Holt County, Missouri

Early Forbes Township History

Early Holt County history parallels that of Forbes Township. The History of Holt County 1882 notes that the area had large expanses of limestone deposits, prairie, timber which included stands of walnut trees, and was bordered by the Little Tarkio, Missouri and Nodaway rivers, which held large numbers of buffalo, pike, salmon and catfish, and was thus considered to be a prime area for settlement. When the Holt County court met in Oregon on March 22, 1871, a new township was ordered to be created out of the southern portion of Nodaway Township; that township was named the Forbes Township, named after railroad magnate, philanthropist and abolitionist John Murray Forbes. However, Forbes Township history began much earlier than 1871.

Also according to The History of Holt County 1882, the first white settlers of Holt County were Peter Stephenson, his brother Blank Stephenson and his wife, who came from Indiana. They arrived in the spring of 1838, and immediately planted a crop of corn. Later that year more settlers from Indiana arrived – John Russel with his wife and seven children; R.H. Russel, who later became a judge of Holt County, another unnamed Russel brother, James Kee, and John Sterritt, his wife and two children. Since at that time the Stephenson group were the only known white people west of the Nodaway River, they eagerly welcomed the new settlers. The first white child born in the county was John Russel’s son, William R., born October 9, 1838. John Russel built the first frame building in the county, a one-story house with three or four rooms. Blank Stephenson became the first constable in Holt County.

In the spring of 1839, a widowed lady, Mrs. Rachel Jackson, arrived from Indiana with a large family of children. Mrs. Jackson opened a hotel and was known as “a woman of rare executive ability and great force of character.” Her building was a substantial double log house, each room being eighteen feet square, with a nine-foot-wide hall between them. The building was constructed of white oak logs and was considered to be the best house in the county at the time; the county court convened there several times before Oregon was named as county seat. The first doctor in what was later Forbes Township was John C. Norman, who made his Mrs. Jackson’s hotel his headquarters and office. Several of Mrs. Jackson’s children became representatives for the county; her oldest son, Andrew, founded Jackson’s Point, now known as Mound City. The first preacher in Holt County was Rev. William Thorp, a Hardshell Baptist preacher from Clay County. Since most of the population of Holt County at the time was clustered around the area which later became Forbes Township, it is believed that this is where he preached his first sermon. The first organized church in Holt County was the Methodist Episcopal Church, organized by Rev. Edwin Peary, at the home of Elias Davidson, about two miles north of present-day Forbes and held in winter or spring 1841. The county’s first Sunday School was organized in 1841 by Rev. William Hamilton, of the Iowa and Sac Mission, in an old log cabin school house, which also held the distinction of being the first school house built in the county.

This building, put together by a joint effort of neighbors in the spring of 1840, was a crude log house located about three miles southeast of Oregon. Each man who helped brought logs or whatever material he was assigned to bring and they put the 18-square-foot building up in just one day. Benches were made from puncheons split from linden logs; the floor was also constructed of linden logs. Greased paper covered the window. The first teacher was Gilbert Ray; the first students were children of the early pioneers.

The first town attempted in what is now Forbes Township was Dallas, laid out on April 17, 1843, by Abraham Brown, about one mile above the mouth of the Nodaway River. Although it never amounted to much, it was a noted shipping point and was used at times when Iowa Point was not accessible. A hemp press and several large warehouses, along with a small store owned by James Whitehead, comprised the town. Another early town, West Union, was laid out on April 12, 1844, by H. Utt, Henry H. Utt and E. M. Samuel. West Union was located between Dallas and the mouth of the Nodaway River, but never really got off to a start, as people were reluctant to buy lots there.

The town of Forbes was laid out in 1869 by Levi Devorss, formerly from Buchanan County, who was prompted to locate the town at this location because the Kansas City, St. Joseph & Council Bluffs railroad was completed to that point by the summer of 1868, with the first cars running through the site on August 9, 1868. The first building erected there was a small store, built by William Herron. Herron & W. D. Taylor sold goods there during the summer the road was being built, but had such a good business that within three years they built a larger store, and added a new partner, George Meyer. They built a two-story brick house in 1871 and opened another store there, doing business there until 1881.

The first steam flouring mill in the town of Forbes was erected in 1876 by Shirley & Taylor; it was destroyed by fire shortly after it opened. E.B. Bumps opened the first drug store in Forbes in 1870 and operated it until he moved away in 1877. The first blacksmith shop was opened by John Brownlee. The first physician was Dr. Jason Bumps. Levi Devorss was the first postmaster.

The first schoolhouse in the town of Forbes was built in 1869 by Rev. Mr. Bloomer, a Protestant Methodist preacher, at a cost of $560. The first teacher was Lud Wyet. A new two-story brick building was put up in 1878 & 1879 at a cost of $3000.

Other prominent early settlers were Smith McIntyre, who arrived in 1839 and his brother, Judge George McIntyre. John Stephenson of Indiana, Thomas Ramsey, and John Brownlee of Virginia also arrived in 1839; Brownlee started the first saw mill within Forbes Township. In 1840 James Forster, one of the first attorneys admitted to the bar in Holt County, arrived. Felty Worley, J. Frank Worley, Abraham Brown and his sons all arrived in 1841. Abraham Brown planted the first apple orchard in Holt County. Elias and Benjamin Davidson; Josiah Pierce and sons Charles, Lorenzo, and Silas from Maryland; Robert Patterson; William G. Patterson; W. D. Taylor; Squire P. Shambaugh and his brother Charles; George Meyer; and Henry Clark arrived between 1843 and 1857, and were distinguished men, known for their contributions to the county.

Information for this article was compiled from information found in internet searches, the History of Holt County 1882; the History of Holt County 1917, newspaper articles, pictures and personal research housed in the Holt County Historical Society’s Genealogy/Research Center in Mound City. (Contributed by Helen Morris Smith)

Page updated on September 19, 2016 by Karyn
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