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Rankin Family History Project

Perry County Organized


The county court of Perry County was organized at the house of Bede Moore on May 21, 1821, by Lewis Cissell, D. L. Caldwell and Samuel Anderson, who appointed Cornelius M. Slatterly, clerk. The county was divided into three townships: Brazeau, covering the territory between Cinque Homme and Apple Creeks; Bois Brule, which embraced the northeast part of the county, and Cinque Homme including the remainder of the county. The voting places and judges of the first election were: For Brazeau, the house of Samuel Anderson; John G. Love, James Fenk and Benjamin Davis, judges; Bois Brule - the house of Charles Ellis; William Flinn, William Sincey and H. P. Harris, judges; Cinque Homme - Thomas Riney, Joseph Tucker and Aquilla Hagan, judges.

Robert T. Brown qualified as sheriff, and Joseph Tucker was appointed assessor. Commissioners were appointed to locate the seat of justice, but no move was made toward the erection of a courthouse until 1825, when the contract for a two-story frame building was let to Thomas Hayden. This house was completed and occupied by the courts in August, 1826. A log jail had previously been erected in the northeast part of the town. It was used until 1839, when a brick jail, thirty-three feet long and twenty-two feet wide, was erected on the public square near the courthouse.

The circuit court for Perry County was organized on June 4, 1821, by Richard S. Thomas. The grand jury was composed of the following citizens: Aquilla Hagan, Zachariah Layton, John Tucker, Peter Holster, Guy Elder, James Manning, Daniel McAtee, James C. Moore, John P. Adams, Bernard Brown, Benedict Riley, Michael Hagan and Henry McAtee. No indictments were returned, nor was there much business before the court for the first four or five years.

The first important trial was that of Ezekiel Fenwick, indicted for the murder of William R. Bellamy, on March 29, 1824. Fenwick had had a store at Brazeau, and had failed to pay some of his debts. Bellamy, who was constable, was sent to attach the goods, but when he found Fenwick, the latter had his goods upon a boat preparatory to removing them across the Mississippi. He attempted to tie up the boat, but Fenwick resisted, and in a struggle which ensued shots were exchanged, one ball taking effect in Bellamy's arm. Bellamy was a dissipated man, and owing to bad treatment of the wound, it resulted in his death. Fenwick escaped to Cape Girardeau County, but, upon promise of being admitted to bail, surrendered himself.

Judge Thomas, according to agreement, discharged him upon bail, and this afterward formed one of the charges in the impeachment case against the Judge. Fenwick, upon trial was acquitted. At the July term, 1832, William Burns was tried for the murder of John Cummings, but was promptly acquitted on the ground of self defense.

The present courthouse in Perry County was erected in 1859, when $8,000 was appropriated for that purpose, and John E. Layton was appointed to superintend its construction. It is still in a good state of preservation. The offices have been furnished with large fire-proof safe, and there are few counties in the State that have as complete or as conveniently arranged records.

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The Goodspeed Publishing Company compiled a series of histories of various counties in the U.S. in the late 19th century. The information in the History of Southeast Missouri, published in 1888, was provided by the contemporary residents of Perry County and her neighboring counties. The biographies are a valuable source of genealogical information, despite a few minor inaccuracies. We are glad to present the transcribed biographies here for anyone researching Perry County's history.

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