A Brief History of Schuyler County

A Brief History of the Founding and Early Growth of Scuyler County Compiled from Caywood's 1888 History of Adair, Putnam, Sullivan & Schuyler Counties, The 1878 Atlas of Schuyler County, information collected by the Office of Historic Preservation, files of Schuyler County newspapers and personal interviews as reported by Nelle George.

Long before the first white settlers arrived in the area we now know as Schuyler County, Indians roamed through the territory hunting and fishing. It is not believed that any permanent Indian settlements existed in this region. Even after the arrival of the white men Indians returned to hunt until the fall of 1841, when they left, never to return.

According to Richard Caywood, Moses Stice was the first settler, arriving in 1834. According to George Grist, a pioneer businessman in Schuyler County, Caywood was mistaken. Writing in the Lancaster Excelsior in the fall of 1933, Grist stated: "The history of the county says Moses Stice, in the fall of 1834 or the spring of '35 was the first settler. But that certainly is a mistake, for in the spring of 1834 there were no less than 30 sets of improvements north and south of Downing and some had as much as 50 to 70 acres of land broke out and there was a horse mill for grinding corn ... The old Indian trails met from southeast and northeast at the mill.

Names of some of the people who were residents in 1834 were, Condins', Lakes', Givens', Holts', Stice', south and east of Downing, Powles', Muds', and Kelleys' near the mill and east settlement ..."

I talked to some of the Stices fifty years ago, and they told me there were Indians in this county when they came, I think there were lots of traders and trappers in this county long before the Indians left.

Mr. Grist stated he did not wish to dispute with the parties who wrote the History of Schuyler County. "The settlements I get from old records."

No matter which story one believes (and there probably is some truth in both versions) the first settlers entered the county from the southeast. The crash of 1837 sent many persons who had lost everything, west in hopes of rebuilding their fortunes in a new territory. Caywood mentions Eason, Coffee, Arnold, Sloop, Fugate, Figgee, Warner, Mikel, Crump, Ford, Tipton, Maize, Downing and Crump, many names of families still in Schuyler county. Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina and Ohio had been home to many of the first settlers.

According to Richard Caywood many of these settlers were educated people, and one of their first concerns was to establish schools. The first school in Schuyler County was taught by Miss Esther Hathaway (later to become Mrs. Edwin French, wife of one of the founders of Tippecanoe) a few miles south of Downing, in the summer of 1841 and the second that same summer, taught by Jesse K. Baird at the old town of Tippecanoe. In 1842 another school was organized about one mile northeast of the site of Lancaster. As the population grew, so did the number of rural schools. When there were enough students within a three to four mile radius, a log schoolhouse, usually about sixteen feet square, would be built by the patrons within a day, and furnished with plank desks pegged to the walls, benches of logs and two or three oiled paper windows.

The early schools were "subscription schools," with each pupil paying about $1.50 per quarter. The teacher either got free room and board, "stayed around" with the parents of pupils, or were allowed $1.75 to board himself. The teacher was often paid in bearmeat, coonskins, venison, etc; By law school "must be taught from an hour after sunrise till an hour before sunset." There was no compulsory attendance. Many older pupils didn't attend during good weather. Many went only two or three monts per year. The number of schools in the county grew to sixty-two, with the last rural schoolhouse, Kelly, built in April, 1904. Some were named for families, some, like Pin Oak, for physical features. Early names were colorful -- Possum Hollow, which became Energy, Back Action, which became Elm Grove, southwest of Downing, had well over 100 pupils, many past the age of twenty.

Education had been a priority for the citizens of Missouri from the beginning. Several years before Schuyler County was organized the Missouri Legislature, in the Act of 1835, passed a law saying when school lands amounting to $800 were sold counties could establish school districts. Section 16 of each township was to be designated "school land." After Schuyler County was organized by an Act of the General Assembly approved March 28, 1845 (county originally included parts of what are now Adair and Macon counties), it became possible to establish public schools. The first action taken was appointing of enumerators by the court in 1847, to determine the number of white children of proper school age in vaious counties. Population figures by decades show the rapid growth taking place in the 1800's:

1850 ..... 3230 white ..... 57 colored
1860 ..... 6658 white ..... 39 colored
1870 ..... 8866 white ..... 14 colored
1880 ..... 10461 white ..... 9 colored
1890 ..... 11246 white ..... 3 colored
1900 ..... 10840 white .....

The first town in Schuyler County was Tippecanoe, which was established before the county was organized. John Fish and Edwin French opened a store in 1840 and ran it until 1846. The business continued under other management until 1852. Tippecanoe was a thriving community in the 1840's with several businesses, including John Jones, wool carding mill, Samuel Tipton and William Schofield, blacksmith shop, Lesley and Waldrop, a mill, Dixon and Ralls, a wheat fanning establishment, two groceries and two lawyers. Prior to 1854 the town was a strong rival to Lancaster, but slipped into a decline and completely disappeared after the Civil War. Older folk remember a graveyard at Tippecanoe, which once had an iron fence around it. The fence disappeared, possibly victim to a scrap drive for WW1, and no traces of it or the town remain. Tipp school remained for many years.

During these early years the border between Iowa and Missouri was being disputed, with the boundary lying several miles north of the present border. Because Lancaster lay near the geographic center of the county as constituted at that time, judges in the July term of court, 1845, declared: "the seat of justice selected by the commissioners for that purpose for the county of Schuyler shall be called by the name of Lancaster" (supposedly named by one of the judges for his home town in Pennsylvania) and "that Edwin French is hereby appointed commissioner of the seat of justice and that he should lay off the tract of land donated to the county seat of Justice into squares, blocks and lots, and streets and alleys and offer for sale one hundred lots on the first Monday of August next, on a credit of twelve, eighteen and twenty-four months in equal installments."

When the Iowa-Missouri border was established in its present location and the county lines redrawn, giving Schuyler County its present form, a bitter controversy developed over the location of the county seat. Opponents argued that Lancaster was no longer near the geographic center of the county. In August, 1894, a petition with 910 names was presented asking that the county seat be moved from Lancaster to Queen City. The proposal was defeated, but a bitter fight left a long-lasting animosity among some residents of the county.

But that was far in the future. By 1846, Lancaster was growing, with several stores and a hotel already in operation. By 1859 Lancaster had a fine school, established by a group of gentlemen and authorized by the legislature. According to newspaper records the Academy had an enrollment of around 100, but when war was declared the young men enlisted, according to report, in the Confederate Army, and the Academy was forced to close.

The Civil War caused many hardships for Schuyler Countians. Although Missouri was a free state, enlistments in Schuyler County were almost evenly divided between Union and Confederate forces. Neighbor no longer trusted neighbor, and families were divided in loyalties. Bushwhackings and skirmishes occured throughout the area. Some families left, unable to live under such stress.

The end of the war began a period of rebuilding and new growth. The oldest firm in the county, a newspaper, The Excelsior, was first published March 15, 1866, by H. D'B. Cutler, as a "Radical Republican" paper. The paper was sold to Samuel A. Dysart and Henry A. Miller in 1871, and the politics changed. The Excelsior, under varying names and owners, including John Rice Reippey, is now the only weekly paper published in the county. At one time or another, Glenwood, Downing, Queen City and Greentop all had newspapers.

The coming of the railroad gave a boost to the economy of the area. Coal from the mines in the northwest part of the county could now be mined and shipped profitably. Tobacco farming, which began in 1850 to produce a cash crop, reached a peak in 1902, when 155,800 pounds went to the tobacco warehouse in Downing. In 1907 The Excelsior announced that a stock company, with ten stock holders, had been formed in Lancaster for the purpose of manufacturing cigars. However, the tobacco industry gradually declined and disappeared.

New towns sprang up in the aftermath of the war. Alec and Stiles Forsha laid out the town of Glenwood and filed the plot November 27, 1868, and the town was incorporated the following year. Even before the town officially came into being, William Buford, who had built the first woolen mill in Schuyler County near Tippecanoe in the early 1840's built a woolen mill in Glenwood in 1867 and managed it for ten years. The mill sold "solid jeans, flannels, tweeds, doeskins, blankets and fulled cloth." The mill closed c. 1900.

In addition to the Buford and Neely Woolen Mill, Forsha & Grist had a saw mill (1869), Wolf & Barton Hub & Spoke Factory(1873), and Dunbar & Brothers Foundry & Machine Shop, located in the north part of town in what was known as "Industrial Hollow."

Glenwood seemed to have a bright future. A feature story in the Chicago "Industrial World" (c. 1880, reprinted in The Lancaster Excelsior, July 06, 1922, stated: "Glenwood, with its two railraods ..., neighboring Chariton coal fields and a wealth of timber on every side is certainly one of the most inviting fields of manufacturing enterprise in all the western county." When the store and other buildings at the small town of Griffon, located where two railroad lines met northwest of Glenwood burned, Glenwood was able to secure a depot, giving another boost to the economy.

The town peaked in 1888, with a population of 700, four dry good stores, three groceries, two drug stores, five millinery and dress shops, three hardware businesses, two liveries, one shoe shop, one notions shop, a bank, a furniture store, a hotel, a restaurant, a barber and a billiards hall, two doctors, three dentists, two churches, a newspaper, and several fraternal organizations.

Greentop was surveyed and laid out in April, 1857, by Stephen Caywood for George Gatlin, the proprietor, and was Incorporated in Feb., 1867, as the "Town of Green Top." Caywood tells us that in 1888 Green Top had two general stores, two drug stores, a grocery and the post-office, a furniture and undertaker's establishment and a hardware and grocery store. He mentions the town "has a considerable trade in railroad ties and hoop poles from the Chariton timber and is conveniently accessible to coal on the west."

February 02, 1950, the Excelsior reprinted an article from the scrapbook of Os Buckallew, which first appeared in the Reporter December 02, 1926, telling of the earliest days of the town. Mr. Buckallew told of coming to Greentop from Greencastle by ox team in 1864, the year work was begun on the St. Louis and Kansas City Northern railway. Mr. Buckallew told:

"We received mail once a week from Macon on Friday.
William Gatlin was postmaster and when he opened
the mail sack would call off the names on the
letters and papers and if present the owner would
answer "here" ..., Only a few letters and papers
came to Greentop at that time. The town also had a
foundry and Machine shop owned by June Dunbar &
Brother, a chair factory owned by M.H. Lewis &
Doolittle, a gang plow factory by Gatlin & Gatlin,
A Grist and Saw mill run by Hamilton & Bond, and a
blacksmith shop run by George Lowery, Sr...,

D.A. Ely owned the land around the depot site
and laid out a town called Colorado City. This
plot of Colorado City is still recognized in making
transfers of tracts of land now.

... In those days we had no meeting house
and when religious services were held we gathered
at the school house which was located on the
Charles Fugate farm in the north part of town ...,

The voting precinct for both the old Greentop
and Queen City was at Chilly Grove school house
which still remains on the same site, and even
when we drove horses and took a whole day to go --
everyone who was eligible voted.
Well, times and towns do change!

Coatsville was platted in 1868 by Alexander H. Wells. James B. Holbert and Games T. Guinn, in conjunction with Mr. N.B. Coats, land agent for the North Missouri Railroad Company. As early as 1874 Coatsville had a school, taught by F.R. Fleagle. In the 1930's the two room school served as both high school and grade school, but the last classes were held in 1953. In 1874 Coatsville could boast two dry goods stores, two general stores, three drug stores, a hotel, two doctors, a blacksmith, and wagon shop, a church and a Masonic Hall. By the turn of the century Coatsville also had a feedmill and stockyards. At one time the town had three banks, Farmer's Bank, Ford's Bank and the People's State Bank. The depression of the 30's closed many banks, and this happened in Coatsville.

By 1878 the town had a population of 100. The rapid growth of Coatsville was partly due to the business of shipping coal. The Raven Coal Mining Company and the Mock family mines (c. 1898) both were producing coal. With the decline of coal mining, the businesses in Coatsville also declined.

Queen City was laid out in May, 1867, by Dr. George W. Wilson, situated on the St. Louis, Kansas City & Northern Railroad. The first house in Queen City was built by Dr. Wilson, and the first hotel by Henry Bartlett. By 1887, Queen City had a newspaper, the Transcript. In the 1888 History, Caywood noted five general stores, two drug stores, two wagon and blacksmith shops, a harness and saddle store with a shoe shop attached, a stove and tinware store, a millinery store, a jewelry store, a lumber yard, a gunsmith shop, a barber shop, a photograph gallery, two livery stables, two churches, a flour mill, two grain houses and three physicians. Queen City shipped grain, live stock, railroad ties and hoops.

Downing, just 3/4 of a mile west of the east county line, was laid out for the Missouri Town Company by H.H. Downing, president of the company, in 1872. According to the 1888 History, Downing at that time had two grain houses, two tobacco warehouses, two saw and corn-mills combined and a hoop factory. There were four general stores, two drug stores, two hardware stores, two grocery stores, a restaurant, a furniture store, a saloon, a confectionery and meat market, a milliner, a wagon maker, a blacksmith and handle factory. The town also had two hotels, three doctors, two churches, two schoolhouses and three lodges. It was claimed that Downing shipped more tobacco than any station in a large territory and also shipped much grain and livestock.

In addition to the six larger towns in the county, several smaller communities with a store or two and a post office dotted the countryside. Although not indicated on the 1898 map, according to a newpaper report "the only post office in a wide area" was located at Chilly Grove in the early 1860's.

According to information compiled by Nelle George, of eighty-five or more immigrants who took out citizenship papers after arriving in Schuyler County some fifty or sixty of the names are associated with the Germania community. (Although immigrants also came from Ireland, England and other countries, none of them settled in Germania.) Some arrived as early 1848 from middle European countries such as Austria, Prussia, Holland and Switzerland and a few from Sweden. Many of the settlers at Germania came through the port of New Orleans, then up the river to St. Louis and on to Schuyler County, sometimes with stopovers along the way.

Information from the Office of Historical Preservation states that Gottlieb Deirling was instrumental in bringing many German immigrants to the area. He would pay their passage and meet them in the East. In return they would work three years (?) on his farm. By whatever means, Germania was a thriving community, centrally located: approximately eight miles SE of Lancaster, eight miles NE of Queen City, and eight miles SW of Downing. The graveyard was established in 1859, St. John's Lutheran Church, Sept. 05, 1866, the German Methodist Church, June, 1869. Both churches held both English and German language services as late as 1890. The Methodist Church closed in 1959, but St. John's is still a very active church.

The Figge Store, established by Fred A. Figge in 1896, housed the Germania Post Office until Sept., 1901, and later the telephone exchange. The Figge store burned July, 1920, and was rebuilt 1921-1922. The store bought produce and traded for groceries. John Snowbarger had a grist mill in the area. Only the graveyard and St. John's remain.

Vinita attracted much trade at one time. The Lancaster Excelsior, May 10, 1900, reported: Little Vinita is growing in trade. Some of the best trade has been stopping here on its way to Downing and elsewhere." In July of 1900 Frank McVey sold his store at Vinita to Wash McVey, but Vinita faded from importance and a store/settlement at Bunker Hill, a bit northwest of Vinita existed until the early 1940's.

Although Killwinning was actually in Scotland County many families in the northeast part of Schuyler County traded there. The Schuyler County Republican, in spring of 1905, reported: "Jno. Elschlager, the merchant, shipped 600 dozen eggs last Saturday, and nearly 1000 lbs. of chickens and a barrell (sic) of butter. (John Elschlager was Paul Elschlager's great-uncle).

Julesburg not only had a post office, but at one time, according to recollections, had a livery stable, a boarding house, general store and blacksmith shop. Located along the railroad tracks, Julesburg was a shipping point, with stockyards and holding pens. A news story from May 17, 1900, notes: "John Berger and Burgin & Roberts have invoiced the goods of B. & R. and Berger has moved the same to Greentop, where he intends to put in business." The other businesses and the town gradually disappeared. In 1878 there were at least five sawmills in the Julesburg area.

Jimtown had a post office, store, cemetery, and a school. The Jimtown school for a time included a two-year high school. The school was an important part of the life of the community.

In the northwest part of the county Zola had a post office by 1898. Guinn Station was operating. Near Hombs Crossing where the Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad and then crossed a depot and town was established with at least one store, a depot and a water tower for railroad engines. The town was called Griffon after the assistant Superintendent of the Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska Railroad. Fire on March 21, 1873, virtually wiped out the town.

I found almost no information on the Clifton and Energy locations, other than that on the map -- they were post offices, and I assume stores were located there also. I heard of a store located in the Coffee vicinity, and one near the Black Diamond coal mine. Other communities not within Schuyler County, such as Livonia, Dean, and Worthington served the people in their vicinity. Do you know of other stores which have passed from existence in Schuyler?

1996 marks the hundredth year of the postal service. The Excelsior, August 03, 1894, notes an early beginning of regular mail service: "A mail route between Glenwood and Livonia is to be established right away. The distance is 10 1/2 miles and the trip is to be made each way daily except Sunday -- six times a week. The time of transit has been fixed at three hours ..."

By 1911 - 1912 a farmer's telephone line was being established, with farmers cutting poles from their own timber. At that time it was not connected with the Bell System.

I hope this brief, unorganized look at the Schuyler County of the past at least gives a sense of earlier days and that you have enjoyed reading!




1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved


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