A Directory of Towns, Villages, and Hamlets
Past and Present
of Holt County, Missouri

Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser


Holt County

[I]

A county in the northwestern section of the State, bounded on the north by Atchison and Nodaway Counties; on the east by Nodaway River; and on the south and west by the Missouri River ... It was named after David R. Holt, who had been a representative from Platte County. It is one of the counties included in the "Platte Purchase", added to Missouri by act of Congress in 1836. Prior to that time this territory belonged to the Indians, Iowas, Sacs and Foxes...

Holt County was organized under an act of the Legislature, passed February 5, 1841. At first it embraced Atchison County lying north of it to the Iowa line. In 1854 Atchison County was cut off and Holt County was reduced to its present proportions... (Records in the office of the Secretary of State, Jefferson City, show Holt County was organized February 15, 1841.)

March 24, 1841, five weeks after the passage of the act of the Legislature, the first county court met in the house of William Thorp in what is now Lewis Township...

At the ... meeting of the court on the second Tuesday of April, in 1841, three townships were organized -- Nodaway, Lewis and Nishnabotna ... The next time the court met, June 14, it was at the house of Gilbert Ray, two and a half miles east of the present site of Oregon, and at this meeting the commissioners who were appointed to locate a permanent seat of justice ... made their report of the site selected as the east halfof the southwest quarter of Section 27, and the west half of the southwest quarter of Section 26 in Range 38, Township 60, the place to be called Finley. At the succeeding October term of the court, the name Finley was changed to Oregon. At that term of court the commissioners made the "public square near the stake now stuck."

The first court house was built in 1842 -- a frame building twenty by sixty feet, and two stories high with a rock foundation....

The Nodaway River was navigated by steam boats, for some distance above its mouth, in high water, in the palmy days of steam boating, and in the year 1868 a steam boat was built near the ferry on the Nodaway, by R. Danselbeck; and in 1865, the steam boat "Watosa" was sunk in the river. The bell of the steamer now hangs in the steeple of the Christian Church at Oregon... (--Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, 1901, Conard, Vol. 3, pp. 278, 279, 280.)

[II]

The act, creating Holt County, was approved February 15, 1841. On January 29, 1841, some seventeen days previously to the act mentioned above, the Legislature had erected the same territory into the county of Nodaway...

Holt County, when first formed, embraced Atchison County; that part of Nodaway lying west of the Nodaway River, and extended north ten miles into the State of Iowa -- Missouri claiming jurisdiction over a strip of country ten miles wide along the southern line of Iowa -- the dispute concerning the boundary line, not at that date having been settled.

In January, 1841, all that part of Holt County lying north of a line, running from a point on the Missouri River ... to the main crossing of the Big Tarkio, about a mile above Craig, thence northeasterly to the State line, was cut off by the Legislature, and named Allen County, but left under the jurisdiction of Holt County Court, in the same manner as the territory of Neatawah had been attached to Buchanan County. February 14, 1845, Allen County was abolished, Atchison and Nodaway were organized, and Holt County was thus reduced to its present limits.

The first act naming and defning the boundaries of Nodaway County, approved January 29, 1841, directed the circuit and county courts of that county to be held at the dwelling house of William Tharp, until the permanent seat of justice could be established, or until the county court otherwise ordered. That act also named Travis Finley, of Clay County, Edward Smith, of Clinton County, and John A. Williams, of Daviess County, commissioners to select the permanent seat of justice, and after the passage of the act organizing the same territory into Holt County (the name simply being changed from Nodaway to Holt), the parties named as commissioners in the act organizing Nodaway County, proceeded in due course of time to select the permanent seat of justice.

Territory of Neatawah

This territory contains about 3,200 square miles, and extends ten miles north of the present (1882) State line, between Iowa and Missouri; embracing the counties of Andrew, Holt, Atchison and Nodaway, so that the Buchanan County Court held jurisdiction over a country almost as large as the combined States of Rhode Island and Delaware. The territory of Neataway was abolished in 1841. (--History of Atchison and Holt Counties, 1882, pp. 100, 101.)

The southeastern portion of the county, the great blackberry region, is known as Cracker's Neck; the Missouri River Bottom below Forest City is known as the Lower Bottom; that between Forest City and Bigelow is the Upper Bottom; above Bigelow comes Rush Bottom, so called from the heavy growth of rushes... (--Campbell's Gazetteer of Missouri, 1874, pp. 235, 236.)

[III]

Townships

Benton Township, which originally extended northward to the north boundary of Atchison County, was reduced to its present limits by the organization on the 17th of June, 1874, of Lincoln Township, which forms its entire northern boundary in a distance of eight miles. On the east it is bounded by Clay and Hickory Townships; on the south by Lewis and Bigelow Townships and on the west by Bigelow and Union Townships. It constituted one of the larger municipal divisions of the county, including in its area fifty entire sections...

The first white man to make his home within the limits of what is now Benton Township was John N. Blair, of Indiana. He settled the farm in Section 20, Township 61, Range 38, where he arrived April 12, 1839... (--pp. 125, 126.)

Bigelow Township was reduced to its present (1882) limits March 22, 1871. It included, with the exception of Section 1 and 12 in the northeast corner of the same, the whole of Township 61, Range 39 and eighteen sections and fractional sections of Township 61, Range 40. It is bounded on the north by Union and Benton Townships; on the east by Benton Township; on the south by Lewis Township, and on the west by the Missouri River, which separates it from the State of Nebraska...

On the southeast quarter of Section 13, Township 61, Range 40, bordering on the banks of Higgins Lake or Big Lake as it is now known, William and Harmon Higgins, brothers from Ray and Platte County, Missouri, settled in November, 1841... The Iowa and Sac Indians were numerous in the neighborhood...

The first merchants who sold goods in Bigelow Township were Drury T. Easley and R.J. Poindexter. They came from Franklin County, Missouri, in 1849 and opened a stock of goods near the mouth of the Tarkio, in what is now West Lewis Township, just across the line from Bigelow Township. They shortly after went to California ... On their return in 1852, they started a store on the river bank ... opposite Rulo, Nebraska. This was the first store ever established in what is now Bigelow Township. Easley & Poindexter ... enjoy the distinction of being the first to introduce cockle burrs into Holt County. These they brought in the tails of their horses from Franklin County, Missouri, on their first arrival in the county ... (--pp. 191, 192, 190.)

Clay Township embraces the northeastern municipal division of Holt County. It was first organized at the June term of the Holt County Court, in the year 1854, and in the record of that date is thus described: (See page 204 of History of Holt & Atchison County.)

[IV]

On the organization, June 20, 1874, of Hickory Township, Clay Township was reduced to its present limits (1882) which are bounded on the north by Atchison County; on the east by Nodaway County, from which it is separated by the Nodaway River; on the south by Hickory Township; on the west by six miles of Liberty Township and three miles of Benton Township ...

The original settlers in the northeast part of Holt County were Whigs ... and possessing an unbounded admiration for Henry Clay they named the locality in which they settled Whig Valley and the township Clay.

The first settler of Whig Valley was Theodore Higley, who, in the year 1846, made the first settlement in the northeast quarter of Section 18, Township 26, Range 31 W... (--pp. 204, 205.)

Forbes Township ... At a regular term of the County Court of Holt County held at the court house in Oregon on the 22nd day of March, 1871, it was ordered that a new municipal township be erected out of the southern portion of Nodaway Township as follows: (The boundaries are given on page 235 of History of Holt & Atchison Counties).

It is bounded on the north by Lewis and Nodaway Townships; on the east by the Nodaway River, which separates it from Andrew County and also by the Missouri River; on the south by the Missouri River, which separates it from the State of Kansas, and on the west by Lewis Township...

The first white settlers of Forbes Township were also the first to locate in the limits of Holt County. These were Peter and Blank Stephenson, brothers, from Indiana ... They settled on the southeast quarter of Section 7, Township 59, Range 37 W ... (--pp. 235, 237.)

Hickory Township ... On the 17th day of June, 1874, the present municipal division of Holt County, known as Hickory Township, was created. Its limits, which had previously described in the southern part of Clay and the northern part of Nodaway Townships are thus described in the record of organization. (See page 261 of History of Holt and Atchison Counties.)

We have already stated that the first settlers of Holt County, Peter and Blank Stevenson ... established themselves in Forbe Township (q.v.) ...

It appears, however, that there is a difference of opinion touching the latter statement, it being contended by some that that about the period of the arrival of the Stephensons, or immediately subsequent thereto, three brothers by the name of Nichols had crossed the Nodaway and effected a settlement in a locality to whcih they gave the present (1882) accepted name of Nichols' Grove, in the southern part of what is now (1882) Hickory and extending north of the present Nodaway Township (1882).

[V]

It is probable that the period elapsing between the arrivals of the two bands of settlers were very brief, and that they were for some time afterwards, ignorant of each other's presence in the county. At some time during the year 1838, it is generally conceded, Robert Nichols, the pioneer, arrived from Virginia and settled on the northeast corner of where stood the village of North Point... (--pp. 261, 262.)

Lewis Township ... One of the two original divisions of Holt County is Lewis Township, organized at the April term, 1841... (The boundaries are given on page 304 History of Holt and Atchison Counties.)

It thus appears that the original limits of Lewis Township included besides its present territory, a portion of Forbes and half of Hickory and of Clay Townships, and all that territory of what is now (1882) Bigelow, Benton, Liberty, Union and Lincoln Townships, including about four-fifths of the present (1882) area of the county, and extending ten miles within the southern limits of the State of Iowa ...

The first white man to settle within the present limits of Lewis Township was R.H. Russell, who, in 1862, was Judge of the Probate Court... (--pp. 304, 307.)

Liberty Township extends in an east and west direction eight miles, and in a north and south direction six miles, forming a rectangular parallelogram. It was organized in 1874, out of Benton, of which it was formerly a part. It is bounded on the north by Atchison County; on the east by Clay Township; on the south by Benton, and west by Lincoln Township.

Liberty Township was one of the last localities settled in Holt County...Probably the first to settle in Liberty Township, when it was still a part of Benton Township, was Robert K. Ross, of Tennessee. He settled in what is now (1882) known as Ross' Grove, on the northeast quarter of Sec. 7, Twp. 62, Range. 38, near the waters of Squaw Creek, four and a half miles due north of Mound City...

There were no towns in Liberty Township in 1882. (--pp. 419, 420, 421).

[VI]

Lincoln Township, in the northwest corner of Holt County, constitutes the smallest municipal division of the county; its entire area including not more than twenty square miles. Its territory was erected into the Township of Lincoln, March 27, 1871. Its outline is somewhat peculiar, suggesting the idea of a carpenter's square. It is bounded on the north, in a distance of six and a half miles by the line of Atchison County; on the east and south by Union Township, and on the west by the State of Nebraska, from which it is separated by the Missouri River, by the encroachment of which the territory of the township bordering on the stream, has been, since the organization of the county, reduced fully a mile in its northwest corner.

The territory of Lincoln Township was formerly included in what was for a short time in the early history of the Platte Purchase, known as Allen County, though subject to the jurisdiction of the Holt County Court; and it was not until the organization of Atchison County, that it enjoyed the rights and privileges of a municipal division of Holt...

The first white man to locate in what is now Lincoln Township, was John Henry Roselius...He was a native of the Kingdom of Hanover, and settled in the year 1841 on Sec. 6, Twp. 68, Range. 41... (--pp. 285, 286).

Lewis Township ... One of the original divisions of Holt County is Lewis Township, as organized at the April term, 1841...(The boundaries are given on page 304 of History of Holt and Atchison Counties).

It thus appears that the original limits of Lewis Township included besides its present territory, a portion of Forbes and one half of Hickory and Clay Townships, and all that territory of what is now (1882) Bigelow, Benton, Liberty, Union and Lincoln Townships, including about four-fifths of the present (1882) area of the county, as well as the greater part of Atchison County, and extending ten miles within the southern limits of the State of Iowa...

The first white man to settle within the present limits of Lewis Township was R.H. Russell, who, in 1882, was Judge of the Probate Court. (--pp. 304, 307).

Union Township is bounded on the north by Lincoln Township and two miles of Atchison County; on the east by Liberty and Benton Townships; on the south by Bigelow Township and on the west by Lincoln Township and the State of Nebraska, from which itis separated by the Missouri River...

The first locality settled, in what is now (1882) Union Township, is also the oldest settlement in the northwest part of the county. It is known (1882) as Sharpe's Grove, and is a mile or two north of the present town of Craig...

The original settlers of the grove were W. A. and Abraham Sharpe, who came from Bracken County, Kentucky, in the fall of 1841... (--pp. 450, 451).

Page numbers refer to History of Holt & Atchison Counties, 1882.

[VII]

Nodaway Township was one of the three original townships. Nodaway Township included, originally, a strip of territory not more than six miles in width near its base or southern limits, and tapering more or less gradually, narrowed to a point where the Nodaway River touches the range line of thirty-seven and thirty-eight, in Atchison County, fifteen or sixteen miles north of the present (1882) northern boundary of Holt County, and thus embracing a strip of land now included within the limits of Nodaway County...

By the erection of other municipal townships, it was, from time to time, reduced till by the organization of Hickory Township, June 13, 1874, it was reduced, rendering it with the exception of Lincoln, the smallest township in the county. It is bounded on the north by Hickory Township; on the east by Andrew County, from which it is separated by the Nodaway River; on the south by Forbes Township and on the west by Lewis Township...

The first settler to locate there was Frank Nickols, a brother of Robert and Frank, who had settled in that portion of Nickol's Grove, which lies in what is now Hickory Township... (--History of Holt & Atchison Counties, pp. 104, 437).


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