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

Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser


New Madrid County

[I]

New Madrid District

The settlement of this district was begun in the winter of 1786-87, by Francis and Joseph Lesieur, brothers in the employ of Gerre, a fur trader and merchant of St. Louis. They had been sent down the Mississippi in a canoe the year previous, to select a suitable place for a trading-post, and now they came to build a house and to begin to trade with the Indians ... The Delawares brought in immense quantities of furs and skins which they readily disposed of for powder and shot, etc. ... Traders began to come from Vincennes and other posts. The place soon became one of the best trading-points in the country, west of the Mississippi River, and the name of "L'anse a la graisse" (the cone of fat) was bestowed upon it ... Col. George Morgan, a native of New Jersey, who had been an officer in the American Army, while passing down the Mississippi to New Orleans conceived the idea of building a great commercial city in the Spanish Territory opposite or below the mouth of the Ohio ... Early in 1789, with a party of some fifty or sixty emigrants he descended the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to a point about a mile below the present town of New Madrid. There he proceeded to lay out a city on a magnificent scale ... and gave it the name of New Madrid. (But due to intrigue, his designs were soon brought to an end.) ...

In July, 1789, Gov. Miro sent a Lieutenant Pierre Forcher, two sergeants, two corporals and thirty soldiers to build a fort and to take military command of the post at New Madrid. Upon his arrival Forcher laid off a town between Bayou St. John and Bayou de Cypriere, and built a fort upon the bank of the river, which he named Fort Celeste, in honor of the wife of Gov. Miro ... He was recalled in about eighteen months and was succeeded by Thomas Partell. (--History of Southeast Missouri, 1888, Goodspeed, pp. 284, 290.)

New Madrid County

A county in the southeastern part of the State, bounded on the north by Stoddard and Scott, east by Mississippi River and Pemiscot, and west by Dunklin and Pemiscot Counties ...

The first settlement by white men in the region now comprising New Madrid County was made in the autumn of 1786, by Francis and Joseph Lesieur, two Canadian Frenchmen, brothers, who, in the year previous, reached St. Louis from Three Rivers, Canada. They were employed by Gabriel Cerre, a St. Louis merchant and fur trader, to make a trip down the Mississippi River and find a suitable point at which to open a trading-post. After many stops they reached a village of the Delaware Indians, near where is now located the town of New Madrid ...

Soon the Lesieurs opened another post down the river, near where Gayoso (Pemiscot County) is now built. (See A Directory of Pemiscot Co.). About 1786 Colonel George Morgan, an American Army officer, a native of New Jersey, passing down the Mississippi River, was impressed by the richness of the country, and conceived a plan

[II]

to build a large city on the Mississippi below the mouth of the Ohio. His scheme was approved by officers of the Spanish Government and he succeeded in gaining a conditional grant of land covering several hundred thousand arpents. (An arpent of land still used in certain French sections of Canada and the U. S., equal to about 0.85 acres.) He published a prospectus of his proposed city, and in 1789, with about sixty colonists, he came down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to a point one mile below the present site of New Madrid. Here he had surveyed and laid out a town which he named New Madrid in honor of the Spanish capital. (Eventually Gen. James Wilkinson became jealous of Morgan's success and in a letter to the Spanish Governor represented him as a schemer, and whose intentions were not good.)

This had the result of causing the privileges granted to Morgan to be rescinded, and he abandoned his cherished city, and with a number of his colonists, returned to the East ...

Upon Morgan's return to the East, Governor Miro sent to New Madrid Lieutenant Pierre Forcher and two sergeants, two corporals and thirty soldiers, to establish a post at New Madrid. Forcher laid out a town between the Bayous St. John and de Cyprier (Cypress Bayour), and built a fort which he named Celeste, in honor of the wife of Governor Miro. In eighteen months Forcher was recalled and Don Thomas Portell was made commandant and held the office for five years.

He did not understand the Indians and they abandoned New Madrid as a trading-post, and carried their furs and peltries elsewhere, much to the loss of the place ...

Richard Jones Waters, a native of Maryland, ran a store and built the first water mill in the district ... Dr. Samuel Dorsey was a Marylander. For some time he resided in Cape Girardeau, and after the earthquake of 1811 moved to Mississippi ...

The District of New Madrid (q. v.) was organized March, 1805, Richard Jones Waters, Elisha Winsor, Henry Masters, Jean Baptiste clerk and Michael Ameraux were the first justices, Joshua Humphrey, clerk and George Wilson, sheriff. The records of the proceedings of the court of the district have been lost. The Legislature, December 31, 1813, established the county of New Madrid and defined its limits as follows. Bounded on the north by the south line of Cape Girardeau, on the east by the main channel of the Mississippi River, on the south by a line commencing in the Mississippi River opposite the island known in navigation as No. 19, and thence in a direct line to strike White River at the mouth of the Little Red River to the western boundary of the Osage Purchase, thence northwardly on said line to the south line of Cape Girardeau County. The vast tract included about one-eighth of the present State of Missouri. (--Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, 1901, Conrad, Vol. 4, pp. 555, 558; History of Southeast Missouri, 1888, Goodspeed, pp. 327, 328, 329, 330.)

[III]

In March, 1814, the court convened at the house of Samuel Phillips in Big Prairie, and at the next term at the house of Jesse Bartlet. In November of that year the commissioners located the seat of justice on fifty acres of land donated by Stephen Ross and Moses Hurley, lying about one-fourth mile north of the present town of Sikeston ... The courts were held at this place until the organization of Scott County, when New Madrid once more became the seat of justice ...

In 1822, the area of the county having been so greatly reduced, it was necessary to reconstruct the townships ... In 1829 Stoddard County was erected, and the territory in New Madrid County still further reduced, but there was no change in the townships until 1831 ... In 1851 New Madrid County was reduced to its present size by the organization of Pemiscot County, and no more townships were organized until 1874 ...

Dec. 13, 1813, the judges proceeded to divide the county into townships ... The territory before embraced in the townships of Little Prairie and New Madrid was constituted New Madrid ... Big River Township remained as before. Tywappity Township was bounded on the west by New Madrid and Big Prairie Townships ... Moreland Township was next ... all the rest of the county was formed into a township called White River ...

In 1822 the township of Lesieur was formed ... In 1831 St. John Township was formed. In 1834 Little Prairie Township was established ... Pemiscot Township was formed in 1839 from a part of Little Prairie Township ... In 1842 the south part of Big River Township was erected into a new township called Woodland; at the same time Big Lake Township was formed from portions of Lesieur and Little Prairie. In 1845 Woodland Township was dismembered, and one-half attached to Big Prairie, and the other half to New Madrid. In 1874 East and Portage Townships were formed. (--History of Southeast Missouri, 1888, Goodspeed, pp. 329, 330.)

[IV]

Osage Purchase

Among the Indian treaties ratified in 1815 was the one made in 1808 with the Osages. By this treaty they had agreed to cede to the United States all the land between the Missouri and Mississippi River due south to the Arkansas River and thence down that river to the Mississippi. They also ceded by this treaty whatever claims they had to territory north of the Missouri River. By this subsequent treaty, in 1823, the Osages gave up their right to the lands which they had claimed in the western part of the State. These lands included the territory within the limits of the present Jackson, Cass, Bates, Vernon, Jasper, Newton and McDonald Counties.

At the same time at which the Osages made their last cession, the Kansas Indians likewise ceded whatever lands they claimed in Missouri. Other cessions were made later by other Indians, such as the Kickapoos, the Iowas, the Shawnees, and the Delawares, so that by 1833 the title of the Indians in Missouri -- amounting to over 39,000,000 acres -- was completely extinguished. (--A History of Missouri, 1918, Eugene Violette, pp. 71, 72.)

*Fort Osage -- A name given to an old fort, known also as Fort Clark and Fort Sibley. It was built on a bluff, a mile from Sibley, on land bought from the Osage Indians, known as the "Six Mile Tract" and now included in Fort Osage Township, Jackson County. (--Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, 1901, Conard, Vol. 2, p. 492.)


New Madrid County Table of Contents
Local History Home