The settlements of Perry County were made contemporaneously with those of St. Francois. The first immigrants were from Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
The former located mostly in Bois Brule Bottom. Among them were Michael Burns and his sons, Barnabas, William and James, and his sons-in-law, Thomas Allen, Thomas Cochran, John and Joel Kinnison, William Flynn, Alexander Patterson, Archibald Camster and Alexander McConnoche.
The first settlers from Kentucky were from the southwestern part of that State, in what was known as the "Barrens", and when they reached their new homes they gave the prairie-like country in the vicinity of Perryville the same name. They were nearly all Catholics.
One of the first to arrive were the Tuckers. Of these there were two large families. Joseph Tucker with his nine sons, James, Nicholas, William, John, Francis, Peter, Thomas, Joseph and Michael, located west of Perryville. They were tall men, and their settlement became known as the "Long Tucker Settlement", in contradistinction to the other family who lived south of Perryville, and were short of stature.
Another numerous family were the Moores. Among them were James, Benedict, Isadore, Nicholas and Bede, all of whom had wives and children. Isadore Moore was a prominent citizen; represented Ste. Genevieve County in the Territorial Legislature prior to the organization of Perry County.
There were also a large number of Laytons, John, Ignatius, Bernard and Zachariah, and of the Hagans, Michael, Aquilla and Joseph. Bernard and Lewis Cissell, Charles Brewer, Thomas Riney and John Manning were among the others who came at about the same time. A few years later the Farrars, Abernathys, Caldwells, Venables and Clines, came from North Carolina.
John Logan, a connection of Gen. John A. Logan, and his brothers, Robert and James, were among the early residents in the southeast part of the county. John Logan married the widow of Louis Lorimier and daughter of Francois Berthaume, who had a Spanish grant on Apple creek, and was there engaged in running a mill for some years prior to his removal to Illinois.
A settlement was made in what is now Saline Township, Ste. Genevieve County, about the beginning of the present century, and long known as New Tennessee. Among the first settlers were Peter Bloom, who came from Maryland, and Thomas Maddin, an early resident of Ste. Genevieve, and a man of great wealth. The latter was deputy surveyor under Soulard, and owned a mill on the River Aux Vases.
Nicholas Counts and two or three brothers, Joseph Hughes, Jesse Bryant, William Painter, Elder Wingate Jackson, a pioneer Baptist preacher, John McFarland, a pioneer Methodist preacher, and John and Edward Walch were also early in this vicinity.
In 1839 a large colony of German Lutherans arrived in Perry County.
These people had become dissatisfied with the practices and teachings of the established church, and under the lead of a pastor, Martin Stephan, a pretended reformer, had come to America. Stephan was a knave and a hypocrite, and had previously been suspended by the church authorities, but he possessed a great influence, and when he proposed to immigrate to America, telling the people that it was the voice of God calling them, they flocked to him in great numbers. In the language of the German historian, "Preachers, teachers and public officers resigned their positions and sold their property; physicians gave up their practice; artists and artisans abandoned their work; married men left their wives; parents, their children and children their parents."
In October and November, 1838, the colonists gathered at Bremen to the number of 707 - from Dresen, 240; Leipsic, 31; Frohna, 109; Luzenau, 84; Eichenberg, 108; Paitzdorf, 48; Langenchursdorf, 16; Braunsdorf, 19, and other places 20. After establishing among themselves a bank of credit, into which were put their combined funds, amounting to nearly $125,000, and making other necessary arrangements, they set out in five ships for New Orleans. All arrived in January, 1839, except the "Amalia" which was the last to sail. She was lost, with all on board.
On February 19, 1839, the colonists reached St. Louis, where they remained until June. Meantime many fell sick and died. At the latter date, 4,440 acres in the southeast part of Perry County were purchased for $10,000, which was taken out of the general fund. To this land the colonists, with the exception of about 120 who remained in St. Louis, came. The land was poor, and but little of it cleared. There were few houses, and most of the people were compelled to live in camps, on account of which there was much sickness and many deaths. Here their trouble was much aggravated by the bad management and brutality of Stephan, who, as bishop, had the direction of everything. He was deposed before the end of the year, however, and the colony became more prosperous. Soon after, the land, which had been bought and held in common, was distributed, and still further contributed to the general prosperity.
At about the time of Stephan's expulsion, Rev. Maximilian Oertel, with seventy-five Germans from New York, arrived and established themselves at Wittenberg. Oertel soon after returned to New York, and became a Catholic priest.
In 1880 the number of German born citizens in Perry County was 1,023, about one tenth of the whole population. The proportion in Ste. Genevieve County was about the same. The number of persons of German parentage is much larger in both counties.