Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser
Sullivan County, a county in the northern part of the State, bounded on the north by Putnam County, east by Putnam and Adair, south by Linn, and west by Mercer and Grundy Counties ... Tribes of Sioux Indians, for many years prior to the advent of white men in Sullivan County territory, occupied the county as a hunting ground. It is not known who was the first white man to visit this part of Missouri. The credit of making the first permanent settlement is accorded to Dr. Jacob Holland and his son, Robert W. Holland, who in 1836 settled on land near the present (1899) site of Scottsville between main Locust Creek and West Fork of Locust. For nearly two years they were the sole occupants of the big territory that became Sullivan County ... In 1843 the General Assembly outlined a county which was designated as Highland. On February 16, 1845, the county wa fully organized and its name changed, on motion of the Honorable E. C. Morelock, a member of the Legislature, to Sullivan after his native county in Tennessee ... The first meeting of the court was at the home of Armistead C. Hill, May 5, 1845. The residence of Hill was on the present site of Milan, and the county seat commissioners selected land which was owned by Hill, and which he donated to the county for county seat purposes ...
The first circuit court met in September, 1845, Judge James A. Clark presiding. The meeting place was a tobacco barn at Milan, belonging to Armistead C. Hill. A grand jury was impaneled by sheriff Morelock, and its deliberations and investigations were carried on in the pit of a whip saw-mill, on the Morelock farm. Four indictments were found, three for trespass on school lands and one for trading with the Indians ... Until Milan was laid out in 1845 the nearest post--office to the residents of Sullivan County was Linneus, the county seat of Linn County.
The first post-office in Sullivan County was called Pharsalia, and was a short distance from the present town of Milan. E. Hannon, a native of Virginia, was the postmaster. The first mail route to the county was from Linneus to Milan, and mail was carried between these two points once a week by John Bergun, who received $99.50 per annum for his services. Postmaster Hannon on Saturdays attended the justice's court at Milan, and in his hat carried the mail for the settlers in the surrounding county; this he would distribute and thus he became one of the first letter carriers in Missouri. (--Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, 1901, Conard, Vol. 6, pp. 124, 125.)
Early Boundary of the County
In 1812, when Missouri Territory was organized. it contained but five counties: St. Charles, St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve and New Madrid. In 1820, when Missouri was admitted to the Union, the number had increased to fifteen. The new counties organized between 1812 and 1820 were: Washington, in 1812; Howard, in 1816, and Jefferson, Franklin, Wayne, Lincoln, Madison, Montgomery, Pike and Cooper, in 1818. When Missouri became s State, what is now Sullivan County was a part of Howard County, organized as stated above in 1816; but this was previously a part of St. Charles County, organized probably in 1804 or 1805, though its territorial limits were again divided at the second session of the Territorial Legislature, lasting from December 6, 1813, to January 10, 1814. The county then embraced all the territory lying between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, extending north indefinitely, and west to the Rocky Mountains. When Howard County was organized January 13, 1816, it included all that part of Missouri Territory north of the Osage River and west of Cedar Creek, and the dividing ridge between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. That portion of Howard County lying south of the Missouri River was, in 1818, organized into Cooper County. In 1820, Howard County was reduced to its present size. Out of a small portion of its former limits, Boone County was organized November 16, 1820, and on the same day, out of the territory still remaining, extending from Howard and Boone northward to the present State of Iowa, and westward with the Missouri River to the western boundary of the State, were created the counties of Chartion and Ray, with the Grand River as the dividing line. What is now Sullivan County became a part of Chariton, and so remained until January 6, 1837, when an act was approved organizing the counties of Livingston, Macon, Taney and Linn. According to this act the boundaries of Linn were as follows:
Beginning at the southeast corner of Township 57, Range 28, west; thence west with same township line to the range line dividing Ranges 21 and 22; thence north with said range line to the township line dividing Townships 60 and 61; thence east with said township line to the range line dividing Ranges 17 and 18; thence south with said range line to the beginning.
This county was in the act named Linn, in honor of the Hon. Lewis F. Linn, and Section 22 of this act provided that "all that portion of territory lying north of the county of Linn shall be attached to said county for all civil and military purposes, until otherwise provided for by law."
Thus matters remained until the session of the Legislature of 1842 and 1843, when David Jenkins, a Whig member of the Legislature from Linn County, procured the passage of "An act to define the boundaries of Highland County," the boundary lines being the same as the present boundaries of Sullivan County. But as there was no sufficient population in Highland County to permit a full organization, that county continued to remain attached to Linn for all civil and military purposes. In 1844, by a State census, Highland County was found to contain population sufficient to permit a full organization.
At the general election that year, both the candidates for the Legislature were from Highland County. E. M. C. Morelock, the Democratic candidate, being successful over Gabriel Jones, the Whig representative, Morelock, succeeded in having passed an act, which was approved February 14, 1845, organizing Sullivan County, with the following boundaries:
Beginning at the northeast corner of Linn County, where it joins Adair County; thence with the line of Linn County west to the northwest corner of said Linn County; thence due north to the middle of Range 22, with the east line of Grundy County, to the line dividing Townships 64 and 65 to include all of Township 64; thence east with the line of Townships 64 and 65 to the line dividing Ranges 17 and 18, to include all of Range 18; thence due south with said line dividing Ranges 17 and 18 to the place of beginning.
This county was named Sullivan in honor of Gen. Sullivan, of Revolutionary memory. The name "Highland" was dropped because it had originally been applied in derision, perhaps, of the pretensions of some of the early pioneers.
On the same day upon which Sullivan County was organized, February 14, 1845, fifteen other counties were organized and by the same act the names of these other counties being Nodaway, Gentry, Lawrence, Harrison, Texas, Mississippi, Hickory, Dunklin, Mercer, Schuyler, Knox, Atchison, Oregon, Moniteau and Cedar. The forty-third section of this act provided that "James Lomax, of Grundy County, Jeremiah Phillips, of Linn County, and William Garritt, Sr., of Macon County, be and they are hereby appointed commissioners to select a permanent seat of justice for the county of Sullivan, and said commissioners shall meet at the house of Armistead Hill, on the first Monday (the 5th) in May next."
Two weeks later, on February 28, Putnam County was organized with its present southern, eastern and northern boundaries, but its western boundary was the line dividing Ranges 20 and 21; and as Mercer County's eastern boundary was an extension of the eastern boundary of Grundy County, a line extending north and south in the middle of Range 22, there was a tract of country between Putnam and Mercer Counties, reaching from Sullivan County to the Iowa State Line, that was not included in any county. On the 15 of March, 1845, this territory, by an act of the Legislature approved that day, was attached to Sullivan County for civil and military purposes. (--Hist. of Sullivan Co., 1888, Goodspeed, pp. 46, 47, 48.)
The original townships were six in number and were named and bounded as follows:
Liberty; Pleasant Hill; Duncan; Polk; Morris; Vroomans. The boundaries are given on pp. 49 and 50 of Hist. of Sullivan Co., 1888, Goodspeed.
The above, with Richmond Township continued to be under the control of the county court of Sullivan County until December 28, 1846, when Richmond Township and that portion of Putnam County lying west of the middle line of Township 19 was erected into Dodge County, and attached to Putnam County, and by an act of the Legislature approved February 27, 1849, it was formed into a distinct and independent county. (--Ibid: pp. 49 & 50.)
Taylor Township was organized August 2, 1847 out of a part of Duncan ... (boundaries are given on p. 54). It was named for President Zachary Taylor. June 29, 1852, the name of Vrooman Township was changed to that of Penn Township. Jackson Township was created August 8, 1855; Bowman, Union and Buchanan Townships were formed September 14, 1858; and Clay Township, February 8, 1860.
On December 12, 1872, the county court divided the county into twelve townships, numbered and named on the assessor's books from 1 to 12: Morris, Union, Penn, Buchanan, Jackson, Polk, Pleasant Hill, Duncan, Taylor, Liberty, Bowman and Clay. (--Ibid: p. 54.)