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

Compiled by Arthur Paul Moser


Vernon County

[I]

The first white settlers of whom there is record found evidence of previous occupation by civilized people.

(Two miles north of Blue Mound, named for Anselm Halley. This is presumably the site of Fort Carondelet, established about 1787 by Pierre Chouteau, Sr., under Spanish authority, and commissioned by him. This was at once a fortification and a trading-post. Here, as late as 1838, were remains which the white settlers took to be those of lead furnaces, and some writers ... have argued that De Soto made his winter headquarters there in 1541-1542. Chouteau abandoned the post and must have destroyed it, for Lieutenant Pike, who ascended the river in 1806, makes no reference to it ...)

The first permanent settlers were three brothers -- Jesse J. Moses, and Allen Summers. They were Kentuckians, who had removed to Warren County, Mo., about 1820, afterward went into Arkansas, and in 1829 or 1830 located on the Osage River, fifteen miles northwest of the site of the present city of Nevada. In 1832 William Modrel came from Harmony Mission, (Butler Co.) and located one mile east of the present Little Osage Post-Office, which came to be known as Balltown, when Cecil D. Ball located there in 1837, after visiting the county in 1833 ...

The real development of Vernon County dates from October 26, 1870, when the first railway reached Nevada, The Tebo and Neosho, now a portion of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas System ...

In 1851 and ineffectual attempt was made to organize Vernon County. February 27, 1855, it was created out of Bates County (which see) and named after Miles Vernon, who fought under General Jackson at New Orleans ... Hiram Stevens, of Cass County; James Ramey, of Bates County; and James F. Walker, of Jasper County were appointed commissioners to locate a county seat. They neglected to act, and a new commission was appointed, of whom A. Cassel, of Cass County, and J. W. Boyd, of Jasper County, acted in agreement upon the selection of Nevada City, by which name it was known until 1869, when the word "city" was dropped. The people of Bates County undertook to defeat the institution of the new county by writ of injunction, forbidding the location of a county seat. (See A Directory of Bates County to be issued later, for particulars. The action of the commissioners was defended by R. L. Y. Payton and C. F. Bullock, and they were sustained ... The first term of the county court was held July 9, 1855, at the house of Noah Caton, four miles north of Nevada. (--Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri, Conrad, 1901, Vol. 6, pp. 296, 298, 299.)

[II]

The first actual settlements of Vernon County by individuals with the intent of making their future and permanent homes here, were made in the year 1829 by Jesse J. Summers, Moses Summers and Allen Summers three brothers, and their location was on the Osage, in the northern part of the county, in what is now Metz Township. Jesse and Moses came with their families in the spring and located on the north side of the Osage, and their brother Allen came in the fall, and settled on the south side, (North one-half of Southeast quarter of Section 22, Township 37 N, Range 32 West) ...

The first religious services with white people for a congregation were conducted by the Rev. Amasa Jones, at the house of Wm. Modrel, in 1832. But the first preaching of any kind was a sermon delivered by the Rev. N. B. Dodge to the Indians at White Hair Village, in the fall of 1821. Mr. Dodge spoke through an interpreter, an employee of Milicourt Papin.

The first school house was a log cabin building put up in 1835 on the Osage near Balltown, by Wm. Modrel, D. H. Austin, and others. The first teacher here is thought to have been Dr. Leonard Dodge, but this is not certain. The building was also used as a church, until a frame building was put up for religious and school purposes in about 1839 or 1840.

The first post-office was "Little Osage," established at Balltown in the year 1840. Dr. Leonard Dodge was the first postmaster. The first regular stores were by Barnhart & Raper, at Balltown, in 1836-1837 ... The establishments of the French traders are not taken into consideration in this statement. The first store of any kind within the present limits of the county was the trading-post of Pierre Chouteau, which was situated in the vicinity of Collen ford, on the south bank of the Osage, and which was established not far from the year 1790 ... The first grist mill was built on the Osage at Balltown, by Daniel H. Austin in 1836. It was a saw and grist mill driven by water, and was afterward owned by C. D. Ball.

Upon the admission of Missouri into the Union in 1821, the territory within the west 24 miles of what is now Vernon County was included within the reservation of the Osage Indians. In 1825, by the treaty of Ft. Gibson, the Indian title to this reservation was extinguished, and all of Vernon County except the lowest tier of Congressional townships, was attached temporarily to Jackson County, which was organized out of Lillard County, (now Lafayette) in February of the same year. The southern tier belonged to Wayne until 1829, when it came under the jurisdiction of Crawford and so remained until January, 1833, when it was attached to Greene. (--History of Vernon County, 1887, Brown & Co., St. Louis. For brevity, all future references will be History of Vernon Co. Pp. 152, 158, 159, 191.)

[III]

In 1835 Van Buren County (now Cass) was organized, with the northern, eastern and western boundary lines substantially as at present, but with its southern boundary about two miles south of where the City of Butler now is; the new territory south to the Barton line, was formed into a proposed new county, to be called Bates when organized, and this was "attached for civil and military purposes" to Van Buren. In 1841 Bates County was given a separate and independent existence, its northern boundary running two miles south of Butler (or on the line dividing Congressional townships 39 and 40) and its southern line being the present line between Barton and Vernon. In 1851 an attempt was made to create two counties out of the then limits of Bates and Cass. One of these new counties was to be called Vernon and was to compose the territory now included in Bates except the south two miles. In other words the southern boundary of the proposed new county of Vernon was to run at the southern corporation lines of the villages of Hume and Prairie City and the town of Rich Hill. The other proposed new county was to retain the name of Bates, and was to comprise all the territory now in Vernon and ten miles off of the southern part of Bates besides, including Papinville, the county seat. The proposed county of Vernon was to take 18 miles off of the southern part of Cass County, as Cass County then was, and ten miles off of the northern part of Bates, as Bates County then was. Practically, what is Bates County now was to be Vernon and what is Vernon now was to be Bates.

The first section of the organizing act was a follows: -- All the territory included in the following limits, to wit:

Beginning on the western boundary line of the State of Missouri, at the section corner dividing sections 7 and 18 in Township 38, Range 33; thence east, with the line dividing said sections, to the line of St. Clair County; thence north, with the line separating the counties of Bates and St. Clair, to the southwest of Henry County; thence continuing north, with the line separating Cass and Henry Counties to the middle of the main channel of Grand River to the line dividing townships 42 and 43, to said western boundary line; thence south with said boundary line to the beginning -- is hereby created a separate and distinct county, for all civil and military purposes, to be called the County of Vernon, in honor of Miles Vernon, of Laclede County ...

Section 6, of this act contained the following important provision: "On the first Monday of August, 1851, a poll shall be opened at all the precincts of the counties of Bates and Cass, and if the aggregate majority of the two counties, Bates and Cass, shall be in favor of the new county, then this act shall be and remain in force, unless a majority of the voters within the limits of said new county shall vote against its ratification in which case this act shall become void and inoperative. None of the provisions of this act shall be in force until after said election in August, 1851."

[IV]

(There were many incongruities and unlawful provisions in the organization act of 1851. Although it passed both houses of the Legislature, and was signed by Governor King, yet it was declared unconstitutional at the very first test of its validity, which was in a case of quo warranto against Mr. Samuel Scott, who had been appointed sheriff of the new "Vernon" County. Judge Russell Hicks, before whom the case was tried at Clinton, decided that the county of "Vernon" had no legal existence, and he fined Mr. Scott one cent for attempting illegally to exercise the office of sheriff ...)

At the August election, 1851, the voters in both counties, by a large majority refused to ratify the organizing act ...

In the fall of 1854, an attempt to divide Bates County to form a new county was again broached and discussed ... Eventually this attempt was successful, and the act, forming the new county of Vernon, honoring Col. Miles Vernon, of Laclede County was approved February 27, 1855. (--History of Vernon County, 1887, pp. 191-192, 193.)

At the time of the location of Harmony Mission in Bates County, in 1824, the Big Osage Indians had quite a large village 8 miles northeast of the present site of Nevada, governed by a noted chief among the tribes, known as White Hair, and there was also a village of the Little Osages, 3 miles north of the present site of Balltown ... (1874).

John Son, an old veteran of the War of 1812, settled at Belvoir and established the first ferry service across the Osage River. The first dry goods store on the south side of the Marmaton, was established one mile south of Cephas ford, by Wm. Waldo from Virginia. (--Gazetteer of Missouri, Campbell, 1874, pp. 623, 624a.)

Note: According to the office of Secretary of State, Jefferson City, Mo., Vernon County was organized February 17, 1851.


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