Aug. 3, 1876. Vol. 1  no. 27


Historical Sketch of Hickory Co., Missouri, from the time of its

First settlement to July 4, 1876.


Part I, or before the County was organized.


“The wants of the people being simple, their devices for the cultivation of the soil were necessarily inexpensive. The wooden mould board and the sickle were almost the sum total of farming implements. As the roads were then only Indian trails, wagons were almost unthought of. Game abounded in endless profusion—panther, deer, bear, wolves, turkeys, could be seen at almost any time. The Rizer boys in 1838, killed three bears a few yards above the ford of the River, almost a stone’s throw of the present location of Hermitage, and shortly afterward they shot a panther in the River bottom about a mile above Hermitage, that measured nine feet from the end of the nose to the tip of his tail.

Herds of 50 to 60 deer were to be seen quite frequently. Wild bees were so plentiful that they were sought more for the value of the wax than for the honey, and in some instances when bee trees had been found, the honey was spilled on the ground and the wax taken. Honey being cheaper, was used as a substitute for soap, and often for axle grease.

“The Osage Indians then still held a nominal control of the country, and other tribes often passed through on their hunting excursions. The Osages left in 1837 or 1838, and the last hunting squads of Indians passed through in 1843 or 1844.

“Thus were planted the early settlements of Hickory Co. A people fearless, daring, and possessed of a fortitude that partook more of heroism than that of mere adventure. Humane, honest, just, peaceable, and generous to a fault. Their doors were ever open to shelter, and their scanty store of provisions ever ready to be divided with those who had come amongst them to share with them the perils of frontier life.

“They were happy and contented, and violations of law were of so insignificant a nature as scarcely to produce a ripple on their sea of quietude. But change was destined to come over the spirit of their dreams.

“The year 1841 was a memorably period in the history of the territory now embraced by Hickory co., giving rise, as it did, to the terrible vendetta known as the “Slicker War”, which viewed either in the light of the ends to be accomplished, or the skill and daring with which it was conducted, stands unquestionably without a parallel in the history of the early settlement of the Southwest.

“Of the real cause of this trouble, the great majority of the actors in this bloody drama were as ignorant as the people of past and future generations.

“However, the loudly proclaimed animus of their fury was to rid the County of a band of horse thieves. But as no horses had been missing, the band was more imaginary than real. Presuming that supposed causes came within the legitimate sphere of the chronicler, we will give them as they have long been and are now understood to be.

“It appears that in early day two families, one known as the Hiram K. Turk family, who settled on Hogle’s Creek, in the northwestern portion of what is now known as Hickory C., and the other, the Andrew Jones family, settled on the place now owned by Wilson Henderson, on the Pomme de Terre River, north of Hermitage. Not much is known of the antecedents of either, other than what their subsequent actions would point out.

“They appeared to be families of wealth and distinction in the older States. But being possessed of a restless and wandering disposition that spurned the restraints and conventionalities of a more advanced civilization, sought what was then called ‘elbow room’ in the wilds of Southwest Missouri. The Indians, having almost disappeared, but little, other than the animating sports of the chase, was found to interest and amuse spirits like these. Equally, or paramount to these, the fascination of the card table gave them other opportunities to satiate their thirst for savage life. They looked at the card table as the better way to spend either their time or money; and what began in a matter of merriment, became serious, as one party rapidly grew richer, and the other poorer. It was the heart burnings and jealousies engendered by the losing game at cards that ushered in that dreadful and deadly feud that for two years hung like a funeral pall over this goodly land, blighting it with a curse, and deterring others from becoming such, where any day their wives and children might become widows and orphans.

“The first overt act of the contending factions of Turk and Jones occurred in this manner: The Turks” and Jones’ were one day at a shooting match, and after returning in the evening, they, as usual, sat down to spend the night at the card table. Thomas Turk pulled out a bowie knife, laid it on his side of the table, and remarked, ‘This is hark from the tomb’. Jones then pulled out a pistol, laid it on his side of the table and said, ‘and this is doleful sound!’. This rejoinder of Jones irritated the Turks beyond measure, and from that time they were open and avowed enemies. Shortly afterwards, there was a public meeting of some kind held at Quincy, where the Turks and Jones again met and renewed the quarrel, resulting in a fist fight between Hiram K. Turk and Jones. During the progress of the fight, James Turk drew a pistol declaring his intention to use it. A bystander, one Abram Nowell, interfered and told James Turk not to shoot, as Hiram K. Turk was abundantly able to handle Jones. James Turk was much incensed at this interference and threw the pistol at Nowell. For this act, James Turk was indicted by the grand jury at Warsaw, and Nowell was summoned as a witness.

“Afterward, while proceeding to trial at Warsaw, Nowell in company with a neighbor named Sutley, were overtaken by James Turk. Turk, upon overtaking them, ordered Nowell to return home and not appear against him, which Nowell refused to do. A second time he made the order and a second time it was unheeded. A third time and a refusal, when Turk turned upon the witness with the avowed intention of shooting him. Nowell, being wholly unarmed, and seeing his danger, reached over, grabbed Sutley’s gun, and shot and killed James Turk—he being the first person who lost his life in this bloody drama.

“About the time of the personal encounter between Turk and Jones at Quincy, another circumstance took place which added fuel to the already kindled fire of personal vengeance. A man by the name of Morton in the northern portion of the County, took up a stray horse. The Turks claimed the horse, went over to the house of Morton and demanded its possession. Legal proof of ownership was demanded, which was refused by the Turks, intimating that they would take the stray without the consent of Morton. Morton got his gun and compelled them to leave without the animal. The Turks and Morton afterwards met at Rankin’s (now Hickman’s Mill) and the Turks took Morton a prisoner, and took him back to Tennessee, where they claimed there was a reward for him for the commission of some felony. Jones, hearing of the capture and transportation of Morton, followed, also on horseback, with the intention of releasing Morton, but did not overtake them until their arrival in Tennessee. All the parties, including Morton, soon returned, from which it appears that the reward on Morton was not offered.

“This act of the Turks also allied Morton with the Jones party. Shortly after the killing of James Turk, Hiram K. Turk was waylaid on the Morton road, not far from where John W. Quigg now resides, and shot, and died from the effect of the wound some five or six weeks afterward. These acts were the immediate forerunner of what is now known as the “Slicker War”, so named from the peculiar mode of punishment. Deciding that someone deserved chastisement, a committee was named to capture him. The victim was then tied to a tree, usually a black jack, and “slicked”, that is, whipped severely with hickory withes, and ordered to leave the country in a given time.

“Articles of agreement were prepared and signed by the “Slickers” in which it was stipulated that the object was to rid the county of horse thieves. These articles were freely and openly circulated, and persons refusing to sign were called ‘anti-slickers’, by the “slicker party” and treated as enemies.

“Afterward, a religious meeting was held on Weaubleau, by Richard Owings, a Predestinarian Baptist, who in the course of his sermon, casually, and no doubt unintentionally, made some remarks which the ‘Slicker Party’ considered to be against them, and which irritated them beyond measure. Thereupon they added other articles to their former articles of agreement to the effect that in case the Baptists should rise against them, they should also be put down. This last measure caused immense excitement among the people, and many allied themselves with the “Slickers”.

“Active operations were now begun by the ‘Slickers’ by the organization of a company under the command of Captain Drafton with the purpose expressed in their articles of agreement.

“A Mr. Meadows, a man heretofore of an irreproachable character, was tied to a tree and whipped almost to death. Other men of like good character were treated in the same manner. Meetings were held and speeches were made in which it was boldly declared that all who did not ally themselves with the ‘Slickers’ should be accounted horse thieves and treated accordingly.

“Abram Nowell, the witness against James Turk, above mentioned, was waylaid at his own house and killed from the brush, while in the act of washing preparatory for breakfast. His widow, though raised with all the advantages of a civilized life, but with a heart as bold as as olden knight, after the cowardly murder of her husband and son-in-law, Dobbins, habitually carried a rifle and two pistols with the avowed determination of using it should she ever meet the cowardly assassins who had made her and her daughter widows, and her children orphans.

“At one time Capt. Drafton rode to her house and stated that he had been informed that her house was the hiding place for stolen property, and asked if such property was concealed there. She coolly told him that if he would wait a moment she would show him, walked to the further side of the room, got a rifle and was about to shoot, while her daughter was immediately behind her loading another gun! The Capt. afterwards stated that he saw death in her eye and made a hasty retreat.

“The recital of the killings of one man particularly, chills the blood. The murdered man was visiting a neighbor who was sick. Two men approached the house in the dark, fired through the door shutter, one of the balls killing him, while the other passed through the cap of an aged lady (Mrs. Bonds), cutting her ear and clipping her hair on the side of her head.

“The so-called ‘anti-slicker’, assisted by the civil authorities soon became so paralyzed that but feeble efforts were made to bring the perpetrators to justice, and such efforts were wholly ineffectual, and opposition to the ‘Slickers’ was soon exhausted. In this dilemma an appeal was made to the Govt. who sent a body of 100 militia in command of Col. Rains, with orders to kill or capture the perpetrators or compel them to flee the country. This body of troops made strong efforts and partially succeeded in restoring quiet, and put civil authorities in a better control of enforcing the law.

“Some of the ‘Slickers’ were forced to flee the country. Five were captured but were soon released either to leave or pass into an oblivion more galling than the exciting scenes of their warfare, capture or trial.

“But the feud, although ended as to the so-called ‘anti-slickers’, did not cease of its deadly acts. Spirits like these could not return the sword to its scabbard and rest content. The same wild and restless nature still pervades these men, and that with a force that only augmented the scenes of last year. Such desperate men must be doing something and for want of an enemy to fight and annihilate, they fight and kill each other. The more active participants scattered themselves from the mouth of the Pomme de Terre, Benton Co., to the Dry Fork, in Polk Co.

“This scattering instead of quieting the ‘Slickers’, only tended to augment the strength of the contending fellows who still harbored in their breasts a bitter hatred of their old enemies, the so-called ‘Anti-Slickers’. Men attended the sanctuary on the holy Sabbath Day, armed to the teeth.

“At this point it is perhaps not inappropriate to speak of the subterfuges to which the active participants would resort in order to induce the more orderly to take an active part in the affair. They would visit a man, perhaps in his field, and after telling him of all the crimes of the opposite party, request his assistance in exterminating them. Failing in this, they would, under cover of darkness, go near his place of abode, dig a grave, paste up a notice with the request that he assist them, leave the country, or take the dread alternative of a plot of ground, 3x6.

“But a house divided against itself cannot stand”,--the parties soon lost their leaders and the followers longed for peace. Their principal leaders were either killed or fled the country, and at last peace was again had in the community.

“Thus was ended one of the most unnatural, unreasonable and unholy feuds that has ever existed in any community—with no real cause known to many of the actors, it subsisted principally upon misrepresentations, misunderstandings, and revenge for real or supposed wrongs. The active participants were for many years proscribed by the community, which proscription remained in the minds of the people until the commencement of the late War. The tragedy of two of the principal leaders who outlived this unholy cause in which they had risked their lives will close this chapter. One fell at the head of a mob in the far off State of Mississippi or Louisiana, pierced by 7 balls; while the other, the Captain of the first Co., through remorse of consciousness, committed suicide in a neighboring county.


Part II (from the time of the organization of the County)


“In 1820 when Missouri was admitted into the union, the territory now embraced by Hickory Co. was a part of Washington Co., afterwards became successively a part of Crawford, Phelps, Greene, Polk and Benton Counties. That portion lying north of the Congressional Township line between Township 36 and 37, belonging to, and forming a part of Benton Co., while that portion lying south of that line belonged to, and formed a part of Polk Co.

“Hickory Co. was organized by an act of the General Assembly approved Feb. 14, 1845, and named in honor of the ‘Hero of New Orleans’, and the County Seat—Hermitage—after his residence. The County Seat location was a question that had at first received much attention and which elicited a great amount of contention which to this day is only slumbering. The General Assembly in 1845 appointed Henry Bartlett, James Johnson and Wm. Lemon as commissioners to locate the County Seat. They met and selected the northwest Quarter of Section # 19, Twp. 37, range # 22, in the immediate vicinity, where Early Heard now lives. They reported their proceedings to the Circuit Court at the September term, 1845, (see Circuit Court Record “A”, page 3). The report was received but only partially approved as the title to the land was in dispute. Their proceedings were by the Circuit Court referred to the County Court, and the full approval thereof continued until some future time. At the Sept. term, 1845, the claim of John Heard to the above land was obtained. The land having been purchased from the Government on the 10th day of March, preceding.

“Thereupon the report of the Commissioner was approved by the Circuit Court, and the County Seat was located at the place therein designated. The matter was again referred to the County Court. In the meantime, however, much dissatisfaction existed as to its location among the people of the County, and the same being brought to the attention of the General Assembly, it again passed an act approved Dec. 23rd 1846, appointing Wm. Green, of Camden Co., Wm. Divers of Polk Co., and Chas. H. Yeater of St. Clair Co., new Commissioners to locate the County Seat, requiring them to locate the same within one mile of the geographical center of the County. (Laws of 1847, page 247)

“These Commissioners located the County Seat on the present site of Hermitage. They made their report to the Hon. Foster P. Wright, judge of the Circuit Court, who approved the title to the land designated, and in the vacation, Feb. 17th 1847, referred the matter to the County Court. In pursuant to the act of Dec. 23rd, 1846, the County Court on the 23rd day of Feb. 1847, ordered an election to be held at the several voting precincts in Hickory Co., on Monday, Mar. 15, 1847, to choose between the former location on the Northwest Quarter of Section 19, Twp. 27, Range 22, and the location last named on the N/W quarter of the S/E qr. Of Sec. 23, Twp. 37, Range 22. The election resulted in locating the County Seat at Hermitage by a very small majority. The title to the land on which the County Seat was located, was by warranty deed from Thomas Davis and Jane Davis, his wife, to Hickory Co., dated Feb. 8, 1847, and recorded in Deed Record “A”, page 19.

“The town of Hermitage was surveyed in 1847 by James Blakemore, County surveyor, and Jacob A. Romans was appointed commissioner to sell lots. They were sold at auction to the highest bidder on a credit of twelve months. The title acquired to the N/W qr. Of Sec. 19, Twp. 37, Range 22, was disposed of by virtue of an enabling act of the General Assembly, approved Mar. 6, 1849. (see Laws of 1849, page 510).

“Joel B. Halbert Sr. was the first representative of Hickory Co. to the Gen. Assembly of 1845-46.

“The first County Court was held at the house of Joel B. Halbert Sr., on North Prairie, May 5, 1845. The judges were Joel B. Halbert sr., Chas. Brown, and Ames Lindsey. At that term of court, Alfred H. Foster was appointed Clerk, and John S. Williams, sheriff.

“After making several orders, the Court adjourned session at the house of John Heard, near the site of the proposed new County Seat. At this term of court, James Lester was appointed assessor, and William F. Bradley, surveyor, and the different municipal townships were formed, to wit: Stark, Center, Montgomery, Greene and Tyler. The next term of court was held at the house of Thomas Davis on the place where Judge Liggett now resides.…The County Court continued to meet at the house of Thomas Davis until the June adjourned term, 1848, at which time a new court house had been erected on the east side of the Public Square, where the Drug Store of M. H. Moore now stands. The first term of the Circuit Court was held at the house of Thomas Davis, Sept. 8, 1845, Hon. Foster P. Wright presiding as Judge, at which term of court the sheriff, John S. Williams, returned the following panel as the first Grand Jurors of Hickory Co., to wit: Robert C. Crockett, foreman, James Lindsey, Jacob Reser, Y. M. Pitts, Edward Vandiver, Geo. W. Hayes, Audley Dennis, Jesse Driskill, P. H. Andrews, Aaron Millstead, Samuel McCracken, George Chapman, Gideon Creed, John T. Thomas, and John Cyrus, of whom Jas. Lindsey, Y. M. Pitts and Gideon Creed are still living in the County.

“The Grand Jury were quartered under a huge oak tree during their deliberations. The first case called was that of William Donnell vs. James Blakeman, and was continued until the next term of Court. The first criminal case called was the State of Missouri vs. Amos Richardson, for burglary. A nollie prosequi was entered and he was discharged. The first jury case tried was that of the State of Missouri vs. Jesse Brown, indicted for felonious assault, from which he was acquitted at the March term, 1846, of said Court. The following were the jury on that trial, and therefore the first petit jury of Hickory Co., to wit: John Mabury, Cyrus Newberry, Wm. R. Donnell, Jas. E. Foster, Isham B. Hastain, Abraham C. Charlton, Wm. M. Dorman, William F. Bradley, William Paxton, Jesse Miller, Joseph Blackwell, and Edward M. Callis; of whom Wm. F. Bradley is the only survivor now residing in Hickory Co.

“The first person sentenced to the penitentiary from Hickory Co., was Moses Pinkston, who was indicted for perjury at the March term 1846, of said Court, and sentenced Sept. 17, 1846, for a term of two years. He was, however, reprieved by Gov. Edwards on the 28th day of Sept. 1846, on account of the old age of the convict.

“The Circuit Court continued to meet at the house of Thomas Davis until the Sept. term of 1848, of said Court, when the new Courthouse on the east side, of the public square was completed. This Courthouse was in use until about the year 1860 when it was destroyed by fire. In 1859 and 1860, the present Courthouse was built. The first jail was built in about the year 1847, on or near the top of the bluff in the western portion of the town. It was composed of logs—was removed in 1870 and the present jail was build in the northwest corner of the Courthouse yard.

“The first instrument recorded in the deed record was the reprieve of Moses Pinkston, convicted of perjury and recorded in Deed Record “A”, page 1. The first deed for land was from Hugh Dowahe to Abraham C. Nowell, dated Oct. 3rd 1842, and filed for record Nov. 8, 1845, and recorded in Deed Record “A”, page 2.

“The first mortgage on real estate was from Nathan Tucker to Hickory Co., to secure a loan of school funds for the sum of $200, belonging to School Twp. #1, Congressional Twp. # 38, Range # 21, dated Dec. 31st 1845, and filed for record Jan. 5th 1846, and recorded in Deed Record “A” page 3.

“The town of Quincy was surveyed in 1848 and 1849, by Benjamin H. Massey, County Surveyor. Preston, or Black Oak Point, was surveyed Dec. 8th 1857, by Daniel E. Davis, deputy County Surveyor. Wheatland, was surveyed Dec. 7th 1869, and the addition thereto, Mar. 29, 1870, by John W. McAndrews, County Surveyor. Cross Timbers was surveyed Feb. 22nd, 1871 and the addition thereto Sept. 23, 1872, by Isaac R. Clark, Surveyor.

“The population of Hickory Co. in 1850 was 2329, distributed as follows: White males 1130, white females 1013, 185 slaves, and 1 free colored, with 364 dwellings and 365 families. In 1860 the population was 4705, of which 4502 were white and 203 slaves. In 1870 the population was 8452 as follows: 6362 white, and 90 colored, 3302 males, 3150 females, 250 foreign born, and 6202 born in the U.S., of which number 3278 were born in Missouri.

“Hickory Co., like her sister counties of Mo., suffered much from the ravage of the War of 1861. In the month of May of that year, a company of men known as the State Guards was organized at Black Oak Point, in the interest of the Confederacy. John Mabary, a prominent citizen of the County, was elected Captain, Benj. F. Barnes, First Lieut., Jas. H. Gallaber, Sec. Lieut. Shortly thereafter, the Company, with other companies from adjoining counties, were organized into a battalion, of which R. I. Robertson, a merchant at Black Oak Point, was elected major. Soon thereafter, in the latter part of May of the first of June of that year, the loyal citizens becoming alarmed for their safety, those of the eastern and central part of the County, held a meeting at Pittsburg, where speeches were made by Meekin Pitts and others. Resolutions were adopted declaring their loyalty to the government of the U.S.

“On the 15th day of June, 1861, they again met at the residence of Aaron Darby, about 3 miles south of Black Oak Point, and organized a company of Home Guards, under the call of Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, of the U.S. Army, of which Company, Lycurgus Lindsey was elected Captain, James Babbitt, First Lieut., and Aaron Darby, Sec. Lieut. At the same time a company of Home Guards was also formed at Hermitage, of while Miles Dawson was elected captain.

“The citizens of the western portion of the County met at McFarland’s store (now Elkton), and arranged themselves into a company of Home Guards; John P. Rogers was elected Captain, Preston Richardson, First Lieut., and Thompson Blair, Sec. Lieut. This Company afterwards was formed into a Battalion of which Isham B. Hastain was chosen major, and John P. Rogers, Adjutant. Preston Richardson was promoted Captain in place of Rogers.

“These companies of Home Guards thus organized, rendezvoused at different parts of the County under orders to arrest disloyal persons and require them to take and subscribe to the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. and while attempting to arrest Richard Davis and Harvey Beezley, in the eastern portion of the County, Davis was killed and Beezley badly wounded and left for dead, but afterward recovered. Another party of Home Guards came upon Hiram Drennon and Geo. W. Hughley at or near Cross Timbers, between the North Prairie and Fifteen Mile Prairie, killing Drennon and wounding Hughley, causing amputation of his leg.

“In July of that year, the Home Guards of Polk and Hickory Counties, met at Humansville in Polk Co., with a view of making an attack upon Osceola in St. Clair Co., which place was then held by the Confederate State Guards, and while camped at Humansville, in order to try the nerve and discipline of the troops, the officers arranged a false alarm, when the pickets began firing and the men were ordered into line, much confusion prevailed among the raw and undisciplined troops, and many incidents, really amusing, are told of the affair. Some hid themselves in almost unheard-of places. Some mounted their horses bare-backed, and fled, they knew not whither, and it is said that one man threw his saddle upon his own back and tried to mount his horse by putting his foot in the stirrup.


(continued next week)


Unfortunately, we do not have the next issue.


Source: Lena Wills Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Southwest Missouri State University. Photocopied June 2005. Transcription by Ginny Sharp. Every effort has been made to accurately transcribe the written material. No spelling or grammatical changes have been intentionally made to the original text.


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