George S. Escott

History and Directory of Springfield and North Springfield

Incidents In The Early History Of Southwest Missouri—Osage And Delaware Indians—Early Settlements Of The "Jeems."

Considering the fact that the founding of the "Queen City of the Ozarks" dates back nearly half a century to the time when the red man still roamed through the forests and over the prairies of more than half of the territory of the United States, it may be interesting to our readers if we go back a few years farther, to the days when the hardy frontiersmen first came here from the older and more thickly settled States and braved the dangers of contesting the claims of the "Lo" family to this now wealthy and prosperous section of our fair State.

These pioneers were generally a class of persons who could not bear to be crowded and "hemmed in" by the increasing settlements and the fencing up of the "range" in the older states, so they followed the illustrious example of their forefathers and emigrated to the far West in search of freedom from restraint and in quest of richer hunting grounds where the game had not been frightened away by the advancing tide of civilization and improvement.

As the "pilgrim fathers" and other noted ancestors of the American people broke loose from the bondage of the Old World and became the pioneers of the New, so their sons and grandsons extended their settlements farther west beyond the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies; and as Daniel Boone emigrated successively from North Carolina to the mountains of the eastern part of Kentucky, thence to the western, and finally to St. Charles county, in Missouri, where he died, so his son Nathan emigrated still farther west and became one of the pioneers of Greene county, where he and the illustrious Daniel still have one representative of the name, in the person of James W. Boone, of Ash Grove.


But the first settlements in Southwest Missouri, of which we have any authentic record, were made on the James River, from eight to fifteen miles southwest of where Springfield now stands. These early settlements were made by John Pettijohn with his sons and their families, Joseph Price, and Augustine Friend. William Friend settled about the same time on Finley Creek, where Kenton now stands, in Christian county, and Jerry Pierson at the head of a creek which still bears his name, in the east part of Greene county. Nathan Burrill, Isaac Prosser, and George Wells also came to the same vicinity a few months later.

John P. Pettijohn, who was a soldier in the Revolutionary war, was born in Henrico county, Virginia, where he married and lived until 1797, when he removed to Gallia county, Ohio. There he settled a new farm, upon which he remained until 1818, at which time he and his family, together with those just mentioned and other relatives of the family to the number of twenty-four persons, set out to seek a home in the interior of the new Territory of Missouri. Whether Mr. Wells was one of this company is not certainly known.

Procuring a keel-boat, which was a sort of large row-boat, they commenced their voyage in the latter part of the summer, down the Muskingum, thence down the Ohio and Mississippi to the mouth of White River. So far, it had been comparatively easy sailing, they had made good time, and were in fine spirits. The men had frequently gone on shore and killed game to add to their stock of provisions, of which they had laid in a good supply before leaving their homes in Ohio. It is not probable that it took many large Saratoga trunks to contain their surplus wardrobe, but they brought with them such things as they expected would be necessary to make them comfortable and happy in their new homes beyond the pale of fashionable society and its requirements. Among other things they had provided themselves with a variety of field and garden seeds, and as they had spent much of their time in hunting and trapping in the forests of Ohio; they had a number of bearskins which were used as a substitute for mattresses.


Soon after commencing the ascent of White river, they encountered floods which greatly impeded their progress, the river being so full that it overflowed its banks, spreading out in some places for miles among the cane-brakes which lined it on either side, and flowing so rapidly that it was impossible to make any headway against its seething tide.

About this time sickness assailed the little band and nearly all were prostrated with malarious fevers. With these hindrances, and the inability to go on shore to hunt, their supply of provisions was soon exhausted, and the famishing crew were compelled to use for food all of the seeds which they had brought with them, and then even to singe the hair from the bear-skins and roast them to keep from starving. After this, for nearly eight days, they were without a mouthful of food of any kind, but on the eighth day a small deer came swimming up to the boat, as if for assistance having probably been borne down on the current while attempting to cross the river. It is needless to say that they gave it such protection as the vulture gave the lamb. On its flesh, without bread or salt, they subsisted two days, after which was another fast of eight days, and on the ninth day Nathan Burrill, a son-in-law of Mr. Pettijohn, took a skiff and set out among the cane-brakes, declaring that he would go till he found food or die in the attempt. He had not gone far before he heard the tinkling of a small bell, and, on rowing in the direction from which it proceeded, he soon discovered a mare and a young filly which were on a small knoll entirely surrounded by water, where they had been grazing, when the waters had risen around them and cut them off from the main land. Mr. Burrill considered it a "military necessity", under the circumstances, to appropriate the filly to the use of himself and his suffering companions, without waiting for the owner's consent, inasmuch as he did not know where to find the owner, and there was not much time to be lost if anything was to be done to save the famishing company.

Shooting it down he next cut its throat and drank of its blood as it flowed warm from the animal's heart. With difficulty he skinned the carcass and conveyed it piecemeal to the boat, where it was gladly received by his comrades. This furnished food again for a few days, and the waters getting lower, and the party gaining some strength, they were making their way slowly but surely toward the "promised land," where a few other families had preceded them and formed settlements but a short time before.


These settlements were on White River, near the mouth of the Big North Fork, and consequently in the present limits of Arkansas, which at that time formed a part of the Missouri Territory.

The first human habitation they found was that of a Frenchman who lived all alone, far down the river below the other settlements, where he was engaged in raising stock. From him they purchased some corn, but he could not be induced for money or any other consideration to kill any beef or pork for them. However, with the corn, which they boiled, they soon gained sufficient strength to go out occasionally and shoot game to go with it, and it was not long till they found themselves among more hospitable pioneers, who, true to the custom of old Tennessee, from, which most of them had emigrated, would have shared their last loaf and killed their last fatted calf, in order to provide for the wants of the "new-comers."

And well was this kindness appreciated, for, during this long and perilous voyage, two of their number—the wife of our veteran hero and the wife of his son William—had been taken away by the hand of death, and the rest had been sadly reduced by sickness and privation.

They were, however, soon able to erect cabins and begin to provide for their own wants, as there were plenty of deer and turkeys in the country, and bee-trees well filled with honey. The bear and the buffalo were not very difficult to find, and the elk still roamed through the forests in large herds.

But their settlement on the White River was not a permanent one. Their hunting excursions often extended several miles back among the hills and valleys, and as early as 1820 and 1821, frequent expeditions were made by various members of the party as far north as the James river, where some of them erected a small cabin and thus established a claim to a place about eight miles south of the present site of Springfield. On his return from one these expeditions, William Pettijohn told his neighbors on White River that he had discovered the country which flowed with milk and honey, bear's oil and buffalo marrow. These two latter articles were considered great luxuries among the old hunters and trappers of the West.


In the Spring and Summer of 1822 these families began to remove, to the places we have already mentioned—on the "Jeems"—and within the present limits of Greene and Christian counties. Thomas Patterson and family, who had also lived about three years on White river, which they had reached after successive removals from North Carolina to Tennessee, and from Tennessee to the Missouri Territory, came up the James in 1821 and bought the claim and improvement formerly made by some of the Pettijohn family on the place now owned by his son, Albert B. Petterson, who; is without doubt, the oldest settler and his farm the oldest improvement in this county, although actual settlement was not made upon it until August, 1822.

Alexander Patterson, a brother of Thomas, came about the same time and made a settlement on the place which was afterward known as the David Wallace place; also another Thomas Patterson, a cousin of Albert G. settled higher up the James, a little above Samuel Crenshaw's place. A man named Ingle settled near where the bridge now stands, at the crossing of the James, on the Ozark road, and there erected the first mill in Southwest Missouri.

Up to this time these early settlers had encountered but very few Indians—only occasional parties of Osages who where in the habit of coming here in the Fall to hunt, their home being farther north and west, probably within the present limits of the State of Kansas. But, in the Autumn of 1822, the Delawares came, about five hundred strong, and laid claim to all of the southwest part of the State.

These Delawares, one branch of the great Algonquins, are one of the most peaceable and friendly tribes in America, being the very same nation with whom William Penn formed his first treaty, which was ever kept inviolate by them, even when other nations had persecuted them for their friendship to the whites. In an early day they were eminent for their valor and wisdom, and exercised and important influence over the other tribes, which was felt from the Chesapeake to Hudson, as an evidence of which they received the title of "The Grand Father." In the sixteenth century their home was in the valley of the Delaware and on the banks of the Schuylkill. In 1751 we find them on the Susquehanna, and 1795, they were parties with the Wyandotts, Shawnees and Miamis to the treaty of peace at Greenville. Owing to the hostilities of other tribes, they emigrated after this to White river, in Indiana, where they remained until their removal to this portion of the country, whither it is probable they had been directed by designing white men who had told them that this was the reservation which had been set apart for them.


The few white settlers here, not being satisfied on the subject, sent one of their number, Thomas Patterson, Sr., to St. Louis to make inquiry concerning it, and he was there informed, although it is not known to whom he referred the matter, that the Indians were right and that the white settlers must give up their claims. On his returning and reporting thus, the settlers nearly all abandoned their claims, some going to the Merrimac, some to Osage Fork of the Gasconade, some back to Illinois, and some pressing onward still farther south and west.

Besides the early settlers already mentioned there is a sort of traditionary account of a man by the name of Davis who settled on the James some time between 1822 and 1825, and was killed by the Indians, but we could not learn what tribe was charged with it or what the circumstances were. His wife and children probably removed from the country at the time of the general abandonment of claims on the arrival of the Delawares and never returned to reclaim it. A man named Spencer O'Neil was also an early settler on the James, and will receive further mention in the next chapter.

The Delawares, who were now in undisputed possession of the country, rented land to a few families who came with them, and also to Mr. William Friend, who remained on his farm throughout the whole time that they had possession, and therefore, during his life-time, was the oldest permanent settler in this portion of the State. His father was captain in Revolutionary war, and himself had been a soldier in the war of 1812, and was at the battle of Tippecanoe when Tecumseh was killed, so he had no fears in remaining among the red men, especially among this friendly tribe. Mr. Friend had successively removed form Maryland to Ohio, from Ohio to what is now .Arkansas, and finally to the wilds of Southwest Missouri. He came with the Pettijohn family, Piersons, his brother Augustine and the other pioneers who came by of the rivers from Ohio. Of a family of thirteen children, he has three sons-Reason, Hiram and Ehas—still living in Christian County.


With the Delawares, came a man named James Wilson, who was married to three squaws while here, and after living with each for a short time would drive her off, and seek another affinity. About the time the Delawares left, lie "shipped" the third one and returned to St. Louis, where be married a white woman, whom he brought back with him, and they settled on a farm near the mouth of the creek which was named for him and afterward became noted as the scene of One of the fiercest battles of the Great Rebellion After the death of Mr. Wilson his widow was married to Dr, C. F, Terrill, whose name afterwards appears in the official record of Greene county as the second Clerk of the County Court.

A an by the name of Marshall also came with them, being married to a squaw, with whom he lived until his death, which occurred about the time the Indians were leaving here, and his widow and orphans went to the Territory with their dusky companions. Mr. Marshall had taken the old mill which had formerly been abandoned by Mr. Ingle. and removed it down the river to a point near the mouth of Finley creek, where he had commenced a plantation.

We also learn the names of two other men who seem to have come with the Indians as traders. They were Joseph Fillabert and William Gilliss, Of the latter, all the information we find after the Indians left, was developed through a suit brought by persons claiming to be his heirs, in consequence of his marriage to the daughter of a chief of a small tribe who were connected with the Delawares, or under their protection, while here.

It is claimed. that, like Wilson, he was not content to live long at a time with one dusky bride; but that he, too, lived successively with three different ones, each, for the time, being considered his legal wife. It seems that while keeping a post at the Delaware town on the James fork of White river, he was twice married to women of the Delaware tribe; but, about the year 1830, he proposed to Laharsh, a chief of the Piankeshaws, to marry his daughter, Kahketoqua, and that he employed one Baptiste Peoria to negotiate the marriage. Baptiste visited Laharsh and reported favorably to Gilliss after which lie and Gilliss went down to the settlement on Cowskin creek, where the Indian maiden lived, and carried her father and mother presents, which were acceptable, and she returned with them to become his wife. In regard to the custom among the Indians in relation to marriage the contract was usually made thus with the parents, and if the bridegroom made presents which were satisfactory, the parents usually assented, and that constituted the marriage. These contracts were dissoluble at the option of the parties, and in this case Gilliss sent Kahketoqua back after living with her for a few months, promising to recall her when lie should return from the East.


But it does not appear that he ever returned or acknowledged her as his wife after this, although he frequently sent presents to her child, which was named Nancy, and in after years the heirs of Nancy, not being mentioned in his will, sued for their share of his property, which was finally granted them by decision of the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri, from reports of which we obtain our information.

It seems that Mr. Gilliss' mother-in-law, the wife of Laharsh, accompanied him and his wife On the wedding tour, remaining several weeks, probably to give the wife some instructions in housekeeping, and that at the end of her visit, Gilliss took or sent her back to the Cowskin settlement. This watchfulness of the mother-in-law over bride and groom doubtless had the same effect as it is often supposed to have in the case of white mothers-in-law, and may have been the cause of the early separation.

Concerning Mr. Fillabert, we have the following from the pen of Col. S. H. Boyd, of this city:

"With the Indians lived a Frenchman whose name was Joseph Fillabert. He and some associates in St. Louis carried on a trade at this Indian town for many years by which he accumulated considerable riches, and he now possesses large paying estates in St. Louis. From early life he had been a pioneer, and much of his career has been passed in close association with the Indians. When the Indians emigrated to the Indian Territory, Fillibert remained in this country, and still lives in Stone County. He takes great interest in the affairs of government, reads the weekly newspapers, and discusses with earnestness the political questions of the day, Many years have passed by since he was any distance from his comfortable home on the banks of the White river and the James. His agent in St. Louis makes him monthly statements of his property, and this is the only care he gives to his large St. Louis estates, He is the oldest settler of Southwest Missouri now living."


The Indian town and trading post referred to, was at what is now known as the Berry Gibson place, in the northwest part of Christian county, on the James, and extending from the lane where the county road crosses the river, about three-fourths of a mile down its banks. This was their principal town, and for several years the home of the greater part of the nation. There were, however, some suburban towns scattered along tip and down the James and on the banks of Wilson's creek.

Here the Delawares remained monarchs of the forest and the prairie until about the year 1830, when it was determined that their reservation was farther west. To their new hunting grounds they removed, and there they have ever since remained. true to their former pledges, at peace with the whites, and willing to suffer wrongs rather than engage in war.

As soon, as they left, most of the white settlers, who had been absent during their occupancy of the country, came back and reclaimed their old homesteads, where the descendants of some of them still live.

Mr. Pettijohn, who had been back to Ohio, came with his son John, who had remained in Illinois, On returning to their old home, which had afterward been the site of the Delaware town, they found a man named Joseph Porter in possession and claiming to have purchased it from the Indians so they went farther down the river and settled near the mouth of the James, where they both remained until their death. John Mack Pettijohn, a grandson of the old pioneer, has long been a prominent citizen of Ozark, in Christian County where he has raised a family of ten. children, four of whom are married and still living there. In April last Mr. P. and his wife, with their six unmarried children, set out overland, with horse and ox teams, for the interior of Oregon, but we learn that they have purchased land and settled in Southern Kansas. We also hear of others of the family who talk of moving further west. The descendants seem to inherit the pioneer spirit of their forefathers, and likewise a good degree of the patriotic spirit of their venerable ancestor of Revolutionary. Times. John Pettijohn, Jr., and his brother William, were both soldiers in the war of 1812; a grandson, William C., was in the Mexican war, and two other grandsons, George and Levi, as well as a great-grandson, John W., were in the Union army in the late war, while another grandson, George, who was the son of Jacob, was in the Southern army.


Joseph Porter, before mentioned, was distinguished as a first-rate farmer, as well as an excellent trapper and fisherman. He is said to have killed the last beaver taken in Greene county. Mr. P. is described as being of a very genial nature, full of fun and frolic, and possessing a large fund of anecdotes; which conspired to make him a general favorite with old and young. Concerning his family we have no further account.

Thomas Patterson and family returned form Osage fork in 1834, to the old plantation on the James, and in a small cemetery near the old homestead his remains and those of his wife rest undisturbed beneath the shade of a fine grove of native cedars, a fit emblem for the graves of pioneers from the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, which abound with this beautiful evergreen. On the old farm, as we have already stated, lives his son, Albert G., who, in his sixty-third year, has a family of fourteen children, the youngest of whom is but a few months old; so the name of Patterson is not likely soon to be forgotten.

The farm now owned by Julian Foster, in Taylor Township, was first settled by Rev. Mr. Mooney, about the year 1827. Mr. Patterson informs us that when his father's family returned from the Osage fork, John B. and Edward Mooney were living on this land, which they had been renting from the Delawares.

Samuel Martin, from North Carolina, came in 1829, and remained in that part of the country for a number of years. He was at one time one of the Judges of the County Court, and afterward removed to Ozark County, where he held the office of Circuit Clerk, His brother Cowden came at the same time and remained until his death, which occurred in 1835.


Of most of the other families who returned to their former plantations after the Indians had left, we find no representatives from whom to obtain definite information, but presume that most of them, or their descendants, have gone west with the grand army of pioneers whose biographies may never be traced by the historian's pen, but whose records will still live in the wonderful results which soon follow in the footsteps of that hardy race who-form the vanguard of civilization.


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