Firsts of Benton Township Missouri

H. W. Enyart taught the first school in the township and possibly in the county. He taught at his house in the sunnier and winter of 1837, and had same ten pupils. The tuition fee was two dollars and a half a scholar for a term of three months, taken in the currency of the realm, which was of assorted stock and variegated in color. There was no discount on the assortment; a gold dollar wasn’t any better than a deer skin, and a bushel or so of corn was just as good, if not a little better, for home consumption than silver dollars, and in fact was preferred. Some honey now and then, to sweeten the pathway of life, was taken, and a deer skin was not refused, for leggins and moccasins were a necessity.

The first loom ever built in Benton township was also the work of H. W. Enyart, and his wife, Mary Ann, did the first weaving, and this was in the year 1831, and not as above dated. This lady also did the first carding and spinning in the township, and in the year last above mentioned. Like all the pioneer women of the early times, she not only made her own clothes but those of her husband and children.

The great mart of trade for these up country folks was Liberty, in Clay county, the first year or so, and then they changed to St. Joseph, which was the trading point for several years. Indians were plentiful and peaceful, and would, when the opportunity offered, steal by the armful. When they couldn’t get their meal at Liberty, or run out, a burnt hole in a log and a stick with a big butt for a pestle, answered for a mill. The meat was entirely of wild game, but it was of a variety fit for the palate of an epicure. There were bear and venison steaks and hams, wild turkey, and fresh fish from the streams; these made life durable and would not go bad even in the year 181. In fact, the old pioneer lived on the fat of the land, and it seems to us of later years that its fatness has seriously diminished.

The first physician was Dr. William Henderson, and he came in the year 1835, and the next was Dr. Yater. Both of these gentlemen came from Kentucky and both have long since passed to another world.

The Rev. George Waugh preached the first sermon at the house of H. W. Enyart, in 1834. He belonged to the Methodist denomination. Isaac Burns was also a Methodist preacher and began preaching at the houses of the neighbors the spring he came to the township, which was in 1835. His first service was held at the house of William Allen, Rev. J. T.  Duberry was also one of the early preachers in the same church.

The first child born in Benton township was in the spring of 1836, and was a son of Glenn Sampson. The second was Ann, a daughter of Benjamin Burns, born the summer following. There was but a month or two between their ages.

The first death in the township among the settlers was that of “Milly,” a negro woman belonging to Mrs. Mary Enyart. She died and was buried in the fall of 1834, and her coffin was made from the wagon-box brought by the family when they came into the township. It was the only resource for boards then in the county.

In 1835, Mr. Enyart’s cabin, and all its contents, except the loom, was burned. They saved nothing but the clothes they had and the loom above mentioned.

The First School House

The first school-house built was put up in the summer of 1842. It was built of round logs and was sixteen by eighteen feet in size, with a dirt floor clapboard roof held on by weight-poles, cracks finely cemented with mud, and smooth puncheon seats and desks. The house was built by the neighbors, all jointly assisting, among the number being David and Isaac Groomer, John D. Williams, John Githens, Joseph McCrosky and others. The first teacher was John Githens and the “taught the young ideas how to shoot” and took his pay in wild game, chickens, ducks, coon and deer skins, corn, or cash, as the case might be. He taught for the moderate sum of $3.50 per scholar for a term of three months, and had some twenty pupils in all. The school-house stood on the Dilley place in section twenty-eight and in the north half. Where that school-house stood now stands a mulberry tree, fully ten inches in diameter, a living monument to the memory of the first institution of learning within Benton township.

In the meantime Benton was rapidly settling. The Allens settled in 1834. James Brown and George Brown came in 1835. The former is dead and the latter removed to Texas. Elijah Frost came about the same time and was a prominent citizen of the county for years. He removed to California in 1851, going overland soon after the gold excitement broke out.

The first appearance of John D. Williams was in 1835. He came west to look after the fate of William Easom, whose death is mentioned a few pages back. The wife of Easom, and a neighbor of Mr. Williams’s, requested him to look up, if possible, some further proof of her husband’s fate. She had been notified of the facts heretofore given. Nothing further could be learned. Mr. Williams looked around considerably in this western country on that visit, and five years after, in the year 1840, John D. Williams became a resident of Benton township. He purchased land on both sides of the Grand River, in section thirty, but lived on the east and south of the river. His son now occupies the old homestead.

No roads were laid out in those early years, but the roads were free to roam or drive wherever your destination might lead you. Trips of days, and often of weeks, were taken to procure the necessaries of life, or bring back loads for some enterprising man on the way.


The first horse-mill was built by Benjamin Sampson, on the Sampson place and did duty for several years. The first water-mill was put up by Matthew Patton, on Big Creek, just north of the site of the old town of Pattonsburg, and from whom the town took its name. It stood for many years, and was of great benefit to the people of the surrounding country. The town of Pattonsburg was first known as such in 1845, though but one or two buildings were standing in the early winter of 1844 and 1845. A. few years after this Mr. Patton removed to Oregon and took up his permanent residence.

The first rag carpet ever wove in Benton township was by the hands of Mrs. Hulda Powell. She was a splendid type of the pioneer woman of the age that called forth all the virtues and the fortitude of the wife and mother. All that was demanded of her she seemed capable of performing. She was the wife of J. W. Powell. Mrs. Benjamin Sampson and Mrs. Mary Enyart both furnished their houses with the same article, the skill of their own hands.

First Marriage

The first marriage in Benton township was that of Charles Burns to Miss Sampson. The neighbors came to attend that wedding in force. They came from miles around, and they had to, for the cabins were miles apart. The bride wore a beautiful homespun dress of her own weaving, and the groom was equally at home in a wedding suit of homespun, wove by his mother and made by her nimble fingers. The church bells did not sound a merry peal, but the old cow gave her head an occasional shake, which answered the same purpose. She had on her neck the only bell of the family, while Charlie Burns secured the belle of the neighborhood for a helpmeet through life. They went to house-keeping in the usual primitive style. Stoves were scarce in those days, and mahogany parlor, and walnut bedroom sets, finished in oil, were not then in vogue. All this saved money and a great deal of hard work, so the couple were happy in having a pot or two, a bag of corn meal and a trusty rifle. With this outfit and strong hearts and willing hands, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Burns started in life, buoyant and full of happiness that would badly discount a brown stone front.

The township continued for years in steady progress. It continued to lead in wealth and population. Its citizens represented in a marked degree the progress of the county. John D. Williams served in the legislature two terms, and was prominent in all the public enterprises of the day. Benjamin Salmon, an able man, served one term, and others held important trusts.

Benton township was always fortunate in her choice of public servants. The year Benjamin Salmon was in the legislature Harrison county was organized and its metes and bounds described. Mr. Salmon lived on section thirty-six of township sixty-two of range twenty -nine. It had been supposed the township line would be the dividing line of the county, but if so, Salmon would find himself not only in Harrison county, but outside of the township. Having charge of the bill, he proposed to remain inside of Daviess and still live in the borders of old Benton. To that end he had the Harrison county south line commence one mile north of township line No. sixty-two, and it was so fixed. Mr. Salmon’s farm joins the Harrison county line, but he is in Daviess county, and Benton township is his home.

Back to: Daviess County

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