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Rankin Family History Project

Old Glory

Weekly Perryville Union
Perryville, Missouri, Friday, 04 June 1875

History of Perry County

We have Campbell's Gazetteer of Missouri before us. It contains over 800 pages, and give a history of the early settlements, resources, statistics, &c., of the State of Missouri by counties. The article on Perry County was written by Hon. W. H. Bennett, some what modified by the author, and thinking that it might be of some interest to those who read the Union we have concluded to publish the same:

Perry County, in the eastern part of the State, bounded north and east by the Mississippi river, which separates it from the State of Illinois, south by Cape Girardeau and Bollinger counties, west by Madison and northwest by St. Francois and Ste. Genevieve, and contains 295,356 acres.

Population in 1830, 3349; in 1840 5,769; 1850, 7215; in 1860, 9128; in 1870, 9,877, of whom 9477 were white and 400 colored; 5,004 male and 4873 female, 8334 native (7,331 born in Missouri) and 1.543 foreign.

History. -- Perry county was settled between 1796 and 1800 by emigrants from Kentucky and Pennsylvania, the latter locating in the rich bottom lands of Bois Brule; for former generally settling in the "Barrens," and along the waters of Saline creek. About the same time the "Long Tucker" settlement was established on the Saline, and the "Short Tucker" settlement in the Barrens. Also about the same date the Layton settlement was made, part of which subsequently became the site of Perryville, which is located in the Bernard Layton survey, and on another pat, 1 mile west of Perryville, was afterwards build the Roman Catholic institution, St. Mary's Seminary, on the Ignatius Layton survey. The settlements formed from Kentucky were Catholic, and those from Pennsylvania were Protestant.

Among the early emigrants from Kentucky were the families of Moore, Layton, Cissell, Tucker, Miles, Dean, Manning, Hagan, Brewer, Duvall, McAtee, Riney and Hayden. From Pennsylvania were those of Burns, Shelby, Kinnison, and -----. Later, the Farrar and Abernathy settlements, led by the Farrars, Abernathys, Rutledges, Venables and Clines from North Carolina, were established in the southern part of the county. The Flynns, Wilkinsons, Valles, Beauvais, Caldwells, Waters and Jones, all came at an early day.

Many of these pioneers and their descendants have held positions of honor in the county; among the Kentuckians may be mentioned Mr. Isidore Moore, (Perry county then formed part of Ste. Genevieve) who was a member of the first State Legislature, and also county judge and surveyor. Martin Layton was county judge, John C. Layton was representative, Felix Layton rose from the rank of lieutenant to that of major in the U. S. Army. Bernard Cissell, who died in 1872, was a lawyer of decided ability. Mark and R. M. Brewer worthily represented their family, the former as county judge for two terms, the latter as county judge, member of the State Legislature and colonel of the county militia during the late war.

"Uncle Peter Dean" has been a resident of Perry county for 55 years. His youth being passed on the frontier, he grew to manhood ignorant of books, but by patient study he has overcome this difficulty. the people with whom he has passed his long life have more than once shown their appreciation of his honesty and ability. For a long time he served as constable, 8 years as assessor and 2 terms as sheriff. Dr. Reuben Shelby, a descendant of the Pennsylvanians, has been county judge, county surveyor and speaker of the State House of Representatives 2 terms, [and is now a member of the State Senate,] and Henry T. Burns was a very popular as county clerk for a number of years. John H. Abernathy has held, for some years, and still holds the position of county judge, and is considered one of the ablest men who has ever filled this position. Simeon C. Duvall was made county judge. Thomas Riney represented the county in the State Legislature.

Perry county was organized November 16th, 1820, about 8 months after Missouri was admitted into the Union. The first circuit court was held at the house of Bede Moore, about 2 miles northeast of the present site of Perryville. Richard Thomas was the presiding judge, and Green W. Davis, now of Jackson, Mo., prosecuting attorney, Robert T. Brown, sheriff, and Cornelius M. Slatterly clerk.

Until 1814 there were about 3,000 Indian in the county -- two-thirds of then Shawnees and the remaining Delawares. Their chief village, Shawneetown, was about 9 miles south of Perryville. About 1821, ... Andrew Burns, who lived south of the present site of Perryville. The Indian who committed the deed was pursued southward to the swamps, captured and his head placed upon a pole in Jackson, Cape Girardeau county. One old Indian, known as Cato, remained after the Shawnee and Delawares removed to their reservation. It was said that for having killed his wife he was excommunicated by his tribe, and condemned to solitude and fasting. However, he lived alone for years on the banks of the Saline, and when removed to "the happy hunting grounds" received Christian burial by the white settlers. As the fertility of Perry became known, numbers of Germans and French were attracted to it, and their descendants are among the most valuable citizens. In truth, Perry had the good fortune to be settled by a class of men remarkable for their intelligence and uprightness, and their descendants do no discredit to them, for there is no portion of the State where religion and education are more honored than here. Among the prominent attorneys who have practiced at the Perry county bar were Gen. Nath'l Watkins, John Scott, Judge Ranney and Col. Thos H. Benton

During the civil war the citizens of Perry county remained loyal to the government, and Perry county suffered less than many of her neighbors. Four men, Frank Tucker, Stephen Wimsatt, John Brewer and Sylvarius Layton, peaceable citizens charged with being "copperheads," were shot by some undisciplined soldiers of Gen. McNeil's command, Mr. Pratt, who had been in the confederate army, on returning home were captured and killed by some of the state Militia.

Physical Features. -- The western part of the county, along the head waters of Saline Creek and White water river, is generally broken and hilly, and unprofitable for cul[t]ivation, except on the bottoms. The southern portion is also somewhat hilly, but the soil produces well.

Parallel with the Mississippi river though several miles from it, are the river hills, generally under cultivation, growing wheat, clover, etc. -- Just west of these is a large scope of country known as "the barrens," undulating table lands, formerly merely covered with prairie grass, with here and there an antiquated oak, but now having a heavy growth of young timber, and discovered to be very productive. This section is indented occasionally by sink-holes, which communicate with subterranean water-courses, giving most admirable drainage. But the garden spot of the county is Bois Brule (burnt wood) Bottom, lying between the hills and the Mississippi river, about 18 miles in length, and from 4 to 6 miles in width. This belt of land is level and marvelously rich, producing from 40 to 100 bushels of con, and from 30 to 40 bushels of wheat per acre. The county is drained by the south fork of Saline, Bois Brule, Cinque Hommes, Amet, Brazeau, Indian and the head waters of White Water river, while the Mississippi lies on the entire eastern boundary. Cinque Hommes (five men) was named in remembrance of five men who were drowned while trying to cross it. Timber is abundant, consisting of cottonwood, linn, ash, poplar, maple, walnut, sugar-maple, sycamore, beech, several varieties of oak, dog-wood, etc.

Excellent water power is furnished by many of the streams, and also by several springs. One of the largest of these is about 6 miles west of Perryville, and has sufficient force to run a mill every day in the year. Silver Lake, just above this mill, and formed by the dam, is a favorite place of resort, and possesses great beauty. There are numerous caves near Perryville, 2 of which penetrate beneath the town. None of them have been fully explored, but sufficient investigation has been made to show that beneath the whole central part of this county a curious subterranean world exists. Dr. Shelby penetrated one a distance of 4 miles. Grand Tower, about one mile below the town of Wittenberg, on the west side of the river, about 60 feet from the shore, is a tower of solid rock about 75 feet high, from which a fine view of the river, the bluffs and the city of Grand Tower on the opposite bank, may be had.

The Agricultural productions consist of cereals, grasses, vegetables and fruits. Wheat, however, is the great staple, and the quality is not surpassed by any in the world, as shown by the premiums awarded it at various times and places. Fruit culture is receiving increased attention, especially grape-growing.

The Mineral Resources consist of lead and iron,undeveloped as yet for want of capital. Several lead mines have been opened in the western part ... 6 miles west of Perryville. Iron is being mined in the southern part of the county at the Birmingham Mines. Silicon is found in inexhaustible quantities in the southern part of the county.

The manufacturing interests consist of grist and saw mills, and 2 furnace. The Bishop's mill, on Saline creek, built by and named in honor of Bishop Rosetti, has been in operation for 50 years.

Wealth. -- Valuation of the county per census of 1870, $4,650,000.

The exports are wheat, flour, corn, lumber and a small quantity of lead and iron.

Educational Interests. -- The popular feeling is strongly in favor of the public schools, which are established in every sub-district, and are under the charge of teachers that compare favorably with any in the State. The Brazeau High School, closed for a number of years, has been reopened under the charge of the Presbyterian Church. -- A private school under the control of the Sisters of the Sacred Blood, bids fair to become one of the permanent institutions of Perryville. One of the buildings of St. Mary's College, located one mile west of Perryville was, in 1886, burned. This is one of the oldest educational institutions in the State, having been established in 1824 by the Order of Lazarists. Some prominent men in church and state were educated here. Among them, may be mentioned Senator Morrison of Mississippi county, Gen. Rozier of Ste. Genevieve, Rudolph Rozier of New Orleans, Dra. Brennen and Hogan of St. Louis, Rev. A. Ryan, the poet-priest of the South, Dr. Shelby of Perryville, Jules Valle of St. Louis, Archbishop Odin of New Orleans, Bishop Tyman of Buffalo, Bishop Lynch of Montreal, Bishop Ammat of Los Angelos [sic], Cal, Stephen Ryan now (1874) Bishop of Buffalo, and Michael Dominic now Bishop of Pittsburg. A private school is now conducted at this place, but it is expected that the college, which after the burning of the building was removed to Cape Girardeau, will be re-established here. The college, church and seminary buildings here are among the finest south of St. Louis, and the part, the orchards and gardens make it one of the most charming places in this section of the country. There are 19 private schools in the county, with an attendance for 1873 of 718; 49 public schools, property valued at 411,460, attendance 1,709. There are also three schools for colored children.

Longtown, 7 miles southeast of Perryville, named in honor of John Long, Sr., has 3 stores and 1 wagon shop. -- Altenburg, five miles southwest of Wittenberg, was settled in 1838 by a colony of Germans, and is now almost entirely inhabited by their descendants. It was incorporated in 1868, and has 2 Lutheran churches, one just erected is a beautiful stone edifice, costing $15,000,2 public and 2 German schools, 8 stores, 1 grist mill, and 1 shingle and stave manufactory. One peculiarity of the people is that they rarely have any law suits, their difficulties being usually settled by the church authorities. Population about 400.

Biehle, a post office 10 miles south of Perryville has 1 store. Clarysville on the Mississippi river, 15 miles north east of Perryville and opposite Chester, Ills., has recently been laid off by Capt. C. C. Williams. it is located in Bois Brule Bottom, and is the terminus of the C. & I. M. R. R., talked of being constructed. I has 2 store 1 blacksmith shop, and a school house. -- There is a steam ferry at this point.

Frohna, 15 miles southeast of Perryville, has 1 Lutheran church, 2 stores, and a steam flouring mill. Eureka, 8 miles east of Perryville,m has 1 store.

Perryville, the county seat, is 32 miles northeast of Fredericktown, on the St. L. & I. M. R. R., and 12 miles from St. Mary's. In 1821 Wm. Lynn, Benj. Davis, Simon Duvall, John Layton and Barnabus Burns selected the site of the county seat, and Robert T. Brown, Joseph Tucker and Thomas Riney were appointed commissioners to superintend the building of the court house and jail. This town is situated on a high plain, surrounded by a rich farming country, and is tastefully and substantially built. It is well supplied with building stone and timber. It has 3 churches -- Lutheran, Methodist and Catholic -- 1 public and several private schools (described under Educational interests,) 2 steam saw and flouring mills, 8 stores, 2 drug stores, 2 hotels, 2 newspapers, 2 wagon shops, 5 blacksmith shops, 4 shoe shops, 1 saddler, 2 livery stable, 2 tin shops, 1 cabinet makers shop, 2 carpenter shops, 2 breweries, 2 paint shops, 1 cooper shop, 2 brick yards, 1 bakery, 1 tailor shop, 8 saloons. Population about 600.

Silver Lake, 10 miles southwest of Perryville, located in a beautiful valley was settled in 1868, and has 1 mill and 1 store. Uniontown, 12 miles southeast of Perryville, has 1 store and 1 wagon shop. Younts' Store, a post office 17 miles southwest of Perryville.

Wittenberg, on the Mississippi river 20 miles southeast of Perryville, 118 miles below St. Louis, and nearly opposite Grand Tower, Ills., was settled ... colony aimed at founding a magnificent Lutheran church, on a lofty eminence on the river bluff, which was to be New Zion of that denomination in America. But meeting with some misfortunes this idea was abandoned, and the large bell brought from Europe to the church, was sold to the Catholic church in St. Louis, called the College... This is a great shipped point for the eastern part of Perry and ... portion of Cape Girardeau counties. The encroachments of the river have retarded its growth, but it has a population of about 500, and contains a fine flouring mill, 1 steam saw mill, 2 stores, 2 warehouses, 1 brewery and an excellent public school. Its citizens, mostly the original German colonists and their descendants, are like those of Altenburg, an industrious and honest people and have added much to the wealth and prosperity of Perry county.

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