Surnames you can find in Shelby County, Missouri - Early History include:Norton, Dickerson, Thomas, Moss, Saunders, Buckner, Holliday, Holman, Duncan, Broughton, Parker, Vandiver, Eaton, Roff, Watkins, Abbott, Anderson, Bell, Blackford, Christian, Duncan, Eaton, Glenn, Jackson, Looney, Parker, Wood, Stice, Heckart, Walker, Barker, Pollard, Chinn, Hawkins, Broughton, Payton, Carothers, Coard, Moore, Wailes, Blizzard, Barr, Morris, Drain, Carroll, Lewis, Melson, Taylor, Brewington, Brown, Clark, Creel, Dunbar, Davis, Strachan, Benjamin, Collier, Dunn, Mills, Pilcher, Foreman, Newton and Jacobs.
The first settler, so far as is known, was a Mr. Norton, who built a cabin on Black Creek (section 33, township 57, range 9) or (33-57-9), see the plat map for Shelby County at the bottom of this page. He came from Monroe County in the Fall of 1831, with many hogs to feed on the plentiful nuts and acorns.
Major Obadiah Dickerson went from Marion County also in Fall 1831and built a cabin on the north side of the Salt River (sec. 17-57-10), near where the road from Shelbina to Shelbyville crosses that stream. The following year he brought his family to his new home. John Thomas (sec. 18-58-9) settled on Clear Creek in the Spring of 1832. In the Fall of 1832, Russell Moss built a cabin on section 58-27-9. Henry Saunders moved to Shelby County in the Spring of 1833 (sec. 6-56-9). Other early settlers included Samuel Buckner (31-57-9), William J. Holliday (6-57-9), Thomas Holman (17-57-9), Robert Duncan (28-57-9), William B. Broughton (5-57-9), George Parker (NW ¼ 8-57-9) on Douglas Branch, Abraham Vandiver (8-57-10), John and George Eaton (9-57-10), and George and James Anderson (8-57-10). A little further up the river on the north side, and north of Walkersville on 7-57-10 was Peter Roff and Nicholas Watkins. John Thomas lived north of Oakdale on Clear Creek (18-58-9). Thomas's property was the site of Miller's Mill, which was built later.
While 1833 saw many settlers moving in, the year is mostly remembered as the year of the cholera epidemic. Palmyra, with a population of about 600, lost 105 to the disease.
1835 was known as the "cold year". The winter was long and uncommonly severe. Spring was late, cold and wet. On May 12 and 13, there was a heavy frost that killed the fruit trees and bushes. On September 16, there was another heavy frost and freeze, killing late corn, fruit and vegetables.
The 1st Fourth of July celebration in Shelby County was in 1836. About 200 people met at the spring on Clear Creek (18-58-9) for the celebration. In the autumn of 1838, Shelbyville held its first agricultural fair.
Very few Indians were ever seen after the first settlement. Occasionally, a hunting party passed through. In 1839, a band camped near Hager's Grove (SE ¼ of 35-58-12) just south of Salt River at Snowders Bridge. It occurred about the time that the government had ordered the Indians to "move on" from Iowa to the Southwest. The fall of 1838 through the Spring of 1839 was the time of the "Trail of Tears" where the government forcibly took the land of the Indians in the Southeast and moved them to Oklahoma (which is Choctaw for "red people"). The Trail of Tears did move through Southern Missouri, but did not get as far north as Shelby County.
The woods were a paradise for hunters, being full of wild game. Bears, panthers, wolves, deer, buffalo, ducks, geese, turkey, otter, beaver, fox, wildcat, raccoon and wild bees were plentiful. During late Summer or Fall, hunters would go many miles for days at a time for the purpose of securing wild honey.
The first marriage was recorded April 30, 1835. Some of the settlers present in 1835 were: Josiah Abbott, George Anderson, James Anderson, Samuel Bell, James Blackford, Anthony Blackford, Isaac Blackford, Charles Christian, Robert Duncan, George, Elisha and John Eaton, James G. Glenn, Julius C. Jackson, Peter Looney, Samuel J. Parker, George Parker, Dr. Adolphus E. Wood, and Nicholas Watkins.
The first roads were "bee trails". Wherever a stream crossed a creek, it was called a "bee ford", e.g., the Bee Ford of Otter Creek. There also was the Boone trail, the one frequented by Boone County hunters. It crossed the Salt River above Walkersville, the Black Creek southwest of Shelbyville, up the hill where Shelbyville now stands, on northeast joining the Calloway Trail south of the North River, through the timber, up the head waters of the Fabius, and on to the Des Moines River in Iowa. A ferry was established in 1836 across the Salt River by a Mr. Christian. It was located below Warren Ford, near the mouth of the Watkins Branch.
Some of the early settlers were millrights and built mills in the best spots on the streams. Several of these mills were built and operated for a while. At the November, 1835 term of court, Peter Stice asked for an order to build a water mill on the North River (33-59-10) where Bethel now stands, but it was not successful. In the Fall of 1837, Julius A. Jackson commenced a mill known as Dutton's Mill, on the Salt River 3 miles southeast of Hagar's Grove (35-58-12), but, before the dam was completed, the dam was washed out. (This mill was probably located at what in later years became known as "Snowder's Ford". Later, Snowder's Bridge was built 6 miles northeast of where Clarence was later built. In even later years, a steam saw and grist mill was operated here for many years.) In July, 1838, leave was granted Adam and Michael Heckart to build a mill on Salt River (NE 4-57-11), but there is no record of it ever being built. In 1840, David O. Walker and George W. Barker built a mill at the present site of Walkersville - which was named after David O. Walker.
Naming of the streams was done, for the most part, before the flood of immigrants. Salt River was called Oahaha by the Indians. It was renamed Salt River because of the salt springs which lay near it in Ralls County. Black Creek was originally Jake's Creek because a trapper named Jake built a cabin on the bank in about 1820 and fished and trapped there for some time. Later, when the surveyors surveyed the county, they named it Black Creek because of the blackness of its waters, caused by the falling of leaves into its waters in the Fall. Tiger Fork was named because John Winnegan killed two very large panthers on its bank. Settlers thought they were tigers and called the creek Tiger Fork. There were two Panther Creeks in that part of the county. The small streams were usually named for the men who first settled on them. Pollard's Branch was named after Elijah Pollard. Chinn's Branch was named after W. S. Chinn, Hawkins Branch for William Hawkins, Broughton's Branch for W. B. Broughton, Payton's Branch for John Payton, Bell's Branch for Samuel Bell, and Parker's Branch for George Parker. Clear Creek in Tiger Fork Township was named because of its clear water that was fed by springs. Otter Creek was named because it had so many otters. Crooked Creek was named because it was so crooked. Cat Branch was named for the panthers and wildcats. Bear Creek was named for the bears. Ten Mile was named due to its length. All the streams furnished plenty of good fishing.
The settlers, once established, had their own meat, milk, butter, honey, maple syrup, corn meal and, later on, wheat flour. The ax, maul and wedges furnished the tools for the timber. The bull plow was used to till the stumpy soil or remove a small bushy tree. The A harrow prepared the ground after plowing and mark the corn ground off both ways. The corn was then dropped in the cross by hand and covered with the hoe. Later on, there was the hand planter, which saved the dropping and covering by hand. Still later was the two row horse planter, where a boy sat on the planter and dropped a seed every time the horse set its foot down. The moldboards of the bull plows were generally wood, but sometimes they were half wood and half iron. The farmer who had one of the half iron or steel moulboard plows had a prize, and was looked upon as an aristocrat.
Coffee, sugar, and tea were very expensive. Early settlers used very little of them, relying instead on honey, maple syrup, and later, sorghum. A cow sold for about $10, a horse $25, a good hog $1.25. Wheat, when they had it, brought 25¢ per bushel, honey 20¢ per gallon, venison hams 25¢ each, and split rails 25¢ per hundred.
The land on the river bottoms was very mellow and rich. Corn was the principle crop and flax was one of the necessary crops since the fiber was used to make the family linen and cloth. A woman who possessed a dress made entirely of calico or store goods, was the envy of all the women. They usually went barefoot in summer, saving their home tanned leather shoes for the cold weather.
In 1837, Township 57 Range 11 was one of the most densely populated townships in the county. The following men and their families were residing in that township: David D. Walker, David Wood, Malcolm Wood, William Wood, James Carothers (settled from Allegheny County, PA in 1837 on 23-57-11), William Coard, Nicholas Watkins, Perry B. Moore, Isaac W. Moore, Mrs. Mary Wailes, Pettyman Blizzard, James R. Barr (settled from Delaware in 1837 with his brother John on 15-57-11), Lacy Morris, Stanford Drain, James Carroll, Barclay Carroll, John B. Lewis, James Parker, George Parker, Captain Benjamin Melson, Major Taylor, Robert Brewington and Henry Brewington. Captain Benjamin Melson was from Worcester County, Maryland, as were the Brewington brothers. James Parker and Henry Brewington were sons-in-law of Benjamin Melson. Melson and his son John settled on 10-57-12, while James Parker settled on 8-57-11 and Major Taylor on 6-57-11.
In the Fall of 1837, the first organization of the Methodist Church in Shelby County was at the home of J. B. Lewis in Salt River Township. In 1838 a Sunday School was held in Bacon schoolhouse. In 1850, George Bacon donated land and a church named Bacon Chapel was built. Another building replaced the first building in 1870. The Presbyterian Church of Shelbyville was organized July 30, 1859.
The years of 1842-1843 were "hard times" for the settlers. In the fall of 1842, the St. Louis market quoted the best flour at $2.50 per barrel, with potatoes and corn at 18¢ per bushel. Nice, well cured hams were 5¢ per pound and coffee 10½¢ per pound. The Shelbyville quotations were: pork at $1.50 per hundred, beef $1.00 per hundred weight, corn 62½¢ per barrel and bacon 2¢ per pound. A good 5 year steer would sell for $8.00 with cows $6.00 to $8.00. Land could be obtained from the government for $1.25 per acre.
For the Mexican War, a company was formed in Palmyra in July, 1846. The company left Palmyra July 20, was mustered into service August 20th at Fort Leavenworth, and arrived at Santa Fe in October. Among others from Shelby County were Lieutenant James Armstrong Carothers, William H. Brown, George W. Barker, John Calvin Carothers, Robert Clark, James R. Creel, Thomas S. Dunbar, Peter P. Davis, James Parker, W. H. Strachan, and General McNeal. Lieutenant James Armstrong Carothers had two brothers - John Henderson Carothers and Matthew Loudon Carothers - all three coming to Shelby County in the early 1840's. Dr. John Carothers, a cousin of these men, also came to Shelby County in the early 1840's. He was a surgeon in the War of 1812 and practiced medicine in Shelby County for several years, dieing in Shelbyville in 1855. Another cousin, Jane Carothers, married Dr. James Bell, who practiced medicine in Shelbyville and the surrounding countryside for a number of years. James Carothers (father of James Harvey Carothers and husband of Sarah Forsythe), who came to Shelby County in 1837 and settled near what is now Walkersville, was another cousin. Dr. John Carothers and Dr. Bell died in Shelbyville. James Armstrong Carothers died soon after returning to Shelbyville and is buried there. Matthew Loudon Carothers and family moved to Oregon in 1865.
Among those who went to the California gold fields in 1849 were: John F. Benjamin, J. M. Collier, William Dunn, John Dickerson, Captain James Armstrong Carothers, Dr. Mills, C. M. Pilcher, Benjamin Foreman and others. Among those who went in 1850 were: Adam Heckart, Newton and Harvey Dunn, James Harvey Carothers, John Jacobs and others.
Additional Shelby County related history can be found at Close Encounter with Jesse James describing Shelby County losses at the massacre at Centralia during the Civil War, and John Franklin Carothers' description of the the trip to Shelby County from Hannibal, Missouri via oxen hitched to a prairie schooner - on the About Us page.
The above was excerpted from Shelby County History, originally written in 1884 and 1911, supplemented by John Franklin Carothers in 1932. For a portion of the Carothers family line, see "The Compendium of American Genealogy: The First families of America" pages 98 and 108.
How to use / read a plat map
Click on the red link above. Sorry that this file loads so slowly, but it is very big. It is a .pdf file, so you will need a .pdf file reader on your computer, just like you need to read the genealogy files posted on this site. If you do not have a .pdf file reader, you can download one free from Adobe.
When the map appears on your screen, you will probably want to use the "zoom in" button on your reader software, several times to get the map large enough to read. At the center at the bottom of the map is a picture of the State of Missouri, with Shelby County shown as darkened near the top right corner of the state. The numbers supplied for the various settlers property are the Section number, the Township number, and the Range number. We suggest that you work backwards with these numbers to find specific properties on the map, starting with the Range number - the 3rd number of the 3 listed for each property.
The Range numbers are vertical sections of the county, going from right to left with Ranges 9 through 12, for Shelby County. These verticle dividers are marked at the top and the bottom of the county map.
The Township numbers are horizontal sections of the county, going from bottom to top with Townships 56 through 59, for Shelby County. These horizontal dividers are marked at the left and the right of the county map.
The Section numbers are pieces of the horizontal and vertical sections of the county. These section numbers are marked on the map, within each Township-Range combination of the county map. Section 1 is always in the upper right of each Township-Range combination, going to the left for Section 2-6, dropping down a row for Sections 7-12 (left to right), and snaking through each Township-Range combination, until 36 sections are defined for each Township-Range combination. For example, the Middle Fork of the Salt River cuts across the very bottom left corner of Shelby County. This is Range 12, Township 56, Section 31, or, as represented for location of the property, 31-56-11.
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