When Rives Became a County
The official history of Henry County may be said to date from the organization act of the legislature, December 13, 1834, yet in reality its actual date should commence on May 4, 1835, for it was on that day that the first official recognition of its existence was made. A county court convened, consisting of two members, and their acts on the two days of their session was the first official recognition.
The act, however, of the general assembly of the State of Missouri gave to the people a corporate existence under the name of "Rives County," and the official life thus ordained has been worn with honor, and to the people has come prosperity and wealth. It is a magnificent domain, rich in an exhaustless soil. Wealth lies hidden beneath its surface to the extent of hundreds of square miles of coal fields, and with a climate unsurpassed, Henry County stands in the front of the municipal division, which composes our great and glorious commonwealth.
The act of organization:
COUNTY OF RIVES
"An Act to organize the counties of Johnson and Rives, and to fix the southern boundary of Lafayette County." Of this act sections 7, 8 and 9 refer to the organization of Rives County, as follows:
All that portion of territory included in the following limits, is hereby erected into a separate and distinct county, to be called the County of Rives, in honor of Hon. William C. Rives, of Virginia, to wit: Beginning at the southwest corner of section 30, township 44, range 28, thence south along the line of Van Burell and Bates Counties to the northwest corner of St. Clair County; thence east along the northern line of St. Clair County to the range line between 23 and 24; thence north to the southeast corner of Johnson County; thence west to the place of beginning.
SEC. 8. The said county of Rives shall be added to and compose a part of the Fifth Judicial Circuit, and that the circuit court for said county shall be held on the first Mondays of April, August and December, until otherwise provided by law, and that the courts to be holden in said county shall be held at the house of Henry Avery, until the tribunal transacting county business shall fix upon a temporary seat of justice for said county; the county court of said county shall be held on the first Mondays in February, May, August and November.
SEC. 9. The commissioners appointed by the sixth section of this act, viz: Henderson Young and Daniel McDowell, of Lafayette County, and Daniel M. Boone, of the county of Jackson, for the purpose of selecting a seat of justice for the county of Johnson, are also authorized and appointed to make the selection for the seat of justice for the county of Rives, and are hereby invested with full powers agreeably to the provisions of the existing laws in relation to that subject.
Approved December 13, 1834
At the same session of the general assembly, the boundary lines of St. Clair County were defined, but as the county was not then populous enough to warrant its organization as a distinct municipality, it was attached by special act of the legislature to the county of Rives, for civil and military purposes, until such time as it might of itself become an independent county. The act which made it a part of Rives County was passed February 1835.
This act reads as follows:
Be it Enacted by the General Assembly Of the Stale of Missouri:
"All that portion of the territory lying south of Rives County, west of Benton, now known by the name of St. Clair County, shall be attached to the county of Rives for all civil and military purposes, until otherwise provided by law." - Passed February 11, 1835
The following act defining the limits of the several counties of the state was passed by the general assembly at the session held in the winter of 1834-5, and was approved March 20, 1835. Section 38 of the act refers to Rives County, and gives the following boundary:
"Beginning at the southwest corner of section 30, township 44, range 28; thence south to the line between the townships 39 and 40; thence east to the line between ranges 23 and and 24; thence north to the southeast corner of Johnson County; thence west to the beginning."
As will be seen by the act of organization, the county Court was to meet on the first Mondays of February, May, August and November, but for some reason not explained, the first session of the County court was held in May 1835 commencing on Monday the 4th, and met as directed in the organization act at the house of Henry Avery.
At this session of the county Court but two judges appeared instead of three, and no sheriff. The County judges were Thomas Arbuckle and William Goff. The clerk, Jonathan T. Berry, was appointed by the judges present. While under, of and a part of the civil jurisdiction of Lafayette County, Henry Avery was a justice of the peace of Tebo Township (spelled in those days Teabo) and William B. Price was constable. The above township comprised as far as we can learn the present Henry County. At least no other township is mentioned, and these gentlemen and early pioneers made their appearance at the first session of the county court, and then and there offered their resignations, which were accepted. The court then appointed George B. Woodson assessor and John G. Castleman constable, and this closed the first day's proceedings of the county court.
On Tuesday morning, May 5, 1835, the county court proceeded to lay off the county of Rives into municipal townships. They divided the same into four and named them respectively Big Creek, Tebo, Springfield and Grand River.
At the same time the county of St. Clair was called the township of St. Clair, taking in the entire county. On the second day, May 5th, the first justice of the peace was appointed in place of Mr. Avery, resigned, and Mr. Colby T. Stevenson received the appointment. Not having any further business the court adjourned to court in course, and both signed the minutes, as also the clerk.
THOMAS ARBUCKLE, County Judge
WILLIAM GOFF, County Judge
JONATHAN T. BERRY, Clerk
These judges had received their commissions from Governor Daniel Dunklin.
At the second meeting of the county court, three judges appeared, Joseph Montgomery having received his commission from the governor. At this session, also, Joseph Fields presented his commission as sheriff of Rives County. Neither of the county justices commissions are of record but that of the sheriff was duly recorded as was also his bond, approved by Charles H. Allen, circuit judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit. This second session of the county court, as also the first session of the circuit court, was held at the house of William Goff, nearly six miles from Mr. Henry Avery's. Just when the circuit court opened is hard to tell, the records of the first three years having been lost. But Judge Allen was at Goff's, September 21, 1835, and it is to be presumed that he held court while there. The act of organization says that Henry County shall be attached to the Fifth Judicial Circuit. Whether it was an error or the number changed is not down, but Judge Allen signed his name as judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit. There was also an adjourned meeting of the county court on the 23d of September 1835, and the rate of taxation decided upon. The levy was ten cents on the $100, valuation. Twelve dollars for merchants license for six months, and ten cents on the $100 valuation of stock, peddlers to pay a license of $20 and taverns $18 per year. Each poll, or as they called it, tithable, thirty-one and a quarter cents. The county seat at Goff's was located on fractional section 1, in township 42, of range 25. The assessment was reported by George B. Woodson and the levy made as above. Mr. Woodson received for his services as assessor that year 1835, $54.50.
Election of Township Officers
The organization of the township required the election of officers, and the election took place in August 1835. Those elected were Abraham Banta, constable, of Springfield Township; Chesley Jones, in Tebo Township; Philip Cecil, justice of the peace for Springfield Township. These were the only ones reported, but Colby T. Stevenson, still held the office of justice of the peace for Tebo.
The September term of the county court, elected Joseph Montgomery as its presiding officer. Judge Montgomery came from St. Clair County, or Township, as it was then called, and after the organization of St. Clair County in 1841, became prominent in local affairs of the new county. They held a special election in St. Clair Township, October 24, 1835, for a justice of the peace and constable, and that was the first election ever held within that county. The County Court of Rives County, however, found that the one township composing the county covered too much space, concluded to make two townships out of it, and did so November 4, 1835. They were named respectively: Waubleau and Monegaw.
The first was spelled Wablaw and afterwards Waeubleau, but we believe it is now spelled as first used above, "Waubleau." Range line 25 divided the two townships, the east being called Waubleau and the west Monegaw.
November 28, 1835, Joseph Fields appointed Nathan A. Fields his deputy, and the appointment received the approval of Judge Charles H. Allen, judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit.
The judge had also approved the appointment of Fielding A. Pinnell as circuit clerk pro tempore. This latter was of record September 21, 1835.
There was no general election, it seems, held in August 1835.
Joseph Fields' commission of sheriff was dated August 4 of that year, and the county court appointed some of the justices and constables.
The sixteenth section of township 42 of range 26 was the first school lands sold in' Rives County. They were ordered sold at the April term of the circuit court, and the order of sale dated February 1, 1836. Section 16, township 40 of range 25 was sold in November. At this term of the court (February) William Goff resigned as one of the county justices and was appointed by the court county treasurer, which he held until August 1837, when he resigned. Joseph Montgomery was appointed county surveyor, which he held until St. Clair County was organized. He did not, however, resign his county judgeship.
In May 1836, a slight change was made in the line between townships Grand River and Springfield. The first road laid out in the county was in the same month, and started at the Johnson County line, "near, or at the high point of Postoaks, and then to a point designed as the county seat of Rives County, thence south through the county of St. Clair, crossing the Osage Mission at or near Crow & Crutchfield's store, to the county line of Polk County in the direction of Bolivar."
Willis Bush and David White were appointed overseers of the part in Rives county.
Phillip Cecil, a justice of the peace, died in July 1836, which is the first death of record, and whose will was recorded. His wife, Polly Cecil, was administratrix, and Cyrus C. Robertson and Samuel Garth were appointed to examine and invoice the effects of the estate.
Russel Morgan was the second death, and probate action taken by the court. The probate court was a part of the county court in this county until 1872, but the county court, after the year 1856, kept the records in separate books. The early probate business will all be found in the county court records previous to the above date.
Peyton Parks was appointed assessor for the year 1835, and the tax levy was the same as that of 1835.
Death of Joseph Fields
The death of the sheriff, Joseph Fields, left Nathan A. Fields acting sheriff for a few months, until the August election of 1836, when Robert Allen was elected. The sheriff and collector's office was one and the same until 1872, when the collector's office was attached to the treasurer's.
Jonathan T. Berry, county clerk, presented his resignation of that office to the county court at the August term 1836, and Fielding A. Pinnell received the appointment. Mr. Pinnell held the office for seventeen years.
In the meantime the county seat question had been agitated and settled, the commissioners having made their report. The report was accepted at the November term of the court 1836.
The location selected was the southeast quarter of section 3, township 41, of range 26. The county court appointed Peyton Parks county seat commissioner, or county commissioner for the permanent seat of justice of Rives County. Mr. Parks was given full power to lay off the town, to sell lots and to do any and all things necessary in such cases made and provided. Mr. Parks laid off sixty-four lots, and the streets surrounding the public square. That is, under his direction James M. Goff surveyed the grounds, fixed the stakes, and Goff's assistants were James Gladden, Robert Sproul and William George, the two latter carrying the chains and otherwise assisting. Mr. Goff received $42.75 for the survey, the three last named $3.50 each, and Mr. Parks came in for $17.25 for selling lots at the first sale, which came off in February 1837. Mr. Parks and John F. Sharp sold of the first survey lots to the amount of $1,356.48.
The next move was for a courthouse, and John F. Sharp, then county judge, and Thomas B. Wallace, who had succeeded William Goff as treasurer, on the latter's resignation, were appointed superintendents with full powers to plan and contract for a new courthouse. After the above order it was some months before the county court looked after the patent for the quarter section of land upon which the county seat was located. The land had been surveyed and platted, lots sold, etc., and so the following order was made and placed upon the record:
"That John F. Sharp be appointed agent for and in behalf of the county of Rives, to deposit with the register and receiver at Lexington, $200 for the purpose of obtaining a preemption right to the quarter section of land on which the town of Clinton - the seat of justice for Rives County has been located. And it is further ordered, that said county pay said agent $2.50 for each day he may be necessarily engaged in transacting said business." Judge Sharp rendered a bill of $12.50. It was not until December 1837, that Messrs. Sharp and Wallace were able to report on the plan for the new courthouse. The location having been submitted and approved and a brick structure decided upon, the county court made the following order and placed it upon the record.
"It is therefore ordered that the sum of $2,500 be and is hereby appropriated by the court for the purpose of building a brick courthouse in the said town of Clinton and county of Rives, and that the said commissioners be authorized and vested with full powers to offer the letting of said building for the lowest and best bid which can be had, after giving public notice of the time and place of offering the same.
The contract to build the courthouse was let in January 1838, to John D. Mercer, to be completed within eighteen months from the signing of the contract, and the cost of construction to be divided into three equal payments - the first two in six and twelve months, and the last payment when the courthouse was finished and accepted by the court.
Judge Sharp was also appointed county commissioner for the permanent seat of justice, with full power to sell and collect notes and make deeds in the name of the county. Judge Sharp held this position until 1844, when he resigned.
The lots in the first plat having mostly been sold, another survey was ordered, and in March 1838, the new addition was placed upon the market by Commissioner Sharp, Joseph Montgomery having surveyed the ground, for which he received the sum of $12. The report of this sale, like the others, was probably filed away, and the names of the purchases and prices paid can only be told by producing that paper. There was one lot sold at private sale of record. That was to George W. Lake, and he paid the munificent sum of $8 for the choice lot No. 89, "supposed to contain a half acre of ground."
John F. Sharp, who was appointed to go to Lexington, Missouri, to enter the selected land for the county seat at the land office, and secure a United States patent, made his report. Lots had been sold ranging from $4 to $5, but only certificates of purchase given. Judge Sharp reported to the county court that he had entered the quarter section of land at the land office at Lexington December 12th, 1837.
There is really very few of the early records that are satisfactory in many important points. For instance, the census of Rives County was ordered taken in 1836, and the sheriff, Robert Allen, performed the work, but the only record of his work is the account the sheriff made out against the county of $35.00 "for taking the census of Rives County," and the account was ordered paid. What the population was may have been known at the time, but it is not known at this day, nor is it of record. It is so in numerous instances in the enumeration of children of school age. They were taken years before any account was published of their number. The county court acted upon the theory in those days that these items were for their knowledge, to carry out their sworn duty, but that posterity had nothing to do with it, and so when they got the information and used it, that was the end of it. It is possible that in some hidden corner of some old rickety building which answered for a courthouse in those primeval days, that a scrap of foolscap paper might be found with these figures upon it, but the probability is, they went to light the old clay pipe, or a fire.
Removal of the County Seat
Soon after the sale of lots had been effected, the order came for the county and circuit courts to be held at Clinton, and the "House of Goff" was thence forward shorn of its honor as the county seat of Rives County.
There wasn't much of a show for a courthouse, or a house to hold court in, at Clinton, but Mr. George W. Lake was authorized to find some kind of a building to hold court in, and have it ready by the May term 1837, of the county court, and that term was held in Clinton, being the first county court at the permanent seat of justice of Rives County. The last, or February term, at Goff's, was a memorable one, as it planned out most of the work which resulted in a new courthouse, and also organized a more thorough system for the management of county affairs. It might, perhaps, be just to say, that the officials were learning more thoroughly their duties, and the manner of carrying them out. At this last, or February term, at Goff's, came the commissioners who had performed the onerous duty of locating the county seat, and presented their little bills. Messrs. Young and McDowell, of Lafayette County, thought about $12 each would satisfy their yearning for the currency of the realm, while Mr. Boone, of Jackson, called for $14, as a remuneration for the important services he had rendered as one of the founders, you might say, of this beautiful city of Clinton, a gem that lies upon the fair bosom of the prairies of Henry County, a city of fine business blocks, beautiful residences and grounds, and last but not least, a generous, open-hearted and hospitable people. Such a prospect as is now presented to the eye was but dimly seen or felt by the old pioneers, but they paid the bills of the commissioners promptly, and probably with thanks. At least they were done with a peripatetic courthouse, and had come to the beautiful city of the dim and distant future to stay. That, at least, was enough to be thankful for.
The first county pauper was also evolved at this time from the haunts of poverty, and came before the court to be taken care of as a county charge. He was a blind man named George Manship, and his offer to become a charge upon the county was gracefully accepted by the county court under the circumstances. Whether the county court used James B. Sears' house as a court room in May or not is not of record, but in June they did, and he got $6 rent. It is more than likely that covered the rent of both sessions. At all events, Mr. Littleberry Kimsey offered to furnish a house from the following November for thirteen months at the rate of $50 per annum. Just what the thirteen months meant was not stated, but it was probably that that date was the completion of the new courthouse. The proposition was accepted.
There was a slight change in taxation in the year 1837, increasing on valuation and made it less on poll. The rates decided on were 16 2/3 cents on the $100 valuation, 25 cents poll, merchants' license $12 to state and $12 to county for six months, peddlers $20 for six months, taverns $10 to state and $5 to county for one year, and groceries to state and county each $5 per year.
The first school district organized in the county was in the fall of 1837 as District No. 1 in township 42 of range 26, and from that date the selling of school lands and the organization of school districts commenced, and from this foundation has arisen the magnificent system and liberal management of the schools of the present day. Our forefathers built well and laid a solid foundation for the intellectual advancement and moral progress of the people of today. But the school history of Henry County will be found fully written up under its own proper heading in another place, and will therefore call our readers' attention to it then. It will be found interesting reading to those who take pride in the intellectual advancement of the people generally and of the youths of the present day.
The County Seat
Clinton seemed to grow and prosper. There was not in its location or afterwards, which happened to many other county seats, that was a county seat fight. There were no towns of importance in the county, and the only rivalry possible - was in the ownership of land near the center of the county, but even that was denied them, as the land was only just opened for market, and not enough people to purchase all the land available for a county site. So when Clinton was located she had no rivals, her location prevented rivalry afterwards. Being so near the center, all she had to do was to grow and prosper. In August of 1837, a patrol was appointed. About this time William Goff resigned the office of county treasurer, and Thomas B. Wallace was appointed. A tavern was built and a license to keep it was granted to John Nave, he paying $10 to the state and $5 to the county for the privilege. This was Clinton's first hotel.
The August election came off as usual, but a special election was held at the town of Clinton on the 23rd of November 1837, to elect a justice of the peace. This was the first held there. He was to have jurisdiction over Grand River Township.
The county court, after paying Mr. Sears $6 for courthouse favors, as before mentioned, removed their courthouse to a building furnished by Robert Sprawl. He got $15 rent, but how long it was used was not stated.
Another slight change took place in the township lines, and this time it was between Grand River and Big Creek. Mr. Matthew Davis wanted to be in Grand River Township, and by the order of the court he got there. The next thing to a road in those early days was a way to get across the large streams when the ford could not be used. This was accomplished by ferries, and the first one started in Henry or Rives County was by Edward Mulholland, who was granted a license to keep a ferry across Grand River on section 9, township 40, of range 25, he paying $2 to the state for the privilege, the county charging nothing. The rates for ferriage was, for a man, 6 cents; man and horse, 12 cents; one horse wagon, 25 cents; two horse wagon, 31 cents; four horses and wagon, 50 cents, and hogs, sheep and cattle, 4 cents each.
The first sale of slaves of record was those belonging to the estate of B. Cox, which took place in February 1838, the family generally purchasing them. The sale was ordered to settle the estate. From May 12th, 1838, to May 12th, 1839, the sum of $72.50 was paid to John Parks for the use of his house to hold court in. This was quite an advance over the year before, but then John Parks' house might have been larger than the others. This was the fourth change of location since the seat of justice had been permanently located.
There was another sale of lots at auction March 22 and 23, 1838, on a credit of nine months. This time was given in place of the twelve months given at a previous sale, but it was done to help meet the second payments on the courthouse which would become due about that time. The sale of lots amounted to $3 15. Some $11 worth, or two lots were sold in August, and in March 1839, another sale footed $156. On the previous or first sale of lots on twelve months reported at $1,356.18, the time was up, $736.04 was paid in and the remainder of the notes were renewed. Mr. Goff, who had handed in his resignation as treasurer of Rives County some months before, presented his account for services rendered. He had been acting treasurer for over a year and he thought he was entitled to $40.32, and seeing he had waited nearly a year before presenting his account, it was promptly passed and a warrant issued for the full amount. This warrant was worth its face as a tax paying currency and somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy-five cents on the dollar in store goods. But the farmers soon got to understand that these warrants, like the greenbacks of today, were their own issue, that there was good property behind them, and that a little bit of reasoning advanced them to par and kept them there.
The first coroner's inquest was on the body of Peggy Givens, whose body was found on the road leading to her home. Exposure and apoplexy was supposed to have caused her death. The coroner's fees and burial expenses, except coffin, amounted to $6.80. A justice of the peace acted as coroner.
The year 1839 ushered in numerous changes, and there were many new settlers who found their homes here. Not all had gone to the beautiful Indian lands known as the "Platte Purchase," but many found the splendid prairies of Henry, with their deep, rich soil, good enough for them, and that if there were richer lands than what they had before their eyes others might go and find them, as for them they were satisfied. There is no mistake about it; the solid progress that Henry County had made, both in wealth and population, in less than a decade from the settlement of Arbuckle, Avery, Parks, Cecils, Goffs and others - from 1831, 1832 and 1833 to the year 1840 had been the equal of any similar area of land in the state, only excepting the wild rush of 1837-8 to the above mentioned "Platte Purchase" in Northwest Missouri. Yet large bodies of this land went into the hands of speculators, and therein it proved more of a curse than a blessing to that section of the state.
The county building was progressing. Judge Sharp had his hands full attending to county seat matters and had to resign his superintendency of the courthouse building. Mr. Matthew Davis was called on to take his place, and Messrs. Wallace and Davis remained commissioners until the completion of the work. In addition to a new courthouse a public well was considered a great public convenience, and two of the public-spirited citizens of Clinton offered to the county court to subscribe $100 towards a well if the county would put up a like amount. The names of these gentlemen were Asaph W. Bates and Thomas B. Wallace. The county court was a pretty shrewd trio of old farmers and they promptly accepted the proposition, but coupled it with the following proviso:
"If the well did not cost $200 the county would pay its share or half what it did cost, and Bates and Wallace were to pay the other half."
They did not propose to subscribe $100 anyway, in case the well should not cost the full amount. The contract was let, and a guarantee clause of plenty of water and the well walled up with rock and everything in good order added, Messrs. Bates and Wallace agreeing to the economy proviso of the court. The well proved of great convenience.
There had been numerous ferry privileges granted, but it seems there was one needed across Grand River, on the road leading from Clinton to Harmony Mission, in Bates County, which had not found a keeper. Such being the case the county court offered to any one who would take charge and keep said ferry at the point designated, extra prices for ferriage. These were for a four horse team and loaded wagon, $1.50; the same empty, $1; two horse wagon 50 cents; man and horse, 25 cents; horses and mules, 12 cents per head, and sheep and hogs, 6 cents. Who accepted this most liberal offer was not recorded.
This year also showed great activity in the schools. There were some five or six sections of these lands sold, generally at the government price of $1.25 per acre. Some few choice lots would go higher, if the owners adjoining wished to enlarge their landed estate.