Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser
Buchanan County is situated near the northwestern part of the State. Its latitude is 39 degrees 47 minutes north and longitude 94 degrees 56 minutes west. It is near the same parallel of Philadelphia, Columbus, Springfield, Denver and San Francisco. It is about the same meridian as Lake Itasca and Galveston...The county is divided into twelve civil townships, three full congressional townships and nine fractional congressional townships. The civil townships are as follows: Platte, Jackson, Crawford, Bloomington, Rush, Wayne, Carter, Agency, Tremont, Marion, Washington and Lake, Lake being the smallest.
In 1837, after the Platte Purchase was made, the territory now included in Buchanan County was by act of the General Assembly, attached to Clinton County, for civil and judicial purposes. That portion of the act referring to Buchanan County is as follows:
"All that portion of territory included within the following boundaries, to-wit: Beginning at the southwest corner of Clinton County, thence due west to the middle of the main channel of the Missouri River, thence up the main channel of the same to where the northern boundary of the State of Missouri intersects the same, thence along said line to the present northwest corner of the State, thence due south to the beginning, be and the same is hereby attached to the county of Clinton, for civil and judicial purposes."
The following is the act of the General Assembly of Missouri (1838) under which Platte and Buchanan Counties were organized, and their boundaries defined:
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Missouri, as follows:
Section 1. The territory west of Clay and Clinton Counties included in the following boundaries, shall comprise a new county, to be called Platte:
Beginning at the southwest corner of Clay County and running north with the western boundaries of said counties a sufficient distance, to a corner hereafter to be established by survey; and thence due west to the Missouri River; thence down the middle of the main channel of said river to the beginning, so as to include in said county of Platte, four hundred square miles.
Section 2.The territory west of Clinton County, included in the following boundaries shall compose a new county to be called Buchanan, in honor of the Hon. James Buchanan of Pennsylvania: Beginning at the northeast corner of Platte County as hereinafter established, agreeably to the provisions of this act, and thence north along the Clinton County or old State line, a sufficient distance, to a corner to be hereafter established by survey; and thence west to the Missouri River; and thence down the middle of the said river to the northwest corner of Platte County, when established as aforesaid; and thence east to the beginning, so as to contain four hundred square miles.
Section 4. Until the permanent seat for justice of said counties be established, the several courts for said counties, (unless the respective County Courts shall otherwise direct) be held as follows: for the County of Platte at Falls of Platte, and for the County of Buchanan at Richard Hall's.
This act to be in force from and after its passage.
Approved December 31, 1838.
State of Missouri
City of Jefferson, office
of Secretary of State.
Three commissioners were appointed to select a seat of justice for Buchanan County. They were: Peter B. Fulkerson and Armstrong McClintock, of Clinton County, and Leonard Brassfield, of Clay County, on March 13, 1839...The commissioners made their report and selected the southwest quarter of Section 21, Township 56, Range 35, dated May 28, 1840...On the reverse side of this report is the following:
Whereas, it has been the custom of parents to name their children, we have thought it proper to call the town by the name of the town of Benton....
The County Court named the county seat Sparta at August term in 1840.
It was ordered by the County Court, November 9, 1842, that a court house be built in the town of Sparta, the seat of justice of Buchanan County at such time and place as shall be designated by the court...This court house was never built...Soon after the laying out of St. Joseph in 1842, the first pronounced effort was made to move the county seat from Sparta to St. Joseph. The latter, although not in the center of the county, was the center of the trading interests. Several elections on the question of moving the county-seat were held, and on February 28, 1843, the final election was held which resulted in the removal of the county seat. (--History of Buchanan County, 1881, Birdsall, Williams & Co., pp. 86, 152, 153, 154, 155, 194, 188.)
James Buchanan was born in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, Aril 13, 1791...He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1812...In 1814 he was elected to the State Legislature and was re-elected the following year, and in 1820 became a member of Congress...He was re-elected in 1828 and retired from Congress in 1831...He was elected President of the United States in 1856, and, following his term of office, led a retired life, until his death in 1868. (--History of Buchanan County, 1881, Birdsall, Williams & Co., p. 86.)
Rival Towns of St. Joseph
Between 1837 to 1840...it was thought that other settlements near St. Joseph would become the chief town in this portion of the State. They were "Blacksnake Hills", "White Cloud" in Andrew County; Savannah, Andrew County; Amazonia, Boston and Elizabethtown, all three in Andrew County, and all were north of St. Joseph, some eight or ten miles, and within a radius of five miles.
So confident were some of the business men living in Clay and Clinton Counties that some one of these towns would be the future emporium of the "Platte Purchase," that they not only purchased land, but in one or two instances laid off towns and opened business houses. John W. Samuels and Robert Elliott began business at "White Cloud," Andrew County, or what was known as "Hackberry Ridge." G. W. Samuels built a warehouse at Elizabethtown, Andrew County...
Charles Caples...laid off a quarter-section east of and adjoining Amazonia, and thought it would be a more eligible spot for the great city and named it "Boston."
These places, excepting Savannah, are numbered with the past. History of Buchanan County, 1881, Birdsall, Williams & Co., p. 397.
About the first settlements in what is now known as Agency Township were James Gilmore and his brother Robert, who located here in 1837. They were natives of East Tennessee, and settled first in Clay County, Missouri. Robert Gilmore, when coming to Buchanan County, located on Section 29, Township 56 N, Range 34 West. He was the brother of James Gilmore, who lived in the Platte Country as blacksmith for the Iowa and Sac Indians, long before it was settled by the whites. (--History of Buchanan County, 1881, Birdsall, Williams & Co., p. 130.)
Among the earliest settlers of what is now Bloomington Township, was Hiram Roberts. He came to the vicinity of De Kalb in 1836, a year before the county was opened for settlement. As soon as it was known that squatters had invaded the county, United States troops, from Fort Leavenworth were sent to dispossess them. Perhaps the only man who escaped the vigilance of the military was Hiram Roberts, who happened to be overlooked from the secluded location he then occupied...Stephen Field built the first mill in the township. (--History of Buchanan County, 1881, Birdsall, Williams & Co., pp. 122, 123.)
Captain William Fowler located here in 1837, from Delaware, on the quarter section later occupied by the town of Wallace. He had the honor of being the first circuit and county clerks of Buchanan County, having been appointed to those positions in 1839. He died in St. Joseph, in November, 1880, at the advanced age of eighty-two years.
Nathan Turner built a mill in the fall of 1838, and when he had a head of water would start the mill and go to cleaning ground. Mr. Turner said his neighbor, Sneed, had a dog, which was good to hunt "coons". One day, when his mill was running (he being in the new ground at work), he heard Sneed's dog barking, and thinking he had found a "coon" in the mill, quit his work and went to him. To his astonishment he saw the dog was barking, not at the supposed "coon", but at the grist as it came out. The grist came out at irregular intervals, and in lumps, and when it appeared the dog would snatch and eat it, and then watch and bark and wait for the next batch. (--History of Buchanan County, 1881, Birdsall, Williams & Co., pp. 120, 121.)
Among the first settlers of Center Township was Richard Hill, who, in the fall of 1837, settled in the immediate vicinity of the subsequent town of Sparta. By order of the General Assembly of Missouri, his house was designated as the place where the first courts of the county, until otherwise ordered by the County Court, were held. The County Court was held at his residence until after April, 1841... (--History of Buchanan County, 1881, Birdsall, Williams & Co., p. 126.)
Isaac Farris settled in the northern part of the township in 1837. He was a native of Lincoln County, Kentucky, removed to Illinois, and emigrated from that state to Missouri. He came directly to the Platte Purchase, and in the fall of the year settled on Section 6, Township 55, Range 34.
The father of Isaac Farris (Johnson Farris) had previously been one of the pioneers of Kentucky, and is said to have built the first house erected in Warrensburg in that state... (--History of Buchanan County, 1881, Birdsall, Williams & Co., p. 117.)
Lake Township is the smallest township in the county. The early settlers were mostly from Bartholomew County, Indiana. William McHammer came to this township in the spring of 1841...In 1844 the township was flooded, and also in 1881, the population having to move to the bluffs. (--History of Buchanan County, 1881, Birdsall, Williams & Co., pp. 133, 134.)
Calvin James was one of the earliest settlers of Marion Township. He came from one of the older settled counties of Missouri, and located near the town of Easton in 1837. Benjamin Cornelius, from Clay, came in 1837 and settled on Section 57 N, Range 34 W. When he located here his nearest neighbor was four miles distant... (--History of Buchanan County, 1881, Birdsall, Williams & Co., p. 132.)
Judge Eeston J. Everett, of Clay County, but originally from Tennessee, is reputed to be the first permanent settler...In February, 1837, he made a settlement on Section 13, Township 55 N, Range 34 W, which had been occupied a short time before by Absalom Enyard, of Clay County, Missouri...The first mill built in the township was Platte River, or, as it is now generally called, Matney's Mill. Judge John Rohan, who was at one time a member of the County Court, was the only merchant who sold goods in Platte Township. His store was on his farm. He commenced business here after the War and removed his goods about 1876. (--History of Buchanan County, 1881, Birdsall, Williams & Co., pp. 115, 116.)
The first settler on the quarter section including the town site of Rushville, was John Flammery, who came in 1839...James Leachman was the first postmaster, in 1851, of the township, his office being known as Leachman's Post Office...
The first mill in the township was put up by Flammery & Son. It was a log house on the waters of Lost Creek, which supplied the power for one small run of burrs. This was in 1840. This has long been numbered with the things of the past...
Rush Township has been, at different times, the seat of some excellent flouring mills. In 1868-1869, M. H. and S. F. Floyd put up a spacious and well appointed mill; a strong frame on stone foundations; two runs of burrs and superior machinery. It burnt down in 1873. A Fenton and James H. Canter owned a steam flouring mill built in 1875 by Esquire McFarland. It was furnished with two runs of burrs. (--History of Buchanan County, 1881, Birdsall, Williams & Co., 129, 130.)
The Rock House Prairie, in the southern part of the township, was so named from the following circumstances: While the Indians still occupied the county, the route traveled between Clay County and the Indian Agency, near Agency Ford (q.v.), after crossing the Platte River, led across the prairie. On a rocky point of ground...the Indians had erected a huge pile of stones, shaped as much as possible in the form of a house. This was known as the Rock House. It stood directly on the road traveled from Agency Ford to Liberty, Clay County, and attracted the attention of every white man who traveled that region, and from this fact, at an early date, the prairie came to be called Rock House Prairie.
One of the earliest settlers of Tremont Township was Ishmael Davis, from Kentucky, but a native of Maryland...Samuel D. Gilmore, the son of James Gilmore, who lived in the Platte Purchase, long before its settlement by the whites, as a blacksmith to the Sac and Fox Indians, opened up a farm on the east side of Platte River, half a mile above Dixon's Mill. (--History of Buchanan County, 1881, Birdsall, Williams & Co., pp. 134, 135.)
Joseph Robidoux was the first white man to locate within the limits of what is now known as Washington Township, and indeed within the limits of the territory of the Platte Country. His name...is associated with the history of St. Joseph, from its founding to 1868... (--History of Buchanan County, 1881, Birdsall, Williams & Co., p. 135.)
Peter Price was one of the earliest settlers in Wayne Township. He came in 1837...William Dunning settled in the township in 1839, ten miles south of St. Joseph. He was born in Guilford, North Carolina in 1794; served through the war of 1812; married in Tennessee in 1821, and moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where he filled several important offices, among which was that of associate justice for the period of eight years. He was appointed Judge of the County Court of Buchanan County in 1842 and continued thereafter to fill the position by election for fourteen years. He resigned in 1862 and died in 1879...(--History of Buchanan County, 1881, Birdsall, Williams & Co., p. 133.)