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Callaway County, Missouri

Letters from the Old
Settlers Meeting

November 10, 1883


To the Old Settler's Meeting:—

The undersigned not being in a situation to attend your meeting on the 10th inst., submits a few items that may be of some little interest to the people now living.

 Cote Sans Dessein area The old village of Cote Sans Dessein (pronounced by the old French Cote Sans Dusaw) was settled by the French about the year 1812. I first saw It in September 1817. I remember that there were then bearing apple and peach trees in several gar­dens. The village at that time contained 300 or 400 inhabitants. There were two small dry goods stores, one grocery or dram shop, one tavern and one blacksmith shop. This point was selected by Baptiste Roy and his brothers as a very suitable place for trapping and hunting. The Osage river valley was only three miles above and was at that time an excellent place for beaver, deer and bear. In the year 1808 Baptiste Roy purchased of Pierre Chouteau G10 arpents of land, on which he settled & number of persons, the most of whom were hunters and trappers and in his employ, The names of the principal persons there in 1817 were Baptiste, Joe, Louis and Fran­cis Roy, four brothers; James Teabo, Revards, Vinciens, Donoya (called Pecars), Graziers, (called Captain) four; Feye, Laplant, (or Labran), Urnoe, Tyro (or Tyo), Peachu, Shalifaux, Rails and others. The only Americans there then were Daniel Bob and Harvey Colgan, Major Evans, grandfather of the late William, Jesse and John King, Mr. Harvey Hubbard, also grandfather of the late John, Jesse E. and Joseph Farmer, William Dunnica, Asa Williams, the father of Henry, Asa L., W. G.Williams, now living; also Mrs. E. Foy and Sallie Jennings, Jonathan Hollaway, grandfather of J.L. and N. B. Ferguson; also Mrs. C. W. Samuels and Sallie Miller, in the fall of 1817; Joshua, John S. and William Ferguson, Dennis Askrew, Thumas Duley, William B. Scott, father of Mrs. Colonel John Boyce, and also of Mrs. William M. Ramsey, now living; General Jonathan Ramsey, a member in the first convention that formed the first constitution of Missouri; Josiah Ramsey, the great hunter; Lampkins, Rounsaville, Joe and James Gordon, William Lenox and three sons and probably others. My father, John S. Ferguson, being a millwright by trade, built the first horse mill in the county, early in the spring of 1818, which did the grinding for a distance of twenty miles up and down the river, the materials for which he brought with him from Ken­tucky on a small batteau (or keel boat). The most of our meat we had the first year was obtained from the woods. Beer, turkeys (and occasionally a bear) were plenty and good. Cattle and horses wintered on rushes and wild pea vines. The first school taught in our neighborhood was in the winter of 1818-19, by Joseph James, four miles above Cote Sans Dessein. In the fall of 1818 John Scrips, a Methodist preacher, made his first visit to the county and preached the first night at William Nash's, and the next night at my fathers, John S. Ferguson, and continued to preach at my fathers house one year. For more than twenty years afterwards my fathers house was the preaching place for the neighborhood. My mother, Mary Ferguson, Hannah Ramsey, Josiah Ramsey, and old Tom Nash (colored) constituted the first Methodist class formed in this neighborhood, probably in the county. Old Josiah Ramsey was appointed class leader, and, being a pious old man, held a prayer meeting every Sabbath at some place in the neighborhood. The Methodist preacher of that day had to encounter many hardships, and often suffered with cold and hunger in travelling through the wilderness from one appointment to another, some twenty miles or more apart. They were compelled to be dependent on the few members of the church for clothing, etc.; but they were more than welcome by the hardy pioneer, and were furnished with everything necessary for their comfort as far as could be. While John Scrips was on this circuit, which embraced a part of Boone county, he became in want of a hat. A Mr. Hatton, of Boone county, a hatter by trade, told him if he would bring him some coonskins he would make him a hat, which he (Scrips) at once promised to do. In his rounds on the circuit he would make known to the people of each preaching place the offer of Mr. Hatton. The colored people were only too glad to give him one, two or three coonskins at each place, which he rolled up and tied to the hind part of his saddle, and on to his next appointment. So that by the time he got back to Hatton \s he had skins enough to make his hat. On his next round to Hatton’s his hat was ready for him (a low crown, broad brim hat). I suppose a Methodist or any other preacher that would carry a bundle of coonskins on his horse behind him at this day would be laughed at, even by the colored people. There are but few persons now living that I knew in 1818. I give their names as follows: Nancy Nash, now Holman, aged seventy-six; Nancy Askroens, now Mrs. Gordon, aged about seventy; Josiah R. Lampkin, Cole county, nearly seventy-four; Mary Scott, now Mrs. Boyd, suppose seventy-two; Elizabeth Dunnica, formerly Ferguson, seventy-six; old Jim Rurnsey (colored), eighty-two; Thomas J. Ferguson, nearly seventy-four. These are the only names of persons now living that I can remember that were here in this vicinity at that time.

Very respectfully,

T. J. Ferguson.


Messrs T. B. Harris C. A, Bailey and I. W. Boulware.


I received your complimentary invitation to be present and partici­pate in a meeting of the old settlers on the 10th instant. Regretting that I cannot attend on the day designated I will, however, gave a short sketch of my recollections of early times in Callaway. It will not be necessary to give a detailed account of the early settlement of Callaway county or Fulton, as they have been incorporated in the recent histories of Whetmore, Campbell and Rose. I will, therefore, mention such minor incidents as have been overlooked or not thought worthy of notice. A genera­tion of frontier lives have accumulated stores of narrative which, like the small but beautiful tributaries of great rivers, are forgotten in the broad sweep of the large current of history. It will be well enough for us to preserve the most important events and incidents for future reference. As I came to Callaway county in 1823, I claim to be familiar with the hardships incident to a frontier life, also with the habits and customs of our pioneer settlers. It has been one of the fondly cherished enjoyments of my life to mingle with these border communities until I have become familiar with their occupations, instincts and aspirations as one to the manor born, learning thereby to respect their unsophisticated manhood and appreciate their simple virtues; and it has sometimes appeared to me that there was a beauty and grace in the unbroken forest and in the untilled prairies, nowhere else to be found in the lawns and gardens of civ­ilization, and it is doubtful whether, with all our present material advantages, the advance in wealth, science and the arts have substantially increased the happiness or elevated the morals of the individual man. We have seen health and cheerfulness, plenty without overwork, and in the absence of law or gospel, social order well main­tained by patriarchal authority, neighborly kindness, simplicity of manners and absence of temptation. How much more than this does the world promise? How much less does it not really give us? In a former communication to the Telegraph I gave a brief biographical sketch of one of the pioneer citizens of Fulton, in which I mentioned incidentally something about the location and building up of the town. I will now give some additional facts and incidents in connection with the location. In these reminiscences of over half a century there may be some mistakes in detail, but the main facts are correct. The commissioners appointed to locate the county seat were Moss and McClelland, of Boone, and Talbott, of Montgomery. They met pursuant to agreement at the house of Mr. Ezra Sitton, near where the railroad bridge now crosses the town creek. This place was favorably spoken of as an eligible site, but as the commissioners were required to make the location as nearly central as practicable, they examined another place a mile or more east of this, near the south­east corner of the sixteenth section, said by David Sturigere, our first county sur­veyor, to be the centre of the county. But not satisfied with this place they made the location where it now is. They accepted the proposition of Mr. George Nichols, who bad made a conditional donation of fifty acres of land. This action on the part of the commissioners gave general satisfaction. It was doubtless the best location within an arf*a of several miles in the central part of the county. The long southern slope and p^^y undulating surface, the absence of malarial swamps or stagnant ponds, has made Fulton what it has always had the reputation of being, one of the healthiest towns in Missouri. After the commissioners made the location they had some diffi­culty in finding a proper name. Several names were proposed and rejected, when Dr. Moss proposed the name of Volney, which was acquiesced in by the other com­missioners. A few persons only manifested opposition to the name. Mr. Robert Dunlap, however, took an active part in opposition, and it was through his influence mainly that the change was made. His uniform kindness to the early settlers and his many good traits of character had endeared him to a large circle of friends and en­titled him to something like patriarchal authority, hence he had but little trouble in making the change from Volney to Fulton. In a conversation with the writer, he said he objected to the name because Volney was a deist and also a subject of a mona rental form of government, his sympathies being with his own and in opposition to our form of government. He remarked that if the name was intended to honor the memory or aid in perpetuating the fame of any one, we had men in our own country eminently entitled to be thus honored, and mentioned the name of Fulton, who, by his successful application of steam to machinery, had done more than any one else in advancing the agricultural, mechanical and commercial interests of our country. The first time I passed through where Fulton was afterward located, it was an unbroken forest covered with a heavy growth of timber and thick undergrowth, a covert for the wild animals of the forest. Subsequently in 1825 there were two dwell­ings within the now incorporated limits of the city, one occupied by Mr. George Nichols, the other a log cabin surrounded by a potato patch a short distance south of the courthouse, occupied by a man by the name of Harper, who held the fee simple title of a squatter; and after the town lots were sold found his title domain in the possession of two or three different owners. He was one of that class properly termed pioneers, who, like Ham and Crow and Dudley Simmon and others whose names I could mention, opened up the wilderness to civilization and Christianity. They came as hunters and trappers, and when game became scarce they moved further toward the setting sun. I have not time or space to give the character of these early pioneer hunters and trappers. The character of the early pioneer hunters as well as those who came for permanent settlement, is rapidly becoming mythical. Railroads have destroyed the romance of frontier life. There is nothing now in common with sixty years ago when we packed our salt from Boone’s Lick and procured our dry goods and groceries in Old Franklin and St. Charles. The class of immigrants that came to Missouri differed from the multifarious throng that settled on the Pacific coast in this: They were not attracted by the glitter of gold; they were mostly young and middle-aged men with families, who came here for the purpose of procuring homes and settling their families around on cheap government land. We have here an exemplification of the fact that the early immigrants to Missouri as well ay the other western States, kept closely to parallel lines of latitude; hence we find that north central Missouri was settled mostly by Virginians and Kentuckians, while the southern portion of the State was settled mainly by Tennesseans and Carolinians.

In concluding this imperfect sketch, which I have not time to revise and put in proper shape, I will mention something in relation to a grand barbecue and celebration of the 4th of July, held within the now incorporated limits of the city of Fulton on July 4, 1825. At a meeting of the citizens of the neighborhood sometime during the preceding month of June, a committee was appointed for the purpose of making the necessary arrangements, erecting an arbor, soliciting subscriptions, etc. John Jameson, Jr., R. May and J. Dunlap were chosen as said committee. They wrote a short circular address, copies of which were sent to the different neighborhoods, of which the following is very nearly a verbatim copy: "Knowing it to be our privilege an believing it to be our duty to celebrate the 4th of July, the anniversary day of Ameri­can Independence, we, therefore, the undersigned committee, appointed to make all necessary arrangements, respectfully request contributions of bread, meat and vege­tables, said articles to be delivered on the ground selected for said barbecue early on the morning of the 4th of July, proximo. As this was the first barbecue and cele­bration of any importance held in the county, there was a very liberal contribution and general turnout of citizens. There were several present from the adjoining counties of Boone and Montgomery. This barbecue was ostensibly for the purpose of celebrating the 4th of July, but there was aLso an ulterior object of local impor­tance only, which drew together many who probably would not have attended the mere celebration of the 4th. The object was to meet together for mutual greeting and con­gratulations on the recent location of the county seat. There was an ample supply of meat, enough for double the number in attendance. It was supposed that there were over 400 persons present. Enoch Smith, Fulton's old time butcher, had charge of the culinary department and served up a well prepared dinner. The arbor was of large dimensions, sufficient to accommodate two sets of dancers, and the votaries of Terpsi­chore were busily engaged from an early hour in the morning until late in the evening. The Declaration of Independence was read by George McFarlane. The address was delivered by John Jameson, Jr., afterwards Captain Jameson. Mr. Jameson was at that time quite a young man and had not commenced the practice of Inw. He mnde an excellent address, presaging his future eminence as a public speaker. He was warmly congratulated by his friends on this his first and successful effort before a promiscuous assembly. After the table was cleared off, Major W. W. Suell gave notice publicly at the arbor for all to repair to and take their places around the table while the toasts were drank. There were thirteen regular and many volunteer toasts. The following was one of the regular toasts: "The President of tlie United States, John Quincy Adams, elevated to the highest office in the gift of the people, but not by the voice of the people, his acts as tlie chief executive officer of the government will be watched, approved if right, condemned if wrong." This toast met with a very hearty response, not because any one present was favorable to Mr. Adams, as the vote of Missouri was cast for Mr. Clay and Gen. Jackson, but in asmuch as Mr. Adams obtained the office in a regular way, there was a disposition to give his administration a fair trial. And as the sequel proved, he made an exemplary officer. I will now mention by way of episode tliat the Presidential canvass of 1824 presented the anomaly of four aspirants to the Presidency, all of the same political party and supporters of Mr. Monroe's administration. There was tlie erudite scholar and statesman, J. Q. Adams, the genial and gifted Crawford, the eloquent Clay and the rough and ready Andrew Jackson. As is well known General Jackson had a large plurality, but not a majority, of tlie electoral vote; hence the election came before the House. The name of Mr. Clay as tlie lowest on the list being dropped, Mr. Clay saw proper, contrary to the wiil of his Slate, to give his influence and support to Mr. Adams. Mr. Adams, being elected, made Mr. Clay Secretary of State. Hence the charge of bargain and sale, corruption and intrigue, which followed Mr. Clay to his grave and was one among other causes that prevented him from reaching his long coveted desire, the Presidential chair. Although Mr. Clay and his friends repeatedly denied this charge, it was as repeatedly made and reiterated by every stump speaker from Maine to Louisiana, and it was not until after Mr. Clay's death that the charge was denied by his opponents. Colonel Benton, in a speech delivered in the old courthouse in Fulton shortly after the death of Mr. Clay, although a long political enemy, paid a just tribute of respect to his memory in denying in his emphatic manner the charge of collusion and bribery, verifying the adage, better late than never. It was too late to benefit Mr. Clay or the dermoralized party of wliich he had long been the acknowl­edged leader, bat his friends were satisfied to know that the charge was buried, never to be resurrected again.

Attack on Cote Sans Dessein

Attack on Cote Sans Dessein (Callaway County Missouri) Cote Sans Dessein (a hill without design) is the site of an ancient French village. This place has its name from an isolate hill that is standing, as if by accident, on the river-bank in an extensive bottom...The village of Cote Sans Dessein was settled in 1808, and was once a populous place. The old inhabitants have generally removed across the Missouri and settled there. This ancient village had its share in the Indian wars incident to the settlement of the country. The principal actor in this achievement was a Frenchman, whose name was Baptiste Louis Roi. He chanced to be in the blockhouse with only two men and two women, when the attack commenced. With the small command, he made a successful defense against a numerous and very determined band of Indians. One of the men, noting the small defensive force, was panic stricken. He devoted himself to prayer throughout the siege. The women busied themselves to cast bullets and cut patches, so as to keep up the defense in a steady manner. There were fourteen Indians killed and many wounded...The Indians made a determined effort to destroy the blockhouse. They fired arrows, with a combustive tip, which was ignited. The defenders had a limited supply of water on hand which was soon exhausted. Another flaming arrow was launched, but someone grabbed a container of milk and extinguished the flames. Still another flaming arrow was fired. It so happened that one of the women had just used the urinal, the contents of which were used to extinguish the flames. A mighty cheer arose, but the Indians were determined. Thrice did the women supply from the same fountain a fluid which extinguished the flames...At last the baffled Indians ran off, screaming a bitter howl of mingled resentment and despair. (--Callaway Co., 167, 168.)

Cote sans Dessein

(Fulton Telegraph, Friday, Nov. 23, 1860)

Where is there one who has ever visited this beautiful and picturesque place that has not left it with regret? It has of late years been but a relic of former grandeur. Still in its desolation, it possesses unrivaled charms. It was first settled by a company of French emigrants, attracted no doubt by its romantic situation and its easy access to the neighboring cities and towns. It stands on an eminent tract of land on the north bank of the mighty Missouri, and commands a fine view of the surrounding forest, lofty hills, and the many steamers with which the river is thronged.

The French who so appropriately named it "A hill without design," have deserted it, almost entirely nothing remains of them save the inanimate forms of those who are quietly resting in the "silent city of the dead" ----- there in a small enclosure, in the outskirts of the city, they are waiting the call of their Maker, which will raise them to life eternal or endless misery.

Cote sans Dessein is now inhabited by a few energetic and ambitious families, who are struggling hard to make it not only what it once was, but what it should be ---- a thriving commercial city. The improvements which have been made during the past few months are truly encouraging: a fine academy has been opened for the education of both sexes. "Cote Hill Institute" is a large fine building, affording ample accommodations for the pupils; it is now in a flourishing condition under the supervision of a Connecticut tutoress, and bids fair to be one of the first institutions of learning in the West. A new street has recently been opened, leading from River street to Main street, which adds much to the convenience of the merchants. A steam saw and grist mill is in constant operation under the superintendent, Mr. Thomas Ferguson. The principal mercantile depot (Mr. S. C. Bennet) stands on the corner of Cote and Main streets, and is a s usual doing an extensive business, the constant run of custom keeps four energetic men busily employed. We need not say more, yet we feel that the day is not far distant when our now comparatively small city will be rightly termed the New York of the West.

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