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The First Settlers to Arrive

Posted October 10, 2012 in Community Featured, Greene County

Truman and Mary Davis and their family were the first white settlers to arrive in Green County in 1849.

It was on Oct. 1, 1849, that Truman and Mary Davis, ages 39 and 36, and their six children, ages 2 to 16, became the first white settlers in Greene County, arriving in a prairie schooner pulled by two large oxen.

Traveling with them were one cow, one horse, 12 chickens, eight sheep, two pigs and a dog. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

They’d earlier lived in New York, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri.  And here they were in a county that had not yet been named in a state that was not quite three years old. But at least they already had a house. Truman Davis and his two oldest sons had come earlier, in the summer and built a cabin slightly east of the present Squirrel Hollow Park shelter house — about equidistant from today’s towns of Jefferson, Rippey and Jamaica.

One of the sons, James Polk Davis, wrote in an article in 1923 that the home site “had a good flowing spring in a beautiful grove of oak and maple trees.” The cabin was 12 by 16 feet and about seven feet high. The doors and windows had shutters but no window glass.  A fireplace was at one end.

In their first winter here, the Davises focused on trapping. By spring, they had 75 beaver, 13 timber wolves, 70 prairie wolves, 30 otter, 100 mink, 100 raccoon, 10 lynx, 10 wildcats, 12 badgers and sacks of muskrats. Truman loaded all their pelts into a wagon, took them to Adel, put them on a raft and floated to St. Louis. There he sold the pelts for $600.

That was enough to purchase about 500 acres of land from the U.S. government, and his new property stretched along the North Raccoon River to the future town of Jefferson.

James Polk Davis wrote that “the Pottawatomie Indians traveled through this area, but were friendly…” And new neighbors began to arrive in the spring of 1850. Enos and Catherine Buttrick built a cabin at the mouth of a nearby creek. The Davises frequently hosted church services and other neighborhood gatherings.

Truman and Mary had six more children. He died at the age of 51 and is buried about 15 feet northeast of the cabin site, with a concrete sarcophagus now covering his grave. Mary lived 28 years after Truman’s death and is buried at the Grand Junction cemetery.

Information provided by Mary Weaver, vice-president, Greene County Historical Society,

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