History of Greene County, Missouri

R. I. Holcombe, Editing Historian

Chapter 24
Wilson Township

Description, Etc. — Early History — Pioneer Life, Etc. — Biographies of Old Settlers and Prominent Citizens


Wilson township comprises the north thirty sections of township 28, range 22. It contains a considerable portion of the Kickapoo prairie, on which are some of the best farms in Missouri. The wheat lands in this township are unsurpassed and in favorable seasons many tracts produce more than thirty bushels to the acre. Some of the best and most substantial citizens of Greene county have lived and still live in this township. [683]

Wilson township was organized in 1859, upon the formation of Christian county (see general history), and was named for old James Wilson, the early settler so frequently named in the pioneer history of this volume, who came to Greene county with the Delaware Indians and lived with a squaw of that tribe on the creek which now bears his name. Wilson's creek runs through the northwest part of the township, and the James makes a horseshoe in the southern part of the township, in sections 27 and 28.


As has been stated on previous pages of this history (see Chapter 1.), the settlements on the James in Wilson township were the first made within the present limits of Greene county. Albert G. Patterson came to this township in 1822, and there lived until his death, a few years since; it is said he died on the place he first settled, having lived there continuously from 1822, except from 1829 to 1831 when the whites were not permitted to inhabit the country on account of its being the reservation of the Delaware Indians. Then the Pattons, John and Nathaniel, and David Wallace were among the very first settlers.

Among other settlers who came in later years was John Briscoe, who arrived in 1831, or 1832, from Tennessee, and settled where the widow of William M. Ward now lives, and died there. His sons-in-law were Jacob and Andrew Roller. The former settled the farm of Elijah Gray, and the latter the place where Scott Fry afterward located. The Rollers and Briscoes left in a few years. Elijah Gray was from Halifax county, Virginia, removed to Tennessee, and in 1840 came to Greene county, and in 1841 removed to Wilson township. Dr. Jewett lived on this same farm before the Grays came. When Elijah Gray moved into his house in December, 1841, it was then called the finest house in Wilson township. It was built of hewn logs, with a shingle roof and a rock chimney, while most of the old settlers' houses boasted only of board roofs and wooden chimneys, daubed up with mud. [684]

L. A. D. Crenshaw came to Greene county in 1841 from Nashville, Tennessee, and settled near Springfield. In 1845 he came to Wilson township, and 1848 settled in section three of township twenty-eight, range twenty-two. He had no capital when he came, but has now reached a foremost position among the solid citizens of Greene county. In Wilson township he owns 1,200 acres of land, all lying in one body, forming one of the finest farms in the county.

William T. Ward recently deceased, was an old settler of the township. W. B. Anderson began improving his farm in the northeastern part of the township in 1842.

The O'Neals are pioneer settlers of this township. Mrs. Mary O'Neal, wife of —O'Neal, gives many interesting reminiscences of her life in the primitive days of this township's existence. When she and her husband first came here the Delaware Indians passed back and forth through the neighborhood on their visits to the different hunting and trapping grounds. They were always orderly and never gave the settlers any trouble.

The settlers had their grinding done at Marshall's old mill, on the James. No saw-mills were in existence here and all wooden articles or implements used were hewn out with an ax. Spinning wheels were made at Sidney Ingram's shop, in Springfield, but looms were usually made by the settlers themselves. Nearly every lady of 18 and over at that date could spin and weave.

Game was abundant, and venison steaks were staple articles of the pioneer's bills of fare. Wolves were plenty and predatory, and the sheep-folds were always placed convenient to the dwelling in order that the sheep might be protected front the ravages of the lupine marauders.

Among the early marriages was that of Lee Yarbrough and Louisa Gray, who were married March 29, 1843. John H. Miller, whose newspaper articles on the early history of this county have been consulted in the pioneer chapter, and Margaret Blakey were married July 14, 1843, on the McDaniel farm. Mrs. O'Neal remembers that the wedding came off in a little cabin 14x14 feet in size, and that about one hundred and fifty guests were present at the wedding feast, all of whom were bountifully fed and generously cared for. Mrs. O'Neal is of the opinion that no more enjoyable wedding ever occurred in Greene county. Mr. Reson Hayden owned a still-house in the neighborhood and supplied whisky to all who cared to indulge in that beverage. [685]

There are no towns or villages in Wilson township, and no churches reported. The farthest point in the township from Springfield is not more than ten miles, and the people are so convenient to that city that they do not care to be bothered with a town of their own. They are also so moral and upright that they can dispense with churches.


W. B. ANDERSON is the son of William H. and Asenath (McCorkle) Anderson, and was born in Summer county, Tennessee, March 6, 1820. When he was about fourteen years of age his parents moved to Greene county, Illinois, where they lived three years, removing the thence to Bond county in which the family resided till 1841. They then came to Greene county, Mo., and entered land on what is now known as the "McCracken place," in Clay township. They sold out there in 1855, and went to California, where both the parents of W. B. died. The subject of this sketch entered the land of his homestead from the government, and at this writing owns about 492 acres in this county, and 200 acres in Christain county. He was reared upon the farm, and has always followed farming as a vocation, with the exception of two years spent in California in mining. In July, 1855 Mr. Anderson married Miss Caroline Murphy, of Greene county, a native of Tennessee. Eleven children have been born to them, eight of whom still survive. Both Mr. A. and wife are members of the Cumberland Presbyterian church at Springfield. He has always been a Democrat, and votes in accordance with the principles of that party.

GEORGE T. BEAL. Capt. Beal is the son of Daniel and Nancy (Gibson) Beal, and was born in that part of Greene county that is now Lawrence county, Missouri, Nov. 10, 1832. His father settled the place upon which the town of Verona now stands. When George was about a year old, his parents moved to near Springfield and settled upon the place that is now known as the Wingfield place, where he grew to manhood. In 1854 he took the "gold fever," and went to California and remained two years. He again crossed the great plains to California in 1867 with a drove of milk cows, and returned the same year. He was married March 20th, 1860, to Miss Ann Eliza Rountree, daughter of Junius Rountree, one of the pioneers of the county. Their union has been blest with seven children, viz. Thos. M. (deceased), Edward L., Marshall F., Joseph S., infant (deceased), Carrie M. and Nettie B. At the battle of Wilson's Creek Mr. Beal was one of the four guides who directed Gen. Lyon to the memorable battlefield. In the fall of 1861 he took his family to Carlinville, Ill., and remained near there until the spring of 1862, and then returned to his farm. In August of 1862 he enlisted in the Enrolled Missouri Militia, and was elected captain of company F, 72d regiment. After six months' service he resigned and took no further part in the war. Since that time he has been continuously engaged in farming, owning two hundred acres of land in Wilson township. Capt. Beal, his wife and oldest son, are members of the O. P. church. The Capt. thinks he is the oldest citizen of the county now living, who was born in the county.

ISAAC N. BROCKMAN. This gentleman is the son of William and Harriet Brockman, and was born at Greensburg, Indiana, May 8th, 1833. His parents took him to Kentucky when he was but a year old, and located in Lafayette county, where Isaac grew to manhood. He came to Missouri in 1854, and stopped at Weston, in Platte county, where he lived thirteen years. He was married April 5, 1855, to Miss Rachel K. Fry, of Platte county, a native of Kentucky. This union was blessed with seven children, one of whom is dead. His oldest daughter, Eliza A., married A. E. Mack, of this county, but died December 12, 1882. Before the war Mr. Brockman was a slave owner, and carried on extensive farming operations in Platte county. When the war came on, he entered the E. M. M. in 1862, and served three months. He was elected justice of the peace in Platte county in 1882, and served four years. In 1807, he sold out in Platte and came to Greene county, purchasing the old Dick Steele place southwest of Springfield, and again engaged in farming and stock raising. He was elected justice of the peace for this county in 1870, on the Democratic ticket, serving eight years. In 1882 he was again elected to the same office. Mr. B. owns 280 acres of land in Greene and Christian counties. [686]

ELIJAH GRAY (DECEASED). This venerable pioneer was a Virginian, born in Halifax county, December the 14th, 1799. When he was about seven years old, his parents (John and Anne Gray) moved to Williamson county, Tenn., where he lived till 1827, and then emigrated to Callaway county, Mo. Here he remained but one year, then returned to his old home in Tennessee. In 1840 he sold out there and came direct to this county, settling two miles west of Springfield, where he remained a year. He next removed to the place where James Price Gray now resides, and that continued to be his home till the time of his death, which occurred May 23, 1882. He had been married, September 26, 1823, to Annie Brooks, of Tennessee, and when he died left four living children, of whom James P. is the only son. Elijah Gray lies buried in the Gray family cemetery on his old homestead in Greene county. James Price, the son above mentioned, was born in Williamson county, Tenn., January 10, 1832, and came with his parents to this county in 1840, and when he was grown up, settled upon the place owned, at this writing, by Mrs. J. P. Campbell. He sold out in 1864, and moved to Montgomery county, Mo., but the succeeding year returned to his father's old stead in Greene county, which place he fell heir to on the division of property left by elder Gray. Mr. Gray was twice married, his first wife being Mary E. Blakey, to whom he was married January 24, 1856. She died in 1857, leaving one child, who also died when four years old. He was married a second time on January 10, 1859, to Sallie Gilmore, of Cass county, Mo. By the last marriage, Mr. Gray has had seven children, six of whom survive.

JAMES P. EDWARDS. His parents were William B. and Mary (Ratliff) Edwards, and James P. was born in Newton county, Mo., November 10, 1840. When he was quite a child his father came with his family to Greene county, and located in Wilson township, on Wilson creek. James was reared on the farm, and acquired his education in the schools of the county. In 1862, he enlisted to aid the Union cause of the civil war, under Col. Jones in the E. M. M. and served ,or nine months. He then enlisted in the regular U. S army, joining the 16th Mo. Cavalry, under command of Col. McMahan, and served thus till the war closed. He was in the fight at Springfield when Marmaduke attacked that place in 1863, and a number of other fights 6d skirmishes. After the war, he took a government contract to furnish the Cherokee Indians with meal, during the famine that fell upon them. He then returned to his farm, and made farming and stock trading his chief vocation ever since. Mr. Edwards was married September 16, 1866, to Miss Sarah F. O'Neal, of Greene county. They have had seven childred, five of whom still survive. The children's names are: James C., William B., Mary E., Harry A., Annie Belle, Fidelio J., and Tillie May, Mr. Edwards owns 110 acres of the best land on Kickapoo prairie. He has been a citizen of this county from early childhood, and is a successful farmer and a fine business man generally.

JACOB GARTON. Mr. Garton is a native of Tennessee, born in Dixon county, November 14, 1822, and is a son of John and Elizabeth (Condrey) Dixon. When he was twenty-four years old, he went to Marshall county, Miss., and there took charge of a large plantation, which he managed successfully for two years. Returning to Tennessee, he engaged in the cotton culture for seven years in Maury county. August 12, 1855, he married Miss Penelope Elizabeth Rainey,a native of the above county. Five children were born of that union, thereof whom are living at this writing. His first wife died in September, 1865, and he was again married, March 5, 1870, to Miss Alzany Wallace, a native of this county. Six children—four surviving and two deceased—were born of the latter marriage. It was in November, 1865, that Mr. Garton came to Missouri, stopping the first three years on the "Blakey place," in this county, before purchasing the place on which he now resides in Wilson township. He has added to his original purchase from time to time, till be now owns some 880 acres of fine land in Greene and Christian counties. Mr. Garton built a hotel and some bathhouses at Eaudevia Springs in Christian county, the waters of which are good for neuralgia, rheumatism, and sore eyes, and is also a specific for growths of a cancerous nature. During he war Mr. Garton enlisted, in 1862, in the Home Guards under Gen. Holland and served about eight months. Both Mr. G. and wife are members of the Congregational church at Brookline. Politically, he is a Democrat, and holds allegiance strictly to that party. He has always been a farmer, and his industry has been well rewarded.

ABNER HAMBLEN is the son of Hezekiah and Nancy (Holt) Hamblen, and was born in Hawkins county, Tennesseee, May 16, 1820. He grew to manhood in his native county, and was there educated at McMinn academy, of Rogersville. August 19, 1841, he married Miss Matilda Beeler, also of Hawkins county, Tennessee. He emigrated to this county (Greene) in September 1848, settling on Kickapoo prairie, where he purchased land. Two years later he bought the place (his present homestead) on which he has lived thirty-three years. For two years, after coming to Missouri, be utilized his education by teaching, but since that time has devoted himself to farming. He was elected justice of the peace for Campbell township in 1850, when Wilson was a part of Campbell. In all, he has served twelve years in the two townships. In politics Squire Hamblen has always been a Democrat. During the latter part of the great war he served in the 46th Infantry, U. S. regulars, commanded by Col. Fyan. His original sympathies were with the South, as he was a slaveholder. Several times his life was attempted at his home by robbers and camp-followers. On one occasion Mrs. Hamblen forcibly ejected one of the robbers from the house. Since the war Squire Hamblen has held no office, though often solicited to accept official positions by his friends. His married life has been blest with nine children, five of whom still survive. The county was sparsely settled when Squire H. first came, and he has lived to see many changes come over both the country and the people. He relates that, in early times, the chief topics of conversation were "pre-emption claims" and "bull yearlings." Immediately after the war when the schools were being reorganized, out of a total of thirty votes cast for director, Mr. Hamblen received twenty-nine of them, himself being the only man who cast his vote for another candidate.

CHARLES BAKER OWEN. Capt. Owen is the son of Solomon H. and Mary E. (Bushong) Owen, and was born in Marshall county, Tennessee, February 28, 1827. At the age of about nine years his parents came with him to Greene county, Mo., and the father entered land four miles north of Springfield.

Charles Baker grew up on the farm, and received his education in the neighborhood schools. When he arrived at manhood he began trading in stock for himself, and at the age of twenty-seven was made deputy under Sheriff Sam. Fulbright. In April, 1865, he went on "Pool's Gold Hunt" out to Kansas, in which the party made quite a trip, killing plenty of game, but finding none of the metal which is heavy to get, but light to hold. They were gone about four months. In September, 1856, Mr. Owen was married to Miss Sarah Ellen Garbrough, a native of the same county as himself. Two sons—John S. and Stephen A. Douglas—were born of that marriage, both of whom still survive. His first wife died Much 18, 1862, and he was a second time married, January 31, 1865, to Nancy C. McCroskey. Eight children were born of this second marriage, all of whom are living at this writing. Until the civil war began, Capt. Owen was continuously engaged in farming and stock raising. Being Union in principle, he at once became a supporter of the national government, enlisting in the Home Guards in the spring of 1861. On the night of the 9th of August, 1861, he guided Gen. Sigel to the Wilson Creek battle ground. On the 19th of the same month, he enlisted in 24th Mo. Infantry, U. S. A., but saw no active service till the next year. March 1st , 1863, Mr. Owen was promoted to the captaincy of company D, and thus served till mustered out, October 14, 1864. He was at Fort De Russey, Pleasant Hill, and Yellow Bayou. At the close of the war he returned to Greene county and engaged in farming. In 1856, he went to Texas and soon after traded for a lot of cattle from the Chickasaw Indians, which herd he drove to Leavenworth, Kansas. In 1868, Mr. Owen was defeated as the Democratic candidate for sheriff. He was elected as an independent candidate in 1870, but beaten as the Democratic nominee in 1872, by only five votes. In 1874, he was elected by 154 majority. He again received the Democratic nomination in 1882, but his Republican opponent was elected. Captain Owen owns 1,138 acres of land in this and Christian counties, the best of which lies along the James river, the bottom of that stream being exceedingly rich and productive.

ROBERT COATS PRUNTY, M. D. Dr. Prunty is the son of Thomas and Sarah (Elves) Prunty, and was born in Warren County, Kentucky, July 7, 1820. His grandfather, Robert Prunty, was born in Franklin county, Virginia, and emigrated to Kentucky in 1806. His grandfather, upon his mother's side, Burwell Rives was also of Franklin county, Virginia, and came to Kentucky about the same year. Robert Coats Prunty lived in that State until he was nineteen years of age, receiving his education at Bowling Green. In 1889 his parents moved to Greene county, Missouri, and purchased the place upon which the doctor is now living. His father died September 10, 1860, upon the homestead, and his mother died in McLean county, Illinois, March 18, 1864. Robert read medicine under Drs. Shackleford and Perham, and began the practice in 1846 at Ash Grove. His health failing he went to Virginia, and on his return stopped in Warren county, Kentucky, and practiced four years in the vicinity of his birth-place. While making his home in Kentucky, he attended the medical department of the Missouri State University, at St. Louis, that department of the University being then in that city, and graduated in 1847. He was married January 18, 1848, in this county, to Miss Mahala S., daughter of Col. Nathan Boone, who was the eighth child of Daniel Boone. She died November 2, 1849, leaving one child, now Mrs. Belle Boone Cowden, of Springfield. The doctor was married the second time to Miss Olevia Shipp, of this county, in January, 1854. She died in 1859, and he married Mrs. Mary P. McGown, on the 22d of March, 1863. Their union has been blest with four children, viz.: Burwell R., Matilda P., Amanda J., and Mary F. In 1863, Dr. Prunty went to McLean county, Illinois, and sold goods at Leroy for some time. He then sold out and practiced medicine at Down's Station until his return to this county in 1868. He practiced two years at Ash Grove, and then moved back upon the old homestead, where he has since been engaged in farming and stock trading. [689]

JACOB THOMAS. Mr. Thomas' parents were Christian and Martha Thomas, and be was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, January 2, 1809. He grew to manhood in his native county, and there received his education. For three years of his life he worked at the tanner's trade, which he learned in youth, and subsequently engaged for two years in the distillery business. For the next six or seven years he worked at the carpenter's trade. In 1834 he moved to Ohio, stopping for a short time in Wayne county, going thence to Pickaway county, where he continued two years. He spent several succeeding years in various parts of that State, engaged chiefly in farming. In 1863 he crossed the plains with a drove of horses. Returning the same year, he made another trip, in 1864, to the same place and for the same purpose. Again, in 1866, he repeated this operation, returning in 1866. He had sold his Ohio farm in 1864, but his family remained there till he brought them out to this (Greene) county in 1866. After a short sojourn in Springfield, he invested in lead mines in Christian county, which proved, however, not to be a financial success. From that time he turned his whole attention to farming. He bought the farm he now owns in 1868, and has lived there ever since. May 4, 1858, he married Emiline Brockley of Marion county, Ohio. Six children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas, four of whom are still living. In politics, Mr. Thomas is a life long Democrat, and always acts with that time honored party. [690]

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