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Audrain County, Missouri


from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) Apr. 4, 1907 6/1


            "Picking up a few scraps before proceeding to the History of the City," said the old citizen, "it should be stated that Jesse cemetery about three miles west of Mexico was the burial place for the family of that name and all those who attended Hopewell Church.  Another thing, the typos made us say "Hays", whereas it should have been the Mayes neighborhood.  Then, the cemetery at Cauthorn's bridge was on the east and not the west side of the road as stated, and it may be seen there yet.  In like manner we forgot to say that the stream Littleby was named for Robert Littleby--a trapper and hunter who settled at its mouth in 1826, living alone, and taking his pelts to St. Louis at intervals.

            Audrain County was named for General Audrain of St. Charles who was in the legislature at the time, and was instrumental in establishing it.  His name, being French, was pronounced "Odrin", with the heavy accent on the O.  Some old persons yet may be found who pronounce our county's name so; and that was its pronunciation for many years before it was anglicized into the present AudRAIN.              T

             The commissioners, as stated, who located the site of Mexico were Cornelius Edwards, William Martin, and Robert Schooling.  They met in December 1836 for that purpose.  A lobby followed them around recommending this place and that, as the interests of various persons appeared.  Each land owner wanted the town close to him; and there was much bickering about the matter.  For weeks before the location, neighbors met in clusters at each other's homes at night, and discussed the matter in a friendly way.  It was then pre-eminently the politics of the region.  The commissioners were here a week or ten days investigating, and they finally agreed upon a point for the center of the city that is about two hundred yards northerly from the brick house in (of?) Mrs. Perry and built by B. R. Cauthorn.  It was then on the land of Thomas Hook, the grandfather of the present citizen by that name.

            The principal reason for selecting this location was that, from the slope of the ground and rock strata near the surface, it was presumed that abundance of water could be found there at slight depths.  Judge Morris, who built the first house in the town, assembled his logs here.  After the commissioners located the present site instead, he rehauled them, and built his house just across the street east of Frank Coatsworth's office.

            The change of site was chiefly the result of a failure to find water as they expected and the further fact that the present site was a more beautiful location.  In fact they next wished to create the town in the midst of what is now Highland Addition, but Mr. Jno. A. Pearson, who owned the land, objected.  He had bought it for a farm, he said, and did not want any town--in fact had not lost any.  

            But in the meantime R. C. Mansfield and J. H. Smith had jointly entered the land of the present site, and they offered great inducements for the location of the county seat on their

tract.  They would give streets and alleys and give to the county a public square and two acres for a public cemetery.  Besides this they donated certain whole blocks and many lots in others, as well as a tract of land north and west of the original town.  This was later made into an addition, with the streets and blocks continuous with those of the town, and was then known as "The Donated Addition", but it is usually spoken of now as "The County Addition". The date of this deed of donation was March 18th, 1837.

            Smith was the first blacksmith of the town and Mansfield was the first resident preacher.  The latter's home was on the location of Frank Coatsworth's office, and Smith's was on that corner now occupied by The Morning Intelligencer.

            The first house in the city, however, was that of Mr. Jno. B. Morris, the father of George.



from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) Apr. 11, 1907 2/3


             After Mr. Jno. B. Morris had built his house, the next house in town was on the site of Frank Coatsworth's present office (northwest corner Jefferson and Love) built by Mr. Mansfield.  Then on westward the town moved to the corner of Love and Water street (or North Clark Avenue where Mr. George Brock's present home is.)  George W. Turley lived here.  He also built the first store house on the Harper corner, where he sold goods for a number of years.  About the same time Thomas Stone built a dwelling on the Shootman corner in part of which he had a cabinet shop, and he made the tables, beds and coffins for the whole community.  His son was the first person buried in the old cemetery.

            Just east of the Shootman corner Jack Willingham, the county's first sheriff, built a house.  This was both jail and home.  The man in the county who first killed another was confined here.  He was James Hall who slew Samuel Dingle, on the lot where Kemper's saloon is now.  As the next sheriff was taking him to Columbia to be jailed there, he escaped on the way.

            The first carpenter of the town was Robert Taylor with a shop just east of the present hitch lot, northwest of the square.  The first blacksmith was James H. Smith, with his shop on the vacant lot, where the Arnold livery stable burned, east of the Morning Intelligencer office.

            At an early day Squire Mallory built on the lot of E. D. Graham's present home, and taught there the first school in the town.  A later school was taught by a man named Fulcher in a house on or near the lot of the Mrs. Graham home now occupied by Ross Cauthorn.  In the meantime, Mr. Mansfield had built a store just south of the hitch lot where Sam Morris' store now is and later Fulcher taught school here.

            After the store on the Shootman corner was built by Judge Fenton who removed from his farm--the Gass place--he built a hotel where Kemper's saloon is--a large building extending southward and for years this was Mexico's largest "tavern".  It had the usual bell on top and was of the usual type of that day.  It was really very comfortable--especially when new.  It finally burned while owned by Mr. Lowery.  Judge Fenton also built a double store house where Morris and Abbay's store now is.  In this was the first saloon--called "grocery" then--that Mexico had, though some of the general stores sold whisky, and the hotel had a bar, of course.  The saloon was kept by Lock Ramsey.  The dry goods store in the other part was run by Jno. Henderson.

            On the south side of the square the only building at that time was the court house.  About this time the north and west side had nothing.  This brings us up to about 1838.

            This courthouse was situated about the middle of the block the third lot west of the Ringo house 8 lots east of the Hunter corner on a lot later owned by Charley Winant.  Besides the normal uses for a courthouse, it was used for preaching services, and schools were located in it.  It was a well-built, hewed log house and our citizens were very proud of it.  In the course of three or four years, it was sold and a better one was built on the site of the present one.  This was of brick made on the northwest corner of Love and Clark Avenue.  Mr. Fenton burned the brick and built the house.

            By this time the community was getting sufficiently concentrated for the Doan Race Tracks, two miles north of town, to be abandoned, since they were too far away, and a new one was laid out along Promenade street with its east end at the beginning of the slope toward the Military Academy and its western terminus at Washington street, where The Intelligencer office now is.  This was, of course, a point of great excitement almost every Saturday in proper weather, though a race was liable to occur at any moment.  Frequently the end of the matter was a fight or a series of them, all with fists, of course.  Occasionally a knife was flourished, but the rule of "Knock down and drag out" was the prevailing code.  It was rare for anyone to be seriously hurt, but there were often many bloody noses and torn shirts.

            Fenton had built a wall for the playing of a game called "fives"--something like modern handball--and this was the gambling game for drinks then.  Poker and other card games were played openly for a long while.

            Every Saturday in the fall of the year the marksmen met to shoot for beef.  This also was an exciting time, and when the beef was short, money was often the prize.  The shooting ground was usually east of Wonneman's green house.  A man was once discovered here that had a brace down his coat sleeve, while pretending to shoot "off hand".  He was at once outlawed when discovered.



from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) Apr. 25, 1907 2/3 & 4


            The first county court judges were James Harrison, H. J. M. Doan, and Jonah B. Hatton.  This James Jackson, the father of     A. D. Jackson, was the first representative, also.  Joel Haynes was the first circuit clerk.  His boast was that he could eat more bacon and cabbage, split more rails and "write a better hand" than any man in the county; and in these three diverse accomplishments he was really adept.  He was one of the "chronic office holders" of his time--a specimen which the modern rotation in office has relegated to the past.  In those days the politics were Whig and Democrat, and they very equally divided this county.  The election contests were things to be remembered then.

            The saw mill was the first manufacturing establishment introduced into the community.  The first one was built by a man named Joseph Brown.  It was a water mill, located on the creek northeast of the Military Academy just above the old crossing of the road.  The canal or race ran up stream, perhaps half a mile, and the wheel was an undershot or of the "flutter mill" type.  The saw was of the upright type--not circular--which latter form was not known here at that time.  Many of our modern citizens will be surprised to know that so much water power could be obtained in our east creek at that time, but it was a deeper and fuller stream then, not filled with the silt of cultivation.  Of course in dry times Brown did not saw, but usually he did a large business.  The mill ran night and day and logs were hauled for eight and ten miles to it.  In about two years he lost the whole plant by a great flood and it was never rebuilt.

            Mr. Brown also had a brick yard just above this mill, directly east of the Military Academy.  He probably made the first brick used in the town.

            Below Powell's Ford, slightly southeastward of Sunrise church, Joseph McDonald built a grist mill.  It also was a water mill, and soon suffered a similar fate by flood.

            A distillery was built by a man named William Jones between what is now the two railroad bridges.  He made whisky here for two or three years, and he also had a mill to grind corn and wheat.  It was an inclined wheel, of tread wheel type, which was run by six or eight horses; and the customer had to take his own horses or get no grist.  Other mills and factories will be mentioned in the order of their time.  There seemed to be a great deal of ill-luck early connected with all milling enterprises in the community.  Many were destroyed by fire, so that people went to Concord, and more frequently, to Florida.  At this latter place was a good watermill, and it was the more popular, because no extra horses must be taken.  But it was distant and the trip killed two days at best.

            The next great enterprise of the city was perhaps as late as the year 1843 or '44.  It was a carding factory to make wool rolls.  It was built by W. W. Williams, the father of J. Virgil Williams, at a point on West Love street, just east of the corner of Abat street.  Mr. Williams at that time owned the Wade farm which included nearly all of the present northwest Mexico.  This mill subsequently was abandoned as a carding mill and made into a grist and saw mill.  The pond is filled up now and a residence, owned by the Gregory estate, is on its site.

            Later the race track along what is now Promenade street was broken up at its eastern end by being fenced in as a farm, by Judge Morris.  The horsemen then went out on the east end of the Boulevard and made them an oval mile track, with some straight quarter-dash tracks attached.  Some good horses were run over this dirt, and Mexico even then was a noted horse center.  These races took the place of our fairs now, and were attended from great distances. 



from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) May 2, 1907 4/5


             "Speaking of horse races," said the old citizen as the scribe whittled a pencil, "there is an amusing incident connected with one of these, which involved some of our people that not only did not indulge in the sport but condemned it generally.  A man by the name of Dameron from Monroe county came over here one day with a race mare that had a fearful reputation for speed.  He wanted to race her against any Audrain county piece of horse flesh for any sum from $5.00 up to $100--the dash to be six hundred yards.  The chief racers with their stock happened not to be in town that day.  They were perhaps off at some other races.  The only horse at all in the question was one belonging to Green and John Bishop.  He was not considered very fast, and Green Bishop was afraid to run him in response to the challenge.  It seemed such a dead sure loss.  Thereupon the Monroe county man blew around like Goliath of Gath, decrying Audrain county pride, and proclaiming a bluff on the whole community for which he expressed great contempt.  It could not furnish a stranger a horse-race.

            "The citizens were finally aroused, and Bishop proposed that they run him a race anyway, but said that he did not like to incur the whole loss; he said that if others would chip in and make up the five dollars, he would furnish the horse and one dollar.  Mexico's patriotism was so aroused that certain staid old church members even dropped quarters and halves into the pot till the amount was obtained.  No Monroe county blowhard could bluff them in that way.  When the Audrain horse was brought out, he was a sorry prospect indeed.  A negro boy was on him thumping him with both heels, one man was leading him and another was thrashing him with a pole to make him come up to the starting point.  Relays of citizens with poles were placed along the line to charge out and shout, and to make the home steed do all that was in him.  Audrain's pride was on hand in citizens of every character--the Salt River Tigers were lending their aid and comfort in force.

            "The start was just opposite Mason Creasey's store, and the run was to lie to the south.  The southern terminus was just west of Hardin College.  At the word 'Go' from a standstill start, a sounding thwack was laid on the Bishop horse and the race was on; then the citizens who had stock in the enterprise were on the anxious seat and those along the track were on the whoop.  Out past the post office--on through LaCrosse Lumber Co.'s old yard--over the rise through which the railroad cuts now, on by the eastern edge of Hardin Park the horses fled, the primitive Mexico mud flying high.  Those of us who were mildly yet financially interested stayed behind and were under great suspense, till we saw the Monroe county man riding back all splattered with mud.  Then we knew that old "Brimmer", the Bishop horse, had thrown the Audrain county soil into the eyes of the Monroe mare.  Great and prolonged shouting prevailed; a dividend was declared from the

stakes, and the staid citizen pocketed his 'two bits' now converted into 'four' without any qualms of conscience whatever.  Dameron left for home at once very much crestfallen, and carrying away about as much of Audrain county's hardpan as any one has since extracted.  He never returned on the same mission, for we gave him the impression, which was true, that we had beaten him with the worst racer that we had.

            "On all this track, which was temporary, there was not then a house or fence that obstructed the way.  It was at least four miles before any such hindrance could have been encountered."      



from THE INTELLIGENCER (weekly) Mar. 28, 1907 7/1


             The first cemetery around Mexico was that just this side of the Cauthorn bridge on the hill west of the road.  Among the early settlers were the Williamses, of whom Gideon Williams was a branch.  These lived in and around this cemetery to the west.  Some of these were buried there, as well as many ancestors of the Kilgores and Willinghams.  Frank Kilgore's father was buried there in 1836.  In fact, this was a sort of central point in the settlement.  The first mill, first schoolhouse and first cemetery being here; and the first camp meeting was held near here.  There was also a burial ground at the Clem Smith place, just north of the Taswell Hill place.  It is now owned by J. T. Johnson.  The Martins and many neighbors are buried there.

            At this place the Methodist church of this city was organized with about fifteen members--the Martins being very prominent in that denomination.

            There was also a burying ground on the old Gass place where Mr. Gass (the father of the Professors Gass and Albert Gass) and his wife are buried.  It is now known as the Hedges place.  In fact we shall see later that the tendency was to centralize the settlement around this region and in this direction the county seat was first located, but subsequently changed.

            This county was first organized in 1836, and on December 17th of that year the act was approved, settling the boundaries of it and appointing commissioners to fix the county seat.  The boundaries of all the counties around had been fixed before this so that it is described as being bounded by Boone, Monroe, Pike and Callaway Counties, and by lines between it and Ralls and Randolph, though these counties are not mentioned.  The following is the act of legislature establishing the county-

            The following was approved December 17, 1836:

            "Section 1. The territory lying and being within the following boundaries, to wit: beginning at the southwest corner of Monroe; thence east with the township line, between fifty-two and fifty-three, to where the said township line intersects the western line of Pike county; thence a little east of south with said county line, to the southwest corner of Pike county to where the township line between fifty and fifty-one intersects the ridge line between ranges four and five; thence west with said township line to where it intersects the range line between ranges six and seven, thence south to the northeast corner of Callaway County where the township line between township forty-nine and fifty intersects the range line between six and seven; thence west with said township line to where it intersects the Boone County line; thence north with said county line to where it intersects the township line between township fifty-one and fifty-two; thence west with said township line to where it intersects the range line between ranges twelve and thirteen; thence north to the beginning; be, and the same is hereby declared to be a separate and distinct county, to be known by the county of Audrain.

            "Section 2. The courts to be holden in said county, shall be

held at the house of Edward Jennings in New Mexico, until the permanent seat of justice shall be established.

            "Section 5. Cornelius Edwards of the county of Monroe, William Martin of the county of Callaway and Robert Schooling of the county of Boone are hereby appointed commissioners for the purpose of selecting the seat of justice for the said county of Audrain." etc.

            The region around Mexico was considered then as belonging to Callaway County, that of Saling Township was a part of Boone, while portions of the eastern part of the county belonged to Pike.  At present the limitations of these old counties cannot be determined.  If anyone can define them The Intelligencer would be obliged and glad of a communication.  Later from causes not now known to this scribe, a tier of sections was taken off respectively from the south side of Monroe County, the eastern edge of Boone County (in the southwest angle of Audrain) and added to this county.  Any communication concerning the cause of this would be gratefully published.

            This county was regarded by these old counties as of little value, except as a dumping ground for emigrants--the prairie not being considered of any value then.

            In the next installment the location and first settlers of the town site of Mexico will be discussed.

            The following letter explains itself.

            RFD 6, Audrain Co., Mo. March 15, 1907

            To the Editor of The Intelligencer.

            Dear Sir:-Baller Davis, of whom you spoke in your paper, was my grandfather.  He came from Kentucky to Boone County about the year 1825.  He settled there on a creek called Hingston.  He did not live there many years until he moved to Audrain County and settled on the 16th section, as it was called in those days, but now it is known by the name of the old Abe Hitt farm, just south of the Salt River Church.

                                                                        Yours Truly, Columbus Ploat

            Mr. Davis was the grandfather also of J. Harvey Stuart, Mrs. F. M. Brewer and Mrs. Alvan Sellers, all of this county.