Camden County History
As compiled by J. W. Vincent, editor of “The Reveille” of Linn Creek, Mo.
Published July 2nd to September 3rd of 1896, from interviews with some
of the oldest settles living in Camden County at the time.
From a historical standpoint there are two geographical divisions
in Camden county – the eastern, being that portion east of the line
between ranges seventeen and eighteen, most of which was taken from
Pulaski county; and the western, formerly territory of Pulaski and
Greene counties. The few square miles north of the river, once
belonging to Morgan, are hardly looked upon from the divisions named.
Thus considered, the “East End” is not only the largest, but most
populous, best developed and oldest in port of organization and
No definite record or tradition of the first settlers
or “squatters” to make their homes in this region seems to have been
preserved. It is more than likely that their occupation was limited in
duration by their isolation, roving disposition and passive hostility of
the natives. The government did not encourage intrusion into the Indian
domain, but seems to have taken no active steps to prevent it.
In 1827, Harrison Davis and a son-in-law, Reuben Berry, of
Kentucky, after a tour through other parts of the state, pitched their
camp on the Dry Auglaize, near what is now Chauncey, eight miles east of
Linn Creek, and not far from the encampment of three tribes of Indians,
among whom was a band of the Osages.
Negotiations were entered upon, and they soon exchanged sundry
blankets, bridles, etc., for the possession of sufficient land for their
needs. Returning to Kentucky for their families, they settled there in
1828, their nearest neighbors being the “Fulbright Settlement”, in what
is now Laclede county, which had been established about a year
previously. To the west of them lay an unbroken wilderness.
Mr. Davis lived on the land thus acquired some thirty years, and
some of his descendants still reside near by. Mr. Berry died at the
home of his grandson, Hon. H. H. Windes, in Linn Creek, May 15, 1883, at
the great age of ninety-two years and five months. July 10, 1885, his
son, Alex. E. H. D. Berry, who played with Indian boys in childhood,
also died. Some years before a favorite son of the younger Berry had
accidentally shot himself through the heart, and it is thought this
tragedy saddened and perhaps shortened the father’s life.
With the exception of William Pogue, on the Osage River, the only
additional settler of whom there is any record up to 1828, in the county
as now constituted, was James Wilson, near the mouth of the Dry
Auglaize. Wilson, like Davis and Berry, had slaves and plenty of stock,
a good farm, substantial buildings and comfortable surroundings. He had
also – what was of far more importance to the settlers – a small horse
mill, capable of grinding about 25 bushels of corn per day, which he had
brought to the frontier for his own convenience, and afterwards used for
the accommodation of customers.
This man Wilson was originally a hunter and trapper, occupations
which he followed more or less all his life. He took more pride in his
pack of “b’ar dogs” than in his mill or other wealth, but was
nevertheless a good citizen, and did much for the early development of
the county. Some of the Wilsons and Cralls who live on the Dry Auglaize
at the present time are his descendants.
A Three Years’ Record
It is fair to conclude then that actual settlement began in 1826,
for if there were any improvements before that time, they were probably
transient, and many miles apart.
Ludwell L. Blanton, another settler who still has a posterity in
the county, located on the Auglaize in 1829. His older son, Thomas, was
five years old at the time, while Crockett C., the younger, was an
infant. They are now the oldest surviving settlers in the county.
The nearest store at that time was at the mouth of Little Piney, on
the Gasconade River, and the principal commodities kept were salt and
Spencer Abbott and Maston Skaggs settled about 1830. Peter Goodwin
settled on the Dry Auglaize in 1830, but on land afterwards assigned to
Thomas Woolsey settled near Decaturville in 1831, and his son
Daniel Woolsey, now of Chauncey, was a good sized boy at the time. He
is still, at the writing, vigorous and well preserved for one of his
years, with a good recollection of events in pioneer life. His earliest
and liveliest memories of the “good old times” are connected with going
long distances to mill. He drove oxen, spending two days on the road,
both in going and returning, and camping on the way.
The Garrison family came soon after the Woolseys and settled near
them. Judge A. Garrison, the oldest surviving member of the family at
the present time, was a small boy at that date, but his habits of
observation and excellent memory have given him a considerable fund of
information on the settlement and development of the country, some of
which has been used in this work.
By the end of the year 1831 there were thirteen families on the Dry
Auglaize and its tributaries, but most of them were south of what is now
included in Camden county.
Settlers on the Wet Auglaize at the beginning of 1832, so far as
their names can be learned, were William Piborn, Jacob Piborn, Ned
Piborn, Eli Cornwell, and Adamson Cornwell. Morrell Holden and G. W.
Huddleston also came at a very early day, but whether prior to the year
named, cannot be ascertained.
The Events of 1832
The year 1832 was the most momentous in the settlement of Camden
County. The frontier of civilization advanced, at one stride, as it
were, from the Gasconade to the Niangua, the intervening territory being
bought for the first time directly under the sway of civil authority.
The settlements of that memorable year were principally on the Wet
Auglaize and many descendants of pioneers who then located along its
shores have been and are highly respected and influential citizens of
Among the first immigrants was James Dodson, who settled near the
subsequent site of Glaize City. His son, Dr. J. N. B. Dodson, was one
of the founders of Linn Creek and also of Glaize City. Another son, Dr.
William Dodson, was a noted physician and clergyman, and Benjamin D.
Dodson, a third son, was one of the county’s most successful business
men and best citizens. A daughter, Mrs. Lucy A. Estes, still lives near
the old home. She remembers many incidents of early pioneer life.
David Meredith, who came the same year, has children still living
in that locality, one of whom, Mrs. John Glover, is the oldest native
born inhabitant of Camden county, having been born near Toronto, Nov.
25, 1832. Her brother, Mathias Meredith, who lives near the Miller
county line, is some years her senior, and remembers “32” quite
John and Charles Laughlin settled near by, and members of the
family now reside on the Niangua, in the vicinity of Ha Ha Tonka.
Other settlers on the Wet Auglaize in that year were Laban Ivey,
William Malone, John Dean, Israel Light, and Benjamin Wiseman.
Waynesville, 25 miles away, was the nearest trading point, and was
also the county seat after Pulaski was organized.
On the Dry Auglaize a family named Pettijohn, Thomas Parrish,
Daniel Rainwaters, Joseph Berger, Abe Berger, James Aikman (afterwards
sheriff of Pulaski county), Ned Howerton, William Yandell, Mack
McClellen and John Klein took up their residence about the same time.
There were a number of others on both the Auglaizes of whom no
definite data is obtainable, but most of them remained but a short time,
and could hardly be classed as settlers.
A man named Pollard lived in Linn Creek valley near where the
second school house, (since sold), was built, between upper and lower
William Capps settled on the Niangua, near the Allison ford, in
1832 or earlier, and died soon after. His widow remained on his
clearing or claim for some years, raising a few hogs and sheep and such
other stock as she was able.
William Boyce is said to have located on the Little Niangua in
1832, but probably the first farm opened on that stream was the one now
owned by George J. Moulder. It was settled by a man named Walmsley, who
was attracted to the spot by the waters of a copious spring, one of the
finest in the county.
It is thought by some that Capps and Walmsley immigrated as early
as 1829 or 1830, but of this nothing can be known with certainty.
Josiah DeJarnett made an improvement on the Niangua, four miles
about its mouth, in 1832. He was the first sheriff of Kinderhook county.
Other very early settlers were two men named Clinton and Cummins,
who occupied the Moulder place, afterwards known as Cave Pump, also on
the Niangua, and William Montgomery, on the Little Niangua.
Louis Oder lived on the Osage River, above the mouth of the Niangua
at that time, but whether or not he settled in that year or earlier is
uncertain. He was a mechanic, working, as the county settled up, in the
capacities of carpenter, boat-builder and millwright, and also farming a
A man named Richardson had a little cabin and a little clearing on
the river bank, opposite where Linn Creek was afterwards built.
As the settlements of the Auglaize were under the jurisdiction of
Crawford county and those on the Niangua belonged mostly to Benton, the
two localities had but little in common, until intermarriage, trade and
the navigation of the Osage River drew them together.
Beginnings of Development
The colonies on the Wet and Dry Auglaize extended gradually, first
up and down those creeks, then to the smaller streams, and lastly and
more slowly to the prairies and uplands.
Probably the first school house was built on the farm of Daniel
Meredith, in 1833. There was also a subscription school on the Wet
Auglaize, not long afterwards in a tobacco barn, but this was probably
in Miller county. The first school on the Dry Auglaize, was on David
Fulbright’s place, in Laclede county.
In 1833 or 1834 Sampson Wilson established a small store near
the mouth of the Dry Auglaize. This was the first commercial enterprise
in the present county of Camden, and although very limited, was a great
convenience to the scantily and scattered population.
John Smithers of Smathers established what was afterwards known as
the Pritchett mill, near Wet Glaize, early in the ‘30s. It was
originally a corn mill, with a capacity of about 15 bushels per day. It
was probably the first mill on the Wet Auglaize, although John Pope
built the first flouring mill on that stream as early as 1835.
The “bolt” was run by hand, and was considered a wonderful innovation in
those days. For many years the “old Pope mill” was noted far and wide,
and its site is still a landmark for all the old settlers.
The Arnhold Mill, probably the most noted in the county, was
founded in 1833 by a man named Kieth. People in the “east end”
sometimes patronized a mill commemorated in the name of “Hominy Mill
Spring,” on the Tavern, in Miller county.
In 1833, Aaron Crain, from Boone county, bought the improvement of
the man Richardson, mentioned previously, and some of his descendants
still live on the same place, where they have operated the Linn Creek
ferry for many years. Mr. Crain was accompanied by his son, Saunders
W., his sons-in-law, Andrew McQuitty and Samuel Ayers and their
families. Another son, W. L. Crain, is one of the oldest settlers now
living on the Osage river, having lived on the same premises for 65
years. When the Crains came to the country, the trading point for this
portion of the Osage river was Booneville, on the Missouri, and they
packed salt from the Boone lick, in Howard county, over 100 miles away.
There were remains at that time of an Indian village about one mile
above the mouth of the Niangua, and traces of it and of their devices
for catching fish, etc., could be seen after 1870. There was the hull
of an old keel boat near by, which was said to have been abandoned by
French traders who were forced to leave the country on account of
trouble with the Indians. A town was afterwards laid off on
the “point”, but never amounted to much.
Other families at that time on the part of the Osage river now
included in Camden county, were the Walkers, Uptons, William Porter,
Louis C. Oder, John Davidson, Daniel Purcell, John Fryrear, William Ray,
and Thomas Wallace.
Richard Popplewell, afterwards a prominent business man of Linn
Creek, came to the country in 1834.
In 1835 Jonas Brown and his son-in-law, Williamson Foster, from
Kentucky, came to the Little Niangua, Mr. Foster afterwards settling on
the Osage river, some five or six miles above Linn Creek. Mr. Brown
opened a place on the Little Niangua, near the mouth of Prairie Hollow,
and about a year later John D. Foster, a brother of Williamson, came
from Kentucky, and married Gleanor, a younger daughter of Mr. Brown.
His widow and son, John W. Foster, still live on the place settled by
Mr. Brown over sixty years ago.
At that time Stewart Condon lived at the mouth of Firey Fork,
Pollard Wisdom on the G. S. Howard place, William Hart on the place
afterwards owned by Andrew Estes, and Thomas Hart at the place already
mentioned as having been settled by Mr. Walmsley. These constituted all
the settlements they knew of on the Little Niangua. Of other neighbors,
about all that have not been mentioned elsewhere were a family of
Fitchews, on the Cunningham hollow, between the Little Niangua and Osage.
Mr. William Russell settled the place afterwards owned by Judge
John Cyrus, on the Little Niangua, in 1836, and several of his sons
still reside in that locality. Mr. Russell killed four panthers after
coming to the county, one of which was nine feet long. John Shipman
also came to the country in 1836, settling between the Wet and Dry
The first schools on the Little Niangua were on the farm of William
Russell, and another near Jonas Brown’s taught by Moses Wilson.
In 1836 the first recorded murder occurred, a man named Edwards
being assassinated at his home on the Niangua. Two desperados, named
Quillen and Jones, were suspected, and the agitation then begun finally
led to the trouble afterwards known as the “Slicker War”, concerning
which many conflicting and erroneous stories are told.
Another Memorable Year
Within the confines of the present county, the first attempt at a
town or business point of which there is any reliable account was made
at Purcell or Gayhorn Spring, now known as Hopkins Spring, three miles
down the river from old town or lower town of Linn Creek.
The site selected is beautiful in many respects, though
disadvantageous for a town, as the sequel proved. It is opposite the
mouth of a valley known as “Race Track”, and at the foot of a bottom two
miles or more in length, while below the spring, a high, imposing bluff
extends down the river for about a mile, adding picturesqueness to the
scene. The spring is quite near the river, and is the second in volume
in the county, with a flow estimated at 15,000 barrels per hour. The
main body of water is very deep and of considerable extent, the flow to
the river being rapid and of great volume, affording ample water power
for any ordinary machinery, except when backed up by the river, as
happens during every considerable rise.
At this point a grist mill, carding machine, store and dram shop
were established in 1833, and did quite a flourishing business for those
pioneer times. This point was designed for the seat of justice when the
county organization should be perfected, but the embryo metropolis being
on comparative low ground, the rise of 48 1/3 feet in 1837 carried off
all the buildings and wrecked the machinery. Owing to this untoward
circumstance, the business center was moved two miles up the river, to
the place afterwards known as Erie.
The bluff alluded to was the scene of the most terrible tragedy
ever enacted in the county; resulting in the death of David Lyne, Mary
Kirtz and Hiram Webster, Dec. 4, 1885.
Judge G. C. Thornton, who has been at different times one of the
county court justices, came to his present home on Horseshoe Bend on the
Osage river, in 1837, although he had lived at the mouth of the Big
Gravois, a few miles away, in what is now Morgan county, since 1832.
There were then only seven families in the “bend”, comprising
twelve miles of river, now occupied by about 400 people. The nearest
sawmill was at Porter Spring, thirteen miles up the river, which,
however, is so tortuous in its course that the distance by land is only
two and one-half miles. This was probably the only saw-mill in Camden
county territory. There were more inhabitants in Shawnee Bend, which
extends fifteen miles below, than in Horseshoe, but there was less than
250 acres in cultivation in the two, a distance of 27 miles, now
including many of the finest farms in Camden county. Judge Thornton is
the oldest surviving licensed steamboat pilot on the Osage.
A family named Goodrich made the first settlement on Prairie
Hollow, in the southwest part of the county, now containing a number of
fine farms, in 1837.
Samuel Aikmen and James Hobbs also moved to the Dry Auglaize in the
The Moulder family, since the most numerous and prominent in the
county, first arrived in 1837. Judge G. W. Moulder, the first of these,
came to Lincoln county in 1830, and to Camden (then Pulaski) in the year
named, buying a farm on the Niangua, eight miles above Linn Creek, where
he lived nearly fifty years, and died in 1886.
He was one of a family of twelve children, and was afterwards
joined by three brothers, Valentine, Silas and Rufus, and by two
sisters, Rebecca Capps and Elizabeth Doyle, the latter of whom is still
living, on Prairie Hollow, the only surviving member of her father’s
family. Judge Moulder had six sons, William G., John B., A. F., Joseph
C., V. P., and T. H. B., all of whom served their country during the
On the old Judge Moulder farm there is a very fine spring in a
cave, easily entered from the foot of the hill, below the house. Part
of this cave has been fitted up for a spring house, probably the finest
in the county. On top of the hill, near the house, is a round hole or
natural well which penetrates to the cave directly over the spring, and
through which water is drawn for the use of the family. From this
curious circumstance the place is called “Cave Pump.” A post office of
that name was conducted by Judge Moulder for many years, before, during
and after the war.
The Moulder family now has hundreds of representatives and over a
thousand relatives in the county, and members of it have held various
positions of profit and trust in the county, extending over a period of
Ha Ha Tonka, on the Niangua, so-called from the spring and lake of
that name, was settled in the ‘30s, though just how long is a matter of
some doubt, for reasons connected with the lawless character of its
inhabitants, one of whom was James B. Gunter, the spring being called by
his name until after 1890. The wonderful scenery, the immense water
power and other advantages that have rendered this spot so noted, were
recognized and written up by one of the government surveyors who first
sectionized the land, and circulated in the form of a pamplet. This
work was seen in Philadelphia by Joseph Crall, one of a family of
millers, who was attracted to the country by it possibilities as a mill
site, and he and his brother, Samuel, thus became pioneers of the
county, where the family still holds an honorable place in business,
politics and society.
By 1837 settlements were becoming more or less general in various
parts of the county. Much of the wilderness had been but little
explored, and William Kuykendall, one of the pioneers, killed a bear in
that year, but still an attempt to record individual settlements up to
that time would give but an imperfect idea of the population, which then
numbered several hundred.
It has already been said that settlers on the Dry Auglaize sent
their children to a school on David Fulbright’s place, within the
present limits of Laclede county. They also patronized a store within
the same community, owned by David and John Fulbright, whose nearest
customers, outside of their own settlement, were six or eight miles
away, and by 1838 there were five or six such stores within reach of the
There were no frame houses, and it is very doubtful if a pioneer
would have defied the traditions of the community by living in one.
T. C. DeGraffenreid was a hunter of no mean ability, and owned
slaves and other property, but was sometimes hard pressed for the
immediate necessities of life by reason of his frontier environment.
One Christmas morning the family, including seven children was without
provisions, and the lamentations of the good woman over this state of
affairs found a ready response in his sportsman’s instinct. While
casting about for means of meeting this emergence, Mr. DeGraffenreid
heard a turkey gobble, seized his rifle and started in active pursuit.
His anxiety was increased by the fact that he had only two bullets, and
did not know just where to get another nearer than Jefferson City. He
began to call and presently one of the fowls, of which there were
several, leisurely plumed itself, flew across the creek, only to fall
dead on the sands before the deadly fire of the anxious hunter. The
family had a Christmas feast fit for the proudest in the land.
One of the Fulbrights had 200 head of horses, which ranged in the
woods and prairies, and I. H. Parrish, who came to the county in 1838,
was employed to look after them.
No attention was paid to land titles, settlers fixing boundaries to
suit themselves, and having no occasion or disposition to intrude on