Rankin Family History Project
Weekly Perryville Union
Perryville, Missouri, Friday, 30 May 1873
THE EARLY YEARS OF PERRY COUNTY, MO.
Perry County, Mo., May 14, 1873 -- At Home
EDITOR UNION: At the request of many of my friends, I have consented to write a letter, giving a life-sketch of the early history and reminiscences of Perry county, and your valuable and worthy paper has an extensive circulation in Perry and adjoining counties, if you [will] give it a place in the Union, you will confer a favor on all concerned.
As I am an old citizen, I may be able to state some facts that the present generation does not generally know. I came here with my father when a boy from , then Washington, now Marion county, Ky., on the 15th of November, 1818. This State was then Louisiana Territory, and this was part of Ste. Genevieve county. Since that time may changes have taken place. Then the Indians roamed through the forests unmolested, and the howl of wolves and other wild beasts made the night hideous. Almost any night one might go out upon any ----ted place where Perryville now stands, and you could see Indian campfires in almost every direction. I then saw so many of these Indian campfires, that I yet imagine I can find some of the chunks.
Then Judge Moore, the father of Leo and Stephen Moore, who are now residents of this county, was the leading man for the Americans; and one Captain Reed (Indian Captain) was the leader of the Indians. Judge Moore often represented Ste. Genevieve county, and afterwards Perry county, in both branches of the Legislature. He also held the positions of county surveyor and county judge, and was a useful man to the people. When any injury was done either to the Americans or Indians, the parties went respectfully to either Judge Moore or Captain Reed to seek redress, as they were considered the leaders of the respective parties.
There were about three thousand Indians in all, men, women and children, in this vicinity. About three-fourths of them were Shawnees, and the rest Delawares; and although the tribes were neighbors, it is said they never traveled the same road.
Their paths would be, perhaps parallel, but a few miles apart. The old settlers used to tell of some depredations done by them, and how the early settlers used to carry their guns with them in the fields, and even to the school houses for protection, in case of an attack; but after I came here they never committed any murders or depredations that I know of except in one instance.
Andrew Burnís wife, who lived some where between the present site of Perryville and Apple Creek, was killed by an Indian. It was supposed that the Indian was bribed to kill her by one of her former sweet-hearts, whom she had discarded for Burns. He and the Indian were seen the same day of the murder, pitching quaits near the house of Burnís which let to this supposition. She was the grandmother of the wife of our present county judge, William Conrad.
The murderer tried to make his escape. The whites told the tribe they must give him up, or they would be punished.
They followed him toward the swamps and after an absence of three days they brought back his head, and the whites elevated it on a pole in the town of Jackson, in Cape Girardeau county.
The Indians wore broches or rings of silver in their noses and ears. The chiefs and squaws wore those of gold. It was often said they had gold and silver mines; but that was not true. They may have walked over mine of ores, but they knew nothing of its value. --
They bought their jewelry of a man by the name of OíNeal, in Ste. Genevieve, who was a gold and silversmith.
I might say that I had seen them go through all the processes of the dressing their deer skins, which was very interesting, and displayed great skill on their part. The Americans and Indians used to meet at what was called Priceís old field, now Obe Duvallís place, on the little Saline Creek in Ste. Genevieve county, generally on Saturdays in the fall of the year, and run horse races. Their betting was not large as the Indians had no money, and could only bet pocket-knives and handkerchiefs. I remember once of seeing about one hundred and fifty camps of these Indians, and their ponies covered about ten acres. -- They were nearly all bay color with swob tails, and had little bells on.
I was amused to see a little Indian boy shooting a bird in a tree with his bow and arrow. He strung his bow, pointed his arrow downward, kept his eye upward on the bird, and as he threw his bow upward he let the arrow fly and down came the bird fluttering to the ground. He run to it and held it up in triumph, at the same time talking to the other Indians.
I have often seen in Ste. Genevieve more Indians than whites. They were generally trading. It was their custom to go to the swamps in the fall and winter to hunt, and come back in the spring and go to Ste. Genevieve to trade furs, hides and deer hams.
Their head quarters was Shawnee-town in this county, nine miles southeast of where Perryville now stands and one mile this side of the present village of Uniontown, on one of the branches of Indian Creek, near where the road now runs leading from Perryville to Jackson. Mr. Wingeter now has a field where the town once stood. Two of their old apple trees are still standing. Even the citizens of the neighborhood are ignorant that this was once the embryo capital of a nation of the aborigines, where the chiefs held their councils, and the braves their war dances. I asked the man that owns this very field some time since where Shawneetown used to be. He said over in Cape Girardeau county. I told him right where those apple trees stood in his field is where Shawneetown stood.
They had a few acres in cultivation. The squaws raised beans, Indian corn and some other vegetables. Cinque Hommes Creek, near Perryville, was a great resort for them. This creek took its name from five Indians getting drowned in it, as the name itself signifies. I have often stood in my fatherís door and seen a gang of deer pass over a certain ridge, and in a few minutes I have seen the Indians follow their trail.
They all left this county about the year 1824, excepting one old Indian by the name of Cato. It is said he was forbidden to go because he had killed his wife. He never eat any hog meat or grease, and it is said this was a penance put on him by his tribe. He lived in a little cabin among the hills of the Saline near a spring. Some years ago he was found dead between his cabin and the spring. He wan an intimate friend of mine, and was buried by Robert T. Brown. The tribe went from here to the Indian reservation on the Arkansas river.
As I said in the beginning, when I first came to this county, it was a wilderness.
Right along one of the public streets of Perryville, where Hooss Hotel, V. Tuckerís family grocery, B. Cissellís residence, and your printing office now stand were growing large trees. I use to be engaged in sawing up this timber, when I was a young man, for shingles. The first goods I ever knew sold in this vicinity, was a mile west of where Perryville now stands, at the then farm of Jos. Manning and late residence of Dr. M. V. Moore.
Now I can sit in my door and hear the good notes of four church bells, one Lutheran, one Methodist, one Catholic at Perryville, and one Catholic at the Seminary, one mile west of Perryville. Then there were no school houses, except here and there a little log hut, with no furniture; now Perryville can boast of a large two story brick school house with accommodation for three hundred pupils, with ample furniture and apparatus.
There are three churches, three ministers and three schools in Perryville.
There are four local lawyers and five doctors and some of the members of both professions rank with the first talent in the State. There are seven dry goods store, two drug stores, one family grocery store, one saddler shop, one millinery store, seven saloons, one cabinet shop, three blacksmith shops, two wagon shops one time shop, three shoe shops, one saw and grist, and one flouring mill, and last, but not the least, your own cozy and neat printing office. In the vicinity of Perryville the country is checkered with farms, school houses, churches, and every thing denoting prosperity and civilization. --
Where part of Perryville now stands when I was a boy, there was a field belonging to Bernard Layton. The corners were about as follows: One was near the southwest corner of where the public square now stands, one near Mrs. Noellís residence and one near the southwest corner of Augustus Doerrís farm, and the other near John C. McBrideís store house.
If old Bernard Layton, who owned most of the land around Perryville could wakeup from the grave and see the changes that have taken place, he would certainly imagine he was on some other planet. Then the only iron used in plowing was the bridle bits and the old bar share with wooden mold board, now iron plows, reapers and drills have perfectly revolutionized all the antiquated customs of farming.
Circuit court used to be held at the house of Bede Moore, about two and a half miles northeast of where Perryville now stands. The first judge that I remember, was Judge Cook. John Scott, Gen. Nathaniel Watkins, Judge Ranney and Col. Thomas H. Benton were the lawyers who attended the bar here, then.
I have already said that when I came here this was Louisiana Territory.
In 1820 this State was admitted into the union, and on the 19th of July, 1820, the first constitution of the State was formed by the delegates sent from each county to the convention, assembled for that purpose. The delegates from Ste. Genevieve, which included Perry, were John D. Cook, John Scott, H. Dodge and Robt. T. Brown. The two last named men were my neighbors.
Dodge then owned the old salt works near Ste. Marys, and was largely engaged in manufacturing that article; but steamboats soon got to bringing it up the Mississippi river cheaper than he could make it and he quit the business.
He then enlisted in the Black Hawk war -- went through the whole campaign, and rose to the rank of General. -- He was afterward Governor of Wisconsin, and one of his sons was Governor of Iowa at the same time; still later he and one of his sons were in the United States Senate, and one in Congress at the same time. Dodgeís sister Docia was the mother of Henry L. Caldwell, who is now a resident of Ste. Marys, and well known to the people of Southeast Missouri.
Robert T. Brownís kind heart has long since been feed for worms; but I shall never forget his kindness to my fatherís family. My father settled near him in very poor circumstances. His residence was nine miles northwest of where Perryville now stands. It may be truly said he was the poor manís friend.
The Bishopís mill, two miles west of Perryville, so named from Bishop Rosetta, who built it, and which belongs to the Ste. Marys Seminary has been in operation over fifty years. It has been a great source of charity to the poor people of the vicinity. I shall only mention one circumstance. Many years ago the early frost bit the corn and the poor people were suffering for bread, but their suffering, and hunger, and the cries for bread from their little children were always relieved at the Bishopís mill; for its proprietors truly said "come and buy without price and without money."
Well, Mr. Editor, it is true I have been living here a long time, and I have seen and known of a many events, and a great deal of history has been made within the last fifty years, but I have seen nothing to compare with the horrors of the late rebellion, when brother was arrayed against brother, and the son against the father, and all this capped with the sad climax of the assassination of a President. I have a great many other things I should like to say, but I canít now as this letter is already protracted too far. I now bid adieu to your readers, and will try and say something more soon.
Yours, PETER DEAN
Back to the Top
Thank you for visiting our webpages.
Are we related? Have comments? Drop us a line.
Rankin Family History Project Sonoma County, California
Design & content by Shirley Ann Rankin
Updated January 2001
© Copyright RFHP 2001. All images and content on this website may not be reproduced without permission. Names, dates and other facts are in the public domain and you are welcome to them.