Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens


Chapter 9
Various Divisions of Greene County
by A. M. Haswell


As previously told in this history, the first business transacted at the initial term of the County Court of Greene county, at its first session, March 1, 1833, was the subdivision of the vast territory just set aside by the Legislature as Greene county. This was no light task, and while we sometimes smile at the quaint methods of describing boundaries of these townships we have at the same time to acknowledge that those pioneer official did able and conscientious work, and were not long in bringing order out of the chaos natural to the beginnings of such undertakings.

The first townships were naturally of great size; any one of them larger than any one of the several modern counties that originally formed a part of Greene county. Of those townships formed from territory then included in Greene county but which are now parts of other counties, I shall mention no more than the fact of their organization and names. But of those which are now a portion of Greene county I will give a fuller description and history. The boundaries of the first townships were given in Chapter 3. These townships were Spring River, Jackson, Mooney, Campbell, White River, Oliver Creek, Sugar Creek and Elk Creek. On March 13,1837, Boone township was organized, covering territory described as follows: "Beginning at a point two miles east of the range line, between ranges 23 and 24, on the line of Polk county, thence due south to Taney county line; thence west to the southwest corner of Greene county; thence due north with the west boundary line of Greene county to the Polk county line; thence with said line east to the beginning."

This covers considerably more than one-fifth of present Greene county, besides a large territory now in Christian county. On August 10th of the same year, 1837, Robberson township was created, with boundaries given thus:

"Beginning at the Polk county line, at the northeast corner of Boone township; thence south with the said township line to the old base line; thence east with said base line to the western boundary of Jackson township; thence, north with said line to the Polk county line; thence west with said line to place of beginning. This township to be known as Robertson township."

The pioneer scribes spelled that name, Robberson, in several different ways: Robertson, as in the record above, Robinson, Robbisson, etc. Whether the fact that the record of the first creation of the township is given as "Robertson" was ever corrected by the court, I cannot find. However, after the first few years we find it correctly named, and Robberson it has been for seventy years at least.

The house of Elizabeth Robberson was made the voting place for the new township, and Bennett Robberson, Hosea Mullings and James Wells were appointed judges of elections. Two other townships were organized this year, 1838, called Benton and Ozark, respectively. Neither of them now touch Greene county. In May, 1841, Polk township was organized; much of it outside of present Greene county boundaries, but also including a large part of what is now the southwest quarter of the county. May, 1846, saw Cass township organized as follows:

"Beginning at a point six miles east of the eastern boundary of Dade county, on the northern boundary line of Greene county; thence to the south boundary of Robberson township; thence east seven and one-fourth miles; thence north to Sac river; thence down Sac river to the range line between Ranges 22 and 23; thence north with said line to the northern boundary of the county; thence with the line dividing Greene and Polk counties to the place of beginning."

These boundaries, with the exception of a small tract in the southeast corner of the township described, and which was afterwards added to Robberson continued for many years until Murray township was taken off the South end of Cass. In 1847 two new townships were made, Dallas and Porter.

,Dallas is now wholly outside of Greene county, and only a part of the northern portion of Potter is included in what is now Washington township, in the southeast corner of Greene. [204-205]

A NEW TOWNSHIP IS FORMED.

At the April term of County Court, in 1856, a new township was cut out of Boone and Polk townships, and named for one of the judges of the court (who happened not to be present that day), Farmer township. As soon as Judge Farmer returned he made a motion to call the new division "'Center Township," and as such it continues to this day.

In April, 1859, a strip seven miles wide was taken from the south side of Greene county and made a part of the new county of Christian. This move had been in contemplation for several years, but had been strenuously opposed by the people of Greene county, and by aid of their representative in the Legislature they were able to postpone the organization of the new county for some time. At last, in 1859, it was accomplished. The principal reason for this opposition was the fact that a railroad indebtedness had been placed upon the county by vote of the people. This amounted to $80,000.00, and it was considered unfair that a part of the people who had incurred this, debt should be released from paying their part.

However, the new county was an accomplished fact, and the new boundaries required readjustment of the townships along the south line of the county, as now formed. So at the April term of the court, in 1859, three new townships were created, all of which continue to the present day, with many modifications of boundaries. These were Clay, Wilson and Pond Creek. As given in the original order, the boundaries are as follows:

"Pond Creek—Beginning at the northeast corner of section 2, township 28, range 23, thence south with the section line to the south boundary of the county; thence west to the Lawrence county line; thence north to the northwest corner of township 28, range 24; thence east with the township line to the beginning." Elections were ordered held at Wade's Chapel.

"Wilson township—Beginning at the northeast corner of Pond Creek township; thence east on the township line between townships 28 and 29 to the range line between ranges 21 and 22; thence south with said line to the Christian county line; thence west along the county line to the southeast corner of Pond Creek township; thence north to the beginning.

"Clay township—Beginning at the northeast corner of Wilson township; thence east to the northeast corner of section 6, township 28, range 20; thence south on the section line to Christian county; thence west on the county line to the southeast corner of Wilson township; thence north to the beginning." Elections to be held at H. Hollingsworth's.

Within two years after the organization of these townships civil war was in the land; and no further townships were created until that great controversy was finally settled. Then in June, 1866, Walnut Grove township was formed from the northern part of Boone; and at the same time several sections from the northwest part of Center township were added to Boone.

At the January term of court, in 1873, Brookline township was formed as follows:

"Brookline—Beginning at the northeast corner of section 1, township 28, range 23; thence to the southeast corner of section 25; thence west to the southeast corner of section 30; thence north to the northwest corner of section 26; thence-east to the northeast corner of section 1; thence to the place of beginning." All in township 28, of range 23.

About the same time Washington township was formed in the southeast corner of the county, by taking thirty sections in township 28, range 20 from Taylor township. [206]

At the October term of court, in 1888, a new township was created under the name of Republic. This was taken in part from Pond Creek, Center and Brookline townships, and covered the following described territory:

"Republic—The west half of township 28, range 23; also section 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and 33 of township 29, range 23; also sections 6, 7, 18, 19 and 30 of township 28, range 24."

Some dissatisfaction arising over these boundaries, we find that at the July term in 1889, the first order was rescinded and the following order made setting the boundaries of Republic township:

"The west half of township 28, range 23; and sections 28,29, 30, 31, 32 and 33 of township 29, range 23; also sections 25 and 36 of township 29, range 24; and sections 1, 12, 13, 24 and 25 of township 28, range 24."

At a term of the County Court, held in June, 1886, an order was made creating a township out of territory taken from Cass and Robberson townships. This new division was named Murray, and included twenty-four sections off the southern end of Cass,, being sections 13 to 36 inclusive, of township 20, range 23; also ten sections from the southwest corner of Robberson township. Some years later a change was made making the territory taken from Robberson to be one and a half miles east and west, and four miles north and south. This makes the boundaries of Murray township to be seven and a half miles from east to west and four miles from north to south. The town of Willard was designated as the voting place for the new township.

The population of the various, townships in Greene county will be found given in detail in Chapter 19 of this history, where it more appropriately appears, and need not be repeated here. Of the several towns and villages, scattered through the county, however, it will be necessary to give brief outlines.

THE OLDEST VILLAGE.

The oldest of these outlying villages is undoubtedly Ebenezer located upon section 12, township 30, range 22, in Robberson township. The first settler here was a man named Painter, in the year 1831. In 1834 the celebrated Robberson family came from Tennessee and located in the neighborhood. This family consisted of the widowed mother, Elizabeth Robberson, and seven sons and an equal number of daughters. The prairie where they settled took the family name, and the township afterwards organized also bears that title to this day. At Ebenezer was organized a church, and when the question of a name was up some one suggested "'Ebenezer." "Thus far the Lord has led us on," and thus the name of both church and hamlet was settled. Here was, at a very early day, the site of Ebenezer College, long since discontinued. There is a church building, a flour mill, and thriving public school; also, several general stores.

In the northeast part of the county is Fair Grove, also an old town. This is located upon the northeast quarter of section 29, township 31, range 20, in Jackson township. It is a thriving trading point; has a number of well-stocked stores, a fine school, two churches, and is on the lately located "Lake to the Gulf" highway, from Duluth, Minnesota, to the Gulf of Mexico. If a railroad is built, northeast from Springfield, Fair Grove is logically upon the line to be followed. Several surveys have been run in the past, and all of them passed through Fair Grove.

Cave Spring, in the central part of Cass township, is also one of the older villages of Greene county. It is located upon a part of the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 4, township 30, range 23. It takes its name from a very fine bold spring that flows from a cave like depression, almost in the center of the town. The first resident of Cave Spring was John Grigsby, who built a house of logs about 1839. A store was established by Alfred Staley in 1848, and stocked with goods hauled overland from Boonville. The Mount Zion Presbyterian church was organized a short distance south of Cave Spring in 1839. It afterwards built a log meeting house near the spring. This building was used much of the time during the war for sheltering soldiers and as a military store house. In 1869 the church built a good frame edifice, with a large school room on the ground floor and a church auditorium above, which it still occupies. This is said to have been the first Presbyterian church organized west of St. Louis.

The surrounding country is a fine agricultural region, and Cave Spring has a good local trade.

In Boone township, on sections 20 and 21, of township 30 of range 24, is the city of Ash Grove. The first settler upon this territory was Joseph Kimbrough, who opened a store here in 1853. Afterwards the pioneer firm of Sheppard & Kimbrough, of Springfield, conducted the store. When the Civil war opened, this store and a blacksmith shop comprised about all there was of Ash Grove. But after the peace, the rich territory around the place and the influx of new-comers started the little town to growing, and in 1871 a plat was filed of "The Town of Ash Grove." This plat was afterwards refiled, in 1879, by decree of the Circuit Court, in order to correct certain errors in the first survey. The census of 188o gave the population as five hundred. In 1898 it had increased to nine hundred and fifty; in 1900 it had one thousand and thirty-nine, and in 1910, one thousand and seventy-five.

Since that date it has grown rapidly and has built many solid improvements. It has a large number of stores, an opera house, hotels, churches of the different denominations, flour mills, electric lights, good streets, and is in every respect a thriving and prosperous little city. [208]

Just outside of city limits of Ash Grove are the extensive works of the Ash Grove Lime and Portland Cement Company. This is one of the largest concerns in that line in the State of Missouri, and sends out annually thousands of tons of its products.

Ash Grove is on the main Kansas City line of the Frisco, and is also the southern terminus of the Kansas City, Clinton & Springfield railroad.

In the western part of Republic township is the little city of the same name. This is located upon sections 19 and 20 of township 28, range 23, and is a station upon the main line of the Frisco, some fourteen miles southwest of Springfield. The first plat of any part of what is now Republic was filed on the 8th of January, 1879, by William B. O'Neal. Several additions have been added from time to time. The present population, or rather that even in the census of 1910, is eight hundred and eighty-four. Since that census was taken there have been many additions to the city, from immigration, and the present population is certainly well above one thousand.

METROPOLIS OF THE PRAIRIES.

Republic is in the heart of the best prairie land in Greene county, and enjoys a fine local trade. It is one of the chief centers of the strawberry culture of all the southwest, and ships that fruit by many car loads every season. It is also noted as headquarters of the cantaloupe trade. There is one of the finest merchant flour mills in the State, also dry goods, hardware, implement and general stores. An electric light system; Baptist, Congregational and Methodist churches. With all of which the town boasts, a fine school system including a first class high school, housed in a fine brick building. Republic is in every way a prosperous and intelligent community, and has by no means reached the limits of its growth.

In the northwest corner of the county is the old town of Walnut Grove, the municipal township of the same name. It is located upon parts of sections 22, 13 and 14, all in township 31, of range 24. Walnut Grove was first platted in the last of December, 1859, although it was in existence many years prior to that date. During pioneer times it was widely known under the quaint name of "Possum Trot." It is a central trading point, and has a number of active mercantile establishments, a fine school, churches and lodges. [209]

When the Frisco railroad was built into Greene county, in 1870, that company joined with the late John McCabe and located a town upon section 3 and 4 in township 29, range 20, and named it Strafford. The place has always been a good trading center, and has made a good growth. At present it has a number of stores, a mill, two churches, a fine rural high school, the building for which was erected in 1914 at a cost of $10,000.00, a livery stable, and is in every way a thriving little town. Strafford is the nearest railroad station for all of Jackson township, and is an important shipping point. Bois D'Arc is another thriving little city, located upon a part of sections I and II, of township 29,range 24, in Center township, fifteen miles northwest of Springfield. This place is the successor of the same name which was located at an early date at the head of Clear creek, some two miles east of the present town. When the Kansas City, Springfield & Memphis (now a part of the Frisco), was built, in 1881, the present town was surveyed, and at first was known as "New Bois D'Arc," but soon dropped the first part of the name. Bois D'Arc is surrounded by a fine country and has a strong local trade. It has numerous stores, churches, a high school and an enterprising and thrifty population.

Other towns and trading points in the county are Brookline, Galloway, Palmetto, Battlefield, Turner, Plano, Phoenix, Harold, Pearl, Bethesda, Hickory Barrens, Willard and Nichols. The two latter demand a little further detail. Willard is located in Murray township, nine miles from Springfield on the Bolivar branch of the Frisco. It was laid out in 1884 by the late Dr. E. T. Robberson. It occupies a fine sightly location upon Grand Prairie, on sections 23 and 26, township 30, range 23. Surrounded by a fine farming section, it has a fine local trade and is a prosperous and growing place.

Nichols is situated at the crossing of the old main line of the Frisco, and its Kansas City line. It is four miles from Springfield, to the west in Campbell township, and on the northwest part of section 17, township 29, range 22. It was originally laid out by the late Doctor James Evans, in 1882 and was then called "Junction City." Later it took the name of Nichols, in honor of Danton H. Nichols, for many years superintendent of the Frisco, with headquarters in Springfield. [210]


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