Happy 200th Birthday, Missouri

Two hundred years ago on this date, the territory of Missouri was admitted to the Union as an official state. That event will be the starting point for today’s post. Normally, the posts on this blog tell the stories of German Lutherans who had their roots in Perry County, Missouri. That not will not be the case today because on August 10, 1821, none of those German Lutherans had arrived here yet. The question I will attempt to answer today is this: Who was living in Perry County when Missouri became a state?

First of all, let me point out that the date for the founding of Perry County was May 21, 1821, about 3 months before Missouri became a state. That is the date given on the website of the Perry County Historical Society. When the county was established, there were just 3 townships, Bois Brule, Cinque Hommes, and Brazeau, and it is reported that the whole county had less than 1000 residents. Our museum is located in the Brazeau Township. I found this map online that is supposed to be displaying the state of Missouri when it became a state in 1821. However, it does not include Perry County. I think this map is incorrect.

Missouri – 1821

I will briefly mention that Missouri was added to the Union along with the state of Maine as part of the Missouri Compromise. Missouri was allowed to be a slave state, and Maine was a free state. There are plenty of websites that describe this part of Missouri’s story. I choose to focus on what was going on in Perry County. However, I will display this map that shows what the United States looked like when Missouri became a state. Missouri was the first state that was completely west of the Mississippi River.

United States – 1821

First of all, there were some people that populated Perry County who were no longer present when Missouri became a state. There were native Americans of the Mississippian Cultures who had lived here and disappeared long before 1821. Not long before the Revolutionary War, some folks of French descent moved into this area even though it was under the control of Spain at the time. We can see the French influence in the names of Ste. Genevieve and Cape Girardeau, north and south of Perry County. Then in 1790, Louis Lorimer (of Cape Girardeau fame) invited Shawnee and Delaware Indians from Ohio to populate this area. The largest village made up of the Shawnee was that of Le Grand Village Sauvage, which was located near what later became Old Appleton. It was said that this settlement once had as many as 400 residents. It is also reported that one of the residents was the sister of the great Shawnee leader, Tecumseh. At the time when Missouri became a state, many of the Shawnee were already leaving this area, and quite a few of them ended up in Kansas.

A map was later drawn by Julius W. Gerhardt who made an effort to display the Old Appleton vicinity in the years of 1824-1828. The LeGrand Village is included.

Old Appleton map – 1824-1828

Also in the late 1700’s, a group of Catholics that were living in Kentucky were invited to come to this area to settle. Those Catholics had earlier roots in Maryland, so they are sometime called the Maryland Catholics. A man by the name of Joseph Fenwick was the leader of one group of those Maryland Catholics that also became known as the Fenwick Settlement. We have a large book in our research library titled, Maryland Catholics on the Frontier that enables us to help Roman Catholic visitors to our museum locate their family histories.

Eventually, the Fenwick Settlement located near where the Brazeau Creek empties into the Mississippi River. It was about the time of this settlement when the United States made the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Another person from that area of Kentucky, John Manning, purchased the land that later became the town of Wittenberg in 1803. John Manning was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, fighting in that war when he was still a resident of the state of Maryland. The members of the Fenwick Settlement eventually moved away from here after finding the area not so suitable for farming.

Most of the settlers of European descent came to Perry County from states in the southern portion of the United States, but a few came from states like Pennsylvania in the north.

A group of Scots-Irish Presbyterians arrived in Perry County beginning in 1817, and eventually established the Brazeau Presbyterian Church located just north of Frohna. Those folks immigrated here from North Carolina. Those are the English-speaking Presbyterians who helped the German Lutherans survive during their early years in Perry County. The Brazeau Presbyterian Church recently celebrated the bicentennial year of their establishment.

Brazeau Presbyterian Church

In 1819, a group of Methodists, also from North Carolina, arrived in this area. They bought land near what is now called Longtown and established a church known as York Chapel. That group of Methodists was sometimes called the Abernathy Settlement. That congregation is no longer active, but their last church sanctuary still stands.

York Chapel – Longtown, MO – photo credit to Mark Kaempfer

I do not pretend to be an expert on the history of Perry County before the arrival of the German Lutherans in 1839. This post is just my effort to quickly explain what the situation was in this area when Missouri became a state on this day in 1821. I hope the information I shared today is correct. As near as I can tell, the first German Lutherans to settle in Perry County were mostly Bavarians who were found farming in the area near Friedenberg in the early 1830’s, not long before the Gesellschaft arrived on the scene.

Happy Birthday, Missouri!


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