Adapted from Discover Cooper County by Ann Betteridge
Cooper County Townships were not all formed at the same time. Townships changed names and territory throughout the early history of the County. The first election after Cooper County was organized was held August 2, 1819 and four townships were established...Arrow Rock, Miami, Tabeau and Lamine, which included the town of Boonville.
In May, 1820, the original townships remained the same and Moreau Township was added. Cooper County was bounded on the east and south by the Osage River, on the west by the Indian Territory, and on the north by the Missouri River. Lamine Township at that time included about all within the present limits of Cooper County, plus some territory not now included in its limits.
In August, 1820, Osage and Jefferson townships were added. When Saline County was formed, Arrow Rock, Miami and Tabeau went away. Moreau went to Moniteau County.
On July 12, 1855, the following townships had been established and still exist in the County: Boonville; Lamine; Saline; Clark's Fork; Moniteau; Kelly; Palestine; Clear Creek; Pilot Grove; Blackwater; and Lebanon.
A total of 14 townships were established by 1877. Moniteau was divided into north and south, and since 1897 the final township configuration has remained the same.
At one time Cooper County was dotted with many small family farms. Many of these small farms have been in the same family for over 100 years and are known as “Century Farms”. But after the Depression, and the locusts and dust storms of the 1930s, and the drop in farm prices in the 1980’s, many small farms were lost to creditors and were often purchased at bargain prices, then were consolidated into larger farms. The trend towards large farming operations has resulted in a drop in county population.
Living in an rural area that is not crowded has its advantages - people are more friendly, neighbors are close, but not too close, and people are usually very supportive of their schools and communities. People you don’t even know wave as they pass on the road. That will never happen in the city.
References – Small Cooper County Towns
History of Cooper County by W.F. Johnson: Townships pages 218-249
A Pictorial History of the Boonslick Area
Bicentennial Boonslick History
Physical Features: This township is a peninsula, being almost entirely surrounded by the Lamine and Blackwater rivers. The soil is rich and very productive. The minerals found in the township were partially responsible for the settlement of the township. Minerals found there are iron, lead, and salt. In 1888, there were six salt springs and a great number of fresh water springs in this area. Salt was manufactured at salt water springs from as early as 1808 through 1836. The manufacture of salt was carried on extensively by Heath, Baley, Christie, Allison, and others.
Settlement: William Christie and John G. Heath temporarily settled in this township in 1808. They remained only long enough to manufacture a small quantity of salt, then returned down the river. James Broch, the first permanent settler, arrived in 1816, and planted an acre of cotton which produced a high yield. Some of the first settlers were: Enoch Hambrich, who came in 1817; David Shellcraw in 1818; Nathaniel T. Allison, Sr. In 1831; Fleming Marshall and Robert Clark in 1832; Nathaniel Bridgewater in 1835; and Edmund M. Cobb and Larkin T. Dix in 1834.
In 1937 Blackwater had two general merchandise stores, a grocery store, two hardware stores, two barber shops, a beauty shop, blacksmith, post office, lumber company, bank, a hotel, one elevator, two doctors and the Blackwater Stone Company. Today, all that remains is the post office, city hall, bank, hotel, and the train station aka “The Depot” which is used as a community center. There are a few antique and trendy shops along Main Street as well as a restaurant. “The Hollow,” a large event venue, once Fahrendorf Feed and Hardware Supply, is used primarily as a reception area for Wildcliff Weddings and Events. The Blackwater Preservation Society is active in maintaining this attractive and unique town.
The only town remaining in Blackwater Township, is Blackwater.
References for Blackwater Township at CCHS: History of Blackwater
Physical Features: The Missouri River is on the north; the Petite Saline Creek runs through the southern part of the township and the Lamine River borders a portion of the western part of the township. This township’s soil is very productive, and is especially good for growing fruit. Large quantities of coal have also been mined from this area
Settlement: The first settlers of the township were Stephen and Hannah Cole, who settled there in 1810. William McFarland, the first Sheriff of Cooper County, was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina. In October, 1816 he settled on the north side of the Petite Saline Creek. In 1818 he was a member of the Territorial Legislature from the southern district of Howard County. He was elected a member of the Legislature from Cooper County in 1822, 1824, and 1838. Luke Williams, a Baptist preacher, was a farmer and lived about five miles west of Boonville.
Justinian Williams was born in Bath County, Virginia, and while young, emigrated to Kentucky. Later, he moved to Howard County and from there settled at Boonville in 1818, organizing the first Methodist Church in Cooper County the same year. He was a cabinet maker by trade. He was also the local preacher in Boonville for several years. In 1834 he built a steam boat and was its commander for several years.
Marcus Williams was the first mayor of Boonville. He came to Boonville from Kentucky. He was a brick mason by trade, and manufactured the first bricks ever commercially made in Cooper County. In 1840 he made the first stoneware ever manufactured in western Missouri.
Boonville Township was the first township in the county to be settled. Between 1830 and 1840 a number of men settled in Boonville and engaged extensively in the mercantile business. The years 1840-1850 were a time of great prosperity in Boonville.
During the Civil War, there was a period of confusion, violence, anger and disruption in Boonville. The economy of the township stood still, and the effect of the war lingered for some time following the war. The troops on both sides had stolen or commandeered most of the horses and livestock and any food they could find. Buildings and homes had been destroyed and crops ruined.
Just following the war was the growth of railroads in the county, which started a new period of prosperity. In Boonville, the first municipal water system was completed in 1883 and a telephone system was also started in in 1883. Main street was paved with bricks in 1898. Street lighting by electricity replaced the gas lights. In 1924 a new east-west highway bridge over the Missouri River brought more traffic to Boonville and more people, as the road went down Main street. Factories and new businesses also came to Boonville at this time.
Today Boonville is the largest city in the County and still prosperous, although not as busy as in earlier years. The older buildings along the main street, and the early churches have been well preserved and are still in use. Especially interesting are Thespian Hall, the old jail, Roslyn Heights and the Hain House. Many of the beautiful older homes are listed on the National Register. Most of the Main Street buildings are still in use and are well maintained. Several of the older buildings in the city have been repurposed. The old KATY Railroad Bridge, spanning the Missouri River, is one of the focal points of the city, which is rich in history.
Billingsville, once a busy community is now an unincorporated area in the township, a small settlement consisting of a lovely church, a mix of old and new homes and a large well-kept cemetery. At one time it was one of several busy stage coach stops in the county.
References for Boonville Township at CCHS:
History of Billingsville, Prairie Lick and Stoney Point;
Boonville An Illustrated History
Boonville An Historic River Town
Also, see list of thing to see in Boonville near the end of the website.
CLARK’S FORK TOWNSHIP
Physical Features: The township is watered by Clark’s Fork and the Petite Saline Creek with their tributaries. There is probably more prairie in this township than in any other township in the County.
Settlement: John Glover was the first settler of this township. He came in 1813 and built a log cabin on the south bank of the Petite Saline Creek. The next settlers were John C. Rochester and Zephaniah Bell. John C. Rochester was a grandson of the founder of the city of Rochester, New York. John lost a fortune by having to pay a large security debt. He wanted to come to a new country where society would accept him. He married Sallie Kelly, a daughter of James Kelly, who was a soldier of the American Revolution. Mr. Bell was a farmer.
George Crawford was the first assessor of Cooper County. He was also a member of the legislature from Cooper County. Judge George Weight settled in Clark’s Fork Township in 1822, and he taught school in Cooper County. He was a good violinist, and in his early days taught a dancing school. He was judge of the County court and county surveyor of Cooper County for many years.
There were several brick kilns and a lime kiln in the area. Water-powered mills were built. Flour and meal were so important that four mills did a good business in the community. The mills were: Rankin’s Mill, Jewett’s Mill, Connor’s Mill, and Gooch Mill.
In 1847, Jacob Schilb and family came to the United States from Bavaria and settled near Gooch Mill. They began to make crockery: jars, crocks, and jugs.
Old Overton, at the edge of the Missouri River, had a tomato processing factory and it had a ferry boat landing nearby. The Missouri Pacific Railroad built a depot there.
There were four covered bridges in the area: Crawford, Hurt, Connors, and Big Lick. They all spanned the Petite Saline Creek. Not only did the bridges save fording the stream, they also provided shelter from rain and storms, and provided a cool place for tired, hot horses to rest. Unfortunately, all of the covered bridges are now gone.
The Lone Elm public school closed in 1963 when county schools were consolidated. There is now a large church at Lone Elm named Zion Lutheran Church. The church has a very successful private Christian Day School that is providing an excellent education for area students.
There are two remining small unincorporated settlements in Clark’s Fork Township – Lone Elm and Clark’s Fork.
CLEAR CREEK TOWNSHIP
Physical Features: Clear Creek Township is one of the oldest townships in Cooper County. It received its name from the creek which flows through it in a northwesterly direction. It flows over a pebbly bottom causing its waters to be unusually clear, which makes it truly a “clear creek.” The surface of the township is rough in the northern and western portions but there is rich farmland in the southern and eastern portions. The Lamine River and numerous smaller streams flow through the township. It is 44 square miles in area.
Settlement: Isaac Ellis, Alex Brown, and a Mr. Scott settled in the northwestern part of the township in about 1816. Another early settler of this township was James Taylor, who had three sons, William, John, and James. He witnessed the long series of earthquakes which occurred in New Madrid in 1811. He moved to Cooper County in 1817. He had a large plantation, and raised, and always had on hand, large quantities of corn, which he stored in cribs. He would not sell the corn unless he received the price he asked. He also would not sell the corn to those he thought were not thrifty. One time when corn was very scarce in the county, and very little could be had, two men came to Mr. Taylor’s house asking to buy some corn on credit. One was very poorly dressed, with his pants torn off below his knees, and what there was remaining of them patched all over. The other was almost elegantly dressed. Mr. Taylor sold the poorly dressed man, on credit, all the corn he wished. He told the other one that ‘he could get no corn there, unless he paid the money for it, and that if he had saved the money which he had squandered for his fine clothes he would have had enough to pay cash for the corn.” Mr. Taylor was a leader in the Baptist church and a kind neighbor. Mr. Taylor was known as “Corn Taylor”.
Jordan O’Bryan, a son-in-law of James Taylor, was also one of the early settlers of this township. He was elected to the state legislature in 1822, 1826, 1834, and 1840. In 1844, he was elected state senator for four years.
James Taylor’s son, John, continued raising corn as his father did. He built a large plantation home which was completed in 1859. The house, later named Crestmead, has been restored. It has been in the Betteridge family since 1903. At the same time, he was building Crestmead, he served on the committee to build Mt. Nebo Baptist Church.
In 1823, Samuel Walker arrived and located in the southern part of the township. His father, Winston, had already built a fort in this area.
In 1814, Stephen Young and Lawrence Sommers, the first German immigrants, arrived in the township. Following in his tracks were numerous Germans, who settled most of the northern and western portions of the township. The Germans proved themselves to be a very industrious and thrifty people. Most German immigrants to this township came between 1830 and 1850. Between 1840 and 1850, the following men and their families came from Germany and other places in Missouri: Adam Aulbach, Jacob Beck, Theodore Bester, John Deil, Jacob Deil, Bertram Felten, Fran Grotzinger, Gergory Klenklen, Henry Jansen, Melchior Kraus, Andrew Neckerman, Anton Schibi, Michael Schoen, F. M. Larm, Franz Stolzenberger, Bernard H. Twenter, John B. Twenter, Anthony Youngkamp, John G. Walz, Anton Wessing, and George A. Zoeller. They mostly settled on the hills which the Americans thought too poor to cultivate, and become very prosperous. They succeeded in raising good crops and in making a good living. In hilly areas they cultivated grapes very successfully. The Missouri, Kansas, and Texas (MKT or KATY) railroad ran about five miles through this township, furnishing the inhabitants transportation for their surplus products.
"Here are some of my reminiscences of my Great Grand Grandmother, Maria Martin Day, "Grandma Day". This is from a book written by Agnes Immele Meriwether called "Bernhard Martin and His Descendants" from 1962. Grandma Day, I feel, is one of Cooper Counties Heroes. She had a hard, good life and I'm proud to be connected with her and her stories". Wayne Lammers
In 1816 Alex Brown, Isaac Ellis and Mr. Scott and their families settled in the area which came to be known as Pleasant Green. In 1823, Samuel Walker arrived who was the owner of a large federal grant of land. Judge Smith Walker and his father Winston built a small brick house on edge of the Walker land and named it “Pleasant Green”. The name was also given to the nearby Methodist Church founded in 1825 (still in use) and eventually the town.
The town was located on the MKT Railroad line and was an important shipping station for 40 years. In its most prosperous days it had three general stores, a bank, a drug store, hardware store, barber, small hotel, two grain elevators, livery stables, blacksmith, post office and a telephone office. People started to leave in the late 1920’s and 30’s due to the depression and changes in transportation.
Cooper County’s first bank robbery took place in Pleasant Green in 1926. Today, Pleasant Green and Burrwood are the only evidences of the busy town that once existed there.
Every year since 1953 the Township has had an annual sanctioned radio.
Pleasant Green is the only town that has ever been in Clear Creek Township.
References for Clear Creek Township at CCHS:
History of Clear Creek
Pleasant Green Underground
Physical Features: The surface of the township consists mainly of prairie with some timbered portions. Moniteau Creek, with its tributaries, extends through two-thirds of the township from east to west, and the Petite Saline Creek waters a portion of the western part of the township. The township was named in honor of John Kelly, one of its early pioneers.
Settlement James Kelly was a Revolutionary War soldier. He, along with Charles Woods and James D. Campbell, served as soldiers in the War of 1812. The Kelly’s came from Tennessee. William Jennings came from Georgia to Cooper County in 1819, and owned a large tract of land. He was the first preacher in the township, and was the pastor of “Old Nebo” Church for many years.
James D. Campbell was an early justice of the county court and acted as justice of the peace for many years. He was a prominent politician, always voting the Democratic ticket. Charles Woods, also known as General Charles Woods, was for many years the leading Democrat in his neighborhood. Joseph Reavis settled in the township in 1823. He and his sons manufactured excellent wagons. Their trade extended for miles around. Their wagons were sometimes purchased by the Santa Fe traders.
The first school was taught by Joseph S. Anderson in 1824. He taught until 1828 when he was elected sheriff of Cooper County. In 1832 he was elected to the legislature from Cooper County. Rice Challis, an early settler in this township, was a carpenter.
The soil of this township is very productive and the farmers are generally prosperous. The Union Pacific Railroad was a short distance south of the township. Until 1937, the Osage Valley and Southern Kansas Railroad ran eight miles directly through its center, affording the inhabitants easy facilities for the shipping of their products. Corn, wheat, and soybeans were among the principal products, with many farmers raising live stock as well. At the height of its prosperity, hundreds of cars of cattle, sheep, hogs, poultry and mules were shipped to St. Louis each year.
The town grew rapidly and by 1899 the town had two drug stores, 3 general stores, 2 millinery stores, 4 grocery stores, a hotel, 4 barbershops, 3 blacksmiths, 2 physicians, 2 lumber yards, one livery stable, a carpenter, a public school, a private school, a flour mill, 4 churches and a population of 1,000 people.
Beginning in 1896, Bunceton was noted for its annual Fair. The Fair was eventually replaced by the 4th of July Days that Bunceton celebrates each year. Although individuals do not bring projects to be judged like in most fairs, there are games to play: dunking booth, cake walk, pedal pull, bounce house, pony rides, to name a few, along with fiddle contests, an ice cream social and street dance. A parade is held every year. This special event is open to the public and fun to attend.
Since its founding, Bunceton has suffered from many fires which have destroyed three mills and much of the main street business area. As the town began to lose population after the train was rerouted and bypassed the town, much of the business area deteriorated and has been removed. One building which has been used for several things is the Princess theater, built in 1917, which has been later used as a funeral home, a bar (Lucky's Place), and currently it has been made into an apartment.
At one time, when the railroad came through town, Bunceton grew to be the second largest town in Cooper County. Today, Bunceton is the only town in Kelly Township, with a current population of 354.
References for Kelly Township at CCHS:
Bunceton 1868-1888; Bunceton 1868-1993
Physical Features: The surface of the township is rolling and was originally covered with a heavy growth of timber. Most of the soil is rich and, in some localities, very productive. Three sides of the township are surrounded by water.
Settlement: The township was settled first in 1812. The very first settlers were David Jones, a Revolutionary War soldier; Thomas and James McMahan; Stephen, Samuel and Jesse Turley; and Saunders Townsend. Others came soon afterwards. In 1812 a fort, called McMahan’s Fort, was built in this township, but was later attacked by Indians in 1814 and burned to the ground.
This township was at one time, one of the wealthiest townships in the County. Lead deposits were found and mined. A large quantity of high-quality lumber and cord-wood was cut every year from the plentiful woods and was shipped by men of the Blackwater and Lamine River areas. The streams have abundant fish.
Tornadoes have not been kind to Lamine and eventually the town was moved closer to the river and the railroad, and is sometimes called “New Lamine. Lamine Township has only one very small settlement at this time – Lamine.
References for Lamine Township at CCHS:
Our Town, Lamine Missouri
Physical Features: Lebanon township is bounded on the north by Clear Creek and Palestine townships, on the east by Kelly township, on the south by Morgan county, and on the west by Otterville township. This township was organized about 1826.
In the western part of the township the surface is rough and partly timbered. There are fine stretches of prairie and rolling land in the southern and eastern part.
Settlement: Thomas J. Starke, of Otterville, wrote an interesting history of Otterville and Lebanon. He read the history on the 4th day of July, 1876, at a meeting of the citizens of Otterville. He spent almost 70 years in Cooper County where he grew to manhood, married and died. He was the father of Mrs. D. S. Koontz of Boonville. (remove)
The first settlement of the township was New Lebanon, six miles north of Otterville. During the fall of 1819 and spring of 1820 the following people came to New Lebanon to settle: Rev. Finis Ewing, Rev. James L. Wear, John Wear, James H. Wear, Samuel Wear, Alexander Sloan, Robert Kirkpatrick, Colin C. Stoneman, William Stone, Frederick Casteel, Reuben A. Ewing, James Berry, Thomas Rubey, Elizabeth Steele, a Mr. Smiley, Rev. Laird Burns, John Burns, John Reed, Silas Thomas, James Taylor, Hugh Wear, who as a brother to James L. and John Wear, James McFarland and Rev. William Kavanaugh.
Rev. Finnis Ewing was a minister of the gospel, and one of the original founders of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He was from Kentucky. He became a minister in 1803 and with Samuel McAdam and Samuel King, founded the Cumberland Church in 1810. New Lebanon settlers pitched their tents and began building a church and seminary. It was built of hewn logs. Each person brought their share of the logs. These logs were double, that is, each log was 24 feet in length, being joined in the middle of the house by means of an upright post, into which the ends were mortised, making the entire length of the church 48 feet, and 30 feet in width. This building served as a place of worship until 1860, when the new brick church of the present day was built on the site of the old one, which was torn down.
The Rev. James L. Wear was for many years a Cumberland Presbyterian preacher.
Rev. John Reid was another minister of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He first lived at Honey Creek and afterward moved to many different places. Reid was driving a team for a man who was moving to this country with Mr. Ewing, who had bells on his six-horse team. The young man liked the jingle of these bells so well that he begged Mr. Ewing to allow his teamster to divide with him, in order that he might share the music, but Mr. Ewing “could not see it” and refused to make the division as asked. Reid bought a number of cowbells and hung one on each horse of his team, which soon had the effect of bringing the preacher to terms. Mr. Ewing was so much bothered with the discord made by these coarse bells that he soon suggested a compromise by giving Reid his sleigh bells, provided he would stop the cowbell part of the concert.
New Lebanon is the only settlement left in New Lebanon Township, but it has been beautifully preserved. The church and school are in excellent condition, as is Uncle Abe’s Store. There is also a large cemetery. A visit to New Lebanon allows you to take a rare step back in time and is worth a visit.
References for Lebanon Township at CCHS: History of New Lebanon
NORTH AND SOUTH MONITEAU TOWNSHIPS
Physical Features: These two townships, originally one, are separated by the Moniteau Creek. They are bounded on the north by Clark’s Fork and Prairie Home townships, on the east and south by Moniteau County and on the west by Kelly Township. The surface near the Moniteau Creek tends to be rough, gradually giving way to prairie both in the north and south.
Settlement: Pisgah is the second oldest town in Cooper County. The area was first settled in 1818. Thomas B. Smiley, an early settler, was elected to the Legislature from Cooper County in 1820, with Thomas Rogers and William Lillard. Thomas Smiley was a man of considerable information and a good historian. He raised a large family of children and died in 1836. Mr. Shelton, a blacksmith, settled near the town of Pisgah in 1818. He was well-known for his good work with metals and at that time was the only blacksmith in the county outside of Boonville.
Some of the early settlers in this area were Seth Joseph, Waid and Stephen Howard, William Coal, Sames Stinson, Hawking Burress, David Burress, Charles Hickox, Samuel McFarland, Carroll George, James Snodgrass, Martin George, Alexander Woods, James Jones, David Jones, and Augustus K. Longan. David Jones settled at Pisgah before 1820, since his vote was recorded in that year. He and Archibald Kavanaugh were elected to the state legislature in 1830, 1832, and 1834. In 1836 he was elected State Senator, and was re-elected in 1848.
Pisgah and Mount Pleasant churches were built by the Baptists in the early days and were led by John B. Longan and Kemp Scott. The first school in this township was probably taught by James Donelson. He only professed to teach arithmetic as far as the “double rule of three.” A Mr. Summers and Judge Smith kept a store at “Old Round Hill.” Richard Bonsfield built a store at Pisgah.
Today, there are no towns or churches left in South Moniteau Township and there remain two, almost extinct towns, in North Moniteau Township – Pisgah and Cotton. Pisgah has a lovely church, Pisgah Baptist, which is still active.
The Pisgah Baptist church was organized in 1819 and is the second oldest Baptist church in Cooper County. At one time there was a croquette factory, grist mill, chair factory, carding mill, three general stores, a blacksmith and a drug store located there. Pisgah was the first town in Cooper County to have its own community center.
Cotton is also located in North Moniteau Township. It once was home to a large grist mill and a was busy little town. Dick’s Mill, the last standing in mill in Cooper County is still there, but not in operation and Dicks’ school is also still standing.
Physical Features: Otterville Township originally included part of Lebanon Township, but later covered all of Lebanon township west of the Lamine River.
Settlement: . In 1826, Thomas Parsons came to this area and found three families living west of the Lamine. These were the James G. Wilkerson, William Reed, and William Sloan families.
Thomas Parsons established the first hatters’ shop south of Boonville. Elijah Hook, a hunter and trapper, came from Tennessee and James Brown who came in 1827 and was a Kentuckian, farmer, and hunter. He had hunted with Daniel Boone. James Davis also came from Tennessee. He was an industrious farmer and great rail splitter. James Birney, a prominent farmer, came from Kentucky in 1827.
Frederick Shurley, the mightiest hunter in all the land round about Otterville, settled southeast of Otterville in 1827. He was with General Jackson in the Creek War, and was present at the Battle of Horse Shoe Bend, where the Indians had made their last stand. He used to tell with deep interest, the thrilling incidents of this war.
Nathan Neal came from Kentucky in 1827 and settled two miles north of Otterville. George Cranmer came to Boonville in 1828 and to Clifton City in 1832. He was a millwright and a mechanic. He and James H. Glasgow built what was known as Cranmer’s Mill, where the KATY railroad crossed the Lamine River. He named the area Clifton, which was previously known as Cold Neck.
There are many interesting stories about the town of Clifton City. Matthew Cox, a hunter and trapper of this area, was known for his tales. He told of being in a bear’s grip, when the bear pushed him off a high bluff which was nearly 500 feet high. They would strike and bound against the rocks every few feet, until they reached the bottom of the bluff. You would naturally think it was “Farewell Matthew,” but strange as it may seem, he escaped with a few slight scratches. The bear had, fortunately for Matthew, been on the underside every time they struck, till they reached the bottom, when the bear turned loose of the hunter and closed his eyes in death. Matthew Cox’s tales were generally much like this; almost always they ended favorable to him and fatal to his enemies. This tale made “Matthew’s Bluff” well known to everybody in this neighborhood.
In 1907, the original train depot at Clifton City burned. It was replaced by a new slate roofed depot and later moved in 1925. The first train made its maiden run in 1873. The last train made its final run passing through Clifton City, in 1986. The mail came in by train and was carried to the post office to be delivered. Several train wrecks date back to 1879 and 1918. Wrecks were blamed on a mix up in train orders. The train would whistle coming into town twice a day, but today, the whistle only lives on in memories of the days gone by.
Just off JJ, North of Hwy 135, was the location of the Stage Stop. Rumor has it that an old shed, close to this Stage Stop, is where the Jessie James gang would hide from time to time. The James gang at one time was caught not far from there on their way out of town. Jesse had a lot of friends at Clifton City and visited there often, or whenever he was passing through.
In the late 1800’s, Clifton City had a bank, a beautiful brick building standing on the South side of town. In 1886, W.B. Over the years the building has been a home to several different business - a café, grocery store and many other things. Today it still stands as a place for storage, and is slowly losing its beauty. The bank closed in 1929.
One of the greatest improvements for the rural people in Clifton City was made when farm to market roads were established. The roads were built in 1934 and 1935. There are now two paved roads going through Clifton City. The coming of cars and trucks hurt the railroad shipments. The new roads made it easy and less expensive for farmers to take their produce and cattle to market with their own trucks. So this was the beginning of a slow death to the small town of Clifton City.
The town of Otterville was first called Eldon. Later it was named for the great number of otters found in a creek which flows past the town. In 1860 the Missouri Pacific Railroad was built and ended in Otterville, and the town grew and prospered. Eventually the rail line was extended to Sedalia. As a result, Sedalia prospered and Otterville lost population and businesses.
The town of Otterville was first called Elktown and Ottertown before being named Otterville. It was laid out by Gideon R. Thompson in 1837. A public square was laid out and some buildings were built near the square. The town square at this time was where the Otterville School stands today. Otterville was incorporated by an act of the Legislature of Missouri on February 16, 1854. One hundred years after the town of Otterville was incorporated a city water system was added.
There was no post office in Otterville until March 24, 1848. When the post office started in Otterville, the mail was carried by horseback. Then the Missouri Pacific railway came through and that allowed the mail to be brought to town by train. The post office quit dispatching the mail to the trains in about 1965. Since then the mail is sent and received from Sedalia by truck.
Today Otterville Township has two small towns – Otterville and Clifton City.
References for Otterville Township at CCHS: Recollections of Clifton City, Clifton City 1873-2019 and Otterville Sesquicentennial
Physical Features: The surface of the township is mostly level, with the exception of a strip of rough land near the western side. There is evidence that this area was once an Indian settlement.
Settlement: The first people to come to this township were Joseph Stephens, William Moore, and Samuel Peters. Joseph Stephens Sr., and family, settled in Palestine in 1817, being led to their new home by Major Stephen Cole. In 1818, Samuel Peters settled two miles farther north at a place called Petersburg.
William Moore came from North Carolina with his family, including seven sons and three daughters. Margaret married Judge Lawrence C. Stephens in 1818; Sally married Col. John G. Hutchison, and Mary married Harvey Bunce, the founder of Bunceton.
When Samuel Peters began to build his home, he invited his neighbors to come and help him, saying that he would kill a hog and have it for dinner. Since this was the first hog ever butchered in this part of the state, and as very few of the settlers had ever tasted pork, it was not too difficult to persuade them to come and help. Before this time the settlers had lived entirely upon wild game. Always, on such occasions, they had a little “fire-water” to give life to the occasion.
Colonel Andrew and Judge John Briscoe settled in the same township in 1818. They were both very prominent men, and leaders in their parties, Andrew being a Whig, and John a Democrat. Some of the other early settlers were Henry, Hiram, Heli, and Harden Corum; Mr. Tevis (the father of Captain Simeon Tevis); Thomas Colins; Jacob Summers; Michael, James, and William Son; John and Joseph Cathey; James David and John H. Hutchison; Nathaniel Leonard; John and Andrew Wallace; Henry Woolery; Holbert and Samuel Cole; James Bridges; James Simms; Russell Smallwood; Thomas Best; Greenberry Allison; William C. Lowery; and Anthony F. Read.
Mr. Greenberry Allison dug the first cistern in the county, which proved to be a great success. Many of his neighbors imitated his example, as before this time, they had been forced to depend upon wells and springs for water.
Old Palestine, or Palestine, was the first permanent settlement in the central part of the county. It was a thriving community from the 1840's to the 1870’s. The building of the Osage Railroad from Tipton to Booneville caused the town to move from the original location on a hilltop to the valley below. The town in the valley was called “New Palestine” until the name was changed to “Speed” in the early 1900’s.
New Palestine grew rapidly and hastened the decline of Old Palestine. The railroad built a stock yard, and there were several businesses opened in Speed, including a bank. In 1876 there were 100 inhabitants and in the 1890 census there were 141 residents. Once the railroad no longer ran through Speed, the once prosperous town lost population and now there are no businesses there and only about 20 residents.
Palestine Township took the lead in education from the beginning. The first schools were taught by Lawrence C. S. Stephens, Dr. William H. Moore, and a young man from Virginia, also named William H. Moore, who was considered the best teacher in his day in this part of the country.
The first dancing school was opened in 1832, at the home of B. W. Levens, about a quarter of a mile east of Bunceton, by a man named Gibson. He was a polished gentleman, an excellent teacher, and was the first to introduce “cotillions,” which were, until that time, unknown in this part of the country. Mr. Gibson at that time had two other schools; one in Boonville and the other at Arrow Rock. He taught two days at each place during the week.
Bell Air was first settled by L.P. Bell in 1848. In 1860 the village contained a lovely Southern Methodist church, a doctor, a clothing store and tailor, a steam sawmill, a general merchandise store, a post office, two-story high school and elementary school, and a barber. It was also the location of the magnificent Ravenswood mansion. The school has been remodeled and now serves as a home for the Nelson Leonard family. Today only the remodeled school house, the church and Ravenswood remain.
There are only two very small settlements left in Palestine Township – Speed and Bell Air. Both had been very prosperous when they were served by a railroad. Today there are only a few homes and three churches remaining in the entire township.
PILOT GROVE TOWNSHIP
Physical Features: This township is very irregular in shape. mostly easy to cultivate. In the early. At present this township has a large percentage of cultivated land.
Settlement: The township was settled about 1820. Among the early settlers were John McCutchen, John Houx, Jacob Houx, L. A. Summers, James McElroy, Samuel Roe, Sr., Samuel Wooldridge, Enoch Mass, Absalom Meredith, Azariah Bone (who was a Methodist minister), John Rice (a blacksmith), Mr. Magee (after whom “Magee Grove: was named), and Samuel Gilbert (who had success as a cancer doctor).
This township was distinguished in the early times by the number and variety of camp meetings which were held there. The Presbyterians and Methodists were rivals for the honor of conducting the biggest and best camp meeting each year. People attended from great distances.
Thomas P. Cropper was the first noted teacher in this township. He taught in 1828 and 1829. Pilot Grove is located in the northeast quarter of the township and surrounded by large and beautiful farming country.
Bill Anderson and his Civil War guerrillas rode into the Pilot Grove Post Office one bright afternoon in the spring of 1864. The citizens were made to form a line while they were stripped of their personal valuables. Mr. William Mayo, one of the citizens, refused to give up his beautiful gold watch, and started to flee. Mr. Thomas Brownfield joined him. The guerrillas chased them, and overtaking Mr. Mayo, killed him with a pistol. Mr. Brownfield was wounded but was able to hide from the enemy and come away alive. The other citizens were not harmed.
In the summer of 1864, during a revival meeting in the Southern Methodist Episcopal church at Pilot Grove, Capt. Todd surrounded the building with a company of about sixty savage-looking bushwhackers, who rudely entered the church, stopped the service, and ejected the worshipers. After eating food prepared for the occasion and selecting the horses they desired from the many tied to the trees nearby, they left, taking with them two citizens, Peter Mitzell and Otho Zeller, as hostages. Their safety depended on the good conduct of the citizens in not pursuing or informing on them, because there were state militia stationed at different places nearby. These two unfortunate men were killed that night some miles east of Pilot Grove, near Lone Elm Prairie. Their bodies were found a day or two later.
The same party of bushwhackers, returning a day or two later, passed through the German settlement three miles west of Pilot Grove and killed two citizens, John Diehl and Mr. Vollmer. These men thought they were Federal troops because a number of them were dressed in blue.
CHOUTEAU SPRINGS (PILOT GROVE TOWNSHIP)
At one time there were 40 acres of land named Chouteau Springs, which included three sulfur springs and two clear water springs. This land was part of a grant in 1792 from the Osage Indians to Pierre Chouteau, which was later purchased by William Ashley. The property was operated as a popular summer resort in the 1840’s. During the Civil War, both General Joe Shelby and General Sterling Price camped there, but not at the same time. Bushwhackers and guerillas took much of the food stored in the cellars and took away most of the livestock and poultry.
After the War, some people tried to profit from the mineral springs by going to close by towns and selling the water in 2-gallon pottery jugs from the back of a wagon. The springs discharged water at the rate of ten gallons per minute or 14,400 gallons per day. Following the War the railroad came to the area and people could travel to the resort by train, and a team and buggy would take them to the hotel, operated by the famous cook – Grandma Day. (A picture of her clock is featured on the Timeline).
In 1900 the resort was expanded to include baths, bath houses, a swimming pool (with its rotten egg smell) and cottages for summer residents. There was a pavilion for concerts and dances, a large swimming pool and a bowling alley. The hotel was torn down in 1938, along with the bowling alley and livery stable. The resort was closed in 1962. Now all that is left of this area are the springs. The Chouteau Water is very high in sulfur and the federal government marked it as too high for human consumption. In the 1950’s the government shut down the wells to the public and closed the pool.
Pilot Grove is now the second largest town in Cooper County and the only town in Pilot Grove Township. It is still a very active community but very few businesses remain.
References for Pilot Grove Township at CCHS: Pilot Grove Centennial 1873-1973
Wooden Bowling Ball
no finger holes
Chouteau Spring Pavilion in the late 1890's.
Photo by Max Schmidt
PRAIRIE HOME TOWNSHIP
Physical Features: This township is generally level, being mostly prairie. The soil is good and produces well. The northern portions of the township were settled by thrifty Germans.
Settlement: The oldest settlers were James McClain, Lucy McClanahan, Adam McClanahan, Jacob Carpenter, Absalom McClanahan, Michael Hornbeck, Samuel Carpenter, William N. McClanahan, William G. McClanahan, and Jeremiah Smith. It appears that these men were located in this township previous to 1820, as their votes were recorded in that year. Some of their homes may not be confined to the limits of the township, but they were not far distant from the line.
In the 1830's, a stage coach depot was located along the road between Boonville and Jefferson City. Known as "Midway." The stop was about 1 ½ miles east of the present site of Prairie Home at Tompkins' Inn. Some years later, around 1857 by some reports, or 1865 by others, James Boswell constructed the first building in what was to become Prairie Home. The most common explanation of how the town got its name is that it came from Boswell, who lived a short distance east of the store. He referred to it as his "prairie home." the name can also be credited to the town's location "on a beautiful prairie”. A third possibility for the town’s name is that it was named after the Prairie Home Institute, a private boarding school, which was founded in 1865 by the Rev. A. H. Misseldine.
However, this leads to the question of how the Institute came to be named, which may be answered by either of the previous two alternatives.
In 1872 parts of Clarks Fork, Moniteau, and Saline townships were carved out to make up the new Prairie Home Township, said to be laid out around the Prairie Home Institute. In 1876, Prairie Home was described as having a post office, one store, a public school and the private boarding school. It was not until June 16, 1894 that the actual town of Prairie Home was laid out.
The town of Prairie Home is the only town located in this township.
References for Prairie Home Township at CCHS: A Brief History of Prairie Home
The History of the Don Carlos Family: Early Social and Political Influencers
Authored by Dr. Christine E. Boston, Assistant Professor (Lincoln University), and Michelle Brooks, MA Student (BLS, 2018, Lincoln University)
The Don Carlos family was one of the original pioneer families to arrive in Cooper County, first arriving in the area in 1828. Carter Morgan and Talitha Don Carlos, the founding patriarch and matriarch of the Missouri family, opted to settle outside of Prairie Home, Missouri, at the suggestion of a local politician, who spoke highly of the area. Over the next 180 years the Don Carlos family grew not only in size but in social and political influence in the area, setting the foundations for many local traditions that continue to this day. This article will chronicle the story of the Don Carlos family and their impact on Cooper County.
According to family lore, the Don Carlos family was one of power and influence. Hailing from the Spanish royal family the original immigrant member of the Don Carlos family came to the United States because he lost his land and title, a result of the 1739 War of Polish Succession that was fought among France, Spain, and Sardonia. He came to the New World seeking out new adventures and possibilities, first arriving in New York and then moving to Virginia. This is where Carter Morgan’s story begins.
Carter Morgan Don Carlos was born in 1803. While born in Virginia he was reared in Tennessee, first by his father and then later by Uncles after his father went missing when he was 12 years old. At 21 he moved to Kentucky and met and married his first wife, Talitha. A year later they moved to Missouri before settling in Cooper County three years later. Carter Morgan is known for his organizational accomplishments, which included founding and serving in various fraternal organizations in Moniteau County and his push to secure the railroad to pass through California, Missouri, which unfortunately was unsuccessful. He and his wife had four children; the first of the 22 children Carter Morgan fathered from his three wives.
The Don Carlos children were not only numerous but played significant roles in the formation of Cooper and Moniteau Counties:
Hillard Don Carlos served as Cooper County Assessor between 1877 and 1882, as well as established the first drug store in Prairie Home. After a short tenure outside of Missouri he returned to Bunceton and established the Carlos Drug Store.
Benjamin Franklin Don Carlos is considered the originator of the Prairie Home Fair, one of Missouri’s longest running fairs. He was also responsible for securing the first telephone line to Prairie Home.
Christopher Columbus Don Carlos served as the Cooper County Assessor in 1872 and Sheriff/Collector from 1882 to 1886. He served in leadership positions in various local organizations, including the Moniteau Lodge, Liberty Grange, and Moniteau Agricultural and Mechanical Society.
William Don Carlos was the first President of the Prairie Home Fair Board in 1915.
The remaining children also played important economic roles in the region by farming, running small businesses, or working in the local communities throughout Cooper and Moniteau Counties. Their children (Carter Morgan’s grandchildren) also played noteworthy roles in the area, living and working throughout the region as engineers, laborers, teachers, and farmers.
Archaeological excavations at the Don Carlos Homestead site began in April 2017 and continue to this day. Led by Dr. Christine E. Boston of Lincoln University (Jefferson City, MO), these investigations hope to shed additional light on the domestic and agricultural life of the Don Carlos family. Several students and volunteers have been involved in these investigations, which have led to the recovery of farming equipment, domestic wares (e.g. ceramics and glass bottles), building materials, and more. Additional information regarding the consumption patterns, socioeconomic status, and agricultural lifeways have been gleaned from the archaeological artifacts recovered, but further investigations are ongoing.
Ford, James Everett. (1936) “A History of Moniteau County, Missouri.” The University of California.
Goodspeed. (1889) “History of Cole, Moniteau, Morgan Benton, Miller, Maries and Osage Counties, Missouri.” The Goodspeed Publishing Company, Chicago.
Johnson, William Foreman. (1919) “History of Cooper County, Missouri.” Historical Publishing Company.
Melton, E.J. (1937) “Melton’s History of Cooper County, Missouri.” E.W. Stephens Publishing Company, Columbia.
Stiffler, R. Ewing. (1963) “Jeremiah Smith, Missouri Pioneer: His Kin and Descendants.” Privately published.
Physical Features: Saline township lies in the northeastern part of the county. It contains quite a large amount of hilly territory and much bottom land. The water contains quite a bit of salt.
Settlement: Joseph Jolly, with his two children, John and William, settled in this township as early as 1812. He set out the first apple orchard and built a mill which would grind a bushel of corn an hour. William Jolly was a gunsmith, wheelwright, blacksmith, cooper, miller, distiller, preacher, doctor, and farmer. John Jolly operated a ferry across the Lamine.
Some of the other early settlers were William Lamm, James and John Turner, Joseph Pursley, Levi Cropper, Henry Levins, B. W. Levins, Josiah Dickson, Charles Force, John Farris, Jesse Wood, Davis Fine, Joshua and Lacy McClanahan, George Dickson, Frederick and James F. Connor, John Calvert, Adam and Absalom McClanahan, Elverton Caldwell, Noding Caldwell, Joseph Westbrook, Alexander Woods, Robert Givens, Leonard Calvert, August McFall, Alexander R. Dickson, William Calvert, Jr., James Farris, and Robert Dickson.
Washington and Houstonville were two towns that were laid out in this township; however, they both disappeared due to flooding. The town of Wooldridge is located in this township and has suffered greatly from frequent flooding. Overton and Gooch’s Mill are also located in this township, but are now very small communities.
References for Saline Township at CCHS: Some Mighty Good Years - Overton
References: Information on some former and current settlements
Place Names of Cooper County, Missouri Lists Name (and former names) of towns, short history, how to get there and when, if ever, they had a post office in that town.
Ramsey Place Names Cooper County Place Names 1928-1945 Tells how towns got their names.
Information available at CCHS:
Discover Cooper County by Looking Back by Ann Betteridge
Town Centennial Books: History of Billingsville, Prairie Lick, and Stony Point; History of Blackwater; Bicentennial Boonslick History; A Pictorial History of the Boonslick Area; Boonville An Illustrated History; Boonville An Historic River Town; Bunceton 1868-1988 and 1868 – 1993; History of Clear Creek; Recollections of Clifton City; Clifton City 1873 – 2019; Our Town Lamine MO; History of New Lebanon; Otterville Sesquicentennial; Some Might Good Years – Overton
Pilot Grove Centennial 1873 – 1973; A Brief History of Prairie Home
Full text of "History of Howard and Cooper counties, Missouri: written and compiled from the most authentic official and private sources, including a history of its townships, towns, and villages : together with a condensed history of Missouri, a reliable and detailed history of Howard and Cooper counties-- its pioneer record, resources, biographical sketches of prominent citizens, general
HOWARD COUNTY NEWSPAPER DESCRIPTION OF BOONVILLE 1822
31 December 1822
For the Missouri Intelligencer
Cooper was created a separate county in the winter of 1818, and then comprehended all that tract of country which lies between the Missouri and Osage rivers, and extending west to the western line of the Osage purchase; since which time the counties of Lilliard and Saline have been taken from the western, and Cole from the eastern end of it. Cooper is at present bounded west by Saline, south by the Great Osage river, east by Cole, & north by the Missouri river, which divides it from Howard and Boone. This county runs along the Missouri about 26 miles and extends north to south nearly 75. It is thought, however, that at no distant period, one or more new counties will be formed in the southern extremity of this county. Here is a great variety of soil. The southern part, on the Osage river, is poor and broken, not however without being interspersed with some good bodies of land; but in that part which lies on the Missouri, and which will probably be the permanent county of Cooper, the land is extremely rich, and lies well for cultivation, being beautifully variegated with alternate gradual elevations and pleasant values. There are a number of excellent springs in every part of the county; and what besides renders it very convenient for agricultural pursuits, is the variety of its groves and prairies. The prairies are from one to five miles in width; they are very rich and supported by groves of excellent timber of about the same extent.
Jolly’s Bottom, in the lower end of this county, named after Mr. J. Jolly, who first settled it, is a large body of first-rate land. In this bottom are a number of well cultivated farms, and enterprising agriculturalists. Mr. Charles Forse, residing at the head of this bottom, has in successful operation a sawmill constructed on the principle of the inclined plane.
A town called Washington, was laid off in this bottom, the lots sold, and a few of them improved; but since the spirit of town making ceased, Washington has received no improvements.
Above this bottom, and between it and Boonville, a distance of about six miles, there is a bluff of good land, which is well settled.
Water courses—Cooper County abounds with a number of fine streams. The Lamine is the largest, which heads in the dividing ridge between the waters of the Missouri and Osage. It receives in its course the Blackwater, the Muddy, the Salt, and Heath’s forks, and empties into the Missouri about five miles above Boonville.
The Petit-Saline, heads about 15 miles nearly southwest from Boonville, and, after watering a large settlement of nearly 20 miles in length, falls into the Missouri, in Cole County, having a run a general course nearly parallel with the Missouri its whole length. The head of the Morea, the Gravi, Tabo, and Grand river, forks of the Osage, head in this county. The settlements on the Little Moniteau, & south fork of the Lamine are, at present, the farthest south.
Minerals, and Mineral Waters. —There are many salt springs in this county, two of which are worked, one by Mr. B. Lockhartt, the other by Mr. R. Heath. Lead ore makes its appearance in several places in this county, though no mines have yet been worked. Several persons in digging wells have come to banks of mineral ore of a beautiful appearance; its kind has not yet been ascertained, but it is supposed to be Sulfur. Stone-coal and iron ore, in large bodies, are found in many parts of this county, on the south fork of the Lamine. There is in the vicinity of the Iron Banks, good streams for erecting forges and furnaces, and from them to Boonville there can be an excellent road. These banks must, at no great length of time, be a source of wealth to the Upper Missouri. Excellent quarries of lime and free stone are found in the more broken parts of the county; and on the Moniteau there is a quarry of cream-colored marble and white sandstone.
There is a Sulfur spring on the Grand River fork of Osage, which is said to possess medicinal qualities. Mr. John Corum, of this county, visited this spring last summer, and made use of the water for rheumatism, from which received great benefit.
Religion. The majority of the adults of this county are professors of religion. There are four Baptist churches in this county, the aggregate of the members of which is upwards of 200. Rev. J. B. Longan, Rev. Luke Williams, Rev. William Jennings, Rev. Jacob Chism, and Rev. Peter Woods, are among the Baptist clergy of this county. Presbyterians are very numerous, and are increasing under the superintendence of Rev. F. Ewing and Rev. Robert Morrow, who are citizens of this county. The Methodists are the least numerous, though not the least zealous of the religious sects in this county; they are, however, fast increasing in numbers under that able and excellent Methodist local preacher, Mr. Justinian Williams.
Productions. Experience has proved that the highland prairies of this county are very little short of the best lands in the state of Tennessee for cotton, wheat, rye, corn, potatoes, hemp, tobacco, etc., as these articles are produced here in great abundance.
Horses, cattle, hogs, sheep, etc. are raised with little trouble.
Roads. The principal roads in Copper lead south eastward towards the seat of government, and westward towards the upper counties on the Missouri. They are generally well-cleared.
Boonville, the seat of justice for this county, is beautifully situated on a high bluff on the south side of the Missouri, immediately opposite Franklin. This town was laid off on a liberal plan by the late Capt. Asa Morgan and Charles Lucas, the former proprietors, in 1819. The commissioners appointed to locate the permanent seat of justice, received from the proprietors fifty acres of land within the said town. The lots were sold, and the proceeds appropriated to the erection of public buildings. There are four streets running parallel with the river, and eight crossing them at right angles. Those parallel with the river are, 1st, Water Street, 150 feet from the water. 2nd, high Street, which is on higher ground. 3rd, Morgan Street; and 4th, Spring Street. —The Public Square contains two acres and is situated in a very high part of the town between High street and Morgan street. There is in Boonville an elegant Brick Court House, 30 by 45 feet, two stories high, finished off in an elegant manner, which cost $8,000, and was paid for out of the fund arising from the sale of lots in the donation to the county, by the proprietors of the town. A jail, 24 feet square, and two stories high, the walls of which are three logs thick, is built on a reserved lot, some distance from the Public Square, which cost about $2,400, and forty-one neat Dwelling Houses, inhabited by about 116 souls, besides a number of smaller buildings of various kinds.
History. Among the first settlers in this county were Messrs. Stephen Cole, G. Rupe, David Burris, and William Savage, who left the settlements on the north side of the river, and settled in this county, with the late Sarshall Cooper, whose name the county bears. These, with some others selected farms, & began to make improvements; but the hostility of the savages compelled them soon to act on the defensive; and having met together at Mrs. Cole’s, they built a fort on a commanding eminence, near the Missouri. They were, however, in a short time compelled to evacuate it, and retreat over the river to Fort Kincaid, where they tarried until the rage of Indian warfare was over, and then returned to their homes.
Population. —In the year 1817 there were not more than twenty families within the present bounds of Cooper. It now contains upwards of six thousand inhabitants; and is generally healthy, except near the Lamine, and in the Missouri bottoms.
*The author of “Upper Missouri” acknowledges himself indebted to a respectable gentleman for the foregoing information (From pages 2 and 3 of the paper notated.)
Hattie May Boles Plays the Governor’s Piano
Photo by Wayne Lammers
Here is a photo that I took of Hattie May Boles playing on the Grand Piano in the Governor’s Mansion at a Christmas Tour there, in 1978. My family took Hattie to Jefferson City for this tour. As we saw all the beautiful decorations, she spotted the Grand Piano in the large ballroom on the first floor. It had one of those large golden ropes to keep people away. “I always wanted to play one of those!” she said to me.
So, some of you may know me and the way I work. I sometimes take things a step further than normal. I went to the Missouri State Highway Patrolman that was standing guard on the main floor overseeing the security of the Governor’s Mansion. I got permission from him and others for Hattie to play a couple of songs on that piano. I felt that she could play some Christmas songs that would be appropriate for the occasion. I went to Hattie and said “You have permission to play a few songs.” Her mouth dropped open and she was so surprised and astonished to think that she was going to play this beautiful piano inside the Governor’s Mansion.
The Patrolman and I removed the rope to the Grand Piano and she sat down and began to play and sing some hymns and Christmas songs. The crowd started to collect around and also began to sing the songs that Hattie was playing. It wasn’t long before Governor Joseph Teasdale came down from his living quarters above and wanted to know who was playing “his piano”. Hattie got to meet and greet the Governor of Missouri that night. She was so happy and talked about this for a long time, about the time she, the daughter of a slave, Hattie May Boles, got to play and sing with the Governor, on that Grand piano inside the Missouri Governor’s Mansion.
This lovely little town was once part of Cooper County and was very instrumental in the early settling and development of Cooper County. A corner of the site still does overlap into Cooper County.
The first truly “permanent” American settlers led by the Cooper family established small settlements in the river bottoms of Howard County opposite of Arrow Rock in 1810. Other settlements several miles south of Arrow Rock were established by the Jones, McMahan and Turley families. During the War of 1812, these settlers built defensive forts as protection from the Sac & Fox and Ioway Indians allied to Great Britain. When Fort Osage closed in 1812, the fort’s trader George Champlain Sibley moved his operation to the Arrow Rock bluff from 1813-1814 to maintain friendly relations with the Osage Indians.
By 1815, a ferry was established at the site of Arrow Rock. Westbound settlers poured into the area, crossing the Missouri River on the Arrow Rock ferry. Santa Fe trading caravans departing from nearby Franklin crossed on the ferry beginning in 1821. From 1819 to 1833, the ferry was owned by Judge David Todd, the uncle of Mary Todd Lincoln. Judge William B. Napton observed that 1827 was especially busy year for the ferry as the population of Saline County swelled that year. Henry Cooper of Howard County took over operation of the ferry from 1833 until at least until 1865, and the river landing was known as “Cooper’s Ferry Privilege.”
At the end of the War of 1812, Baptist missionary John Mason Peck wrote “Some families came in the spring of 1815; but in the winter, spring, summer and autumn of 1816, they came like an avalanche. It seemed as though Kentucky and Tennessee were breaking up and moving to the Far West. Caravan after caravan passed over the prairies of Illinois all bound to the Boone’s Lick.” Cooper County was organized out of Howard County on December 17, 1818 and formalized by the Legislature on February 1, 1819. Cooper County encompassed present day Saline County at that time. The Legislature created Saline County out of Cooper County on November 25, 1820 and in January 1822, the Saline County Court created Arrow Rock Township. The town itself was commissioned on June 10, 1829 and originally called “Philadelphia.” Some documents refer to the town as “New Philadelphia.” In February of 1833 the state legislature changed the town name to coincide with the familiar landmark.
Joseph Huston, one of the town commissioners built a two-story federal-style brick building in 1834. Arrow Rock's location on the Missouri River and the Santa Fe Trail undoubtedly led weary travelers to ask Huston for overnight accommodations. He began building log or frame additions to the building and by 1840 was widely known as a hotel-keeper. The J. Huston Tavern also housed a store and a ballroom used for dances and as a meeting hall. As the building passed to other owners, it became known as the Neill House, Scripture House, City Hotel and Old Tavern. The J. Huston Tavern is the oldest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi and is today operated by the Missouri Division of State Parks in partnership with the Friends of Arrow Rock, Inc.
Settlers in the Boonslick Country were predominately migrants from Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee and transplanted slavery and southern culture here. Arrow Rock developed as a thriving river port, exporting tobacco and hemp from the neighboring plantations. Hemp was made into ropes and bags for baling cotton. Wheat, corn, beef, pork and mules were also shipped from Arrow Rock to supply the cotton districts of the Mississippi delta. The agricultural production of the Boonslick Country depended on slave labor just as cotton production did in the South. This symbiotic relationship led most residents of Arrow Rock and the Boonslick Country to support the South during the Civil War. Saline County and other Missouri counties with a high population of enslaved African Americans became known as “Little Dixie.”
Arrow Rock’s population peaked at 1,000 by 1860. The town population began declining after the American Civil War. The war disrupted agricultural production and river commerce which afterwards was displaced by railroads. Arrow Rock failed to secure a rail line and bridge across the Missouri River. The rapid post war growth of urban areas such as Kansas City, St. Louis and Chicago began drawing away residents with the promise of better jobs. The town’s economic decline was further exacerbated by disastrous fires in 1864, 1872 and 1901. By the turn of the century the population had dwindled to under 300 and the town was in a state of decay.
Prior to the Civil War, Arrow Rock’s black residents worked as household or domestic slaves or as laborers at the docks and business warehouses. Following emancipation in 1865, Arrow Rock’s African-American population grew as former plantation slaves moved into town. Gradually they were able to purchase their own homes, mostly on the north side of town. By 1880, 51% of the town’s population was African-American. Their presence undoubtedly kept the town from completely disappearing. However, owing to segregation, they had to develop their own churches, schools and social institutions. The last black resident of the community died in 2009.
Arrow Rock’s connection with the Santa Fe Trail led to national recognition by the Old Trails Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in 1912. As DAR interest in the community grew, they persuaded the Missouri legislature to purchase and preserve the “Old Tavern” (J. Huston Tavern) in September of 1923. Acreage around the Tavern was purchased as a state park. This was the beginning of the historic preservation movement in Missouri and the first acquisition of the new Missouri State Park system. In 1963, the National Park Service recognized Arrow Rock’s connection to the Santa Fe Trail and the entire town and state park was designated a National historic Landmark. The park grew to 169 acres about a third of which lies within town boundaries. The site boundary also overlaps into Cooper County. In 1976 the facilities designation was changed from state park to state historic site to empathize its cultural mission. The recreation area of the historic site features a 48-unit modern campground, picnic facilities and playground, a four-acre fishing lake and a mile and half hiking trail. Forty acres of ground are being restored to native prairie grasses and forbs.
An 18,000 square foot visitor center was constructed on the historic site in 1991 and provides museum exhibits pertinent to the history of Arrow Rock and the neighboring Boonslick Country, including Cooper County. The Friends of Arrow Rock, Inc. formed in 1959 as a non-profit organization to preserve historic structures outside the state historic site boundary. They also provide guided tours of the community and operate educational programs for elementary school children. The Arrow Rock Lyceum Theater was established in 1960 in the abandoned Baptist Church and is recognized as Missouri’s oldest repertory theater. Several antique, art and crafts shop exist in the town.