History of Greene County, Missouri

R. I. Holcombe, Editing Historian

Chapter 2
From the Organization of the County to 1840.

Part 2
The Osage War. 1837—Miscellaneous History— "Blessed Are the Peacemakers" — More Indian Disturbances — The "Sarcoxie War" — "Gen. Smith, from Springfield" — Miscellany, 1838 — Items — Incorporation of Springfield — Benton and Ozark Townships — Springfield in 1838 — Killing of J. Renno by Randolph Britt, 1839 — Miscellaneous Events and Incidents


In the winter of 1836-37, numerous bands of the Osage Indians were located in certain portions of Greene county, and their presence was distasteful to the settlers. Col. Chas. S. Yancey, then in command of a regiment of Greene county militia, was ordered by Gov. Boggs to compel the Indians to retire across the State line and ever after to remain on their own territory. This was done, says Col. Gilmore, in order to protect the settlers and prevent a collision among them and the Indians.

Lt. Col. Chesley Cannefax and Capt. Henry Fulbright accompanied Col. Yancey on his mission to notify the Indians to leave the country. The colonel had wisely concluded to postpone calling out the troops until it should be determined that they were necessary, and had decided to go in person among the Osages and inform them that their room was preferable to their company. The three officers set out for the Indian camps to the south and southwest, one clear cold morning, accompanied by a negro boy named Charley, who had been raised among, the Delawares, and was well versed in the Indian dialects, and who was taken along on this occasion to act as interpreter. [179]

The party stopped the first night out with Wm. Brooks, near where Linden now stands. Brooks went with them next day, and they camped the second day out on Bryant's fork of the North fork of White river. That night snow fell to the depth of about eighteen inches. In the morning Brooks abandoned the party, much to their discontent, as he was a great hunter, and familiar with the country through which Yancey was going in search of Indians. Indeed, the rest hesitated about going, on or returning, but concluded to push on.

Near the mouth of Flat Creek, in what is now Stone county, Col. Yancey came upon the first party of Indians, of whom there was a considerable number, all mounted on ponies and engaged in a bear hunt. Col. Yancey was dressed in full regimentals, with cocked hat, sword, sash, epaulets and plumes, and presented quite an imposing appearance, which he had calculated would quite favorably impress, if indeed it did not overcome the display-loving savages. The Indians halted, huddled together, gazed at the party a few moments in utter silence, then, raising a shrill and peculiar yell, galloped rapidly away past the officers, without speaking or giving any heed to Charley, who called after them in their own language. The Indian yell was answered, and caught up and repeated, from all quarters of the compass but the north, a circumstance that occasioned Col. Yancey's party no little uneasiness.

The party rode on after the Indians, although they hardly knew how to interpret their strange conduct. Speaking of the affair afterwards, Col. Cannefax said: "I did not like the signs, and, as I rode up alongside Col. Yancey, I looked to see if there was any change in his face, and I thought there was; but, if we were both scared, neither of us spoke our thoughts."

At length, after certain surprises and much perturbation of feeling, the officers reached the camp of the Indians, where by this time the whole of them had collected, and had made a startling savage toilet of beads, feathers, deer-hoofs and other Indian finery, presumably to be able to meet Col. Yancey in an appropriate manner with all of his pomp and circumstance. From his dress the Indians had concluded that the Colonel must be a person of great consequence, perhaps the "Great Chief" himself from Washington. [180]

The visitors were cordially received and conducted immediately to the tent of the chief, who was named Naw-paw-i-ter, to whom, through Charley, the interpreter, they delivered their message. Naw-paw-i-ter expressed regret on account of the condition of some of his people, that he must move at once in such inclement weather, but added that be was willing to do so if the whites desired him. There were in the camp about 100 Indian men, and as many squaws and papooses. In consideration of the women and children, the whites were asked to allow a few days' delay until the weather moderated. Col. Yancey very readily and very generously consented to this, giving a written permission to the Indians to remain where they were for a few days or until the extreme cold snap had passed. After being hospitably, if not bountifully entertained at the Indian camp of Naw-paw-i-ter, Col. Yancey and his party started the next morning to complete their mission.

Some days were spent in search of other hands, when, coming around to the saw-mill about 35 miles southwest of Springfield, in Barry county, they were startled to find all of the scattering hunting parties of Indians in the southwest part of the State collected together and seemingly engaged in preparation for some important enterprise. One Indian rode about brandishing his tomahawk and bow and arrows, and now and then making indecent gestures toward the whites. As the assemblage had the appearance of a war council, Col. Yancey and his aids, held a council to determine what they should do. The Colonel and Maj. Fulbright wished to be gentle with the Indians, to visit them as they had visited Naw-paw-i-ter, and induce them by fair speeches to return to their reservation. Col. Cannefax, however, thought the occasion demanded the use of something more than mere words. He wished to return home and rouse the militia and then visit the Indians, prepared to enforce any demands that might be made upon them. His counsel was at last adopted and the party rode rapidly back to Springfield.

Arriving at home, the entire neighborhood about the county seat was thoroughly aroused. Rifles were speedily put in order, bullets were run, provisions prepared, and everything done to put the county in fighting trim. Everybody lent a helping hand, and in thirty-six hours more than a hundred men, well mounted and armed, were at Ozark, on the Finley, in Christian county, confronting the Indians. The latter were much more numerous than the whites, but were armed, for the most part, with but bows and arrows. [181]

As Col. Yancey's force moved forward the Indians began to retreat toward their reservation. The Colonel pushed rapidly after them, proceeding cautiously, however, and on the second evening overtook them on the west side of the James river, not far from the mouth of Finley creek. The militia were at once drawn up in line close to the Indians, and a demand was made of the chief, that his men should deliver up their arms, as security against hostilities. This he refused, for some time, to submit to, but, finding that he must consent or fight, he finally yielded, and set the example by coming forward and laying his bow and arrows on the ground. His example was followed by most of the warriors, but some of the younger ones refused, and were compelled, with difficulty, to give up their arms.

Some of the white men behaved very rudely toward some of the squaws. To Yancey's honor, be it said that he showed such severity towards the offenders that this did not occur the second time.

The Indians at last reluctantly agreed that their guns might be rendered temporarily unserviceable, and after this had been done by the removal of the flints from the locks, and ramming a naked bullet tight into the barrel of each, they were returned to their owners, and the Indians were then compelled to resume their march towards the setting sun, as they had, no doubt, often been required to do before. The next day or two were bitter cold, and the women and children suffered much, especially while crossing Oliver's prairie.

In two or three days more the State line was reached, and after admonishing the redskins not to return again, the militia started homeward. The same day they were overtaken by an Osage chief, accompanied by a white man named Matthews, who begged them to return to attend a council of their chiefs, which had been called, they said, to consult with the white men. This Colonel Yancey refused to do, saying that he had no power to treat with them.

When the militia returned to Springfield they found that there was most intense excitement in the little town and throughout the county, caused by rumors that a general Indian war had commenced, and that the community was liable to an attack at any moment. The women, and children of Springfield—and a few men, too,—were greatly terrified, and Maj. Berry, who was then the most prominent merchant in this place, came very near packing off his whole stock of goods to some other place for safe keeping. No hostilities followed, however, and Southwest Missouri had no trouble with Indians ever after of any serious consequence and results: Thus ended the "Osage War" in Greene county. [182]


At the February meeting of the county court the 16th sections of tp. 28, range 22, and tp. 27 range 21, were ordered to be sold. The 16th section of every congressional township had been reserved for school purposes, and placed under the control of the county court. D. D. Berry was unanimously re-elected county treasurer, and allowed $35 for his services the previous year.

And now the county began the expenditure of its road and bridge fund. Sitting as a board of internal improvements, the county court appropriated $100 for building bridges across Nowlin's and Click's branches, on the State road leading from Springfield in the direction of Arkansas, "and for other necessary improvements on said road," and C. D. Terrell was appointed commissioner to superintend the bridge building. What kind of bridges, two in number, could be built for $100, besides allowing a sum for "other improvements," may he conjectured, but cannot here be described. The further sum of $100, "out of the road and canal fund," was appropriated for building a bridge across "the town branch, north of the public square, at Springfield," and D. B. Miller was appointed commissioner to superintend the building of the same. These were the first bridges which the county ever built or assisted in building.

March 13,— Boone township was organized, and a voting place established "at the Polk place."

In May Judge Yancey resigned as presiding justice of the county court and was succeeded by Judge Dollison. At the same session Thos. Flannery and Isaac Cook appeared in the court-room, "and treating said court with great contempt, were fined one dollar each and costs." It is said that Cook and Flannery were drunk, and engaged in a quarrel in the presence of their worships, the county justices, and when ordered to become quiet, offered to "pitch into" the court itself. — D. B. Miller, the town commissioner, paid into the treasury in this month the sum of $847.73, the proceeds of the sale of town lots. At that time the public square was covered with timber, which the court was petitioned by sundry inhabitants of the county to have "cleared off." The petition was refused, the judges deeming it fit and proper that the few trees which had not been out off should be spared to give shade and add to the general attractiveness of the square.—It required 43 days to complete the assessment of the county in this year, for which work Samuel Martin was paid $2 per day. — In July Joseph Weaver was appointed county justice in the room of Judge Yancey, who had resigned in May to accept the appointment of Major General of the Militia of Southwest Missouri. [183]


In the winter of 1837 Chesley Cannefax, John P. Campbell, Judge Yancey, Ev. Hollinsworth, and Henry, Ephraim, and Dan Fulbright went to Texas with the intention of emigrating to that republic—for it was then a republic. In the course of that trip there came very near being a shooting scrape between Campbell and Henry Fulbright, but this was averted and the quarrel settled by that noted peacemaker, Judge Yancey.


About this time—that is to say in the summer of 1837—occurred certain other Indian disturbances in this portion of Missouri, which created great excitement among, the settlers of Greene county. The outrages perpetrated in Indian warfare were so well known and understood by the early settlers, that the barest probability of a war with the red men at once excited the gravest apprehensions and sometimes the wildest alarm. This portion of the frontier was open and altogether exposed to a raid from the Territory, and not once or twice, but often, had reports, devised by sundry wicked persons, come that the savages were on the war path. The whites in this country determined to take no chances with the knights of the tomahawk; upon the first manifestations of crooked conduct they were to be checked summarily and completely.

The Delawares out at the Town had uniformly been peaceable, quiet, and very friendly, and nobody was afraid of them. There were Indians, however, from the Territory and elsewhere who came in from time to time in roving, bands, whom it was well to watch. Sometime in June a strolling band of Senecas, from the Indian Territory, stole some horses and appropriated some other property from certain citizens of the country now embraced in Jasper and Newton counties, then in Barry county, and from certain citizens of where is now Dade county, then in Polk county, and when asked to make restitution, refused, and made certain threatening demonstrations. A settler named Thatcher, living on Cedar creek, was visited one day by an Indian who wanted to trade "squaws" with him. Thatcher knocked the Indian down, and then drove him from his premises. The next day, as he was at work in his field, a shot was fired and a rifle ball whizzed by Thatcher's ear. [184]

The alarm was given and the county court of Polk county ordered Maj. L. A. Williams1 to take command of a company of militia, hastily raised for the purpose, and proceed against the Indians and march them out of the State. Captain Williams, as he was then called, accomplished the object as far as Polk county was concerned, without any difficulty, and, after an absence of about thirty days, returned home and disbanded his company.

At this time, under the militia laws of the State, every able-bodied man over 18 years of age and under 45 was required to enroll in the State militia and to drill regularly three or four times a year. The officers of the companies, battalions, regiments, brigades, and divisions were elected by the men and commissioned by the Governor. Southwest Missouri then formed the 7th division and the militia of Greene county composed the first brigade, while the second brigade was composed of Polk and some of the other counties adjacent. The first or organization of these counties under this arrangement was in 1837, and the following were the first general officers elected: Major General of the Division, Joseph Powell; Brigadier General of the lat Brigade, N. E. Smith; Brigadier General of the 2d Brigade, Abner Nall.

Just about the time that Capt. Williams expelled the Senecas, trouble broke out with the Osage Indians, a large body of which tribe had gathered in large numbers near Sarcoxie, and were acting suspiciously. General Powell at once called out the whole military force of his division and marched against the savages, and came upon them unexpectedly and to their great surprise. After but little negotiating and parleying the Indians were marched out of the State and into their own territory, and made to give solemn assurances that they would not return without permission. They stoutly persisted in their innocence of any evil intent in common into the State, saying they had only come to hunt and fish; declared they knew nothing of any stolen horses, or other property, and averred that they had always been and would always be the faithful friends of the whites. After an absence of about fifteen days Gen. Powell marched his division home and the Greene county troops were disbanded and permitted to return to work in their fields.
1 Commonly known as Dr. Williams and afterwards a prominent citizen of Springfield.

This was known as the "Sarcoxie War," and was a very nice sort of a war, being one in which no human blood was shed or any serious casualties suffered. The reports of the outbreak were greatly exaggerated from the start. The Indians had done nothing, and doubtless intended doing nothing to harm the settlers, and all of the alarm and uneasiness, the mustering, the arming, and the marching, were for nothing. General Powell marched out to Sarcoxie and then, like the famous "King of France," straightway "marched back again."

The Greene county troops in the "Sarcoxie War" did not like Gen. Powell, who was very inexperienced in military matters, and committed many breaches of military law and discipline. Upon charges preferred by Gen. Smith, of the Greene county brigade, Gen. Powell was afterward tried by a military commission and dismissed from the State service, being succeeded by Gen. Nelson and then by Col. Chas. S. Yancey, of this county.

Of Gen. N. R. Smith it is related that he was not a thorough military man himself. On one occasion after dark a militiaman, who had seen service in the regular army, was standing guard around the camp of the 1st brigade. Gen. Smith approached and attempted to pass the lines. "Halt!" cried out the faithful sentinel. " Who comes there?" "A friend," was the reply. "Advance and give the countersign," demanded the guard. "I haven't the countersign," returned the General, "but I am General Smith, from Springfield, and it's all right." "Halt!" again the sentinel shouted, adding, "I don't care if you are General Smith, from hell, you can't pass here without the countersign." The latter remark, albeit somewhat profane, became a by-word in the camp, and indeed was remembered long after the "Sarcoxie War" was over.


No returns of the August election for this year are to be found save the vote of Campbell township for assessor, which was as follows: Gray Wills, 102; Samuel Martin, 49. Wills was elected. An additional $100 was appropriated in August to complete the bridge over Click's branch. August 10th, Robberson township was created, and an election precinct established at the house of Elizabeth Robberson. About the 1st of December government land in Greene county first came into market, it having previously been withheld, and many entries were made in Campbell township. Up to this time but little business had been transacted at the Springfield land office, only 240 cash entries having been made. At the close of the year it was found that the receipts of the county treasury during the year had been $582.13—; the expenditures, $496.11, being $82.02— in favor of the receipts but deducting this balance from the last year's deficiency still left the county in debt to the amount of $274. [186]

During the year 1837 the following were the merchants and grocers doing business in Greene county, the merchants being understood to be dealers in general merchandise, and the grocers to sell no dry-goods: Merchants. — C. A. Hayden, Campbell & Hunt, Harper Glanville, D. D. Berry, Danforth & Bros., Fulbright & Butler, Carey & Perkins, Brown & George, and B. H. & J. C. Boone. Grocers. —R. J. McElhany, Jas. Y. Warren, B. W. Cannefax & Co., Alex. Hollingsworth, J. W. Ball, and A. H. Payne.


In February Gray Wills became county assessor, Chesley Cannefax, collector, and Daniel D. Berry, treasurer. Upon petition of the inhabitants, the 16th sections in ranges 21 and 23, in township 30, were offered for sale by the county court. January 23, Town Commissioner D. B. Miller sold $125.25 worth of town lots in Springfield.


February 19th, of this year, occurred the first incorporation of the town of Springfield. The population of the place was about 250 at the time, and the incorporation was made in response to a petition signed by nearly every voter residing therein. The metes and bounds, as established by the county court, were as follows:

Beginning 25 rods west of the northwest corner of the northwest quarter of section 24, township 29, range 22; thence east 155 rods to a stake; thence south 135 rods to a stake; thence west 155 rods to a stake; thence north to the beginning.

The territory included within these boundaries was declared to be "a body politick and corporate by the name and style of the inhabitants of the town of Springfield." The first board of trustees was composed of Joel H. Haden, Daniel D. Berry, Sidney S. Ingram, Robert W. Crawford and Joseph Jones. [187]


May 9, the county court created two new townships, Benton and Ozark, whose boundaries were established as follows: Benton.—Beginning on the line between ranges 20 and 21 on the south boundary of Greene county; thence running east to the southeast corner of said county; thence north with said county line to the divide between James' fork and Finley; thence down said ridge to the line between ranges 20 and 21; thence south with said range line to the beginning.

Ozark. —Commencing at the northeast corner of Benton township; thence north with the county line to the northeast corner of the county; thence west with the boundary line to the center of range 20; thence south to the northwest boundary of Benton township.

Benton township was composed of territory now included in the townships of that name in the counties of Christian and Webster; Ozark comprised the eastern portion of the county, now in Webster. Elections were held at Campbell Steward's, in Benton, with Steward, Wm. Friend and Henry Mallock, judges; and in Ozark, at Thos. B. Patterson's, with Thos. Neaves, Robert Patterson and John Bell for judges.

Meantime, the work of building the court-house at Springfield had been progressing very fairly. In December, E. F. Roberts, who had the contract for the wood work, was paid $925 for work done to date. S. S. Ingram, the superintendent, resigned and was paid $75 for his services the past year.


During the year 1838 Springfield, the county seat of Greene, prospered very fairly. People had grown to be confident that it was to be the permanent capital of the county, and were not loth to invest in residences and business houses. The incorporation of the town did much to give it character and standing, and in addition a great deal of business was transacted in its stores and other business houses. The following were the business firms, the nature of their business, and the amount of tax paid by each in the year 1838:

 Name of Firm/Business

Amt. of Tax

Name of Firm/Business

Amt. of Tax

Flournoy & Hickman, mer


Casebolt & Stallings, "


D. D. Berry, "


Isaac Sander, "


B. W. Cannefax, "


Jacob Bodenhamer, "


Campbell & Hunt, "


John P. Campbell, grocer


Danforth & Bros., "


Casebolt & Stallings, grocer


John Pullian & Co., "


B. H. & J. C. Boone, grocer


John P. Campbell, "


John Edwards, grocer


C. A. Haden & Co. "


Joshua Jones, grocer


Cannefax & Co., "


C. A. Haden, grocer


Wm. & L. H. Davis, "





As Mr. Escott says, in his historical sketch, the term, "merchant" included dealers in dry goods, boots and shoes, hats, caps, gents' furnishing goods, clothing, groceries and provisions, hardware, tinware, and everything usually kept in a country store, from a paper of pins to a stick of candy. The "groceries" kept a few articles in the way of family groceries and provisions, but their chief staple was whisky, which was dispensed by the dram, pint, quart or gallon. Brandy and wine were common, but lager beer was unknown at that day.


In the summer of 1838 another homicide occurred here which created a good deal of feeling in the community. This was the killing of Mr. J. Renno by Randolph Britt. The latter, with a number of the then citizens of Springfield, was in the grocery store of which Maj. R. J. McElhany was proprietor, eating and drinking. Lucius Rountree, observing the crowd assembled and wanting to have some sport of the rough sort, then very common, told Renno to go into McElhany's and "clean it out." Renno, always ready for such work, accordingly went in, and, happening to seize Britt first, a scuffle ensued between them, in the course of which Renno suddenly cried out, "He is sticking me with a knife!" and fell. It turned out to be too true; he had been fatally stabbed, by Britt, and died in a few minutes afterward. Britt for some time afterwards did not seem conscious of the nature of his act, and when he did realize it wept bitterly, after exclaiming that he had rather Renno had killed him. The truth probably was that the homicide was, at the time of giving the fatal blow, so much intoxicated that he hardly knew what he was doing.

Britt had to be protected. by a strong guard after this affair, or his life would have been taken to satisfy the vengeance of Renno's friends and relatives. Much feeling was excited about the matter. His counsel got a change of venue to Benton county, and he was tried at Warsaw, convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to the penitentiary for a term of years; but was soon pardoned by the Governor of the State. He afterwards lived and died in Greene county. [189]


Hoover's mill having been put up on Finley, this year, furnished facilities for grinding hitherto unenjoyed by the settlers, and was visited for a long distance. The voting place for Finley township was also established there in May, being removed from Frizzell's.—Several roads were established through the county and into other counties this year, thus opening, communication with the outer world. Among others a new road was established "to Jefferson and Boonville, by way of the Pumly tar" (Poname de Terre), another "to St. Louis from the south part of the county," and another "a change in the road to Fayetteville and on south."—In November E. F. Roberts received $750 on wood-work done in the court-house, by which it appears that that building was not completed at that time.


At the November term of this year the county court of Greene county made the following order:

Ordered by the Court —That the act concerning groceries, passed at the last session of the Legislature, and approved February 13, 1839, be and the same is hereby repealed and of no effect in the county of Greene.

This order of the court has uniformly been laughed at whenever discovered and read by those unacquainted with all of the circumstances. It seems very preposterous that a county court should "repeal" an act of the Legislature and declare it of "no effect" in the county wherein the court sat. But a little explanation and information will set things aright.

"The act concerning groceries," referred to by the Greene county court, regulated the sale of ardent spirits in this State. It may be found in the "Laws of Missouri, of the 1st session of the 10th General Assembly," section 48 of which is as follows:

SEC. 48. The county courts may, at any term of their court, exempt their county from the operation of this act by an order directing that the same shall not extend to or be in force in their county; and upon such order being made and recorded, this act shall not extend to or be in force in said county.

It will be seen that the court had ample warrant and authority for setting aside the act of the Legislature, although the language of the order might have been made a little clearer and somewhat more intelligible to the general reader. "Those laugh best who laugh last."

Elections.—At a special election in June, Thomas Horn was elected sheriff over Joseph Burden, and in August John L. McCraw was elected surveyor over B. T. Nowlin, E. F. Roberts, and John C. Farmer, and Daniel Cotner was elected assessor over Samuel Martin and Elisha Headlee. [190]

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