Dallas County, Missouri
- Formed: January 1841
- County Population 1860: 5,778
- Slave Population 1860: 138
- Civil War Engagements
-Burning of the county courthouse, October 1863
Image courtesy of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield
Dallas County, Missouri is located on the Big and Little Niangua Rivers, with tributaries Linley, Jones, Deusenberry, Greasey, Bryant, and Mill Creeks, and Bennett’s, Big Sweet, Elixir, Excelsior, and Big Black Walnut Springs. There is abundant wild timber, including oak, walnut, maple, and sycamore. The soil is extremely fertile and conducive to growing corn, wheat, oats, rye, sorghum, potatoes, many fruits and vegetables, tobacco, and small amounts of cotton. The abundant prairie lands in Dallas County offer grazing for horses, mules, cattle, and sheep. The county also has lead, zinc, and iron deposits. The caves in the area contain natural saltpeter for gunpowder manufacture.
The Osage and Delaware Tribes controlled the area before white settlement. The first non-Native American settler was Mark Reynolds, a Nashville, Tennessee native, in 1831. He first settled in Polk County, and then moved to Dallas County in 1833. Reynolds was a veteran of the War of 1812. When he reached Dallas County, he marked the area he settled with a stake upon which he set a buffalo skull. This area is now known as Buffalo Head Prairie. Other early settlers include Richard Wilkonson, Sr. of Ohio in 1837, George Davison of Tennessee in 1838, A.C. Austin in 1839 from North Carolina, and James Jones from Illinois in 1840. A Revolutionary War veteran, Andrew McPheeters, settled in Dallas County from Pennsylvania in the 1830s.
The county was officially formed in January 1841. It was originally named Niangua County. The spelling and writing of “Niangue” proved problematic for mailing purposes so ihe name was changed to Dallas County in 1844, after George Mifflin Dallas, who became James K. Polk’s Vice President in the same year. There were eight townships in Dallas County. These were: Miller, Green, Benton, Jasper, Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, and Grant. The county seat was named Buffalo, getting its name from nearby Buffalo Head Prairie. Levi Beckner built the original courthouse in 1846-1847.
When war broke out between Texas and Mexico in the 1840s, a company under Captain Thomas Jones and Lieutenants Joseph Eldrige and William Crudgington formed in 1847. These men served for one year and returned. Crudgington was also a veteran of the Seminole and Cherokee Indian War. The 1850s saw the start of many prominent and successful businesses, the most notable of which was the Buffalo Nurseries owned by Robert D. Reynolds, son of Mark Reynolds. The Nurseries raised several different varieties of vegetables, fruits, and flowers for consumer purchase. A man named Mr. Rambo—no first name can be found—operated a very successful lead mining operation until his underpaid workers went on strike and burned the mines, thoroughly ending Mr. Rambo’s operation.
When the Civil War began in April, 1861, the majority of residents supported the Union. As such, there were no Confederate companies organized within Dallas County boundaries. However, some men did leave the county to fight for the Confederate cause. Men from Dallas County fought in several Union regiments. These included: Company I, 8th Regiment, Missouri Volunteer Infantry which included Lieutenant Thomas Franklin and James M. Reeser, raised in September, 1862, and Company D, 15th Regiment, Missouri Volunteer Cavalry under Captain T.B. Sutherland in November 1863, whose responsibility was to clear the county of Bushwhackers. Dallas County men also fought in Company I, 16th Regiment, Missouri Volunteer Cavalry which joined the 6th Provisional Regiment, Enrolled Missouri Militia under Captain Morgan Kelley, Companies B, G, and M, 8th Regiment, Missouri Volunteer Cavalry, Companies A and H, 14th Cavalry, Missouri State Militia under Lieutenants Peter Wilson and Milton Birch, and Companies A and C, 26th Regiment, Enrolled Missouri Militia. John R. Kelso was a resident of Dallas County and during the “American Civil War” Civil War, he served in the Union Army as a private in the 24th Missouri Infantry and the 14th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry Regiment as well as captain of Company M of the 8th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. Kelso was elected an to the United States House of Representatives in 1864, serving from 1865 to 1867. Afterward, he was principal of Kelso Academy in Springfield, Missouri from 1867 to 1869.
Because Dallas County was removed from main lines of communication, most armies did not travel through the county. Therefore, Dallas County escaped the total devastation that many surrounding counties suffered. The only incident involving troops moving through the county occurred in October, 1863, when Confederate troops under General Jo Shelby burned down the courthouse before being forced out of the county. Many scouts for both armies passed through the county, usually without incident. However, Bushwhackers caused a great problem for Dallas County residents, as they did elsewhere. Though the exact culprit is unknown, Bushwhackers are probably to blame for burning down the church serving as the temporary courthouse in 1864. Because Dallas County was relatively unscathed from the war, at least in comparison to other counties, it was able to quickly return to normalcy after the war’s conclusion.
- Elva Murrell Hemphill, Early Days in Dallas County (Salem, MA: Higginson Book Company, 1954).
- The Dallas County, Missouri Story 1841-1971. Dallas County Historical Society (Cassville, MO: Litho Printers, 1974).
- John R. Kelso, Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress 1774-Present,