Chapter XXI. DeKalb County
- Location and Area
- The Old Military Trail
- The First Settlers
- Early French Influence
- County Court and Courthouse
- Amusing Incident or Early Days
- Industrial Development
- Descendant of English Poet
- Township Organization
- A Dry County
- Stewartsville College
- The First Chautauqua in Missouri
- County Poor Farm
- Cosmopolitan County
- First White Child Born in Platte Purchase
- Chapter XXI. DeKalb County
From the book The History of Northwest Missouri, Vol. I, edited by Walter Williams, published by The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York, in 1915.
Chapter XXI. DeKalb County
It probably could not be truthfully said that there are any peaks in DeKalb County and its story, either of land or human fame. This particular portion of the world and the people who have lived in it have come down through the years in a smooth, average and even way. The soil is diversified and so are the people. The county has its full quota of timber and plains, level and broken lands, and a fine range of adaptability to the varied needs of agriculture, in this respect, partaking of the general soil structure and texture prevailing throughout the northwestern part of Missouri. These lands are peopled by souls that have been borne here on every wing of circumstance and that trace back into every quarter of the eastern portions of the republic and to the nooks and crannies of the front nations of Europe. They are living, and have for these seventy years been living, the modest life of a plain, peaceful, average people.
DeKalb County is young in spirit and in years, but it has had many lapses of memory. It does not know any too much about its infancy, probably not as much as it ought to know. The people who dotted the territory included within the present bounds of DeKalb County with its first homes came to this section of Missouri somewhat haplessly. They were bent on making a record rather than preserving that record; they had their pioneer struggles and said not a great deal to their children about those struggles. Out in the cemeteries of this county, as well as in the famed cemetery that the poet wrote about, there lie the bones of many modest, but rugged and heroic people, who apparently wasted their sweetness, but who in reality did silent deeds that might have been chronicled in words of large meaning—had the historian been at hand to set down the record of those deeds.
It was ever thus in a new country and with pioneer figures. For this reason the people now living in DeKalb County do not know very much about the beginning days of civilization here.
Again, DeKalb County has had a disastrous fire or two on the spot where it has reared up its courthouse. The fire of 1878 swept away the courthouse and practically all the contents, cutting off the present inhabitants of the county from many choice pieces of information that would have been theirs if the records and the attendant historical matter had come down to them in an unbroken way from the beginning.
Location and Area
DeKalb County embraces a territory of practically 420 square miles. It is almost square. It is bounded on the north by Gentry County, on the east by Daviess and Caldwell counties, on the south by Clinton County, and on the west by Buchanan and Andrew counties.
The Old Military Trail
According to the best information obtainable, this particular portion of the State of Missouri knew little of the presence of the white man until the laying out of the old military trail that ran from Liberty, Clay County, to Council Bluffs, Iowa. This was the trail used by the United States troops that were stationed at the latter place. The mail for the soldiers was carried along this trail, and every week the trip to Liberty and back was made by soldiers on foot. It is said that in the winter of 1824-25 three men who were working in this service became lost in a storm near the present site of the Town of Maysville. They put in a long and awful night and sought refuge by burrowing in the snowdrifts. The storm was one of protracted fury. The next day one of the men was sent south for aid. When help finally arrived the men were badly frozen. Their stopping place had been' in timbered land and on the banks of a stream. The stream became known as "Lost Creek," and it has carried that desolate name down to the present day. It is believed that this creek is the oldest historical thing in DeKalb County.
The First Settlers
It is believed that the first white man to take up his abode within the present confines of DeKalb County was Samuel Vesper, a French Canadian adventurer. He was a rover, and is said to have been a strange mixture of white man by birth and Indian by adoption. He located some two miles northeast of the site of the present Town of Stewartsville and there put up a cabin and cleared off a little patch of ground for desultory farming and gardening on the northwest quarter of Section 14, Township 57, Range 32. For several years he lived among the Indians and the wild animals, hunted far and near, talked Indian dialect, danced in the Indian dances and lived the care-free life of the red man of the ruder days. He lived there until people began to come into this part of the country, and, prodded on by the unwelcome inflow of civilization, he and his family pushed their way on west to a newer country in search of a land into which the foot of the white man had never gone. He came about 1824 or 1825 and remained but a short time.
The southern and southwestern parts of what is now DeKalb County began to be sprinkled with white population between 1825 and 1830. Timber abounded there, and the pioneers, as elsewhere, sought the banks of the creeks and the centers of timber. While men came from the diverse quarters of the United States, the biggest incoming seems to have been from the South. Tennessee and Kentucky, along with the older portions of Missouri, were more conspicuous than were other parts of the country in populating this new territory.
When Missouri came into the Union in 1821 the country embraced in what is now DeKalb County was a part of Ray County, which at the first included all of that territory lying north of the Missouri River and west of Grundy, Mercer and Livingston counties. Clay County was cut out of this big stretch of territory in January, 1822. Eleven years later, January 15, 1833, Clinton County was organized out of the northern part of Clay County. Clinton when first formed included all of that territory now covered by Clinton, DeKalb, Gentry and Worth counties, and was cut down to its present size when Gentry County was organized, February 12, 1841. The limit lines of DeKalb County were established
by an act of the Missouri Legislature January 5, 1843; and January 25, 1845, a bill was passed providing for the county 's organization. The act named Henry Brown, Peter Price, and Martin M. Nagh, of Andrew, Daviess and Clinton counties, respectively, as commissioners to locate the permanent seat of justice for the new county, and designated the residence of Henry Hunter, some two miles southeast of the present site of Maysville, as the temporary place for holding court. The commission, charged with the task of locating the permanent seat of justice, after viewing several proposed sites, decided on the northeast quarter of Section 34, Township 59, Range 31. The new town raised up around this spot was given the name of Maysville. The report of the commissioners on permanent seat of government was turned in to the County Court and was formally approved by that body August 18, 1845. The tract of land thus set out was subsequently entered for the county by Thompson Smith in the land office at Plattsburg, and a patent for it was obtained from the Government June 1, 1848.
Early French Influence
As the early life of the State of Missouri was much tinged with French influences, so were this county's early annals worked upon and shaped in large measure by the fame and influence of men of France. Baron Johann de Kalb was at the right hand of the famous Lafayette in the struggle of the American colonies for independence. He was born in 1721 and entered the French army early in life. He came to this country with Lafayette in 1777, and in September of that year he was made a major-general and set out with big zeal to help win freedom for his new friends on this side of the Atlantic. He was sent in 1780 to join the Southern army, and during the closing days of his life was second in command to General Gates. At the battle of Camden, fought August 16, 1780, he was wounded mortally and died three days later. DeKalb County was named in his honor.
County Court and Courthouse
Elias Parrott, James McMahan, and Harvey Ritchey constituted the first County Court of DeKalb County. Indicative of the character and nativity of the people who lived here at the time the county was organized is the fact that it is said that all of the first officials to take charge of the affairs of the new county were Tennesseeans, save one.
The public business was done in log houses, in a log house fashion. After moving about for a year or two, the county officials finally -settled down in a new log structure which was called a courthouse. It was finished and moved into during the first part of 1847. The growth of the public business of the county soon made it evident that the first courthouse was too small, and an agitation was begun for the erection of a new and larger building. The sum of $2,000 was borrowed from the internal improvement fund of the county for the erection of the new temple of justice. This amount was subsequently expanded to $3,750. Some fellows had drifted into the county from the centers of tip-top tone, and effete pride, and these gentlemen began to agitate around over the county for capping the new courthouse with a cupola. But the hard-sensed and rugged majority of that day soon turned against that sort of innovation, branding it as a thing that would exhibit only a riotous extravagance not in keeping with the spirit of the times or the necessities of the hour. The new building was finished in the fall of 1852. It was a brick structure, 55 feet long and 30 feet wide, with
courtroom and two offices on the lower floor and the other offices on the second floor. It was regarded as a very creditable building for its day, and it served the county for twenty-six years, until the big fire made silent ashes of it and all its contents on Christmas night, 1878. This fire constituted the rudest jolt that the county had ever received up to that time. The next courthouse, the one that still stands, was built in 1885.
Not all things of interest and importance passed away in the fire of 1878 that burned the courthouse. The records and papers in the office of the circuit clerk were preserved, along with a few papers from some of the other offices. The first deed ever put on record in the new county was made by Charles Pryor and Catherine Pryor, his wife, of the County of Gentry and State of Missouri, in which they conveyed to John Montgomery, of Jackson County, "all that tract or parcel of land situate, lying and being in the County of DeKalb . . . known and described as follows, to-wit: The E. 1/2 N. E. 14 of Section No. 27, Township 58, north of the base line and west of the fifth principal meridian, and Range number 36, containing on the whole eighty acres, more or less.. . . Consideration, $150." This deed was acknowledged on August 27, 1845, before John J. Bays, justice of the peace, of Grand River Township.
Much has been said in this latter day of the reckless expenditure of the public moneys in county, state and national affairs, and much is said by tongue and pen about the high cost of living and the cost of high living. The first official guards of the DeKalb County public funds held fine and impressive notions about economy and endeavored to limit the. expenditures of the county to the rugged and crying needs. It is said that John F. Doherty, who was appointed the first clerk of the County Court, learned at the very outset of his period of service that extravagance would not be tolerated. At the time of the organization of the county there was no stationery on hand for the use of the county officials. Mr. Doherty, who was probably not a strict constructionist,made a trip to Liberty to buy there the things that he thought were needed in the public business. He purchased an account book and three steel pens. When the County Court held its next meeting Mr. Doherty presented the bill for the supplies he had bought. No objection was made by the court to the purchase of the record, but a reprimand came down on the head of the clerk because of the needless extravagance he had exhibited in the purchase of the pens. Mr. Doherty attempted to clear himself of all blame by advising the judges that he had not been able to procure any quills; whereupon one of the judges proffered the suggestion that he himself would take the job of seeing to it that the county was furnished with the desired quills by the time the court came together the next time. The bill for the pens was allowed amid considerable travail and objection, and, to prevent further squandering of the county's funds, this judge had the quills on hand the next time. The expenditures of the county ran to a total of about three hundred dollars the first year.
Amusing Incident or Early Days
But the people in the early days in this county were not given over altogether to things of a somber kind by any means. It is true they were cut off from the world and its finer facilities, from railroads, telephones, telegraph lines, the hum of cities, the ramifications of established society; but they had a mighty lot of unconventional and rustic fun. Old settlers tell yet of the time when the "Giant" killed "David" more than forty years ago. The story is illustrative of pioneer life and prevalent amuse-
ment in the typical town of the formative period. The "Giant" was a big, brusque churn peddler who came to Maysville. The people gathered about him to learn all they could possibly learn about an invention that gave promise of reducing the tedium that has attended the churning job since the days of the first cow. The churn peddler had come from afar to deal with the people, and he loomed mysterious and mighty before them.
David P. Lytle was a thin man, but not a sorrowful dyspeptic. He walked up and made a vigorous remark reflecting on the excellencies of the churn. The "Giant" threatened to slap David, whereupon David suggested shooting off the trouble. The "Giant" accepted the challenge.
The village jokers, led by Capt. James Ewart, probably at the present time the oldest banker in Missouri in point of continuous service in the banking business, prepared the shotguns. David knew there were to be no loads in the guns, but the " Giant " did not. The village women gathered on top of Maysville 's meanest hill that afternoon to watch the duel. Men of every calling and type went to see the duel. There was much bustle of preparations, much solemnity of seconds, the rigid formalities of fighting honor; and when the code 's requirements of a preparatory nature had been met the duelists squared away and fired. David dropped, and the multitude surged around him. The handy man who had mixed red paint up just right dumped it full and fair upon the bared breast of David. The Giant was seized and dragged into the courtroom and arraigned for murder. Lawyers and pseudo-lawyers were drawn into the case, and all the community turned out to the trial. It is said that there was never such a stack of law books collected in the courtroom in Maysville before or since, and it is even said that ' ' Robinson Crusoe" and "Pilgrim's Progress" were drafted into service. The hearing lasted far into the small hours of the morning, and it was finally decided that the defendant could not be held for murder, because there were too many indications of a plot to kill him. But he was told that, in view of the harrowing nature of the tragedy, the state of the public mind, and the possibility of an uncontrollable outbreak, it would be best for him to skip—and he skipped, in the rain, in the dark, in great trepidation. During the following day he learned a lesson on how the men of Maysville and DeKalb County in the foundation era passed a part of their time. Those were days when men of large motive forces did not believe in weak-kneed activities, not even in a pussy-footed hilarity.
Just as the first settlements were made in the southwestern part of the county, so also was the biggest of our early industrial development of subsequent years begun there. The Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad
was put in operation in 1859. The road became a mighty magnet, with a pulling power that reached far into the North and far into the South. It cut along the lower end of DeKalb County and gave to the towns of Stewartsville and Osborn an impetus such as they had never had before. In the early days bridges "were a blessed rarity, and the north and south rivers intervening between DeKalb County and St. Joseph turned back as big barriers the general traffic that naturally would have gone to St. Joseph. The people dwelling along the divide between the streams came to Stewartsville from forty and fifty miles north of that place to do business. They brought the products of the farm and they made the mercantile establishments of the little town hum in a glorious way. The town became a trade center for a vast reach of country and through the railroad became a living link between this part of Northwest Missouri and the rest of the world. Osborn, the first station east of Stewartsville on this railroad, likewise partook of the general vigor that was given life and traffic by the building of the new road. These towns held a big mastery in business life until the coming of other railroads and the general opening up of the middle and northern portions of the county. Twenty years and more ago Osborn and Stewartsville settled down to the pace of the average Northwest Missouri town of the present period.
The Burlington Railroad was built out from St. Joseph northeast and put in operation in 1881. It clipped off the northwest corner of DeKalb County and gave new life to the flagging infancy of Union Star. The Rock Island Railroad from St. Joseph east was finished in 1886 and split out through the very heart of the county. It gave Maysville the biggest single boost it ever had and gave birth to the three villages of Clarksdale, Amity and Weatherby.
Of the seven incorporated towns and villages of the county Maysville and Clarksdale have exhibited the greatest latter-day life, and within recent years are the only places in the county that have done any perceptible growing. The population of the incorporated towns and villages of the county, according to the census of 1910, was as follows : Maysville, 1,051; Stewartsville, 553; Clarksdale, 416; Union Star, 388; Osborn, 360; Amity, 173; Weatherby, 171. The aggregate town population of the county is remaining practically stationary and has been doing so for some ten or fifteen years.
The county at large long ago completed its period of growth, so far as population is concerned, and is now grappling with that baffling problem that confronts so many counties in the agricultural states of the Middle West, that of arresting the migration of its people to the cities and newer counties and cheaper lands. In 1850 DeKalb had, according to the census taken in that year, a population of 2,075. By 1870 this figure had been more than doubled, the census of that year giving the county a population of 5,224. In 1880 there was a population of 9,858; in 1890, 14,539. The biggest growth ever made was made between 1880 and 1890, when the county showed an increase of 4,681. The census of 1900 gave the county 14,418 people, and that of 1910 only 12,531.
As the South contributed more than any other section of the United States to the settling up of DeKalb County, the people in the earlier years of its history were mainly democrats. The politics of the county was militantly democratic through all the years that led up to the Civil
war. Pierce and King defeated Scott and Graham by a vote of nearly three to one. The democrats swept the county again in 1856. In the year 1860 the great rail splitter, who now holds a place in the hearts of the people above that of any other man save Washington, was wondrously short on popularity. Out of a total of 702 votes cast for all tickets for the Presidency, Abraham Lincoln received exactly seven votes. But a mysterious something took hold of the people in the years that followed. The tide turned in DeKalb County, and in the election of 1864 Lincoln came magnificently to the front. He received 400 votes, against 197 cast for George Brinton McClellan. The republican party began with the second Lincoln campaign to hold the upper hand in DeKalb County, and, with some interruptions, kept in the ascendancy until the Cleveland and Harrison campaign of 1892. The democratic party reached its highest point of post-bellum strength in the election of 1896, when William J. Bryan carried the county over William McKinley by a plurality of 575. Since the first two of the Bryan campaigns the two old parties have maintained a continuous struggle for supremacy.
The first representative in the Missouri Legislature was Thompson Smith, who served from 1846 to 1850. Since his day the following men have represented the county: John F. Dohertv, 1850-52; Thompson Smith, 1852-54; I. N. Shambaugh, 1854-56; John Johnson, 1856-58; Littleton S. Roberts, 1858-60; I. N. Shambaugh, 1860-62; Elias Parrott, 1862-64; Robert Logan, 1864 (died; G. B. Atterbury elected to fill vacancy); William W. Riggs, 1867-69; Newton P. Home, 1869-71; Joshua Dean, 1871-73; Orlando G. McDonald, 1873-75; George E. Shultz, 1875-77; Green B. Atterbury, 1877-79; William H. Haynes, 1879-81; Joseph Truex, 1881-83; John F. Clark, 1883-85; Levi T. Moulton, 1885-1889; Edwin J. Smith, 1889-91; Benjamin F. Hughes, 1891-93; T. D. Williams, 1893-95; Newcomb Dyer, 1895-97; Ford N. Dyer, 1897-99; James T. Blair, 1899-1903; G. B. Pence (chosen at special election to fill vacancy occasioned by the death of F. N. Dyer, which occurred shortly after his election) , 1903-05; J. Frank Moberly, 1905-07; John H. Kimmet, 1907-09; Francis H. Devol, 1909-11; John H. Kimmet, 1911-13; Edward F. Cornelius, 1913.
It has never been the fortune of any of these legislators or other public men of DeKalb County to occupy the governor's office to represent their people in either house of Congress or to occupy positions of the first magnitude in the country; but many men have gone forth from this county to become potent public factors and to do a broad and big and responsible work, even though the light does not focus on such men as it does on governors and senators and presidents. For instance, the present Supreme Court Commission of Missouri is half made up of men who are products of DeKalb County—James T. Blair and Stephen S. Brown. Mr. Blair has just been elected Supreme judge.
Descendant of English Poet
No literary figures of national or international fame have been developed here. However, although this section has not been the place of beginning for any great name, it does furnish the spot on which one of those great names will die—in the flesh. In 1795 London gave birth to a baby that was destined to become one of the top figures of all literature and to become known the world over as the Bard of Beauty -- John Keats. John Keats had two brothers and one sister. One of the brothers died in his youth. The poet himself died, unmarried, in 1821. The sole survivor among the three brothers was George Keats. He came to America in 1818, established a home at Louisville, Kentucky, and
reared a family of eight children, six daughters and two sons. One of these sons, Clarence, died in 1861 in Indiana. The other one, John Henry Keats, the last male survivor of the family founded by Thomas and Frances Keats in the eighteenth century, lives in Maysville now. At his death the name will be wiped away, for he has no male descendants and his brother had no male descendants,
John Henry Keats is now more than eighty years of age. He married late in life and has one daughter. He is modest to the point of diffidence. He and his wife and daughter live in the southwest suburbs of Maysville in the quietest kind of way. You probably would never hear him voluntarily give up the information that he is the last keeper of a great name, the sole guard of that name for the last fifty-three years; that he is the nephew of a literary prodigy that buckles up close to old Shakespeare himself, and that in the realm of beauty and in the power to transfer conceptions of beauty into words is probably the greatest figure that the literature of the English race has ever produced.
The citizens of DeKalb County have never believed much in the long pole of far-off power. They believe in local sovereignty, in county individuality and in township individuality. The Legislature of Missouri in 1872 passed the first township organization bill giving to the various counties the right to adopt township organization by a vote of the people. The proposition was submitted to the voters of DeKalb County at the general election of the following fall, and it was adopted by a vote of 1,012 to 657. From the time township organization was first put into use down to this date the glory and the beauty of township sovereignty have never ceased to impress the people of the county.
The Supreme Court of Missouri, in 1906, held unconstitutional the law under which DeKalb County adopted township organization, and the county as a result of that decision passed back for a fleeting season under the general law.
At the first opportunity, however, the township organization proposition was submitted again to the people, this time under a later law, and the county again became a township organization county, one of the very few in the state.
A Dry County
DeKalb County has twice decided to pass out from under the general dramshop laws of Missouri and maintain local sovereignty over the liquor business. In September, 1887, the county voted dry by a majority of thirty votes. In September, 1907, it again voted dry by a majority that was overwhelming, and from that time down to the present has been lined up with the progressive forces of the country now engaged in the arduous work of getting rid of the liquor traffic.
DeKalb County made one effort to maintain a college, and one only. That effort was a success. No old landmark structures are to be seen standing around over this county, as the one-time housing places of educational institutions now dead. The Stewartsville Academy was founded in 1860 by Prof. John A. E. Summers. It was a private institution and was run about a year and then closed down on account of the war. In 1863 the building and grounds were purchased by Prof. W. 0. H. Perry, who
founded what was called the Stewartsville Seminary. The building was a small one, erected at a cost of about eighteen hundred dollars. In 1879 Professor Perry added to the building and in various ways improved the general material equipment of the school. The building was given a twostory frontage of 85 feet. It was fitted up with twenty-five rooms and a boarding department, and subsequently another building was erected and used as a girls' dormitory. The institution was chartered May 21, 1879, as Stewartsville College, and was empowered to confer degrees in arts. The Stewartsville College took rank among the colleges of the Middle West in its day, and it is an institution toward which DeKalb County can point back with special and distinctive pride. The faculty in 1884-5 was made up of the following teachers: W. 0. H. Perry, president, teacher of English literature; Louis Weber, A. M., teacher of natural science and ancient and modern languages; Henry W. Saunders, B. S., teacher of mathematics; W. F. Perry, B. S., teacher of commercial branches; Louis Weber, A. M., instrumental and vocal music; Mrs. W. 0. H. Perry, matron and teacher of ornamental and fancy work.
The college buildings were destroyed by fire in 1885. Much hustling for the funds necessary to rebuilding resulted in failure, and after a year or more of heroic hope and hard work the campaign in the interest of rebuilding was given up. The college passed into history, but not until it had made its mark upon the state and given to many people an equipment and a culture that are still bearing fruit.
Professor Perry died November 14, 1913, having lived to the ripe old age of seventy-six years and eleven months. His death occurred at the family home in Nebraska City and the body was brought back to Stewartsville for burial.
The First Chautauqua in Missouri
Another institution founded for the uplifting of the people and representing a stride that DeKalb County has taken in advance of her sister counties of Missouri was the Maysville Chautauqua. It was an easy thing for any man to stand an egg on its end after that old hero of history had led the way by showing how the trick was done. It has been within recent years a very easy thing to found chautauquas throughout the State of Missouri; easy because somebody else had blazed out the way; easy because the people through the years have ripened to the chautauqua movement; easy because the popular midsummer assembly, on account of a wide spontaneity of demand, simply cannot help being born and cannot keep from living and growing after it is born. But it was not so when Thomas J. Williamson founded the first chautauqua of Missouri, and founded it at Maysville. That was in 1896. Gen. John Brown Gordon was the first speaker of the first day, and he came to uncork his great lecture on "The Last Days of the Confederacy." He was an orator who had the face and figure of the orator, as well as of the hero; who had the voice and the message of the orator; who had the full sum of those elusive qualities that defy analysis but are necessary to the make-up and power of all the first-class speakers of any land. But he came to speak to a handful of people. The same kind of reception was handed to the other speakers on the first year's program. The founder of the chautauqua movement in Maysville went up solidly but heroically against the cold and crusty indifference of the people. He martyred himself to the cause, bore the burdens and the despair of the formative time and finally turned the institution over to other hands. The name of Thomas J. Williamson ought to be written up high on the list of men who have had their vision and who have done distinctive deeds for the
elevation of their fellows. Soon after he severed connection with the Chautauqua movement in Maysville he moved to Mississippi, and, subsequently, to Oklahoma, where he died several years ago. The Maysville Chautauqua, now called "The Old Maysville Chautauqua," has been a bearer of light and a maker of culture for nearly twenty years. It has brought the brains and the eloquence of the land to the very dooryards of the people of DeKalb County, and they long ago learned how to appreciate the blessings and the uplifting influence which the institution carries.
County Poor Farm
East of Maysville about a half-mile stands a big house with many windows in it. It stands high up on the hill and can be seen from afar. About it are beauty and the grandeur of nature. About it is a big farm crowned with the farm conveniences of the times. That farm is the county poor farm. That finest of all impulses, the impulse to hold out the hand of tenderness and kindness to the afflicted of earth, found a proper lodgment here some years ago; and while some counties permitted their helpless and their poor to suffer from a motley aggregation of bad farm conditions, to be harried by neglect and reduced by the sloth of their keepers, DeKalb County bade farewell to the rude methods of coarser days, moved out into modern light, and fitted up a farm and built a home for the poor, exhibiting all the physical elements of a real home. And the county farm stands out today as one of the institutional things of which the people are justly proud.
The population of the county is nearly all white. A few colored people inhabit the southern and central portions of the county. In the more mature period of the development of this section the North has vied with the South in bringing people and in making history. It is probable that in the last forty years the North has had a larger share in the settlement and development of the county than has the South, thus reducing the lead that was maintained by the South in the earlier day.
Germany has probably had a larger part in the development of the county and in all its latter day growth than has any other country of foreign tongue. The German people are to be found all through the county, but they especially abound in the southwestern portion, where their thrift and industry have built up one of the most substantial sections to be found in this part of Missouri.
All in all, the people of DeKalb are a mixed people and can be classed as cosmopolitan in the true sense of that word. Emigration and immigration have been going on so continuously and have borne out and in so many different peoples that it has been impossible to establish any fixed crusts of society. There are no upper and middle and lower layers of society and a free and easy democracy exists.
First White Child Born in Platte Purchase
Judge J. L. Williams of Dallas Township, DeKalb County, bears the distinction of being the first white child born in the Platte Purchase. In 1844 his family had moved from Andrew County, where Judge Williams was born, to the farm where he now lives. He was then only two months
old. Judge 'Williams also bears the distinction of raising prize corn on Missouri soil that had been in cultivation nearly sixty years. The land was originally broken with oxen and a plow with wooden mould board. Until recent years the land had been almost continuously in corn. Then it was seeded to timothy and clover and remained in meadow until a few years ago, when it was replowed and planted to corn.