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1883 History of Jasper County, Missouri


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Introduction - Habits and Characteristics of Pioneers - Hospitality and Traits of Early Settlers - Country of the Six Bulls - First Permanent Settlements of Jasper County - First Settlements at Sarcoxie and Cartthage - Many Interesting Scenes and Experiences - Biographies of Early Settlers - List of Aged Persons in Jasper County in 1816.

" The early settlers-where are they?
They are falling, one by one;
A few more years may pass away,
And leave but few, or none."

Since the period when the early settlements were made within the limits of what is now called Jasper county, Time, the great monarch of all things perishable, has made various changes. The ranks of families have been thinned, and the surface of the earth materially changed. The slow and unobserved "old man with his sickle" has visited every dwelling, thrusting in his wiry blade regardless of nationality, home, or honor, so now numbers


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of the old pioneers sleep beneath the soil they once tilled. The writer is touched with the reverting thought of remembering many of the plain and hospitable men of the West, whose unsullied hearts and interminable energy of purpose gave to this country its birthright and its wholesome outlook in the dark days of hardships, who now rest from their labors. As long as the sands of time unceasingly roll, may the historian's pen incessantly recount the matchless worth of these pioneers who cleared the way for the following generations. After spending considerable time in gathering materials from records and old settlers, we find it impossible in these pages to give a full detail of the early settlements and pioneers of Jasper county. Every nation does not possess an authentic account from which its origin may be traced. The old Latins said: "Forsan et hoec olim meminisse juvabit," - "Perhaps it will be pleasant hererafter to remember these things." Nevertheless, to be interested in these things is characteristic of the human race, and it comes particularly within the province of the historian to deal with the first causes. If at times these facts be lost, as is often the case when drawing from traditions, and the chronicler invades the realm of the ideal world and paints the missing picture, it should be accepted as pertinent to the theme. The patriotic Roman was not content till he had found the "first settlers," although the story of the lineage was not so tasteful to the cultured patrician. One of the advantages of a new country, and the one usually least appreciated, is to be able to go to the beginning. Through this avenue the historian can trace results to their causes, and grasp facts which have contributed to bring about events and mould characters. When we observe that a county has attained a certain position in contrast with other counties, we cast about for the reasons of the present conditions by going to its early settlements and surroundings. In this way the changes which have produced the great enterprises of to-day may be accurately recorded. In the history of Jasper county we may trace, in some instances, the early settlers to their old homes in the older states, and to the countries of the Old World, from whence they came. The prejudices that once prompted different localities to become antagonistic have passed away. The customs, dress, language, diet, and sundry things peculiarly western, are now quite different from those of the pioneers of Jasper county. Often the adventurer came to the West to "grow up" with the country, trusting only to his strong arm and willing heart to work his way on in the world. It was in this way many a penniless, ambitious young man secured a home in this county for his loving wife and a good maintenance for his children. Here, fifty years ago, the pioneer hunter chased the deer, elk, and bear, where now are broad and well-cultivated fields. It was by industry and


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economy that the pioneers left their children pleasant homes in many instances. Here we may see the path worn by the Missourian in his experience in a land which to him was a country far more preferable than that southern and eastern soil where he made his former home. We may see here the growth which came with knowledge, and the progress which grew upon him with advancement, and how his better nature was developed. The vanishing pride of Kentucky, or the vain glory of other sections, brought here in an early day, have been modified since the advent of new measures in the crucible of democracy, forever eliminating servitude from the solution, and establishing freedom and education in its stead. Others have been animated with the impulse to move on, after making themselves a part of the community, and left for the west, where civilization had not gone; some, becoming wealthy, returned to Jasper county, while many remained in their new home.

In this county there were but few of the distinctive New England men and women or Yankees, a class of people with abundant brain and nerve force, which have poured into Western and Southern states, since the war, by thousands, swelling the population and wealth of those regions in excess of any other flow of immigration. This class brought with them a proclivity, inherent and courteous, which has tended to smooth the angles of Western society, and deaden the exorable feeling that had so long drawn the lines of sectional division. The agile New Englander will soon be a perfect Missourian, and his offspring will soon tell the story of the adventure, and feel ever thankful that they have a home in this favored spot of the West.

During the decade which comprehends the period prior to 1830 the history of this section was made up of the earliest stage of pioneer life. About all that we can gather from this time is drawn from tradition.

The Country of the Six Bulls.-The earliest name known to have been affixed to this region, was that of the "Country of the Six Bulls." All the earliest settlers knew it by that title. The origin of the name is somewhat involved in mystery. It might naturally be supposed that it originated with the Indians, and the tradition has been handed down that the Indians, at an early period, killed somewhere in this region six lusty buffalo bulls, remarkable for their strength and fierceness, and from this circumstance the scene of their valorous exploit was ever afterward known as the Country of the Six Bulls. It has been justly remarked, however, that this explanation would seem more plausible if we had the name in the Indian language instead of such plain and unmistakable Saxon.

Several other versions are given, but we are indebted to Judge John C. Cox, of Joplin, for an explanation which, taking all things into considera-


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tion, seems more trustworthy than any other. According to Judge Cox the first white man who ever traversed this region was Edmund Jennings, a wild western adventurer whose character was largely similar to that of Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, and other pioneers who first penetrated the wilderness and prepared for civilization. Jennings was born in North Carolina, and afterward removed to Jackson county, Tennessee. He was unmarried, possessed of means, and belonged to a family numbering among its members several prominent and distinguished men. He was adventurous and roving in his disposition, and struck out on a solitary journey through the vast unexplored regions west of the Mississippi. This was at a date, now some seventy-five years ago, when the presence of civilized man had never disturbed the solitudes of this far off country. On foot and alone he found his way into this region, and for fifteen years lived on peaceable terms with the Indians, isolated from civilization, and spending his time in hunting, trapping, and fishing. His friends in Tennessee gave him up for dead. Occasionally one of his former neighbors would surmise what unhappy fate had overtaken Edmund Jennings, but no word came of his whereabouts. One day, however, to the great surprise of the community among which be had formerly lived, he returned, dressed in skins and moccasins, and so unused to the English tongue that it was with difficulty he could make himself understood. The people gathered for miles around to hear his wonderful stories of his life in the western solitudes. Judge Cox, who at that time was a mere lad, on one of these occasions heard him relate his adventures. His description of the face of the country was as accurate as could be given by any one at the time, and corresponded exactly with the physical characteristics of Jasper county. He stated that he had been in the far west in the "Country of the Six Boils," and while there had been principally engaged in trapping and fishing. His pronunciation of the word "boils" was so corrupt that his listeners first conceived it to be "bulls," but the old pioneer explained that he referred by the term to six boiling, bubbling streams of water that traversed his favorite region and along whose banks for long years he had trapped and hunted. He doubtless alluded to the Cow Skin, Indian Creek, Shoal Creek, Center Creek, Spring River, and North Fork. He spoke of the droves of buffalo, deer, and other game that inhabited the country, and his descriptions were so accurate and complete, and the marks of identification so clearly established, that no doubt remains but that Jennings' "Country of the Six Boils" was nothing else than the present Jasper and surrounding counties.

The first Permanent Settlements.-The honor of having made the first permanent settlement in Jasper county belongs to Thacker Vivion, an


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emigrant from Kentucky, who located at the spring, at the foot of the hill in Sarcoxie, about a stone's throw southwest of the railroad depot at that place. Vivion is said to have been the first white man who settled permanently in the region of country west of the Turnback River in Lawrence country. He went to Texas about thirty years ago, and at a recent date was still living in that state. About the same time came John M. Fullerton, also from Kentucky, and settled near Sarcoxie where he died about the year 1850. These settlers were undisturbed for a year or two, but other pioneers soon began to make their appearance and to occupy the beautiful and promising country. Ephrairn Beasely, Hiram Hanford, Ephraim Jenkins, and Thomas Boxly all came in the spring of 1833. Mr. Beasley settled on Center Creek, four miles west of Sarcoxie. Jenkins made his home on the creek which now bears his name a mile or two from Dr. Moss's. William and Tryon Gibson arrived a little later in the year 1833. Tryon settled on the present site of the High Hill School-house, five miles southwest of Carthage. Abraham Onstott, the father of Judge John Onstott, arrived with his family from Indiana, and stopped where Sarcoxie is on the 13th of November, 1833, a night made memorable by the "falling of the stars." Onstott remained there two or three weeks and then settled five miles south of Carthage. He lived there till 1860, and then removed to Texas and died there. Judge Onstott, his son, is now in all probability the oldest male settler in the county, and has lived within its limits longer than any other man. In the fall of 1833 David Lamasters also came to the county, and made a location on Center Creek, on the farm five miles southwest of Carthage.

Allusion has been made to only a few pioneer settlers, and others will be mentioned in the histories of the various townships. The first settlers generally chose locations in the immediate neighborhood of the beautiful springs of water so abundant in the "Country of the Six Bulls" (or Boils). They were called upon to endure the usual privations incident to pioneer life, and in their solitary and isolated situation knew little of the doings of the outside world or of the comforts and luxuries of civilization. The nearest points of importance were St. Louis and oonville on the Missouri River. Mail was a thing unknown, and in the early history of the settlements the nearest post-office was Little Piney, the county seat of old Crawford county, over one hundred and fifty miles east on the Gasconade River. A newspaper was a curiosity, and its columns were scanned in turn by members of successive families, who read with deep interest of the events which had transpired two or three months previously in the world which they had forsaken. Families living within a dozen miles of each other called them-


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selves neighbors, but circumstances were not favorable toward the promotion of those intimate social visits and the cultivation of that friendly gossip for which modern society is remarkable.

New arrivals in the colony were welcomed with old-fashioned and practical hospitality. People would go miles in order to see the new immigrants and form their acquaintance. No better material could be secured for houses than rough unhewn logs. Floors were a mark of aristocracy to which the earliest pioneers did not attain, and only became common after several families had made settlements. Roofs were made of clapboards kept in their places by heavy weight poles. Nails were only used when absolutely necessary. They were made by hand, and were too expensive to use on clapboards when the same end could be otherwise accomplished quite as easily. Stone could not be readily obtained for chimneys which in consequence were commonly built of mud and sticks. After a while puncheon floors grew into common use. Glass windows were unknown for several years. A fireplace was erected at one end of the house almost large enough to accommodate an ox team. Not only were the doors constructed with the purpose of affording an entrance and exit to the house, but they served as windows and admitted light. They generally stood wide open in winter as well as in summer, and afforded the most perfect system of ventilation ever yet invented. Judge Onstott says that the first bed of which he was possessor after going to housekeeping was constructed in the following manner: Two auger holes were bored in the logs at a proper distance apart, and in them were placed two stakes for the support of one aide of the bed, the other end of the stakes resting on forks driven into the ground. Poles answered the purpose of slats; his wife sewed together two quilts for a bed tick; the Judge pulled grass to fill it, and he stated that amid such surroundings and in that primitive state of society, he passed some of the happiest days of his life.

The early settlements were made in the timber and along the streams. The prairie was uninhabited and uncultivated. Up until about the years 1838 or 1840 there was not a single settlement in the county a mile distant from the timber. Wild game, such as deer and turkey, was abundant. In a journey of five miles it was no uncommon thing to count as many as fifty deer. Wolves were plenty, and all the young pigs and sheep had to be carefully looked after to prevent them from being carried off or devoured. There were no methods of public conveyance, and the only way of transportation was by the slow-going ox-team and wagon, with occasionally a team of horses. All goods and freight were brought from St. Louis. It took from five to eight weeks to make the round trip. People traveled by horseback;


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of coarse buggies and carriages were unknown. The conveniences of modern life were wanting, and until the erection of mills the pioneers pounded their corn into meal with a beetle in a hole burnt into a stump, or log, and separated the finer parts with a hand sieve for meal, while the coarser they made into hominy. Some of the early settlers state that instead of this process it was sometimes the custom to boil the ears of corn so as to make the kernels adhere to the cob and then grate them on a home-made grater manufactured out of sheet-iron, or tin, perforated with nail holes. Wheat was not grown for several years, and corn furnished the only kind of bread known. The settlers were at first accustomed to go long distances to mill, and often journeyed as far as the neighborhood of Springfield, and also patronized a mill which stood on the James River some eight miles south of the county seat of Greene county.

The first mill was erected at Sarcoxie by Thacker Vivion in the year 1834. The mill was made of logs, and stood about a quarter of a mile east of the public square in Sarcoxie on the same site since occupied by Mr. Perry's mill. It was not celebrated for its capacity, nor for the fineness of its work, and in these respects could not compare, we fear, with the modern mills of Jasper county; but it was a great improvement on hand-grinding, and the old settlers rallied to its support, and the mill was noted for thirty miles around.

Prior to this time Dr. Jewett opened ont a small stock of general merchandise somewhere near the present northwest corner of the public square in Sarcoxie. A blacksmith shop was also in operation previous to the date of the building of the mill. The erection of the mill rendered the place an important point. It was the center of business for the country of the Six Bulls. Neighbors living twenty and thirty miles distant from Sarcoxie would arrange to consolidate their grinding into one load and one of the party would take it to the mill. As it was only a corn cracker, and a very slow one at that-its capacity being somewhere in the immediate neighborhood of zero-parties frequently had to wait a week for their grists to be ground. Meanwhile the patient "waiter" camped out, and hunted and fished along the mossy banks of Center Creek. The place became known as Centerville. Why it was so called we could not ascertain, unless it was because it was half way between Springfield and the end of the world.

After the mill ground wheat there was no bolting apparatus connected with it, and folks sifted their unbolted flour at home. But business increased, and the enterprising miller to keep up with the rapid strides of civilization purchased a hand bolt, and each patron could combine business with pleasure by turning the machine for his own grist. Mr. Vivion also has


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