From the book published as The History of Gentry and Worth Counties, Missouri by the National Historical Co., St. Joseph, Missouri in 1882
What wonderful changes a few years have wrought in Northwest Missouri! Less than fifty years ago not a single white man dwelt within the present limits of Gentry and Worth Counties. Their soil, perhaps, had occasionally been traversed by the foot of the reckless hunter and daring adventurer, but their beautiful prairies, their charming timber-fringed streams and enchanting groves were the homes of the antelope, the elk, the buffalo and the red man. Now all has been changed by the hand of progress. To-day the busy hum of industry everywhere resounds, and the voice of culture and refinement echo where once were heard the howl of the wild beast and the war-whoop of the Indian. These have been years fraught with important events to the sons and daughters from the old firesides of Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio and Indiana, and from the more distant homes beyond the Atlantic. The energy and bravery of these hardy pioneers, and their descendants, have made Gentry and Worth Counties what they are. Their labors have made the wilderness "to bud and blossom as the rose," and to preserve the story of this wonderful change, and to hand it down to posterity as a link in the history of the great state of which Gentry and Worth Counties form an integral part, has been the object of this book. While the publishers do not arrogate to themselves a degree of accuracy beyond criticism, they hope to have attained a large measure of exactness in the compilation and arrangement of the almost innumerable incidents which are here treated. These incidents have been gleaned from the memory and notes of the old settlers, and although an error may here and there seemingly occur, the reader must not hastily conclude that the history is in fault, but rather test his opinion with that of others familiar with the facts. Among those whom we would especially mention as having greatly assisted in the preparation
of this history are, Colonel C. G. Comstock, E. W. Dunagan, Isaac Miller, Charles O. Patton, Caleb S. Canaday, Dr. M. M. Campbell, T. J. Stockton, W. T. Dickens, Jr., William B. Whitely, Joshua B. Thomas, Francis M. Setzer, Hon. Edward S. Aleshire, George Ward and Dr. W. H. Alexander, of Gentry County, and W. H. Campell, John C. Dawson, A. W. Kelso, C. R. Murray, J. D. Harrigan, W. F. Osman, Hon. E. S. Garver, Ex-Gov. L. J. Farwell, John M. Hagans, J. E. Colburn, Dr. D. E. Harding, C. Tilton, A. T. and G. W. Frakes and W. L. Stone, of Worth County. It only remains for us to tender the people of Gentry and Worth Counties, in general, our thanks for the many courtesies extended to us and our representatives during the preparation of these annals; without their friendly aid this history would have been left beneath the debris of time, unwritten and unpreserved.
Chapter I: Preparatory
Nearly half a century has passed, since the first white settlement was made within the bounds of that territory now known at Gentry and Worth Counties, Missouri.
Previous to that time the uncivilized aborigines roamed the prairies wild and free, unfettered by the restraint of common or statutory law, and uncircumscribed by township boundaries and county lines. The transformation which has taken place in the physiognomy of the country alone is beyond the comprehension of the finite mind; luxuriant groves where there was the wide stretching prairie; cultivated fields where was the primeval forest; orchards, vineyards and gardens where waved the tall prairie grass. So marked has been the change in the physiognomy of the county that there was been a decided change in the climatology. The elements themselves seem to have taken notice of the great change and have governed themselves accordingly. While the annual rainfall and the mean annual temperature remain in the same quantity, they are now entirely different in quality, and although imperceptible and independent of man's will, they have nevertheless come under the same civilizing power which has changed the wilderness into a fruitful land.
The great change which has taken place in the development of the material resources of this country is ore noticeable, as man can more readily discern the changes which take place by deatail in his own cir-
cumscribed field of activity that he can those grand recolutions in the boundless domain of nature. The changes which have occurred in social, intellectual and moral conditions are still more marked, mind being more swift to act on mind than on matter.
These changes can best be estimated by the institution of a brief contrast:
Then the material resources of the country consisted simply in the streams of water which quenched the thirst of the aborigine, wherein was found the fish which he ate, and upon which floated his frail canoe; the forest where he procured his fuel, material for the construbtion of his rude weapons, and which sheltered the game which afforded him a meagre and uncertain sustenance. Such were the material resources made available to the owner of the soil. The social condition of the people was scarcely more advanced than is that of certain orders of the lower animals, whose social attainments are comprehended in the ability to unite for mutual offense or defense. In intellect and morals, there was a people somewhat above the brute, but on the lowest round of the ladder.
Now the material resources of the country include in their number the4 soil, with every useful and ornamental product known to the temperate zone; the forest with every species of manufacture, useful and ornamental, known to the civilized world. The water in the streams, and the currents of air above us, are alike trained to do man's bidding, which from the depths of the earth beneath our feet is brought forth the hidden wealth, which was hoarded by the turmoil of ages. Citis with their thousands of people, a country with its thousands of inhabitants, while in the city and country the lofty spies of churches and school houses are evidences of the social, moral and intellectual conditions.
All this change in material things has been brought about by the incoming of a new people from the far-off east and south and that, too within the space of a half a century. History furnishes no parallel to the rapid development of this western country; it has been a chain whose links were ever-recurring surprises, and mong the astonished, there are none more so than those whose throbbing brains have planned and whose busy hands have executed the work.
Almost a century ago, a friend of America, although an Engishman, in language most prophetic, wrote:
The settlement of the new world, alluded to by the writer, has, as a whole, fully met the conditions of that prophecy, but not till the past half a century did the onward march of empire culiminate in the settlement of Northwest Missouri. With the exception of a few mining towns in the gold regions of California, and the silver districts of Colorado, nothing has been like it before, andit will not be exceeded in time to come.
This has not been by accident. All kinds of material development follow recognized and well established laws, and in nothing does this fact more reveal itself than in the settlement of a country.
Whoever has made it his business to study the "Great Northwest," as it has unfolded itself in history, during the last quarter of a century, has doubtless met with ever returning wonders. The story of its unparalled growth, and almost phenomenal development, has so often been repeated that it has become a common-place platitude; but a careful study of the country will suggest questions which have, thus far, not been answered and cannot be. Why, for instance, have some sections filled up so rapidly, and certain cities sprung up as if by magic, while others seeminly no less favored by nature, are still in the first stages of development? These questions cannot, in all cases, be answered; but whoever has studied the matter carefully, cannot fail to have discovered a law of growth, which is as unvarying as any law of nature.
The two leading factors in the problem of municipal growth, are, location and character of first settlers. The location of these two counties was most favorable, and what is true of these counties is true of the whole state. More than half of the state is surrounded by two of the most renowned water courses of the world, and one will readily see that it possessed advantages enjoyed by no other state in the Union. These conditions, so favorable to the past and future development of the country, are beautifully illustrated by an ingenious little poen entitled "Two Ancient Misses," written by a gentleman who has won a wide-spread reputation at the bar. We here quote it, as it well illustrates our point and is of sufficient merit to be preserved:
In entering upon the work before us, we have not underestimated the difficulty and importance of the task. The chief difficulty lies in the fact that the eents to be treated, while they have to do with the past, are so intimately interwoven with the present that they are properly a part of it. The writer of history, as a general thing, deals wholly with the affairs of past generation, and his aim is to pause when he arrives at that realm bounded by the memory of men now living. The whole field of our investigation lies this side of that boundary line, as there are a few who will doubtless peruse this work, who, from the first, have witnessed and taken part in the events we shall attempt to relate.
While there were a few who came to Gentry County as early as 1834, its permanent settlement did not properly begin until 1836. Assuming 1836 to be the beginning of the history proper, there have elapsed but forty-six years, and a few who came at that time, or shortly afterwards, still live in our midst. And such, while they have grown prematurely old in body by reason of the hardships and privations incident upon a life of more than ordinary activity and trial, have not grown old
in spirit. Each one of such knows the history of the county, and, be it said, with due reverence for their hoary heads and bended forms, each one knows the history better than anyone else. Such readers are very uncharitable critics; and a work of thiskind, absolutely accurate in all its details and particulars, were it within the scope of human possibility to make such a work, would undoubtedly be pronounced, my many well meaning and honest persons, faulty and untrustworthy. This results from the fact that forty-six years, though not a long period in the history of the world, is a long time in the life of an individual. Events occurring in that length of time in the past, we think we know perfectly well, when the fact is we know them very imperfectly. This is proved and illustrated by the reluctancy and hesitation manifested invariably by old settlers, when called upon to give the details of some early transaction; the old settler usually hesitates before giving a date, and after having finally settled down upon the year and the month, when a certain event occurred, will probably hunt you up, in less than a day, and request the privilege of correcting the date. In the meantime, you have found another old settler, who was an eye-witness of the act in question, and the date he will give you does not correspond with the first date, nor corrected date as given by the first old settler. There are some marked exceptions, but as a rule the memory of the old settler is not trustworth; his ideas of the general outlines are usually comparatively correct, but no one who has the grace to put the proper estimate upon his mental faculties when impaired by age and weakened by the many infirmities of years will trust it to the arbitrament of questions of particulars and details.
The stranger who comes into the county with none of the information which those possess who have resided here for years, works at great disadvantage in many respects. He does not at first know whom to interview, or where to find the custodians of important records. However, he possesses one great advantage which more than makes up for this: he enteres upon this work with an unbiased mind: he has no friends to reward, and no enemies to punish; his mind is not preoccupied and prejudged by reports which may have accidentally come into his possession while transacting the ordinary affairs of business; and when in addition to this, he is a person whose business is to collect statements and weigh facts of history, he is much better qualified for the task, and to discriminate between statements, seemingly of equal weight, than those who either immediately or remotely are interested parties, and whose regular employment lies in other fields of industry. This is true, even though the former be a total stranger and the latter have become familiar with men and things by many years of intercourse and acquaintance-
ship. He is best judge and best juror who is totally unacquainted with both plaintiff and defendant, and he is best qualified to arbitrate between conflicting facts of history who comes to the task without that bias which is the price one must pay for acquaintanceship and familiarity. The best history of France was writted by an Englishman, and the most authentic account of American institutions was written by a Frenchman, and it remained for an American to wrote the only authentic history of the Dutch Republic.
The American people are muich given to reading, but the character of the matter read is such, that, with regard to a large portion of them it may truthfully be said that "truth is stranger than fiction." Especially in this case in respect to those facts of local history belonging to their own immediate county and neighborhood. This is, perhaps, not so much the fault of the people as a neglect on the part of the book publishers. Books, as a rule, are made to sell, and in order that a book may have a large sale its matter must be of such a general character as to be applicable to general rather than special conditions--to the nation and state rather than to county and township. Thus, it is that no histories heretofore published pertain to matters relating to county and neighborhood affairs, for such books, in order to have a sale over a large section of the country, must necessarily be very voluminous and contain much matter of no interest to the reader. After haing given a synopsis of the history fo the state, which is as brief as could well be, we shall then enter upon the histories of the counties. The physical features of the counties and their geology will first engage our attention; then the act under which they were organized and the location of the first county seats. We shall then speak of the first settlements. Pioneer times will then be described and incidents related showing the trials and triumphs of the pioneer settler. Then the settlement of the townships. Then county organization, courts and first records, the early bench and bar, California emigrants, old settlers' reunions, the civil war, and subsequent events, etc. Then we shall speak of agriculture, the growth and proeperity of the county, manufacures, newspapers, schools, churches, railroads, publc buildings, enterprises, citizens, etc. We shall give a biographical directory, the value of which will increase with years, and conclude with a chapter of facts and miscellaneous matter.
The compiler of a history of a county has a task which may seem to be comparatively easy, and the facts which come within the legitimate scope of the work may appear commonplace even when compared with national events; the narration of the peaceful events attending the conquests of industry as
"Westward the coarse of empire takes its way."
may seem tame when compared with accounts of battles and sieges. Nevertheless, the faithful gathering, and the truthful narration of facts bearing upon the early settlement of these counties, and the dangers, hardships and privations encountered by the early pioneers, engaged in advancing the standards of civilization, is a work of no small magnitude, and the facts thus narrated are such as may challenge the admiration and arouse the sympathy of the reader, though they have nothing to do with the feats of arms.
Chapter II. Physical Features
Gentry County is located in Northwestern Missouri, being separated from the Missouri River by the counties of Nodaway and Atchison, and separated from the Iowa line by the county of Worth, which formed a part of Gentry until 1861.
It is bounded on the north by Worth County, on the east by Harrison and Daviess; on the south by DeKalb and on the west by Andrew and Nodaway. It is divided into eight municipal townships, twelve full Congressional and four fractional townships.
Population in 1880, 17188.
The municipal townships are Athens, Bogle, Cooper, Howard, Huggins, Jackson, Miller and Wilson.
The land in the county, away from the streams, is undulating prairie, and has altogether a diversity of country seldom found in so small a space. Rising to the higher points of ground, the eye commands views of exquisite lovliness, embracing the silvery course of the stream, the waving foliage of trees, the changing outlines of gentle elevations, and the undulating surface of flower-decked prairie, with cultivated farms, farm houses, including the log hut of the first settler to the brick or painted houses and barns of the more advanced cultivator of the soil, and the palatial mansions of the wealthy stock raiser and capitalist.
The county has less land unfitted for cultivation, by reason of sloughs and marshes, than perhaps any of the neighboring counties. There is not a section of country of equal extent in the state, that possesses a better distributed drainage system than Gentry County. There is, proportionately, such a small area of waste and swamp lands, and the facilities for drainage are so admirable, that waste lands arising from this cause are too insignificant to be worthy of particular mention.
The county presented to the firstt settler an easy task in subduing the wild land. Its natural prairies were fields almost ready for the planting of the crop, and its rich, black soil seemed to be awaiting the opportunity of paying the rewards as a tribute to the labor of the husbandman. The farms of Gentry County are generally large, level, or undulating, unbroken by impassable sloughs, without stumps or other obstructions, and furnish the best of conditions favorable to the use of reaping machines, mowers, corn planters, and other kinds of labor-saving machinery.
Gentry County is so well supplied with living streams of water, and they are so well distributed that the people of the county could not possibly make an improvement upon the arrangement, if they were allowed the privilege and endowed with the power to make a readjustment of the system of streams and water courses. Some of these streams have fine mill sites, and, by reason of the water power, thus made so accessible, the early settler was spared many of the hardships and inconveniences experienced by the pioneers of other sections.
The circumstances which more than any other favored the early and rapid settlement of Gentry County was the abundance of timber, of which there are fully sixty thousand acres. The presence of timber aided materially in bringing about an early settlement and it aided in two ways; first, the county had to depend on immigration from the older settled states of the Union for its population -- Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. These states were originally almost entirely covered with dense forests, and farms were made by clearing off certain portions of the timber. Almost every farm there, after it became thoroughly improved, still retained a certain tract of timber, commonly known as "the woods." The woods is generally regarded as the most important part of the farm, and the average farmer regarded it as indispensable when he immigrated west.
The great objection to the country was the scarcity of timber as compared to the eastern states, and he did not suppose that it would be possible to open up a farm on the bleak prairie. To live in a region
devoid of the familiar sight of timber seemed unendurable, and the average Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky immigrant could not endure the idea of founding a home far away from the familiar sight of forest trees. Then again the idea entertained by the early immigrants that timber was a necessity was not cimply theoretical and ethical. The early settler had to have a house to live in, fuel for cooking and heating purposes, and fences to enclose his claim. At that time there were no railroads whereby lumber could be transported from the pineries; no coal mines had yet been open or discovered. Timber was an absolute necessity, without which personal existence, as well as material improvement, was an impossibility. No wonder that a gentleman from the east, who in early times came ot the prairie region of Missouri on a prospecting tour with a view of permanent location, returned home in disgust and embodied his views of the country in the following rhyme:
"Oh, lonesome, windy, grassy place,
Where buffalo and snakes prevail;
The first with dreadful looking face,
The last with dreadful souding tail;
I'd rather live on camel bump,
And be a Yankee Doodle beggar;
Than where I never see a stump,
And shake to death with fever'n 'ager."
As before remarked, there are two reasons why the first settlers refuled to locate at a distance from the timber, and why the timbered regions bordering upon the rivers became densely populated while the more fertile and more easily cultivated prairies remained for many years unclaimed. The pioneers were in the main descendants of those hardy backwoodsmen who conquered the dense forests of the south and east. When farms were opened up in those countries, a large belt of timber was invariably reserved from which the farmer could draw his supply of logs for lumber for fence rails, and fuel for heating and cooking purposes. Even at the present day a farm without its patch of timber is exceedingly rare in those countries. Having from their youth up been accustomed to timber, the emigrant from these timbered regions of the east would have ever felt lonesome and solitary deprived of the familiar sight of the tall forest trees and shut off from the familiar sound of the wind passing through the branches of the venerable oaks. Then again, timber was an actual necessity to the early settler. In this day of railroads, herd laws, cheap lumber and cheap fuel, it is easy enough to open a farm and build up a comfortable home away out on the prairie, far from the sight of timber. But not so under the circumstances surrouding the first settlers. There was no way of shipping lumber from the mar-
kets of the East, coal mines were unknown and before a parcel of land could be cultivated it was necessary to have railroads, and in order to have railroads it was necessary that at least portion of the country should be settled. Hence the most important resource in the development of this western country was the belts of timber which skirted the streams; and the settlers who first hewed out homes in the timber, while at present not the most enterprising and progressive, were nevertheless an essential factor in the solution of the problem.
Much of this primeval forest has been removed; part of it was economically manufactured into lumber, which entered into the construction of the early dwelling houses, many of which still remain; much of it was ruthlessly and recklessly destroyed. From the fact that attention was early given to the culture of artificial groves, Gentry County now has probably about as much timber as formerly, and the state much more.
Among the most abundant of all trees originally found was the black walnut, so highly prized in all countries for manufacturing purposes. Timber of this kind was plentiful and of good quality originally, but the high prices paid for this kind of timber presented itself as a temptation to destroy it, which the people, frequently in straightened circumstances, could not resist. Red, white and black oak are still very plentiful, although they have for many years been extensively used for fuel. Crab apple, elm, maple, ash, cottonwood and wild cherry are also found. Some of the best timber in the state is to be found in this county.
A line of timber follows the course of all streams. Detached groves, both natural and artificial, are found at many places throughout the county, which are not only ornamental, in that they very the monotony of the prairie, but likewise very useful, in that they have a very important bearing on the climate. It is a fact fully demonstrated by the best of authority that climate varies with the surface of a country.
The climate is what is generally termed a healthful one, subject, however, to the sudden change from heat to cold. The winters, however, are as general thing uniform, although there seems to have been some modifications in the climate during the past few years, resulting, doubtless, from the changes which have taken place in the physiognomy of the country.
The average yearly rainfall and melted snow, for twenty-five years, has been 36.62 inches. The average rainfall and melted snow, for each
month respectively, for this period, has been as follows: January, 1.68 inches; February, 1.67; March, 2.10; April, 3.49; May, 4.39; June, 4.75; July, 4.69; August, 4.66; September, 3.30; October, 2.33; November, 1.69; December, 1.89 inches. The rain and melted snow for winter, 5.25 inches; spring, 9.25; summer, 14.10; autumn, 7.32 inches.