History of Greene County, Missouri

R. I. Holcombe, Editing Historian

History of Missouri

Chapter 4: Title and Early Settlements

Title to Missouri Lands—Right of Discovery—Title of France and Spain—Cession to the United States—Territorial Changes—Treaties with Indians—First Settlement—Ste. Genevieve and New Bourbon—St. Louis—When Incorporated—Potosi—St. Charles—Portage des Sioux—New Madrid—St. Francois County—Perry—Mississippi—Loutre Island—"Boone's Lick"—Cote Sans Dessein—Howard County—Some First Things—Counties—When Organized.

The title to the soil of Missouri was, of course, primarily vested in the original occupants who inhabited the country prior to its discovery by the whites. But the Indians, being savages, possessed but few rights that civilized nations considered themselves bound to respect; so, therefore, when they found this country in the possession of such a people they claimed it in the name of the King of France, by the right of discovery. It remained under the jurisdiction of France until 1763.

Prior to the year 1763, the entire continent of North America was divided between France, England, Spain and Russia. France held all that portion that now constitutes our national domain west of the Mississippi River, except Texas, and the territory which we have obtained from Mexico and Russia. The vast region, while under the jurisdiction of France, was known as the "Province of Louisiana," and embraced the present State of Missouri. At the close of the "Old French War," in 1763, France gave up her share of the continent, and Spain came into the possession of the territory west of the Mississippi River, while Great Britain retained Canada and the regions northward, having obtained that territory by conquest, in the war with France. For thirty-seven years the territory now embraced within the limits of Missouri, remained as a part of the possession of Spain, and then went back to France by the treaty of St. Ildefonso, October 1, 1800. On the 30th of April, 1803, France coded it to the United States, in consideration of receiving $11,250,000, and the liquidation of certain claims, held by citizens of the United States against France, which amounted to the further sum of $3,750,000, making a total of $15,000,000. It will thus be seen that France has twice, and Spain once, held sovereignty over the territory embracing Missouri, but the financial needs of Napoleon afforded our Government an opportunity to add another empire to its domain. [21]

On the 31st of October, 1803, an act of Congress wag approved, authorizing the President to take possession of the newly acquired territory, and provided for it a temporary government, and another act, approved March 26, 1804, authorized the division of the "Louisiana Purchase," as it was then called, into two separate territories. All that portion south of the 33d parallel of north latitude was called the "Territory of Orleans," and that north of the said parallel was known as the "District of Louisiana," and was placed under the jurisdiction of what was then known as "Indian Territory."

By virtue of an act of Congress, approved March 3, 1805, the District of Louisiana " was organized as the "Territory of Louisiana," with a territorial government of its own, which went into operation July 4th of the same year, and it so remained till 1812. In this year the "Territory of Orleans " became the State of Louisiana, and the "Territory of Louisiana" war, organized as the "Territory of Missouri."

This change took place under an act of Congress, approved June 4, 1812. In 1819, a portion of this territory was organized as "Arkansas Territory," and on August 10, 1821, the State of Missouri was admitted, being a part of the former "Territory of Missouri."

In 1836, the "Platte Purchase," then being a part of the Indian Territory, and now composing the counties of Atchison, Andrew, Buchanan, Holt, Nodaway and Platte, was made by treaty with the Indians, and added to the State. It will be seen, then, that the soil of Missouri belonged:


To France, with other territory.


In 1763, with other territory, it was ceded to Spain.


October 1, 1800, it was ceded, with other territory from Spain, back to France


April 30, 1803, it was ceded, with other territory, by France to the United States.


October 31, 1803, a temporary Government was authorized by Congress for the newly acquired territory.


October 1, 1804, it was included in the "District of Louisiana" and placed under the territorial government of Indiana.


July 4, 1805, it was included as a part of the "Territory of Louisiana," then organized with a separate territorial government.


June 4, 1812, it was embraced in what was then made the "Territory of Missouri."


August 10 1821, it was admitted into the Union as a State.


In 1836, the "Platte Purchase" was made, adding more territory to the State.

The cession by France, April 30, 1803, vested the title in the United States, subject to the claims of the Indians, which it was very justly the policy of the Government to recognize. Before the Government of the United States could vest clear title to the soil in the grantee it was necessary to extinguish the Indian title by purchase. This was done accordingly by treaties made with the Indians at different times. [22-23]


The name of the first white man who set foot on the territory now embraced in the State of Missouri, is not known, nor is it known at what precise period the first settlements were made. It is, however, generally agreed that they were made at Ste. Genevieve and New Bourbon, tradition fixing the date of the settlements in the autumn of 1735. These towns were settled by the French from Kaskaskia and St. Philip in Illinois.

St. Louis was founded by Pierre Laclede Liguest, on the 15th of February, 1764. He was a native of France, and was one of the members of the company of Laclede Liguest, Antonio Maxant & Co., to whom a royal charter had been granted, confirming the privilege of an exclusive trade with the Indians of Missouri as far north as St. Peter's River.

While in search of a trading post he ascended the Mississippi as far as the mouth of the Missouri, and finally returned to the present town site of St. Louis. After the village had been laid off he named it St. Louis in honor of Louis XV., of France.

The colony thrived rapidly by accessions from Kaskaskia and other towns on the east side of the Mississippi, and its trade was largely increased by many of the Indian tribes, who removed a portion of their peltry trade from the same towns to St. Louis. It was incorporated as a town on the ninth day of November, 1809, by the Court of Common Pleas of the district of St. Louis; the town trustees being Auguste Chouteau, Edward Hempstead, Jean F. Cabanne, Wm. C. Carr and William Christy, and incorporated as a city December 9, 1822. The selection of the town site on which St. Louis stands was highly judicious, the spot not only being healthful and having the advantages of water transportation unsurpassed, but surrounded by a beautiful region of country, rich in soil and mineral resources. St. Louis has grown to be the fifth city in population in the Union, and is to-day the great center of internal commerce of the Missouri, the Mississippi and their tributaries, and, with its railroad facilities, it is destined to be the greatest inland city of the American continent. [23-24]

The next settlement was made at Potosi, in Washington County, in 1765, by Francis Breton, who, while chasing a bear, discovered the mine near the present town of Potosi, where he afterward located.

One of the most prominent pioneers who settled at Potosi was Moses Austin, of Virginia, who, in 1795, received by grant from the Spanish government a league of land, now known as the "Austin Survey." The grant was made on condition that Mr. Austin would establish a lead mine at Potosi and work it. He built a palatial residence, for that day, on the brow of the hill in the little village, which was for many years known as "Durham Hall." At this point the first shot-tower and sheet-lead manufactory were erected.

Five years after the founding of St. Louis the first settlement made in Northern Missouri was made near St. Charles, in St. Charles County, in 1769. The name given to it, and which it retained till 1784, was Les Petites Cotes, signifying, Little Hills. The town site was located by Blanchette, a Frenchman, surnamed LeChasseur, who built the first fort in the town and established there a military post.

Soon after the establishment of the military post at St. Charles, the old French village of Portage des Sioux, was located on the Mississippi, just below the mouth of the Illinois River, and at about the same time a Kickapoo village was commenced at Clear Weather Lake. The present town site of New Madrid, in New Madrid county, was settled in 1781, by French Canadians, it then being occupied by Delaware Indians., The place now known as Big River Mills, St. Francois county, was settled in 1796, Andrew Baker, John Alley, Francis Starnater and John Andrews, each locating claims. The following year, a settlement was made in the same county, just below the present town of Farmington, by the Rev. William Murphy, a Baptist minister from East Tennessee. In 1796, settlements were made in Perry county by emigrants from Kentucky and Pennsylvania; the latter locating in the rich bottom lands of Bois Brule, the former generally settling in the "Barrens," and along the waters of Saline Creek. [24]

Bird's Point, in Mississippi county, opposite Cairo, Illinois, was settled August 6, 1800, by John Johnson, by virtue of a land-grant from the commandant under the Spanish Government. Norfolk and Charleston, in the same county, were settled respectively in 1800 and 1801. Warren county was settled in 1801. Loutre Island, below the present town of Hermann, in the Missouri River, was settled by a few American families in 1807. This little company of pioneers suffered greatly from the floods, as well as from the incursions of thieving and blood-thirsty Indians, and many incidents of a thrilling character could be related of trials and struggles, had we the time and space.

In 1807, Nathan and Daniel M. Boone, sons of the great hunter and pioneer, in company with three others, went from St. Louis to "Boone's Lick," in Howard county, where they manufactured salt and formed the nucleus of a small settlement.

Cote Sans Dessein, now called Bakersville, on the Missouri River, in Callaway county, was settled by the French in 1801. This little town was considered at that time, as the "Far West" of the new world. During the war of 1812, at this place many hard-fought battles occurred between the whites and Indians, wherein woman's fortitude and courage greatly assisted in the defence of the settlement.

In 1810, a colony of Kentuckians numbering one hundred and fifty families immigrated to Howard county, and settled on the Missouri River in Cooper's Bottom near the present town of Franklin, and opposite Arrow Rock.

Such, in brief, is the history of some of the early settlements of Missouri, covering, a period of more than half a century.

These settlements were made on the water courses; usually along the banks of the two great streams, whose navigation afforded them transportation for their marketable commodities, and communication with the civilized portion of the country.

They not only encountered the gloomy forests, settling as they did by the river's brink, but the hostile incursion of savage Indians, by whom they were for many years surrounded.

The expedients of these brave men who first broke ground in the territory, have been succeeded by the permanent and tasteful improvements of their descendants. Upon the spots where they toiled, dared and died, are seen the comfortable farm, the beautiful village, and thrifty city. Churches and school houses greet the eye on every hand; railroads diverge in every direction, and, indeed, all the appliances of a higher civilization are profusely strewn over the smiling surface of the State. [25]

Culture's hand
Has scattered verdure o'er the land;
And smiles and fragrance rule serene,
Where barren wild usurped the scene.


The first marriage that took place in Missouri was April 20, 1766, in St. Louis.

The first baptism was performed in May, 1766, in St. Louis.

The first house of worship, (Catholic) was-erected in 1775, at St. Louis.

The first ferry established in 1805, on the Mississippi River, at St. Louis.

The first newspaper established in St. Louis (Missouri Gazette), in 1808.

The first postoffice was established in 1804, in St. Louis—Rufus Easton, post-master.

The first Protestant church erected at Ste. Genevieve, in 1806— Baptist.

The first bank established (Bank of St. Louis), in 1814.

The first market house opened in 1811, in St. Louis.

The first steamboat on the Upper Mississippi was the General Pike, Capt. Jacob Reid; landed at St. Louis 1817.

The first board of trustees for public schools appointed in 1817, St. Louis.

The first college built (St. Louis College), in 1817.

The first steamboat that came up the Missouri River as high as Franklin was the Independence, in May, 1819; Capt. Nelson, master.

The first court house erected in 1823, in St. Louis.

The first cholera appeared in St. Louis in 1832.

The first railroad convention held in St. Louis, April 20, 1836.

The first telegraph lines reached East St. Louis, December 20, 1847.

The first great fire occurred in St. Louis, 1849. [26]

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