Volume 2 , Number 1 , Fall 1964


Early History of Stone County, Missouri

Part I of II

by Charles L. Henson


Foreword by Mary Scott Hair

Every person who had anything to do with our Stone County Centennial in 1951 will tell you we had fun! We planned our celebration in such a way that the children would be proud of their County’s history, portrayed in word and act. We remember the historical pageant when one little boy exclaimed, "Look, there’s my Daddy, he’s an Indian trader!"

Early in the planning we remembered favorite sons, no longer living in our County. One, the late Charles L. Henson, then serving on the Public Service Commission in Jefferson City, was selected as speaker for the second day; his topic: Early Stone County History. I doubt if anyone ever carried out an assignment with as much enthusiasm as did "Judge" Henson. And we loved his speech, it was wonderful!

At the speaking the Judge presented me with a bulky envelope, explaining that he got so wound up in his subject he didn’t know where to stop, so he just wrote a history! Four copies were made: one he sent to the Missouri Historical Society, one he gave me, one he kept for his own archives, and I do not recall what he did with the fourth copy. I thanked him the best I knew how, for I had just "come through" a long siege of writing and putting together the Centennial publication, our County’s first 100 years. But I think the Judge had more fun than I did, for he just wrote his history for the fun of it, and he had no deadlines to meet.

It is this last part of his history that has haunted me: "The duty to sketch the history of Stone County during the last 90 years is a task for others. I have tried to cover the preceding 60 years from rapidly diminishing sources for its better preservation for posterity. "Therefore, I offer my copy to the White River Valley Historical Society for publication in its Quarterly as a tribute to my dear friend, the late "Judge" Charles L. Henson and "for its better preservation for posterity.

Mary Scott Hair
Hurley, Missouri
November 24, 1964

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Authentic history of the occupation, settlement and colonization of this region which on February 10, 1851, became Stone County, Missouri, begins about 50 years before the creation of the county. During this period there were two distinct immigrations, one of which was by the Delaware Indians and the other by Anglo-Saxon colonizers. This treatise will stop at the Civil War period.

The Delaware Indians immigrated to this region about 1800 to 1808 and remained until their evacuation under Governmental compulsion in 1830 to the Kansas Territory. These were the progeny of the Delaware Indians which the European explorers, more than two centuries before, had found in the valley of the Delaware River. They were the traditional enemies of the Iroquois which finally conquered them after which the pressure of both the Iroquois and the whites forced them periodically and successively westward into Ohio, Indiana, and finally into Missouri.1 They lived in portions of Southeast Missouri and finally in territory now included in Greene, Christian, Taney and Stone counties during which time they built and occupied the well-known Delaware town or village on James River in territory which afterwards became Christian County and at or near the point where Highway 14 now crosses that stream. They were peaceful Indians. After their evacuation in 1830, they returned here annually until 1836 to hunt and fish, but when the whites misunderstood their innocent purposes, and a military force was sent to investigate, they quietly left this region never to return.2

The first known white settler in this region was James Yocum (sometimes spelled Yoachum) of French origin who about 1790 located at the junction of James and White rivers. He carried on trading with the Indians and the white settlers who had furs and peltries to sell or to barter in exchange for such necessities as coffee, salt, blankets, cloth, shoes, rifles, bullets, pots, knives, hatchets, axes and other articles of primary importance to the settler’s manner of life. At that time bear, deer, buffalo, elk, beaver, raccoon and other wild life were abundant.3

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A trade-coin, the Yocum Dollar, served the local necessities of commerce. This coin was stamped with two words, "Yocum Dollar", and was not intended to be a counterfeit. Its size and shape were identical to the American dollar, and it contained more pure silver.4

An important historical event in this region was the tour of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, an historian and explorer who, in 1818 and 1819 at the age of twenty-five, visited this region to study its features and its occupants. He wrote one of his books in 1853.

Scboolcraft found these early white settlers, in the main, were not interested in agricultural pursuits. They cleared out and cultivated only an acre or so of land and grew corn for the family and the horses, and a few vegetables for family use, but hunting and trapping were their main interests. He said that when hunting season arrived, their ordinary labors even in the cornfield fell upon their wives and that "the inhabitants pursue a similar course of life to that of the savages whose love of ease the settlers generally embraced." Among other settlers, Schoolcraft and his party visited Yocum who fed them roast beaver tails.6

Schoolcraft tells of some market prices. All were fixed by the trader for both what he bought and what he sold, as follows:

Buying: Bear’s meat $10.00; buffalo beef $4.00; cow’s beef $3.00; pork (in the hog) $3.50; all per hundred pound weight. Venison hams and wild turkeys 25 each. Wild honey $1.00 per gallon. Beaver fur $2.00 per pound;

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deer skin 25 per pound; bear skins $1.50 each; otter skins $2.00 each; raccoon skins 25.

Selling: Mackinaw blankets $8.00 each; butcher knives $2.00 each; rifle locks $8.00 each; axes $6.00 each; common course blue cloth $6.00 per yard; salt $5.00 per bushel; coffee 75 per pound; lead 25 per pound; gunpowder $2.00 per pound; horseshoe nails $3.00 per set.

Any impression that all the white settlers in these times were interested only in a life of ease comparable to the Indians in this region would be erroneous. Many other white settlers, including other Yocums and Joseph Philibert, a Frenchman, went seriously into agricultural pursuits and the establishment of permanent homes, although in the process of doing so they were obliged to obtain much of their subsistence from the abundant wild life until their agricultural efforts were adequate for such support. Such white settlers formed the nucleus of the permanent colonization next to be noticed.

What we can properly regard as the more permanent and enduring colonization of this region began about 1833 "when Kentucky and Tennessee sent their sons into the wilderness to open up the country near the confluence of the James and White rivers."8 Generally these immigrants were the progeny of the proud Anglo-Saxon colonizers of our middle Atlantic coast about 200 years previously. They were neither explorers nor exploiters of the land. They sought no enrichment from mineral resources. They sought no higher privilege than to subvert the land to agricultural purposes and to build their permanent homes thereon, which always had been the distinct characteristic of the English colonizers.

The Kentuckians generally were political adherents of Henry Clay and the Tennesseans almost unanimously followed Andrew Jackson. In these early days, the colonists here and elsewhere in Missouri in religion were fundamentalists. They would not have thanked anyone for any allegorical explanation of some portions of the Holy Bible which is a stumbling block to some sinners, and possibly some saints. Divorces were frowned upon, no matter what the provocation, and a man who was sued at law, particularly

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upon his promissory note, was almost disgraced in the public mind.

These Anglo-Saxons needed and used the hunting and trapping opportunities of their predecessors as a means of subsistence until their agricultural pursuits improved, their living conditions. It was a long and laborious process to reach their goal, for few if any in this hill country had slaves or any other independent means to augment their efforts, but all had large families. Their story is "the short and simple annals of the poor."

These immigrations from Kentucky and Tennessee and, in time, from other states continued unabated to these two rivers and their tributaries and beyond until about all the low-cost Government lands which were desirable for agriculture had been taken. Immigrations were interrupted during the period of the Civil War, but were resumed thereafter when free lands also were obtainable under the Homestead Law of 1862.

The Government would not sell land even for a church or a school site until its surveys were completed, for the reason that surveys afforded a definite description and a convenient means of conveying the land. President Monroe on April 30, 1818, issued a proclamation authorizing the sale of lands in Missouri after its survey.9 No doubt the delays in making surveys tended to retard the settlement of this area; The extreme northeastern portion of the area in this county, including the area of the confluence of Finley Creek and James River, was not surveyed until 1838, and the remainder was not surveyed until between 1846 and 1849, or barely in advance of the creation of Stone County, although long after the evacuation of the Delawares and all other Indians.

The purpose of a county is to localize the administration of state sovereignty. When a county is so large that the citizens in a remote portion thereof must travel great distances to their county seat, this purpose may be badly interrupted if not entirely defeated. Between the admission of Missouri into the Union and the creation of Stone County, this Stone County area had been included successively in the counties of Wayne, Crawford (created in 1829), Greene (created in 1833), and Taney (created in 1837).l0 Wayne, Crawford and Greene counties were large; each had eastern boundaries in Southeast Missouri and each extended westward to the Kansas Territory and Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and southward to Arkansas.

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Taney County then included most of its present limits, parts of the present county of Christian and all of the present limits of Stone County. Forsyth was its county seat. Taney County then was too large and no doubt this was the reason for the severance of a portion of its areas in 1851 to become Stone County, and another portion of its area in 1859 to become, Christian County.

As we look back upon the picture of this region in 1851, we can at once see the need for this new county, and at the same time appreciate the poor economic conditions to be relied upon to support it. Surveys had retarded, and the physical characteristics had limited the development of the area. Here was a scattered population with little influx or creation of wealth; still a smaller county was a dire need yen if the full advantages of localized government were for the time being unobtainable.

The 16th General Assembly of Missouri convened on December 30, 1850. By its Act of February 10, 1851,11 Stone County was created and was named "in honor of William Stone late of Taney County, Missouri." At that time Austin King was Governor of Missouri; three of the State Senators, Hancock Jackson, Claiborne F. Jackson and Robert W. Stewart, were destined to become Governors of this State; the senator from this region was Littleberry Mason of Cassville, Barry County, Missouri and the Representative from Taney County in the lower house was Jesse Jennings who served many years thereafter. All the adjoining counties at that time were in the 13th Judicial Circuit of Missouri, of which Charles S. Yancy of Springfield was the Judge.

The Act of the General Assembly which created Stone County provided that the Governor should appoint three judges of the county court and a sheriff, and that the judges of the county court should appoint an assessor and a county surveyor. No provision had been made for the appointment of a collector, treasurer or a county clerk until a regular election was held. The Act also provided that Isaac S. Baker of Taney County, Miller Lee of Barry County and Anderson H. Payne of Greene County should be Commissioners to select the permanent seat of justice, and required them to meet on the first Monday of April next at the house of John B. Williams for the purpose of selecting the permanent seat of government. The Act also provided that the county should be attached to Taney County for representation in the General Assembly; that circuit and county courts be held at the house of John B. Williams until the permanent seat of justice shall be established or the county court shall otherwise direct. The Act also provided

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the time when the first term of the county court should be held and the regular terms thereafter.

Evidently the Legislature discovered that this Act creating Stone County was insufficient, for sixteen days later or February 26, 1851, 12 a supplementary Act was passed which fixed the times for circuit courts to meet; designated that the county should be inthel3th Judicial Circuit; and provided that the County Court fill vacancies, if any, in the Commission to select the permanent seat of justice but appointees to be from other counties. The record of the first meeting (April 7, 1851) of the County Court recites that the "legislature" appointed William Goff, Jacob Dennis and Joseph Phillibert as such judges, although the Act provided that the Governor should so appoint. A commission signed by Governor Austin A. King on February 10, 1851, appointing Hugh Dennis to be Sheriff is recorded in a day book in the Clerk’s office. The County Court appointed John B. Williams as Clerk of the County Court and Andre Railey to be Assessor. At this first meeting of a County Court, John L.C. Huddleston was appointed a Commissioner for the permanent seat of justice "with Anderson H. Payne and John B. Williams to assist in locating the permanent seat of justice." The report of this Commission selected Jamestown as the permanent seat, and it was signed by Anderson H. Payne and John L.C. Huddleston only. John B. Williams did not sign the report, and since he lived in the new County of Stone it may well be doubted if he was lawfully qualified to serve on this Commission.

At the second term of County Court, John H. Stone (son of William Stone) was appointed Treasurer. All sessions of the County Court in 1851 were held at the house of John B. Williams, but at the September Term, 1851, the court ordered that the site of Jamestown be laid off in lots with a public square of one acre, and that Commissioner Samuel D. Nelson sell lots, front lots at not less than $10.00 and back lots at not less than $5.00 each. The County Court in January 1852 ordered that the "Courts" hereafter to be held in Stone County, Missouri, shall be held at Jamestown, but the County Court’s adjournment orders adjourns the court "to the house of Mrs. Stone" which undoubtedly was to the house of Mrs. Martha Stone located on land bordering Jamestown which, some time afterwards, she laid off as the first addition to Galena.

(Part II will appear in the next issue.)

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1. Missouri and Missourians, Shoemaker, 1-53, 62. Encyclopedia of Missouri History, Conrad, 369.

2. Ibid.

3. Campbell’s Gazeteer, 609.
Rayburn’s Ozark Guide, Vol. 28, pp. 33-34.
Scenes and Adventures of the Semi-Alpine Region, Schoolcraft, Lippincott, 234-6.
Reminiscent History of the Ozarks, Goodspeed Bros., 31.

4. Ozark Country, Otto Ernest Rayburn, Due 11, Sloan Pearce, 25, 26.

5. Scenes and Adventures of the Semi-Alpine Region, Schoolcraft, 234-6.
Ozark Country, Rayburn, 20.
Rayburn’s Ozark Guide, Vol. 28, pp. 33-34.
6. Rayburn’s Ozark Guide, Vol. 28, pp. 33-34.
Scenes and Adventures, Schoolcraft, 234-6.

7. Rayburn’s Ozark Guide, Vol. 28, pp. 33-34.
Scenes and Adventures, Schoolcraft, 234-6.

8. Reminiscent History of the Ozarks, 31.

9. Missouri and Missourians, Shoemaker, 206.

10. Laws of Mo., 1829, p. 23; 1832-3, p. 49; 1836-7, pp. 50-51.

11. Laws of Mo., 1851, 186-8.

12. Laws of Mo., 1851, p. 192.


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