A Directory of Towns, Villages, and Hamlets
Past and Present
of St. Francois County, Missouri

Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser


St. Francois County

[I]

The country in the vicinity of Big Mill, on Big River, was the first section to be settled. In 1794 Andrew Baker, John Alley, John Andrews and Francis Starnator located claims. Baker was the only one of the party who built a house, the others lived in tents. Two years later they returned to their homes in Tennessee and removed their families to the new country ...

In 1798 Rev. William Murphy, a Baptist minister, born in Ireland, but for years a missionary in Tenn., accompanied by his son, William, and a friend, Silas George, visited the present site of Farmington and located on land a few miles south. While returning for their families the elder Murphy and George died of fever. In 1801, David, the son of William Murphy, located in what is known as the Murphy Settlement (1901) and built a cabin. The following year he was joined by his brothers, Joseph, William and Richard, all of whom opened farms on land granted to them by the Spanish government. In 1804 their mother, Sarah Murphy, was given the land granted her husband, and with her other sons, Isaac, Jesse, Dubart, a daughter, and a grandson, William Evans, and a Negro servant, she joined her sons Joseph and Richard. A few years later she started the first Sunday School west of the Mississippi, which she taught for many years ...

The county of St. Francois was established by legislative act of December 19, 1821, and formed of sections of Ste. Genevieve, Washington and Jefferson Counties ... The first meeting of the court was held on the morning of February 25, 1822, at the house of Jesse Murphy, and after electing John D. Peers clerk, adjourned to meet in the afternoon at the home of David Murphy ...

September 22, 1822, David Murphy donated fifty-three acres of land, which is now a part of the site of Farmington, upon which to erect public buildings, and his offer was accepted by the county court February 27, 1823 ...

The first sermon by a Methodist minister preached west of the Mississippi was preached by the Rev. Joseph O'Grady in the house of Mrs. Sarah Murphy, near the site of Farmington, in 1804 ...

The townships of the county are Big River, Iron, Liberty, Randolph and St. Francois ... (--Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, 1901, Conrad, Vol. 5, pp. 430, 431, 432.)

The Murphy Settlement was the oldest Methodist community west of the Mississippi River, and probably contained more Methodists than any other. The first Methodist sermon west of the river wa preached in the Murphy Settlement in 1804, by Joseph Oglethorpe. This was at the house of Mrs. Sarah Murphy. (--History of Southeast Missouri, 1888, Goodspeed, p. 206.)

[II]

The state had hardly been admitted into the Union until new counties were formed. On December 1821, a bill became law for the creation of parts of the counties of Ste. Genevieve, Washington and Jefferson into a new county, to be known as St. Francois County. The new county was named from the St. Francois River, which runs almost entirely through it. The governor of the state appointed James Austin, George McGehan and James W. Smith as the county court. They held the first meeting of the county court. They held the first meeting of the court February 25, 1822, at the house of Jesse Murphy, in the neighborhood of Farmington, and appointed John D. Peers as county clerk ... The county wa divided into four townships: Perry, Pindleton, Liberty and St. Francois ...

Until 1824 the court were held in the Methodist Church, which at the time stood on the hill south of town where the cemetery now is (1912). In that year a brick court house was built on the public square and at the same time a log jail was erected on the site of the present (1912) jail ...

The court created a new township in St. Francois County in August, 1836. This was called Marion Township, and was cut from the north part of Perry Township. In 1840 a township called Black River was created in that part of the county out of which Iron County was later formed. Of the other townships in the county Iron was formed in 1850, Randolph in 1858, and Big River in 1863. (--History of Southeast Missouri, 1912, Douglas, Vol. 1, pp. 302, 303.)

St. Francois County, in addition to her vast wealth of lead, contains the celebrated Iron Mountain, which at one time was thought to be a nearly solid mass of iron, and was so written down by geologists. Investigation, however, has revealed the fact that the bulk of the mountain is prophyry. The error resulted from the fact that the whole surface was covered with surface-ore and no extensive excavations had been made. The mountain is conical in shape, and rises 228 feet above the land of the valley. On the southwest is a knob known as Little Iron Mountain ... (--History of Southeast Missouri, 1881, Goodspeed, pp. 211, 212.)


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