The first white settlers of Forbes Township were also the first to locate within the limits of Holt County.
These were Peter and Blank Stephenson, brothers, from Indiana. Blank brought with
him a wife. Peter was unmarried. They arrived in the spring of 1838, and settled on the southeast quarter of section 7,
township 59, range 37. This section is contiguous to the present eastern boundary of Lewis Township, and is about five miles
southeast of the site of the present town of Oregon. The farm is now (1882) the property of George Meyer. Immediately on
their arrival, the Stephensons put in a crop of corn. In
the fall of the same year came, also from Indiana, John Russel with his wife and seven children, R. H. Russel,
(1882) judge of the Probate Court of Holt County, a younger brother, and, at the period of his arrival, an unmarried man,
John Sterritt, wife and two children, one of whom, W. H. Sterritt, is now a prominent merchant of the town of
James Kee, also from Indiana. At the period of the arrival of these new-comers, Blank Stephenson and wife
and his brother
Peter were the only white people living west of the Nodaway River, and the arrival of the new-
comers was hailed with a welcome which only pioneers know how to extend and to appreciate.
John Russel first settled on the southwest quarter of section 8, township 59, range 37, directly east of Blank Stephenson's.
This farm is also the property of George Meyer.
John Sterritt settled on the northwest quarter of section 8, township 59,
range 37, directly north of John Russel's. Peter, Blank Stephenson's brother, settled in the same section. He moved away
the progress of the civil war, about 1864, and, going south, settled where he now (1882) resides, in Dade County, Missouri,
near Golden City post office, in Barton County. There was no other arrival that fall until the 9th day of October, 1838, when
William R. Russel, the first born of the white population of Holt County, first saw the light on the above described farm of
his father, within the limits of what is now Forbes Township. In the following spring and summer settlers began to flock in.
Among others, came from Indiana, Mrs. Rachel Jackson, a widow lady with a large family of children, among
them Alexander Rogers,
a grown son by a former marriage.
Mrs. Jackson, who died in January, 1882, at the advanced age of upwards of ninety years, was,
the period of her demise, a resident of Council Bluffs, Iowa, where, until very recently, she was engaged in keeping a hotel.
She is described by those who have known her for more than a generation, as a woman of rare executive ability and great force
of character. The place which she settled is the southwest quarter of section 5, township 59, range 37, now in the northern
tier of Forbes Township sections, was in that day included within the limits of Nodaway Township. This farm is now (1882) the
property of Judge George Mclntyre, and here still stands the building erected by Mrs. Jackson. It is a substan tial double log
house, each room eighteen feet square, with a hall between them nine feet wide. The white oak logs of which the building is
composed were afterwards weather-boarded. This, at the period when it was first built, was the best house in the county. It is
still, though unoccupied, in an excellent state of preservation. Mrs. Jackson in an early day, here kept the first house of
public entertainment in the county. Here, also, convened the March term of the Circuit Court of Holt, County, just one year
after the organization of that body in the house of William Thorp, on the northwest quarter of section 12, township 59, range
38, of Lewis Township, where it first assembled, March 24, 1841. This latter farm is now (1882) owned by the heirs of James
Stephenson. On the 4th day of March, 1841, just twenty days before the assembling of the county court, the house of William
Thorp was also the scene the inauguration of the first Circuit Court of Holt County, the proceedings of which are elsewhere detailed. Mrs. Jackson's
house was, on several subsequent occasions, used to accommodate these courts, and was long a noted locality in the early days
of Holt County. Of Mrs. Jackson's children by her second marriage, several afterwards became representative men in the country.
Andrew, the eldest son, is the founder of Jackson's Point, now Mound City, in Holt County. In 1853, he moved to California and
settled in the Susune Valley, midway between Sacramento and San Francisco, where he has been, for years, a leading grain
merchant; Franklin Jackson, his brother, is a prominent insurance man of San Francisco; Wilson Jackson, a fourth son, died
young; Ellen, her eldest daughter, married Alexander Record, now of Glenwood Iowa; Mary, another daughter, was the wife of
Abijah Duncan, since dead ; Margaret, the youngest died young.
It is related that the first born of the land of Holt experienced, in
early infancy, a narrow escape from the consequences of what proved to be a groundless terror on the part of a number
of the community of settlers : It appears that one Vesser, an itinerant trader, had killed an
Indian in a remote part of the county, and an undue apprehension, on
the part of the small band of settlers had been awakened, that the
Indians would wreak their vengeance upon them. Alexander Rogers,
above referred to, was especially persuaded that such would be the case. John Sterritt and John Russel had both gone
to the bottom-lands, some
miles distant, to look after their cattle which were there being wintered on the rushes that grew rankly in that
locality. The only men about the settlement then were R. H. Russel, Isaac Massey and Alexander Rogers. The alarm was
given late in the evening, and these three, with the women and children, promptly fled through the snow to the neigh
boring woods. In the course of their flight the infant, William Russel,
began to cry. This so terrified Rogers that he promptly expressed himself in favor of smothering the child, whose
screams, he believed, would reveal their presence to the murderous Indians. The indignation of the mother and jeers
of the men, however, triumphed over his insane alarm, and the sacrifice failed to take place. After a halt of some
hours in the cover of a dense wood, about midnight, the snort of a horse which happened to be in the party was instantly
construed into a signal of the approach of the blood-thirsty red-men. In an instant all was excitement, and the valiant
Alex, again bethought him of that baby and of the possibility of its again giving a scream. Fortunately the destroying
savage proved to be an antlered buck whose glaring eyeballs gleaming in the pale starlight, had startled the horse. By no
means, however, satisfied of their safety, the fugitives proceeded through the snow to the Nodaway River, a distance of four miles.
Crossing this stream on a raft, the men left the women and children on the Andrew County side, and returned. On their
arrival they found John Sterritt and John Russel, who had just got back from the bottom. They immediately
went to work and barricaded and otherwise fortified the house, which
was a log building, on the Russell farm. In a few days, however, it became apparent that the scare was absolutely groundless.
No Indians were in the immediate neighborhood, and those in other parts of the
Purchase had not, if they were conscious of their existence, the slightest idea of in any way injuring or molesting the settlers.
Thus, the first
estampede from the settlement proved happily the result of a causeless
alarm at which the pioneers could afford to laugh, as the almost daily
increasing neighborhood pursued the even tenor of its way. William R. Russel, whose escape from the effects of terrors of
Rogers, which produced the incident above detailed, not only survived his infant flight, but grew to manhood, and is now (1882) a resident of
San Bernardino County, California, where he is successfully engaged in the nursery
In the summer of 1840 George and Augustus Borchers started,
within the present limits of Forbes Township, the "Pioneer Store" of Holt County. The senior member of this primitive and original mer-j cantile enterprise of this county has
been dead for some years. Augustus Borchers is now (1882) a resident of Hamburg, Iowa. They were the first Germans to settle within the limits of Holt County, and the first
foreigners naturalized there. They bore the character of men of stricl
integrity, as well as of sterling business capacity. Their initial start ir business was, of course, in keeping with the demands of the settlement
and necessarily on a very small scale. Their store stood on the northwest corner of the southwest quarter of section 7, township 59, range 37 on a farm now the property of
George Meyer, within the present limit.' of Forbes Township, but included, in that day, in the area of Nodaway
the eastern of the two original townships into which the county, on it: organization, was divided. They continued to do a
fair business her; for about two years, when the
newly established town of Oregon absorbed their trade.
It is related by the few who here survive of the original settlers this neighborhood, that the winter of 1840-41 was,
unlike its several predecessors, one of unusual
mildness. During the entire season there was no frost on the ground, and plowing was feasible during all the winter
It appears that Blank Stephenson was the first to hold the office constable within the limits of Holt County, at that
period include within the limits of Buchanan County.
This was in 1839. His first official experience is rather amusing, and was as follows: He started on the track of a horse thief,
and pursuing him as far as
English Grove, a locality now included within the present limits of Atchison County, he halted for the night. Awaking the next
morning, the astute constable was amazed to find that the thief had overtaken him, and made a second haul by stealing his horse.
The baffled official was thus reduced to the necessity of walking back home, where his crest-fallen appearance, in due time,
failed not to excite
the derision of the community, in which his first exploit long after remained a standing joke. The unfortunate Blank Stephenson
met a tragic and untimely end. In the month of July, 1840, as he was in the act of crossing his yard fence with a load of kitchen
wood in his arms, he was struck by lightning and instantly killed. The first violent death
of a white person in the county was thus the visitation of Providence on
the head of the first settler. It appears that this untimely victim of the thunderbolt, though a person of honorable impulse,
was a man of turbulent disposition and powerfully athletic frame. On that very morning he had prepared himself for a fisticuff
encounter with another who claimed
the championship of the neighborhood, and was almost in the act of starting to the scene of the anticipated fight, when he was
suddenly and terribly conquered by an invincible adversary. The spot on which
transpired this lamentable occurrence was near the site of Borcher's store, on the farm above described as the present (1882)
property of George Meyer. Blank Stephenson was the first who obtained a license to sell whisky in the county.
This was granted
March 21, 1841, by the first county court. The instrument granted to George Drane and Blank Stephenson license to keep "grocery"
for the term of twelve months by
paying ten dollars. In 1839, William, the father of John and Peter Stephenson, came out from Indiana, and remained in Holt County,
in Forbes township up to the period of his death, which occurred at the age of fifty-two years, in December, 1841. With their
father, in 1839, came William Stephenson, Jr., who died of the measles while serving in the Mexican War, John now (1882) living
four miles from Oregon. Mike and also Alexander Stephenson died in 1843.
The first to preach the gospel within the limits of what is now Holt County, was the Rev. William Thorp, a Hardshell Baptist
minister from Clay County. It is believed that, inasmuch as the bulk of the population were at that time residing within what
is now included within the limits of Forbes Township, that it was, in that locality, that the reverend pioneer preached his
first sermon. It is a circumstance worthy of notice that, notwithstanding the subsequent general development, and comparative
wealth existing in Forbes Township, there is not, nor has there ever been erected within its present limits, a
building exclusively devoted to the purposes of public worship.
OTHER EARLY SETTERS
Prominent among the other early settlers of what is now Forbes Township, were Smith Mclntyre, who arrived in 1839, and died, in 1881, on his farm,
in the southeast quarter of section 6, township 59, range 37, of Forbes Township. Judge George Mclntyre, his brother, who now (1882) lives at home,
on the quarter adjoining on the east, in section 5 John Baldwin, from Parke County, Indiana, settled in Forbes Township, in 1839. John Stephenson,
from Indiana, came in 1840. In the same year came Thomas Ramsay, who settled the farm now owned by N. Murray & Bros. About the same period, Joseph Brownlee,
from Virginia, settled in the Missouri River bottom. He was the first man to start a steam saw mill within the limits of the township. This was about a mile
and a half below the present Town of Forbes.
In 1840, also came James Foster, one of the first attorneys admitted to the bar of Holt County. He was born in County Monahan, Ireland, February 18, 1818.
In 1837, he came to the United States, and settled in Jefferson City, Missouri. In 1839 ne was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court, at Boonville.
In the following year, he moved to Holt County, and settled in Forbes Township, making his office and residence at the Widow Jackson's, where he continued to make his home,
till the founding of the Town of Oregon, the county seat, when he took up his abode and continued to reside there in the practice of his profession, for many years after.
His professional standing in the state was high, and his personal popularity great. He represented Holt County in the legislature of 1848-49. A strong sympathizer
with the cause of the South, during the period of the rebellion, he moved his residence from Oregon. At the close of the war, he returned, but a few years
after again left, moving his residence permanently. In 1841, Felty Worley settled on the farm now (1882) owned by Huitt. J. Frank Worley, who came at the
same time, now lives in the bottom. In the same year came Abraham Brown and his sons, E. R. Brown, A. Mc. Brown and Dr. M. D. Brown. The three former are dead.
Dr. Brown is now a resident of Forest
Abraham Brown settled the northwest quarter of section 10, township 59, range 37, in what is now Forbes Township. In the year of his arrival he planted on this
farm, which is now (1882) the property of F.C. Honnen, the first apple orchard ever set out in Holt County. The trees were grafted on crab apple stocks. Josiah Pierce,
with his sons Charles, Lorenzo and Silas, came from Maryland in 1841, and settled in the present Forbes Township. Elias and Benjamin Davidson were also early settlers.
Robert Patterson, a large land-owner, who now resides on the southwest corner section 4, in the same township and range, settled there in 1841. William G. Patterson is
also an old settler. W. D. Taylorand Squire P. Shambaugh both continue to reside where they first settled in Forbes Township, in 1843. Charles Shambaugh, a brother of
the latter, also came about the same time. John and Daniel Huitt settled in the neighborhood in 1846. George Meyer, the fruit man, came from Lewis Township in 1857,
and settled in Forbes Township on the splendid farm he now owns in sections seven and eight. Henry Clark settled in an early day in a locality in the neighborhood of
Nodaway River, known as Cracker's Neck.
The first to practice medicine in what is now Forbes Township, was Doctor John C. Norman, the pioneer physician of the county. Previous to the laying out of
the town of Oregon, to which he afterwards moved, he made his headquarters and office at the Widow Jackson's tavern. John M. Briggs, a native of Tennessee,
who afterwards moved to Iowa, where he died in 1877, started in 1840, the first blacksmith shop within the limits of what is now Forbes Township. His stand was about
six miles southeast of the site of Oregon.
BUILDINGS AND PEOPLE
The first frame building erected for a residence in the county was put up by John Russel, on what is now the George Meyer farm. It is a one-story house, with three
or four rooms, and is still in a good state of preservation. The class of citizens wlio settled in what is now Forbes Township, with a fair share of the roughs and
restless characters who float everywhere in the van of civilization, were generally men of enterprise and often persons of substance, for that early day. Some of them
yet remain reputable and honored members of the community, while the descendants of many are living representatives of the best class of the
inhabitants of the county. About the year 1846 organized gangs of outlaws rendered property in horses yery unsafe ; and, though an eminently law-abiding people, the
better class of citizens were reduced to the necessity of associating themselves into companies for the purpose of putting down the source of these outrages.
The people inhabiting that section of the county now known as Forbes Township were especially sufferers by these robberies. About
one hundred of these organized themselves into a vigilance committee, of which William Thorp was chosen captain and James Craig (now Gen. Craig, of St. Joseph,) lieutenant.
For a while it seemed difficult to fix suspicion on any individual. It, however, began to be remarked that a quiet and seemingly inoffensive citizen, by the name of George Carter,
who had formerly resided in the neighborhood, occasionally returned to
visit his friends ; further, that these visits were periodic, and, also, it began to be the subject of remark that, whenever George favored his
Holt County friends with a visit, his sympathetic nature was sure to be wounded by hearing, shortly after his arrival, of some of their horses having been stolen.
The strangeness of the coincidence soon became the subject of general remark. Suspicion was directed against Carter, and immediately acted on. He was arrested,
tied up and severely whipped. He finally yielded to the pressure of circumstances, and disclosed the whole business, giving the name of an unsuspected accomplice,
by the name of Bass, who was forthwith arrested and subjected to the same discipline. The thieves were then given three days in which to
leave the county, an injunction with which they promptly complied. This
effectually broke up horse-stealing in these parts.
Source: The History of Holt and Atchison Counties, Missouri; 1882