Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser
Upon the acquisition of the United States, in 1803, of The Territory of Louisiana including what is now the State of Missouri, the territory embraced within the present metes and bounds of Shelby County belonged to the "District" of St. Charles. October 1, 1812, St. Charles County was organized by proclamation of Gov. Clark, and this county was made a part thereof December 14, 1818. Upon the organization of Pike it became a part of that county. November 16, 1820, when Ralls County was created, it was included therein. Upon the organization of Marion, December 23, 1826, the territory was "attached to said county of Marion, for all military, civil and judicial purposes."
After 1831 and up to 1834 what is now Shelby County was virtually a part of Warren Township, Marion County. In May, 1834, the county court of Marion made the following order: --
It is ordered that all the portion of territory included in Warren Township lying west of the range line dividing Ranges No. 8 and 9; also, all that portion of territory lying west of the western boundary line of Marion County, which by law remains attached to said county, shall compose a municipal township, to be called and known by the name of "Black Creek Township," and it is further ordered that the clerk of this court shall transmit to the office of the Secretary of State, a description of said township ...
In November, 1834, the Marion Court formed out of Black Creek, a new township, called North River ...
It is reasonably certain that no permanent settlements were made here until after the year 1830. In the spring of 1831, a man named Norton came up from Monroe County and built a cabin on Black Creek, (in Section 33-32-9) ...
In the fall of 1831, Maj. Obadiah Dickerson came up from Marion County, and built a cabin on the north side of Salt River about the center of Section 17-57-10 ... It is probable (according to the testimony of Russell W. Moss, who came in 1832, and is positive on this point) that Maj. Dickerson was the first bona fide white settler in Shelby County. (--641, 625, 626.)
The First Store and Post Office
At this time Palmyra (Marion County) was the point where supplies were obtained. Bread stuff was ground at Gatewood's and Massie's mills on North River, north and west of Palmyra, a few miles. In the winter of 1833-34, however, William B. Broughton, brought on a small stock of general merchandise, and opened a sort of "store" in his own house, (Section 5, Township 57, Range 9) which was called Oak Dale. The same winter he procured a numerously signed petition, asking for the establishment of a post-office, and this petition being forwarded to Washington was graciously received and its prayer granted. The office was established at Broughton's residence and was called Oak Dale ...
Mr. Broughton was the first postmaster in the county. Mails came in from Palmyra, once a week ... (--629, 630.)
This portion of territory was settling up fast, and being so remote from the seat of justice of Marion, a demand for its organization into a separate and distinct county became so imperative that on January 2, 1835, the legislature heeded the prayers of a number of petitioners and erected the county of Shelby. The county of Stoddard was organized the same day. The following is the action of the act defining the mets and bounds of Shelby County: --
The territory bounded as follows: Beginning at the southeast corner of Township 57, Range 9 west; thence west with the line between Townships 56 and 57 to the range line between Ranges 12 and 13; thence north with the last mentioned range line to the line between Ranges 8 and 9; thence south with the last mentioned range line to the place of beginning shall be a distinct county called Shelby County. (See Territorial Laws, Mo., 1835, Vol. II, p. 426.)
This county was named in honor of Gen. and ex-Gov. Isaac Shelby, of Kentucky.
The commissioners to select the seat of justice were Elias Kinchloe, of Marion; James Lay, of Lewis, and Joseph Hardy, of Ralls ...
The act provided that the courts of the county should be "held at the house of Wm. Broughton, until the county court shall fix a temporary seat of justice."
The first session of the Shelby County Court convened at the residence of Mr. Broughton, on Thursday, April 9, 1835 ... County and circuit courts were held at the house of W. B. Broughton, at Oak Dale, until July 6, 1836, when the first term was held at the Abraham Vandiver's, in Shelbyville. This house was called "the court-house," until the completion of the real building of that name in December, 1838 ... The first term of the circuit court held in the court-house was the March term, 1839 ...
The first election in Shelby County after its organization was the August election of 1835. There were but two townships and two voting places at the time. In Black Creek Township the voting place was at the house of Wm. B. Broughton ... In North River Township, the polls were opened at the house of Alexander Buford ... (642, 644, 648.)
Naming the Streams
The principal streams were all named when the settlers came here. The original name of Salt River was Auhaha or Oahaha, but it was soon changed to Salt River, from the salt springs near it in Ralls County. Black Creek was originally of Marion County. It is said that some time in the year 1820 a trapper, named Jake ? built a cabin on its banks and lived there some time. Afterward the surveyors called it Black Creek because of the dark color the water when they first saw it. North River was originally called North Two Rivers, and South River, in Marion County, was called South Two Rivers. The two streams unite a half-mile from the Mississippi, into which they flow, in the eastern part of Marion. Tiger Fork was named for the two panthers or "tigers" that John Winnegan killed in the winter of 1835. There were already two "Panther Creeks" in this part of the State.
The small streams were named for the men who first settled or located upon them.
Pollard's branch, in the western part of Black Creek Township was named for Elijah Pollard. Chinn's branch, for W. S. Chinn, Hawkins' branch for William Hawkins, Broughton's branch for W. B. Broughton, Paynter's branch for John Paynter, Bell's branch for Samuel Bell, Parker's branch for George Parker, Holman's branch for Thomas Holman, etc. Clear Creek, in the southwestern part of Tiger Fork Township, and east of Shelbyville, was so named because it was fed by springs and the water was very clear. Otter Creek, in the southwestern part of the county, contained not only otters, but beavers, at an early day, but more of the former, and so derived its name. Board branch was so named from the abundance of board timber along its banks at an early day ... (--652.)
The "Pottawatomie War."
In the fall of 1836, occurred the "Pottawatomie War," as it was called. It was indeed no war at all, but was simply a ridiculous and altogether groundless scare or fright.
A party of about 60 friendly Pottawattomie Indians, men, women and children, were on a hunting expedition from Iowa into Missouri -- or as some would say, on the way from Iowa to the Southwest, whither they had been ordered by the Government, -- passed through the western part of the county and caused the trouble.
Some alarmists saw them, and passed the word the settlers were about to be attacked. Messengers were sent throughout the county -- to the isolated settlers instructing them to repair to a certain formidable log house for safety -- to Shelbyville and Palmyra for help, and to other quarters in various "wild goose" chases.
The fright increased, and some soldiers were called to arms. One morning it was learned the Indians had departed during the night, leaving only one family behind with a very sick squaw and a sick child. They were peaceful, but were compelled to leave, and things returned to normal. (--654, 655, 656.)
The First Mills
Peter Stice built a water-mill on the North River, on the east half of the northwest quarter of Section 33, Township 59, Range 10, exactly at the present -- 1994 -- site of Bethel. Stice built and furnished the mill in 1836, but never did much grinding. About the same time Silas and Asa Boyce began the erection of a mill on Salt River, three and a half miles southeast of Shelbyville (southeast, northwest 10-57-10). The mill was completed by Anthony Blackford, Nehemiah Redding and others, and Boyce;'s mill was a well-known institution of the county for many years.
The next mill was built by William J. Holliday, in 1837, on Black Creek, on the west half of the northeast quarter of Section 27-58-10; this was about two and a half miles southeast of Shelbyville. Holliday's application for leave to build the mill was made in March, 1837.
William H. Clagett, T. P. Lewis and others made application the same time as Holliday, and built a mill afterward on the South Fabius, where the Newark road crosses that stream (northwest Section 11-59-11), which they operated for some time.
Mr. Holliday said that the first mill in the county was built on Black Creek (Section 6-57-9), near Oak Dale, by Julius A. Jackson, in 1835. It was a saw and grist-mill combined, and was of great value to the people. It was destroyed by fire eight or ten years afterward. Other early settlers think this mill was not built until in 1837 or 1838.
Dutton's mill, on the North Fork of Salt River, three miles southeast of Hager's Grove and 10 miles south of west of Shelbyville (northeast 35-58-12), was built sometime in the fall of 1837. It was begun by Julius A. Jackson, and before being fully completed the dam was washed out.
In March, 1838, Hill Shaw built a mill on Black Creek, in the southeastern part of the county (northeast Section 29-57-9) two miles northeast of the present -- 1884 -- stands (northeast 41-57-11), but it is not remembered that the mill was ever built. The Heckart's ran a horse mill for some time in this neighborhood, and afterwards Heckart and Stayer operated the Walker mill at Walkersville.
In March, 1839, or some time in the spring of that year, Samuel Buckner put up a mill on North River, nearly two miles below Bethel (northeast 3-59-10), and it ran for some time.
Sometime in 1838 Edwin G. and Warren Pratt built a mill on the Little Fabius, in the northeastern corner of this county, or in Knox.
In 1839, a Mr. Williams, of Marion County entered the 80 acre tract on which the mill at Walkersville stood, and contemplated the erection of a mill on the place, but died before the work was accomplished. The land was sold by the administrator, and David O. Walker and George W. Barker purchased it and built the mill and started the town of Walkersville, which was named for Mr. Walker. The mill was built in 1840. Prior to the erection of these mills and in truth occasionally afterwards -- the settlers resorted to Gabe Woods' and Massie's mills, near Palmyra, and to Hickman's mill, at Florida, for their grinding. Nearly all home mills were but "corn crackers" and were not prepared to grind and bolt wheat. (--659, 660.)
Jackson Township -- The first settlements in this township were made probably in the spring of 1833 by Russell W. Moss, Samuel Buckner, Henry Saunders and others in the southern part of the township and by W. B. Broughton and others in the neighborhood of Oak Dale ...
In December, 1837, the township was organized out of Black Creek ... There were a few skirmishes in Jackson Township, during the Civil War, in 1861. (--872, 873, 874.)
Salt River Township -- The first settler in Salt River Township was also the first permanent one in the county -- Major Obadiah Dickerson, who located on the North Fork of Salt River, on the main road from Shelbina to Shelbyville, on Section 17-57-10, in 1831 ...
The first settlers in the northwestern part of this township along or in the neighborhood of Salt River, in Township 57, Range 11, were Perry B. Moore, Isaac Moore, and their sister, Mrs. Mary Wailes, on Section 10 ...
The first school was taught by John B. Lewis, in 1838, in a small school-house, that stood on the later site of Bacon's Chapel ... Bacon's Chapel, built by the Methodists, was on the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 9, Township 57, Range 11, in 1845.
Adam and Michael Heckart were early settlers in the northwestern part of this township, and built a mill on Salt River, in Section 4-57-11, in 1838. David O. Walker built the mill on Section 18-57-10, which bore his name so long, and which was the foundation for the little hamlet of Walkersville.
Salt River Township was first organized as a municipal township in about 1839, but this extended to the western boundary of the county ...
Several untoward incidents occurred in this township during the Civil War. (--875, 876.)
Jefferson Township comprises the southwestern portion of Shelby County, including all of Township 56, Range 12, which forms the "jog" or "panhandle," so prominent a feature on the map of the county ...
Not until after 1840 did settlers come in. The first locations were made along Otter Creek and Crooked Creek, with a few on Mud Creek. Some of the early settlers were John Kyle, M. M. Donaldson, Elijah Bishop and Enoch K. Miller.
During the Civil War Jefferson Township was overrun by troops of both armies ... (--877.)
Clay Township -- The first settler in what is now Clay Township was Major Taylor, who built a cabin on Section 6-57-11, in the southeastern part of the township; as early as 1835 ... Mr. Taylor was a Kentuckian. He was not, as his name would perhaps indicate, a military man, but his given or Christian name was Major ...
The township was organized about 1845, when the county was Whig and named for Henry Clay, whom his partisans knew as "gallant Harry (sic) of the "West." A few years later Taylor Township was organized and named for President Taylor. (--878.)
Taylor Township -- The Gillaspys, -- Lewis, Alexander and Robert -- were among the very first settlers in what is now Taylor Township, locating on Black Creek, in the southeastern portion of the township in about 1837 ...
Upon the first settlement of Taylor Township the pioneers went often to Florida, Monroe County, to mill, as the mills in the county were not always in order or running. In 1846, Benjamin Forman bought a horse mill -- a sweep mill -- from a man named Hargis, in the southern part of the county, and moved it up to his farm and ran it for a number of years. The settlers resorted to it for miles around ... Forman's mill ground both corn and wheat. (The process was slow, and its flow averaged five bushels an hour.)
The first physicians who practiced in the township were Dr. Long, of Shelbyville, Dr. Mills from the neighborhood of Bacon's Chapel and Dr. Edmunds ... (--880, 881.)
Bethel Township comprises all of Congressional Township 59, Range 10, and a half of Township 59, Range 11, and is the center of the three municipal townships comprising the northern part of Shelby County ...
As to the first settlers in this township, perhaps the distinction belongs to Abraham Vandiver and Peter Stice, who settled on North River at or near New Bethel in 1834 ... (--882.)
Black Creek Township comprises all of Congressional Township 58, Ranges 10 and 11, and is the central township of Shelby County. It was one of the original townships of the county, and indeed, was created ... when the territory belonged to Marion County ...
The first settlements in what is now this township were made along Black Creek on North River and a little southwest of Shelbyville. Lewis H. Gillaspy settled a little southwest of Shelbyville, and was probably the first settler. Peter Looney, settled on what became known as the Laws place, in the northeastern part of the township in 1835, and it is claimed that he built the first house that high up on North River. He was the son of Mrs. Caroline Looney. (--883, 884.)
Tiger Fork Township was one of the first settled and one of the first organized in Shelby County. Its first settlement was in 1832, and its original organization about 1840. The exact date is unknown ...
Among the very first settlers of this township was James Turner, who built his cabin at the mouth of Tiger Creek in the southern part of the township in 1833. He was a hunter and lived chiefly by his gun ...
The first mill was a horse-mill built by Joshua Hope in Section 4, which was in operation by 1840.
Timber was not very plentiful and when the pioneers wanted any it was not considered wrong to cut what they wanted on land owned by "Uncle Johnny Congress" as the Government or Congress land was called. Many a fence was composed of rails made on "Uncle Johnny's" land.
The first school house was built in 1841. It stood on Section 23, and was known as Bragg's school house, because of its nearness to the residence of S. Bragg ... Addison Lair built the first brick house in the township in 1849 ... (--886, 887.)
Page numbers refer to Hist. of Shelby Co., St. Louis, 1884, National Historical Society.