AHGP Transcription Project

Caldwell County

Caldwell County, in the north western part of the State, is bounded north by Daviess, east by Livingston and Carroll, south by Ray, and west by Clinton and DeKalb Counties, and contains 275,480 acres.

In 1840, 1,458; in 1850, 2,316; in 1860, 5,034; in 1870, 11,390, of whom 11,106 were white and 284 colored; 5,959 male and 5,431 female; 10,715 native (4,072 born in Missouri), and 675 foreign.

Among the first of the bold and hardy frontiersmen who were attracted to what is now Caldwell County, by the fertility of the soil and the beauty of the broad rolling prairies, fringed about with belts of excellent timber, was Jesse Mann, who settled near the present site of Kingston in 1830. The same year, Rufus Middleton settled on Shoal Creek. In 1832 Zephaniah Woolsey, and in 1834 Robert White, Richard Beemer and ______ Logeton settled in the eastern portion of the county. They were joined by Thomas Skidmore in 1835, followed in 1836 by Wm. Boyce, Thos. Crandell, Abe Jones, Squire McGuire, Frank McGuire, and others. The county was organized December 26th, 1836, from a part of Ray. That year John Whitmer and a few others, who had been sent forward to look out for a Mormon home in the wilderness, where they would not be abused and persecuted by the Gentiles, selected the site of Far West, in the western portion of the county. The Mormons immediately began to flock in from Jackson and Clay Counties. The leading spirits among them were Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, John Carroll, Sidney Rigdon, Edward Partridge, W. W. Phelps, Philo Dibble, Elias Higbee, Oliver Cowdery, John Clemmison, John Daley, John and David Whitmer, and the Bozarths.

Far West was selected as the grand rallying point, and Joseph Smith and their chief officers were located there. It was to be one of the mighty cities of the world, and under the influence of their missionaries, who were canvassing all the Eastern States and many parts of Europe, the young city promised, much. Converts settled all over the county, and especially along the streams and belts of timber. Farm houses sprang up as if by magic, and the wilderness was in a few months transformed into a busy, promising industrial community. Their settlements extended into Livingston, Daviess and Clinton Counties, but Far West, their only town, was their commercial center, and became the county seat. In 1839 it contained from 2,500 to 3,000 inhabitants. In 1837, the Mormons began work on what was intended to be one of the most magnificent temples in the United States. In the center of the town a large square had been laid off as the site of the temple. It was approached by four main streets, each 100 feet wide. In 1838 the corner stone was laid with great ceremony, but the temple was never built.

The prosperity of the Mormon settlement had drawn thither many good and industrious men, and also many desperadoes and thieves, who soon obtained full sway in their councils. They boldly declared that "the Lord had given the earth and the fullness thereof to His people," and that they were "His people," and consequently had the right to take whatsoever they pleased from the Gentiles. In pursuance of this declaration of rights, bands of the more lawless of them strolled about the country, taking what they pleased. As they largely outnumbered the Gentiles, and as the county officers were mostly Mormons, they were enabled to act with impunity until their lawless course excited the indignation of the other settlers, who, not being able to obtain justice in a lawful manner, also resorted to mob violence and retaliation in kind, until many a dark and unlawful deed was perpetrated on both sides.

In 1839, the discord became so great, and the clamor for the expulsion of the Mormons so imperative, that Gov. Boggs issued a proclamation, ordering Maj. Gen. David R. Atchison to call out the militia of his division to put down the insurgents and enforce the laws. He called out a part of the 1st brigade of the Missouri State Militia, under command of Gen. Alex. W. Doniphan, who proceeded at once to the seat of war. The militia were placed under the command of Gen. John B. Clark. The Mormon forces, numbering about 1,000 men, were led by G. W. Hinkle. The first skirmish took place at Crooked River, in the south western part of the county, but the principal engagement was fought at Haun's Mills, 5 miles south of the present site of Breckenridge. The Mormons of the eastern portion of the county had concentrated there and entrenched themselves in the mill and in the blacksmith shop, where the militia, numbering about 125 men, attacked and captured them. One militia man was wounded and 18 of the Mormons killed, some of them after their surrender.

When the militia appeared at Far West, where the principal Mormon forces were gathered, Jos. Smith surrendered, agreeing to Gen. Doniphan's conditions, viz.: That they should deliver up their arms, surrender their prominent leaders for trial, and that the remainder of the Mormons should, with their families, leave the State.

The leaders were taken before a court of inquiry at Richmond, Judge Austin A. King presiding. He remanded them to Daviess County, to await the action of the grand jury on a charge of treason against the State. The Daviess County jail being poor, they were confined at Liberty. Indictments were found against Jos. Smith, Hyrum Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Lyman Wright, Col. Hinkle, _____ Baldwin and _____ Lyman. Sidney Rigdon was released on a writ of habeas corpus. The others requested a change of venue, and Judge King sent their cases to Boone County for trial. On their way to Columbia, under a military guard, Jos. Smith and his fellow prisoners effected their escape. It is claimed, and generally believed, that the guard was bribed.

In connection with the removal of the remainder of the Mormons, according to the terms of the surrender, there were many terrible scenes. Many of the Mormons were poor and had invested their all in lands from which they were about to be driven. Valuable farms were traded for an old wagon, a horse, a yoke of oxen, or anything offered that would furnish means of transportation. In many instances conveyances of lands were demanded and enforced at the muzzle of the pistol or the rifle. At this time there were about 5,000 inhabitants in the county, nearly 4,000 being Mormons, most of whom went to Nauvoo.

In 1842, the county seat was moved from Far West to Kingston, named in honor of Gov. Austin A. King. Immigrants flocked in to occupy the homes deserted by the Mormons.

In 1859, the Hannibal & St. Joseph Rail Road was completed through the county, giving direct communication with eastern markets. Prior to that time goods had to be brought from the Missouri River.

On April 19th, 1860, the court house, with all its records, except those of the probate court, was burned.

In July, 1864, the Confederates, under Maj. Thrailkill, entered the south eastern part of the county, capturing Peyton Davis, whom they compelled to act as guide. The Home Guards were at Daniel Michael's awaiting their commander, Captain Fortune. They were surprised by the Confederates, who, on their march thither, had shot John Phillips and Joseph Kain, and severely wounded Daniel Toomey. A part of the Home Guard escaped, and those captured were soon released through the representations of Judge S. D. Davis and others. Thrailkill marched to Tinney's Grove, thence into Carroll County, and two days later returned to Kingston. The Home Guards, finding themselves outnumbered, withdrew to Hamilton, and many of the citizens took to the brush.

The Confederates broke open the court house vault and safe, taking therefrom about $8,000 belonging to the school fund. They burned all papers relating to the enrollment of the militia, but did not harm the other records. They broke open and rifled the store of Northup & Lewis. Among the citizens captured at Kingston were John C. Lillard, James M. Hoskinson, George Young and Hugh Chain. From Kingston they proceeded to Mirabile, breaking open the stores and scattering the goods in the streets, and took from Dr. Crawford's safe, which they broke open, a large sum of money. The next day they passed on to Plattsburg.

Physical Features
Shoal Creek, the principal stream, runs through the central portion of the county from west to east, and with its numerous small tributaries, affords an abundant supply of water for stock. Crooked River drains the extreme southwestern corner of the county. The creeks are skirted with timber, so that the supply is ample for all reasonable wants of an agricultural community, and it is so evenly dispersed over the county that there are few sections of land destitute of wood. The prairies are gently rolling. The soil is a deep, rich, black, sandy loam of great fertility. There are not 100 acres of non-arable land in the county.

The Agricultural Productions are corn, wheat, rye, oats, barley, the various grasses, which are a never failing crop, and cattle, horses, mules, sheep and hogs. It is one of the finest grazing counties in the State, owing to the very nutritious grasses. The soil is well adapted to fruit growing, and there are several fine vineyards in the county.

Mineral Resources
The county is well supplied with a superior quality of building stone, which is shipped to many of the cities and towns along the Hannibal & St. Joseph Rail Road.

The Manufacturing Interests are mentioned in connection with the various towns in which they are located.

Valuation of the county per census of 1870, $7,000,000.*

The Hannibal & St. Joseph Rail Road traverses the northern part, and has 26 miles of track in the county.

The Exports are corn, cattle, hogs, wheat, hay, potatoes, etc.

Educational Interests
School houses dot the prairies in every direction, and are mostly new and commodious. At the principal towns there are high schools of a superior order.

Caldwell County Places in 1875

Black Oak, 12 miles south east of Kingston, has 1 general store. Population about 25.

Breckenridge, 11 miles east of Hamilton, on the Hannibal & St. Joseph Rail Road, laid out in 1858 by J. B. Terrill, Henry Gist and James A. Price, is the second town in the county, and has 1 large steam flouring mill, 1 brewery, 1 broom, 1 cabinet, 3 carriage and 1 plow factory, and about 20 stores; 1 lumber yard, 2 hotels, 1 bank, 1 large grain depot, 5 church buildings, with 7 organized church societies. Several of the business houses are substantial brick structures. The private residences are mostly new, neat and comfortable. The school house is a fine two story brick building, with capacity for 400 pupils, and cost about $15,000. The town does a large business in shipping grain, cattle, and hogs.

Catawba, is a post office 10 miles east of Kingston.

Hamilton, on the Hannibal & St. Joseph Rail Road, 156 miles from Hannibal and Quincy, 50 miles from St. Joseph, 69 miles from Kansas City, and 249 from St. Louis, is the principal commercial town, and the shipping point for Kingston and the interior portions of the county. The surrounding country is beautiful, undulating prairie, very fertile and productive.
The town was settled in the spring of 1855, and incorporated in 1868. From 1856 to 1858 it contained only three families, in 1859 and 1860 it improved a great deal, but during the war made little progress; since its close, emigration from the East has poured in, until now (1874) it contains about 1,400 inhabitants. It has 1 steam flouring mill, 1 wind grist and feed mill, 3 wagon, 1 cooper and 3 harness shops, 3 hotels, 2 commission houses, about 30 stores, 1 bank, 2 lumber yards, 1 grain elevator, 10 dealers and shippers of live stock, 1 brick yard, 1 newspaper and job printing office, The News, M. A. Low, editor and proprietor; 1 school building, erected in 1871 at a cost of $15,000; 4 church buildings, M. E. church, Presbyterian, Congregational and Episcopal.

Kidder, on the Hannibal & St. Joseph Rail Road, 7 miles west of Hamilton, has about 300 inhabitants. It has 3 stores, 1 foundry and machine shop, 1 hotel and 2 church buildings. It is in the center of a most delightful country, is settled chiefly by New England people, and is the location of Thayer College, under the patronage of the Congregational Church.

KINGSTON, 8 miles south south west of Hamilton, has been the county seat since 1842. It has about 500 inhabitants, and contains a good court house and jail, 12 stores, 3 wagon and blacksmith shops, 1 boot and shoe manufactory, 2 churches, 1 hotel, 1 fine two story brick school house, 1 steam saw and grist mill, and 2 newspapers, The Sentinel, Mills & Spivey, publishers, A. B. Mills, editor and The Citizen, J. T. Lentzy, editor.

Mirabile, 7 miles south west of Kingston, in the most thickly settled portion of the county, has 4 stores, 1 hotel, and several churches. Population about 200.

Nettleton, on the Hannibal & St. Joseph Rail Road, 5 miles east of Hamilton, has 1 general store.

Polo, 7 miles south of Kingston, a new and brisk town, has 3 stores, 1 wagon and carriage manufactory, and a flouring mill. Population about 50.

Proctorville, 14 miles east of Kingston and 8 miles south of Breckenridge, named in honor of Dr. Daniel Proctor, an old and influential citizen, has 1 general store, a steam flouring and saw mill, a church, school house, etc.

*Assessed valuation in 1873, $3,799,173.

Source: Campbell's Gazetteer of Missouri, Revised Edition, by R. A. Campbell, Published by R. A. Campbell,
St. Louis, Missouri, 1875

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