AHGP Transcription Project

Lawrence County

Lawrence County, in the south-western part of the State, is bounded north by Dade County, east by Greene, Christian, and Stone, south by Barry, and west by Newton and Jasper Counties, and contains 384,000 acres.

Population in 1850, 4,859; in 1860, 8,846; in 1870, 13,067, of whom 12,808 were white, and 2,599 colored; 6,634 male, and 6,433 female; 12,829 native (6,154 born in Missouri), and 238 foreign.

A number of families accompanied Judge John Williams from Tennessee in 1831, but on reaching the creek and "breaks" near the eastern part of the county, all turned back disheartened, except the Judge and his son, Samuel S. Williams, whereupon the creek was called Turnback, and still bears that name. Mr. S. S. Williams settled on Spring River, 2 miles west of Mount Vernon, and was joined the same year by Geo. M. Gibson and Daniel Lee. From that time to 1839, many moved in, among whom were Alfred Moore, William Wright, George Hill, A. B. Baugh, Jesse Duncan, Ad. Whipple, Sampson Wright, Wm. Jennings, John W. Moore, Robert Jennings, Jesse Williamson and Joseph W. Ellis-the four last-named still living. Mr. Joseph W. Ellis may be mentioned as one of the pioneer teachers of the Southwest. He opened a school in the William's settlement in 1839, and for 30 years pursued his laborious avocation in this county. For several years after the first settlers had located, the Indians, especially the Delawares, passed through the county on their annual hunts, from their reservation to White River. The whole country was then filled with game-now only an occasional wolf or deer is found, but turkeys, prairie chickens, quails, etc., are still abundant. In 1835, a grist-mill was built near the northern boundary of the county and 7 miles from the north-east corner. It was called Lumley's Mill. Settlers carried their grist to this mill over many a weary mile. In these days, all the groceries and "store goods" were brought by teams from Boonville, the principal trading point. The county was organized Feb. 25th, 1845, from parts of Dade and Barry, and the first county court was held at the house of Robert B. Taylor, April 7th, 1845, by judges Joseph Schooling, Joseph Rinker and Robert B. Taylor. The county seat was located at the present site of Mt. Vernon, at which place the organization of Lawrence was celebrated by a "bran dance," on the 4th of July, 1845. In preparing for this celebration and sale of lots, invitations were sent to neighboring counties, and promptly responded to by hundreds, who came to celebrate the national anniversary, and the birth of a new county. An arbor was made from the black jacks and other forest trees, on the spot where the court-house now stands, beneath which the sale was held, and afterward a grand barbacue served up, speeches made and a spirited time enjoyed by all. After the business and the barbacue had received proper attention, the arbor was cleared away, and bran strewn over the ground to prepare it for dancing; old, middle-aged and young joined in the dance, and everything passed off harmoniously. James M. Kellogg, the first merchant in Mt. Vernon, took part in this celebration, and is still in business there. The first court held after the location of the county seat, was at the house of George White, Esq., presided over by Hon. Charles S. Yancy, Thomas Hash, clerk, Washington Smith, sheriff; Jno. Williams, one of the oldest settlers, was foreman of the first grand jury. Lawrence shared the fate of Southern Missouri during the Civil War; it was the scene of frequent skirmishes between small squads of Union and Confederate soldiers and "bushwhackers." One little village and quite a number of dwelling houses were burned. Men were sometimes shot down in the presence of their families, and their houses reduced to ashes. Mt. Vernon was a rendezvous for the Unionists of McDonald, Newton and Jasper Counties; 5 families were known to live for months in a house of 2 rooms. The building of the Atlantic & Pacific Rail Road opened connection east and south, and the emigrant is fast learning that no richer or more attractive agricultural lands are to be found, than those of Lawrence County.

Physical Features
The county lies on the table lands of the Ozark Mountains, at an elevation of 1,300 feet above the level of the sea. The streams of the north-east, East Turnback and West Turnback, Fork of Sac River, Pickerel and Sinking Creeks find their way to the Missouri; those of the central and south-western portions-Spring River, which rises in the southern part of the county, 1 mile south of Verona, and flows in a north-westerly direction, and its tributaries, Honey, White Oak Fork of Spring River, as well as Center Creek, flow into the Arkansas. There are many springs, some of great size and beauty; chief among them are Paris Springs, 12 miles northeast of Mt. Vernon, the Edmonton, 8 miles southwest, the Verona, 13 miles south, the Polk, 10 miles southeast, Williams, 8 miles east, and a short distance northeast the Lumley Spring. Some of these springs and many of the streams furnish excellent water power. It is remarkable that there is not a bridge in the county, nor is one needed, the streams being shallow and the fords solid. The northeastern part of the county is generally hilly and timbered, and the remainder gently undulating, with about an equal division of timber and prairie. The county is also about equally divided between bottoms and uplands. In ordinary seasons, the land is all productive, except on a few stony hills in the northeast, and the bottoms never fail. The timber is walnut, hickory, oak, elm and sycamore. There are several extensive caves in the northern part of the county. One within half a mile of Chalybeate Springs has been explored for a short distance, and is found very beautiful and grand.

Agricultural Productions are wheat, corn, oats, rye, barley, flax, potatoes, sorghum, tobacco, apples, peaches and vegetables generally. Wheat-growing commands most attention. There are about 85,000 acres of land improved. The Atlantic & Pacific Rail Road Company own about 80,000 acres of good land in the county, which they sell at from $5 to $12 per acre.*

Mineral Resources
A great deal of prospecting for mineral is going on in the county, with fair prospects for paying quantities of lead. Near Hunt's store are indications of extensive digging or mining operations in times long past. Miners are now at work there, and anticipate finding silver-bearing quartz.

The Manufacturing Interests are machine shops, flouring-mills, saw-mills and wagon factories, and 1 distillery.

Valuation of the county, per census of 1870, $3,000,000.†

The Atlantic & Pacific Rail Road has 22 2/3 miles of track, passing through from east to west on the south side of the county, except a few miles where it runs into Barry. The Memphis, Carthage & Northwestern Rail Road has 3 miles of track in the southwestern part of the county.

The Exports are wheat, corn, cattle, horses, mules, hogs, tobacco and hides.

Educational Interests
There are 75 sub-districts and 60 school-houses in the county. Public schools are established in every sub-district. The school-house at Peirce City cost $13,000, and is a credit to the town. At Marionville the Methodists have established a college, which has been in successful operation for 2 years. The building is not yet completed.

Lawrence County Places in 1875

Aurora, on Atlantic & Pacific Rail Road, 5 miles north east of Verona, was laid out in 1870, has 2 stores, several shops, 1 school-house and 2 church-Christian. Population about 100.

Bower's Mills, (Lyon,) 12 miles west north west of Mt. Vernon, laid off in 1869, has 1 dry goods store, 1 drug store and good water power.

Chalybeate Springs, (Paris Springs,) 12 miles north east of Mt. Vernon, has a large and commodious hotel, and the waters are noted for their healing qualities.

Chesapeake, a post-office 8 miles east of Mt. Vernon.

Dunkle's Store, (Lawrenceburg,) a post-office 16 miles north east of Mt. Vernon.

Gray's Point, a post-office 12 miles north west of Mt. Vernon.

Havens, a post-office 14 miles north north east of Mt. Vernon.

Heaton, a post-office 6 miles north of Mt. Vernon.

Johnson's Mills, on the Turnback, has 3 grist-mills and a carding machine within a short distance of each other.

Lawrenceburg-See Dunkle's Store.

Logan, on the eastern line of the county, and on the Atlantic & Pacific Rail Road, 12 miles north east of Verona, laid out by the Atlantic & Pacific Rail Road, has 2 dry goods and 1 drug store, and several shops.

Lyons-See Bower's Mills.

Marionville, 2 miles west of Logan, laid out in 1854 by James M. Moore, is an important business point, and has 8 or 10 business houses and a newspaper-The Advocate. Population about 300.

MT. VERNON, the county seat, 11 miles north of Verona, within a half mile of the center of the county, and situated on an elevation, so that it is seen from a distance of 10 or 12 miles from the road, was laid off in 1845. An immense spring of water gushes out in the north-west part of the town, forming a stream of considerable size, and giving the town excellent pure water. It has a fine large school-house, 3 churches-Baptist, Cumberland Presbyterian and Methodist. The Christian Church has an organization, but no house. The court-house is a large three-story brick building, standing in the center of the square. The town contains 11 stores, an excellent steam flouring-mill, 3 blacksmith shops, and 2 saddlers; also 1 newspaper- the Fountain and Journal, the Mt. Vernon Publishing Company, proprietors. Population about 500.

Paris Springs-See Chalybeate Springs.

Phelps, a post-office 7 miles north west of Mt. Vernon.

Peirce City, at the junction of the Atlantic & Pacific Rail Road with the Memphis Carthage & Northwestern Rail Road, 261 miles south west from St. Louis, laid off in 1871, is a town of considerable importance. It has 3 churches-Baptist, Cumberland Presbyterian and Catholic, 1 school-house (costing $10,000), 21 stores, 1 steam flouring-mill, 1 wagon manufactory, 3 hotels and 1 newspaper-The Democrat. Population about 1,500.

Round Grove, 12 miles north north west of Mt. Vernon, laid off in 1872, has 1 store and a Baptist church.

Spencer, a post-office 6 miles north east of Mt. Vernon.

Verona, on the Atlantic & Pacific Rail Road, 278 miles south west of St. Louis, laid out in 1868, has 1 church-Cumberland Presbyterian (costing about $4,000), 1 good school-house, 6 stores, 2 blacksmith shops, and is the usual railroad station for Mt. Vernon. Population about 500.

*The Railroad Company requires 10 per cent. of purchase money at time of sale, the balance to be paid, with interest on deferred payments, in seven years; and offers free transportation from St. Louis to the lands. Special inducements to colonists. For full particulars see Appendix.
†Assessed valuation in 1873, $2,567,340. Bonded debt, $10,000. Floating debt, $2,000. Taxation, $1.15 per $100. Peirce City has a bonded debt of $50,000, subscription to Memphis, Carthage & Northwestern Rail Road.

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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