Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser
DeKalb County is bounded on the north by Gentry County, on the east by Daviess and Caldwell, on the south by Clinton, and on the west by the counties of Andrew and Buchanan. It is in about the same latitude as the cities of Indiananpolis, Quincy and Philadelphia, and according to the geological map prepared by Prof. Swallow, has an alltitude of 1,000 feet above the level of the sea.
According to the most reliable information accessible, the presence of white men in what is now DeKalb County was first known when the old military trail extending from Liberty, Clay County to Council Bluffs, Iowa, was laid out, and used by the United States troops, stationed at the latter place.
Along the trail which passed through DeKalb...the mails for the garrison were carried every week by soldiers from the post, who usually made the journey to and fro...It is related that sometime in the winter of 1824-25, three soldiers engaged in this work, became lost during a blinding snow, which so obliterarted the trail, that they were obliged to take refuge in the timber near the present site of Maysville...
They were unable to make a fire...in order to keep from freezing to death they were compelled to burrow in a deep snow drift where they spent the night...In the morning two of them were so badly frozen as to render walking impossible...Their companion started for Liberty, a distance of fifty miles for assistance. He reached his destination on the evening of the second day with his hands and feet badly frozen, but immediately related the circumstances of his companions.
A party of pioneers started out in search of the victims, who were found in a dying condition having been without food or fire for a period of four days. They were nursed back to health, but they were unable to do military duty. The creek near which they took refuge...has long since been known as "Lost Creek"...
About the year 1824 Samuel Vesser, a French Canadian, came to this part of Missouri, and settled about 200 miles northeast of Stewartsville, where he built his cabin on the northwest quarter of the northeast quarter of Sec. 14, Twp. 57 N, R. 32 W, where he lived among the Indians...
About the only thing remembered about him is the fact that he was the first actual settler within the present limits of DeKalb County.
When Missouri was admitted to the Union as a State in 1821 the territory embraced within the present limits of DeKalb County was included within the limits of Ray County, which at that time comprised all that part of the State lying north of the Missouri River and west of the eastern line of Mercer, Grundy and Livingston Counties. From this territory, in January, 1822, was created Clay County, out of the northern part of which the county of Clinton was organized, on the 15th day of January, 1833. The latter county at that time included the present counties of DeKalb, Gentry and Worth, and was reduced to its present limits by the organization of Gentry on the 12th day of February, 1841. The boundaries of DeKalb were established by an act of the Legislature...January 5, 1843, and on the 25th day of February, 1845, an act was passed providing for the organization of the county...
It is related that at the organization of the county, no stationary had been provided for the recording of the proceedings; accordingly John F. Doherty, clerk, made a trip to Liberty, Clay County, for the purpose of procuring the necessary supplies. He purchased a merchant's small account book, bound in leather and three steel pens. He presented his bill for the articles. The bill was allowed with no dissenting vote, but the court objected to the amount paid for the steel pens. Mr. Doherty then attempted to justify the purchase on the grounds that he had been unable to procure any quills, whereupon his Honor, Judge M. Mahan, informed him that he could furnish those articles, at the next term of court, which he did, presenting a bundle of neatly prepared quills to the court...
Nearly all the early records of DeKalb County were destroyed when the court house burned in 1878. The records and papers of the circuit clerk's office were preserved, however, as were also a few from some of the other offices. (--History of DeKalb and Andrew Counties, 1888, Goodspeed, pp 286, 298, 299, 300, 331, 332, 334, 341.)
DeKalb County was named for Baron John De Kalb, of Bavaria, (1721-1780), who fell at the Battle of Camden. (--Our Storehouse of Missouri Place Names, Robert Ramsay, p. 58.)
The settlement dates back to 1840, at which time several families were living along Grind-stone Creek, as well as in other parts of the township. William Hudson, John W. Dice and Nathaniel Redman were among the early settlers of the township... (--pp. 305, 306.)
It was not until about 1844-45 that the first pioneers began to make their appearance. Prominent among the first to arrive was James W. Arrington, who settled on a tract of land adjoining the present town of Maysville, as early as 1844... (--pp. 307, 308.)
Colfax Township was not settled as early as other portions of the county, owing to the fact that the pioneers did not understand the nature of the soil, which is largely prairie. The earliest settlers are said to have been Thompson Smith, Neville Stevens and others... (--p. 311.)
Dallas and Grant Townships
Dallas and Grant Townships date as far back in the past that is is somewhat difficult to obtain information relative to the early pioneers. Among the first newcomers, however, is remembered one James Green, who moved his family to the northern part of the county in 1839, settling on Lost Creek... (--pp. 306.)
Grand River Township
The first recorded settlement recorded within this township was made about 1839...One of the earliest of these was Edward Smith...who located a short distance west of the Clinton County line. William Hunter settled in the northeast corner of the township as early as 1839 and is remembered as the pioneer mill builder of the neighborhood... (--p. 309.)
Among the first permanent settlers in Polk Township was Samuel Livingston, who moved from near St. Louis...James Robinson and sons Edward and Thomas, settled in the southern part of the township about the same time...
The site of Union Star was first settled by David Miller, who came to the township about the year 1844 and improved the land upon which the town was subsequently built... (--p. 310.)
Among the first to seek a home within the limits of Sherman was John Means, who came to the county early in the 1840's, and settled near the western boundary of the township. (--p. 304.)
About the year 1824 Samuel Vesser, a French Canadian, came to this part of Missouri, and took up his abode about 20 miles northeast of the present site of Stewartsville where he erected a small cabin on the northwest quarter of the northeast quarter of Sec. 14, Twp. 57 N, R. 32 W...
We make no doubt about it that Vesser was the first white man that located within the present limits of the county. He was a strange compound of white man by birth and Indian by adoption... (--p. 299.)
Page numbers refer to History of Andrew and DeKalb Counties, 1888, Goodspeed Bros. Publishers.