Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser
Ralls County is a county in the eastern part of the State, bounded on the north by Marion County, northeast by the Mississippi River, which separates it from Illinois, east and southeast by Pike County, south by Pike and Audrain Counties, and west by Monroe County.
Many fresh and salt water springs abound in different parts of the county. The principal saline springs are Freemore, Burnett, Ely, Tikes and Trabue licks and Saverton Springs near the hamlet of the same name in the northeastern part of the county ...
The name of the first white man to set foot in the territory now Ralls County is forever lost to posterity. There can be little doubt that about the time of the founding of Kaskakia, Illinois, (early in the eighteenth century), the French, who were well established in the northwest, made an expedition into the country north of the Missouri and immediately west of the Mississippi River. Evidence to substantiate the temporary occupation of the county by civilized people was unearthed in 1830. That year Judge C. Carstaphen found on the banks of Salt River a rusty cannon. It was buried a few feet below the surface of the ground, and over it had grown an Oak tree thirteen inches in diameter. It is likely that the party that carried this first piece of ordnance were the first white men to visit the country now Ralls County. For some years Judge Carstaphen retained the cannon as a curiosity and in 1840 sold it to Dr. McDowell, of St. Louis, who placed it in his cabinet of curiosities in Hannibal Cave. The first permanent settler on land now in Ralls County, according to tradition and the most trustworthy record, was James Ryan, whose deed for a tract of land on Salt River, near the mouth of Turkey Creek was dated September, 1811. This land at that time was in the District of St. Charles. About the time Ryan made his settlement Charles Fremon Delasurie, who for some time had resided in St. Louis, located at what has since been known as Freeman's Lick, on the south side of Salt River, about three miles north of New London, where he commenced the manufacture of salt, which he continued until driven away by some of the Sac and Fox tribes of Indians, who destroyed his furnaces and filled up his wells ...
The majority of the pioneers were natives of Kentucky and Virginia, although some of them had lived in St. Louis before taking up residence in Ralls County. Ralls County territory, upon the acquisition of Louisiana by the United States, was in the District of St. Charles, later St. Charles County, and was included in Pike County when that county was organized in 1818.
Ralls County was created out of a part of Pike by legislative act of November 16, 1820, and was named in honor of Daniel Ralls, the first representative from Pike County, and who died during the session. The members of the first county court were Peter Journey, presiding judge; Peter Grant and William Richey, associate justices, with Stephen Glasscock, clerk, and Green Dewitt, sheriff. The first meeting of the court was held at the house of William Jameson, at New London, July 2, 1821. The first circuit court met at the same place March 12, 1821, Hon. Robert Pettibown, presiding; R. W. Wells, circuit attorney and Stephen Glasscock, clerk. The commissioners appointed to locate the permanent seat of justice selected New London, which in 1819 was a settled point. ...
During the Civil War, Ralls County furnished troops to both the Northern and Southern Armies, the greater part serving under the Federal flag. Ralls County is divided into seven townships, named respectively, Center, Clay, Jasper, Saline, Salt River, Saverton and Spencer ... (--Ency. of the Hist. of Mo., 1901, Conard, Vol. V, 292, 293, 294.)
There were three saw-mills on Salt River, two on Spencer's Creek, and one on Turkey Creek; four grist-mills, and two steam grist and saw-mills; two wool carding factories and an oil mill in New London. There was a Catholic chapel in Cincinnati, and another in the western part of the county; a college was being erected in the western part of Ralls County. There were six or eight buildings in the county which were used as places of public worship. (--Wetmore's Gazetteer of the State of Mo., 1837; 255.)
Ralls County was first settled previous to 1800, and was organized in 1820, from Pike County. (--Campbell's Gazetteer of Missouri, 1874; 67.)
Center Township is bounded on the north by Clay Township; east by Spencer; south by Jasper and west by Salt River and Saline Townships. It covered the greater part of Congressional Township 55, Range 6, south of Salt River. (--New Atlas of Mo., 1874, Campbell, Map 20.)
William Martin Elsen ... was born in Macon County, Mo., May 29, 1842. He was the oldest son of Isaac D. and Elizabeth Ann (LaFever) Elsen. He was married to Miss Mary Wine, February 20, 1846. About 1875 he bought two hundred and twenty acres of land southwest of Center ... (--Portrait and Biographical Record of Ralls County, 1895, C. O. Owens & Co., 219.)
Isaac C. Lites, of Center Township, was of German ancestry but was born in Ralls County, January 15, 1834. He was the son of John Lites and Susan (Clark) Lites ... Isaac was married September 12, 1838, to Nancy Neal, a daughter of Palestine and Mary (David) Neal ...
In 1876 he was elected constable, and held the office until he left the State. In 1878, he decided to see some of the world, and went to California for a few years ... He returned and was then appointed deputy constable which post he held two years. In January, 1894, he engaged in general merchandise in Madisonville, in company with J. W. Inslow, under the name of Lites & Inslow ... (--Owens, 613, 614.)
Spencer Township is bounded on the north by Clay Township, on the east by Saverton Township, on the south by Jasper Township, and on the west by Center Township. It contained all of Congressional Township 55, Range 5 and a portion of Range 4, and a portion of Congressional Township 56, Ranges 4 and 5. The main town was New London. (--New Atlas, Map 20.)
John William James was born in Pike County, this State, August 3, 1868. He was the son of John D. James and Jennie A. (Rector) James.
He had a fine stock-farm. (--Owens, 213.)
William W. Epperson, was a native of Ralls County, born on January 4, 1850. He was the son of Washington Epperson and Nancy (Jeffries) Epperson. Nancy was the first white child born in Ralls County, August 6, 1818. Her father was Robert Jeffries, who was born in Kentucky, while her mother, Elizabeth Jameson, was born in St. Louis County, Missouri ...
William W. Epperson ... was married in Pike County, February 6, 1873, to Sarah A. Turley ... who was born July 4, 1849, in Pike County, and a daughter of Harrison G. and Mary A. (Fowler) Turley, who were respectively, natives of Ralls and Pike Counties, Mo.
Mr. Epperson was one of the organizers of the Center Bank. (--Owens, 637, 638.)
Salt River Township is the southwestern township of Ralls County. It is bounded on the north by Salem Township, from which it is separated by Salt River; on the east by the southern part of Center Township and Jasper Township; on the south by Audrain Co., and on the west by Monroe County. It contained all of Congressional Township 53 west, and 54 west, and the lower portion of 55 west, Range 7. (--New Atlas, Map 20.)
Joseph R. Biggers was born on an established location in Section 28, Twp. 54, Range 7, March 11, 1866. He was the son of Joseph R., Sr., and Catherine M. (Lipp) Biggers, who were born, respectively in Kentucky and Virginia ...
The marriage of Joseph R. Biggers, Jr., with Miss Ada Brooks took place in Ralls County, October 1, 1812 ...
Corn, wheat and oats formed the principal products of Mr. Bigger's farm, although he had on his place several head of fine, blooded stock. (--Owens, 539, 540.)
Robert K. Phillips had been postmaster of West Hartford from May, 1885 to 1895, having entered upon his duties in May, 1885, and since then having had the office in his own dwelling ... For some fourteen years he had been the proprietor of a farm on Section 32, Township 54, Range 6, but had been an inhabitant of Ralls County for a quarter of a century ...
Robert K. Phillips was born in Oldham County, Kentucky, April 3, 1835, and was the son of Isaac Phillips, born in Pennsylvania and Catherine W. (Durham) Phillips ... R. K. was married twice, his first wife being Miss Mary Muldron, to whom he was married April 14, 1859. She died February 14, 1869. His second wife was Margaret E. Gallagher, to whom he was married April 21, 1881.
He enlisted in the Confederate service as a private in Company A. under Col. Porter and Benjamin Ely ... He was discharged near Portland, Callaway County, October 28, 1862. (--Owens, 779, 780.)
Jasper Township is the southeastern township of the county, being bounded on the north by Center and Spencer Townships; east by Pike County; south by Audrain County and west by Salt River Township. It contained all of Congressional Townships 53 and 54, Range 6, and the western half of 53 and 54, Range 5 ... (--New Atlas, Map 20.)
Thomas Wallace of New London, was the son of Daniel Wallace, and Mrs. Mattie J. (Bridgewater) Wallace. The family lived in Jasper and Clay Townships, in Ralls County ... In 1865, the family moved to the farm of Ada Nimran Smith, near Ely Station, Marion County, on the H. & St. J. R. R. Here, Thomas worked for J. F. Myers, pumping water at the Ely tank. The summer was hot and dry. There was no well water near, and the pond water was bad drinking. But necessity knows no law. Mr. Myers and his tank boy, by kind treatment, and a little coaxing, became friendly with one of Jerome Kendrick's milk cows, which grazed upon the open prairie and came to the pond looking for water every day. The bovine supplied the tank folks with milk all summer. This revelation will spoil the many great snake stories which were told about the great blue racers and cow sucker snakes, which during that summer, stole the milk from Jerome Kendrick's cow, and caused the calf to pine away from the slimy poison that was left by the snakes.
Leaving this locality, the family moved to the farm of Maj. Johnson, where Huntington now (1895) is ... Leaving the place the family moved to a farm in Jasper Township, two and a half miles south of Madisonville, in Ralls County. (--Owens, 495, 471.)
Abraham B. Seely, one of the honored old residents of Ralls County, was born within a half of his home, on Section 10, Township 54, Range 5, the date of the event being September 25, 1837 ... He was the son of Abraham and Angeline Seely, of St. Louis County, Missouri ...
January 25, 1855, Mr. Seely married Lizzie Cowen, daughter of Caleb and Margaret (Owen) Seely, and a native of Ralls County. (--Owens, 686, 687.)
Saline Township is bounded on the north by Marion County; east by Clay and Center Townships; south by Center and Salt River, and west by Monroe County. It contained a portion of Congressional Township 55, Range 7, and all of 56, Range 7, and the eastern part of Range 6. (--New Atlas, Map 20.)
George W. Bombeek was born in the village of Rinteley, Prussia, Germany, April 14, 1824. He was a son of Daniel and Fredericka (Bucher) Bombeek. Mr. Bombeek was twice married, his first wife being Mary Vrehman, whom he married in 1851; she died in 1867. He married again, Sarah E. Bell, on April 7, 1870. Sarah was the daughter of James Bell, and Susan (Green) Bell, who were married in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1830. In 1833, James Bell and his family emigrated to this county, settling near New London, and in 1839, they permanently located near Cincinnati, Ralls County. (--Owens, 135, 136.)
One of the earliest settlers of this township was Hon. George L. Harvey, who was born July 27, 1813, in Scott County, Kentucky. He was the son of Casper and Elizabeth (McAtee) Harvey. George L. Harvey, at the age of seventeen years, with his parents, moved to Ralls County, where for the first three years they resided in Salt River Township. About 1835, they moved to the vicinity of Cincinnati, in Saline Township, and continued to dwell there for the following seven years ... George Harvey was elected Justice of the Peace; later, he was elected to serve as judge of Ralls County. He was twice married; his first wife being Theresa Lake, whom he married January 18, 1833. She died April 28, 1854. He married the second time to Miss Mary Dennis Redman, on February 13, 1835. (--Owens, 225, 226.)
Clay Township is bounded on the north by Marion County; east by Saverton; south by Spencer and Center, and west by Saline Township. It contained the eastern half of Congressional Township 56, Range 6 and all of Congressional Township 56, Range 5, and a portion of Range 4. (--New Atlas, Map 20.)
John Bland, of Section 35, Clay Township, was born in Ireland, the son of William and Bridgett (McLaughlin) Bland ... John Bland was born in the north of Ireland, in October, 1829; his father died when he was but little over two years of age. In 1849 young Bland emigrated to the United States, and after a sailing voyage of two weeks and three days, landed in New Orleans. Two weeks later he went to Cincinnati, Ohio ... November 15, 1854, Mr. Bland married in Ohio, Mary N, Edinger, of Ohio.
Following his service in the army during the Civil War, the Blands continued westward. They located near Hannibal; later to Ely and West Ely, and eventually came to Ralls County. (--Owens, 375.)
Saverton Township is the northeastern township of the county, being bounded on the north by Marion County; east by the Mississippi River; south by Spencer Township, and Pike County, and on the west by Clay Township (--New Atlas, Map 20.)
Jacob E. Stout was a native of Ralls County, being born in Saverton Township May 13, 1843, and was a son of Francis B. and Anna (Stoeers) Stout ... Jacob Stout married Miss Elinor B. Jones on November 5, 1867. (--Owens, 321.)