History of Wilson Township
History of Wilson Township
This is mostly about Wilson township which was settled about 1838 or 1839. The majority of the settlers in that area came from Kentucky. The first families that settled in that area were the Works and Perkins families but they didn't stay very long. The Warrens, Kilburns, Pews, Woods and tolsons all came in 1839 and the early 40s. The west side of Wilson township was practically all Kilburns and Warrens at one time. There were a few other families, such as the Stuckers, (which the Stucker Cemetery is named after), the Urtons and the Morris'. At one time they said you could walk from the north side to the south side of Wilson township and never get off Kilburn land. The Warrens were married to some of the Kilburns, even before coming to Missouri, so they were living in that area too.
On the east side of Medicine Creek around what was later Alpha, the Tolsons, Herns, and Woods all settled. The Merrymans settled in an area further north. The Andersons, who came from Tennessee, and the Belshes from Virginia also settled on the east side and stayed in that area, but few of them are living in that area now.
There were no railroads and no bridges of course, so when they came to a deep stream, they had to stop and make barges to cross. Most of the supplies came up the river to Brunswick, then hauled across to the different little towns all the way to Trenton. [Ed. note: Brunswick is in Chariton County on the Grand River approximately three miles from the Missouri River, and about 35 miles south-southeast of Alpha as the crow flies.]The old wagon trail came in the very southeast corner of the township and angled across to the northwest corner on its way to Trenton. Harve Belshe, who was one of the first born in the area, drove one of the wagon trains that hauled supplies to Trenton. A few years ago there was still evidence of that old trail on several farms across the township.
Later on they started the town of Alpha which had many businesses at one time and a population of about 200. It had grocery stores, 2 blacksmith shops, a dry goods store, 2 drug stores and a mill; also a furniture factory. The church was built and the Alpha cemetery was started but the church has been moved to a different location.
Finally the Milwaukee railroad came through in 1887. They missed Alpha and Lindley, which is in Marion township. There were also some Kentucky people that had settled there. The railroad was on the west side of Medicine Creek and these towns were on the east side. The railroad first established a station called Niatica right on the county line and the Alpha people were so upset about it, that one night in a storm that station burned. The supposition was that the people burned the station. They accused a doctor of setting the fire but they didn't convict him.
The railroad later started a station at Laredo and then a lot of the businesses moved to Laredo. This included the Hern Grocery, the blacksmith shop and a drug store. At one time there were four doctors in Alpha; Dr. Miller, Dr. Thomas, Dr. Hall and Dr. Stone. All but Dr. Miller moved to Laredo. The town began to grow and the railroad made a division there. It became a thriving town with about a 1,000 population because a lot of the railroaders made their homes there.
At the time Laredo was at the top, the businesses included 2 hotels, 3 lumber yards, 2 barber shops, 3 stores, 2 hardware stores, a feed store, a furniture store, 2 banks, 2 milners, an ice cream parlor, 2 restaurants, a jewelry store, 3 churches, an undertaker, a dray line, 3 doctors and 2 dentists.[Ed. note: Of these original businesses, only the 3 churches remain.]
In 1863 several of the Wilson township settlers decided to move on to Oregon Territory. Milton Warren formed a wagon train and some of the Warrens, Kilburns, Osborns, Perkins and some others went with this group. Most of them stayed, but some did come back. Milton Warren came back but made a second trip to Oregon as a wagon master. Some of the settlers went to California during the Gold Rush of 1850, and some of them came back.
There were several former Laredo people or descendants who became prominent in their lifetimes. Two were Clyde and Hillary Tolson, who were raised at Laredo. Clyde became the right hand man of J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI for many years, and Hillary was with the Park Service in Washington, D. C. for a number of years. There were a number of others that became prominent in the educational area.
One reason there is so little in the Grundy County histories about the Wilson township area [is that] people settled along streams and the people that settled in that area were more or less isolated from Trenton because of a desolate area along Honey Creek that hadn't been settled and it was too much of a problem to cross the streams. They could go from the Wilson township area to Chillicothe easily because they could follow what is now Route V without crossing any streams. Later when the railroad came through there were four passenger trains a day and people could ride down in the morning and come back in the evening, so it wasn't until good roads were established that this area had much contact with Trenton.
This information taken from a tape made by Mac Cooper that is in the Jewett Norris Library in Trenton, and graciously provided by Loma Hurst.
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