History of Jefferson Township, Johnson County, Missouri
From: History of Johnson County, Missouri
By: Ewing Cockrell
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka - Cleveland 1918


Jefferson township is one of the four original townships of which Johnson county was composed. It occupied approximately the southeastern quarter of the county. It was organized May 4, 1835. It was named for Thomas Jefferson.

The organization of other townships from time to time, parts of which were taken from Jefferson township, has reduced it to little more than one fourth its original size. Its relative geographical position is the same, still occupying the southeast corner of the county.

Geography. - Area, 60 square miles, or 38,400 acres. Geographically, Jefferson township is a smooth body of land, with rolling country formed by the headwaters of Clear Fork on the west, Muddy creek on the east and Tebo creek on the south.

Soils. - According to the Department of Agriculture's Soil Survey of 1914, the township is composed for the most part of Oswego silt loam (gray soil). This is split by Muddy creek from the southwest to the northeast corner, with miscellaneous bottom soils adjoining it. On the west side of the township is a very irregular strip of about two miles wide of Boone silt loam ("sandy" soil) in the northwest and Bates silt loam (dark gray brown soil) in the southwest in an irregular strip of the same width.

The details of these soils are:

Oswego silt loam, upland, gray, compact soil; forms about 40 per cent. of the township. It lies all over the township, except that in the northwest eight square miles of the township are only two small patches.

Boone silt loam, upland, of sandstone origin; 25 per cent. This occupies chiefly the eight square miles in the northwest just mentioned, and also irregular strips of about one fourth mile in width, adjoining the bottom land along Muddy creek.

Bates silt loam, upland, dark gray brown soil; 25 per cent. This lies chiefly along the small branches of Muddy creek, Clear Fork and other creeks, all just above the Boone silt loam.

Crawford silt loam, upland, "red limestone" soil; 3 per cent. This is chiefly in an irregular body of about one square mile, lying about one half mile southeast of Sutherland.

Osage silt loam, the ordinary bottom soil; 5 per cent. This lies chiefly along Muddy creek and Clear Fork tributaries.

Miscellaneous: 2 per cent.; small patches, chiefly of black limestone soils, Summit silt loam, and second bottom soils, Robertsville silt loam.

Of the foregoing, the Crawford silt loam and Summit silt loam are ranked as two of the best three common upland soils in the county, with the Bates silt loam next.

For further soil details, see chapters on Agriculture and Soils.

Early Settlements. - The earliest permanent settlements in Jefferson township were made in the early thirties. Among the first settlers, John Draper, William Davenport and Benjamin Snelling came here from Kentucky in 1832. Benjamin Kinlzey also settled here about that time.

Henry Divers entered government land in 1833, which is the first record of the kind which appears in Jefferson township, although a few farms, no doubt, were opened and settled a year or so prior to this date.

Among other early settlers in this township were David Cooper and Zeldin Wolf, who came here in 1833. and Anthony Owsley, Thomas Smith, Early Tucker, Isaac McDonald and William Reynolds, who came in the same year. Owen Cooper settled here in 1836, coming from Kentucky, and Robert Craig. of Tennessee, came here the same year. James Patrick, a Kentuckian, settled in this township in 1834 and later went to Henry county. In 1837 Thomas J. Davis, a native of Virginia, settled in this township, but later went to Oregon. Harvey Dyer came about the same time and spent the remainder of his life here.

The settlement of Jefferson township, like other sections of the county and state, was not rapid prior to the middle of the last century. It was gradual and a majority of the early settlers made their permanent homes here. S. C. Gray settled here in 1848, coming from Boone county, Missouri. He spent the remainder of his life here and was prominent in local affairs and served as justice of the peace of the township for a number of years. Some of the other pioneers who made their homes here and settled prior to 1850 were Kit Wingfield, Elbert, Henry and Frank Cooper, John Owsley, John Draper and his sons, William, Addison and Moselv; Robert Douglas and his sons, Willis, Alfred, John, and Allen; Benjamin Wall, Benjamin Farwell. Richard B. Feel, Washington Garret, B. A. Holmes and his sons, Robert H. John W., James R., and Benjamin F.; David White, John. Belisha, William and Addison Orison; Larkin Pettis, William Birch and Dr. Owsley.

Early Churches. - Church services were held early in various private residences in the early days.

Feldin Wolf is said to have preached the first sermon in the township in his own residence in 1833.

The oldest church organization in the township is Old High Point Baptist church, located twelve miles south of Knob Noster. It was organized in 1833 by Elders Simpson and Ricketts and preaching was held in school houses until 1855. when a building was erected by R. B. Craig and John Epperson at a cost of eight hundred dollars and the first sermon was preached here by Rev. B. F. Goodwin. Other early day pastors of this church were Elders Simpson, Ricketts, W. P. C. Caldwell, A. Horn, A. M. Cockrell and T. J. Nevelle. The charter members of this congregation were Benjamin Snelling and wife, Vincent Snelling and wife, John Draper and wife, Anthony Owsley and wife, Ann White and John T. Ricketts and wife. The church building was destroyed by fire in 1863, at which time the early records were destroyed.

New High Point Baptist church was erected in the fall of 1881. For further details of this old church, see chapter on Baptist church.

Many of the residents of Jefferson township worship in a union church just across the line in Pettis county, especially the Methodists and Christians.

Early Cemeteries. - There were no regularly established cemeteries in this township prior to 1840. Up to that time interment was made on the home place of the deceased. Cooper cemetery, Goodwin cemetery and Combs cemetery were all private burial places. There was also a private cemetery in section 32 and one in section 35. A. P. Blewitt was the first to be buried in New High Point cemetery. His burial took place August 24, 1881. There are a number of graves in various parts of the township. which at this time can not he definitely located.

Early Schools. - Soon after the first permanent settlements came the local schools, established and maintained by private subscription. The common branches were generally taught and frequently teachers were found of unusual educational qualifications and in such instances some of the higher branches of education were taught.

The first schools were in log school houses. One of the early cabins used for school purposes was located on the Clear Fork near the Major Neal farm; another was just west of the old Pettis farm, and another between the residences of Anthony Owsley and Isaac McDonald. The door of this last was so low the older pupils had to stoop to enter.

Early Teachers. - Among the pioneer school teachers of Jefferson township were Dabney Pettis, a Virginian; Thab Butler, who also came from Virginia; Edward C. Curren, from Kentucky; Samuel Lowe, from Kentucky, who afterward became clerk of the state Legislature; Mrs. Nancy Bryant, a widow; Ep. M. Smith, from Kentucky, who was considered one of the best teachers in the locality; William Winfrey, from Tennessee; Joe Goodwin, Gruen Reese, William Fewel and a Mr. Nutter.

Early Stores and Postoffices. - Harrodsburg, according to the old United States Census, had a population of twenty five, with postoffice, two or three stores and blacksmith shop. It was on the Warrensburg-Warsaw road.

Eldorado, a small place not now appearing on the map, was a trading point in the early days and Robert Irwin kept a general store there immediately after the war. Later he was succeeded by Robert Harris in the business and Dr. George Harris was engaged in the practice of medicine there.

Burtville, Henrietta and Owsley were early settlements, where there are still stores. Henrietta was made a postoffice in 1879. W. P. Greenlee was the first postmaster.

Bowen is a village on the Rock Island railroad located in Jefferson township near the line of Henry county. It was platted April 3, 1903, on land owned by W. A. Garrett and his wife, Alice Garrett, when what is now the Rock Island railroad was being constructed. When the coal mines were operating it was a very busy town. A store and a number of houses, many vacant, are still there.

Sutherland is a station on the Missouri, Kansas & Texas railroad, with a store and other houses.

Justices. - The justices of the peace of Jefferson township, as far back as the records go, with the dates of their election, are: 1836, Josiah B. Bullock, Andrew Clark; 1842, Aiglon Price, Fabius M. Butler; 1844, Alfred B. Shepherd, Randolph Hazelwood, Toliver W. Gresham, Charles Wingfield; 1846, Thomas J. Davis, Seth Stephens, Owen Cooper; 1850, William S. Snelling, Samuel Himes, William Jennings; 1852, Benjamin B. Caldwell, Daniel Allen, Randolph Hazelwood; 1856, Randolph Hazelwood, Robert Embesson; 1860, O. Cheatham, G. W. Wheatley; 1878, John Richardson, C. T. Caldwell; 1880, J. Street; 1882, J. N. Richardson, W. Y. Cross; 1890, David Cooper, Franklin Moseley; 1896, Thomas Johnson, J. W. Russell; 1898, J. W. Russell, Fielding Glass; 1900, M. C. Draper; 1902, M. C. Draper, George F. Moseley; 1906, T. M. Case, George F. Moseley; 1910, T. M. Case, George F. Moseley; 1914, T. M. Case, George F. Moseley.

County Officers. - The following are the officers who have been elected from the township since 1832, with the dates of their election:
1882 - D. L. Sutherland (Democrat). county judge.
1884-86 - Sidney Jarvis (Democrat), county judge.
1890-94-1914 - John M. Caldwell (Democrat), county clerk.
1894 - James A. Wingfield (Democrat), county judge.
1904-06 - M. C. Draper (Democrat), collector.
1904-06 - H. H. Hudson (Democrat), sheriff.
1916 - T. L. Kimzey (Democrat), county judge.
1916 - James O. Sutherland (Democrat), representative.

Population. - The population of Jefferson township, by United States Census, was:
1850 1,003
1860 1,588
1880 1,403
1890 1,270
1900 1,242
1910 1,296

Personal Property and Products. - Agriculture and personal property statistics for Jefferson township as given by Missouri State Reports for 1877, and Johnson county assessors' lists for 1896 and 1916 are:



Wheat, bushels


Corn, bushels


Barlry, bushels


Oats, bushels


Rya, bushels


Tobacco, pounds


Wool, pounds


Hay, tons


Molasses, gallons


Wine, gallons

































Notes and money



Other personalty



All personalty



County road improvements made by the township, since this system was established in 1911, were up to January 1, 1918, twenty two in number and aggregated $1,157.50 furnished by citizens of the township, and $1,100 by the county. In amount of this work Jefferson township ranks ninth among the townships of the county.

Organizations. - The following is a complete list of all organizations of every kind in Jefferson township. Full details of each organization are in separate chapters on the different organizations.

Churches - Baptist, High Point: Methodist. New Hope.

Fraternal Organizations. - Modern Woodmen. Sutherland; Modern Woodmen, Owsley.

1917 War Organizations - Red Cross, Sutherland Branch.

Total number of organizations in township is five.

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