CRAWFORD COUNTY AND LEASBURG
Crawford County being geographical located about fifty miles from both the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers is situated in the east-central part of Missouri. Crawford County was organized in early 1829. Named in honor of William H. Crawford of Georgia. Crawford County consisted of all or part of eighteen of our present counties and extended to the Kansas State line. After being devided it created nine new counties Phelps, Maries, Texas, Cedar,Miller,Dade, Dent, Benton and Green. It is bounded on the north by Gasconade and Franklin Counties. On the east by Washington and Iron Counties On the south by Rynolds and Dent Counties. And on the west by Dent, Phelps and Gasconade Counties. It is thirty-three miles in extreme length north and south and at its greatest with is twenty-four miles. Its area is 711 square miles or 455,040 acres.
Prior to 1830 Crawford County was inhabited by the Cherokee Indians. The Cherokee Indians were driven from their homes in Georga to Oklahoma. They stopped at the springs in Steelville to rest and bury their dead. Tehy left their imprint on Crawford County with the "Trail of Tears". They followed what is now highway 8 to St. James. The present seat of our county is Steelville. This was selected by a commission after several other attempts had failed. By act of the legislature on January 23, 1829. John Stanton of Franklin County, James Dunica of Cole County and Hugh Barkley of Gasconade County were made commissioners to select a site for a county seat. It appears they did not act for on February 13, 1833 the legislature authorized the county court to select a sutable place for permanent seat of justice as"near to center of population of said county as curcumstances will permit". On March 10, 1835 another commission was appointed , Charles Springer of Washington County, William Spencer of Franklin County and Thomas Caulk of Polaski County. James Steel was selected as commissioner and he resighned June 1, 1836 and Simon Frost was appointed and he was ordered by the court to lay out the town. James Steel entered 40 acers of land on which was the original townsite. He sold it to the county court for $50.00 on December 16, 1835. The court named the town in his honor. In 1857 the first brick court house was built. This court house was destroyed by fire in 1873. The third court house was built in 1873 this was destroyed by fire in early 1884. The present court house was built in 1885. James Steel was the first storekeeper in the town.
Early Leasburg was steeped in Harrison land. From 1852 to 1867 William H. Harrison Sr. and four sons owned land in early Leasburg then known as Harrison Station. It was near the Old Springfield Road that swarmed with ox wagons and horse drawn wagons enrute to Springfield or St. Louis.
William Harrison Sr. came with his family in 1811 fron Kentucky and entered the first land taken up in Crawford County. The Harrisons were the first white settlers to come and stay and make their home here.
The pioneer driver for land was stromg in William. His father Captain Ben Harrison of the Revolutionmary War, who was driven by the same urge for land, walked half way across the continent and owned land in five places in Virginia,Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Missouri. Those were days of savage Indians, mosquitoes, swamps, wild animals and untold miles of blistering wilderness.
William Harrison Sr. and wife Ann had nine sons and two daughters. About half of their children were born in Kentucky. As they grew up in this new land they were first in many things. William Jr. has the first store in Harrison Station. He served in the Mexican War in 1867 as administrator for William Sr. estate, he closed the books, sold the various land areas and soon afterward both he and his wife died possibly from cholera. Andrew had mined gold and with his family made two trips to California before 1860. He was appointed the first first Postmaster of Leasburg in 1860. He was also a Probate Judge. John had the first saw mill and the first grist mill. They brought the granite bhurs with them from the east. James was a county officer in Sttelville. William Sr. was co-owner with Jo Reeves of the first iron blast furnace at Thickety Ford near the river.
Talk of the railroad coming aroused the distrust and suspicious of many of the pioneers. The teamsters could see their livelyhood vanishing and many were the threats uttered against the railroad. By 1853 the railroad was opened to what is now known as Pacific Missouri. Construction progressed and the first trffic train entered Rolla 30 miles west of Leasburg, late in December of 1860. By that time, many who had dreaded the coming of the railroad were engaged in providing fuel for wood-burning engins which pulled the train of that day.
Samuel Lea, a native of Yorkshire England came to this country in 1858. In 1859 he built the first residence in what is today is Leasburg. It was a log structure 24x26 feet in size. On January 9, 1860 Samuel Lea became the owner of a large parcel of Leasburg land paying William H. Harrison Jr. and his wife Margaret the sum of $2500,00 for these holdings. This same year he built the first frame house in Leasburg and opened the first general store. About that time Harrison Station was renamed Leasburg for Samuel Lea.
Some of the early merchants and residents of Leasburg were William H. Davis and his wife Artressie McWilliam Davis had the mill, a store and a hotel, the latest two in Leasburg. Mr. Davis spent most of his time at the store. Aunt Tressy as she was known, was a hard worker and spent tome at the mill, sold eggs , milked cows, drew water up by a rope from am old well, she got water this way for folks and their horses when passing by the house. This hotel was used as a hospital during the Civil War battle of Leasburg. She was not afraid of anything. She cussed like a sailor which embarassed her children, but the community accepted her as she was rough talking but big harted. The first blacksmith in Leasburg was a man named Whitehead. Some of the early families in Leasburg were the Walls, Pat and Dennis Mullen, the O'Briens, Wallaces, McGraths, Pat Fitzgerald. The great numbers of these early Leasburg families were Irish immigrants who came as laborers on the railroad.
During the early years as the surrounding trade territory prospered out town prospered. Our bank, our half dozen stores, our post office, our railroad station were buisy places. Whole families could be outfitted from head to toe in our stores.
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