Texas County, Missouri
- Formed: February 14, 1845
- County Population 1860: 6,013
- Slave Population 1860: 56
- Civil War Engagements
-Skirmish at Houston, November 22, 1863
Image courtesy of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield
Several Native American tribes – including the Shawnee, Delaware, Paola, and Piankashaw -inhabited the Texas County, Missouri before its formation. The first white settler was Edward Jennings from North Carolina in 1770. Most early settlers came from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, North and South Carolina, though some came from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and even Germany. Most of the earliest settlers came for timber resources since the area was rich in oak and pine, and some came in search of saltpeter for gunpowder manufacture. Early settler William H. Ashley came looking for saltpeter, but began a lead mining operation. Ashley would later become Missouri’s first Lieutenant Governor. In 1816, several more settlers arrived and established the first mills. These men were Josiah H. Buckhart, Richard Sullens, Thomas Cork, and David Lynch. Most early settlers engaged in only small scale agriculture, depending mostly on abundant wild resources. These included: plums, pawpaws, persimmons, cherries, grapes, various berries, turkey, deer, and other wild game. Texas County, Missouri, is located near many of the Piney River’s tributaries and therefore has abundant fresh water.
By 1843, the population grew substantially, and the need for a separate county arose. In February of 1843, Ashley County was formed, though it was not totally independent and attached to Shannon County for government purposes. On February 14, 1845, Ashley County was renamed Texas County out of part of Shannon and Pulaski County. Texas County, the largest county in Missouri, was named after the state of Texas, the largest state in the Union at the time. The county court established a commission, which met at David Lynch’s home, to name the county seat. This committee consisted of men from surrounding counties: Jesse Robinett of Wright County, Richard Matthews of Pulaski County, and Henry Woods of Ozark County. They named the county seat Houston, after Samuel Houston of the state of Texas. Several townships were also established, including Carroll, Boon, Piney, Benton, Jackson, Roubidoux, Sherill, Clinton, Upton, Polk, and Currence.
There were very few slaveholders in the county, only 56 slaves were recorded in the 1860 Census, so when the Civil War began in 1861, the county was more divided over the question of secession and the validity of states than the question of slavery. Most Texas County citizens sympathized with the Confederacy, but did not extend their sympathies as far as secession. The county was divided with roughly one third of the population supporting secession and the Confederacy, and two thirds against secession and for the Union. Texas County men fought for the Confederacy and took part in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in Greene County, the Battle of Pea Ridge in Benton County, Arkansas, the Battle of Lexington, and several small skirmishes. These men either ceased service, served for the Union, or became Bushwhackers after these eight months were over. A prominent man from Licking, James H. McBride, became Brigadier General in the Confederate Missouri State Militia.
Houston was an important stop along the route from Springfield to Rolla, and as such the Union army used the county courthouse as their headquarters. The Confederate army resented this prime location, and burned every building in Houston, including the courthouse. They removed all county records to a local cave before burning the courthouse, however. The county seat was temporarily moved to Licking until the end of the war. Licking’s location near Rolla allowed it to escape the devastation that occurred in most other cities in Texas County, due to its close proximately of Fort Wyman and the Union controlled railroad.
There were no major battles, but several small skirmishes in Texas County, including that in which Houston was burned. In December, 1861, Union Captain Woods overtook Confederate troops in Houston and captured over 100 of General Sterling Price’s men. On February 17, 1862, Major W.C. Drake conducted a raid on Houston. A confederate regiment, the 5th Cavalry, Missouri State Militia, conducted several raids on Bushwhackers in 1862-1863. Bushwhackers were a constant threat to Texas County residents.
After the war, every town except Licking was almost totally depopulated. The county court was tied up for the next year with damage claims from the war and trials against men refusing to swear oaths to the United States under the Drake Constitution, the new Missouri Constitution in 1865. Most of these cases were eventually dropped. Several towns established after the war included Cabool in 1884, Plato in 1874, and Summerville in 1870. The railroad also brought more people to the area, and by 1880, the population had reached more than 10,000 people.
- History of Laclede, Camden, Dallas, Webster, Wright, Texas, Pulaski, Phelps, and Dent Counties (Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Company, 1971).
- Texas County, Missouri Heritage, Vol. 1 (Texas County, Missouri Genealogical and Historical Society, 1989).
Texas County, 1860 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Eighth Census of the United States, 1860. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1860. M653, 1,438 rolls.