EARLY COOPER COUNTY PERSONALITIES
This adapted from “Discover Cooper County by Looking Back by Ann Betteridge
BLACKHAWK, Blackhawk was a Sac Indian. He was living in the east part of Cooper County in 1810 when the first white settlers arrived. He became an Indian chief and an English general during the second war with England from 1812 to 1815. In 1832 his Blackhawk War spread over much of the Mississippi Valley. The two Cole families, first settlers in Cooper County, helped Blackhawk in his desire to understand the white man’s way of life.
MRS. WILLIAM H. ASHLEY, Elizabeth Ashley, the daughter of Dr. J. W. Moss of Howard County, was the wife of General William H. Ashley. Before her marriage to the famous fur trader she was the widow of Dr. Daniel Wilcox. After Ashley’s death she married John J. Crittenden, of Kentucky. A fictional history of her life, The Three Lives of Elizabeth, was written by Missouri author Shirley Seifert.
WILLIAM H. ASHLEY, William Ashley was born January 10, 1764, at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He came from Virginia to Missouri in 1803. He was elected the first Lieutenant Governor of Missouri in the state’s first election. He was a fur trader who influenced the exploration and settlements of the West. He founded the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. He was not afraid to take his trade to places other people would not go. He was a member of Congress and served in the twenty-second, twenty-third, and twenty-fourth congresses.
He owned approximately 28,000 acres along the Missouri River. He died on March 3, 1838, and is buried in an Indian mound in his land overlooking the Lamine and Missouri Rivers. See more about Ashley in the Fort McMahan section.
DAVID BARTON, David Barton was a pioneer Cooper County lawyer and was involved in the early political activities of Missouri. Soon after moving to Boonville, Barton served as a judge, representative, and author of our state’s first constitution. He was elected the first United States Senator to Congress from Missouri. David Barton Elementary School is named for him. In 1821 Missouri finally was admitted to the Union as the 23rd state. One of the main men involved in this process was David Barton who chaired the Constitutional Convention and who wrote the Constitution which was submitted to Congress for the admission of Missouri. Barton County in southwestern Missouri is named for him. He then became the first Senator and represented the new state in the U.S. Congress. Barton died in Boonville in September, 1837, and is buried in the Walnut Grove Cemetery, where there is a monument honoring him. The restoration of his tombstone, lot, and adjacent horse watering tough was an appropriate Missouri Bicentennial Project and was undertaken by the Walnut Grove Cemetery Board and the Hannah Cole Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.
See the section on cemeteries for the DAR Restoration of David Barton’s Tombstone.
Background of DAVID BARTON
David Barton was born December 14, 1783 near what is now Greenville, Tennessee. About 1809 he moved to St. Charles, Missouri, where he taught school and studied law. Barton joined Nathan Boone’s company of mounted rangers. He rose quickly in politics and in 1813 was elected Attorney General for the new Territory of Missouri.
In 1818 David Barton was named a delegate and soon after became speaker of the Missouri Territorial Legislature which framed the document petitioning Congress for permission to organize as a state. He was then elected President of the state’s Constitutional Convention with the document sent to Congress referred to verbally as the “Barton Constitution.” Once Missouri was admitted to the Union following the Missouri Compromise, Barton was unanimously elected Missouri’s first Senator. He was instrumental in having Thomas Hart Benton chosen as his
senate colleague. He served in Congress from 1821 to 1831. As often happens, good friends can become political enemies and Barton and Benton became enemies. The resulting feud forced Barton out of office. He returned to Missouri and in 1834 and 1835 he served as a member of the Missouri State Senate.
By this time Barton was in poor health and in 1836 he moved to Boonville where he owned property. Barton never married so he had no immediate family to care for him. Dr. William and Mary Gibson (maternal grandparents of future Missouri governor, Lon Vest Stephens) were old friends and took care of David Barton until he died. By the end he suffered from both physical and mental illness. Barton died on September 28, 1837 penniless. The Gibson family and the citizens of Boonville held a fund-raising drive to place a suitable tombstone over his grave after his burial in what was then called the City Cemetery. Today the name has been changed to Sunset Hills Cemetery. This was accomplished with the erection of an obelisk embellished with all his accomplishments.
COLONEL CHARLES CHRISTIAN BELL, Charles Christian Bell was born in Nassau, Germany, on August 30, 1848. After moving to the United States, he lived his early life on a Missouri farm near Mr. Sinai schoolhouse. His father, John Adam Bell, planted one of the first vineyards and orchards in that neighborhood, and taught his son the art of fruit growing, a business which he followed most of his life. He served in the Union cavalry and was held prisoner by General Joe Shelby’s command for two days and was then paroled. In 1879, he was commissioned by Governor Phelps as first lieutenant of the Missouri State Guards. In 1877, he and his brother established the firm of C. C. Bell and Brothers, wholesale shippers of fruit and farm products. He later purchased his brother’s interest in the company.
In 1886, he organized the Central Missouri Horticultural Association, serving as its secretary for 29 years. He also served this organization as president. He founded the International Apple Shipper’s Association in 1894, and was elected its first president.
He experimented with and developed the Lady Apple tree in the Bell Apple Orchard, located about six miles east of Boonville. For years, each pupil in the Boonville Schools found a Lady Apple on their desk the first day of school. He is known for his many public services.
GEORGE CALIB BINGHAM, As a young boy Bingham lived in Franklin with his parents, where his father was a hotel keeper. As a young man he was apprenticed to a Boonville cabinet maker. His first wife, Elizabeth Hutchison, was from Boonville. He served in the Missouri legislature and was Adjutant General during the Civil War. He lived in Howard and Cooper Counties and built a home in Arrow Rock, which has been restored.
He is famous for his paintings, many of which were painted while he was living in Cooper County. He liked to paint portraits and scenes of everyday life. Some of his paintings can be seen in Boonville at the Boonslick Regional Library, the Masonic Hall and the Rotary International Headquarters; two are also hanging at Ravenswood.
DANIEL BOONE, Daniel Boone is known to almost everyone. He was born in 1728 and died in 1820. He came to Missouri about 1797 from Kentucky, and hunted up and down the Missouri River. His two sons, Nathan and Daniel Morgan Boone, ran a “salt lick” in 1807 about ten miles north of Boonville. The Boone brothers boiled the salt water, saved the salt, packed it in hollowed logs, covered the salt with mud, and floated the logs down the river, to St. Louis, to trade.
KIT CARSON, Kit Carson, whose real name was Christopher Columbus Carson, was born in Kentucky. His parents moved to Missouri where he was raised in Franklin, Missouri. He was taught to work in a saddle shop. He had been in the saddle shop only a few months when he ran away and joined a wagon train which was bound for Santa Fe, in Mexico, this was the start of his career as an Indian scout and trail maker. Kit Carson was never a resident of Cooper County, however he spent time here hunting and visiting with relatives.
HANNAH COLE, Hannah Cole was born in 1764 and died in 1843. She was the first white woman to settle south of the Missouri River. She came as a widow with her nine children and built a cabin on the present site of Boonville. A fort was built later which became known as Hannah Cole’s Fort.
Briscoe Cemetery (click on link for complete article).
The marker is hewn from a large natural stone. The cemetery itself contains about an acre of ground and the D. A. R. Chapter intends that it shall be made beautiful ... stones gathered from all parts of the Hannah Cole Country; the historic connection will be complete." October 31, 1932 From the Pilot Grove Record "Grave Formally Marked" -"Tablet at Hannah Cole Grave is Unveiled" "With fitting ceremony, the grave of Hannah Cole, Cooper County's pioneer mother ... www.mogenweb.org/cooper/Cemeteries/BRISCOE CEMETERY.pdf
BENJIMIN COOPER, Benjamin Cooper, Revolutionary War veteran, is regarded as the first permanent settler in this area. His wife and five sons moved to the Boone’s Lick country in the year 1808. They settled in the Missouri River bottom about two miles southwest of Boone’s Lick, which became known as Cooper’s Bottom. This area is not part of the present Cooper County established in 1818. Even though the Coopers lived in Howard County, they played an important part in the history of Cooper County. Benjamin built a cabin and cleared the ground for a permanent home, but he had to leave because he was too far from the protection of government troops. He returned two years later to the same place with a group of settlers, who built forts in Howard and Cooper counties. The fort helped protect them from Indians during the War of 1812.
SARSHALL COOPER, Sarshall Cooper came to the Boonslick area in 1808 with a group of settlers led by his brother Benjamin. The group left the area and returned in 1810. They built four forts in Howard County: Cooper, Hempstead, Kincaid, and Head. Sarshall was chosen as Captain of the Military Rangers. There were Indian raids from 1812 through 1815. Sarshall was killed in one of the raids in 1814 as he sat by his fireside with his family in Fort Cooper, near the present town of Petersburg in Howard County. Cooper County was named in honor of Capt. Sarshall Cooper.
BILL CORUM, Martene “Bill” Windsor Corum was born near Speed, Missouri, on July 29, 1894. He attended grade school in Old Palestine and attended Boonville Public High School. He attended college at Wentworth Military Academy and the University of Missouri.
Bill was among the first to enlist in World War I. He was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross. He was commissioned Major of Infantry, the youngest in the American Expeditionary Force.
Following World War I, he enrolled in the Journalism School at the University of Missouri in Columbia, where he graduated with two degrees. He became assistant sports editor of the New York Times. He was featured as sports columnist for the New York Evening Journal.
He performed well at three different jobs. He was a good writer, and in addition, found time for radio and television commentary. He was especially well-informed in horse racing, baseball and boxing. Perhaps the most important activity in spreading his fame was the commentary on radio and television of the New York Yankee baseball games. He was president of Churchill Downs Race Track in Louisville, Kentucky from 1950 until his death.
WALLACE CROSSLEY, Wallace Crossley was born in Bellair, Cooper County, Missouri on October 8, 1874. He was a graduate of the University of Missouri. He was interested in the field of education for many years. He was elected Lieutenant Governor of Missouri in 1916. He was chosen president of the Missouri Press Association in 1932. He died December 13, 1943.
REVEREND FATHER RICHARD FELIX, O.S.B., Reverend Father Richard Felix came to Pilot Grove to serve as pastor of St. Joseph’s Church. He was author of six books. He delivered an extended series of lectures over three radio stations. Father Felix had three degrees: an A.B. in theology from St. Vincent’s Seminary, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, an A.M. from Catholic University, Washington, D.C., and a B.D. from Harvard, at Cambridge, Massachusetts.
JACOB F. MELICH, Jacob Gmelich was a native of Germany, who located in Boonville in 1860 when he was 20 years old. He remained a resident of Cooper County until his death 54 years later. He served as state representative from 1905 until 1909, and as lieutenant governor during the administration of Herbert S. Hadley. He was a Union veteran of the Civil War, a merchant, bank president and four times mayor of Boonville.
PAYTON R. AYDEN, Payton Hayden was the first lawyer certified to practice law in the Missouri Territory outside of St. Louis. He was the first lawyer to pass the bar, July 1819, in Cooper County, even before Missouri became a state.
He was a native of Kentucky. He came to Howard County, Missouri, in 1818, and located in Boonville in 1819. He taught school in Old Franklin, one of his students being Kit Carson. Hayden died in Boonville on December 26, 1855. A Supreme Court Justice, Washington Adams, studied law in his office.
THOMAS JEFFERSON HOWELL, Thomas Jefferson Howell was born near Pisgah in 1842. In 1850, he went to the state of Oregon with his parents. He was a farmer, stock-raiser, botanist, woodsman, mountaineer, and the discoverer of the weeping spruce. Because of his interest in botany, he became interested in the flowering plants of the northwest. In 1903 he published the Flora of Northwest America.
FRANK & JESSE JAMES, Jesse James was born in 1847 on a small farm near Kearney, Missouri. Jesse was 14 when the Civil War began, and left to fight in the war when he was 16. In 1865, he became an outlaw, along with his older brother, Frank, and some of the men who fought with them during the Civil War. Between 1866 and 1882 the James gang robbed trains and banks in Missouri and other states.
Most of the railroads and banks were owned by Northerners. The banks charged high interest rates on loans to people trying to recover from the war. People also had to pay high taxes to support the railroads, and to pay high rates for transporting freight. Because of these injustices, many people were glad when the James gang robbed a bank or a train. Some people even helped the gang hide when the law was looking for them.
In an effort to stop the robbing, in 1881, Missouri’s governor, Thomas T. Crittenden, a former Union officer, offered a reward for the capture of Jesse James. In 1882, Jesse was shot in the back of the head by one of his own men, Robert Ford, in St. Joseph, Missouri. Jesse was 35. Soon after his brother’s death, Frank surrendered and the career of the James gang was ended.
FREDERICK T. KEMPER, Frederick Kemper was born in Virginia. He established Kemper Family School in 1844, which later became Kemper Military School. The school steadily grew until it became one of the finest schools of its kind in the United States. Crosby Kemper, a banker in Kansas City who gave money to different organizations and causes in Boonville, is thought to be distantly related to Frederick T. Kemper. See more under Kemper Military Academy under schools section.
THOMAS KIRCHMANN, from Pisgah is known for inventing the cyclone “stacker” on threshers and the self-tying hay baler. He also made improvements on the steam engine.
NATHANIEL LEONARD, Nathaniel Leonard was born at Windsor, Vermont, June 13, 1799. He founded Ravenswood Farm in 1825, and was the first man to bring registered shorthorn cattle into the state of Missouri and into the United States west of the Mississippi River.
The English herdsman, Thomas Boyen, set out from Chillicothe, Ohio, on May 22, 1839, to deliver the historic shipment of fine stock. He had to travel two days on a canal boat until he reached the Ohio River, then transfer his stock and forage onto a riverboat for the trip down the river until he reached Cincinnati or Louisville, transfer boats again to go down the Ohio to the Mississippi, then upstream to St. Louis, where he changed to a Missouri riverboat to take him to Boonville, with the last part of his long journey overland about 12 miles.
Nathaniel Leonard successfully carried on farming and stock breeding on the Ravenswood Farm during his lifetime. He died at his farm on December 30, 1876. He was succeeded by his son, Captain Charles E. Leonard.
CAPTAIN CHARLES LEONARD, was reared on Ravenswood Farm. He received his education at Kemper Military School and the University of Missouri at Columbia. After receiving his education, he returned to the farm and was actively engaged in farming most of his life. He served as director of the American Shorthorn Association from 1882-1906. He was also president of the Central National Bank of Boonville.
NATHANIEL CHARLES LEONARD, only son of Captain Charles Leonard, was educated at Kemper Military School and Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. He completed a law course in 1898, after which he spent most of his time continuing the breeding of shorthorn cattle.
CHARLES WILLARD LEONARD, son of Nathaniel Nelson Leonard, purchased the remainder of the farm from his brother and sister. His son, Charles Edward Leonard (great-great-grandson of Nathaniel Leonard) managed the farm until Charles W. died January 5, 2002. After the passing of Charles Edward in 2015, Ravenswood Farm passed into a family trust.
WILLIAM MITTELBACH, Pharmacist, graduated from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and received an honorary Doctor of Science in recognition of his service and dedication to the practice of pharmacy and his community of Boonville. Dr. Mittelbach was active in the Evangelical Church and many civic groups, including many years of service to the Board of Education. A memorial fountain in his honor stands just inside the Walnut Grove cemetery entrance. A 1926 biography stated, “No man in the history of Boonville has held more positions both honorary and active than this esteemed citizen.”
He was also a nationally recognized pharmacist, serving as president of national and state pharmacy organizations, and the Missouri Board of Pharmacy. He was a recognized authority in pharmaceutical science and a research associate of the St. Louis College of Pharmacy.
JORDAN O’BRYAN, Jordan O’Bryan served under General “Old Hickory” Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans. He moved to Cooper County soon afterward. He was a state senator during the 13th and 14th general assemblies, 1844 and 1846. He was county representative in the third, fourth and eighth general assemblies in 1824, 1826, and 1834. He was a Baptist leader known throughout Missouri. He was on the committee to locate William Jewell College. In an effort to establish the college at Boonville, he was able to deadlock the committee’s decision. The town of Liberty finally won by one vote.
W. L. NELSON, Nelson was a representative in Congress 10 of the 14 years from 1919-1933. In 1934 he was elected from the new second district of Missouri. He was also one of the first rural weekly editors in the United States to regularly feature farm and livestock news in the newspaper The Bunceton Weekly Eagle.
WILL ROGERS, Will Rogers attended Kemper Military School in Boonville from 1896-1903. Years later he became famous as an actor, humorist, writer, and philosopher.
LON V. STEPHNS, Lon Vest Stephens was a native of Boonville. He came from a family with banking history and was a graduate of Kemper Military School. He was governor of Missouri from 1897-1901. Before becoming governor, he was the state treasurer.
During the time he was governor, the first Missouri State Fair was held and many state institutions were established. Some of these include: The State Historical Society of Missouri in Columbia, the Fruit Experiment Station at Mountain Grove, a School for the Feeble-minded and Epileptic in Marshall, a state hospital for the insane at Farmington, and the State Board of Charities and Corrections.
JAMES MILTON TURNER, James Milton Turner was born a slave in St. Louis, Missouri in 1840. His parents were John Turner Colburn and Hannah. John was a horse doctor. He bought his freedom and then in 1843, the freedom of his wife and son.
In 1847, a law was passed in Missouri that forbade blacks to be educated. This did not stop the Turners, as James was educated in secret. He attended Oberlin College for one term when he was 14, but was forced to leave school in 1855 when his father died. He returned to St. Louis and supported his mother by working a a porter at the beginning of the Civil War. Turner became a body servant (valet) to Madison Miller, who joined the Union as a captain of the 1st. Missouri infantry. Among other battles, they served together at Wilson's Creek and Shiloh. By the time the war was over, Miller was a Colonel.
Colonel Miller's brother-in-law, Thomas Fletcher, was elected Governor of Missouri in November 1864. Governor Fletcher appointed Turner Assistant Superintendent of schools where he was in charge of establishing schools for blacks. Over thirty schools were opened across the state while Turner served in the Department of Education, including Lincoln Institute in Jefferson 'City, now known as Lincoln University, which was the first black high school and teacher training school in Missouri.
A civil rights activist, Turner was one of the founders of the Missouri Equal League. This was the first black political organization in the state. In1871, Turner was appointed Ambassador to Liberia by President Ulysses Grant. Serving in Monrovia, Liberia, from 1871 to 1878, Turner was the first African American diplomat to a foreign country. When Turner returned from Liberia. he continued to reach out and help others succeed in the white man's world. He served on the Refugee Relief Board, and in 1881 he and Hannibal Carter organized Freedman's Oklahoma Immigration Association to promote homesteading in Oklahoma. He spent the next 20 years of his life in Indian Territory, fighting for the rights of blacks. He died in Ardmore, Oklahoma on November 1, 1915. A bust of James Milton Turner stands on a pedestal in the Morgan Street Park on the northwest corner of Main and Morgan Streets in Boonville.
References: Elizabeth Davis : Historically Yours; James Milton Turner 1840-1915
James Milton Turner -SHSMO - Historic Missourians
Jame Milton Turner - (1839? - 1915) Missouri Encyclopedia
James Milton Turner (1840-1915) BlackPast
James Milton Turner - Wikipedia
GEORGE GRAHAM VEST, Senator George Graham Vest represented Missouri in the United States Senate from 1879-1903. He was an early Boonville lawyer, involved in the building of Thespian Hall, a state legislator from Cooper County, and a supporter of the secessionist movement. He left Boonville at the First Battle of Boonville on June 17, 1861. He is most remembered for his famous “Eulogy to a Dog,” given before a jury at Warrensburg, Missouri.
PAUL WHITLEY, Paul Whitley was born 13 years before the American Revolution, on July 20, 1762. He died September 23, 1835. He made provisions in his will to leave money to the “poor children” in Cooper County. His will stated “at the death of my wife whatsoever may remain I wish placed by my executors in the hands of the County Court of the County of Cooper, and that they cause the same to be disposed of for schooling of the poor children in the township of Moniteau in said County of Cooper and State of Missouri. The amount of his estate was $3,768. Following the death of his wife in 1855, the money was turned over to the county court to be given to the poor in the schools. The amount grew to $13,000 due to interest because it was several years before it was used. Money was given to the schools each year. In one year, 1927, 877 boys and girls enjoyed the gift given to them. In the early 1900s, his body was removed from the grave on the bluffs of the Missouri River near Wooldridge. It was taken to Harris Cemetery near Prairie Home where a Monument was erected in his honor.
WALTER WILLIAMS, Walter Williams was a distinguished editor. He founded the first School of Journalism in the world and was President of the University of Missouri, at Columbia. He was a native of Boonville. He took his early training as an apprentice on a Boonville newspaper, later becoming its editor as well as the editor of a Columbia newspaper. He was a firm believer in the free press. He died in 1935.
HORACE GEORGE WINDSOR, Horace George Windsor was the first president of the Missouri Corn Growers Association, serving until his death. In 1915, he raised the first 100 bushels of corn per acre crop in the world. He raised 116.9 bushels of corn per acre in 1917. In one year, he won first prize for the best corn in six state fairs.
DE WITT C. WING, DeWitt Wing was a native of Lamine township. He started his career as editor of The Missouri Democrat. He was editor of the Chicago Breeder’s Gazette for 26 years. He was editor of the Rural New Yorker, New York City. He was an information specialist for the Federal Agricultural Adjustment Administration.
CHARLES WOODS, Cooper County Missouri Justice of the Peace, 1820-1829, Justice of the Court, 1825. Woods was Born 1791 in Madison County, Kentucky, the fourth child of Rev. Peter Woods. In 1810 he moved to Franklin County, Tennessee. He entered the service in 1812 and Tennessee in 1814. He served as a Corporal and as a Sergeant. He served under Colonels Thomas Hart Benton and William Pillow. In both cases, the General was Andrew Jackson. Charles received 160 acres in the form of a military warrant for his service in the War of 1812.
He was named a Justice of the Peace of Lamine Township, Cooper County, in 1820 by Governor Alexander McNair. The 1883 History of Cooper County lists him as a settler of Kelly Township in 1818. Charles was also named a Justice of the Peace for the Township of Moniteau, County in 1829, this time by Governor Frederick Bates. Each of these offices were for four years in duration.
Charles was a County Justice, which is the equivalent of a County Commissioner today, in the May, through November Terms of 1825. According to minutes of these terms, this body was involved in the decisions of where to place roads, who would operate ferries, caring for paupers, appointed road overseers, appointed “Captain of the Patriots” in Boonville (and relieved the same), administrated patrols, approved repairs of the jail and other public properties as well as the costs associated with these, administrated the activities of the Sheriff, as well as other county officers.
Charles is described in the 1883 History of Cooper County as being “for many years the leading Democrat in his neighborhood. He was a man of no ordinary ability, of pleasant address, and a liberal-high-toned gentleman. “Charles Woods died in January 1873 in Tipton, Missouri. He and his wife, Susan Jennings Woods, are buried in a cemetery named Woods Family Cemetery Number Two.