Volume 1, Number 4 - Summer 1962

Christian County Historical Briefs

At the time Christian County was formed, March 8, 1859, some 5490 people occupied, more or less, the 359,040 acres composing the area. Of these, only about 100 resided in Ozark, the new county seat designated by Commissioners Archibald Payne of Greene County, John H. Hight of Wright County, and Samuel D. Nelson of Stone County. As late as 1870 less than one-tenth of the new county's acreage had been cleared for crops. Much of this 10 percent was in the sparsely treed prairie sections west of Ozark and Sparta to the Lawrence County line.

Christian County's first court house, a frame structure on the north side of the Ozark public square, was burned with all records August 20, 1865. Blame was placed on an indicted felon, who thus hoped to escape prosecution. On the following day the county court met in regular session. Present were E. H. Cornog and Wil liam Saunders, justices (the third justice, a Confederate slave-owner named Jesse A. Marley, had previously moved with his family to Texas); Sheriff William Friend; and Clerk John Mc. Pettijohn. Among other business the court ordered:

"Whereas the Court House together with all the Records and proceeding of this Court had been destroyed by fire, It is ordered that the Clerk procure Record books and Stationary Necessary to supply the Records of this County so destroyed; and it is further ordered that the Clerk procure a temporary office as near the Public Square as may be until an office can be furnished for the same."

The court further arranged for borrowing funds to carry on county business, for new bonds to be filed by county officials, for new copies of the Stray list to be turned in by all justices of the peace, for new plats of Ozark, and eventually for the erection of a new courthouse. Those holding deeds to their real property were asked to bring them in for recording.

A question probing the attitude of voters was submitted along with names of candidates for public office in Christian County's first election in 1860. The question: Shall Missouri secede from the Union? The result: For secession, 108; against, 800.

First settlers in the territory now embraced in Christian County, Missouri, were members of the Pettijohn family. John and William Pettijohn. traveled overland in 1820 from their home in Gallia County, Ohio, on a trapping expedition. They liked the Finley- James rivers country because of its natural abundance and in 1822, John Jr. settled there and was soon followed by his father's family. Lynn Tunnell, now living in Ozark, is a grandson of the younger Pettijohn on his mother's side.

So far as can be determined, no Indian tribe claimed the territory now embraced in Christian County as its tribal hunting ground. However, the Osages, a migratory tribe, had several well organized encampments along Swan Creek and Finley River where they camped during the hunting seasons. In the autumn of 1822 a tribe of Delawares migrated from white pressure in Indiana and settled on James River in western Christian County. They remained here a decade before moving on to the Kaw Purchase in Kansas.

The first church in Christian County was organized in 1833 by a Methodist circuit rider named McMahon at the home of William Friend at Linden on Finley River. (Friend was to be the first sheriff of the county in 1859.)

Christian County's first water mills for grinding corn were set up in 1833 by James Kimberling, Sr., on the Finley at the present site of Ozark, the other on Bull Creek by his son, James Kimberling, Jr.

Glendale on Bull Creek was the first public school in the area to be included in Christian County. It was started in 1847, followed in 1850 by Enterprise a few miles up stream.


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