Early History of Harrison Township Missouri

The first marriage which is remembered was that of William P. Dunnington to Miss Elizabeth Osborn, which took place in the fall of 1840. The young couple were provided with o a regular pioneer outfit, consisting of a bake pan, a pot, a big fireplace in a brand new log cabin, and a few other necessary luxuries for the fair young bride, while Mr. Dunnington boasted of a six pound ax, and a rifle which marked death at 300 yards. The future of this young couple, owing to their splendid start in life, was considered extremely promising.

The first child born was Martin Weldon, son of Benedict and Charity Weldon, in 1839; and Elijah P. Reed, son of Thomas W. and Burilla J. Reed, born in May, 1844. There were others, and perhaps still earlier than those mentioned above, but the memory of the old pioneer is sometimes treacherous, and often an entire failure. Miss Mary Wilson was the first girl and probably the first child born in Harrison township. She was the daughter of Eli and Susan Wilson, who, with Benedict Weldon, gave to the township its first white settlers.

The Trospers, who came early, and you might say, often and staid late, for they were a large family, and to this day are some of the most prominent citizens of the township, had the first death in their family. All that was mortal of Johnson Trosper was laid away in what is known as the Trosper graveyard in the year 1839.

Dr. William Allen came from Carroll county, and was the first practicing physician in the township. He remained a number of years and then removed to Oregon.

The first religious services held were at the cabins of the old pioneers, and the preaching was done by the circuit riders. Rev. James McMahan preached at the cabin of Elijah Foley, the Weldons, and other early settlers, but there were no church edifices erected for several years. Both the Methodists and Baptists held services in those early days, and, until that never-failing temple of education was reared, the log school-house, the cabins of the old pioneers did duty as meeting-houses, as occasion required, and the preacher was ever a welcome guest.

The first school was taught in the year 1836 in an old log cabin. There were but few to attend, and the name of the teacher is not remembered. William P. Dunnington taught in 1838 and 1839 in an old log house, and had about fifteen scholars. It was a subscription school, a term of three months, and the pay one dollar per month per scholar. His school was on section thirty, not far from the present site of the Baptist Church.

One of the first school-houses built was on section thirty-four, on land owned by Manuel Martin, and cost about $20, the neighbors in the immediate vicinity paying for its erection.

The first spinning and weaving was done by Mrs. Charity Weldon.

Where They Traded

Of course these old pioneers suffered all the hardships, inconveniences and troubles incident to a pioneer life, and if the meal bag ran low there was a handsome prospect for a fifty or sixty mile trip to replenish it. A few, here and there, had hand-mills, some had secured a mortar by burning a hole in a log, and, in fact, this last was a sort of household necessity in those early days and every cabin had one lying around loose for cases of emergency. The old man might go to mill and, by some mishap, be delayed and the meal would give out. It was then the small boy of the family came into use and, for the time being out of mischief. But the “small boy” of that period was not behind the youths of the present day in discovering signs of corn-pounding or churning in the near future, and about the time his services were wanted it was often found that he and a favorite rifle were both missing, but he never, never would have went hunting if he knew mother wanted him, of course not, and he would lay down his game. Mother wasn’t much fooled by the young chap’s earnestness. She didn’t talk much, but mentally vowed to watch the youngster’s movements a little closer when she was ready for his services next time. The old man being gone the rising youth knew his mother and felt safe. Not only was a little meal secured on those trips, but other necessities of the family. A little tea, coffee, a calico dress, a log chain, an iron wedge or two-all these things were gathered on these trips-and perhaps a jug of good whiskey. These things were paid for in the currency of the times, and coon and deerskins, venison hams, honey, etc., would balance accounts with the merchants for purchases made. And these trips, which took from five to eight days to make, were generally important events of the year, and the return of the old man was looked for with interest, and, when delay happened, with impatience, for the news from the outside world was gathered by him to regale his household on his return.

Such were the scenes and incidents of the pioneer’s life. The township grew and prospered by the earnest work of willing hands, and ere long schools-sprang up, houses of worship were erected, rude and primitive their construction they might be, but the worshipers were none the less sincere and earnest in the good work. The inevitable “four-corners” sprang into existence where would be located a store and a blacksmith shop, and there every Saturday would be congregated the neighbors for miles around, one or all wanted some store goods, one a horse shod, another a plow fixed, or a wagon mended, and so on. Then a horse-mill was started, and soon the pioneer was surrounded with all the evidences of civilization, and the “old hunters” would begin to talk about going west, people were getting too thick in the neighborhood.


There has been within the limits of Daviess county several murders committed, cold-blooded in many cases, and others caused by strife, but the one-that is here recorded, while not premeditated except in self-defense, was, however, one of the most unfortunate in the annals of crime in Daviess county and, for a while, caused intense excitement.

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