Steamboat Springs Pioneer William E. Walton (names sake of Walton Creek) tells the early history of his home, Bates County Missouri. William goes on to describe his partners Lewis Cheney and Perry A. Burgess and their investment in the Bates County National Bank in Butler. Walton, Burgess and Cheney travelled from Bates County Missouri to the Yampa Valley in search of adventure during the 1870s. This history was written in 1900.
WILLIAM E. WALTON
Writes Entertainingly of Bates County and her People Twenty Seven Years ago.
You ask me to write about Bates county as it appeared twenty-seven years ago.
I came here in July, 1870, and began the making of a set of title abstract books. Butler was a small village, and Bates county one big prairie with timber along the streams.
Where Rich Hill, Adrian, Hume, Foster, Merwin and Amsterdam now stand was then wild prairie land. Our court house was being built by John B. Tinklepaugh, a contractor, but he failed, and it was completed by his bondsmen. None of the streams were bridged, unless there was one bridge at Pappinville. After big rains we bad three ways of crossing, viz.: wade, swim, or wait for low water.
Times were good and everybody making money. Non-residents owned the big prairies and paid taxes while our farmers and stock raisers grazed thousands of cattle on the land and grew rich on "free range." Immigrants with money were coming from everywhere, but principally from the north, buying the rich, low priced land, plowing up the sod, building houses and making farms. In fact, we were at the high tide of prosperity in 187O.
The war lasted four years and had closed five years prior to this time. During its continuance it brought sorrow and death to a million homes, and reduced the South from a condition of affluence to that of poverty. On account of the war the government had paid out hundreds of millions of dollars, and this vast sum was in the hands of the people. True, the government had borrowed this money by selling to Europe interest-bearing bonds, but we had the money and they had the bonds and pay day was a long ways off. It was an era of speculation and money making. The mints were open to the free coinage of both gold and silver, but neither metal was in circulation. Gold was at a premium, and had been for years. This was before the crime of 1873. Our money was all paper. We were getting rich and getting in debt both. In 1873 the Jay Cooke bank failed. This startled the country and was the beginning of a panic that covered the United States and ruined thousands that were in debt. Although money was plenty and business good, in 1870 interest rates ruled high. Money was active and in great demand, for everybody speculated. From 15 to 18 per cent was the rate for short-time loans, and on five-year farm loans from 12 to 15 percent. I frequently borrowed money then, and was considered fortunate when I could get it at 15 per cent.
The first bank in Butler was owned by the " Dunbaugh Brothers." It failed in October, 1870, owing its depositors $70,000.00. Immediately after this failure, Mr. Cheeney, F. J, Tygard and P. A. Burgess came from Holden, Mo., and opened the Bates County Bank which is now the oldest and was for several years the only bank here. There are now eleven banks in Bates county.
Courts were held up stairs in the room now occupied by Sam Levy & Co. Church services were frequently held in the same room. Politically times were hot in 1870. Our congressman was S. S. Burdett, a lawyer living at Osceola. He was a republican, and had defeated for congress John F. Phillips, now federal judge at Kansas City. During the Bryan-McKinley campaign he visited Butler after an absence of 25 years and spoke in our opera house. Our circuit judge was David McGaughey. The writer was clerk of election in Clinton, Mo., in 1868, and counted the votes when he defeated Judge Foster P. Wright. Both are now dead. John D. Myers was county clerk, circuit clerk and recorder of deeds. He was the father of Mrs. Judge Steele of Butler. Judge Myers was "southern raised," but was a "Union man." He had troubles during the war and sincerely believed he had been badly treated. He was positive and outspoken. Such men always have enemies. He was an honest man, always true to a friend. Our county judges were B. H. Thornton, who owned and lived on the Badgley farm two miles southwest of Butler, L. E. Hall of Homer township, and J. N. Crigler, who yet lives near Johnstown. Wesley T. Smith was sheriff and tax collector. He was a defaulter for $18,000.00, but $10,000.00 was paid by his bondsmen. H. C. Donnohue, who recently ran for congress on the populist ticket, was county treasurer.
C. C. Bassett, A. M. Christian, C. F. Boxley, A. Henry, Wm. Page, P. H. Holcomb, Sam Riggs, L. D. Condee, T. J. Gallaway, C. H. Wilson, N. A. Wade, A. T. Holcomb, J. K. Hansburgh, J. K. Brugler and J. J. Brumback were our lawyers. Bassett was a ca[n]didate for circuit judge in 1872, but was defeated by Foster P. Wright. Henry and Bassett were each candidates for congress several times, but neither secured the democratic nomination.
Doctors Boulware, Pyle, Frizell, Carnal, Martin, Patten and Heath were the physicians. A1l are yet living except Frizell and Carnal. A. H. Lamb was postmaster and kept the office in a one-story frame that stood on the lot now covered by the west half of the Palace Hotel.
The republicans held, all the offices. They had passed a law in 1865 that "Confederates" and "Southern Sympathizers" were disfranchised. This law was not repealed until 1870. In that year the republican party of Missouri "split" on the question of enfranchisement. B. Gratz Brown and Carl Schurz, both orriginal old line republicans, bolted the convention and became leaders in favor of restoring the ballot to all southerners. They were called "liberal republicans" to distinguish them from the "regular republican party" that opposed enfranchisement. The democrats of Missouri made no nominations but voted the liberal ticket. The result was B. Gratz Brown was elected Governor and Carl Schurz elected to the United States Senate. The republicans lost control in Missouri and the ballot was restored to all Confederates and southern sympathizers. In Bates county the ticket elected was a combination of "liberal republicans" and democrats, viz: John B. Newberry, sheriff. F. V. Holloway, treasurer. John R. Walker, representative, S. H. Geisel, Circuit Clerk, Wm. Smith, County Clerk. All being democrats except Geisel and Smith,
John R. Walker was then a young wealthy farmer living 8 miles north east of Butler. He is now U S District attorney at Kansas City.
O. D. Austin was then as now editor of the "Record." W. A. Feely had recently begun the publication of the "Democrat." Tbe writer in Oct. 1870 assisted John R. Walker, N. A. Wade and others in carrying the type and material of the Democrat up stairs in a frame building that stood where the Missouri State Bank now is, and from that room was published the "Bates County Democrat." Feely died several years later and is buried in the old cemetery. There was much of bitterness in politics then. The republicans called the southerners "Rebels." The southerners called the republicans "Radicals." Neither side showing much liberality. We had not then learned this truth—that each man's peculiar views are the natural outgrowth of his environments— that education and surroundings iii youth largely moulds and shapes opinions.
Had Jeff Davis been born and raised in Maine he would doubtless have been an abolitionist, and John Brown if born and brought up in South Carolina would in all probability have been a secessionist.
We had no railroads but our people were anxious to secure one. Under the law bonds could be voted by the tax-payers to aid in building railroads. In a year or two almost every county in Missouri had issued two or three hundred thousand dollars in bonds, sold them in the market for cash and afterwards paid the money to wild cat companies that had nothing to build railroads with outside of this money. The roads were half finished when the money gave out. Litigation followed for years. The courts generally held the bonds legaJ.
In September 1874 grasshoppers came. Being late in the season but little damage was done crops. They deposited their eggs in the ground and early in the following spring" hatched out by the million and proceeded at once with voracious appetites to devour everything green. The whole coun try ,was covered .vith them. They were as thick on the ground as bees sometimes get on the outside of a hive. Our people were much discouraged for it looked as if nothing could be raised. But to our great joy one day late iu the spring the "Hoppers" took fligt and we have never seen them since.
In looking back twenty-seven years I am impressed with the changes "wrought by time." Hundreds of intimate friends then my associates have passed to the beyond. However there are many changes for the better. There is much less drunkenness now than then. Education is more general and the good influence of the church is making its impression more and more on the public mind as the years come and go. The asperities incident to the war have to a great extent dis* appeared. For thirty years now the Northern and Southern people have lived here together, their children have intermarried and they are brothers in the lodge and the church. Our political beliefs that differed so widely when living apart have now after years of intimate social contact shaded into : each other.
May we ever live together harmoniously, having for our standard the highest type of American citizenship and thus add to the development and renown of the most intelligent and rapid growing nation known to man.
WM. E. WALTON.
I am asked to write something about events of "long ago" in addition to the foregoing communication written by me in 1897. *n looking over the article I find that three of the parties named therein have since died, viz., Judge J. N. Crigler, Dr. E. Pyle and Hon. John R. Walker. Taking a retrospective view of the 30 years I have lived in Butler many events crowd my mind. One is the crusade, now almost for-gotten, that twenty-five years ago stirred Butler from center to circumference. Whiskey drinking was greater then than. now. Finally after much agitation the temperance question became the leading one and war was waged against the saloons and all drug stores that sold liquor. The ladies be-came active in the movement, which in 3^74 culminated in the crusade when ladies to the number of twn or three hundred met daily and held temperance services and prayer meetings and then marched in a body to the saloons and drug stores where they would sing and pray and by moral suasion try and persuade the proprietors to cease selling liquor. This was kept np for weeks and months. Finally, one by one, all the saloons and drug stores capitulated except Shaw & Hens-ley. As I write now I have before me the "Women's Appeal'* to Shaw & Hensley, dated April 21, 1874, and signed by 380 Jadies living in and near Butler. But Shaw & Hensley defied public sentiment, the women and the law, and continued selling liquor. But the crusade was a thrilling event that will always be remembered by those who witnessed it, over a quarter of a century ago.
About this time we had the Rat law. For some cause that I have never seen explained, rats became so numerous and destructive in Missouri that our legislature passed a law requiring county courts to pay for the killing of rats. I was county clerk in 1875-6-7 and 8, and issued warrants on the county treasurer to pay for thousands of rat scalps.
Those in business here then were M. S. Cowles, John W-Cullar, J. W. Hannah, Downing & Boggs, Pyle & Wilson, Dr. Martin, Philip and Sain Glassner, Geisal & Borchert, Thomas Brashear, Fred Evans, and Filor Sackett. All of them have since died or removed to other places.
Only a few are living that were here prior to the civil war, viz: John Devinney, VanBuren Vandyke, Fred Cobb, James F. White, Charley Demiy, John Atkison, Judge Frank Steele, Thomas Heath and Robert and James and William Hurt. I write these names from memory, but believe it to be correct.
Wm.. E. Walton
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