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Chillicothe, Missouri, began as an agricultural community, and agriculture is
still an important part of our economy today. The following information comes from a
"History of Livingston County" from The History of Caldwell and Livingston
Counties, Missouri, 1886. More historical information about Chillicothe, Livingston
County, and the surrounding area may be found on the Livingston County Library's web site.
On the 7th of August, 1837, the county court, then in session at Joseph
Cox's, took the first steps toward laying out and establishing the town of Chillicothe. On
this day John Graves was appointed to "lay off into lots the county seat, where the
commissioners appointed by the State Legislature shall locate it." It was also
ordered that the county seat "shall be denominated and known by the name of
Chilicothe." In the order the name was spelled with one l, but Mr. Pearl, the deputy
county clerk who wrote the records, was not an expert at spelling. The town was named for
Chillicothe, O., the county seat of Ross county.
Chillicothe, O. - or as it was originally spelled Chil-li-co-a-thee -
was laid out in 1796, and named for an old Shawnee Indian town in the vicinity. The name
is Shawnee, and signifies the big town where we live, or our big home. It seems that the
Shawnees, or some of them, had a little town and a big town, and the latter was called
Chillicoathee. This town existed as early as 1774.
For this information the writer is indebted to Col. William R.
Gilmore, of Chillicothe, O., who for a few years after the war resided at Springfield,
Greene county, in this State. John Graves was appointed trustee for the county to lay
off and sell the lots in the new town, which was ordered to be surveyed into 20 blocks
before September 4, 1837; but on that day Graves resigned, and Nathan H. Gregory was
appointed commissioner and trustee in his stead, giving a bond of $5,000. The work of
surveying and platting was done by Mr. Gregory himself, as he was a practical surveyor.
The first sale of lots came off October 16 and 17, 1837. Previous notice
had been given by posting five written notices in different portions of the country and by
advertisements inserted three times in the Missouri Republican, of St. Louis, and the
Boone's Lick Democrat, of Franklin, Howard county.1 Every third lot in each block was
sold, except in the block reserved for the public square. The amount of all the sales was
$1,082.62 1/2, on six, twelve and eighteen months' credit. The Republican's bill for the
advertising was $16.50; the Democrat's $17.
The second sale of lots came off May 4 and 5, 1838, when the aggregate
sales amounted to $1,807. The expenses of the town up to this time, exclusive of
advertising, had been $41.25.
In June, 1838, the county ordered a public well dug within ten feet of
the southwest corner of the public square. Austin B. Prouty did the digging and Walter
Wilson superintended the job. Plenty of water was struck at a depth of ninety feet.
Not until July 15, 1839, was Chillicothe selected and designated as the
county seat of Livingston county, although it had been virtually the county's capital for
some time. On the day named, however, the commissioners, who were E. W. Warren, Samuel
Williams and Geo. W. Folger, all of Carroll county, selected the southwest quarter of
section 36, township 58, range 24, as the county seat, as being "the most eligible
location for said county seat," and its site according with the provisions of the
organizing act, in lying "within three miles of the center of said county."
Chillicothe was first incorporated by the county court August 13, 1851, on petition of
two-thirds of the inhabitants. The corporation comprised the southwest quarter of section
36 (58 - 24), which, says the record, in Mr. Pearl's orthography, "is heareby
Declaired a boddy Polatic and corporate." It must be presumed that the incorporation
was as a town, although the record is silent on this point. The first board of trustees
was composed of W. Y. Slack, John H. T. Green, John Graves, J. H. B. Manning and W. C.
Samuel. The next incorporation was by act of the Legislature, approved March 1, 1855,
which made the town a city.
The last incorporation was by the Legislature, February 26, 1869,
declaring the original charter and all subsequent amendatory acts thereto amended. The
town was constituted a corporation by the name and style of "the City of
Chillicothe." The municipal government is vested in a mayor, one councilman at large
and one councilman from each ward in the city.
Until 1851 the town was not incorporated. It was merely a part of
Chillicothe township, and did not differ materially from a thick settlement. There was no
municipal government, no authority to compel the care of streets, the building of
sidewalks and street crossings, the enforcement of sanitary measures, etc.; and so there
were but few, if any, sidewalks, save in front of some of the stores on the public square;
people waded to and fro in the mud, threw filth and slops into the street, and lived a
life of liberty, if not of comfort.
There were no churches and no regular religious services. A private
school was in existence, but was not largely patronized. Grand River College, at Edinburg,
Grundy county, presided over by Rev. I. B. Allen, received a liberal patronage from this
county. The business directory of the town in 1851 was made up as follows: Attorneys, W.
Y. Slack, Henry Slack, W. C. Samuel; physician, Dr. J. H. Ellis; hotel, by John Graves;
one newspaper, the North Grand River Chronicle, by James H. Darlington; a carding machine,
by Joseph Miller; two blacksmith shops, by Elijah Hill and Joel Bargdoll, besides two or
three general stores.
John Graves, the landlord referred to, is called, and perhaps justly so,
the founder of Chillicothe. At least he was closely identified with its origin and growth,
and with its general interests. He was a man of much public spirit, but it is said of him
that he was really not a first-class landlord. Yet this opinion was not frequently
expressed in his presence, for he would not tolerate it. On one occasion a guest found
fault with the bill of fare because it was composed of fat bacon swimming in its own
grease, corn-pone bread, potatoes in their jackets, and black coffee. Mr. Graves caught
the fault-finder by the collar, lifted him out of his seat, led him to the door, and
kicked him off the porch, explaining his conduct to the bystanders as follows: "The
d----d skunk insulted my boarders and I won't stand it. My boarders eat my fare and like
it, and when a man makes fun of my grub it's the same as saying they haven't sense enough
to know good grub from bad. I am bound to protect my boarders!"
In the summer of 1851 Mr. Graves determined to dispose of his hotel, or
"tavern," and under the heading, "Valuable Tavern Property for Sale,"
placed the following advertisement in the Grand River Chronicle: The undersigned,
wishing to turn his attention exclusively to farming, offers for sale his tavern house in
Chillicothe. The building is a substantial two-story frame, having three rooms on the
first floor and four on the second. The dining-room, on the first floor, extends the whole
length of the building. Attached to the main building is a family room, and two
comfortable kitchens, with a fire-place in each also, two good wells in the yard,
smoke-house and dairy. It is situated on the southwest corner, opposite the public square,
and the ground attached embraces five lots, all of which is admirably situated for
out-buildings and cultivation. Terms, one-third cash; balance in one, two and three years,
and immediate possession given.
The first paper in the county, the Grand River Chronicle, was started at
Chillicothe in June, 1843, by James H. Darlington. It was a four-page paper, with five
wide columns to the page, 22x32 inches in size. Its terms of subscription were "$2
per volume of 52 numbers, payable on receipt of the first number, or $2.50 if payment be
deferred till after the expiration of the year." The advertising rates were $1 per
square of twelve lines for the first, and fifty cents for each subsequent insertion. A
liberal discount made on yearly and half yearly advertisements."
During the first ten years of its existence the Chronicle suspended
three or four,-times, so that in 1856 it had only reached its eighth volume, when it
should have been in its thirteenth. Though Mr. Darlington was a Democrat, the Chronicle
was neutral, or independent, in politics, as it required the support of all parties to
sustain it. Even then the subscription list was small, and, though the paper received
considerable patronage, in the shape of legal notices and the like, from other counties,
yet the editor was uniformly "hard up." In 1850, and for some time subsequently,
he sold it his office "Dr. Bragg's Celebrated Indian Queen Vegetable Sugar-coated
Pills," and "Sappington's Pills," both noted specifics in their day for
chills and fever; and he was also agent for a little medical work entitled
"Sappington on Fevers," by Dr. John Sappington, of Saline county, a celebrated
physician and prominent citizen in early days. But with all these sources of income Mr.
Darlington never became rich. In 1855 his son, E. S. Darlington, took charge of the
Chronicle and published it until about the outbreak of the war, when Col. L. J. Eastin
became its editor and publisher.
EARLY LIFE IN CHILLICOTHE
Life in Chillicothe in the first twenty years of its existence was
uneventful. The town was small and unimportant. Nothing but the fact that it was the
county seat kept it alive for some years. Even Spring Hill was a place of more trade and
importance at one time. It was on the State road from Hannibal to St. Joseph, and some
time after the year 1850 a stage line was established between those two points. The
eastern terminus of this line was gradually removed to the westward as the building of the
railroad progressed. Nearly all the goods and merchandise brought to Chillicothe were
hauled from Brunswick, and indeed large quantities were purchased there by the retail
merchants of this county. Ballentine & Outcalt were leading wholesale merchants in
Brunswick in the '50's, and sold everything from hardware to millinery, from school books
to whisky. To be sure many invoices for this county were bought in St. Louis and shipped
to Brunswick by water; the river was full of steamboats in the boating season.
With the certainty of the building of the Hannibal and St. Joseph
Railroad by way of Chillicothe its trade and prospects increased, and its condition was
largely improved. From 1852 to 1856 there were flush times. In 1855 the business directory
of the place was about as follows:
- Lansing & Yager, dealers in dry goods, groceries, hardware, etc.
- Jesse Hoge, dry goods, boots, shoes, etc.
- L. & W. Humphry, drugs
- R. R. Mills, stoves and tinware
- T. J. Winn and J. J. Eberly, tailors
- A. & B. Small, shoemakers
- Carpenter & Clark, plowmakers
- John Garr, plowmaker
- Clark & Turner, livery stable
- J. Fitzmorris, Grand River Hotel
- G. W. Clarno, eating house
- Lawyers, W. Y. Slack, J. H. B. Manning, W. C. Samuel, E. Bell
- Physician, Dr. W. W. Woodward
- Grand River Chronicle, E. S. Darlington
There were also two or three dram-shops, and the groceries kept whisky
on hand. Mr. Clarno, in the advertisement of his eat house, said: "Crackers, cheese,
cakes, bread, etc., always on hand. Also, ale and cider for persons opposed to strong
drink." There were "persons opposed to strong drink" then as well as now;
but there is also as much "strong drink" now as then.
In 1858 the Livingston County Agricultural and Mechanical Association
was organized and held an exhibition on its grounds, near Chillicothe, on the first
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in October. The officers of the Association were R. C.
Carr, president; Jere. Hutchison, vice-president; L. T. Collier, secretary; Benj. Berry,
treasurer. Directors, R. E. Holland, B. B. Gill, James Hutchison, Geo. H. Liggett, Jere.
Hutchison, Asa T. Kirtley, John Barnes, Spence A. Alexander, Benj. Edrington. Marshal, Ed.
S. Darlington. Musicians, Chillicothe Brass Band.
The first cemetery was established in August, 1839, when the county
clerk ordered that two acres in the northwest corner of the southwest block "be set
aside for a Berrying Ground." This was in the southwest part of the original plat.
In March, 1841, the citizens were allowed to use the old log court
house, the first one built, "for a publick school house," and the first school
in the town was taught here.
Livingston County History...
Chillicothe Business College Marker
Moore Monument employees placed a marker designating the site of Chillicothe Business College
Tuesday, August 30, 2005. This Chillicothe Business College historical marker, funded by the Rotary and Mervyn W. Jenkins foundations, will be dedicated at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 30, at the corner of Springhill and Monroe streets.
This is the site where the college was established in 1890 and operated until 1952. The dedication ceremony is a public event and graduates of CBC are particularly encouraged to attend and be recognized. Former president of the college, Allen Moore, plans to attend. Following the dedication, the Grand River Historical Society Museum will be open for viewing of CBC memorabilia. Parking is available at Lambert Glove Factory or at United Methodist Church. The monument is six feet wide, five feet tall and six inches thick.
C-T Photo/Laura Schuler