History of Greene County, Missouri

R. I. Holcombe, Editing Historian

Chapter 21
Center Township

Part 1

Description — Organization — The First Settlements — Items of Early History — In the Civil War — Churches — Tatum Chapel, John's Chapel, Yeakley Chapel, Stony Point, M. E. South, M. E. Church — The Town of Bois D'Arc — Civic Orders


Center township contains considerable portions of the Grand and the Leeper prairies, and, as its area is considerable, has some excellent land within its borders, and some fine farms. It has also some poor and worthless territory.

Pond and Pickerel creeks unite in the southwest part of this township and form the Sac river, and numerous springs furnish plenty of water.

1 East and West Center are given under one head

There are two railroads running, through portions of this township, adding greatly to the convenience and interest of the people. Each has a station within the township. Bois D' Arc is on the Gulf railroad, in West Center, Campbell is in East Center, and Dorchester, in East Center, is on the St. Louis & San Francisco. [640]

There are numerous lead and zinc mines in the western part of the township, which by the employment of sufficient capital and by proper management could be made fairly profitable. Lead mines were opened a few years since in sections 33 and 34 in range 24, and for a time promised large results. In the northwest part of the township are numerous mines of both lead and zinc.


Center township was organized April 7, 1856. It was at first called Farmer township, for Judge W. B. Farmer, a well-known citizen of the county; and that time a jade of the county court. The judge was absent when the township was named, and when he appeared, at his request and upon his motion, the name was changed to Center township.


The first settlers in Center township were members of the Leeper family, from Tennessee. The widow Leeper and her sons, John, Frank, and Guion, located in 1832, on the head of Leeper prairie, in section 19 or 18 @- 29 - 23, on what afterward became the county poor farm. The next settlers were George Young and Joseph Dobbs. In 1887 came Jeptha Mason, Josiah Mason, Isaac Redferan, and Townley Redferan. The latter purchased the farm of David Dobbs.

At the head of Leeper prairie, Hugh Lee or was one of the first settlers, and the prairie was so called from that family. William Tatum came from Logan county, Kentucky, 1837, first settled on the Leeper prairie, and in 1839 came to the head of Clear creek in section four of township twenty-nine, range twenty-three. He had twelve children, of whom four are now living in Center township. James Wilson came to the township in 1837, and settled on section three of township twenty-nine, range twenty-three, on the farm afterward occupied by Mrs. Matilda Jones. Isaac N. Jones was one of the oldest residents of the township, and a man well-known throughout the county. Henry Paul settled in the township for many years.—John Yeakley moved from East Tennessee the fall of 1839, there moved to Polk county, and in March, 1840, located in Center township. His son, Thomas Yeakley, is a well-known citizen of the township. In 1847 Nathaniel Batson came to Center township, and James Hughes came from Ray county, Tennessee, in 1844, and settled in section nineteen, township twetity-nine, range twenty-three. Several other old pioneers and settlers are living in the township. [641]


It is claimed that the first white child born in Center township was Nancy Jane Mason, a daughter of Jeptha and Sallie Mason, and the date of her birth is given as March 20, 1838. The first death was that of another child of Jeptha Mason's, named Jesse Mason, who died in 1838, and was buried in the Graveyard at Squire Squibb's. The first marriage was that of Mack Leeper and Mary Redferan, the latter the daughter of Townley Redferan.

The first school within the confines of Center township was taught in the winter of 1841 by Miss Rachel Q. Waddill, a sister of Judge John S. Waddill, of Springfield. The school was taught in a house built by Elijah Wiley, and which stood on section 23 - 29 - 24, on the farm now owned by Widow Cotter. The house was built of logs. It had a dirt floor, and there was no chimney. A way for the escape of smoke was provided by building a double wall at one end of the room—the outer wall built two feet from the inner, and the latter not running down all the way to the floor, by some three feet. Thus the entire end of the building was a fire-place. Some stones were piled along the log wall to keep it from taking fire. The building was about fourteen feet square, and the logs were cut by Geo. J. Wiley. Miss Waddill taught two terms in this house and received 75 cents per scholar for each month's instruction. Her average attendance was about 25. Miss Waddill afterwards married George McElhanon, and died in 1857 of cancer. In a year or two after the first school was taught the people built a better school house near the Widow Redferan's place, in section 14, which was the first building erected especially for a school house. [642]

The first religious meetings were held at Isaac Redferan's, by the Baptists. Rev. Jesse Mason was the first preacher in these parts. The worshipers took their guns with them when they went to meeting, and often killed deer and other game along the way. It is said that even the preacher carried his gun, and was known on one or two occasions to ride to his labors in a wagon, and after having preached a "powerful" sermon, to return home by way of a pile of clapboards that he had riven and haul away a load. Probably the deed was hallowed by the day. Many of the men at that day attended meeting dressed in buckskin pantaloons and caps made of fawn skins or coon skins.

The first practicing physician to locate in the western part of Greene county was Dr. Constantine Perkins, who lived in Boone township, near where the town of Ash Grove now stands. He was the first physician that ministered to the fleshly ills of the people of Center township as a regular practitioner. Dr. Perkins' medicine chest contained no drug that would ward off the gold fever, and he was seized with that malady in 1850 and went to California, where he died some ten years later.


Center township saw a great deal of the civil war. When Gen. Lyon's troops first came into the county, in July, 1861, they encamped in the southern part of this township for a time as did Gen. McCulloch's Confederates after the battle of Wilson's creek.

The township furnished men for both armies. Capt. Campbell got some of his best men from Center to go with him and fight for the South, and numbers of the good citizens put on the blue and did valiant service in the Union army. Capt. Redferan's company of militia, which was mostly composed of men from this township, did a great deal of service in this part of the State.

In 1864, one Bob Akin, a Confederate bushwhacker, was killed by Capt. Redferan's company. Some time previously Akin and three or four others had captured Lieut. J. W. McDaniel and Mr. Squibbs and a wagon load of provisions. At the same time they bushwhacked Capt. Redferan, wounding him severely. The bushwhackers released Squibbs upon his pledging himself not to tell what had become of Lieut. McDaniel. It was intended to kill McDaniel, but the next day he was released, after being robbed of his clothing, etc.

Capt. Redferan discovered that Bob Akin was one of the men that had bushwhacked him, and a few days afterward came upon him and shot and mortally wounded him. He had on McDaniel's coat at the time. McDaniel visited the wounded guerilla before be died. Akin said, "O, this is all right; everything is fair in this war. I would have killed Redferan if I could." He died in a day or two.

Some time during the war a Confederate sympathizer named Bayliss was called out and brutally murdered by a party of Federal militia. [643]


Tatum Chapel — Missionary Baptist. This church was organized February 17, 1867. Some of the first members were James Murray, Thomas D. Murray, Samantha J. Murray, John L. Thompson, Green B. Robinson, Martha M. Frazier, John Turner, Nancy B. Turner, Mary W. Delaney. They first met in a school house, and the present church building was erected in 1867. It has not yet become formally dedicated. It is a frame, 36 x 40 feet. Geo.W.White has been its pastor since its organization and was instrumental in its organization.

They have a membership of 111. The deacons are J. A. Blanchard, Samuel Frazier, John Turner, John M. Tatum and Dennis Kime. The church building is on section 4, township 29, range 23, near the head of Clear Creek.

John's Chapel — Methodist, South. This church was organized at Stony Point, in 1875, by Ida Breeden, Mary Nicholson, Nancy Lower, M. Y. Wallace, John Neil and Martha White. They held the first services at a school house at Stony Point, and in 1878 it was reorganized by the above named members and D. B. Johnson, M. S. Squibb,—Nicholson, R. T. John, S. E. John, M. V. Dire, L. M. Holland, Henrietta Bills, Lorinda Phillips, Eliza Bennett, Elvina White, M. M. Squibb, Rhoda Robinson,—Breeden, T. H. Holland, B. R. Johnson, and Mrs. C. D. Johnson. Through the influence of R. T. John the present church was built, he giving over one-fourth of its cost. The church was named in his honor. It is a frame building, built in 1878 at a cost of one thousand dollars. It was dedicated in May, 1880, by Rev. J. L. Haegler, who is now the pastor. The pastors have been Revs. White, Ewing and Haegler. It has a membership of about sixty. The trustees are R. T. John, B. R. Johnson, and J. J. Nicholson. The church building stands on section 5, township 29, range 24, near John's mill, on the Sac river.

Yeakley Chapel — Methodist. This church was organized in 1865, and is on section 19, township 29, range 22. Some of the first members were A. A. Lawson, Mrs. Catharine Lawson, John Yeakley, Eliza Yeakley, J. N. Jones, Martha Jones, B. Johnson, , Susan Johnson and J. C. Richardson. The building was erected in 1870. It is a frame 37x50 feet, and cost two thousand dollars. It was dedicated in 1870, by Rev. S. R. Reece. The pastors have been Revs. Howell, J. J. BentleySmith, H. Gardner, B. F. Pool, E. E. Condo,— Day, James M. Darby, S. Worner and A. A. Lawson, They have a rnembership of about sixty. The chapel was burned January 29, 1883. [644]

Stony Point Baptist. This church was organized March 30, 1872 by Rev. Georgo White, and is situated upon section 6, township 29, range 24. The original members were Edward West and wife, Henry West, Sarah West, John Davis and wife, S. I. Davis, J. H. Hudgings, Mirah Hudgings, J. L. Powell and wife, C. F. Powell and Mary King. The building was begun in 1880 and finished in 1882. It is a frame building 32 x 48 feet, costing near a thousand dollars. It is not yet dedicated. The pastors have been Revs. James Hill, George White, B. F. Meek, T. T. Eaton and C. F. Corum. Their present membership is aboutl 10. The deacons are H. H. West and R. E. Hudgings. They have services the 3d Saturdays and Sundays in each mouth. Except some small bills, the church is out of debt.

Methodist Episcopal Church, South is located on section 4, township 29, range 23, at the head of Clear creek. It was organized in Clear Creek school house, near where the church now stands, by John Frazier, P. C. Rev. George Winton was presiding elder at the time. C. C. Wright was next P. C. He was succeeded by T. D. Payne, Charley Jones and M. McAllister. The latter gentleman was in charge when the church was built. The original members were W. W. Brower, P. T. Prophet, D. A. Prophet, J. R. Grigg, Henry McAllister, William Minor, J. B. Brower, Thomas Henley, J. J. Troughden, John A. Minor, Silvester Blackwell, J. D. Brower and Peter Blackwell. The church is a frame building, erected in 1874, at a cost of twelve hundred dollars. It was dedicated April 16, 1880, by Thomas M. Cobb, presiding elder. The pastors of this church have been M. McAllister, T. D. Payne, Thomas Hill, Jesse Mitchell, H. M. White, Morris E. Ewing, J. L. Hegler, and Joseph King, was the presiding elder for 1882. The present membership is 111. [645]

Center M. E. Church. This congregation has, as yet, no place of worship of its own, but uses the Center school house, located on section 22, township 29, range 23. The church was organized in 1875, by members from Yeakley Chapel residing in this neighborhood, who found it inconvenient to attend longer at the chapel. The following were the original members: Samuel Wilson, Mrs. S. J. Wilson, Elizabeth Wilson, Charles J. Lawson, J. C. Richardson, Margaret Richardson, James K. Richardson, Geo. J. Wiley, Elizabeth Wiley, John H. Wiley, J. D. L. Wiley, Rufina Wiley, Ann Wiley, Wm. M. Bennett, Martha F. Bennett, Solomon Dale and Catherine Dale. The following are the names of pastors that have served since the organization: Rev. Mortland, Rev. Day, B. F. Pool, E. Conda, J. M. Darby and S. Warner. The present pastor is A. A. Lawson. The class leader for four years past has been Wm. M. Bennett. The congregation holds worship every Thursday evening and every Sabbath. The pastor preaches once a month. There is a Sabbath school connected with the church. The present membership is seventy-four. The organization expects soon to build a house of worship of its own.

Missionary Baptist Church. A church organized of the missionary Baptist denomination was formed November 13, 1880, and meets on section 29, range 24. The first members were Elder George Long, James Gray, Nancy J. Gray, John Williams, Susan Batson, Nancy Ann Owens, Sarah Dillmyer, Mary Graves and Julia Melton. There is no church building, but the membership is thirty-three. The pastors have been George Long and Robert Long.


The village of Bois D'Arc is situated in West Center Township. It is a station on the Gulf railroad, and the shipping point for a considerable area of territory in the Western part of the county.

Bois D'Arc was founded by John Bymaster, who moved to the site in the spring of 1872 and purchased thereon six acres of land of Dr. W. C. Swinney. Formerly, for thirty year or more, there had been a post-office called Bois D'Arc (pronounced Bo-dark), a few miles to the southeast, near where Campbell station now is, in section 15, range 22, but in the year of Bymaster's settlement the office was removed to his house and he was appointed postmaster, which position he still holds. For the first four months of his official existence, Mr. Bymaster carried the mail to his office himself. Then he had a road laid out by his house and the stage traveled along the thoroughfare. The post-office department was notified, and the stage was compelled to leave the mail with Mr. Bymaster. [646]

The name Bois D'Arc is that given to the osage orange hedge trees. In 1844, Joseph Goodwin, who kept the old post-office, put out quite a length of hedge on his farm, and named the post-office Bois D'Arc. When the office was removed to its present site it was called New Bois D'Arc at first, to distinguish it from the old locality.

In 1873 Mr. Bymaster built a storehouse and engaged in merchandising, in which business he is still engaged. The same year John Bayles built a house, and in 1874 John Roth put up a blacksmith shop and engaged in blacksmithing. These were the first buildings in Boid D'Arc.

In 1878 the railroad came through and the Burnetts gave ten acres of land for a town site. Dr. Park and Mr. Bray purchased the ten acres from the railroad company and laid off the town. To the energy and influence of Dr. Park more than to any other one man is due the prosperity of the place.

At present (March, 1883), Bois D'Arc contains five stores that sell general merchandise; two drug stores, two blacksmith and repair shops, one carpenter's shop, a shoe shop, a hotel, Masonic and Odd Fellows' lodge, and one saloon. About 200 car loads of produce, chiefly wheat, are shipped from the station in a year, and the town does a trade of perhaps $75,000 in the same time. The village contains a Christian church organization, which meets a short distance from town, in a school house, where the children attend school. Arrangements are being made to erect both a church and a school house in the village this year.


Masonic. Bois D'Arc Lodge, A. F. and A. M., was organized under dispensation Jan. 3, 1883, by C. C. Woods, M. W. G. M. The first members were R. T. Johns, J. L. Hoyal, Chas. A. Young, John Cotter, J. R. Morris, James C. Johnson, C. J. Johnson, Jesse Cotter, Lewis Tatum, Nathan Wilson and B. G. W. Jones. The first officers were R. T. Johns, W. M.; J. L. Hoyal, Sen. W.; Chas. A. Young, Jun. W.; John Cotter, secretary; J. R. Morris, treasurer; James C. Johnson, sen. deacon; C. J. Johnson, jun. deacon, and Jesse L. Cotter, tiler. None of them are officers of the Grand Lodge. The number of present membership is twelve. They meet in a frame hall, built in April, 1882, at a cost of six hundred dollars. [647]

Odd Fellows. Bois D'Arc Lodge, I. O. O. F., No. 207, was instituted by W. H. Woodard, R. W. G. M. The dispensation was issued April 27, 1882. The charter bears date May 19, 1882. The charter members were A. A. Lowdermilk, Fayette West, J. T. West, John Nicholson, Monroe Lower, James Leeper, T. J. Duncan. Some of the first officers were A. A. Lowdermilk, P. G.; James Leeper, N. G.; Fayette West, V. G.; J. M. Cotter, See.; J. T. West, Treas. The present officers are Jas. Leeper, P. G.; R. H. Swinney, N. G.; Monroe Lower, V. G.; J. C. Freeman, Sec.; James West, Treas. A. A. Lowdermilk is G. L. Dept. The lodge has no hall of its own. It meets in a hall built by the Masonic fraternity and by subscription. The present membership is 18. [648]

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