History of Greene County, Missouri

R. I. Holcombe, Editing Historian

Chapter 27
Taylor Township

Description — Important Springs — Indian Graves, Etc. — Early Settlers and Settlements — Items — The "Firsts" — Old Jerry Pearson's Mill — "The Jeems" — Drownings in the James River — Organization — Notes of the Cyclone of 1880 — Biographies of Old Settlers and Prominent Citizens.


Taylor township is in the eastern part of Greene county, and comprises one Congressional township—29, in range 20. The six northern sections running up to the base line are "long sections," however,—that is two and one-half miles long by one mile wide, instead of being one mile square. Taylor township, therefore, contains 27,200 acres.

By far the greater portion of the area of this township is timbered land, much of which is rough, broken, and unproductive. A great many tracts have never been entered, and still belong to the general government. The prevailing rough and rocky character of the land in Southwestern Missouri finds no exception here. Many fine farms have been made in Taylor, however, and their owners are men of thrift and prosperity.

The township is well watered by springs. The James fork, of White river, runs through from northeast to southwest, and its small branches extend in every direction on both sides of the stream, Pearson creek, which rises at the Powell spring, in the southern part of section 5, has water enough as a rule to turn a mill, and was so used by old Jerry Pearson, when he first came to this country, in 1828, when the Indians were still here. The Sayers branch or fork of the James is another small stream.

Springs. Taylor township contains many springs, some of which are remarkable. The old Pearson spring (now called the Powell spring) in section 5, turned a mill and ran a distillery. On the land of W. S. Dillard, in section 7, is situated a very large spring, known as the "spout spring," which flows out of a small cave under the root of a large tree, on the north side of Pearson creek, the cave being in the side of the bluff of the creek. The water is always cold and the supply abundant, the latter being subject to but little variation in volume in the wettest or dryest seasons. A doorway has been made and a door hung in the month of the cave, and the cavern itself is utilized in summer as a milk house. Just above the "spout spring" is a fine quarry of the species of magnesian limestone known as "cotton rock," much used in building everywhere, of which the State House of Jefferson City is chiefly composed. The fine cream-colored and white beds of the "cotton rock," are regularly stratified, easily quarried, and can readily be converted into ashlers. Already this stone has been of much service to builders, railroad contractors and others. [701]

Indian Graves. When the red men had possession of this country, in "the long ago," they seem to have had a town in this township, near the spout spring " before mentioned. On top of the bluff, above the "cotton rock" quarry, seems to be what once was an Indian "city of the dead," consisting of mounds composed chiefly of heaps of stones, which, at one time, covered the remains of dead Indians. A few years since Mr. Dillard's sons opened one of these mounds and took therefrom a basketful of human bones—skulls, leg and arm bones, etc. These bones were restored to their criminal resting places by the Dillard boys, but a month or two since, upon the grave being re-opened, they could not be found.


The very first settler in Taylor township was one Davis, mentioned in the first chapter of this work, who came, it is said, in 1822, or soon afterward, and located on the farm now (1883) owned by Col. John H. Price, in section 13-29-20. Mr. Davis was afterward killed by the Indians. Edward Thompson occupied the farm after Davis, and then came Samuel G. Martin, who held it until 1836, when Crabtree Price came into possession and lived thereon until his death. Rev. Mr. Mooney, a Baptist minister, came upon the Julian Foster place, on the James, about the year 1827 or 1828, and in the latter year rented his farm from the Delawares. John B. and Edward Mooney were living here in 1830. Nicholas Darnold lived on this farm at the time of his death, in 1837.

Other early settlers were Samuel Martin, presiding justice of the first county court and his brother, Cowden Martin, both from North Carolina, who came in 1829, to section 24; old Jerry Pearson, who settled a little below the Powell spring, on Pearson creek, in section 5; and Nicholas Darnold and Benjamin Harper. [702]

On the south side of James river, Edward Thompson, a Tennessesan, settled in 1830, and four years afterward removed to the Kickapoo prairie. Andrew and Richard C. Martin, sons of Samuel Martin, lived on the James at an early date, the first in section 23, and the latter in 27. John L. McCraw came to the county in 1836, and settled the place where he died. The Galbraith place in section 31, was, sometime previous, to 1836, occupied by the family of a French woman by the name of Mrs. Page. Rev. Thomas Potter, a preacher of the Christian church, was an early settler. James Martin, in 1836, settled the farm of Thomas W. Sawyers in section 36. Mr. Sawyers, one of the old and respected citizens of the township, came to the county in 1840. In the fall of 1837, William Dillard came from Monroe county, Tennessee, and setttled on station 17 on the place first settled two years before by Braxton Sams. Mr. Dillard died April 12, 1877, aged nearly 95. He was a native of Buncombe county, North Carolina. Immediately preceding his death, Mr. Dillard was the oldest citizen of Greene county.


It is believed that the first white male child born in Taylor township was Wm. Thompson, a son of Edward Thompson. The first white child of either sex was a daughter of Cowden Martin. Wm. Thompson was born in 1830; Miss Martin, a year earlier, in 1829. The firtst death was that of Thomas Martin, on the James, in 1831. The body was buried on, the home place. Cowden Martin died of cholera, contracted in Springfield, in 1835. The first marriage remembered was that of William Darnold and Sallie Thompson, in 1833. The groom was a son of Nicholas Darnold, and the bride a daughter of Edward Thompson. Another early wedding was that of John Cardwell and Faith Darnold, at the residence of the bride's father, Nicholas Darnold, in the spring, of 1837. Judge Samuel Martin performed the ceremony in the latter instance.

It is claimed that the first regular physician in the township was Dr. Wm. C. Caldwell, of Virginia, now living at Fair Grove. The first minister was Rev. Mr. Mooney, the Baptist preacher before mentioned, who held the first services at private houses. Soon after came Rev. Thos. Potter, of the Christian denomination. The first school was taught in 1836, in an old log house on the Danforth farm, but the name of the first teacher has been forgotten. [703]


One of the very first mills in all Southwest Missouri was that built by old Jerry Pearson, somewhere between the years 1828 and 1831. The Delaware Indians were in possession of the county then, and from them Mr. Pearson obtained permission to build his mill. Pearson was from Tennessee. He located near the large spring, which is near the residence of Mrs. Letitia Powell, on section 5. The water from this spring forms Pearson creek, and it was this creek that turned the mill. Some idea may be gained of the volume of water that flows from the old Pearson spring (now called the Powell spring) by this circumstance.

Pearson also set up a distillery afterwards, along in the '30's somewhere, and this establishment was near the mill; but the first still-house in the township was set up by John Burden, at the Burden spring. The hollow where it was situated is still called "still-house hollow."

Pearson's mill was an important institution in its day. It ground the corn of the settlers for a radius of several miles. The Campbells, the Fulbrights, the Rountrees, and others from Springfield came here for their grinding, until the little horse-mill was started—which was afterward owned by Judge Hendrick. The capacity of Pearson's mill was not large—perhaps fifty bushels a day, and quite often its patrons remained over night waiting their turns.


The first settlements in this township were made along the James fork of the White river, now called simply the James river, but as well known by its oft-mispronounced title, "the Jeems." Old settlers say that the James river was remarkably high in 1830 or 1831; higher by four or six feet than it has ever been since. The highest water since the country has been settled up was in June, 1855. Fish were formerly very abundant in the stream, but have become scarce by reason of the dams thrown across.


In the month of March, 1849, Wm. Ireson, a school teacher, aged about 35, was drowned in the James, at the Neaves ford, in trying to cross the stream on horseback. The water was high, and Mr. Ireson neglected to take off the martingals, and so the horse could not swim. The man's body was recovered the next day, about 100 yards below the ford, and buried by Finley Danforth, at the Danforth church. [704]

In April, 1856, a young lady, the daughter of John Breedlove, was drowned in the James, near the Baughman ford. Miss Breedlove and a younger companion were crossing the stream on a foot-log. The latter fell into the water and pulled Miss Breedlove after her. Singularly enough, the younger girl was washed ashore and saved, while Miss Breedlove was drowned. The alarm was given and her body was recovered and brought ashore while still warm, but life was extinct, and all efforts at resuscitation failed. Miss Breedlove was about 18 years of age.

Another case of drowning occurred near the lower Neaves ford, the victim being a stone-cutter named Forrester. It was supposed that the unfortunate man was also trying to cross on a foot-log, as he had made inquiries for such a crossing. His dead body was found floating in the stream several days afterwards.


Taylor township was formerly a part of Mooney, and indeed, at one time a portion of it belonged to Campbell. At the April term of the county court, 1850, on petition of sundry citizens of Greene county, the township of Taylor was organized, and by request of that staunch old Whig, John L. McCraw, and others, was named in honor of Gen. Zachary Taylor, then President.

As established by the county court, the first boundaries of Taylor township were these: beginning at the northwest corner of section 18, on the line dividing, range 20 and 21 ; thence east eight miles to the northeast corner of section 17, township 29, range 19; thence south eight miles to the southeast corner of section 20, township 28, range 19; thence west eight miles to the line dividing ranges 20 and 21; thence north to the beginning. All of the territory in range 19 is now in Webster county, but that county was not created until in 1855. The first elections in Taylor township were held at Robert Beatty's, and Robert Dillard was appointed the first enumerator of school children. [705]


The great cyclone of April, 18, 1880, which is described in full in the general history of this volume, was especially severe in Taylor township. The house of John L. McCraw, sr., was unrooffed, the kitchen blown away, and much valuable timber prostrated. The house of John L. McCraw, jr., was entirely destroyed, some of the debris being blown entirely away. The outbuildings were destroyed, and one cow, three head of sheep, and some hogs killed, while all of the horses were more or less crippled. The damage amounted to between $700 and $800.

The cyclone struck the farm of T. J. Henslee, sweeping fences, houses, barns, and everything before, it. Mr. Henslee was swept out of his house and dashed against a post twenty feet distant, sustaining severe injuries. His leg was fractured in two places, and his right arm badly sprained. From these injuries, Mr. Henslee has not yet wholly recovered. Mrs. Henslee's shoulder blade was broken, and James Baker, a farm hand, was injured in the back and had three ribs broken.


JOSIAH F. DANFORTH (DECEASED). This gentlemen was born in Maryville, Blount county, Tennessee, August 23, 800. He was educated in the common schools of his neighborhood. On the 9th of December, 1830, he was married to Miss Letitia, daughter of Benjamin and Nancy Prather. He emigrated to Gasconade county, Missouri, in September, 1832, but soon after came to Greene county, and purchased thirteen hundred acres of land. At that time there were only four farms in Taylor township. He represented this district in the Legislature from 1844 until 1848, and was one of the ablest members of that body at the time. He established the Cumberland Presbyterian church in his neighborhood, and served as deacon until his death, upon the 13th of August, 1849, at Las Vegas, New Mexico. He had started to California to regain his health, but only got as far as Las Vegas. He is buried at the American cemetery in that city. During his life he was an earnest, devoted Christian, kind husband and loving father. He was the father of seven children, only two of whom are now living, viz.: Josiah J. and Mary B.

WILLIAM SMITH DILLARD. Mr. Dillard is the son of William and Sarah (Gregory) Dillard, and was born in Monroe county, Tennessee. When he was about ten years of age his father moved to Greene county, Missouri, and settled upon the farm William and his brother George A. now own in partnership. Here their father lived and reared his family, carrying on farming until his death. William acquired his education chiefly in the subscription schools of that day, which were not very extensive or good. He has always been a farmer, and soon after his marriage began farming for himself on the old homesteads and that has been his chief occupation since. He has traveled considerably in his time. In 1849 he took the "gold fever," and in the company made up for that expedition by Ex-Gov. McClurg, went to California as a gold-seeker. He remained there about twenty months, and then went by water to Mazatlan, Old Mexico, and from there came to Texas and sold a drove of horses and mules which he had bought in Mexico. In 1852 he returned home, and his travels since then have been in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nevada, Kansas, Arkansas, Indian Territory and Colorado. During the war, Mr. Dillard was a Union man and served in the enrolled Missouri militia, 72d regiment, and was in the Marmaduke fight at Springfield. He married September 20, 1848, Miss Nancy E., daughter of Thos. Langley, of Illinois. They have had ten children, eight of whom are still living. Mr. Dillard is a member of the Masonic fraternity, Stafford lodge, No. 497. [706]

CAPT. GEORGE A. DILLARD. Mr. Dillard was born in Monroe county, Tennessee, December 4, 1826, and is the son of William and Sarah Dillard. When he was eleven years of age his parents emigrated to Greene county, Missouri, and settled upon section 8, township 59, and range 29, where George grew to manhood, and where he has always lived since coming to Missouri, with the exception of three years service in the army. In 1862 he was commissioned as captain of enrolled militia, and served as such until the war closed. He was engaged the most of the time in the defense of Springfield, and keeping the "bushwhackers" out of the country as far as practicable. Captain Dillard was married upon the 31st of May, 1849, to Miss Eliza J., daughter of J. H. and Gabella Gibson. Their union has been blest with nine children, six of whom are now living. Captain Dillard is one of the best farmers and most enterprising gentlemen of this section, and no man is held in higher esteem in the county than he.

BENJAMIN W. DILLARD. Perhaps no young man in Taylor township stands higher in a social or business point of view than Ben Dillard. He was born near Strafford, Greene county, Missouri, December 22, 1855. He was educated in the common schools of his neighborhood, and grew to manhood upon the farm. In February, 1882, be formed a partnership with W. J. Williams, M. D.) in the general merchandise and drug business in the town of Strafford, where he has since resided, taking foremost rank in business. He was married October 14, 1880, to Miss Mary F., daughter of John E. and Mary Pritchard. Their union was blest with one child, born, August 22, 1881, and died, January 31, 1882.

"The fairest flowers the soonest fade,
Else little graves were never made."

During the latter part of December, 1880, Mrs. Dillard took a severe cold which settled upon her lungs. She had a slight cough until her baby's death, when she became rapidly worse. She was confined to her bed two months before her death, which occurred May 16, 1882. March 8, 1883, he was married the second time to Miss Fannie, daughter of Dr. S. B. and Melissa (Rountree) Neil, of Polk county, Missouri. Mr. Dillard bought his partner's interest in the store February 1, 1883, and now owns and controls the business alone.

SAMUEL G. MARTIN (DECEASED). The subject of this notice was born in Cabarrus county, North Carolina, February 19, 1808. He was educated in the common schools of his section, and in 1829 he, with his patents, emigrated to Greene county, Missouri. He entered eighty acres of land in section 13, township 29, and range 20. He was married January 10, 1840, to Miss Cynthia, daughter of John and Rachel Riley, by whom he had seven children, viz.: Rachel E., born November 4, 1840; Daniel F., born July 30, 1842, and died in the army in July, 1864; James S., born September 20, 1844; Margaret M. born February 20, 1848, and died September 22, 1853; William C., born January 6, 1851; John A., born January 27, 1854, and Thomas B., born June 19, 1856. Soon after his marriage, Mr. Martin bought one hundred and sixty acres of land in section 22, and made his homestead upon it, where he lived until his death, which occurred on the 20th of October, 1874, and Mrs. Martin and three of her sons still live upon the home-place. Mr. Martin was one of Greene's early pioneers, and was one of her substantial citizens. [707]

J. L. McCRAW, JR. John L. McCraw, jr., was born in Taylor township, Greene county, Missouri, September 30, 1838, and till he left, the oldest man in the township who was born in it. He received such education as the log cabin schools afforded at that early date. In July, 1861, he enlisted in Captain F. E. Watterson's company of Home Guards. On the 10th of August, 1861, he was taken prisoner by rebels while reconnoitering near the Wilson Creek battlefield. He was held prisoner five days, and fed upon raw roasting-ears once a day by his captors. He was exchanged in the early part of 1862, and in May of that year he enlisted in Colonel Wood's battalion, 6th Missouri cavalry, but was mustered out in July, because the battalion had two more companies in it than were allowed. In the same month he enlisted in company L, 6th Missouri cavalry, under Capt. Robert V. Keller, and served as first sergeant. He was at the battles of Prairie Grove, Springfield, and Little Rock. He was in active service until the close of the war, the last was at the surrender of the Confederates at Camden, Arkansas, where there was a general handshaking and division of rations. He was mustered out at Little Rock, in August 1895, and returned home, where he resumed farming. Mr. McCraw was married in September, 1869, to Miss Virginia A., daughter of Martin Ingram. He moved to Dakota in the spring of 1883. April 18, 1880, his place in Taylor was struck by a cyclone, —buildings, fences and everything that would break, was swept away and crushed. Himself and wife found shelter under a bluff and escaped unhurt.

COL. JOHN H. PRICE. Col. Price was born in Russell county, Virginia, in July, 1822. He went to the common schools of that county until he was fourteen years of age, when his parents emigrated to Greene county Missouri, and settled in Taylor township. His father becoming afflicted with rheumatism, the care and cultivation of the farm devolved upon John until 1843, when he commenced the study of law. His health becoming impaired he resumed active business and made several trips to Texas in 1844. In 1854 he took five hundred head of cattle to California, and returned to Missouri in 1855. At the beginning of the civil war, in 1861, he espoused the cause of the South. He was captured at the battle of Wilson's Creek and taken to St. Louis, where he was soon afterwards exchanged for Major White. He resumed service and was at the battle of Elk Horn. He was recaptured upon the 8th of March, and taken to the Alton military prison, where he was confined six months and released upon the 21st of September. Again he sought the armies of the Confederacy and was in Price's raid into Missouri. At the close of the war he went to Batesville, Arkansas, and lived there two years and then returned to Missouri, and resumed control of the farm, where he has since resided. Col. Price was married in September, 1869, to Mary, daughter of Samuel and Eliza Caldwell. Their union has been blest with two children. He has one of the best farms upon the James river, and is one of the most prosperous farmers in that section. Col. Price is a gentleman of the old school and has the respect and confidence of all.

CAPT. F. E. WATTERSON. This gentleman was born March 21, 1827, in Hawkins county, Tenn. At the age of sixteen he was elected major of a regiment of Tennessee militia. In July, 1847, he enlisted for the war with Mexico, and was elected 1st-lieutetiant of company E, 6th Tennessee volunteers. He was mustered in at Knoxville in November, 1847, and discharged at Memphis, July 20th, 1848. During the war he served under Gens. Scott, Twiggs and Smith. Mr. Watterson was married November 24, 1848, to Miss Martha E. Galbreath. In the fall of 1851 he moved to Greene county, Missouri, where he engaged in farming until 1854, when he was appointed by the county court to fill a vacancy as justice of the peace, and acted until the general election. In 1858 he was appointed deputy sheriff, by Henry Matlock, and was deputy when a mob hung a negro in 1869. In 1860 he was reappointed deputy, by Sheriff T. A. Reed, and served until the spring of 1861. In May of that year he was elected captain of a company of Home Guards, and was on duty in Springfield when the battle of Wilson's Creek was fought. The Home Guards were then disbanded, and in November, 1861, he went with the Fremont retreat, as a citizen, to Rolla. During the winter he was a scout for the commander at Rolla, and in February, 1862, he was guide and scout for Gen. Curtis from Rolla to Pea Ridge. The remainder of the spring he was engaged in recruiting for the 8th Missouri cavalry, and elected 1st lieutenant of company L, and served as such until Jan. 22d, 1865, when he resigned at Little Rock, Ark., and returned to Greene county, where he has farmed ever since. He has served as constable of Taylor township for six years. Capt. Watterson is the father of eleven children, nine of whom are now living. Mrs. Watterson died March 3, 1878. [708]

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