|Property of H. H. Russell, Warrensburg, MO|
1924 Warrensburg, MO History Book
|1842 Old Courthouse Erected in Warrensburg, MO Johnson County|
The City of Warrensburg
IN THE WILDWOOD The land now occupied by the City of Warrensburg was pri-marily of the hunting grounds of the Osage Indians and being of the lands drained by the Mississippi River was claimed by France under the discoveries of LaSalle. Under the "Louisiana Purchase" the French claims passed to the United States. Spain al-so made some claim, settled by treaty. Until November, 1808, the United States admitted the rights of the Osages. Some distance west of Johnson county, an imag-inary line was drawn north and south from the Missouri River to the Arkansas River and in November, 1808, the United States purchased from the Indians all their rights in the territory east of that line to the Mississippi River—a vast tract—for a cash pay-ment of $1200, and a yearly trade payment of $1500. The foregoing was obtained from one source. In Lucien Cqrr's History of Missouri-1888—it is said in substance that the United States Government appointed Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame, Governor of the Territory and authorized him to negotiate a treaty with the Indians for the land. Governor Lewis appointed Pierre Chouteau to make the contract or treaty. Chouteau concluded the treaty in 1808 with the Osages. The boundary agreed upon was "Beginning at Fort Clark, a post on the Missouri River, thirty-five miles below the mouth of the Kansas (Kaw) River. "Extend due south to the Arkansas, and down the same to the Mississippi." All east of this line, about forty-seven million acres, was ceded to the United States. The money for the first navment was ready in 1810. Governor Lewis had died and Gov-ernor Howard had been appointed. He notified the Osages to come to St. Louis and-get the money. About forty chiefs and braves went to St. Louis, not to get the money, but to Protest against the sale, telling the Governor that the whites had made the chiefs and braves who sold the land, drunk and the sale was void and for him to keep the money, that they wanted the land. Howard said "Possibly there was something wrong in the sale, but the Great Father did not compel them to sell, the sale had been made and they should abide by it." Nothing further seems to have been done along this line, altho later the Government had other dealings with the Osages, about other matters.
JOHNSON COUNTY. Congress made Missouri a separate Territory in 1812 and a State in 1820. President Monroe signed the proclamation declar-ing it a state on August 10. 1821. Lafayette county, about thirty-three miles wide east and west, extending from Missouri River on the north to the Osage River on the south, was organized by the Legislature, soon after, and on December 13, 1834, Johnson county was carved out of it by the same power.
WARRENSBURG NAMED In the County Court of Johnson County, Missouri, Old Record, Page 47. May term, May 9, 1836. The following record: "On motion of James D. Warren, Clerk of the Court, who this day certified to the court the approval of the Judge of the Circuit Court for the County of Johnson of his having examined' the return of Henderson Young, Daniel McDowell and Daniel M. Boone, Commissioners appointed to select a suitable place for permanent seat of Justice for the County of Johnson "and we do approve of the same." "It is therefore ordered that James Carmichael be and he is appointed Commissioner to attend to and lay out a town on the lands designated for the County Seat of said County and that the same be laid out in streets, alleys and lots in such manner as the court may direct and make deeds conveying all interest of Johnson coun-ty to the purchaser. He to give bond in the sum of $2000.00 and he is authorized to employ a competent person to lay out the streets, alleys and town lots. He is to offer said lots at public sale on June 21, 1836. "And it is ordered that the above town shall be called and known by the name of WARRENSBURG." There was no reason given for the name, Warensburg. At the time James D. Warren was clerk of both courts, County and Circuit, and Martin Warren, his brother, his bondsman. The lat-ter owned a large tract of land half a mile east, none nearer. The two deeds are recorded in Book B, Page 11, by Mulkey and wife, dated February 28, 1836, filed December 13, 1836, for the west fifteen acres of the north forty-five acres of the east half of the southeast quarter of section twenty-three, and Book B, Page 214, by Daniel McDowell and wife, dated April 2, 1836, filed December 16, 1E36, for eighty acres, the west half of the south-east quarter of section twenty-three, all in township forty-six, in range twenty-six.
THE TOWN PLAT. Carmichael did not forthwith have the survey and plat made, and in Old County Record of October 4, 1836, is the following, which is probably as intended by the last order : The Clerk of this Court is directed to call on the Surveyor to establish the corners of the town tract of Warrensburg, and to plant corners at the corner of the lots where they are commenced to be numbered, "and that he make a plat of said town." Car-michael's commission to sell was not revoked, and was evidently still in force. George Tibbs, County Surveyor, platted the town on November 12, 1836, and it was filed for record February 4, 1837; see County Record C, Page 1. There were sixty-four lots. In 1840. John Stirling, County Surveyor, platted and added twenty-two lots and the cemetery lot. These were around those platted by Tibbs, and the plats by Tibbs and Stirling constituted the town. The records show that Carmichael sold these lots. The first burial in the cemetery was probably of I. Davenport in 1840.
A PUBLIC BUILDING.
My rambles took me several times thru Warrensburg in 1862. My permanent location here was on October 5, 1865. After the latter date, there stood on the west side of Water Street a log cabin with puncheon floor that was built in 1837, on the southwest corner of the Court House square, as a clerk's office, and often used as a court room while the (old) Court House was being built. After the Court House was finished, a brick clerk's office was built on the south side of the square, finished much later. Imperfect roof construction caused it to be destroyed by fire some years later.
THE OLD COURT HOUSE. In Old County Court Records, Page 296. Date February 16, 1838: By order, Harvey Dyer is appointed Superintendent to draft plans of the Court House in Warrensburg, county seat of Johnson County, and submit plans to the court at the next term. Old Record, Page 300. Date, March 13, 1838. Ordered to let the brick work to be done in ten months and carpenter work to be done in twelve months. "Not to cost to exceed $1600.00". "To be forty feet square." Old Record, Page 345. Date, November 16, 1838. Harvey Dyer reports a building forty-four feet by thirty-six feet. "To cost $2500.00"—evidently suggesting inside work—to be finished by January 1, 1840. The house was not finished until about 1842. The exact cost of the entire completed structure is hard to find. The walls are of brick, the first story 24 inches and the second story 18 inches thick.
OLD COURT HOUSE EAST FRONT ERECTED IN 1842
THE OLD COURT HOUSE. (By Mel P. Moody)
SIDEWALKS In 1865, and long after, sidewalks mostly of planks were bad. Now, generally, they are of brick or granolithic. Ordinances have been passed prohibiting plank walks, however, a few remnants of such antiquities remain in neglected parts of the older city. In 1865-66 tree stumps were in the west end of East Market street.
PUBLIC ROADS. Approaches to the city at some points are not the best, but are gradually improving. Some suggest that the cities should perfect and maintain their approaches. For the cities to get trade, this is good ; however, it is a fact that the Missouri cities pay the largest proportional share of road and bridge taxes thru ordinary taxation. Again, good roads should interest both city and country, ease of travel being for both. Here the city and county joined to make turnpike ways north of Blackwater river and west of Post Oak creek. In recent years from Kansas City to St. Louis, the Capital and Southern Highways, cross state roads, have been put on the map. Both run thru Warrensburg. The north and south road from St. Joe thru Lexington, with a fine bridge there over the Missouri river, thence south thru Warrensburg and Clinton to Springfield, Mo., is well under way. In 19— the state established another cross state road straight east and west from Kansas City to St. Louis which is to be hard-surfaced with hard-surfaced spurs south to Warrensburg and north to the Lexington bridge. Often the question is asked why the angle in the street; of the east part of the city. Col. Benjamin W. Grover bought these lands in 1845 of Martin Warren who had built a pretentious log house, of four rooms and a kitchen house, near the northeast corner of what is now Gay and Miller streets. There was also a fine elm tree still nearer Gay, standing in Miller street. Miss Lizzie Grover says the tree was of no importance, but the house was, and as it stood in the way or if run due east, the angle was made that the house might remain intact, which it did until torn down, and the frame took its place a little further away. The Bell Telephone came many years ago. The home Telephone is of more recent date and has absorbed the Bell phone. Electric lights came about 1880; before that, gas makeshifts and coal oil held the field' and all was dark. Defects exist in both phones and lights but they are improving—the rates are high.
Under an ordinance of the City in 1895, the present system of street numbers was established by the writer hereof. West Pine Street was first but sixty feet wide. About 1870 it was made seventy feet wide as far west as Washington avenue, by contributions of ten feet by owners of the lots on the north side. The city has a small library. The College has a very good and growing reference library.
In the old court house Senator Vest's famous eulogy of the dog was uttered and tho the house is now privately owned as a dwelling, the Historical Society of Missouri has placed a tablet at the right side of the front door stating the fact. The tablet is twelve inches wide up and down, and eighteen inches long horizontally, and the wording as follows: "Within these walls on September 23, 1870, Senator George Graham Vest delivered his famous eulogy on the dog. He died August 14, 1904, and was buried in Bellfontaine Cemetery, St. Louis." In 1870 there were no stenographers here and it is said that Col. Thomas T. Crittenden, later Governor of Missouri, took down the eulogy recorded below. Senator Vest had the distinction of having been Senator of the Southern Confederacy and afterwards of the United States of America. The writer considers the eulogy one of the finest contributions to our literature. Here is the story and the eulogy: In the southwest part of the county, Lon Hornsby killed Dog Drum, owned by Charles Burden, who brought suit for damages. The suit was in the courts for many months, decided first for one and then the other. The costs were great; the attorneys, all good ones, were rather expensive. Final trial was had in the Court House in 1870. Vest, one of the Plaintiff's attorneys. appeared to pay no attention to the progress of the suit. but in pleasant voice made the closing argument for the plaintiff.
"Gentlemen of the Jury:—The best friend a man has in the world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name may become traitors to their faith. The money a man has, he may lose; it flies away from him perhaps when most. "A man's reputation faced in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with) us may be the ﬁrst to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads.
“The one absolutely unselﬁsh friend that man can have in this selﬁsh world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog. A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives ﬁercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer. He will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey thru the heavens.
“If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him. to guard him against danger. to ﬁght against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes and death takes his master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all friends pursue their way. there by the grave side will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true, even in death."
When Vest closed there were few present whose eyes were dry, There was no further argument, the jury at once returned a verdict for the plaintiff.
Few be living who remember the incidents of antebellum days here when the old Court House was the center of many political activities. It was the custom in all country towns in Missouri to plat them with a court house square in the center. Warrensburg followed the rule. The court house was built on the square, a plank fence around the square, outside of the fence a plank walk, and outside of the Walk, all around, a row of posts connected by chains to which horses could be hitched, 0n big days these places were crowded to excess. All days of political gatherings were practically holidays for those attending. Real estate and slaves were frequently sold as advertised.
|Old Courthouse, Johnson County, Missouri - Warrensburg|
There was a stairway from the southeast corner of the court houes to the top of what is now a first story bay window where under the door is the second story was a large platform Where many slaves were sold under the hammer. The bidders usually stood on the ground south of the building.
W. O. Davis, present owner of the building, tells that a few years ago, an old negro from another place came to see the premises and that door from which, when young, he was sold.
THE PRESENT COURT HOUSE.
In 1873 the city bought the ground on the west side of Holden street and gave it to the county for the present court house site. A few citizens of New Town built a frame house on it and gave it for Court House use. Many attempts were made to get the county people to vote bonds for a permanent building. In 1894 a vote was obtained to build one at a cost of not more than ﬁfty thousand dollars, to be paid by direct tax for three years.
Before the election on November 23, 1894, one hundred and nine, many of them the strongest people of the city, guaranteed that it should cost no more than $50,000. My memory is that it cost $50,895.00. The excess was paid by those who gave the guarantee.´The ﬁrst court was held in the new building on February 1, 1898, on change of venue from Pettis County Circuit Court. Billy Henshaw was clerk of our circuit court, and on my suggestion, made a record of the event. The house is said to be small, It has now been used twenty- ﬁve years and may easily do for twenty—ﬁve years more.
Some amusing stories of early Warrensburg life are told by different persons, who vouched for the facts, but for obvious reasons the names are not given.
Many were acquainted with the genial, friendly Mel P. Moody, son of William B. and Nancy J. (Anderson) Moody Mel came into existence about 1855. He said he chose Warrensburg as a
good place to be born in. From ﬁrst acquaintance, a warm friendship, never broken, sprang up between him and my family. A volume of his poems exists. He was well informed, a wit, could see the humor in any thing. Not long before his death, he published a newspaper in the city. Below are two stories as told to me by
A girl living north of town had three beaux, equally acceptable, two living outside of and one in town. She had agreed to marry the two country swains, setting the same day and same
place, Collins Hotel, Warrensburg, for the ceremony. Before the day set, about six inches of snow had fallen. On that morning one of the men with team and buggy drove to her house and
brought her to the hotel, put her in the sitting room, hung his Prince Albert on a chair in the hall and went to the wash room. The parson was there to perform the ceremony. While he was in the wash room, the second swain, who had been to the girl‘s home to get her, came to the hotel, and asked Collins if No. 1 were there.
Collins said “Yes, and that’s his coat." No. 2 took the coat by the tails and ripped‘ it up the back to the collar, At that moment No. 1 came out of the wash room, saw what had been done, and chasing No. 2 overtook him about one—fourth mile north on Main street, opposite the Colbern house, where they fought. In the meantime, the City Lover, No. 3, came on the scene, found the girl and they were married by the preacher No. 1 had employed.
Another by Mel Moody:
Uncle Billy Stephenson was the ﬁrst editor or a newspaper of any sort in Warrensburg. He issued four or ﬁve copies weekly of “The Warrensburg Times," all in script, and passed from hand to hand. He was an artist and had comical illustrations, some of
|THE MOODY DWELLING, 0n North Main Street, In What is New Old Town, Warrensburg, MO|
them a bit hard on those he did not like. He had an old time fiddle. He knew no sacred music, had no such ideas. yet was often called upon for various occasions, joyous or otherwise. One time in a Sunday School procession, he was asked to join and play some thing appropriate. He played “Turkey in The Straw” which he thought was entirely proper.
Another time a traveling evangelist, not well acquainted him, asked him to play something beﬁtting, after the sermon. The sermon was long, about the raising of Lazarus. Uncle Billy amazed the entire crowd by playing a hilarious song of that time beginning: “Come, rise up, William Riley, and go along with me, the boat is on the river and we are bound for Tennessee ”
Judge R. N. Warnick, of the Probate Court, told this; but would give no names, “because the men have too many descendants around here.”
A Justice of the Peace, a Constable and a mere citizen, together got on a “whirl” one night and before morning were so full they had to get to a room in the court house and “sleep it 0ff.” The next morning the justice issued a warrant and had the Constable arrest the mere citizen and arraigned and ﬁned him for being drunk the night before.
Joe Wade made the brick in the old Court House, he had a brick kiln near Post Oak Ford, a little north of the bridge. Joe had a limited vocabulary all his own, Three words are recalled, “Jiggeramus,” “Forkinize” and “Consquintillate.” His use of the ﬁrst made it a noun and of the other two, verbs. He said when Methusalah was ﬁve hundred years old, the Lord told him to build himself a house, and when Thusy found he had but four hundred years more to live, he said it was not worth while.
At the time of the War, the town was rather compactly built on the high ground of Old Town. Many of the antebellum people who “stayed thru” had a continually terriﬁed life and were glad to believe such troubles were of the past when the war closed. Persons from other states came here ostensibly to make their homes. Most of them, with speculative intentions hoping to improve or make their fortunes, failing in either, intending to move on until some place glittering with gold would be reached. Many, like ﬂoating debris of an overﬂowing river thrown high and dry on the shore. with nothing left to carry them further, collapsed sullenly in the place with no ambition to do more than to eke out an 'existence as best they could. Some came with an exalted idea of their worth socially and otherwise to those who were here and a fervid ambition to succeed in any laudable enterprise presenting itself, some came hoping for political advancement, others came caring little for the
kind of employment, provided money could easily be made thereby. The worst ones were those who came to get money honestly if so be, but caring naught for processes whereby to obtain it. Of those already here there were plenty of all the classes named with all the ambitions and desires of them all. Remember the town was in its swaddling clothes, twenty-nine years old in 1865
Those here before that time and those who came after were practically adventurers with all the diverse theories, characteristics, plans and lack of plans heretofore named and with them were the young of the separate households who were to succeed to the interests of their ancestors, grow up, choose occupations, fall in love, form other households and perform all the acts incident to citiﬁed communities. If there can be told here some incidents relating to the people of this dear old city, anything that one may be glad to read, anything older residents may enjoy with a smile or ponder over