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Unwritten History
2nd Series

Unwritten History    

   from The Intelligencer (weekly) Feb. 14, 1907 pg 2 col 3

             The following is the beginning of a series of articles which The Intelligencer hopes to continue from time to time, concerning the history of our town and its vicinity.  The notes are taken from the lips of one of our oldest citizens, who was himself an actor in these primal scenes, when our town site was yet virgin sod.  The wolf howled then in Flat Rock (as now sometimes) and the sheep had to be penned every night.  A bear was killed in 1835 by William LeVaugh about one-fourth of a mile south of Hardin College.

            Some of our series will be from the experience of other old settlers of our city.

            In 1835, the site of the town of Mexico was government land, and the ground was timber and "arm prairie" - so called.  The branch through the present town was rather heavily timbered from the creek up to "Flat Rock".  The people used to make rails about and above Allison Springs, where the boys used to hunt rabbits.  Jno. A. Pearson had the first farm of the region which occupied most of the present site of Highland Addition.  His nearest neighbor was Wm. LeVaugh, who lived just north on the other side of the present Paris Road at what is best known as the old Wm. Powell place, one mile north of Mexico, where Ally Garrett now lives just east of the Schopp home.  On the west the Wade place was occupied by Joseph Pearson, where Bob Cauthorn now lives, and Thos. Hook then lived on the Ben Cauthorn place.  Ackly Day lived on the Hooton place.  South, the nearest farm was that of George Bomer, the place now known as the Wesly Stuart place.  Francis Armistead lived on the old Armistead place, now owned by Joseph Fecht, just west of town.  Southeast the nearest settled place was that of Phoebe Kilgore on which Frank Canterbury subsequently lived.  Lewis Day lived further on south about five miles from town.  East of town lived Richmond Pearson, on the present Lawder place.  Just about that time William West moved here and lived on the Cunningham place, just northeast of and not far from the bridge.  Thus was the site of Mexico surrounded.

            Previous to the establishment of the town, Jerry West came to the Maxwell place and Squire Doan moved to the Elder William Mason place.  About 1837 the Gass place - now known as the Hedges Dairy farm - was settled by Judge Fenton, who later moved to town.  About that time Jno. C. Martin was on the farm now owned by J. T. Johnson, just north of the Ben Cauthorn bridge.  He built about 300 yards northeast of that bridge the first mill in the county for grinding.  It was a 'horse mill', four horses pulling on beams or "sweeps", and it did for all this country the milling work; and often one had to go before breakfast and wait all day for his grist.  Still, before the town was founded the region boasted a race track, which was located just west of the Elder Mason farm house up in the arm of the prairie on that ridge northwest of the house of the Hardin place.  It is amusing torecall that such old squatters as the Willinghams ("Winnegums") and Kilgores and others would go out there and with a garden hoe, skelp the prairie sod away six feet wide and six hundred yards long - each fellow making his own track - the two being about thirty feet apart.  Here on Saturday afternoons with plenty of cheap whiskey along they resorted for pastime - usually in the late summer and fall.  Any kind of a 'nag', the steed was called that was run, for stakes extending from a quart of whiskey up to a yoke of oxen.  A good deal of swearing and bluffing prevailed but not much fighting.  What there was was purely of the fist and scull variety.  The races had the appearance of being strictly fair and honest - the "pulling" jockey then not having been developed.  One time the father of a present prominent racer won everything that Joel Haynes had - horses, oxen, calves, and some wagons.

            There was no Paris road then.  Paris was settled and so was Fulton.  The former got mail from the Mississippi river at Hannibal and the latter by direct stage line from St. Louis.  the local region between these towns got its mail by going to Fulton and paying a quarter for each letter.  

 

from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) Feb. 21, 1907 pg 2 col 1

 

            In the days of the early settlement of our country, the old citizen went to say, the houses were of logs, of course.  These were hauled up from the woods, and the neighbors for miles around would come in and help "raise" the building.  In some cases the logs were scored and hewed into proper shape on the ground.  In the best houses they were squared so as to lay up with almost no crack between; but oftentimes, in the hurry of need, the round logs were laid up in a pen and the walls were scored and hewed down afterwards.  The cracks were stopped with blocks of wood laid up diagonally.  Over these was a "pointing" of lime or mud.  The chimneys were of logs and sticks, the lower part being lined with stone or brick.

            The standard covering for the houses hereabout then was of clapboards about four feet long and six inches wide rived from white pine or burr oak blocks.  They reached from log to log (of the roof frame) which ran from gable to gable.  There were no rafters.  The gables were of built up logs-each piece shorter than the one below.  The boards were not nailed on.  In fact there were no nails in the region.  They were held on by logs lying immediately above the supporting logs beneath.  The first house hereabout-the old Pearson place-had not a nail in the original construction, nor was there an iron hinge.

            The door frames were pegged with wood to the end of the logs where the door was sawed out.  The door shutter consisted first of a frame pegged together at the corners and just filling inside of the frame that was pegged to the logs.  Across the middle this latter frame was a bar.  Thinly rived long boards the length of the shutter were slid around this mid-bar and were held in place by their elasticity or spring.

            The latch was wooden, of course, and fastened inside, dropping by gravity into a "catch", much like a gate latch of today.  Through a hole above a leather string led by which the latch could be lifted from the outside.  When the pioneer wished to lock his house for the night he pulled the string in through the hole and with his rifle inside defied the outer world.  "The latch string is always out" thus meant the greatest constant hospitality or willingness to admit a guest informally.

            The window was often omitted.  If light was needed the door was opened.  Such windows as did prevail were very small-often so that a man could not crawl into the house through them.  For the same good reasons they were rarely nearer the ground than six feet.  The pioneer at home was in his castle.

            There were artists in their line of work.  There were hewers who could dress a log as smooth as if it were planed, leaving not a scratch on it-yet the tool was a clumsy "broad ax".  The "scorer" was also a workman.  He preceded the hewer, and chipped or scored the log so that splinters would not lead the ax into the "grain" too deeply.  Some old hewers would not work unless they had certain known men to score for them.  A hewer rarely scored for himself.

            The men who made the "saddles" and "notches" at the corners must be either a good workman at the "raisings" or else the victim of the most scathing jokes.  When at their best, their joints are all most watertight.  The great logs are slid into place on skids; and there were those who were experts at this work.  Forks were used to thrust them up and the man above had what he called a "bulls-eye"-made of a forked hickory pole with the tines twisted into a loop that was slipped over the end of the log when it came in reach.  Often a jug of whiskey, brought from Fulton for these special occasions, was a factor of the elevation.

            It was considered quite a slight to fail to invite any one to these "raisings".  The limit of the social obligation extended for a distance of at least six miles.  Any omission within this limit was often an insult that prevailed down through generations.  When we consider the dinners they had on these occasions, we can readily see the basis of the ill-feeling.  Venison and wild turkey, cornbread and pumpkin pies, boiled ham from the wild fat hogs of the woods, with hominy and beans and all the vegetables in season freighted the festive board.  It makes me now think of Bronwing's lines, said the scribe, "God gives the scrip and canister; sin heaps the loaded board."

            The floors of these homes were often of dirt.  Those having floors of puncheon were considered rather aristocratic.  Good feeling between all grades, however, was the rule.  If the pioneer had no roof at all under which to spread his table, or if he yet had no furniture or provisions on the ground, the neighbors supplied these, and thus sustained him as they welcomed him into their midst.

            Sickness did not prevail then to any great extent.  It could not be afforded since the nearest doctor was fifteen miles away, near Stevens (Stephens) store, Callaway county.  This was Dr. Rothwell, the grandfather of the present living physician in our city by that name.         

 

from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) Feb. 28, 1907 pg 2 col 3

             "It is astonishing now to recall the things that we did without in those old days," the old citizen began to say at the scribe's call. "There were no two-horse wagons.  Mr. John Beatty, father of our former postmaster, brought the first two-horse wagon into the county in 1842.  A buggy was an unknown luxury, of course, and a cookstove was unknown.  Dutch ovens and skillets were used, whole large pieces of meat and game, such as turkeys, were roasted before the fire held by a string attached to the jam of the fireplace."  And so on.

            Lamps, except that sort formed by a saucer of grease and a rag, were not used, till sometime during the war.  While candles of tallow and beeswax were moulded, the little literature of the region was read often by the firelight.  The corn cob and the shavings from the "Shaving horse" and the riving block were factors of the literary culture of the time.

            They did not know then what a match was.  Fire was originated from flint and punk, and was afterwards carefully preserved.  Often it was borrowed from a neighbor more than a mile away.  Usually a green stick was split and thrust astride of a burning "chunk". and a horse was mounted and a gallop sustained until the brand was safe and glowing on the home hearth.

            Soda as we know it now was not to be obtained.  Either they did without it or substituted potash from the lye of hickory ashes.  This would make the bread rise.  When biscuits were made they were usually beaten biscuits of fine quality and "did not need to be cracked with a hammer like a nut, either," he added with a twinkle.  They called soda salaratus then.

            Of course, they grew their own flax, which they "broke" to release the fiber, and "scutched" or beat the bark loose from the stems; then they "hackled" it, or combed it with a long toothed implement, till the "tow" was removed, and the long pure flax or lint was left.  This was spun on a little wheel that ran constantly, while the fine strong threads were formed.  These were "doubled and twisted" into the final thread; ready to be made into linen by the loom.  These looms were in occasional families only and came down through the generations-being heir-looms indeed.

            Every flock of sheep had some black ones in it, if possible, so that there need be no coloring used to form dark or "gray mixt" garments.  Dye stuffs were scarce and simple-the chief one being the old "butternut" effected by the tea from the bark of the walnut.

            Jeans of this color was then known locally as "Skull Lick jeans".  Blue jeans was made from indigo and madder, which were attainable at Fulton.  "Linsey" with a stripe of red madder was aristocratic.  At times cotton was colored with "keel", or the soft red stone found on our creeks.  This color was "set" by boiling the fabric in sweet milk.  "Speaking of colors," said the narrator, "it may interest you to know that tomatoes were grown for their beauty only then and were set about on the shelves and crude mantles for effect, as we use sea shells and flowers now.  Their consumption as a vegetable was not thought of."

            The tract of land cultivated for each family was exceedingly small.  Twenty acres were sufficient for the largest family.  There was no market for corn; only a few cows and horses needed to be wintered; summer range was unlimited and the hog--the main support outside of venison--ran wild in the woods and lived on nuts, acorns, plumbs and roots.

            One of the latter was called "hog potatoes" - a tuberous plant, now extinct here.  It was close kin to artichokes, of the sunflower family.

            These hogs became as wild as game.  If unmarked they belonged to any one, and were often shot like deer.  Usually, however, beds or sleeping places were discovered and while they were away a little grain was thrown thereabout.  Later rails were hauled to this place, and later still were built into a pen with many gaps or openings.  These gaps were closed one after the other, on subsequent visits as the weeks passed till there was finally left one opening.  Grain was constantly left in the pen, and when the hogs filled it some one hidden stole up and closed the "slip gap", and the winter's pork was secured.

            The farm implements were very crude then.  The cutting part or "shear" of the plow was of steel, but the moldboard was of wood taken from a tree with a twisting grain, so that proper tilt might be given to the soil.  The cultivating plow was a single steel shovel-one horsed, of course.  Corn was sometimes covered by dragging a rock in the furrow.

            There were no carding mills in the region and wool from the sheep was hand-carded into rolls scarcely more than a half a foot long.  These were spun on the old-fashioned spinning wheel, whose "woo-o-o-h" could be heard at every home during a warm portion of the year.  Every garment was made by hand, since the sewing machine did not reach this region till after the war.

            Reverting to salaratus the old citizen recalled laughingly the following incident:

            One of the settlers of Bean Creek came to the little village after it was established, rather frequently, and many times his wife had asked him to bring her some salaratus.  But he continued to neglect it.  Finally she told him that if he did not bring it that day he need not come back.  He stood around town all day.  He was close in money matters and not a millionaire.  Finally he took a merchant friend into his confidence.  "She sez I needent come 'thout it and she means things when she sez um.  What um I ter do?  How much is the stuff an ounce?"

            "Ounce!" exclaimed the merchant.  "Why, man, its only ten cents a pound."

            "Good Lord," said the other, "gimme a dollar's wuth."

            And he went home happy.

 

            from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) Mar. 14, 1907 pg 3 col 4

             "Speaking of money," began the old citizen, "the article was scarce in that early day, and other commodities had to be used as a medium of exchange.  A wolf scalp was worth a dollar, because there was a state bounty upon the death of a wolf, and taxes were largely paid in these.  Venison hams and deer skins also had a set purchasing value.  Skins of the fur bearers were likewise abundant and valuable.  These things were sent to Hannibal to barter for necessities."

            The first sheriff of the county, about 1837, when he went to Jefferson City to deliver the revenue, met an old friend on the way, who, needing money then, wanted to borrow the actual coin part of the pile.  It was lent to him and the official went and delivered his scalps only.  By the time of the next settlement the loan was repaid and the sheriff made his subsequent settlement complete.  No note or other obligation than the mere word was given.

            The settlement for miles about the site of Mexico was known elsewhere as "Salt River" and the people were called "Salt River Tigers".  It must be admitted that they were generally feline in temper and fighting capacity.  The original Salt River meets the Mississippi just north of Louisiana, Mo., and doubtless got its name from the many salt licks near or on it in that vicinity.  There are four forks of the main stream.  The one leading toward us was named the South Fork.  Just northeast of town between the two bridges it also forks.  The branch north of the city was named Davis Fork of Salt River, after a man named Baylor Davis, who lived on it.  The fork east and south of town was early known as "Beaverdam Fork of Salt River", shortened into "Beaverdam", because beavers in that day built many dams on it.  Dams of these were found below the fork near Powell's Ford.

            These little streams abounded in fish then, some of the kinds of which have entirely disappeared.  In winter, pickerel eighteen inches long could be killed under the ice.  Now this fish is extinct here.  Even the smaller streams of our prairies which are now filled with the loose soil of cultivation, had deep pools in them that furnished excellent fishing.  "I have fished successfully in our town branch, especially at floods, and fair cats have been taken as high up as Monroe Street.  Of course they were not large but averaged well with those we now take in the larger streams," said the narrator.  Fish Branch was notorious for its bass at that time, and hence its name.


 

            The first school of the Salt River region was taught in 1837 at what is now the home of Mr. Albert Gass, about two miles west of town near the Wabash bridge.  The teacher was Miss Jane Fenton, from Boone County.  Of the pupils who attended that school then only two are known to be alive, Rufus Pearson of Mexico and William Keeton of near Thompson Station.  The first schoolhouse built for the purpose was on the west side of the road north of the Kirtley or Ben Cauthorn place (now owned by Mr. E. C. S. Miller) just on the top of the hill southwest of the bridge.  Here the itinerant teacher wore the newness off of him and passed on.  The first was a man named McGrew.  Later this site was abandoned and the school was held in the town, within what was the first court house, about the middle of the block on the south side of the square.  Later this was known as the Charlie Winant building, where this man, in an early day, but later, dispensed cider without mustard and gingerbread without pepper.

            The first church of the region was on the old well-known site of the Hopewell church of the Baptists, on the spot opposite the western edge of the Callaway farm, on the Columbia road where Mr. Jung now lives.  It was of logs, nicely hewn, but was followed by a frame building which is within the memory of our citizens.  For some time after the war the latter was the only building the Baptists had in this region.

            The first preacher of this congregation was Wm. Jesse, the father of Mr. Royal Jesse and the late Wm. Jesse.  The next was Anderson Woods of Monroe County.  This was before the division of the Baptist Church on the missionary question.  On this first log bulding the shaved shingle and shingle nail arrived, and this old building was roofed with these.  Of course it had two front doors, one for the entrance of the women and one for the men.  The sexes sat on differnt sides in those days, and as late as our war of rebellion this system prevailed.  The young man who should go in and sit down by his girl then would have been considered to have either unlimited "cheek" or a lack of knowledge of good form.  By the way, even the larger homes, where there were chambers upstairs, had a solid wall of logs between the young men and those of the young ladies.  Our pioneers were determined to aid virtue in every substantial manner, or at least throw obstructions in the way of any possibilities in the other direction.

            The flooring of this church was of white oak planks sawed with a whipsaw there being yet no saw mill in the region--and the walnut planks for the pulpit, etc. were hauled from a mill on Cedar Creek in Boone County.

            Many persons walked to church in that day.  The fine clothes of Sunday were not so abundant then as now, and sunbonnets were much in evidence.  Fine shoes were hard to obtain, and the ladies wore on week days those made by the local cobbler.  Therefore, it was not unusual to see young ladies, just before they reached the church, take off the every day shoes which had been used on the rough road, and put on the Sunday ones, before entering the congregation.  Of course ox-wagons were used then as a means of transportation, but because "Gee" and "Haw" had to be shouted to "Buck" and "Ball", accompanied at times with some very energetic and rather unsabbatical adjectives, these teams also were usually tied far out on the out skirts of the grove--especially if the family was late.    

  

from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) Mar. 21, 1907 pg 6 cols 5 & 6

             It is well known, of course, that the Salt River region was pretty well settled before our county was established.  Largely these citizens were from the overflow from Callaway and Boone counties with some from Monroe.  The settlements were in groups mostly along the creeks with stretches of prairie in between.  Prairie land was considered of no account in those days, with rattlesnakes and green head flies as its chief denizens.

            A few of these nearby settlements have been mentioned but a glance at the main groups of the entire region may be interesting before we come into the county seat proper, which was established about 1837.  Just south of town were the Burns'es and the McIntires settling there about 1832 and Bomers and Greens--the latter a little later.  Beyond them the next was a group on the Callaway line near Bryant's Station.  Toward the West and Southwest came in the Armisteads, the Jesses, the Tinsleys, and a little southward the Bradleys.  Here also were the Browns.  Beyond the Tinsley trend of Davis Fork, in the general neighborhood of the present Salt River church, were the Woodses, the Jacksons, the Gantts, the Faucetts, while northwest of these was the Hayes region with the Turners, Campbells and others as neighbors.

            To the immediate north of these slightly beyond the Thompson Station, were the Simses, the Blacks and Reeds, and others.  Northwest of these one could ride almost a whole day without seeing a house.  Directly north of Mexico on Long Branch was an incoming settlement from Monroe County and at Young's Creek was one of the county's oldest inhabitants. after whom the streamn was named.  This old Mr. Young's place was a sort of midway stopping place, and here Thos. H. Benton was often a guest as he went about on his political canvasses.  Here, for some time after, there were papers, which Mr. Young valued, passes (sic) on his walls, either in Benton's handwriting or bearing his signature.  As noted, Young's Creek was named after this old host as the first white man who settled on it.  He lived there years like a hermit from 1821 till his death.  In the Powells Ford region John and Thomas Barnett made an early settlement.  Northeast on Littleby were the Canterberries and Peeries.

            Where an additional strip one mile wide was taken from Monroe County and added to ours, we imported some old families among which were the Bybees and Blues, on Littleby, toward the northeast.  The Cauthorns were also in this region, a very old and prosperous family, settling there about 1835.  Northward also were the Charltons.  The head of this family claimed to have been the first to build a hewed log house in this county.  Mr. Charlton, a son of his died recently near Mexico.  On Bean Creek lived the Eubanks, settling there in 1837.

            Immediately north of Mexico, on the Wm. Mason farm, the Doans, with their neighbors, the Pearsons on Highland Hill, brought these northern settlements to the limits of our city.

            Directly to the east, beyond the Maxwell place, no one was nearer than 10 miles on Cuivre, where were some Smiths and swerving south the Douglasses came in with the Halls and Lockridges further south still.  Nearer the city were the Woodses.  The Waynes were on the Callaway margin directly southward.  Further east of these were the Wattses while scattered all up and down the creek were the Willinghams (Winnegums) and Kilgores--mostly squatters, who came to our region as early as 1825, and were a large factor in the civilization of that time.  Whoever ran for office then had to reckon with these families--so abundant were they and so well organized on the score of blood being thicker than other fluids.

            Other old families that were here before the incorporation of the town have been noted in the first statement of these papers.  Doubtless some have been unintentionally omitted.

            In traveling through the country a man had to start so as to make the settlements overnight.  But in summer this order had to be reversed on account of the abundance of the greenhead flies on the prairie stretches, and therefore the traveling was mainly by night.  It was impossible to cross the prairies in the day time, because these pests actually bled a horse till he was weak, or harassed him until he was unmanageable, becoming so frantic often as to roll with his rider in the high grass.  In like manner the fields had to be cultivated before sunrise, or after dark.  Visiting then was about as frequent as now, and a relative or friend living fifteen miles away was thought to be near.  As already noted, the nearest doctor was about this distance.

            Chills and fever prevailed to a very great extent.  The citizens actually got used to chills, and did not always stop work on account of them.  They were almost as common as bad colds now.  A man would be plowing and at the end of the row he would lie down and have his chill, and then get up to work again.  He got so he knew his "chill days" and prepared for them.  The chief local remedy was boneset tea--for quinine was not known to our people then.  Not even the cinchona bark was in use here.  After the first chill the 7th, 14th and the 21st were the days of probable recurrence, and a man would make no serious engagements on those days.  Typhoid fever was rare and a case of consumption was as infrequent here then as it is in any new region now.  The people were hardy pioneers--immediate descendants of those who crossed the Cumberland Gap and came over to Kentucky with Boone, or else they were directly from Virginia, North Carolina or Tennessee, usually coming from the other two states by the way of the latter.

from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) Mar. 28, 1907 7/1

             The first cemetery around Mexico was that just this side of the Cauthorn bridge on the hill west of the road.  Among the early settlers were the Williamses, of whom Gideon Williams was a branch.  These lived in and around this cemetery to the west.  Some of these were buried there, as well as many ancestors of the Kilgores and Willinghams.  Frank Kilgore's father was buried there in 1836.  In fact, this was a sort of central point in the settlement.  The first mill, first schoolhouse and first cemetery being here; and the first camp meeting was held near here.  There was also a burial ground at the Clem Smith place, just north of the Taswell Hill place.  It is now owned by J. T. Johnson.  The Martins and many neighbors are buried there.

            At this place the Methodist church of this city was organized with about fifteen members--the Martins being very prominent in that denomination.

            There was also a burying ground on the old Gass place where Mr. Gass (the father of the Professors Gass and Albert Gass) and his wife are buried.  It is now known as the Hedges place.  In fact we shall see later that the tendency was to centralize the settlement around this region and in this direction the county seat was first located, but subsequently changed.

            This county was first organized in 1836, and on December 17th of that year the act was approved, settling the boundaries of it and appointing commissioners to fix the county seat.  The boundaries of all the counties around had been fixed before this so that it is described as being bounded by Boone, Monroe, Pike and Callaway Counties, and by lines between it and Ralls and Randolph, though these counties are not mentioned.  The following is the act of legislature establishing the county-

            The following was approved December 17, 1836:

            "Section 1. The territory lying and being within the following boundaries, to wit: beginning at the southwest corner of Monroe; thence east with the township line, between fifty-two and fifty-three, to where the said township line intersects the western line of Pike county; thence a little east of south with said county line, to the southwest corner of Pike county to where the township line between fifty and fifty-one intersects the ridge line between ranges four and five; thence west with said township line to where it intersects the range line between ranges six and seven, thence south to the northeast corner of Callaway County where the township line between township forty-nine and fifty intersects the range line between six and seven; thence west with said township line to where it intersects the Boone County line; thence north with said county line to where it intersects the township line between township fifty-one and fifty-two; thence west with said township line to where it intersects the range line between ranges twelve and thirteen; thence north to the beginning; be, and the same is hereby declared to be a separate and distinct county, to be known by the county of Audrain.

            "Section 2. The courts to be holden in said county, shall be

held at the house of Edward Jennings in New Mexico, until the permanent seat of justice shall be established.

            "Section 5. Cornelius Edwards of the county of Monroe, William Martin of the county of Callaway and Robert Schooling of the county of Boone are hereby appointed commissioners for the purpose of selecting the seat of justice for the said county of Audrain." etc.

            The region around Mexico was considered then as belonging to Callaway County, that of Saling Township was a part of Boone, while portions of the eastern part of the county belonged to Pike.  At present the limitations of these old counties cannot be determined.  If anyone can define them The Intelligencer would be obliged and glad of a communication.  Later from causes not now known to this scribe, a tier of sections was taken off respectively from the south side of Monroe County, the eastern edge of Boone County (in the southwest angle of Audrain) and added to this county.  Any communication concerning the cause of this would be gratefully published.

            This county was regarded by these old counties as of little value, except as a dumping ground for emigrants--the prairie not being considered of any value then.

            In the next installment the location and first settlers of the town site of Mexico will be discussed.

            The following letter explains itself.

            RFD 6, Audrain Co., Mo. March 15, 1907

            To the Editor of The Intelligencer.

            Dear Sir:-Baller Davis, of whom you spoke in your paper, was my grandfather.  He came from Kentucky to Boone County about the year 1825.  He settled there on a creek called Hingston.  He did not live there many years until he moved to Audrain County and settled on the 16th section, as it was called in those days, but now it is known by the name of the old Abe Hitt farm, just south of the Salt River Church.

                                                                        Yours Truly, Columbus Ploat

            Mr. Davis was the grandfather also of J. Harvey Stuart, Mrs. F. M. Brewer and Mrs. Alvan Sellers, all of this county.     

 

from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) Apr. 4, 1907 6/1

 

            "Picking up a few scraps before proceeding to the History of the City," said the old citizen, "it should be stated that Jesse cemetery about three miles west of Mexico was the burial place for the family of that name and all those who attended Hopewell Church.  Another thing, the typos made us say "Hays", whereas it should have been the Mayes neighborhood.  Then, the cemetery at Cauthorn's bridge was on the east and not the west side of the road as stated, and it may be seen there yet.  In like manner we forgot to say that the stream Littleby was named for Robert Littleby--a trapper and hunter who settled at its mouth in 1826, living alone, and taking his pelts to St. Louis at intervals.

            Audrain County was named for General Audrain of St. Charles who was in the legislature at the time, and was instrumental in establishing it.  His name, being French, was pronounced "Odrin", with the heavy accent on the O.  Some old persons yet may be found who pronounce our county's name so; and that was its pronunciation for many years before it was anglicized into the present AudRAIN.              The commissioners, as stated, who located the site of Mexico were Cornelius Edwards, William Martin, and Robert Schooling.  They met in December 1836 for that purpose.  A lobby followed them around recommending this place and that, as the interests of various persons appeared.  Each land owner wanted the town close to him; and there was much bickering about the matter.  For weeks before the location, neighbors met in clusters at each other's homes at night, and discussed the matter in a friendly way.  It was then pre-eminently the politics of the region.  The commissioners were here a week or ten days investigating, and they finally agreed upon a point for the center of the city that is about two hundred yards northerly from the brick house in (of?) Mrs. Perry and built by B. R. Cauthorn.  It was then on the land of Thomas Hook, the grandfather of the present citizen by that name.

            The principal reason for selecting this location was that, from the slope of the ground and rock strata near the surface, it was presumed that abundance of water could be found there at slight depths.  Judge Morris, who built the first house in the town, assembled his logs here.  After the commissioners located the present site instead, he rehauled them, and built his house just across the street east of Frank Coatsworth's office.

            The change of site was chiefly the result of a failure to find water as they expected and the further fact that the present site was a more beautiful location.  In fact they next wished to create the town in the midst of what is now Highland Addition, but Mr. Jno. A. Pearson, who owned the land, objected.  He had bought it for a farm, he said, and did not want any town--in fact had not lost any.  

            But in the meantime R. C. Mansfield and J. H. Smith had jointly entered the land of the present site, and they offered great inducements for the location of the county seat on their

tract.  They would give streets and alleys and give to the county a public square and two acres for a public cemetery.  Besides this they donated certain whole blocks and many lots in others, as well as a tract of land north and west of the original town.  This was later made into an addition, with the streets and blocks continuous with those of the town, and was then known as "The Donated Addition", but it is usually spoken of now as "The County Addition".     The date of this deed of donation was March 18th, 1837.

            Smith was the first blacksmith of the town and Mansfield was the first resident preacher.  The latter's home was on the location of Frank Coatsworth's office, and Smith's was on that corner now occupied by The Morning Intelligencer.

            The first house in the city, however, was that of Mr. Jno. B. Morris, the father of George.

  

         from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) Apr. 11, 1907 2/3

             After Mr. Jno. B. Morris had built his house, the next house in town was on the site of Frank Coatsworth's present office (northwest corner Jefferson and Love) built by Mr. Mansfield.  Then on westward the town moved to the corner of Love and Water street (or North Clark Avenue where Mr. George Brock's present home is.)  George W. Turley lived here.  He also built the first store house on the Harper corner, where he sold goods for a number of years.  About the same time Thomas Stone built a dwelling on the Shootman corner in part of which he had a cabinet shop, and he made the tables, beds and coffins for the whole community.  His son was the first person buried in the old cemetery.

            Just east of the Shootman corner Jack Willingham, the county's first sheriff, built a house.  This was both jail and home.  The man in the county who first killed another was confined here.  He was James Hall who slew Samuel Dingle, on the lot where Kemper's saloon is now.  As the next sheriff was taking him to Columbia to be jailed there, he escaped on the way.

            The first carpenter of the town was Robert Taylor with a shop just east of the present hitch lot, northwest of the square.  The first blacksmith was James H. Smith, with his shop on the vacant lot, where the Arnold livery stable burned, east of the Morning Intelligencer office.

            At an early day Squire Mallory built on the lot of E. D. Graham's present home, and taught there the first school in the town.  A later school was taught by a man named Fulcher in a house on or near the lot of the Mrs. Graham home now occupied by Ross Cauthorn.  In the meantime, Mr. Mansfield had built a store just south of the hitch lot where Sam Morris' store now is and later Fulcher taught school here.

            After the store on the Shootman corner was built by Judge Fenton who removed from his farm--the Gass place--he built a hotel where Kemper's saloon is--a large building extending southward and for years this was Mexico's largest "tavern".  It had the usual bell on top and was of the usual type of that day.  It was really very comfortable--especially when new.  It finally burned while owned by Mr. Lowery.  Judge Fenton also built a double store house where Morris and Abbay's store now is.  In this was the first saloon--called "grocery" then--that Mexico had, though some of the general stores sold whisky, and the hotel had a bar, of course.  The saloon was kept by Lock Ramsey.  The dry goods store in the other part was run by Jno. Henderson.

            On the south side of the square the only building at that time was the court house.  About this time the north and west side had nothing.  This brings us up to about 1838.

            This courthouse was situated about the middle of the block the third lot west of the Ringo house 8 lots east of the Hunter corner on a lot later owned by Charley Winant.  Besides the

normal uses for a courthouse, it was used for preaching services, and schools were located in it.  It was a well-built, hewed log house and our citizens were very proud of it.  In the course of three or four years, it was sold and a better one was built on the site of the present one.  This was of brick made on the northwest corner of Love and Clark Avenue.  Mr. Fenton burned the brick and built the house.

            By this time the community was getting sufficiently concentrated for the Doan Race Tracks, two miles north of town, to be abandoned, since they were too far away, and a new one was laid out along Promenade street with its east end at the beginning of the slope toward the Military Academy and its western terminus at Washington street, where The Intelligencer office now is.  This was, of course, a point of great excitement almost every Saturday in proper weather, though a race was liable to occur at any moment.  Frequently the end of the matter was a fight or a series of them, all with fists, of course.  Occasionally a knife was flourished, but the rule of "Knock down and drag out" was the prevailing code.  It was rare for anyone to be seriously hurt, but there were often many bloody noses and torn shirts.

            Fenton had built a wall for the playing of a game called "fives"--something like modern handball--and this was the gambling game for drinks then.  Poker and other card games were played openly for a long while.

            Every Saturday in the fall of the year the marksmen met to shoot for beef.  This also was an exciting time, and when the beef was short, money was often the prize.  The shooting ground was usually east of Wonneman's green house.  A man was once discovered here that had a brace down his coat sleeve, while pretending to shoot "off hand".  He was at once outlawed when discovered.    

 

from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) Apr. 25, 1907 2/3 & 4

 

            The first county court judges were James Harrison, H. J. M. Doan, and Jonah B. Hatton.  This James Jackson, the father of     A. D. Jackson, was the first representative, also.  Joel Haynes was the first circuit clerk.  His boast was that he could eat more bacon and cabbage, split more rails and "write a better hand" than any man in the county; and in these three diverse accomplishments he was really adept.  He was one of the "chronic office holders" of his time--a specimen which the modern rotation in office has relegated to the past.  In those days the politics were Whig and Democrat, and they very equally divided this county.  The election contests were things to be remembered then.

            The saw mill was the first manufacturing establishment introduced into the community.  The first one was built by a man named Joseph Brown.  It was a water mill, located on the creek northeast of the Military Academy just above the old crossing of the road.  The canal or race ran up stream, perhaps half a mile, and the wheel was an undershot or of the "flutter mill" type.  The saw was of the upright type--not circular--which latter form was not known here at that time.  Many of our modern citizens will be surprised to know that so much water power could be obtained in our east creek at that time, but it was a deeper and fuller stream then, not filled with the silt of cultivation.  Of course in dry times Brown did not saw, but usually he did a large business.  The mill ran night and day and logs were hauled for eight and ten miles to it.  In about two years he lost the whole plant by a great flood and it was never rebuilt.

            Mr. Brown also had a brick yard just above this mill, directly east of the Military Academy.  He probably made the first brick used in the town.

            Below Powell's Ford, slightly southeastward of Sunrise church, Joseph McDonald built a grist mill.  It also was a water mill, and soon suffered a similar fate by flood.

            A distillery was built by a man named William Jones between what is now the two railroad bridges.  He made whisky here for two or three years, and he also had a mill to grind corn and wheat.  It was an inclined wheel, of tread wheel type, which was run by six or eight horses; and the customer had to take his own horses or get no grist.  Other mills and factories will be mentioned in the order of their time.  There seemed to be a great deal of ill-luck early connected with all milling enterprises in the community.  Many were destroyed by fire, so that people went to Concord, and more frequently, to Florida.  At this latter place was a good watermill, and it was the more popular, because no extra horses must be taken.  But it was distant and the trip killed two days at best.

            The next great enterprise of the city was perhaps as late as the year 1843 or '44.  It was a carding factory to make wool rolls.  It was built by W. W. Williams, the father of J. Virgil Williams, at a point on West Love street, just east of the corner of Abat street.  Mr. Williams at that time owned the Wade farm which included nearly all of the present northwest Mexico.  This mill subsequently was abandoned as a carding mill and made into a grist and saw mill.  The pond is filled up now and a residence, owned by the Gregory estate, is on its site.

            Later the race track along what is now Promenade street was broken up at its eastern end by being fenced in as a farm, by Judge Morris.  The horsemen then went out on the east end of the Boulevard and made them an oval mile track, with some straight quarter-dash tracks attached.  Some good horses were run over this dirt, and Mexico even then was a noted horse center.  These races took the place of our fairs now, and were attended from great distances. 

  

from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) May 2, 1907 4/5

             "Speaking of horse races," said the old citizen as the scribe whittled a pencil, "there is an amuusing incident connected with one of these, which involved some of our people that not only did not indulge in the sport but condemned it generally.  A man by the name of Dameron from Monroe county came over here one day with a race mare that had a fearful reputation for speed.  He wanted to race her against any Audrain county piece of horse flesh for any sum from $5.00 up to $100--the dash to be six hundred yards.  The chief racers with their stock happened not to be in town that day.  They were perhaps off at some other races.  The only horse at all in the question was one belonging to Green and John Bishop.  He was not considered very fast, and Green Bishop was afraid to run him in response to the challenge.  It seemed such a dead sure loss.  Thereupon the Monroe county man blew around like Goliath of Gath, decrying Audrain county pride, and proclaiming a bluff on the whole community for which he expressed great contempt.  It could not furnish a stranger a horse-race.

            "The citizens were finally aroused, and Bishop proposed that they run him a race anyway, but said that he did not like to incur the whole loss; he said that if others would chip in and make up the five dollars, he would furnish the horse and one dollar.  Mexico's patriotism was so aroused that certain staid old church members even dropped quarters and halves into the pot till the amount was obtained.  No Monroe county blowhard could bluff them in that way.  When the Audrain horse was brought out, he was a sorry prospect indeed.  A negro boy was on him thumping him with both heels, one man was leading him and another was thrashing him with a pole to make him come up to the starting point.  Relays of citizens with poles were placed along the line to charge out and shout, and to make the home steed do all that was in him.  Audrain's pride was on hand in citizens of every character--the Salt River Tigers were lending their aid and comfort in force.

            "The start was just opposite Mason Creasey's store, and the run was to lie to the south.  The southern terminus was just west of Hardin College.  At the word 'Go' from a standstill start, a sounding thwack was laid on the Bishop horse and the race was on; then the citizens who had stock in the enterprise were on the anxious seat and those along the track were on the whoop.  Out past the post office--on through LaCrosse Lumber Co.'s old yard--over the rise through which the railroad cuts now, on by the eastern edge of Hardin Park the horses fled, the primitive Mexico mud flying high.  Those of us who were mildly yet financially interested stayed behind and were under great suspense, till we saw the Monroe county man riding back all splattered with mud.  Then we knew that old "Brimmer", the Bishop horse, had thrown the Audrain county soil into the eyes of the Monroe mare.  Great and prolonged shouting prevailed; a dividend was declared from the

stakes, and the staid citizen pocketed his 'two bits' now converted into 'four' without any qualms of conscience whatever.  Dameron left for home at once very much crestfallen, and carrying away about as much of Audrain county's hardpan as any one has since extracted.  He never returned on the same mission, for we gave him the impression, which was true, that we had beaten him with the worst racer that we had.

            "On all this track, which was temporary, there was not then a house or fence that obstructed the way.  It was at least four miles before any such hindrance could have been encountered."      

  

from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) May 16, 1907 3/3

             The Mormons were somewhere around Keytesville, Mo., at the time of the surrender mentioned in our last paper, which was not done in good faith.  Two or three months afterward, they again became rebellious and so troublesome that they were unbearable.  They were drilling--even their women--and getting supplies for further resistance.  They had gathered up considerable recruits and had much sympathy from people who did not come out openly in favor of them.  They talked very religiously and pretended to have a special revelation from Heaven; and the same enthusiasm arose concerning them that has always arisen in connection with a new form of religiojn.  Even two persons who subsequently became good citizens of our own county had temporarily subscribed to the doctrines, but when required to give up all their property to "the church", they balked and one of these, later, volunteered against these.

            Again the government asked for volunteers to drive the troublesome people on.  In this case Audrain was called upon to furnish a hundred men.  These mostly volunteered, but a few had to be drafted to fill out the quota, because the call was hurried and there was not time to wait for volunteers.  As before, Captain Fenton was in command, and the first Lieutenant was B. S. Kilgore, the second was Jas. W. Kilgore, the third J. B. Kilgore, thus showing the importance of this family then.

            After these had gone some distance they were joined by companies from other counties, including one from Callaway.  They were all in need of corn to feed their horses, and one day a single load came into camp.  Callaway at once claimed it but Audrain asserted that she had spoken for it first.  The contention began to look serious when some one proposed that each choose a champion from its company and let these fight it out "fist and skull" -- the victor's company to take the corn.  This was agreed to and a ring was drawn.  Audrain chose Thomas Keeton, brother of Henry Keeton and father of our present citizen, William Keeton.  He threw off his coat, tied his suspenders about his waist, rolled up his sleeves and stepped into the circle, awaiting his adversary; but when the Callawegians looked him over there could be found no one among them who would volunteer against him, and Audrain got the corn by defalt.

            The boys had heard all along that there would likely be fighting this time.  When they approached the Chariton river, which they would have to ford at slight flood, a rumor came that the Mormons were lined up on the other side, with their women in their ranks, ready to resist the crossing.  They camped there that sleepless night.  Some of the boys became very panicky, claiming they were not properly officered, and that it was a shame to be thus led into a trap of slaughter.  Others, however, were cool and brave, while some were hilarious at the prospect of a fight.  One man claimed that he had loaded his gun to the muzzle and that when it went off he would sweep it along the

Mormon ranks and slay them in rows.  He assured some nervous friends that they need not fight at all--that he and his gun would supply their place.

            When morning came there was no appearance of the foe.  The Mormons had again surrendered, to other troops, and the leaders were in jail at Independence.  Next spring these Mormons were released.  They agreed to leave the country and did start for Salt Lake.  Not one of Audrain's boys ever came into action.

            This was the county's last military experience, till the War of the Rebellion came on.  However, a series of "musters", so called, or drilling exercise, prevailed two or three times a year for several years.  These were held by authority of the state, and every able-bodied man under fifty was compelled to comply.  There was a drill master and other subsidiary officers, and a fife and drum--all of which were very impressive.  "Muster Day" was a great day then and the tradition of the old negro with his cider and gingerbread at this and election days is with us yet.  John G. Muldrow was the drill-master, and William James, the father of Levi James, was the drummer, while "Uncle Billy" Harper (not the merchant) was the fifer.  These last two men were in demand far and near to lead processions, such as rallies, Fourth of July barbecues, etc., and were very important factors on many public occasions.

            The drill grounds were near Jefferson street, south of the railroads, not far from the residences of W. W. Fry and W. H. Wallace.

        from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) May 30, 1907 1/5 & 6

            The stock taken in the North Missouri Railroad was really issued to our people from the county in the form of tax receipts  --each person owning stock to the amount of his special taxes.  These were paid up in five years.  Our people placed no value on this matter for a long while, but suddenly some clique, growing anxious to control the road, began to buy up these equivalents of stock and there was a rustling among old papers, as these receipts were dug out and sold.

            There was considerable opposition to the taking of this stock.  Many claimed it would bankrupt the people; and one prominent citizen, who had a farm that now joins the city, sold it at seven dollars per acre and moved out of the county.

            Of course, after those on the southern edge of the county found that the road would not pass them, they manifested much opposition to the taking of stock for the route through the towns.  Judge James Harrison was inclined to urge, of course naturally, that the true route should be past his home on the Old Boone's Lick road--the great east and west thoroughfare through the state--and he laughingly ridiculed Mexico, saying that it was of such small importance that he would grease it sometime and bring his hounds down, and they would eat it up.  It behooved the rest of the people to act decisively; and we, from the  standpoint of our city's interest, cannot help wondering what would have become of it had not that $50,000 stock been taken.  Dr. Holmes, rhyming of his grandmother's girl portrait, wonders what would have become of him had she said "No" to his grandfather's important query; and he concludes rightly that he would have been, "three fourths somebody else and one fourth me".  Mexico might have been only fourth of its present self, and northern Audrain even less.

            There is considerable variation about the dates at which the cars first reached Mexico; but the majority of those who recall the time agree on about the following:--In October 1857 the terminus of construction was on Cuiver just east of Benton City; in the spring of '58 the cars were at that village and a little later they ran to the Roundtree Farm about a mile east of the bridge over Beaver Dam, where they were detained some time till a temporary trestle could be bult across.  The cars reached Mexico in June 1858, and the station was at Jefferson street, where it is now again.  Allison's Hotel, on what is now the old livery stable lot, was headquarters for the railroaders till the station further west was built.

            There are few now of our citizens who recall the first coming of the cars.  Their experiences are interesting.  In the spring of '58, Mr. R. S. Pearson says he took the construction train at Roundtree and went to Montgomery City, where he took the passenger train for St. Louis.  Mr. B. L. Locke says that about

October '58 he went from Mexico to St. Louis, and there were only

three others on the train; Mr. Jno. W. Beatty, former postmaster, says he took the cars at the Roundtree station, and the fare was  then about five cents per mile.

            In December 1862 this railroad was torn up by the citizens along its line, who were southern sympathizers.  General Harris was in northeast Missouri raising troops for the Confederate army, and it was rumored that Federal troops would pass up the railroad to be stationed so as to intercept these as they should attempt to go southward to the Missouri River.  To prevent this, the road was torn up from St. Charles to the Missouri River region, its bridges burnt, its ties and rails heaped and the piles fired.  It was only a short while, however, till the line was in operation again.

*************************

            This paper will conclude, for awhile at least, these desultory sketches of our county's early history.  They have in no sense pretended to discuss the whole of our annals.  There are many interesting personal reminiscences omitted.  The fact that they are personal has compelled omission, so that the simpler and purely non-partisan facts have been attempted.  The Morning Intelligencer, and those who have cared for the matter, are under obligation to Mr. R. S. Pearson who has so patiently given the facts on which these sketches have been based.  In many of these scenes Mr. Pearson was an actor and to his clear memory and facile forms of expression is due whatever of merit these papers possess.

            The Morning Intelligencer would be glad to see any letters or other matters bearing on our county's history.  Beginning next week will appear another, but a briefer, account, from a different point of view, a reprint of the history of the county by Judge S. M. Edwards, written in 1874.  In this the political and financial annals will be more especially set forth.  No man now living is better qualified for this work than Judge Edwards was at the time this was written, when the events were fresh in his memory.

              

UNWRITTEN HISTORY

Interview with Rufus S. Pearson

From The Mexico Mo Message, 28 Aug. 1913 pg 1 col 7

             Uncle Rufus S. Pearson, in his 88th year, one of the youngest old men in this town, is a very modest fellow but he knows more about the early days of Audrain county and the first improvements in Mexico than perhaps any other person now living.  We managed to pull a few observations from him the other day and make note of them here.

            Mr. Pearson came to Mexico in 1835 and has been here now longer'n anybody.  John W. Beatty is the next oldest first settler.  Mr. Beatty's father came from Illinois in 1842, settling on a farm north of Mexico.

            Wm. Piney Harrison, from Osage county, came to Mexico in 1850 and built the first two-story business house in the town.  It stood on the Ringo corner, where Worrell's Jewelry Store is now located, and faced the north.  Mr. Harrison and John P. Clark sold goods there two or three years, Harrison then selling out to Clark.  About 18 months after this Clark sold to Alfred and Carter Cauthorn, who were uncles of the late Ben Cauthorn.  In 1854 Dr. L. N. Hunter built the first drug store building.  It stood on the southwest corner of the square.  In 1854 or '55 John Reed hauled the framed timbers from Boone county and put up a store building on the southeast corner of the square, where the Savings Bank now stands.  His son, Dr. Tom Reed, put in a stock of drugs.

            Mr. Pearson tells the history straight, and he could tell very much more if you could get him to unfold himself.

      

SCRAPS OF MEXICO'S EARLY DAY HISTORY