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Early History of Our County
As Seen by a "Globe Democrat" Reporter.
The following is taken from last Sunday's Globe-Democrat, which was written from Minneola under the date of Dec. 15.
This little village, nestling in a pretty basin among the Loutre Creek hills, in the western part of Montgomery county, is historic ground. The mineral spring, famed for its medical virtue, is the old "Loutre Lick" of pioneer notoriety. Here Daniel Boone resorted for the use of the healing waters, which he declared cured him of ailments. It was a favorite locality with Thomas H. Benton and in Congress, as early as in 1824, it was adverted to sarcastically by Henry Clay as "The Bethesda mentioned by the honorable Senator from Missouri." The site of the village and a considerable tract adjoining 160 was originally granted by the Spanish authorities in 1799 to Col. Nathan Boone, son of Daniel Boone. In 1815 Col. Boone sold the land to Maj. Isaac Van Bibber whose father was killed at the battle of Point Pleasant, Va., in 1774, and who was raised to manhood in the family of Daniel Boone. In 1821, Maj. Van Bibber made repeated attempts to manufacture salt from the slightly saline water.
Montgomery is one of the oldest settled counties in Missouri. The early French explorers were here certainly as early as 1722. They named the beautiful stream which flows through the western part of the county, the Loutre (Otter in English) which name it still bears. The island at its mouth, opposite to the town of Hermann, formed by the union of the Loutre and the Missouri, is yet called Loutre Island. In 1800 there were at least 12 white families living on this island. In 1812 a fort was built here for the protection of the settlers, then reasonably numerous on the Island and in the vicinity. By the order of Gov. Clark, this fort, which was a good strong block house, and stood about midway of the island, was called Fort Clemson, for its builder, Capt. James Clemson, of the United States Dragoons. This was the same Capt. Clemson I may remark, who was subsequently the second of the unfortunate young Charles Lucas in his duel with Col. Benton.
In the southwestern part of this county, along and a few miles back of the Missouri, are still living men and women who were born here as early as from 1807 to 1815. These old people yet retain a lively recollection of the early days and are always ready to talk of them. From them and from other reliable authorities I have obtained much reliable information regarding the early occupation of the country, which is of peculiar interest at this day.
Up to the year 1818, the settlers in this quarter of Missouri, on the north side of the river, and from here to the mouth, were seriously troubled by the Northern Indians, who came down on frequent expeditions of robbery and murder. These Indians were the Sacs and the Foxes, the Iowas and the Pottawatomies. Their homes and country were far to the northward. This country never belonged to them, and they never claimed it. It was originally claimed by the Missouris, who ceded it to the French, and the French by the treaty of Ildefanso, in 1763 passed under the dominion of the Spaniards. Some time near the close of the eighteenth century the Spaniards allowed a band of Sacs who had seceded from the main tribe to use the country as a hunting ground only, but this band known subsequently as the "Sacs of Missouri" -- never set up a claim of absolute ownership to it, and were always at peace with the whites. In these Indian troubles, therefore the American people were not the aggressors. The Indians came hundreds of miles to do their deviltry. They believed, doubtless, that they had a right to kill white people whenever and wherever they could, and to take their property under the same conditions. The whites here fought strictly on the defensive. It is even yet to be regretted that they did not fight with better success. (continued next week)
December 30, 1892, issue
Between the years 1806-8, a dozen settlers in the St. Charles district had been killed by the Indians. In the fall of 1806 a party of settlers from Femme Osage settlement -- in what is now Warren County, led by Wm. T. Cole, of Loutre Island, went to the Loutre Prairie to hunt elk, then numerous in the country. Somewhere near the present site of High Hill they met some hostile Indians, who drove them back to the settlements. Nobody was killed on this occasion, but the incident warned the whites what they might expect if they should be over venturesome and incautious.
In the summer of the next year (1807) occurred a memorable and ill-fated expedition. A band of Sacs and Pottawatomies, came down, stole seven horses belonging to the settlers on Loutre Island, and started northward with them. Five islanders set out in pursuit. These were Wm. T. and Stephen Cole, James Patton, John Gooch and James Murdock, all experienced frontiersmen, hardy and brave. On the evening of the second day out the party came in sight of the Indians on the Salt River prairie, in what is now the southern part of Ralls County. Moving forward a mile or so, and darkness coming on they went into camp on the bank of Spencer Creek, intending to open friendly negotiations with the Indians the following morning.
In this design, however, they were anticipated by the savages, who, well armed with rifles and other weapons, attacked them furiously in the night. Wm. T. Cole (commonly called Temple Cole), Patton and Gooch were killed in their blankets at the first fire. Murdock slipped under the bank of the creek near by, leaving Stephen Cole alone to contend the enemy. Two Indians closed upon him. One of them stabbed him in the back from behind, the other encountered him in front. Cole, a very powerful man and a good fighter wrested the knife from the hand of the Indian in his front and plunged it into his assailant and was about to finish him, when all of the other Indians threw themselves upon him, and having to contend against too great odds, he cut his way through them and saved himself by flight, favored, of course, by the darkness. And after an arduous journey of three days and nights on foot for he had been compelled to leave his horse in the hands of the Indians -- he succeeded in reaching the island and Fort Clemson. Murdock did not return to the island for several days.
Organizing another party, Cole returned to the scene of the fight and buried his dead comrades, all of whom had been scalped and otherwise mutilated. The body of the Indians he had killed was also found. Some years afterward the skulls of the murdered men were found and thereafter the locality was known as "Skull Lick." There is no name better known in the history of the Boone's Lick country than that of Capt. Stephen Cole. It was he who, in 1812, built Cole's Fort, the first county seat of Howard County, and it was for him Cole County was named. He was killed by the Indians on the plains in 1824 while engaged in the Santa Fe trade. (continued next week)
January 6, 1893, issue
From its exposed situation and the thinness of the population the portion of Missouri territory north of the river suffered severely from British and Indian hostility during the War of 1812. With few exceptions the Indians of the Missouri River were peaceable throughout the entire period; but the Northern Indians were always hostile, and often made murderous intrusions into the country. The noted Black Hawk led his band of Sacs into Missouri and fought the whites on at least two occasions.
In 1811 the Indians had committed some outrages in the Boone's Lick settlements, in Howard County, and over near the Mississippi, on the Salt and Cuivre Rivers, in Pike and Lincoln. It was suspected that the perpetrators were the Indians of the Missouri. Gen. Wm. Clark, then in command of this department, made every exertion to detect them, but as the American forces were not yet organized, he did not succeed. Indian forays from the north were repeated, and during the year 1812 from Fort Madison (on the Illinois bank of the Mississippi, a little below the mouth of the Des Moines) to St. Charles, settlers were murdered and their homes destroyed by the savages.
At last Gov. Benjamin Howard went to St. Charles and ordered Col. Kibbe, who commanded the militia of that country, to call out a portion of the men who were in requisition to march at a moment's warning. He organized a company of rangers for continuous service with Capt. James Callaway, a grandson of Daniel Boone, as captain. This company was made up principally of St. Charles county men, all hardy woodsmen, active, skillful and bold. At intervals this company scoured the country from Salt river to the Missouri, and performed invaluable service.
Gov. Howard also established a small fort on the Mississippi in St. Charles county, which was garrisoned by a company of regulars from Bellfontaine under the command of a Lieut. Mason, and for him was called Fort Mason. Fort Clemson, on Loutre Island, was built at the same time. Throughout the settlements the pioneers themselves built a number of block houses, or so called forts. There was Daniel M. Boone's Fort, in Darst's Bottom, St. Charles county; Howell's Fort, on Howell's prairie; Pond's Fort, on the Dog Prairie; Hountz's Fort, eight miles west of St. Charles; Zumwalt's Fort, near O'Fallon; Castilo's Fort, near Howell's Prairie; Kennedy's Fort, near Wright City; Callaway's Fort, near Marthasville, and Wood's Fort at Troy. But for these establishments and that the whites in this part would either have been driven out of the country or exterminated.
The first victim of the Indian War 1812 in Montgomery County was Harris Massey, a boy of 17, who was killed here; at the Loutre Lick, in the spring of 1813. In the previous winter his father, Thomas Massey, had left the shelter of Fort Clemson where he had settled in 1809, and came to the Lick, having leased the land from Col. Nathan Boone. Massey had built a cabin on the north side of the little stream known as Sallie's Branch, and had cleared a small field on the south side. This field is now the site of the village of Mineola. Young Massey was killed under the following circumstances. His father had gone up the Loutre to examine some Indian "signs," that had been discovered the previous evening. When he left he set Harris at work to plow in the little field. He directed the boy to tie his rifle to his back while at work, and, if the Indians appeared, to fire on them at once. After a time the boy, as is presumed, grew weary of carrying the gun, and set it against a tree near the clear ground. About 10 o'clock a band of Sac Indians slipped down Sallies Branch and, crawling under the bank, approached within 100 yards of the boy. Two Indians fired and the boy fell. With savage yells the noble red men sprang out and, running up to the body, offered it every indignity. They tore off the scalp, and then mutilated the body in a manner not to be described.
Mr. Massey's family at the house were in plain view of the tragedy. Ann Massey, one of the daughters, seized the dinner horn and blew one blast after another upon it. This seemed to disconcert the Indians and they soon fled. Mr. Massey heard the horn and hastened home. The Indians had not taken his horses, and he succeeded in making his way with his family to Fort Clemson, distant by the nearest trail eight miles. A party went out and buried the mangled body of the boy on the hillside, a little south of where he fell. Thereafter, for nearly two years, there was no attempt at settling the country back of the river by the islanders. They preferred to remain quietly under the protection of the fort. (continued next week)
January 13, 1893 issue
In the spring of 1814 occurred the next tragedy. A young man named Daniel Dougherty was killed by the Sac Indians at the Big Spring, in the southern part of the county. He belonged to the colony on the island; and volunteered to go up to a saltpeter cave on Clear Creek (about four miles southeast of Danville) to procure some salt-peter for making powder. At that time the pioneers made their own powder. As he did not return at the appointed time the colonists became uneasy, and Jacob Groom and Wm. Stewart volunteered to go in search of him.
From Mrs. Lurinda Snethen, a daughter of Jacob Groom, I have obtained the particulars of the adventures of her father and his companion on this occasion. It seems they set from the island on horseback, taking the trail to the cave by way of the Big Spring. Groom had formerly lived at the spring and knew the locality well. A quarter of a mile north of the spring, and 100 yards north of Opossum Branch, as the two men were riding along, Stewart suddenly called out: "Lord! Jake, look at the Indians!" Sure enough there were, only 100 yards in front, half of them mounted, all of them painted and armed--a swarm of them.
The two scouts turned and fled. The Indians pursued them, yelling and shouting with rifles and bows, crossing Opossum Branch Groom's horse jumped with a mighty leap and the saddle turned, Groom's feet being out of the stirrups; but he clung to the horse, contrived to unfasten the girth and let the saddle fall. As they emerged into the clearing near Groom's cabin at the spring the Indians gave them a volley of bullets and arrows, horses were badly wounded, and Stewart received a bullet in his ankle. A mile south, the Indians still in pursuit, Stewart's horse fell from loss of blood. Groom stopped and took Stewart up behind him, or else he must have perished.
Luckily, both men reached the island in safety. There was, of course, great excitement, and pickets were at once put out and all the outlying settlers warned in. Capt. Clemson prepared the fort for an attack, but it did not come. In a few days Capt. Callaway's rangers came out and found the body of Dougherty half way up the hill from the Big Spring and buried it. The Indians had scalped and mutilated it, and it presented a sad spectacle. Jacob Groom lived to become an honored citizen of the country, and was for two terms a member of the Missouri Legislature.
But the most serious casualty that befell the settlers during the war was the defeat and death of that gallant spirit, Capt. James Callaway, and a portion of his company of rangers at the junction with the Loutre of a small stream called Prairie Fork in the southern part of Montgomery County, March 7, 1815. I think I have stated that Capt. Callaway was a son of Flanders Callaway and a grandson of Daniel Boone. Distinguished for his intelligence, fortitude and courage, he was selected to command the company of rangers by Gov. Howard, as previously mentioned and up to the time of his death was one of the most active, daring and efficient scouts in the service and occupied a prominent position in the affairs of this district. He had been in many an Indian fight and in August 1814 he commanded the Missourians who formed a part of the force of Maj. Zachary Taylor that went against the British and Indians at the Rock Island. He bore a gallant part in the but unsuccessful assault on the strong, cannon-crowned intrenchments at that point, and on the American retreat he covered and protected the rear.
On the 6th of March a band of some seventy-five or eighty Sacs and Foxes (some say Sacs and Pottawatomies) came down near Loutre Island and stole a dozen or more horses that were grazing on the mainland, and succeed in escaping with them up Loutre Creek. The next morning, being in the country scouting, Capt. Callaway, with fifteen of his rangers, came upon the fresh Indian trail made by the horse thieves. Following it rapidly up, at about 2 o'clock in the afternoon they came upon the Indian camp and the stolen horses, guarded by only a few squaws. All the men were absent. The squaws fled upon the approach of the rangers and were not pursued. It seemed that the Indians had scattered and retreated altogether, for no well defined trail could be found, and it was decided to discontinue the pursuit; so, securing the horses, Capt. Callaway, started with them and his men southward down the Loutre valley for the island.
Lieut. Jonathan Riggs, the second in command of the rangers, was an old Indian fighter and a man of caution and good judgment. His suspicions had been excited by the disappearance of the Indians, and he said to Capt. Callaway they had dispersed in order to mislead them and that they meant to swing around to the southward and, forming an ambuscade, intercept the rangers on their way to the island. His advice was, therefore, that the return march should be made by a different route. But Capt. Callaway believed that the Indians had left the country and would not again be seen. Accordingly, he dismissed the suspicions of Lieut. Riggs and proceeded with his men by the route over which he had marched that morning. (continued next week)
January 20, 1893, issue
At the crossing of Prairie Fork, a hundred yards or more from the Loutre, the little command was attacked. Three rangers -- Parker Hutchings, Frank McDermid and James McMillin -- were a hundred yards in advance with the recovered horses. Just as they reached the south bank of the stream a volley of deadly shots rang out from the Indian ambuscade, and all three fell dead from their saddles on the shore.
Hearing the firing and the fierce war whoops of the savages, Capt. Callaway and the twelve men dashed bravely up, they, in turn, received a murderous fire from their ambushed foes who were concealed in the timber on a hill in front. Capt. Callaway's horse was killed and he received a bullet through his left arm, escaping death at the instant by the ball striking his watch. He sprang from his horse and called out to his men: "Cross the creek and charge them and fight to the death!" His men dashed forward and he essayed to follow by swimming the cold waters of the stream, then swollen to a considerable depth by the recent rains and melting snow. Doubtless his wounded arm failed him, for when some of his men who had crossed looked back he was drifting and swimming down the strong and rapid current. Just then an Indian shot him in the back of the head, the ball lodging in his forehead, and he instantly sank.
Lieut. Riggs, and his comrades fought as best they could, but all their efforts availed nothing against a foe five times their number and well practiced, and a last the Lieutenant gave orders to retreat. The rangers recrossed Prairie Fork, and, making a considerable detour, crossed it again a mile above, and the next morning succeeded in reaching the island. Two of the men were detached and sent east to Wood's Fort, in Lincoln county.
Of the sixteen rangers, six were killed, viz; Capt. Callaway, Parker Hutchings, Frank McDermid, James McMillin, Thomas Gilmore and Hiram Scott. The last name and a comrade name Wolf, were left on the south bank of the stream when their comrades recrossed. Wolf escaped to the island and was the first to bring the tidings of the disaster. Nearly every man in the party was more or less severely wounded, and every horse was struck. The loose horses of the settlers were of course lost. It was never certainly known that the Indians had more than one man killed. He was buried on the prairie, near the present site of Wellsville.
The next day after the fight a company went out from the island to bury the dead. The bodies of Hutchings, McDermid and McMillin had been cut to pieces and hung on the bushes. Scott and Gilmore had also been mutilated. The remains were gathered up and buried in one grave near the scene of the fight. Capt. Callaway's body was recovered several days later. It was found in a drift pile in the Loutre--the waters having subsided -- a quarter of a mile from the battleground. It was wrapped in blankets and buried nearby on the hillside, overlooking the Prairie Fork and the Loutre. Some time afterward the grave was inclosed with rough stone across which was laid a stone slab with this inscription:
Capt. Jas. Callaway
March 7, 1815
The slab and inscription were prepared by Tarleton Gore, of St. Charles county, a cousin of Capt. Callaway. I have seen the inscription and it is plain at this day. The grave is now merely a pile of loose stones, and the inscription is filling up. The county of Callaway was named for the gallant ranger, and the people of the county should see to it that his grave is preserved for all time.
The last Indian tragedy in this quarter of Missouri was the murder of the family of Robert Ramsey, near Callaway's Fort in Warren county, as late as May, 1818. A band of Northern Indians had slipped down into the country, and early one morning, when Mrs. Ramsey was milking her cows, they quickly appeared and opened fire on her and other members of the defenseless family. Three of the children were tomahawked and scalped. Mrs. Ramsey was seriously hurt. Two boys of the family escaped and gave the alarm and help was soon had. Among those who came to the rescue was old Daniel Boone. He washed and dressed the wounds of Mrs. Ramsey, and when volunteers set out after the Indians his eyes snapped as if some of the old sparks were in them, and he said: "I would like to go with you, boys, but I am of no account any more."
This page is maintained by Joanna Ashmun, Montgomery County coordinator.
Last updated 2 Jan 2003.
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