Early Settlements of Sullivan County, Missouri

Early Settlements of Sullivan County

Through discontent, people start and roam
In search of fortune, or to better their home.
There are few, indeed , so content with their lot
That from youth to old age have lived in one spot.

And so in 1836, Dr. Jacob Holland and a son named Robert W., filled with discontent, left their home and started in search of more comfortable quarters, in the dreary region of the west and settled on Main Locust creek near a point which was afterward called Scottsville.

This was the first settlement within the limits of the county after the Indians had ceased to claim dominion and authority over it. This was nearly 160 years ago. Many avenues of information, since then, have been closed in death, and the memory of those still living is so vague, indefinite and uncertain, that here ...

... we make a few quotations from
a history of Sullivan county compiled
from data furnished by the lamented R.D. Morrison,
and ex-Circuit Clerk H.T. McClanahan, in 1877.
(As follows...)


The first settlement in the county after the “red man” had relinquished his dominion over the soil, was made on Main Locust Creek, by Dr. Jacob Holland and his son, Robert W. Holland in 1836, near the flourishing village of Scottsville.

The doctor boasted not of regular medical education, but based his knowledge of the healing art upon the teaching of nature, his own observations, and personal research into the hidden mysteries of the maladies to which humanity is heir, and to the healing virtues of herbs and plants indigenous to the soil. And he was a famous as a bear hunter and Indian fighter as a physician.

His settlement was made in the year 1836 or 1837. How long the doctor remained on his farm is not remembered, but certainly not more than three or four years. The doctor boasted of his decent from the patriots of 1776, and showed his patriotism by volunteering in the Black Hawk war and fighting nobly whether the victory smiled or frowned; and also again in the Mexican war, although far past the age that exempted from military duty. He ever followed that noble bird, the American Eagle. He was wounded in the war with Mexico, and on his return settled near Wyreka, in Putnam County, Mo., but his stay was short, and the excitement of gold discovery in California aroused latent energy of the old patriot, and he, with other thousands, immigrated thither, since which time we have no authentic record of his wanderings.

The next settler in the county was a farmer by the name of John Hatcher. He was a man of great business tact, frugal and industrious and in later years was considered a man of wealth. Later on, other settlers moved into this and other parts of the county so that at the close of the year 1838, fifteen souls was its total inhabitants.

In 1839, William W. Sevier, with his wife and five children moved to the county and settled about 6 miles south and a little east of the present county seat (MILAN, MO.). This was a wonderful influx of population and gave new courage and brighter hopes to their dauntless and courageous predecessors.

In this year Boston, Massachusetts, furnished the new country with a settler who was destined to help make a very important part of her history. I refer to Jeremiah G. Smith whose aged locks may still be seen among the conspicuous figures of Green City. Attracted by the beauty and winsome manners of Miss Mary Sevier, a daughter of William Sevier, referred to above, on the 11 day of February, 1841, he led her to the altar and pledged to her the hymeneal vows. Rev. Jessee Goins, of the Baptist faith performed the ceremony. This was the first couple married within the present limits of the county. They lived in happy union until 1877, when by the explosion of a lamp Mrs. Smith met her death and was laid to rest by the kind hands of a host of friends. Mr. Smith has held many public offices and has been of great benefit to the county.

Following these came John McCullough, wife and children, numbering in all, eight persons. Then the Murphys, Weavers and Hudnalls in the year 1840, and the population had increased to such an extent that the inhabitants began to feel themselves a distinct people, but so divided and separated were they that the Settlement should be properly classed under three distinct neighborhoods, viz: Main Locust Creek, Milan and Yellow Creek settlements.

Main Locust Creek Settlement

The Main Locust creek settlement might include all that part of Sullivan County, from the western boundary line to the main division between Main and East Locust creeks, and extending north from the southern line to the line dividing townships 64 and 65 on the north and had among others, the following conspicuous characters as its inhabitants: Daniel Wilhite, Thomas Spencer, Gabriel Jones, Harrison Elmore, Oliver P. Phillips and C. H. Levin.

Mr. Levin was commercially inclined and opened up intercourse with the Indians, selling them what! ever articles they desired, and was indicted by the first Grand Jury for selling whiskey to them.

John Crumpacker came in 1839, and was the father of Dandridge and David H. Crumpacker, each of which at the present time live in Sullivan County. Dandridge is one of the substantial farmers of the county, owns several hundred acres of her most fertile land and at present lives on the southeast quarter of section 21-64-20, and has around him many hundred head of cattle and hogs and scores of fine horses. David H. now resides in Milan and for Democratic zeal and political energy has no equal in the political history of his adopted home.

John L. Wood, whose name was afterwards prominent and a member of the County Court settled in Northwest part of the county.

Milan Settlement

A short distance northwest from Hill's Spring, in 1840, then was erected a log cabin, known as the home of Armstead C. Hill, the first settler in the vicinity of Milan. Mr. Hill first settled south of Milan about eight miles, but was not wholly contented with his location, and sought to better himself by the change, and thus became the first settler of the division.

Thomas Lane, John Baldridge, Esom Hannon, William Talley, Joseph Couch, Francis Drake, Donnel Doyle, Ira Sears and many others came in 1840 and 1841, so that by the close of the last mentioned year the Milan settlement had become the most important of any in the county.

To the north of Milan proper, and near what was afterwards named Jacksons Corners, settled William and Branson Jackson, Samuel Rodgers, Hawkins Harrelson, Jacob Mealman, John Needham and quite a number of others. Hawkins Harrelston is still living and resides on or near his early home.

Yellow Creek Settlement

The first person to become attracted by the appearance of this portion of the country was Robinson Morris. He in the spring of 1840 with his wife and children settled on Yellow Creek near the center of Section 2, township 61, Range 19. It was not his intention to make that his future home but as the days and months rolled by he became more and more in love with his surroundings and finally erected him a comfortable home which still stands as a monument to his memory and as a work of his energy. When the county was finally organized, Morris township was named in honor of this early pioneer.

In the days that followed other settlers gathered around him, among whom were, George Baker and family, Griffin Taylor and George Page and family and many others, and Yellow Creek settlement began to be recognized as one of the prospering communities of the county.

The three settlements above enumerated increased in population and expanded in territory until the year 1844, when representative and prescribing the mode for its organization. The census of 1844, showing the requisite number resided within its limits to entitle it to the same.

The above articles were broken into paragraphs by site coordinator for easier on-line reading.

Black & white drawing of old farm house with family in front.

For more information about settlements mentioned on this page as well as others (including those that no longer exist), see A Directory of Towns, Villages, and Hamlets Past and Present of Sullivan County, Missouri

Surnames Within Page (Alphabetically)

  • Baker
  • Baldridge
  • Couch
  • Crumpacker
  • Doyle
  • Drake
  • Elmore
  • Goins
  • Hannon
  • Harrelson
  • Hatcher
  • Hill
  • Holland
  • Hudnall
  • Jackson
  • Jones
  • Lane
  • Levin
  • McClanahan
  • McCullough
  • Mealman
  • Morris
  • Morrison
  • Murphy
  • Needham
  • Page
  • Phillips
  • Rodgers
  • Sears
  • Sevier
  • Smith
  • Spencer
  • Talley
  • Taylor
  • Weavers
  • Wilhite
  • Wood

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Page last modified: hand October 30, 2009