Territorial Period

Historic 1830 map by Maria Symonds of the Topsfield Academy in Topsfield, Massachusetts. Used by permission of David Rumsey Map Collection: www.davidrumsey.com.

Territorial Period – Creating Commerce, Roads, and Government

A frontier period only lasted a few years following the first arrival of settlers. Creation of local government provided organization of people and processes. In absence of diaries and letters from early residents of Davidson Township, official records aide in telling their story.

Courts played an important part in the lives of the early settlers of the Eleven Point River Valley. The yeoman farmers of antebellum Davidson Township, the focus of the Project REACH study, were fulfilling civic duties starting as early as 1815.  But they also initiated court cases against their neighbors, even their own kin at times. Most court sessions lasted at least a week – plenty of time for visiting, trading, and competitions like shooting matches.

Several families arrived in the valley prior to the creation of Missouri Territory in 1812. As of January 15, 1815 the entire Eleven Point River Valley was included in Lawrence County, Missouri Territory. The seat of justice for Lawrence County was established near the mouth of the Eleven Point River at a town that came to be called Davidsonville. The 1815 and 1816 Lawrence County, Missouri, Territory Tax Lists, linked here, confirm the earliest residents, with Reuben Rice and William Looney among them. The northern reaches of the area that would become Davidson Township in 1817 extended to present-day Thomasville, Missouri.

Absent diaries and daily accounts, historic documents are speaking for these pioneering men and women. The extant log structures built by Rice and Looney and restored by Project REACH also provide a window through which to view early lifestyles of these civic-minded independent farmers.

Historian and living history re-enactor Gerry Barker of Frontier Resources provides a history of early courts in the video link below.

Further Reading