is referred to in the County Court records
as the “Road from Brannums old mill to the Indian ford on the St. Francis
River.” The last renewal of a ferry license to Gabriel Davis was March 6, 1856.
On November 13, 1849, the Court licensed Joseph Lawhorn “to keep a ferry at
the crossing of the State road on Black River leading from Jackson, Mo., to
Statesville Arkansas.” We do not know where this road crossed Black River but it
must have been in north Butler County, perhaps near Keener or
Hendrickson. In August, 1851, Lawwhorn’s license was renewed to keep a ferry
about one mile below the State road. This is the last mention of Lawhorn as a
Two ferries crossed Black River at or near Poplar Bluff. Carol B. Arnold lived
on the river near the head of Palmer Slough, May 15, 1851, he was licensed to
operate a ferry near his house. The license was renewed 1852, and is the last
mention of his ferry. On November 11, 1852, William Henley was approved to
operate a ferry but the definite location is unknown to us. Such information
as w3e have indicated it was south of the Original Town about one mile
downriver from Arnold’s Ferry. The last renewal of Henley’s license was
January 28, 1854.
A succession of owners operated a ferry at the crossing of Black River by
the Military Road, near Keener. The first license of record was July 24, 1854,
the Albert Hayms. Following him were John A. Hayms, William R. Hodge and Ephriam
B. Keener. Mr. Keener had the ferry long enough that it was called Keener’s
We have only a little information on ferries across the St. Francis River.
Some of this information would be in the Court records of Stoddard and Dunklin
counties. In 1855, Henry Miller was licensed to keep a ferry across the St.
Francis River near the Indian Ford. In later years this ferry was kept by Darius
Hodge of Stoddard County and became a well known place name, Hodge’s ferry.
There was a ferry across the St. Francis River above the Highway 53 crossing
called Deken’s Ferry. Also it was known as Davis’s Ferry and as Haper’s Ferry.
The ferries in Butler County have been gone for many years. Their passing marked
the end of a romantic and picturesque part of pioneer life. It was a great
thrill and an adventure to approach a ferry, signal the ferryman, board the
ferry boat and then slowly and cumbrously cross the other side of the river.
By the year 1855, a bridge had been build over Black River at Poplar Bluff.
This bridge took Gabriel Davis out of the ferry business, for people who
wished to travel the “Road from Brannums old mill to the Indian Ford on the
St. Francis river” now crossed Black River by the bridge in Poplar Bluff.
Likewise no one had any further use for the ferries of Carrol B. Arnold and
William Henley so they too quietly passed out of existence. Only memories
of the ferries remain and they are so faded that the exact location of
ferries remain and they are so faded the the exact location of most of the
ferries cannot be determined.
CHAPTER XV SEALS FOR THE COURTS OF BUTLER COUNTY
For many years governments have used some type of seal to validate or prove
that orders and pronouncements of the government were authentic and would be
enforced by the power and authority of the government issuing them. The new
County of Butler needed and had to have seals for its courts. Today most of us
accept the seal of the County Court or the Circuit Court on a document as a
matter of course and so not give any thought to the design in the seal of
either of our courts. There is an interesting bit of local history in the
selection of the designs for our court seals and in their procurement.
According to the records of the County the Circuit Court was first to initiate
action to have a seal made. On the morning of September 14, 1850, the Circuit
Court was in the second day of its first session in the new Town of Poplar
Bluff. On that morning Judge Harrison Hough ordered that “The following device
be procured to be used as the seal of the Circuit Court of Butler County, to
wit; a devise which will make circular impression one inch and a half in
diameter with the words Seal of the Circuit Court of Butler County, Mo. On its
face with the sign of a Virgin holding balance at equipoise in the center
On November 13, 1850, the County Court made an order which Mr. R. S. Douglas, in
his History of Southeast Missouri, terms. “One of the most remarkable
records ever entered by a court. ” Here is the order in full, “ordered that
the sheriff borrow from any individuals who will lend the same twenty
dollars bearing ten percent interest from the date until paid for the purpose
of purchasing two seals one for the County Court and the other for the Circuit
Court of said County”. The design of the County Court seal was then directed
as follows. “Ordered that the County Seal of Butler County Court be one
inch and a half in diameter in a circular form bearing the likeness of Wm. O.
Butler in the middle and also his name at the bottom of the said likeness and
the words Seal of County Court of Butler County, Mo.” As has been noted above
the design for the seal of the Circuit Court was selected by the Circuit Judge.
The court records make no further mention of the purchases of the seals but on
May 16, 1851, the Court allowed William R. Griffith two dollars, “for making a
press for the County Seal.” From this order we assume the Sheriff was
successful in borrowing the money and that the seals were purchased. We assume
also that original seal for the County Court did not have a lever attachment
where by the impression of the seal could be pressed into the official
documents of the Court. Hence Mr. Griffith was employed to make a press,
probably of wood, with a handle so that leverage could be applied to make an
impression of seal on a document.
After years of usage a seal becomes so worn that it doesn’t make a clear
impression and it must be replaced by a new seal. New seals have been purchased
in Butler County as needed but an examination of the seals currently in use by
the Circuit Court and in the County Court of Butler County shows the same
designs as selected one hundred fifteen years ago in an almost wilderness
frontier county. The central design of the Circuit Court Seal is a Virgin
bearing a balance at equipoise and the central design of the County Court Seal
is a likeness of Wm. O. Butler home in Carrollton, Kentucky, we have seen a
small portrait of General William O. Butler, in whose honor our County was
named. The portrait of General Butler shows him to have had a rather round
full face, as appears on the Seal of the Butler County Court.
CHAPTER XVI EARLY DAY JAILS AND PRISONERS
Very little information has been preserved concerning the first jail or
jails in Butler County. The need for a jail is evidenced in a County Court
order of December 16, 1850, in which John Walton was allowed two dollars “for
guarding prisoner two days.” Neither the name of the prisoner nor the nature
of his crime is recorded. This is probably just as well for what honor would
accrue to a man in being remembered as the first to be jailed in his county?
The place of custody is not recorded. Was it in Poplar Bluff, at the home of Mr.
Walton or in some other place? If the prisoner was held in Poplar Bluff, Mr.
Walton made a round trip of nearly forty miles, probably on horseback, to do his
guarding. His two dollars were well earned.
John Walton was born in Virginia, lived for several years in Tennessee, then
migrated to Missouri with his family and settled in the upper Cone Creek Valley
soon after the year 1840. He was part of that migration which brought to the
coming Butler County, in addition to his own name of Walton, such other names
as Boxx, Eudaley, Appleby, Wisecarver and provably others of which we are not
aware the names which have added luster to the history of our county.
The first record of an endeavor to build a jail is on October 27, 1854, when
the County Court appointed D. L. Jennings, G. L. Waugh and P.L. Varner,
commissioners, to select a suitable place to build a jail, make a plan for the
same and estimate its probable cost. Apparently this order was never executed
as on April 15, 1857, P.L. Varner was appointed superintendent to draft plan
of a jail and estimate its cost.
Two days later, April 17, 1857, Mr. Varner presented a plan which was accepted,
five hundred dollars was appropriated for building jail and Varner was
appointed Superintendent of same. On July 17, 1857, Jesse C. Walker was
appointed “Commissioner to superintend building jail house.” The appropriation
of $500.00 for a jail presents quite a contrast when compared to $254.50
appropriated for the first courthouse.
The jail was built on the Public Square, probably on the northeast corner, as
the first Courthouse was on the southeast corner and the second Courthouse,
a brick structure, was in the center of Public Square lot. No records are
available as to size, total cost or type of building material used. In a
Court order of July 15, 1861, there is an interesting sidelight in
connection with the jail. The Court allowed $108.50 to John Ferguson,
George W. Farmer and Kiah Burchett as “guards to the jail.” In 1861 this was
a considerable amount of money. Possibly the jail held some prisoners of
great importance in the eyes of the law or it may have been a war m3easure for
public safety. The Civil War was then on. The citizens were under
constant fear that partisan bands of either side might attack and ransack the
The only reference we have found on a “first jail” is in the “Encyclopedia of
the History of Missouri,” published in 1901, in the section devoted to Butler
County is this statement. “The first jail was a small log building.” This may
refer to the small log building on the northeast corner of the Public Square
which both Judge Deem and Richard L. Metcalfe mention as a meeting place for the
Courts in 1850. We find some evidence that a prospective settler had made “an
improvement,” on the County Seat site prior to its purchase by the County.
This may have been true and roughly build cabin had been left behind by a
pioneer who moved on to a location more to his liking. We probably never will
find authentic information on that “log jail.” Though we have not found direct
statements to support our view we believe the jail authorized in 1857 was a
frame structure. If the County could build a frame Courthouse in 1852 we think
it could and did build a frame jail in 1857.
How many people in Butler County today know that in 1870 the jail was removed
from the Public Square to a site on the north side of Vine Street, just
east of the building familiarly known as the “Barron” building? This was done
by Court order on April 5, 1870, as follows: “Ordered by the Court that the
common jail and prison house of the County be moved off the Public Square and
rebuilt on the same plan, use the same material, if sound, and that Daniel
Kitchen purchase a lot, contract to move and rebuild, 2 p.m. Monday, East front
door of Court House, May 2, 1870”. The County owned Town Lot No. 84 which is
bounded on the north, east and south by Vine, Fifth and Poplar streets.
Benjamin F. Turner owned the west one-half of Town Lot No. 36, in the block just
east of the Square. Mr. Kitchen made a trade with Mr. Turner whereby Mr.
Turner deeded to the County the west one-half of Lot 36 in exchange for Lot 84.
Benjamin R. Moore secured the Contract to remove and rebuild the jail. The work
must have progressed rapidly for one June 7, 1870, Mr. Kitchen reported to the
Court that the work was two-thirds completed. The Court then allowed the
contractor $100.00 for the work done. It would appear the contract was for
During the period the jail was being rebuilt the prisoners were kept in
the Washington county jail at Potosi. We quote two Court orders concerning this.
June 7, 1870, “It is ordered by the Court that Benjamin F. Turner have the
sum of five hundred and sixty one dollars and 77 cents for transporting
prisoners to Washington County Jail at Potosi. June 10, 1870, “John C.
Breckenridge allowed $33.57 for quartering and transporting prisoners to and
from Washington County Jail.” (Three Prisoners).
Finally we close our review of Early Day Jails and Prisoners in butler County
with a reference of a type of security which most of us have never seen used –
the use of “leg irons”. The Court records on May 5, 1870, tell the incident
briefly and clearly as follows: “It is ordered by the Court Tooms and Dickens
be and they are herby allowed the sum of Twelve dollars for the four foot
shackles and putting same on prisoners.” We assume there were two prisoners
and that the “irons” were riveted to the ankles and connected by a short
length chain, making it impossible for a prisoner to run. As in the case of the
prisoner guarded by John Walton the names of the shackled prisoners are
not recorded. Again we say that is just as well. (We feel “tooms” is
probably a phonetic spelling of “Tombs”)
CHAPTER XVII JUSTICES OF THE COUNTY COURT, PART ONE
In presenting information on the lives and works of the men who served on the
Butler County Court we are reminded of a line from the writings of Father Abram
Joseph Ryan, “The Poet of the Confederacy.” Father Ryan had a deep understanding
of the need for men to remember the proud moments of the past. He expressed
it this way, “A land without memories is a land without history.” We believe
this sentiment. If we forget or refuse to keep alive memories of the men who
worked unfalteringly to build a civilization in a wilderness County we lose
our history. The yesterdays become a vast emptiness.
Of course our County progressed through the work of all citizens but the
organization and direction of County policy had to come from the County Court.
We now pay tribute to them and their work. In early Butler County the
members of the County Court referred to themselves as “Justices.”
The First set of County Court members was appointed by the Governor of The
State as directed in the “Act” organizing Butler County. They were John
Stevenson, Jonathan Banlin and Solomon Kittrell, with Stevenson as the first
president. All more able and successful men. In our article of March 6, 1965
we gave biographical information concerning Sandlin and Kittrell so will not
repeat it here. The Census of 1850 lists a John Stevenson, 43 years old and
born in North Carolina. In his household were Nathan Hendrickson, 24 years
old, born in Iowa, and Samuel Stevenson, 21 years old, born in Arkansas. Then
on December 31, 1856, a John Stevenson sold to Michael Higgins of Humphrey
County. Tennessee, all the farms upon which I now reside”. This farm was eighty
acres on Black River near the former station of Wilby on the Missouri Pacific
Railroad. We believe the above was the John Stevenson who was a member of the
first Butler County Court. Seemingly he moved from our County soon after he sold
his farm. We wish we knew more about him.
Before reviewing the accomplishments of the County Court we wish to pay
tribute to the energy and spirit with which the Justices approached the task of
establishing a government in a new county. In spite of the prodigious amount of
labor necessary to support a family in pioneer Butler County the Court members
immediately went to work and gave their time and energy to the civic problems
at hand. Frequently they met at eight o’clock in the morning and seldom later
than nine o’clock.. Some of the members lived fifteen or more miles from Poplar
Bluff. The roads were but little more than a trails and the rivers and creeks
had to be forded. In bad weather some of these Justices must have left
home at four or five o’clock in the morning to arrive in Poplar Bluff on
time. The pay was two dollars per day served in court. There was not an
allowance for travel or horse feed.
The first set of Court members met for the first time June 18, 1849, and closed
their work on August 13, 1850. In this period of fourteen months the Court
attended to a large amount of routine business and had eight major
accomplishments to its credit, as follows: (1) Purchased a County Seat site,
(2)Founded a County Seat – The Town of Poplar Bluff, (3) Opened five new roads
through the forests, (4) Divided the county roads into districts and appointed
road overseers for the same, (5) Organized the county into fur townships,
Beaver Dam, Eppss, Butler and Mud Creek; (6) Adopted seals for the County and
Circuit Court, (7) Established voting places and appointed judges for the first
election to be held in Butler County, and (8) appropriated money to build a
courthouse in Poplar Bluff. We believe this is a very worthy record.
CHAPTER XVIII EARLY JUSTICES OF THE COUNTY COURT, PART TWO
The first election in Butler County was in the late summer or early fall of
1850. In this election, Abraham Romine, John N. Yarber and William Vandover
were elected members of the County Court, succeeding Solomon Kittrell, Jonathan
Sandlin and John Stevenson. They first met November 11, 1850, in Poplar Bluff,
which was the first meeting of the Court in the County seat. Mr. Romine was
elected President. He died early in 1853. The Governor appointed Barnabas
Bledsoe to the vacancy. Mr. Bledsoe first met with the Court May 9, 1853. At
this meeting John N. Yarber was elected President. For some reason not
explained I the records Mr. Vandover did not complete his term on the Court his
last attendance being January 28, 1854. Beginning April 24, 1854, John B. Lawson
served eleven days on the Court as Justice. The records mention only his
attendance at Court and mention is made of the retirement of Mr. Vandover. His
name is simply omitted from the attendance record of the Justice.
We have very little information on Abraham Romine. According to the 1850
Census he was a native of Ohio and 54 years old. His wife, Linda was 55 and
born in Kentucky. At home were Mary, age 22, and Ruth, age 16, both born in
Illinois, indicating that to Missouri. In the household also was Nancy Pedigo,
age 12, born in Kentucky. Mr. Romaine’s farm was probably near the present
rombauer. In 1851 he was elected judge in Black River Township which was the
former Mud Creek Township. Two place names in the County, Romine Springs and
the Lost Cave of the Romines, perhaps are named for him or his family. The
legends of lost treasure, of silver and gold, in the cave are now almost
forgotten due to indifference and neglect. Romine Springs are near
Rombauer. We would welcome additional information in Abraham Romine and “Lost
John Newell Yarber was born in Orange County, North Carolina, in 1815. In
1838 he came to Mississippi County, Missouri and in 1844 settled in the future
Butler County. The farm he selected lay astride the trail from the hills to the
north down to where Black River entered the lowlands, the trail which would
become Main Street, Poplar Bluff. The present site of the First Christian
Church,, Main and Davis Streets, was once a part of the Yarber farm. Mr.
Yarber built his log house on the east side of the trail which would become a
road and then a city street. After the lumber mills came to Poplar Bluff the
cabin was given a new suit by inclosing the logs with weatherboarding.
Many people still living in Poplar Bluff remember the small cottage on North
Main street where lived Mrs. Dorcas Ann Yarber, the widow of John N. Yarber.
Mrs. Yarber lived to be more than one hundred years of age, Mr. yarber died in
Mr. Yarber was married more than once but we have definite information only on
his last marriage. This was to Miss Dorcas Ann Freer who was born in
Louisville, Kentucky, September 30, 1848. Her father was Daniel Freer who
settled in Butler County when Dorcas Ann was about ten years old. She and Mr.
Yarber were married in 1866. The Census of 1880 lists children of John N.
Yarber as follows: Ada, Etta, Amanda and George. One or more children were
born to Mr. and Mrs. Yarber after 1860, but we do not have their names. Adda
was a child born to Mr. yarber by an earlier marriage. In the Yarber home in
1880 were Joseph M. Freer, age 12, born in Missouri and Emma G. Freer, age 5,
born in Arkansas.
Only a few men in early Butler County were more active in public affairs than
John N. Yarber. Besides his service on the County Court he was Justice of the
Peace, Public Administrator, Coroner, Collector and Deputy Sheriff. His
friends and neighbors referred to him as “Judge Yarber.”
William Vandover was of Dutch descent, a grandson of Thomas Vancover who had
come to America from Holland sometime in the latter half of the seventeen
hundreds. Thomas Vandover had a son, James, who settled in southeast Missouri
but the location is unknown to us. Three sons of James Vandover settled along
or near Little Black River near the mouth of Beaver Dam Creek. Their names were
William, Theodorick and John. William was born in Virginia in 1815. His
wife was Patsy Harris, a native of Missouri. At the time of 1850 Census
William and Patsy had children as follows: Micajah 12, Martha 10, Minerva
8, John 6, Lafayetta 4 and Elvira 2, all born in Missouri. In the
household also was John Cochran, age 21, born in Tennessee. At the time of the
census Mrs. Vandover was 32 years old. The family home was west of Little Black
River about seventeen miles from Poplar Bluff. To get to Poplar Bluff he had to
ford Little Black River and Cane Creek. In addition to his services as County
Court Justice he was school enumerator, election Judge and road overseer.
His farm is designated as a point on the road from Cape Girardeau and
his long line of descendants who have helped build the Butler County of
We know very little about Barnabas Bledsoe, “Barney”, to his neighbors. The
1850 Census states that he was then 36 years old and born in South
Carolina. In the household were Rachel, age 29, born in Illinois and
William, age 29, born in Tennessee. He lived in Butler Township which at
that time was the township in which Poplar Bluff was located but we do not
know the site of his farm. In addition to his Court service he was election
judge road overseer, juryman, helped lay out new roads and for several months
kept an orphan child, Haston, under contract with the County Court.
We do not have any personal date on John B. Lawson who was the last member of
this second set of County Court Justices. In 1856 he was election judge in
Butler Township and in 1858 was assessor for the same township.
This set of Justices attacked with vigor the problems of the new County. The
frame Courthouse commenced by the first Court was completed about 1852. Many new
roads were laid out and opened to transportation. This was plain hard work with
ax, saw, pry poles, and ox team, opening a road twenty feet wide through the
forest. This Court build the first bridges in the County, across the St.
Francis River at the Indian Ford, across Black River and Little Raft Slough
at Poplar Bluff, across Cane Creek at “the leadings from Brannum’s Old Mill to
Poplar Bluff” and across Pike Slough Lake, location not named. Judges were
appointed for the first Presidential election in Butler County, the first
Monday in November, 1852. Daniel L. Jennings was appointed Commissioner to
locate the swamp lands in the County. A proposal was made to levee Black
River opposite Poplar Bluff but the project proved to expensive and had to be
abandoned. This Court completed its work July 27, 1854.
We thank Mr. Earl Cochran for information on William Vandover and Mrs. Jack
Yarber for information on John N. Yarber.
In our article of November 6, 1965, we asked for more information on John
Stevenson. Mr. Eli Martin tells us that Mr. Stevenson was a member of a
caravan organized in Butler County in 1858 to go to California. We hope we can
find enough information on this journey for a story.
CHAPTER XIX EARLY JUSTICES OF THE COUNTY COURT, PART THREE
In the 1854 election John N. Yarber, Samuel B. Kittrell and John Eudaley were
elected members of the County Court. Mr. Yarber was the first man elected to a
second term on the Court. Mr. yarber was the first man elected to a second term
on the Court. This Court was to have a short life as the General Assembly
abolished the County Court substituting instead a District County Court for
the counties of Stoddard, Butler, and Ripley with one judge for the district.
The story of the District Court must be told in a future article.
This County court first met October 23, 1854, and appointed John N. Yarber
Presiding Justice. Mr. Kittrell died early in his term of office meeting with
the Court for the last time December 18, 1854. On January 23, 1855 the Court
passed the following resolution, “Ordered that James W. Morrowbe recommended
to the Governor for County Court Justice to fill the vacancy occasioned by
the death of Samuel B. Kittrell.” Mr. Morrow first sat with the Court April 23,
1855. The last day of this term, April 28, 1155, proved to be the final meeting
of this Court. The Court minutes show that the Court adjourned on that day to
the second Monday in June next but the June meeting was not held as the
District County Court took over in September of that year. Evidently the
County Court members did not anticipate the action of the General Assembly
which would abolish the County Court.
Samuel B. Kittrell, sometimes known as S.B. Kittrell, was a son of Samuel
Kittrell who had brought his family from Kentucky to the future Butler County in
1819 and had settled on Goose Creek a short distance north of its confluence
with Cane Creek. S.B. Kittrell was a brother of Solomon Kittrell, member of the
first Butler County Court. The Census of 1850 states that he was then 29 years
old and born in Missouri. His wife was Amelia, age 31, born in Tennessee.
The children were William 11, Lucinda 10, Elenor 6, Emilissa 4, and Daniel one
year, all born in Missouri. In the family also was Lemuel Sandlin, age 6, born
in Missouri. Other public services of Mr. Kittrell were as road viewer,
election judge in Beaver Dam Township, school inspector and road overseer. In
1852 the County Court awarded him a contract to finish a bridge on Cane Creek.
The Court records show that Samuel B. Kittrell lived in Beaver Dam Township on
Can Creek In January1853 he purchased forty acres of land from his brother
Solomon Kittrell. This land is in Cane Creek Valley about one and one-half miles
north of the present Harviell. Perhaps this was his place of residence.
John Eudaley was very active in public affairs in Butler County. As Town
Commissioner he granted title in the name of the County to the purchasers of the
first lots sold in the Town of Poplar Bluff. He was county assessor,
electi9on judge in Epps Township, school enumerator, agent to bring money
from Jefferson City and road allotting justice. The Census of 1850 shows
that he was then 35 years old and born in Virginia. His wife, Ortena, was 34,
born in Tennessee. The children were Polly 15, Reed 14, and Elizabeth 12,
born in Tennessee: Dicy 9, Sally 5 and Lucy 3, born in Missouri. In the
household also was William King, age 23, born in Tennessee. Mr. Eudaley
lived in upper Cane Creek Valley fifteen or more miles from Poplar Bluff. His
many trips to the County Seat meant many weary hours and many miles of
travel, probably mostly by horseback.
According to the 1860 Census James William Morrow was then 42 years old and
born in Alabama. His wife, Naoma, was 38, born in North Carolina. The children
were Elvira 17, Louisa 15, Emily G. 7, Nancy A. 4 and Asalee 1, all born in
Missouri. Mr. Morrow is not enumerated in the Butler County Census for 1850. We
do not have information as to where he lived in Missouri before coming to Butler
County. His home was in Beaver Dam Township about one and one-half miles
southwest of the present Harviell. Besides serving on the County Court Mr.
Morrow was election judge allotting justice, school inspector and road viewer.
His estate was settled in Probate Court in 1868 with Elias Brannum as
administrator. Hiss farm of 160 acres was purchased at administrators sale by
James Brannum for $571.00. the law sale price of the farm is shapr commentary
on the hard and bitter economic conditions in the County following the close
of the Civil War.
Progress continued in the County even though this Court had an active life of
only a little more than six months. Jackson Lacewell and Lewis buis were
allowed $180.00 as one half payment for a bridge across Soss slough. Pleasant
Majors was allowed $99.83, balance due Horton for bridge on St. Francis River.
In the 1854 election the voters approved a plan to subscribe $50,000.00 in
stock to the Cairo and Fulton Railroad. On October 24, 1854 the County Court
noted this approval and ordered the stock subscription to be paid out of
proceeds of sales of swamp lands. This marks the first official action we have
found for building a railroad through the County though it was to be another
eighteen years before a railroad was built. Settlement in the swamp lands was
encouraged by selling “script” which could be used in payment on the land. This
plan gave the purchaser opportunity to examine thee land and provided the County
with much needed capital funds. Apparently many settlers in the swamp areas
had neglected to file a claim to the land on which they were living. The Court
ordered all such settlers to file a description of their holdings up to 160
acres with the County Clerk. Probably there were many bitter disputes over
land ownership because the original settler did not take the time and trouble
to enter a claim to the land on which he was living.
This article completes a study of the three member County Court in Butler County
from June 18, 1849, to April 28, 1855 or until the District County Court took
over in September, 1855.
CHAPTER XX THE JOURNEY OF FEATHERSTONHAUGH, PART ONE
Probably there are no first hand eye-witness accounts of the appearance of
the present Butler County when the first settlers arrived about 150 years ago.
One of the early travelers through the western country, G. W. Featherstonhaugh,
accompanied by his son, came through this area in 1834. The population was
still so sparse that the face of the land had changed very little, the forests
were almost intact and none of the original wildlife had been exterminated. He
published his observation in 1844 in a book titled “Excursion through the Slave
States.” We believed portions of his narrative about the people, the living
conditions, the birds and animals and other items from the time he entered
Missouri, at St. Louis, including a brief part of his journey which lead him in
to the Territory of Arkansas after he left Missouri, will be interesting and
helpful in giving us a picture of our entire area in pioneer days. Mr.
Featherstonhaugh had a knack for noting the little personal and human
events which give the reader a smile, a chuckle and an understanding of the
Mr. Featherstonhaugh was a geologist in the service of the United States
War Department. He carried with him a set of hammers used by geologists in
collecting samples of minerals. His “Excursion” was from Washington to the
Potomac to the frontiers of Mexico and required a portion of the years 1834
and 1835. In the opening paragraph of his book is an example of his ability to
give a human touch to his writing. He notes that they started from
Washington “on a wretched dirty omnibus” to railroad station at five o’clock a.
m. 1st of August (1834). After traveling as far as they could by a railroad
they continued to St. Louis by stagecoach.
We will quote directly from the “Excursion” on my items of interest,
largely in succession, as mentioned by Mr. Featherstonhaugh as he proceeded to
the south and west. At St. Louis he had come to the end of any type of public
transportation. To continue the journey to the borders of Mexico he purchased a
horse and wagon. Quote: “Befoe we left St. Louis I purchased a nice little
wagon called a Dearborn, and a young horse that had been sired by one of the
wild prairie horses: he was a very elegant animal, good-tempered, appeared
sound, and I named him “Missouri.” We were now at the end of all stage-coach
traavelling with it (the wagon) we could carry out luggage, our specimens, and
some provisions. When one of us was walking, the other could drive, and we
could sleep under it at night into the bargain. It gave us a great pleasure
to think that we should be quite independent, with the equipage, should
have no smoking and splitting passengers, no cursing and swearing drivers, and
nobody to care about but ourselves and Missouri whose beautiful arched neck,
full eye, and ample tail attracted great attention.”
In connection with the purchase of a horse the author records an example of
the exaggerated and flamboyant talk of the American frontiersman as follows:
“Paid for the horse, owner said ‘Stranger, if that are horse don’t act like a
screamer, I’ll give you leave to exflunctify me into no time of day at all;
if I don’t I’m no account I reckon, by no manner of means.’”
As Mr. Featherstonhaugh was geologist he was especially interested in the
load deposits in Southeast Missouri. On November 8, 1934, he was in Farmington
and on the next day left for Mine La Motte, South of Farmington he made this
notation, “there is a good deal of fertile alluvial soil in this
neighborhood, where emigrants from Tennessee and Kentucky have settled
themselves.” Continuing southward he came to a table land where the trees had
been cut down and concluded he was near the mine. Upon reaching the settlement
at Mine La Motte he noted the squalor of the miners, of advancing culture
as he sees in a few of the huts “tea things neatly arranged, bed curtains,
looking glasses, etc.” “Speculators from all quarters seem to have resorted to
this place; the French are not very numerous, and those mining in the
native country follow a regular system of work, less of their labor is
wasted.” The trip from St. Louis to Mine La Motte with a brief stop at
Jefferson Barracks and taken nine days, about 100 miles, an average of ten to
eleven miles per day. From Mine La Motte the travelers went to Fredericktown
and noted that the brick buildings there were the last brick buildings see
until they reached the borders of Mexico.
CHAPTER XXI THE JOURNEY OF FEATHERSTONHAUGH, PART TWO
The Featherstonehaugh’s come through what is now Butler County in early
November third and then had gone to Fredericktown. After leaving Fredericktown
he considered that he had entered into the wilderness. To give his point of
view at this part of his journey we quote as follows. “Our horse, Missouri,
has shown symptoms of not being equal to the task of drawing his load over
roads that would probably not grow better as we advanced, putting our horse by
walking the whole way if necessary, we took leave of this, the last village
(Fredericktown) on our route to the Arkansas, and with my rifle on my
shoulder and my hammers in my belt, and my son holding the reins, and walking
by my side, we now entered the endless forest. In the course of the morning
we got upon hilly land and found it less woody, having made about six miles,
we passed some heads of the St. Francis the water of which was beautifully
transparent, as are all those of this siliceous region."
Continuing southward the travelers came to Twelve Mile Creek and then to the
foot of a mountain where there were fragments of galens (lead ore) and
descending three more miles came to Greenville with four or five wooden
cabins, quote, “beautifully situated on a rich bottom of land on the east bank
of the St. Francis, a fine clear stream about eighty yards broad, running
thirty feet lower than the banks at this time, but often during the floods
overflows them”. It was in this visit to Greenville
that Mr. Featherstonehaugh noted the misery which malaria fever brought to
many of the settlers. Most of the inhabitants of Greenville, he said “die by
inches of chills and fevers,” and of the entire region he commented, “It is a
most distressing thing to arrive at these settlements on the water-course at
this session, the poor people, feeble, emaciated, beginning to recover from the
malaria of the country: to many of the persons when I saw life seemed to be a
During this same day of Featherstonehaugh’s entered what is now Butler County.
Quote, “After feeding our horse (at or near Greenville) and endeavoring in vain
to purchase a little milk for ourselves to eke out some gingerbread we had, we
proceeded fifteen miles farther through mountains and fertile bottoms
resembling those of the morning, until at night we reached a settlers of the
name of Stevenson, half a mile distant from Big Black River, a tributary of
White River, in the territory of Arkansas, which it joins a little south of 36
degree of N. lat. Here we were obligingly received and having taken care of our
horse, sat down with the family to their humble evenings repast.”
The given name of Mr. Stevenson is not mentioned. Naturally a sense of pride in
our early history makes us wish to identify him with John Stevenson, first
President of Butler County Court. In a previous article we have established
that John Stevenson lived near Wilby but we do not know that he had
settled there by 1834. By Featherstonehaugh’s calculations he had came about
twenty miles from Greenville to reach this habitation. By the trails he had
to follow this would certainly place him in the vicinity of John Stevenson’s
house. A search of the deed records does not show that any other Stevenson owned
land in this area. In the business of searching for facts of our pioneer days
we find that guess work frequently leads us into false conclusions so we
will not get out on a limb and say that “Featherstonehaugh’s Stevenson
was John Stevenson of our first county Court but we will say that the
available facts point in that direction. Anyway the Stevenson mentioned in
the “excursion” was a successful and well to do settler as evidenced by this
quotation, “These people (the Stevenson’s) occupied 160 acres of fertile bottom
land, had 1000 bushels of Indian corn already harvested, two or three
hundred bushels of wheat, numerous cows, with boundless range for them on the
adjacent hills and bottoms that afforded excellent grass, great numbers of
barn door fowls.”
Early the next morning Featherstonehaugh left the Stevenson’s and soon
arrived at Black River quote, “Came to Black River a broad limpid stream, with
a rapid current,” and then states that he misjudged the strength of the current
and almost swamped his wagon in fording the stream.
Forest fires were problem in 1834 much as they are today. Quote, “Some
distance through a forest, we got upon an extensive bottom, where we again found
the country on fire, the leaves and twigs all burnt up, and everything black
as soot.” After passing through the burned area the travelers came to a small
creek on the west side of Black River and stopped there for breakfast with this
sketchy comment. “Where the fire had not passed, clear running stream breakfast
parlor, built fire. Milk which Mrs. Stevenson put up that morning, black tea,
nice loaf sugar and buffalo tongue in capital spirits. During breakfast four
beautiful created wood ducks alighted on the stream not far from us.” Here
also is a comment on one of the causes of the forest fires. “Hunters fire the
country to drive game particular direction. It is in vain to remonstrate with
these men, they live by getting deer, and as they look upon the farmer as
an intruder have little or no sympathy for him.”
We should mention that in St. Louis Mr. Featherstonehaugh had purchased some
food as tea, sugar gingerbread, buffalo tongue etc., as a protection
against the uncertainties of a food supply in the wilderness. The gingerbread
evidently was a dry cake or cookie which would keep almost indefinitely but
needed to be eaten with tea or milk. Also here is a reminder of the time when
the buffalo in untold millions grazed the prairies and their cured tongues
were a common article of commerce.
The plateaus and gently rolling hills of central Butler County as near the
present Green Forest Church, south of Poplar Bluff on Highway 67 and west toward
Little Black River, with open woods, wild grasses in profusion, deer quail and
other wild life, must have presented vistas of unsurpassed beauty in pioneer
days. Featherstonehaugh says itt this way. “Descending to the south we came to
some very beautiful situations of fine dry undulating land, easy of access, the
slopes exceedingly fertile, and beautiful woodland trees scattered about as
they are seen in the charming park scenery of England.”
CHAPTER XXII THE JOURNEY OF FEATHERSTONHAUGH, PART THREE
We concluded our last previous article with Featherstonehaugh’s description of
the beautiful rolling plateaus somewhere west of the present Poplar Bluff in
which he compared the scenery to the parks in England. Again we quote directly
from his text as follows. “Having made about fourteen miles we stopped to feed
our horse at a Mr. Eppes, who had a plantation on a very fertile bottom, and
here we saw the first appearance of a cane break, this plant is always
indicative of good soil, and in some portions of the southern states pushes up
its jointed stem amidst the forest trees so thickly that a chicken would find it
difficult to creep between the plants.”
“Small flocks of pirouettes were wheeling and screaming about in the bright sun,
and showing their brilliant colors to the greatest advantage.”
“upon the wall of the cabin where the family lived was a frame upon which the
skin of an elk was stretched that Mr. Epps had killed the day before. Learning
that he was in a corn field about a half mile distant, I walked there and
found him, when he confirmed to me what I had before heard, that in the “Big
Swamp”, which bordered his plantation on the east and which extended about
twenty miles to the river St. Francis, there were still a great many elk
and buffalo, the only situation in which these animals are to be east of the
most advanced settlements of the whites, it being favorable to them from the
great extent of the swamp, the luxuriance of the wild grass and the absence
Mr. Eppes related to e that two or three days ago he and his son had entered the
Big Swamp to hunt up some young horses they had turned into it in the spring
to thrive upon the leaves of the miegia (cane), which gramivors animals are
very fond of, that wondering about in the mazes of the swamp, and tearing their
clothes to rags amongst the green briars, the supple Jacks, saw briar and all
sorts of pests of their kind, they had lost themselves, and knowing of no
method to find out where they were, but going to the river to observe the
direction of the current they crossed a broad “sign” or track of buffalo,
where at least forty of them had recently passed. Soon after they crossed a
“sign” of numerous elk, and whilst they were deliberating what to do, three
large ones came trotting up and stood still at no great distance from them.
Mr. Eppes fired and one of the elks dropped, the other stood some time by their
fallen companion but made off before he had time to reload again. He said they
were about the size of a large Spanish mule and that they looked extremely well
with their branching antlers when they first came boldly up. Having skinned the
animal they left the carcass behind, and soon after coming on their own trail
“From hence we proceeded through some pleasant open woods consisting
principally of oak trees growing on a very fertile soil and some time
after night heard the murmuring sound of Little Black River before us. I
hesitated a moment whether or not to stop and bivouac here, our experience of
the last for we had passed did not afford much encouragement for a similar
adventure in the dark, but Mr. Eppes had assured us the ford was an easy one,
Missouri seemed very willing, and I thought I would proceed a few miles farther
through the thick woods, where we would have seen nothing by daylight. So
whipping on our horse, away we went, literally, for, in making a sort of turn to
go down the bank the nigh wheels, which we could not see, got on a hummock of
land, and the whole concern, including the unsuspecting Missouri, made a
complete turn over, luggage and all, leaving the wagon bottom upwards. Our fine
tempered horse behaved extremely well, instead of kicking up a rumpus in the
dark, and making things worse. He laid still and permitted us to take the wagon
to pieces as well as we could and to unbuckle and un-strap him before he
stirred, he seemed almost to comprehend us as we patted and comforted him, and
it was not until he could neither hurt the wagon nor himself that, a little
aided by us, he made an effort, and with a plunge arose from the very awkward
position in which he lay with his back down hill. Tie up the horse,
everything scattered on the beach, regain the bank, build a fire, gave
Missouri his corn in a pail, a long rope for limited grazing range. A cold
night, cut trees, hands sore, buffalo hides on the ground, put on our large
blanket coats, lie with our feet to the fire, son taking the first watch,
whooping of the owls, howling of the wolves, barking of the foxes, a cow had
chewed up my towel, these animals sometimes stray great distances from the
“We soon arose again to the tableland, a fine open country, very extensive, and
the trees were so far asunder from each other that we could imagine ourselves
traveling through some park. Here we saw the first ivory billed woodpeckers, a
beautiful bird not found farther north than this part of the Country.”
“About 10 A.M. we came u0p with a sorry looking horse with a saddle on his
back, grazing without a rider, and two miles farther found a man, with a gun by
his side, bleeding and lying apparently senseless on the ground, beastly drunk,
probably fallen from his horse, left him to get sober.”
“Toward noon, a part of the country on fire, enveloped in dense and
distressing smoke. Eyes became sore, difficult to drive, many of the dead trees
had been burned so near the ground, they had fallen across the path, winding
abou5t as well as we could among the tall trees, almost insupportable
nervous headache. Smoke was black and dense and filled our eyes and nostrils.
“In the afternoon reached a Mrs. Harris’s remained rest of dayk, though had made
only fifteen miles. Widow with sons and daughters, kindly received, all they had
to offer us was bad fried bits of pork with worse bread and no milk.”
“Fire gained, all hands out to “fight fire”. At night we could see a fiery
horizon through the forest in every direction and hear the crackling of the
approaching conflagration. Elevated tableland, dry autumnal leaves, grass and
sticks, dead and dry trees killed by previous fires. About 1/4th mile away a
narrow edge of bright crackling flame, wider than lots to burn, consuming
everything before it. Flaming tree comes to the ground; trees like neither
description nor painting could do justice to. Measured progress of fire
about a foot a minute. Small settlers have no fields, no hay, leaves no corn.”
(Day after the fire) “About 3 miles to Current River, beautiful pellucid
stream, Territory of Arkansas, Salmon 25-30 lbs., large red horse suckers,
buffalo, drum, perch, large cat fish, crossed on ferry boat. Decent house here
to stop at.”
“14 miles from Current crossed Fourche de Thomas.” The travelers then
proceeded to “Eleven Mile Point River.” Again quote, “6 miles to Jackson
Spring River. Shoot a wild goose, went to house to try to get some meal to
cook with goose,, people seemed in poverty and broken down by fever and ague.”
The buffalo and the elk long ago disappeared from Missouri. The beautiful
parakeet, usually called the Carolina parakeet, the only parrot like bird native
to continental United States, is now extinct, gone from the face of the earth,
a victim to the rapacity and indifference of man. The ivory billed woodpecker
probably is extinct, not from the shotgun, but by the ax and the saw. For a
woodpecker, he was a large bird about the size of the common crow, and
needed a broad range of large forest trees to provide enough wood boring
insects to keep him going. With the destruction of the forests he no longer
could find enough food for a living. He was of striking appearance, glossy
blue black with whit wing markings, a white stripe along each side of the neck,
a bright red crest and an ivory white bill. It is a great tragedy to have
lost so distinctive a bird.
Mr. Featherstonhaugh does not mention the first name of Mr. Eppes. We believe he
was Daniel Eppes who lived on the west side of Ten Mile Creek on the Old
Military Road. Featherstonhaugh probably crossed Little Black river at the
point now know as Powers Mill. The big forest fire and the home of Mrs. Harris
were probably in the present Ripley County. Current River was probably
crossed at Pitman’s Ferry.
CHAPTER XXIII THE SHILOH CHURCH, PART ONE
The history of Shiloh Church must be told in connection with the story of
the original settlement in the upper Cane Creek Valley where the church was
established. Fortunately for local history the Rev. Roy F. LeGrand wrote a short
history of the settlement and the church established there and had it
published in a booklet titled, “Shiloh, The Mother of Preachers.” This was
probably the first Methodist church organized in territory to become the
present Butler County.
On January 8, 1841, a group a families left Jefferson County, Tennessee, to find
new homes farther west. The heads of these families were John Eudaley, Dudley
Cox, Reed Cox, Elliott Cox, Nathan Davis, James Eudaley, James D. Franklin,
Waitman Summers, John Shell, John Wisecarver and John A. Walton. At Louisville,
Tennessee they were joined by Shield King and family. It was early spring
when they reached Jackson, Missouri. Realizing they could not find new lands
in time to grow a crop they rented land near Jackson and “made a crop.”
On July 27, 1841, after the crops were “laid by,” Reed Cox, John A. Walton and
John Eudaley, as a committee to “spy out” the land and find a place
suitable for settlement, left Jackson with wagon and team and one extra “nag.”
For the trip of exploration we use Rev. LeGrand’s words. “They explored the
country southward into Arkansas, crossing Current River at the Indian Ford,
and passing through Jackson, Arkansas, they followed the Old Fort Smith Road
to North Fork of White River. From here to Reed Cox turned north into
Missouri on horseback, following the Eleven Points River to a point where
Thomasville is now located. Being favorably impressed with this location he
rejoined his company, expecting later to return to this site for permanent
settlement unless some more suitable place should be found. After touring on
through Carrolton, Arkansas, and on through Taney County, Missouri passing
through Springfield, Bolivar, Boonville, Caledonia and Fredericktown the trio
returned to Jackson about the first of September, 1841.”
The explorers had traveled in a triangle, each leg of the triangle being about
200 miles, a total of some 600 miles, perhaps a little more, depending on the
crooks in the road, side trips to examine promising creek valleys and how far
south they went into Arkansas. They were gone about thirty-five days so
averaged about 18 to 20 miles per day, about the same ass averaged by
Featherstonhaugh when he went over the same route in 1834. Featherstonhaugh
mentions passing through Jackson, Arkansas. Both parties probably crossed
Current River at the same place.
Again we pick up the story as told by Rev. LeGrand. Quote, “Thrilled with the
story of the fertile soil and cool spring water of the Eleven Points valley,
as it was related by Reed Cox, the little colony immediately gathered and
disposed of their crops and set out for the present site of Thomasville.”
Now occurred one of those chance happenings wh8ich was to bring to Butler
County as settlers this group of God-fearing, able and industrious men and
women including the great natual leader, Virginia born, John Eudaley. The
little band reached Logan Creek where the possibilities of settlement along Ten
Mile Creek and Cane Creek valleys that they hired a pilot to guide them to
this new site. We now quote the story as it was related by John Eudaley, as
follows. “When report came, we all decided to turn our course and come to
Cane Creek, and on the 11th of December, 1841, we stretched camp on Cane
Creek about eight miles above where I now live. That was on Saturday night.
On Sunday morning we left camp, came down Cane Creek, Monday looked at Ten
Mile, and all decided to take Cane Creek. Tuesday we hitched up and made our way
down through the brush, as at that time there was no road. Each man began to
select his home, as there was no person then here to say yea or nay.”
So the upper Cane Creek valley, empty of people at the beginning of December
1841, received its first settlers, strong and sturdy people who meant much to
the coming Butler County and whose descendants still bring honor to the
names of their forbearers.
If meeting a stranger on Logan Creek who directed them to a wonderful
location on Cane Creek seemed to these settlers to be an act of providence they
really felt that God was with them when the first visitor to their camp
proved to be a Methodist minister. Again we quote from Rev. LeGrand’s
narrative. “The Methodist circuit rider of the Greenville Circuit, the
Reverend John H. Headlee, lost his way in the wilderness, on the night
of January 1, 1842, only a few days after the cam p was set up, and half
frozen, guided by the dim light of the camp, staggered into camp to find a happy
meeting. Not only for the physical comforts of the cold, hungry circuit
rider, but also for the spiritual hunger of this little company of men and
women, most of whom had early become established in the Methodist Church, and at
least one other, John Eudaley, had been married and baptized by the Rev. Thomas
Wilkerson, who had labored with and received appointments by Bishop Asbury in
his younger days. Before leaving the friendly atmosphere of this camp, the
younger minister preached and arranged for an appointment for this next round,
which was in May of the same year.”
In the preaching service in May 1842, the Reverend Headlee4 organized a
Methodist class and appointed John Eudaley as a class leader. The charter
members were Dudley Cox, Parenelitha Cox, John Eudaley, Orlena Eudaley, Reed
Cox, Jacob Cox, Dicy Cox, Nancy Eudaley, Washington Eudaley, Sarah Eudaley,
James D. Franklin, Nathan Davis, William Johnson, Lydia Johnson, Elizabeth
Johnson, John A.Walton and Pamela Walton.
CHAPTER XXIV THE SHILOH CHURCH, PART TWO
The Methodist Class organized by Rev. Headlee in May, 1842, with John
Eudaley as class leader, met for several years in the homes of the members.
Concerning the date and location of the first church building we quote Rev.
LeGrand. “There is no record available to the writer that even suggests the
time and location of the first church building to house the Shiloh Class.
However, according to information gathered from local sources, the first
building, a log structure, was erected probably within a few years after the
class was organized, near the base of the hill and just east of the Shiloh
cemetery. This building served their purposes until after the Civil War,” but
Rev. LeGrand states “There might have been a building near the Old King place.”
In 1867 John Eudaley gave two and one half acres of land for a permanent
building site and deeded the same to Methodist Church, south. Later, date not
known, a church house w3as erected on this site and the site continued to be
the home of Shiloh Church until its final dissolution a few years ago.
Besides the services held in the homes of church members and in the church
house after one was built the congregation held a revival each summer at some
camp ground. This “Camp Meeting” was a great religious experience. Entire
families came for many miles around and “camped out,” for the period of the
meeting, usually several weeks. Several camp sites were used, some of which
cannot now be identified. Rev. LeGrand describes one camp ground as follows,
“The Shiloh Camp Ground was equipped with necessary buildings to house and
feed a very large group of families for several weeks. The cabins, made of
logs, were arranged in an orderly “L” shaped fashion, so that each cabin would
be facing the large community kitchen and storehouse, to which all had equal
According to the journal of John Eudaley, in the year1843, the Scotts,
Kearbeys, Kittrells and others started a camp ground on Ten Mile Creek on land
owned by Jesse Scott. This camp was occupied for four years when the land was
sold. In 1847, a date was set for a meeting on Ten Mile Creek to select a new
site. In the words of John Eudaley, “The Cane Creek people found out that the
principal part of the wo4rk would be done by the Cane Creek boys, so it was
decided if we had to do the work we would build some2where on Cane Creek and
the Old Camp Ground was agreed upon.” The meeting started August 6, 1847, with
J.M. Kelly, presiding elder, and J.M. Proctor, preacher in charger. The campers
were John Eudaley, John A. Walton, Heardy Box, Elijah Mays and some others,
about eight in all. Considering family size there could easily have been 50 or
60 people camped.
Again we quote from Eudaley’s journal, “The War commenced in1861, and by the
close of the war the campes were about all rotted down.” (We interpret “camps”
to mean that each family had a cabin on the camp ground and that each cabin
was called a “camp”.)
In 1865 the “Brush Camp Meeting” was held. We suppose this was a camp
meeting hurriedly arranged after the close of the war and used a brush covered
arbore and shelters of brush for the campers. Mr. Eudaley mentions that in the
fall of 1866 a camp meeting was held at Three Springs on Black River because
some good camps were there. Soon after this Mr. Eudaley gave the land for a
permanent location and the camp meeting were held there. We do not know how
many camp meetings were held but John Eudaley helped plan and participated
in forty such meetings.
The preaching services in a Camp Meeting were usually under an arbor, the
arbor covering supported by posts. If the covering was of brush it was called
a “brush arbor”. At a camp ground which was used for several years the arbor
covering seems to have been more permanent that brush, probably boards or
shakes. Here we quote the statement of Mr. Eudaley regarding the first arbor
on the site which he had givene the Church. “We put up a frame for an arbor
the next fall, 1868, and Green Copland was hired to cover the arbor and paid
$50.00”. Surely $50.00 would buy a substantial arbor covering in 1868. the
Church services in a “Camp Meeting” were explained by Rev. LeGrand, quote,
“The services were more or less informal, giving opportunity for personal
expression a warmed heart, from the least of them unto the greatest.
Ministers came from afar and stayed throughout a part of all of the assembly. No
one minister had a monopoly on the services. All were given an opportunity to
The Shiloh Church lived and served its community for well over one hund4ed
years. In 1942 it celebrated its centennial anniversary, a distinction attained
by only a few churches in the meddle west. The occasion was observed by a
revival meeting beginning Wednesday, July 29, and continuing through
Sunday, August 9. The District Superintendent, Dr. E.H. Orear, District
Superintendent and Rev. Albert Northdurft, pastor in charge. Dinner was served
on the grounds in the old-fashioned way. The Rev. George Walker, pastor at
Ellington, was the speaker for the second week. He was the English boy who had
worked for John Eudaley as a farm hand, untied with the Shiloh Church and was
there licensed to preach.
In the life-time of the Shiloh Church twenty-three of its young men graduated
into the ministry of the Methodist Church, a truly remarkable record, and a
record not attained by many much larger churches to this day. This church has
every right to proudly call itself, “Mother of Preachers”. Spacer will not
permit us to mention by name all these ministers but it included Roy F.
LeGrand, author of the little booklet, “Shiloh, the Mother of Preachers,”
Jonathan D. King, who died in the armed forces in the Civil War, William
J. Wisecarver, killed in the battle of Fredericktown, George walker, the
English boy who had come under the influence of John Eudaley. In the group
John Eudaley also had a brother-in-law, Jacob H. Cox, three grandsons, Reed
Steward, John L. Steward, James D. Eudaley and a son-in-law, Reuben A.
Walton. Then there was Dudley C. O’Howell who rose to be Presiding Eleder in
the Missouri Conference.
The Shiloh Church has now ceased to exist except in the hearts and minds of the
men and women who came under it influence. The church building was torn down
in late January1962. The only remaining evidence of this great pioneer
institution is Shiloh Cemetery, the earthly resting place of many of the fine
and rugged people who helped the Butler County of today. This church died not
through neglect and indifference but through changed conditions of living. As
cities grew the people moved away from Cane Creek Valley until it was
impossible to maintain a church.
For information on Shiloh Church we are indebted to Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Moore who
made available to us the journal of John Eudaley and a copy of the booklet,
“Shiloh, The Mother of Preachers”.
CHAPTER XXV A BRIDGE ACROSS THE ST. FRANCIS RIVER
The recent purchase of the Frisco bridge across the St. Francis River near
Rombauer by Stoddard and Cutler Counties is a reminder 6f a much earlier
cooperation between these two counties for a bridge across this river at about
the same location. At the time of its organization in 1849 Butler County did not
have any bridges. Soon after the county seat site had been selected and a
county seat town had been laid out the County Court (Abraham Romine, William
Vandover and John N. Yarber) gave some attention to roads and bridges. On
February 13, 1851, the Court appropriated three hundred dollars, quote, "For
the purpose of Building a Bridge across the River St. Francis at or near
where the Public road crosses said river leading from Bloomfield Stoddard
County Missouri to the Town of Poplar Bluff in Butler County and state the
place where said bridge is to be built is better known by the name of the
Indian ford." This "Public road" was the early day road frequently referred to
in the County Court minutes as the "Road from Brannum's Old Mill to the Indian
Ford on the St. Francois." The Court appointed Richard Wall, an attorney
of Stoddard County, as Commissioner to superintend the building of the
bridge. Mr. Wall was to report to the Court at its next term the probable
cost of said bridge.. The County Court of Stoddard County was "respectfully
requested" to concur in the plan for a bridge and to make a "similar
appropriation". On May, 15, 1851, the: Court ordered that the bridge on the
St. Francis be built at or near the mouth of Mud Creek and that the plan
presented by the Commissioner be received by the Court.
The Indian Ford crossing of the St. Francis River was very important to the
early settlers in Butler County and to areas farther west and south. It was
the shortest way around the swamps of southeast Missouri and northeast
Arkansas. It was the route of trade and commerce to the Mississippi River port
of Cape Girardeau. The settlers sold furs, hides and other products in Cape
Girardeau and there purchased salt, sugar, gun powder, cloth and other much
needed merchandise which had been brought there by boats plying up and down
the Mississippi River. Solomon Kittrell, who operated a general store near
Cane Creek northwest of Poplar Bluff, freighted goods by ox teams and wagons
from Cape Girardeau. The round trip took about two weeks. A bridge across the
St. Francis would greatly facilitate this commerce. Caps Girardeau would
continue to be the chief trading post for Butler County until the coming of the
railroad in 1872. Stoddard County would profit from the travel through its
borders. Also this road was followed by many immigrants from Kentucky,
Tennessee, southern Indiana and southern Illinois as they moved to the west and
south. This travel was valuable to both counties.
For reasons not disclosed in the County Court minutes progress in building the
bridge was very slow. It was not until January 24, 1854 that the Court
received a report that the bridge had been completed. Richard Wall was allowed
$20.50 for his services. This bridge disappeared many years ago. Only a few
people now living know that it once existed, but its purpose well. At later
dates bridges were built across the St. Francis at Wappapello and at Fisk.
These later bridges were more accessible and speeded the death of the old
bridge, “at or near the Indian Ford.”
CHAPTER XXVI BUTLER COUNTY DURING THE CIVIL WAR, PART ONE
No figures or estimates are available on the number of men from Butler
County enlisting in the Union and Confederate armies. The number could not have
been large as there were only 2891 papas in the county in 1860. Statewide
Missouri sent about 10 per cant of its people into the armies of the North and
South. On that basis the county could have recruited about 300 men into the
two armies but we doubt if that many enlisted as we do not find that very
many men were very enthusiastic about joining either army. Since most of
the settlers in Butler County were from the southern states the majority
opinion sympathized with the Solaria but the sympathy was mostly personal, a
tender regard for relatives and former neighbors but only a lukewarm interest
in the cause for which the South was fighting. There seems to have been very
little recruiting in the county. Most of the men enlisting joined units
organized in nearby Missouri counties and some enlisted in Arkansas. So far as
we can find only one Confederate unit was organized in Butler County, the
Ninth Missouri Infantry, organized at Little Black River bridge in September
1862. It was composed mostly of southeast Missouri men and saw active service.
Its leaders were James B. White, Colonel; and William S. Ponder, Lieutenant-
Colonel. Early in the war four companies of State Guards were organized in
Butler County, Daniel L. Jennings, Major; and Captains, James M. Jennings, John
C. Smart, William Gregory and N.C. Dodson. We do .not find that a Union
company was organized in the county but Godspeeds’s" History of Southeast
Missouri state that the Sixth Missouri Cavalry (Union) had 26 Butler County
men. The State Guards mentioned above were for local protection and were in
sympathy with the South.
At the beginning of the Civil War Poplar Bluff was only a small village of some
ID to a dozen families, perhaps 40 to 60 people. It would be of much interest to
know the names and places of residence of these few families but it is doubtful
if the list can be reconstructed with any degree of accuracy. We have found
evidence that James S. Ferguson, Daniel L. Jennings, John S. Varner and Dr.
James T. Adams were in Poplar Bluff at that time. We believe Charles S.
Henderson and Jesse A. Gilley were in town but lack definite
Proof. Most of the houses were of logs. James S. Ferguson had built a frame
house in 1859 on the lot just south of present Dunn Hotel. We believe Charles S.
Henderson and John S. Varner lived just south of the courthouse and Dr. Adams
lived about where the Public Library is now located. Mr. Giley was the first
postmaster in Poplar Bluff with the office in a.’ log house on the east bank
of Black River. He probably lived in this house or near it. Dr. Adams was the
first surgeon to locate in Butler County. Charles S. Henderson was the first
merchant in Poplar Bluff and Daniel L. Jennings was the first lawyer to
settle in the county.
Butler County was not the scene of a major battle or even a major scrimmage in
the Civil War. There was some movement of troops through the county by both
sides in the conflict and a few minor military actions in the county. On
February 10, 1862, Major-General Halleck reported from St. Louis to Major-
General McClellan in Washington, quote, "We have just taken Poplar Bluff and
Doni-phan, capturing Major Jennings and 29 men of the rebel army." Major
Jennings must have been Daniel L. Jennings of Poplar Bluff^ with a portion of
the State Guards he had helped to organize. February 27, 1864, there
occurred an action termed "Affair Near Poplar Bluff, Mo." Captain AbiEjah Johns,
Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry |Union), reported the next day from
Patterson, Missouri, to Colonel Richard G. Woodson, Pilot Knob, as follows,
"Colonel: My scout in from below Poplar Bluff. Captured and burned relief train,
destroying a great many shotguns and rifles and corn. Killed two jayhawkers;
had one man slightly wounded in finger." To date we have been unable to locate
the scene of this "Affair" but believe it must have been southwest of Poplar
The most extensive scouting expedition through Butler County which we have
found in the records occurred August 9-18, 1863, which is officially titled
"Scout from Cape Girardeau to the Ash Hills and Poplar Bluff, Missouri, and
skirmish (13th) at the Ash Hills". The report on this expedition, in addition to
military affairs, also gives interesting comments on conditions in the swamps
east of Poplar Bluff 100 years ago.-At the time of this expedition the Union
had forces stationed in southeast Missouri at Patterson, Bloomfield and Cape
Girardeau. By August 1863 reports had reached Bloomfield and Cape Girardeau
of a scouting expedition from Pocahontas, Arkansas, to Patterson, Missouri,
by Colonel William J. Preston, Fourth Missouri Cavalry (Confederate).
Major Montgomery, Union commander in Bloomfield, alarmed by the reports,
appealed to Colonel J.B. Rogers, Cape Girardeau, for reinforcements.
Colonel Rogers ordered Major Frederick R. Pools to proceed to Bloomfield with
the 1st Battalion, Second Missouri State Militia and one company of the
Second Arkansas Cavalry, led by Lieut. W.F. Orr. On August 20, 1863, Major
Poole made his report to Col. Rogers. We quote extensively from this report.
Quote: "Sir: In compliance with your instructions of the 9th instant, I marched
with my battalion and one company of the Second Arkansas Cavalry, under
command of Lieutenant (W.F.) Orr, at 9:30 p.m. same evening, to reinforce
Major Montgomery, commanding, Post Bloomfield, whom you had informed me you
supposed to be in imminent danger. I marched all night, though with some
difficulty, having in several instances,owing to the darkness and the thickly
u/wooded glades, to light the port-fires (belonging to the mountain howitzer
which I brought with me) to enable the drivers to keep the road and arrived
next day at Bloomfield."
"I telegraphed you from Bloomfield that, from all information and
indications, I thought Major Montgomery need have no fears of an attack; and on
the 12th received orders from you to move my command through the Ash
Hills, in the direction of Pocahontas, to obtain ail the information
possible touching rebel forces in the southern tier of counties; and,
should I find no body of rebels, was to proceed no farther south than the Ash
Hills, and to return via Greenville, or in that direction, to the Cape."
"In obedience to the above instructions, I moved in the direction indicated the
same evening. Marched all night, to avoid the intense heat, resisting a few
hours at Camp Pools, near St. Francis, to rest and feed. Then, moving
forward, we crossed the Saint Francis River at Indian Ford, and proceeded
down the Ash Hill road 10 miles, along the west bank of the St. Francis, and
entered the Ash Hills country about 5 p.m. on the evening of the 13th. At
that point, hearing of no enemy^ and my men and animals being very much
fatigued, I took Captain"(P.O.) McClanahan and two men in advance to select
and lay out our camp, when,- coming to a short angle of the road, we met face
to face, about 80 armed guerrillas. The column being about 200 yards in year,
we charged them with saber and pistol, killing six on the. South wounded
several horses, also a large lot of ammunition and rifles; when they broke like
sheep to the swamp. In the melee, I received a shot through the right leg,
which proved very painful. Having no doctor or ambulance, I had to ride on
horseback five days after being wounded. I also had my horse shot nearly at
the same instant I was wounded myself, and he fell heavily upon me* injuring
"The casualty incurring to myself and horse was the only one Deceived by my
command' during the entire scout. About two miles "from the scene of the
skirmish we went into Camp McClanana.fi., and '8»t9cLfor the night; distant
from Bloomfield about 40 miles,"
"On the morning of the 14th, continued our course through the ash Hills
until we arrived at their base, striking Black River; hen moved north on the
east bank of the river, and arrived and camped at Poplar Bluff, 25 miles from
Camp McClanahan. Camp with three more guerrillas during the day, who were all
"On the .morning of the 15th, we marched up six miles on the west ids of Black
Rive*, crossed the ford, and -proceeded in the direction of Greenville,
encamped at Camp Law, on Otter Creek, 25 miles from Poplar Bluff.
We believe the ford on Black River was Shipman's Ford which as in the vicinity
of the present Hilliard. On August 16th, the column passed through Greenville
and on August 18th reached Cape Girardeau Poplar Bluff to Cape Girardeau the
column averaged about 25 miles per day.
CHAPTER XXVII BUTLER COUNTY DURING THE CIVIL WAR, PART TWO.
We continue with the report of Major Pools on "Scout from Cape Girardeau to the
Ash Hills and Poplar Bluff."
Quote: "From Bloomfield to St. Francis, the road leads across a high and
rolling country, but from St. Francis to Ash Hills there is little or nothing
but glances and swamps, which, at any other season of the year, would be
utterly impracticable for artillery. The roads through Ash Hills are
indistinct and wretchedly bad, and again, upon striking the river, there are
about 10 miles of glades to pass through before reaching Poplar Bluff. The
little howitzer that I had with me was the first thing in the shape of
artillery that ever passed over that road. I think the distance from
Bloomfield to Poplar Bluff, via Ash Hills, is about 50 miles. Forage out of
the question, the men in that country preferring bushwhacking to hones labor.
The roads from Poplar Bluff to Dallas mostly pass through rolling, barren,
and uninhabited sections, but are good, and must be at all times
practicable for the heaviest artillery. I found great difficulty in procuring
forage enough for my command between Poplar Bluff and Dallas, Marmaduke's and
General Davidson's commands having consumed everything within reach. New hay is
plenty between Dallas and the Cape, and the farmers at these points are
assiduously at work raising good crops of corn." (Dallas is the present Marble
"From all the information that I could collect, I have good reason to believe
that there are no considerable armed bodies of rebels, in the state, as I
had good information that they were all ordered south toward the line of Texas,
and those that now remain are merely mutineers or guerrillas, who have refused
to obey the orders, taking it as a subterfuge that they belong to the old
State Guard and cannot be taken out of the State. I should have no hesitancy to
take one squadron and move in any direction through this portion of the
"To the officers and men under my command I tender my sincere thanks for their
good conduct and cheerfulness throughout the trip. During the march of 200 miles
I never heard a murmur, although we frequently marched twenty-four hours
without eating. I especially recommend to your notice Captain McClanahan and
Buglers (E. Z.') Shannon and (W.C.) Thatcher for their unflinching courage 1
and bravery in following me where none but the brave and true could have fought
and lived. To them I owe my life and a never-ending debt of gratitude."
"I am, Colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant," ^signed) Fred R.
Poole, Major, Comdg. First Batt. Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry.
During January, 1865, Col. John B. Rogers, Union commander at Cape Girardeau,
ordered an operation against Confederate forces at Cherokee Bay, Arkansan,
titled "Expedition from Bloomfield to Poplar Bluff, Mo., and vicinity." Lt.
William Rinne, Second Missouri Artillery, led the expedition. Through none of
the fighting was done in Butler County the movement of troops throught the
swamps and the suffering of men and animals in mid-winter is an interesting
At Bloomfield, January 4, 1865, Lt. Rinne took command of the troops assigned to
him, 45 men from Companies A. I and M. Second Cavalry Missouri State Militia,
25 men of the Second Missouri /VrM... llery and 20 men of the Seventy-ninth
Enrolled Missouri Militia, totaling 90 men. At Poplar Bluff Lfc. Rinne waited
36 hours in Poplar Bluff and then marched on to Cherokee Bay. Finding that the
swamps were impassable for teams. He lift his team and ambulance in Poplar
Bluff with a guard to project until Captain Cochran arrived. (We do not know
where Captain Cochran was stationed when he was ordered to Pop}.ar Bluff)
Captain Cochran wouT A go to Cherokee Bay by a different and better
road nnd could bring the team and ambulance.
We now quote from Lt. Rinne's report to Col. Rogora, Jan. 18, 1865. "The
command I took with me riambei-ed 70 men. (Evidently 20 men were left in
Poplar Bluff as a guard.) I crossed the swamp between Cane Creek and Currant
River and then divided my small forcre1 into two parties. I directed one party
to strike the bay near the lower end at tha rebel Colonel Reves: while I with
the other party struck it at.athe upper end, directing the party I sent in the
lower end of the bay to join me at Patterson's on the bay. By these directions I
succeeded in surprising the rebels, killing 19, wounding 3 severely, and
capturing 5. I had one man killed, and no other casualty to any of the men of
my command during the expedition. Among the rebels killed were three
officers—Lieutenant Copeland, Lieutenant Sooter, and Lieutenant Moore.—The
killed and prisoners all belonged to Reves' command. We found no considerable
force together. They were scattered over the country in small bands
from five to ten.—Captain Cochran joined me on the bay, bringing up my team
and ambulance. I reported to him for orders, u/hen he instructed, after
having done all I could at the bay, to return with my command to the Cape by
the same route in which I had entered the bay, while he would take a
different route, this being necessary, as forage could not be procured for
the whole command at any one place. In crossing the bay to Poplar Bluff I lost
my wagon and ambulance, drowned two mules and five horses. It was "impassable o
get the wagon or ambulance out of the swamp. CarleCreel ^ It was very high,
over f lowing" the banks and covering the whole country for eight miles
with water two to three feet deep, through which the command had to march and
break their road through ice from one and a half to two inches thick. Our
next trouble was in crossing the Saint Francis River, which we had to swim, but
which was affected without loss or accident. From there to Cape we had an
uninterrupted march, where I arrived with command on the 16th instant, having
marched about 300 miles through swamps, ice, and water. The command suffered
much from cold by often being compelled to swim their horses and to assist
when mired out of mud and water. The result of the expedition was 19 rebels
killed, 3 severely wounded, and 5 captured; 50 horses and mules were captured,
35 of which have been turned over to the provost-marshal at Cape Girardeau,
Mo., 5 head drowned in the nwamp, 4head claimed by citizens and given up,
and 6 head stolen from the corral at Bloomfield, mo."In January and
February, 1865, Col J.B. Roger, Union commander at Cape Girardeau, led an
expedition titled "Expedition from Cape Girardeau, Wo., to Eleven Points River
in Ark." Col Rogers with 300 men proceeded to Indian Ford on the St. Francis
River where he was joined by Captain McClanahan with 200 men. None of the
fighting occurred in Butler County but the passage through the county of 500
men with horses, wagons' and other paraphernalia of war very likely caused much
excitement and perhaps an equal degree of terror and apprehension among the
inhabitants along the line of march. The expedition crossed Butler County
probably by the "Road from Brannum's Old Mill to the Indian Ford on the St.
Francis" or a combination of this road with a portion of the "Old Military
Road." Col. Rogers reported the men had to wade for miles through water one to
three feet deep in the Arkansas swamps. The wagon train had to be left behind
as it could not be taken across the swamps. The men making the march carried
five days rations. The area around Pocahontas, Arkansas, was searched for
Confederate forces. On the return trip one column, went through Doniphan on the
road to Pilot Knob. This column probably used the Old Military Road. The other
column, we assume, returned to Cape Girardeau, though the report does not so
state. If so, it also returned through Butler County, probably through or
near Poplar Bluff.
We are indebted to Mr. C.W. Knuckles for the research on "Scout from Cape
Girardeau to the Ash Hills and Poplar Bluff."
CHAPTER XXVIII BUTLER COUNTY DURING THE CIVIL WAR, PART 3.
The story of battles and marching men is glamorous but our heart strings are
most touched by incidents that happened to people. We will devote this article
to Butler County people as the war touched their lives.
To represent Butler County men in the army we have chosen Carroll Epps. This is
very appropriate as he represents one of the great pioneer families of this
county and he enlisted in the only regiment, so far as we know, organized in
Butler County. He was a grandson of Daniel Epps who lived on Ten Mile Creek
alongside the Old Military Road and at whose cabin tbe County Court met for
a few times before a county seat was founded. His father was Joshua Epps who had
a mill on Cane Creek at the place now called Roxie.
Carroll Epps enlisted in the Confederate army August 3,1862, in the 9th
Missouri Infantry. He was then 23 years old, married and had a son, Thomas
Anderson Epps. Whether or not he enlisted at the Little Black River bridge
where the regiment was organized we do not know. We are not sure of the
location of this bridge but we believe it was at Brannum's Old Mill,
snowball’s Mill but only a place name as the mill disappeared many years ago.
Ha was enlisted. By T. H. 'Turner..' -The 9th-Missouri was successfully
designated as 3rd (also known as whites0 Regiment Missouri Infantry, 9th (also
known as Ponders) Regiment Missouri Infantry and 12th Regiment Missouri
On August 27, 1862, after serving 24 days as a private, he was elected
Lieutenant, Company I, and on March 2, 1863 was promoted Captain. Mr, R.S.
Douglass, in History of Southeast Missouri, states that after the 9th Missouri
was organized it marched to Pocahontas, Arkansas, then went to Fort Smith,
Arkansas, where it participated in the battle 6f Prairie Grave, then was
stationed at Shreveport, Louisiana, and took part in the battles of Pleasant
Hill and Mansfield, Louisiana. The battle at Prairie Grove was December 7, 1862,
and the battles of Pleasant Hill and Mansfield were April 8 and 9, 1864.
We do not have any information on the activities of the 9th Regiment in
these engagements. On November 24, 1863, the name of Carroll Fppes is on the
roster of "Commissioned Officers 6"f the 4th (Parsons') Brigade Missouri
Vols., Price's Division, Camp Bragg, Arkansas." On December 6,
1863, Captain Epps was absent on recruiting duty by order of General Parsons.
On December 25, 1863, Captain Epps was taken prisoner in Ripley County,
Missouri. What a way to spend Christmas? He was then taken to Pilot Knob,
Missouri. At Pilot Knob he signed a roster of prisoners transferred to St.
Louis, Missouri, December 31,' 1863. Captain Epps must have been exchanged or
escaped for at the close of the war in 1865 his name is in the roll of men
belonging to Army of the Northern Sub-District of Arkansas, which army
was surrendered by Brigadier-General M. Jeff Thompson on May 11, 1865. On
June 5, 1865, he was paroled at Jackson port, Arkansas, and was free to return
to the activities of civilian life. In the Muster Roll of the paroled prisoners
he is described as 25 years old, gray eyes, dark hair, dark complexion
and 5 feet 6 inches in height.
The officers and men under the command of General Thompson were paroled in
two groups, one group at Wittsburg, Arkansas, May 25, 1865, and the other
group at Jackson port, June 5, 1865, a total of 7,454 parolees. The men
must have been suffering from hunger and from the lack of almost every
convenience, even for Army life. We quote from the report of Lt. Col. C.W.
Davis, Union Officer in charge of paroling, as follows: "General Thompson
had no transportation, except 300 or 400 dugout canors, and no public
animals or property of any other description, except $4,821, C.S. money,
which I received and gave receipt for most of the men we paroled were without
food, and I issued to them about 28,000 rations. They seemed highly pleased
at the surrender, and said all they wanted now was to be allowed to live at
home." While General Thompson did not have any public animals it is implied that
some of the men had horses and mules as personal property except arms and
ammunition but commissioned officers could retain their side arms. The
Confederate money was, of course, worthless.
We suppose most of the paroled men had to walk home. Now the issuing of 28,000
ration assumes more significance than merely relieving the hunger of the
moment. This was enough food for each man for three or dour days, a ration
being a supply of food for one man for one day. We estimate that Jackson port
was about 125 miles from the home of Carroll Epps in Butler County. Food for
three days would enable him to get home without begging or scrounging for
food. If he had a horse he could travel in more comfort but would make but
little better time than if he walked.
Even though the war was over the trip home for the returning soldier
could be dangerous. He had to travel in border country where most of the people
had suffered terrible hardships from marching armies and marauding bands of men
who had no real allegiance to either side but lived by plundering the
country. Hence the returning soldier had to be very careful in meeting
strangers. He might be roughly handled, robbed or even killed.
Mr. Epps got safely home, rejoined his family and entered again into the life of
his community. By occupation he was a farmer but also took an active part in
public life. In 1866 he was commissioned by the County Court to build a bridge
across Cane Creek. In 1876 he was elected assessor for Butler County. This was
about as soon as he could hold public office for under the much hated
Constitution of 1865 anyone who had adhered to the Confederate cause was
prohibited to hold public office. In 1875 Missouri adopted a new
constitution which abolished the "test oath" of the 1865 Constitution. On
January 22, 1877, the bond of Mr. Epps for Si,000.00 was approved by the County
Court. His securities were Peter Wacom and John Epps.
Note: The Federal officers who paroled the men were met at Memphis by a staff
officer and a St. Francis River pilot sent by General Thompson. The party then
proceeded to Wittsburg on the St. Francis River by steamboat. After paroling
the men assembled at Wittsburg the party went 60 Jackson port on White River
near the mouth of Black River. We assume the trip from Wittsburg to Jackson
port was overlain, about 50 miles. A boat trip would have required a return
to the Mississippi River and then up the White River, hardly possible in the
ten days between the two paroling dates.
We wish to thank Mr. Fred Epps for use of copies of the Muster Roll papers of
Carroll Epps. Me. Fred Epps is a grandson of Carroll Epps.
CHAPTER XXIX BUTLER COUNTY DURING THE CIVIL WAR, PART FOUR
In any war there are always interesting stories, some of the fortunes or
misfortunes of war, some of wanton cruelty and some with a touch of humor or
comedy. In this article we will retell some Civil War incidents of Butler
The Hanging of Squire Duffy, who in fact was a Union man in sen- — torment
but apparently was not offensive in his actions. However a group of
southern sympathizers took Squire Duffy and hanged him to a dogwood tree using
a strip of hickory bark as a hangman's rope. The news of the hanging spread
rapidly. A group of Union sympathizers from Stoddard County came into Butler
County rounded up several suspects and determined that the Squire had been
"turned in" by a man named Johnson who operated the ferry near the Indian Ford
on the St. Francis River, Johnson was taken to the vicinity of Duffy's
hanging and, in the eyes of his accusers, with appropriate justice, hanged
by a strip of hickory bark. It is said that the skeleton of Johnson was left
swinging until after th close of the war, a grim reminder of the awful-mess of
The Beaming of Green Sparkman. The Sparkman house was on the Military Road near
the present Cane Creek school The Spark-man's owned a Brown mare which they had
brought from Tennessee. On the day of this episode the Sparkman boys had worked
the mare and decided to keep her at the house that night. Ordinarily they hid
her in the woods at night. During the night a band of bushwhackers came along
the Military Road, stopped at the Spark-man's place and took whatever they
wanted, including the little brown mare and the furs belonging to the boys.
One of the boys, Green, protested the thievery so vehemently that one of
the gang drew an iron ramrod and beat him into insensibility.
The Murder of Robert Stewart, Robert Stewart lived east of the present
Hendrickson. The same gang of brigands that had beaten Croon Sparkman went to
the Stewart home, captured Mr. Stewart, took across Black River and there
fatally shot him. Mrs. Stewart went to look for her husband and found his
body where it had been left by hi^ attackers.
The Murder of Drury L. Spurlock. Unfortunately the close of the war did not end
acts – of violence growing our of bitterness over the war years. Mr. Bpurlock
had been a Confederate soldier. He had grown up in Butler County, a son of
pioneer settlers, John Spurlock. At the time of this incident he was living
near Moark, Arkansas with his wife and three children and a third child
expected in a few days. On the night of March 7th 1871, ruffians came to the
house and shot Mr. Spurlock to death, own doorway, with his terrified
wife and children inside the house. During the attack a Negro man who worked
for Mr. Spnrlock was severely wounded and was a cripple for the rest of his
life. The members of the family felt the brutal attack game from
bitterness over some happening in the war.
The silk dress. Some of the incidents had a humorous turn. Daniel Jennings, the
first lawyer to settle in Poplar Bluff, lived in a log house near the corner of
Vine and Seconds streets. In the family was Beatrice Jennings, a young woman
about 16 or 13 year of age. She was the proud possessor of a silk dress. One
day while the family was rendering lard in a kettle in the fireplace a
detachment of regular Union soldiers occupied the town and some them
commenced to forage for food. Three or four of the men entered the Jennings
home. One of the men found the silk dress and was carrying it away. Beatrice
tried to take it a-way from him but could not. She then threw a ladleful of
hot lard on the soldier and recovered her dress amid the cheers of the others
soldiers. Meanwhile the offending soldier was rolling in the snow outside
to ease the terrible pain from the burns of the hot lard,
The Poker Game. This was the most amusing and probably the least harmful
incident occurring in Butler County during the war. Before the war the Butler
County Court had under construction a brick courthouse on the Public Square.
With the outbreak of the war all work on the building ceased. The walls and
roof had been completed but there were no windows or interior partitions. The
story is that a company pf Union soldier approached the town from the south
and, fearing it was occupied by a force of Confederates, directed
artillery fire on the town from about the present location of the Porter-
DeWitt Construction Company's concrete plant on Ashcroft Road. It is «aid
that four of the male citizens of the town were in the unfinished courthouse
playing poker at the time the bombardment commenced. We will quote the story in
full as told by Richard L.Metcalfe in "A View of a Growing Town," published
in 1884, Quote: "In the year 1863 the brick court house consisted only of walls
and roof. The entire interior was one big space with no rooms or stories
divided up. In the spring of that year when Poplar Bluff was resting quietly in
its seclusion one-half of the population of the place (consisting of four
persons) sat inside the walls of the court house and engaged in a game of
poker. While these gentlemen were each deeply engaged in the pleasures of
that American game, and it is said just as one of the number, who is today a
resident of this place, was preparing to rake in a "jack pot," a terrible
crash was heard and a cannon ball came crashing through the southern wall of the
structure, and within seven feet of the poker party. On good authority it is
stated that one of the party rushed up and withdrew the fuse before it could
do its intended work. At all events the "jack pot" was not taken and three
of the players jumped out of the windows and went Cushing pell-mell in the
direction of "home sweet home," only to be followed in a short time by the
fourth and more courageous one of the party who had remained to tear the fuse
out. This ball was fired by a Federal company under Captain Poole, which was
Stationed at the bend of the river about one fourth mile below town. Captain
Poole was under the impression that the town was filled with Confederates,
and accordingly opened fire upon it, and hearing no response, ordered his
company to charge upon and take the town. This was done and the soldiers
valiantly took charge of the place only to find that the figure eight would be
sufficient to number the inhabitants. However, these persons were all placed in
jail for the night but ware released in the morning when Poole left town."
For source material on this article we are indebted to " "History of Butler
County," by D.B. Deem; 'W View of a Growing Town," by Richard L. Metcalfe; and
to personal interviews with Mrs. Roy Caldwell and Mrs, Lois Scott, both of
CHAPTER XXX BUTLER COUNTY DURING THE CIVIL WAR, PART 5
The largest movement of troops through Butler County during the Civil War
was in September 1864, Major-General Sterling Price, a Missourian by adoption,
had assembled in northeast Arkansas a force of about 12,000 men, some
artillery, and equipage to loaf 300 wagons. He proposed to invade Missouri*
General Price organized his army in three divisions, the division commanders
being Major-General James F. Fagan, Major-General John S. Marmaduke and
Brigadier-General Joseph 0. Shelby.
The three division were to assemble at or near Pocahontas, Arkansas, for
the invasion. Reports from the division commanders show that on Sept. 14, 1864,
General Shelby was at Powhatan on Black River and on Sept. 15, Fagan and
Marmaduke were camped on the Strawberry River but in different locations. Fagan
expected to reach Pocahontas on the 16th and Marmaduke promised to be there
on the 17th. Marmaduke reported that his command had been without breadstuffs
for three days. The plan of the invasion was for the army to leave the
Pocahontas area in three columns, by different routes, and to converge at
or near Fredericktown, Missouri. From the general headquarters at
Pocahontas on Sept. 18, 1864, General Price issued marching orders to the
division commanders as follows: Fagan division was to proceed to
Fredericktown via Martinsburg, Reeves' Station and Greenville; Marmaduke was to
march to the right of Fagan and Shelby to Fagan’s left. The Major-General
commanding the army (Price) was to Marci with the center division. The center
division was ordered, as near as practicable, to march eighteen miles per day.
The marching orders took two of the divisions, Fagans and Marmaduke's through
Butler County. As General Price was with Fagan's division he also came
through Butler County. Since Reeves' Station was at or near the present
Hendrickson we believe. Fagan's division moved along the "Old Military Road"
and that the general course of Marmaduke's division was along! the "Road from
Brannum's Old Mill to the Indian Ford on the St. Francis River."
On September 20 Marmaduke reported that he was "encamped forty-two miles
form Pocahontas on the direct Poplar Bluff road passing through Cherokee Bay."
We do not know the location of this camp. It could have been in Butler Countyt
The next night Marmaduke was in Poplar Bluff. Since his message from Poplar
Bluff is the only dispatch of the war we have found with a Poplar Bluff date
line we quote it in full.
Headquarters., Marmaduke's Division,
Poplar Bluff, Sept. 21, 1864 Lieutenant-Colonel MacLean, Assistant Adjutant-
Colonel: My command is encamped this evening at this point. The column
marched without difficulty. Everything quiet. No news. I dispatched to you last
evening. I send by this courier a dispatch to Major Surridge, of Greene's
regiment. He is with either General Fagan or General Shelby. Please direct
the courier that he may deliver the communication.
J. S. Marmaduke, Major-General
The next day Marmaduke moved out of Butler County. We quote in full his dispatch
that night as it is quite interesting.'
Headquarters. Marmaduke's Division,
Four Miles Northwest of Indian
Ford on St. Francis River,
Sept.£2, 1864 - 8 p.m. Lieutenant-Colonel MacLean, Assistant Adjutant-General:
Colonel: I am encamped at the point mentioned above with my command. Will
march to and encamp on the Castor, six miles below Buchanan and thirty-one
miles from this and thirty miles from Fredericktown, tomorrow night. Forage
plenty upon the route. The Federal force evacuated Bloomfield night before
last. Were closely pursued by Colonel Jeffers1 regiment, but escaped with the
loss of their wagon train, captured or burned. The Federals went in the
direction of New Madrid.
J. S. Marmaduke, Major-General
It was not necessary for General Fagan to report daily to the commanding
general (General Price) as he was with Fagan's command. Hence we do not
have definite information on camp sites used by Fagan in Butler County. The
late Earl Houts, whose house is on the "Old Military Road" on the west side of
Ten Mile Creek, once told us that Price's army marched by his farm and camped
there, spread up and down the creek for three or four miles. Mr. Houts said a
few soldiers died there and were buried in nearby Houts1 Cemetery. Their graves
were not permanently marked so cannot now be located. This must have been
Fagan's camp as his division was scheduled to follow the "Old Military Road."
A detachment of General Shelly's soldiers took part in an action in Butler
County. On September 19th Shelby reported that he had reached Doniphan at 3:30
a.m. and was encamped in and around the place. He also reported that about
ten o'clock that morning .a Federal scout about 100 strong had burned the
place, except the mill one mile below town, and left repidly. Shelby believed
the Federal would encamp at Ponders Mill so dispatched Lt. Col. Rector
Johnson with 150 men to apprehend them there. Johnson caught up with the
Federals the next day and routed them with a loss of six men killed or
wounded. We have not found a Union dispatch covering this engagement so
have no report on the Union losses. In the index volume of "Official Records"
this action is listed as "Little Black River Skirmish" and "Ponders Will
Richard L. Metcalfe, in "A View of a Growing Town," mentions another
incident of Price's invasion. We quote directly from his narrative. Quote. "In
September (1864) and during the famous Price raid, Doniphan (Ripley
County) was burned by the Federals, and Gen. Joe Shelby sent Col. Reeves to
pick up any straggling companies of Federals who might be found in the
neighborhood. About eight miles from Poplar Bluff Colonel Reeves' regiment
discovered a company wearing the blue, and a skirmish followed in which
four persons were killed and several captured by Reeves." We have not found
any other record of this skirmish. General Shelby did not mention it in his
reports. Where did it occur and where were the dead soldiers buried? We would
guess the action occurred west or southwest of Poplar Bluff.
This brings to a close our story of this movement of troops through Butler
County. If the columns of Price's army were about equal in size some eight or
nine thousand men could have marched through the county. Some four thousand men
could have been camped in and around Poplar Bluff. Unfortunately there is
scarcely even a memory left in local history about the occasion. Mostly it
is forgotten beyond recovery. A camp for that many men would require many
acres. Where were the tents set up, if any? Where was mess cooked and served?
Where was Marmaduke's headquarters for the night? Just imagine the foraging
around for food, the search for chickens, pigs and cattle. Where did the column
cross Black River? The bridge at Poplar Bluff had been destroyed. Fancy all
the excitement, the hurry, the shouting, the swearing, in moving 4000 men with
wagons, horses, mules and artillery across the river and the column getting
underway for Indian Ford on the St. Francis River. Did Fagan camp in north
Butler County after he left Ten Mile Creek? On September 21st General Shelby
reported he was encamped twelve miles from Patterson. In moving from Doniphan
to that point did his column cross the northwest corner of Butler County?
Notes: Ponders Mill is the present place name, Powers' Mill, on Little Black
River, near the western edge of Butler County.«and on the "Old Military Road."
Colonel Reeves was Timothy Reeves, a resident of Butler County the "Official
Record" uses the spelling "Reves."
Sources of information for this article: History of Butler County, by D.B.
Deem; A View of a Growing Town, by Richard Metcalfe; War of the Rebellion
Official Records, published by United States Government; A History of
Missouri, by E.M.Violette and personal interview with the late Earl Houts.
CHAPTER XXXI BUTLER COUNTY DURING THE CIVIL WAR, PART 6
Many scouting parties from Union garrisons in southeast Missouri came in
to or through Butler County looking for bands of armed men which were
harassing the citizens throughout southeast Missouri and northeast Arkansas.
These bands were mounted, ranged widely, had many opprobrious names as
jayhawkers, bushwhackers, guerrillas, brigands, horse—thieves and murderers and
usually numbered from four or five to ten or twelve men. Large bands attracted
too much attention, lost mobility and would quickly bring in a large force of
Union cavalry to run them down. Also it was difficult to obtain forage to
sustain a large band. These bands lived off of the country. One report states
that horses stolen in Missouri were taken across the Mississippi River to
Chester, Illinois, and from there to St. Louis where they were sold.
At the time of the Civil War much of south Missouri and north Arkansas was
unsettled. If Union troops came into an area the bands treaded into the wooded
hills and swamps where it was almost impossible for the armed forces to find
them. The Ash Hills area of Butler County was one of the favored regions of
these bands. The higher ground of these low-lying hills provided a way in or
out at either end of the chain. If Union troops appeared the men vanished
into the adjacent swamps, sometimes by dugout canoes, and could stay
almost indefinitely on the higher ridges in the swamps.
We now quote excerpts from the "Official Reports" on a few of the scouts
which concerned Butler County, (See explanation at end of article for meaning
of numbers each scout).
Jan. 8, 1864. "I have sent a small squad to Reves' house, if possible to find
him there this bad weather." (l) (Snow 6 inches dsep. Reves lived in Butler
Jan. 18, 1864. "My scouts in this evening from near Doniphan. They could
hear of nothing. All quiet in that quarter. I have scouts between
Poplar Bluff and Bloomfield." (l)
Jan, 26, 1864. "My scouts returned from Ash Hill; found no force; killed 2
guerrillas as they returned, near Greenville." (l)
Mar. 24, 1864. "All is quiet here. I have 50 men on Black River a good distance
below Poplar Bluff......Our expeditions were all doing well the last heard from.
They have killed a good many this week." (1)
(Apparently "search and kill" was not invented in Vietnam).
Oct. 24, 1864. "I send scout to Ponders Will, Cook's settlement and
Farmington tomorrow," (2).
Feb. 14,1865. "The Freer guerrillas band is in Butler County killing and
robbing, and I think it best to send twenty men after th-m." (3).
Mar. 3, 1865. "I have the honor to inform you ,.. of the existence of a
band of guerrillas two miles below Poplar Bluff .....
under Jennings; also that Cache Swamp is the chief resort of guerrillas
under Hilderbrand and Neighbors. There bands rob and murder the people,
scouring the country in small squads, and have even attacked the pickets at
Mar. 10, 1865. "Numerous reports come in of guerrilla bands plundering
through Ripley, Butler and other counties below." (5)
Mar. 11, 1865. "Captain Leeper has returned* He was within twelve
miles of Doniphan...... They killed two noted guerrillas on
Little Black River, viz, Dick Graham and Green Meadows. The captain has twelve
men." (3) (This incident may not have been in Butler County.)
Within a few months after the beginning of the Civil War local government
ceased in Butler County. The courts did not meet. Taxes were uncollected.
Laws were not enforced. Each man had to protect himself and family as best he
could. Bands of armed men roved throughout the county stealing, killing,
destroying. Many citizens moved to areas having more protection. Some of the
citizens who stayed were reduced to the verge of starvation. Crops could not
be grown because work animals had been stolen or had strayed away after the
fences had been torn down or burned. Even if some crops were grown the armed
bandits would steal the harvest if they could find it.
The last war meeting of the County Court was January 231, 1862, the justices
being John N. Yarber, John S. Warner and N. W. Hendrickson, The court heard the
financial report of Thomas 8. Price, Treasurer. Here the record ends, about the
center of page 160, Book B, Butler County Court Record, without a motion or
order of adjournment and without the signatures of the justices. The record
ceases so abruptly we wonder if the justices had received warning of
approaching soldiers. The County Court did not meet again until October 9,
1865. The last war meeting of the Butler Bounty Circuit Court was May 9, 1861,
Judge Albert Jackson presiding. The next session of the Circuit Court was
October 30, 1865, Judge John W. Emerson presiding.
Richard L. Metcalfe in "A View of a Growing Town" records how the Butler
County records were protected during the war. Quote, (in 1862) "James S.
Ferguson, successor to Blount, as circuit and county clerk delivered to County
Judge, J.N. Yarber, the keys to his office with a request that the records be
taken charge of and concealed, knowing the demolishment of the records was
certain if they fell into the hands of either army. Judge Yarber consulted
with JohnG. Kelly, P.L. Warner and J.G. Baldwin, and it was decided that the
records should be secreted the next day. Instead of the intended arrangement,
however, Judge Yarber and P.L. Warner met that night, secured all the records
of the county, and taking them to Warner's home, which was located on what is
now known as Wine Street, near Second, placed them in a coffin and buried the
coffin. In this position the records remained until the close of the war,
the whereabouts of them being known only by Yarber and Warner."
(P.L. Varner was a carpenter and builder and made many of the coffins used in
At the close of the Civil War Butler County was in economic social and
political ruin. Industry and commerce were almost nil. In agriculture, the
fields were largely untended and overgrown with weeds and brush, fences
destroyed, many buildings burned, livestock herds small and poor in quality due
to lack of care. The County Court was again without money, having to start
"from scratch" as in 1849 when the county was born.
Many people had moved away. At the beginning of the war Poplar Bluff had some
ten or twelve families but at the end only five families remained. Many of the
men, sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, had been killed. School and church life
had mostly been abandoned. Differences of opinion over the causes and issues
of the war had set neighbor against neighbor. Bitterness and hatred over
acts of war by armies of both sides and by depredations of the brigand bands
that roamed throughout the border lands persisted for seventy-five or more
years after war's end.
County government had ceased to exist. After the war closed Governor
Fletcher appointed Simmons R. Harviell, Exum C. Scott and Albert G. Bates as
members of the County Court to reconstitute local government. Bates refused
the appointment. For some time the court was Harviell and Scott, Harviell
president. This court first met October 3, 1865.
Taxes were uncollected in Butler County during the war. July 17, 1867, the
County Court entered judgment against lands delinquent in taxes for 1861
through 1866 and ordered the Clerk to sell such lands according to law. The
lands ordered sold are listed in the records in 392 tracts totaling 87,237.5
acres. This must have been a large percentage of the privately owned lands in
the county as in 1867 many; many thousands of acres were yet in the public
Reference to scouts in Butler County. (1) Reports from Patterson by
William T. Leeper, Captain, Commanding Post. (2) Report from Pilot Knob by
Henry H. Williams, Major, Commanding, (3) Reports from Patterson by James
Smith, Captain Commanding Post. (4) Reports from St. Louis by Edmund B.
Alexander, Acting Assistant Provest Marshal. (5) Report from Pilot Knob by
John L. 3eve-ridge, Colonel, Commanding.
Sources of information for this article: War of the Rebellion Official
Reports. Deem's History of Butler County. Douglass History of Southeast
Missouri. Mletcalfe's "A View of a Growing Town." County Court and Circuit Court
Records, Butler County.
Chapter XXXII PLACE NAMES OF BULTER COUNTY
An interesting phase of local history is a study of the origin, meaning
and development of place names. Some names originated out of the conversations
of the early settlers, were not recorded in writing so cannot now be
identified with certainty. Some places have had a succession of names.
Fortunately for the history student of Butler County the late Miss Cora
Ann Pottenger made an extensive research into the place names of five
Missouri counties, including Butler. Her work is compiled in thesis form in
the lihrot/ of the University of Missouri at Columbia. In our references to her
work we will use only her name.
Black River - If we were asked to choose a symbol which most appeals to
the sentiments and heartstrings of native and adopted sons and daughters of
Butler County we would select Black River. It has been more than two hundred
years since the first Europeans, the French, first saw this beautiful stream.
They referred to it as "noir" which translates into English as "black."
Several years ago we read a little volume, "Three Ozark Streams," by Ward
Allison Dorrance, a story of float trips on the Jack's Fork, Current and Black
rivers. We suppose Mr. Dorrance was native to the Black River region for he
writes, "Since childhood, when I first forded the Black River in a wagon, I
have wondered whence Its name .... Therefore, though I know now (having had my
hands on a document of 1773) that the colonials said 'la Riviera a 1'Eau
Noire or 'la Riviera Noire", From a few pages later we quote, "I find in the
Colonial Archives proof of the French origin of this stream. In the papers
dealing with estates there is a document (dated 22 October, 1773) in
which two men, Colon and Joliet, state that one Jeanot Francoeur left after
his death on L'eau Noire (Black-water) a cache of 500 pots of bear oil, a gun,
a powder horn, etc. The two, having descended to the Post aux Arkansas with the
friend's property, request a part of the oil for their trouble. In the
second document (30 October, 1773) one Louis Chamard, merchant of Ste,
Genevieve, represents that he also has a claim against the aforesaid Francoeur,
hunter on the Riviere Noire (Black River)."
Mr. Dorrance does not venture an opinion as to why the French referred to the
stream as "Black-water" or "Black River." Miss Pottenger states that the name
"Le Noir" is found on a map dated 1765 and suggests the French had named
the river for some characterization the Indians had given it. In English the
stream has variously been referred to as Big Black, Big Black River,
Blackwater, Big Black-water River and Black River which is now the usual
name. The French probably discovered Black River at or near its confluence
with the White River.
Butler County, Named by the Missouri General Assembly for General William 0.
Butler of Kentucky, a famous and popular general in the Mexican War. At the
time of the organization of Butler County, Missouri had many immigrants from
Kentucky and several of them mere very active in public life.
Poplar Bluff - The town of Poplar Bluff derives its name from a magnificent
stand of tulip poplar trees along Black River just east of the original town.
This stand of Poplar trees was so outstanding in appearance that the early
travelers to the region gave it a descriptive place name, "The Poplar Bluff."
This was many years before the founding of a town at the site. To date we have
not found a record of any discussion for naming the county seat town. The
county seat site was selected during the summer of 1849. We suppose the County
Court approved the name for the town but an order to that effect was not
entered in the records. The first written record we have found on the name is a
County Court order, March 18, 1850, "Ordered that the Town Commissioner
advertise the town lots for sale at Poplar Rluff." The grove or forest of
poplar trees was more extensive than just a narrow strip along Black River.
Miss Pottenger mentions an early area place name, "Poplar Grove," extending
several miles south and east of the foothills with poplar trees three to four
feet in diameter. Our research leads us to believe that opposite Poplar Bluff
the grove extended eastward to at least Palmer Slough, early name, Little
Broseley- This town has had a succession of names, Bailey, Bailey's, Bailey's
End and, finally, Broseley. Miss Pottenger states it was originally a sawmill
village, established about 1890 and named for William Bailey, mill manager for
one of the large companies that had come into the area to harvest the timber.
At one time it was the southern terminus of the Butler County Railroad and, as
such, popularly referred to as "Bailey's End." After a post office was
established there the Post Office Department refused to accept the name,
"Bailey's End," for the post office. The late William N. Barren, then manager
of the railroad, suggested the name "Broseley," in honor of his home
community in Shropshire, England, which was accepted.
Harviell, The town of Harviell was named for Simmons R. Harviell, prominent
early day landowner, business man and county of-fical. He was one of the men
who, in 1849, loaned money to the County Court for the purchase of the county
seat site, being then only twenty-two years of age. To his friends and neighbors
he was *$&»" Harviell.
Several years ago we talked with Mr. Jesse A. Harviell, a grandson of S. R.
Harviell. Mr. Harviell told us that at the time of the construction of the
Iron Mountain Railroad, now the Missouri Pacific Railroad, his grandfather
was in the timber business and guaranteed to the new railroad a certain
tonnage of timber products for transportation on the railroad to help
assure its success. Also the elder Harviell entered into a contract with
the railroad to keep a supply of mood at the fuel stops from Desoto south to
the Arkansas line. Also me have found one report indicating that Mr.
Harviell had a contract to clear a portion of the right-of-way of trees before
grading could begin. In recognition of these services the railroad company
named the last fuel stop in Missouri "Harviell."
CHAPTER XXXIII THE SECOND BUTLER COUNTY COURT HOUSE.
Butler County has had four courthouses, the first being a small two-room
frame building sided with matched weather-hoarding and located on the southeast
corner of the Public Square. Evidently this building was inadequate to the
needs of the county as on April 13, 1858, the County Court ordered that Daniel
L. Jennings select ten thousand acres of swamp land, sell same on most
advantageous terms possible and use the proceeds, quote: "In building of a
commodious courthouse on the Square in the Town of Poplar Bluff." Jennings
was appointed commissioner to supervise the building of the courthouse and was
to advertise for construction bids in the "St. Louis Republican" and the
"South East Democrat" in the City of Cape Girardeau. Bids were to be received
until the second Monday in July next. The Justices of the Court at this time
were John N. Yarber, James W. Morrow and Nathan Ul. Hendrickson.
On Thursday, two days later, the Court rescinded the above order and, before
the day's session was over, passed another resolution appropriating the same
amount of swamp land but stipulating that none of the swamp land be sold for
less than one dollar per acre. Instead of one commissioner the Court
now appointed three commissioners, Jesse C. Walker, Daniel L. Jennings and
James D. Dennis, to furnish plans and superintend the building of the
courthouse. In August 1859, Walker resigned as a commissioner and was
replaced by John L. Fitts. The Commissioners were to advertise for bids "as
they may deem fit." In addition to selling the swamp land the commissioners
also had power to trade land to the contractor as part of his compensation
for constructing the building. The minimum price set on the land
indicates the Court expected the courthouse to cost about $10,000.00.
The barter plan in swamp land was about the only way the Court could pay for the
new courthouse. The settlers in Butler County had so little cash income that a
bond issue was out of the question. On April 15, 1858, Phillip L. Warner, county
treasurer, made his annual report to the Court, showing a year's income in
the County Fund of $786.80, an amount totally inadequate to the growing needs
of the new Butler County.
Though the "swamp land" of Butler County is a story in itself it should be told
here that in 1850 the United States Congress gave to the states the swamp
lands within their boundaries. In 1852 - the Missouri swamp lands to the
counties in which they were situated. Briefly, this explains how Butler
County had swamp land to trade for a new courthouse.
The records are not clear as to the name of the contractor for the new
courthouse. Richard L. Metcalfe in "A View of a Growing Town" states that,
quote: "In 1859 Col. S. G. Kitchen and D. 8. Wilier secured the contract to
build a brick courthouse and these gentlemen engaged the services of Wm.
Ringer, of Stoddard County, who supervised the work, and before the war the
walls were finished and the roof on. For this job the contractors received the
sum of$10,000.00 in cash and lands together* all of which came out of the
Swamp Land Fund of the county." However the County Court records do not mention
D. B. Wilier in connection with the courthouse, either in a transfer of land
or in payment of money for services rendered. Nor is Mr. Wilier mentioned
later when the court brought suit because the courthouse had not been
On July 14, 1858, Daniel L. Jennings was appointed commissioner for Butler
County by the County Court and ordered to convey 10,027.83 acres of land to
Charles T. Arthur and Solomon G. Kitchen. One thousand acres of these lands
were in Township 24 Range 6 East, the remainder in Township 22, Range 6 East.
All believe this transfer of land was in payment for building the courthouse.
Solomon G. Kitchen was an attorney in Stoddard County, Missouri, and in the
Civil War was a Colonel in the Confederate army. We do not have any
information on Arthur or Wilier. On August 7, 1860, the Court ordered that
William Ringer be paid $700.00 out of the County Seat Fund and on August 29,
1860, he was allowed 140.00 out of the Swamp Land Fund. These payments may
support Metcalfe's statement that William Ringer supervised the work of
Progress of work on the courthouse was exasperatingly slow, possibly because
the contractor found it very difficult to turn the swamp lands into money, even
at one dollar per acre. On October 15, 1859, the Court ordered the foundation
plans of the building changed from a four foot wall to a three foot wall. The
next mention we find on the progress, or lack of progress, on the building is
October 20, 1860. The order made that day indicates the Court was out of
patience with the whole matter. We quote the order in full, quote; "Ordered by
the Court that the Contractors or their Assignees are hereby notified that the
time specified in the Contract between the Commissioners and Said
Contractors for the Building and Completion of the Court House in the Town of^
Poplar Bluff in Butler County in the State of Missouri has no, expired
and it is further ordered that the Said Contractors be notified that unless
the obstructions and other damages be repaired and the rubbish removed from
the Public Square in the said Town of Poplar Bluff in the County and State
aforesaid Suit will be commenced against them by said Court for to recover
damages thereon." This is the last order of the Court concerning the courthouse
until after the close of the Civil War, Soon after the opening of the Civil
War local government ceased in Butler County, and, of course, work ceased on
the courthouse. The Justices of the County Court at the beginning of the war
were John N, Yarber, Nathan A. Hendrickson and John S. Varner.
After the close of the war a new County Court, Simmons R. Harviell, Exum C.
Scott and John J. Gilliam, reestablished local government and on January 18,
1866, turned its attention to the unfinished courthouse in the following
order, quote; "Ordered by the Court that Solomon G. Kitchen be notified to
commence work on the Court House in Town of Poplar Bluff, Butler County,
Missouri, immediately and continue said work with due diligence and Wilmot-.
Unnecessary delay until said Court House is completed according to contract and
that unless said work be commenced against the next regular term of this court
the said contract will be let to some other person."
On July 17, 1866, the Court employed John Emerson to prosecute a suit against
Charles T. Arthur and Solomon G. Kitchen, quote.; "on their bond for contract
for building Court House in Poplar Bluff or to recover the Ten Thousand acres
of land conveyed to them by Butler County, for the building thereof, as he may
deem best." The Court appointed John N. Yarber to contract with Mr. Emerson
in the above matter.
At this point in the story several pages of writing in the Court record are so
faded as to be illegible. We cannot determine the date of a new contract but
on October 11, 1866, W. H. Mitchell and Park H. Peters presented their bond for
$8500.00 to do certain work on the court house. The bondsmen u/ere John W.
Emerson, Robert Bryant and J. G. Whitworth, This bond was accepted. On
December 17, 1866, the Court ordered the substitution of poplar lumber wherever
pine lumber was specified in the contract.
To finance the completion of the building the Court appropriated an”
additional" $3,000.00. We assume "additional" to mean in addition to the
original allocation of 10,000 acres of swamp land. On December 22, 1866, the
Court found it still needed $100.00, quote: "for the purpose of finishing
the rooms in the court house." Not having this amount of money in the
proper funds the Court ordered that one hundred dollars be borrowed from the
State School Fund and bond be given for the same. Finally, January 24,
1867, the Court ordered the Sheriff to sell the old courthouse for cash and
that it be removed from ths Public Square within twenty days from date of
By the above order we assume the building was now completed or at least
could be occupied. After eight years and nine months of time, after four years
of civil war, after the lifetime of three county courts and with a lawsuit
still pending for non-fulfillment of contract, Butler County had a brick
courthouse. A new mark of status had been attained, for just as a carriage was
a symbol of status above a wagon, as a frame house was status above a brick
house, so a brick courthouse was increased status, a mark of pride, for a
This was the courthouse shelled by artillery fire in the Civil War. In it
occurred the famous "Poker Game" recorded in Article 29 of this series. This
courthouse burned December 14, 1886. A picture of the building appears on
the frontispiece of "A History of Butler County", by Judge D. 8. Deem.
Notes: John HI. Emerson was an attorney in Ironton, Missouri, and was once
Judge of the Judicial Circuit in which Butler County was located. We do not
have information on Ul. H. Mitchell and Park H. Peters. We may not have the
correct spelling for the surname of Charles T. Arthur. In the records it is
spelled Author, Arther, as well as Arthur.
CHAPTER XXXIV PLACE NAMES IN BUTLER COUNTY
Broseley. Mrs. R. C. Opperman and Mr. Sylvester Bagwell, have given us
additional information on Broseley. Mrs. Opperman is a granddaughter of William
Bailey from whom was derived the early name of Bailey, Bailey's End for the
present Broseley. Mr. Bailey was born in 1863 near Mayfield, Kentucky.
Sometime, somewhere he became an employee of Mr. H. 0. Williams, owner and
operator of the H. 0. Williams Cooperage Company, one of the large cooperage
companies of the United States. Mr. Bailey was mill manager for the mill this
company had at the present town of Broseley. He lived in the house which later
was the home of Dr. Crump, a physician of Broseley. Mr. Bailey died in 1924
in Leslie, Arkansas, where he was operating a mill and is buried in City
Cemetery, Poplar Bluff.
Mr. Bagwell tells us the post office at Brosely was once named Hunt. Miss
Pottenger in her work on place names states the post office at Bailey's End
was once called Hunt and was kept by Richard Hunt in John Funk's store. She
also states that Alfred Hunt kept the office in his home for a time.
Hendrickson. Miss Pottenger states the Town of Hendrickson was established in
1873 as a station on the Iron Mountain Railroad. It was named for Nathan W.
Hendrickson who owned a large tract of land in that area and who was a firm
supporter of efforts to secure a railroad through Butler County. The town is
near the former Reeves' Station on the Old Military Road. Mr. Hendrickson was a
very active leader in public affairs in pioneer Butler County. His full name
was Nathaniel Wells Hendrickson. He usually signed the County Court record as
N. W. Hendrickson. Miss Pottenger quotes one reference stating that he was
of Danish descent.
Hilliard . This name has an interesting development. Miss Pottenger states that*
1869 George W. Hill, from Washington County , Arkansas, purchased a large tract
of timber land in Butler County. After the building of the Iron Mountain
Railroad Mr. Hill established a timber business dealing in ties, cordwood and
other timber products. His storage yard near the railroad tracks was known
as "Hill's Yard". Godspeed’s History of Southeast Missouri, page 1090, uses
the spelling "Hillyard". Judge Deem in History of Butler County states the
railroad station was founded in 1872. Mr. Hill sold wood to the railroad
company for use in the wood burning locomotives until wood was displaced by
coal. When the place merited a post office, the Post Office Department
shortened the name to Hillard but the railroad company called the station
Hilliard, earlier Hilliard Switch. The post office and the railroad station have
been closed for several years. The Missouri State Highway Department and
the United States Corps of Engineers use the spelling "Milliard" as a place
name on Highway W. Milliard is near the old Shipman Ford crossing of Black
River on the road from Greenville to Poplar Bluff.
Baskey School. The origin of this name is one of the most intriguing stories we
have found concerning place names in Butler County. Several years ago we talked
with Mrs. Anna Brown, a daughter of Peter Baskey. Mrs. Brown told the story of
her father. He was born Pierre Basquet in Alsace-Lorraine, France, about 1843.
Alhen he was about four years old his family came to the United States and
settled in Ohio. As a young man Pierre Basquet traveled widely in the United
States. In his wanderings he came to Butler County where he homesteaded a tract
of land east of Black River near Little Raft Slough, now Palmer Slough* The
French pronunciation of Basquet rhymed it with croquet and bouquet but the
Anglo-Saxon neighbors of Mr. Basquet insisted on calling him Mr. Basket. This
grieved him very much. He did not wish to be a basket. He decided to
preserve the French pronunciation as best he could by changing his name to
Baskey and at the same time changed Pierre to its English counterpart of Peter.
Thus Pierre Basquet of Alsace-Lorraine, Franoft became Peter Baskey of
Butler County, Missouri.
When it was necessary to establish a school in the community Mr. Baskey gave
land for the school house site and was honored by having the school and school
district named for him. The school house stood just north of Highway 60 and
just east of the levee guarding the farm land east of Black River. The school
patrons had to board the teacher around on circuit the first winter to get
the school started. The Baskey School District has now been absorbed by the
Reorganized School District of Poplar Bluff, the school has been closed to
make way for larger school units and in a few years the names will be lost
except as found on old maps and in school records.
By occupation Mr. Baskey was a farmer and carpenter. He died in 1897 in Doe
Run, Missouri, and is there buried.
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