Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser
Dent County grew from Crawford and Shannon Counties...The citizens of Shannon and Crawford who wished a new county have succeeded in having the following act passed by the General Assembly:
An act to organize the County of Dent.
Be it enacted, etc., that:
1. All that part of Crawford and Shannon (Counties), included in the following limits is hereby declared to be organized into a separate and distinct county, to be known and called by the name of the County of Dent: Beginning on the line dividing the counties of Crawford and Washington, on township line dividing Townships Nos. 34 and 35; thence west with said line to range line dividing Ranges 3 and 4 West, thence north the the township line dividing Townships Nos. 35 and 36; thence west with said line to the middle of Range 8 West; thence south to the township line dividing Townships Nos. 33 and 34; thence east to the range line dividing Ranges 6 and 7; thence south to the Township line dividing Townships Nos. 31 and 32; thence east to the range line dividing Ranges 2 and 3 West; thence north to the county line of Reynolds; thence east with said Reynolds county line to Township No. 34; thence east to the southeast corner of Washington County; thence north to the place of the beginning...
This act was approved February 10, 1851, and was to take effect from and after its passage.
It was named in honor of Lewis Dent, the first representative.
All the records of the county previous to 1866 are destroyed.* The county then did not embrace Townships 32 and 33, Range 7; they were added several years later. (--State of Missouri, History of Dent Co., Goodspeed Bros., 1889, pp. 573, 574.)
*The marriage licenses for 1851, 1852, 1853 were out of the courthouse when it was burned and are at the present courthouse. Charles Brown Jeffries.
Post-offices included: Salem, Sligo, Lake Spring, Lecoma, Barney, Celina, Coulstone, Condray, Custer, Darien, Eden, Doss, Gila, Gladden, Hedrick, Howe's Mill, Jadwin, Lenox, Montauk, Stone Hill, Taladego and Twane. Ten of these have been established since 1881. Lake Spring and Montauk are the oldest two, but they were merely post-offices up to the time Salem was begun. (--State of Missouri, History of Dent Co., p. 597.)
Dent County was formed from Shannon and Crawford and organized in 1851. The county is located in the south central part of the state and is bounded by Phelps and Crawford on the north; on the east by Iron and Reynolds; on the south by Shannon and Texas and on the west by Phelps and Texas. The county was reorganized in 1855. It was named in honor of Lewis Dent, the first representative. The Dent family were among the early settlers in the region. Mark Dent, Lewis Dent's father, came to Missouri in 1803 when it was still French Territory and settled at what is now Bismarck in St. Francois County. Because of Indian attacks, he returned to Virginia and in 1811 returned to Missouri. His oldest son, Lewis, was born in Virginia in 1807 and remained there until about 1835 when he came to Dent Co. A letter in the possession of the Dent family written by Mark Dent in 1831 from St. Francois, Mo., to Lewis in Virginia urges him to come before next May. The county history sets the date of his settlement near Salem in 1835.
Campbell, (1873) seems to be in error in saying the new county was named for "Frederick" Dent. Frederick Dent was a St. Louisian and the father-in-law of Grant, but had nothing to do with this section. (--Place Names, Anna O'Brien.) (Subsequently referred to as Place Names.)
Lewis Dent is buried in the Dent Cemetery on what was the Dent farm. Charles Bowen Jefferies.
It cannot be definitely ascertained who was the first settler in this county, but it is known that George Cole of St. Louis, who located on a branch of the Maramec (sic) River in 1828, was the first man who cleared and cultivated a farm within the present limits. The next settlers were William Thornton, Daniel Trotman, and D. M. Wooliver, who removed from Tennessee in 1829...Lewis Dent, in honor of whom the county was named, may also be classed among the early settlers. He removed from Tennessee in 1835, and was elected the first representative of the county in 1852. In the early history of the county, there was not a mill, store, or post-office nearer than 100 miles...Not infrequently the necessities of life had to be obtained in St. Louis, and conveyed to the settlement on horseback, through a pathless forest, in midwinter...
Dent County was organized from parts of Shannon and Crawford February 10, 1851, de-organized December 1, 1855, and reorganized three days later. (--Campbell's Gazetteer of Missouri, 1874, p. 193.)
According to the Office of Secretary of State, Dent County was organized February 10, 1851.
Wheat bread was not used until probably the middle of the 1840's, and was ground in St. Louis. Game and wild honey were abundant. Bear meat was known as "meat", while venison was called "bread". Then for years the mill at Meramec Iron Works, (Phelps County) was the nearest one, and "grist" was hauled there in ox-carts, which had before been used in carrying the grist to St. Louis. (--State of Missouri, History of Dent Co., p. 569.)
The first store within the limits of what is now Dent Co., was started by Ephraim Bressee, on Spring Creek in the early 1840's. It was at this store that the first court met. Meramec Iron Works, in Phelps Co., was the nearest post-office. Later a post-office called Lake Spring was established, and as the county became more thickly populated another post-office was established at Bressee's store, and was called Montauk.
John Buford, of Reynolds; Samuel Shumate, of Shannon, and John W. Bennett, of Crawford County, in the creative act, were named as the commissioners to locate a permanent seat of justice, and directed to meet on the first Monday of May, 1851, at the house of E T. Bressiers (or Bressee, as it was later spelled) about two miles north of the present city of Salem. The commissioners decided on a tract of government land, and this was entered by Joseph Milsaps, who was appointed agent for the county. The tract embraced about 80 acres, and when it was entered was covered with a dense growth of Black Jack. It was laid out in town lots, which were sold at public auction. In 1853 a brick court house, 24 x 40 feet, two-stories, was built. This served as a courthouse until 1861, when the Civil War caused a discontinuance of court sessions, and it was turned into a Military headquarters by the Federals. In 1864 Price and his men made a descent on the place, drove the Federals to Rolla, and it is said two Dent County residents then burned the courthouse and the jail (a log dungeon), and with them some of the court records were destroyed. (--Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, Conard, 1901, Vol. 2, pp. 264-265.)
For a more complete sketch of Dent County, it is suggested that Encyclopedia of Missouri, Vol. 2, Conard, pp. 263-364 be examined. (Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri).