Adair County Missouri

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A settlement, known to the older portions of Howard and Randolph Counties as the "Cabins of White Folks," was made near the present site of Kirksville in 1828. The little colony had been established about a year, when they were visited by a considerable body of the Iowa Indians, who insulted the women and committed many depredations. The pioneers becoming alarmed, dispatched a messenger to Randolph County for aid. The messenger reached the house of Wm. Blackwell on the night of July 24th, 1829, and before many hours the news of the threatened attack had spread through the settlement, and by the next evening a company under command of Mr. Trammel, marched to "Grand Narrows," now in Macon County, so called from a peculiar opening in the timber bordering the prairie. Here they encamped for the night, and the next day marched to the "Cabins," a distance of 44 miles. At a council on the morning of the 27th, they determined to order the Indians to leave. They marched ten miles, and formed a line in the rear of the Indian encampment and called for an interpreter. As the Indians appeared, a Mr. Myers, who lived at the "Cabins," recognized an Indian who had grossly insulted his wife, and immediately shot him dead. The Indians commenced loading, the squaws with a characteristic whoop retreated, and Capt. Trammel gave the order to fire. Fifteen guns were discharged and the remainder of the company broke and ran, the Indians pursuing for a short distance. Three of the whites were killed and several wounded, Capt. Trammel among others. They returned to the "Cabins" for the women and children, and, taking up their line of march southward, traveled all night, never halting until within 5 miles of Huntsville. The women and children were then sent on to Howard. Richardson, Guess, Myers, Gross and Blackwell, with about 60 others, under command of Capt. Sconce, returned to the battle field and buried the bodies of Winn, Owenby and Myers, who had been killed in the fight. Three Indians were left lying where they fell. The company returned to Howard where a regiment was organized under the command of Col. John B. Clark, which speedily drove the Indians north of the State boundary. This comparatively small affair was one of the incidents leading to the Black Hawk War.

The first permanent settlement was by Kentucky Emigrants in 1831-2, among them were John Stewart, Andrew Thompson, John Cain, Jesse Jones, Robt. and Frayel Myers, Mr. Collett, father of King Collett, James A. Adkins, Washington and Lewis Conner. Soon after they were ioined by Kennedy Ownby, David E. Sloan, and the father of Wm. H. and Ed. Parcels, both of whom were young boys at the time. For this information we are indebted to Mrs. Mary Sloan, widow of David E. Sloan, now--1874--in the 79th year of her age.

The county was organized Jan 29th, 1841, and Jefferson Collins, of Lewis County, L. B. Mitchell, of Clark, and Thomas Ferrell of Monroe, were appointed Commissioners to select the County Seat within 2 1/2 miles of the center of the county. The first circuit court was held at the house of John Cain in 1841, Judge James A. Clark, presiding; David James, Clerk; and Isaac N. Eby, Sheriff.

In 1862, Col. Porter (Confederate) having about 2,000 newly recruited men, one-half of whom were poorly armed, or not armed at all, marched in the direction of Scotland County with the purpose of attacking about 300 Federal troops stationed at Memphis, but being closely pursued by McNeil's command, turned his course towards Kirksville, destroying bridges on the way. Porter arrived at Kirksville about noon, August 6th, an hour in advance of pursuers, and ordering the citizens to leave town, stationed a part of his command in the houses and sent the balance on west. When McNeil came up he reconnoitered with a portion of Merrill's horse, losing one killed and one wounded by a fire from the Confederates in a corn field and behind a rick of cord wood. He then threw a battery of artillery to the front and commenced shelling, under cover of which the main force entered the town and proceeded to capture it house by house, the batteries changing position as necessity required for greater and more effective service. In three hours the town was in possession of the Federals and Porter's force, was in full flight, leaving about sixty who were taken prisoners. The Confederate loss, in killed, wounded and prisoners, was estimated at about 200. The Federal loss was 8 killed and a number wounded. McNeil is reported to have caused sixteen of the Confederate prisoners to be taken out and shot. But little damage was done to the town during the fight. A few houses were damaged by cannon balls, and bullet holes were quite plenty. Mrs. Coots was so badly wounded that she died a day or two after. The Confederate dead were gathered up and buried by the citizens. The Federal force left a detail to take care of the wounded and pursued Porter, who escaped across the Chariton River.

Physical Features

The Chariton River passes through the county from north to south, three to five miles west of the center, heavy timber extending on either side for several miles. It's principal tributaries on the west are Blackbird, Shuteye, Spring, Billey, Hog and Walnut Creeks, and on the east, Hazel, Rye, Big and Sugar Creeks. In the eastern part of the county are found South Fabius, Cottonwood and Salt Rivers, Floyd, Steer, Timber, Bear and Bee Creeks, all of which flow in a south-easterly direction toward the Mississippi. These streams in all their windings are beautifully fringed with timber, consisting principally of maple, walnut, hickory, oak, elm, linn and cottonwood. Between the rivers are rich rolling prairies, which occupy about one-half of the county. The timber land is fully as productive as the prairie.

Agricultural Productions

The soil is mostly fertile and adapted to the raising of nearly all the cereals-- wheat, corn, oats, rye, barley, etc. Tobacco and other crops are also grown with profit. In grazing facilities it is hardly surpassed by any county in North Missouri, and is second to none in the North-east. Apples, peaches, pears, cherries, plums, etc. are grown in abundance. Hay is one of the staple crops, and timothy seed is receiving increased attention, as farmers are beginning to realize that it, together with hay, is a profitable crop.

Mineral Resources

There is an abundance of coal in the county, also some excellent quarries of limestone and sandstone.


Manufacturing interests will be noticed under the heads of the various towns where they are located.


Valuation of the county per census of 1870, $10,202,000.


There are two railroads in the county. The St. Louis, Kansas City & Northern Railway, crossing it from north to south and having 24 1/2 miles of track, and the Quincy, Missouri & Pacific Railroad, having I3 1/2 miles of track in the county, thus furnishing Adair a southern, eastern and northern outlet to market.


Exports as yet, are confined to agricultural products and stock. Large quantities of grain, baled hay, timothy seed, cattle, hogs, etc., are annually shipped from the several railroad stations in the county.

Educational Interests

There are 76 public school houses in the county, with a registered attendance of 4,957 pupils. In addition to these school houses, there are other buildings used in that capacity in order to furnish room for those attending the schools; especially is this the case in Kirksville, where the school building, containing four large rooms, is not sufficient to accommodate all. The North Missouri State Normal School will be noticed under the head of Kirksville.

*Source: Campbell's Gazatteer of Missouri, Revised Edition, St. Louis: R. A. Campbell, Publisher, 1875.

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