The first white men to set foot on the soil of Chariton County were French fur traders who had a trading post near the mouth of the Chariton River. It is not known when they came, but it is certain they were here prior to 1804 because of mention made by Louis and Clark in the report of their expedition.
In 1818 this territory still belonged to Howard County. A land sale was called (in) Old Franklin and then the first Chariton land was sold. This directed much attention to this territory and a tide of immigration started this way...
Chariton County was organized Nov. 16, 1820. The action was the work of the same legislature that organized Boone and Ray Counties, and that met at St. Charles.
Of a portion of Howard County the new county of Chariton was formed. The boundaries were very different indeed to those of the present (1923) time since on the north Chariton County extended to the Iowa line and embraced the territory now comprised in Linn, Sullivan, Putnam and a portion of Adair and Schuyler Counties. With the organization of Linn County in 1837, it took its present boundaries which are as follows: (The boundaries are given on page 211 of Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Gehrig.)
Chariton County was named for the first settlement in its boundaries, Chariton, located in the very southern part of the county, and the town is said to have been named for John Chariton, leader of a French fur trading expedition, which once had its headquarters on the site which was near the mouth of the river bearing the same name. Hence, town, river and county trace their name back to the same source.
The first county seat of the new county was this town of Chariton laid out in the spring of 1817, and at that time the most western settlement on the Missouri River. Because of its location, it gave great promise of future commercial importance.
Because of health conditions this town had to be abandoned, and in 1833, Keytesville was chosen as the county seat. It was in that year and the following that the first court house and other buildings were erected. During the Civil War this court house was burnt. In 1866, a new court house was built.
When the court house was burned in 1864, many of the records were destroyed. (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Gehrig, pp. 109, 211, 212.)
During 1818 and 1830 there was considerable immigration into the county. Then soldier land grants and "New Madrid claims" worked to retard settlement. Congress granted each soldier of 1812, 160 acres of land and the same to widows and orphans of those who had died or been killed in service. Many of these claims passed into the hands of speculators, non-residents, who hoped that improvements in the new county would enhance their claims.
New Madrid claims were located also in the county, and these, too, were manipulated by land grabbers...For more than a quarter of a century these claims interfered with the progress of the county. (--Ency. of the Hist. of MO., 1901, Conard, Vol. 1, p. 567.)
Military Bounty Tracts
Half a million acres in Chariton and Carroll Counties were appropriated for military bounties. These tracts of bounty lands are now (1837), many of them the property of non-residents, and, if offered in the county, would sell for a fair price. These lands are contained in Townships fifty-three, fifty-four, fifty-five and fifty-six North in Ranges sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two and twenty-three west of the fifth principal meridian. (--Wetmore's Gazetteer of the State of Missouri, 1837, p. 28.)
The first mill of any pretentious size was built in 1820 and was known as Findley's Mill. It was run by steam. It burned in the winter of 1823-24...Confederates under Thrailkill and Todd raided Keytesville on September 10, 1864, and burned the court house and murdered the sheriff, Robert Carmon... (--Conard, Vol. 1, p. 567.)
Chariton County was originally organized with only four townships: Grand River, Buffalo Lick, Prairie and Chariton Townships. In 1840 another division was made and there were nine, Missouri, Bowling Green, Brunswick, Triplett, Cunningham, Yellow Creek, Salt Creek, Mendon and Musselfork. In 1883 the present division into 16 townships was made, namely: Bee Branch, Cockrill, Cunningham, Yellow Creek, Clark, Mendon, Salt Creek, Musselfork, Triplett, Brunswick, Keytesville, Salisbury and Missouri. Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, p. 227.
Chariton Township was to Chariton County what Jamestown was to Virginia, being the first settled place in the county. It is bounded on the north by Salisbury and Keytesville Townships, on the east by Howard County, on the south by Saline across the Missouri River and on the west by Missouri Township...
Among the early settlers here were Hiram Young and Col. J. M. Bell. Forest Green was the only town in the township. (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, pp. 227, 228.)
Keytesville Township, next in age according to settlement, is bounded on the north by Salt Creek, Musselfork and Bee Branch Townships, on the south by Chariton and Missouri Townships, and on the west by Bowling Green and Brunswick Townships...Among the early settlers in this township were Richard Cooke and R. S. Hyde...(eastern boundary not given.) (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, p. 228.)
Brunswick Township is one of the southern tier of townships. It is bounded on the north by Mendon, Salt Creek and Triplett Townships, on the east by Keytesville and Bowling Green Townships, on the south by the Missouri River and on the west by Triplett Township and Grand River...There were settlements in this township as early as 1825. Among the pioneer settlers were Geo. Ashty and Jno Ellison, every one of whom came from Kentucky... (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, pp. 228, 229.)
Salisbury Township is the largest in the county...north of it is Wayland and Keytesville Townships, east Randolph County, south is Howard County and Chariton Township, and west is Keytesville Township...Capt. Jac Heryford was probably the first settler. He erected the first horse mill, distillery and cotton gin in the county. These were located in Section 18 on Puzzle Creek. (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, p. 229.)
Bowling Green Township is one of the smallest in the county. It is bounded on the north by Brunswick and Keytesville Townships, on the east by Keytesville Township, on the south by Missouri Township and on the west by the Missouri River and Brunswick Township.
The first church in the township was built by the Methodists in 1836. It was called Bluff Church. Afterwards it was moved into Brunswick Township and the name changed to Prairie Chapel.
Bowling Green Township has a just pride in being the home of the only Governor Chariton County ever furnished Missouri, Gen. Sterling Price. He was a native of Virginia, born in 1809...
In 1837 he came with his father to Missouri...Finally he moved to his farm in Bowling Green Township...In 1852 he was elected governor of the State of Missouri, serving until 1856.
He commanded a regiment during the Mexican War...General Price in 1860 was elected along with William Holt of Randolph County and Thos. Shackleford of Howard County to represent the senatorial district in the convention that was to decide what Missouri's relation to the Federal Government would be. Gen. Price was made President of the body. He was then an ardent Union man...
After the Civil War, he made his home in St. Louis. He died in 1867. The four white horses that drew his hearse were the same that had drawn the hearse that carried Abraham Lincoln's body to the cemetery in Springfield, Ill. (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, pp. 229, 230.)
Triplett Township is in the southwestern part of the county...Cunningham and Mendon Townships are on the north, Mendon and Brunswick Townships are on the east, Carroll County and Brunswick Township are on the south and Carroll County on the west...Among the early settlers was Israel Porche, for whom Porche Prairie was named. (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, p. 231.)
Bee Branch Township once included Cockrill, but in 1880 Cockrill became a separate township...This township was not settled up as fast as the others until after the Civil War. In 1820, however, Silas and Jno. Thomas of New York settled in Section 35. (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, p. 231.)
Wayland Township is bounded on the north by Bee Branch Township, on the east by Macon and Randolph Counties, on the south by Salisbury Township and on the west by Keytesville and Bee Branch Townships. The early settlers of this township were generally from Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. Levi Fawks, a native of Georgia, settled in this township in 1825 south of where Prairie Hill now stands. (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, p. 233.)
Cunningham Township is in the northwest corner of the county and is bounded on the east by Yellow Creek Township, on the south by Mendon and Triplett Townships and on the west by Carroll County.
Thomas Stanley was the earliest settler in this township, settling here about 1828. He lived on the very site where Sumner now stands, and did much trading with the Indians. Jack's Ridge north of Sumner was named for Jack, a free Negro who settled there in 1835... (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, pp. 231, 232.)
Missouri Township is the smallest township in the county...Bowling Green and Keytesville Townships are to the north, Chariton Township to the east, Saline County on the south and west...Judge Jas. Earickson and his brother settled in Missouri Township in 1815. Judge Earickson was later State Treasurer... (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, p. 232.)
Cockrill Township, once part of Bee Branch...is bounded on the north by Bee Branch Township, on the east by Macon County and Wayland Township, on the south by Wayland and Keytesville Townships and on the west by Musselfork Township...In 1845 a man by the name of Hamlin built the first mill in the township on the Chariton River. It was a water mill. (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, pp. 232, 233.)
Musselfork Township is bounded on the north by Clark Township, on the east by Bee Branch Township, on the south by Keytesville Township and on the west by Salt Creek Township...Among the pioneer settlers in this township was Goodman Oldham to settled here in 1833. (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, p. 233.)
Yellow Creek Township is one of the northern tier of townships. On the north of it is Linn County, on the east Clark Township, on the south Salt Creek Township and on the west is Cunningham Township...
About the first authentic record of settlements in this township is in the 1850's. In 1853 the Baptists organized the Yellow Creek Baptist Church which was undoubtedly the pioneer religious organization and must have held its services in school houses or private dwellings, as no building was erected until 1871. (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, p. 234.)
Clark Township is bounded on the north by Linn County, on the east by Bee Branch and Wayland Townships, on the south by Musselfork Township and on the west by Yellow Creek Township...This township takes its name from its earliest settler, Henry Clark, who came out of Kentucky about 1820 and settled on Clark's Branch. (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, p. 235.)
Salt Creek Township takes its name from a stream within its borders bearing that name. It is bounded on the north by Yellow Creek Township, on the east by Musselfork Township, on the south by Keytesville and Brunswick Townships and on the west by Mendon Township. One of the earliest settlers of this township was James Dempsey, who came in 1841...In 1836 an Irish family by the name of Smith settled at White Oak Grove. (--Hist. of Chariton Co., 1923, Pearl Sims Gehrig, p. 235.)