ABOUT JOHN WALTER BASYE, A FOUNDER OF PIKE COUNTY, MO
| In the last days of December, 1790, a young man lacking a few months of his majority, bade his parents goodbye, seated himself in a little boat and started from the Falls of the Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky, and went down the Ohio river. His father sixteen years before had come from Fairfax, Virginia, and built the first house at Louisville. He went up the Mississippi river and landed at Ste. Genevive
[sic], Missouri, January 1, 1791. That old French town for a week had been aglow with Christmas festivities. This unostentatious young man was destined to play a goodly part in starting a westward trend. He was a practical dreamer. More than a hundred years before that time his Huguenot ancestors had been driven from France because of their Protestantism... After a few days at Ste. Genevive
[sic] and Mine La Motte, thirty-five miles inland, he went on up the river to St. Louis, a trading post containing about five hundred people, mostly French. From there he resumed the journey up the river to Fort Madison, stopping off in Pike County, where Louisiana now is. Returning, he made St. Louis his home for twenty-seven years or until March, 1818. He made frequent trips to the "upper country" and was frequently in Pike. It is said that he knew every man, woman and child in the Missouri Territory when the land was purchased. The news of the transfer of ownership reached St. Louis March 10, 1804. He and John Allen, his old friend, were chosen to make the transfer of flags. That evening the Stars and Stripes were hoisted and the next morning the foreign flag was lowered. St. Louis then contained 825 people, all French except about 150. It was almost exactly one-half as large as Bowling Green is today. The name of John Walter Basye is in the list. That year a daughter was born to his wife and she was named Louisiana.
When he moved to Pike County in 1818, John E. Allen, his friend's son accompanied him. Many others were attracted by the opportunities in Pike County. The records of St. Louis show several of his clearing out sales of land, preparing to take his permanent abode elsewhere. He entered the southwest quarter, section 13, township 54, range 2, near Louisiana, and at the same time the land where Bowling Green now stands. Louisiana plat filed December 10, 1819, but was laid out in the spring of 1818. At the suggestion of John E. Allen, his friend's son, the town was named Louisiana, for the rollicking girl born at the time of the transfer of flags at St. Louis. The old family Bible bears out the date and the facts given...
The young man, John Walter Basye, referred to above in
A History of Northeast Missouri, was born at Point
Lookout, Maryland, April 3, 1770, the son of Edmond Basye and his first wife.
Reports such as this one and family letters and diaries give us a far clearer picture of him than a more formal recitation of the "facts" could, even though an occasional conflict of dates and the facts as we know them does occur. (This is also true about the lives of his brothers who we will also meet.)
have already mentioned, no record of Edmond's religious affiliations
survive, but we do have John's own account of his beliefs and of his
membership in the Methodist Church in this letter published in the
Western Christian Advocate, January 8, 1841:
| Dear Brethern [sic],--I
have long wished to contribute some things to your society,
relative to the introduction of Methodism in Missouri, and what
I do I must do quickly; for I am now an old man bending over the
tomb. I will, therefore, begin with my birth. I was born in
Maryland, St. Mary's county.
When I was about eighteen years old, my
father moved near Louisville, Ky. I never knew for two or three
years of any Methodist preachers, or any other denomination,
till about 1790. That year I heard the first Methodist preaching
that I had ever heard. It was near Danville, a distance of about
eighty miles from my father's; and I cannot now recollect his
name. But about this time a Mr. Lee, (some have told me he was
the father of Rev. Jason Lee,) passed through my father's
neighborhood, and formed a society of a few members. Religion
was at a low ebb, for we had perilous times, the savages were
around us, not a week would pass but what we heard of the
destruction of whole families by the cruel hands of the Indians.
But as you have frequently heard of the sufferings of the
pioneers in Kentucky, I will pass it over. But I cannot do it
without relating that memorable campaign that I was in under
General St. Clair in the fall of 1791. The sufferings of the
troops, and my own too, were indescribable; but God supported me
through those perilous times. In the fall of 1792, I started
from my home and landed at New Design, Illinois. This was March,
1793. The inhabitants of the place were holding a meeting when
we landed. At these meetings the power of the Lord was visible;
indeed many6 lying upon the ground, crying and praying to God
for mercy. This was entirely new to me. I did there feel the
Spirit of God striving with me, but I did not yield. I never had
seen such strange things before. This year a Mr. Lilard (I think
his name was Joseph Lilard) preached the first Methodist sermon
that was preached in Illinois. I shall always remember his text.
It was, "I determined to know nothing among you save Jesus
Christ and his crucified." He left us in the fall of 1793,
and we had no more Methodist preaching till 1796. Then old
father Clark came and gathered up Lilard's converts. Now then we
come to Missouri. There was but one American family in the city,
and but very few scattering families of Americans in the whole
territory. The most of the then inhabitants were French and
half-breeds and Indians. I settled in St. Louis County, (Owen's
Station.) There were but five families of Americans at the
station. The summer following I opened my house for Methodist
preaching. Father Clark used to slip over the river and preach
to us occasionally; for you must understand he was forbidden to
live here and preach the Gospel. Under the old Spanish law no
Protestant had a right to preach; hence he had to steal his way
in and preach to the people in 1798. From this time till the
change of government, which I think, in 1804, we had but
occasionally a Protestant sermon. But after 1805, father Clark
moved over on this side and preached to us. He was constantly
traveling, and 1807 he found father Walker in Illinois. He,
(Clark), then came on, giving out appointments for father
Walker. Father Walker was the first Methodist preacher that ever
preached in Missouri. This year, 1807, I, with many others,
John Walter Basye
we have seen our family as members of the Church of England, Baptists,
Scotch-Presbyterians, and now most vividly as Methodists. We can also
see by John's first-hand account the constant danger from Indians during
these first five generations.
Christmas Day, 1794, three years after fighting in the Indian Wars and
one year after he attended the meeting where he "never had seen
such strange things before", John married his first wife, Agnes
Ballew, at what is now Belleville, Illinois. She is the mother of my
great-great grandmother, the daughter Louisiana mentioned above.
Three years after this marriage Frances Ballew, Agnes's mother, married
James Piggot who had been a Captain in the army of General George Rogers
Clark of Revolutionary fame and was entitled to a land bounty because of
his service. He located a one hundred acre military claim on the
Illinois shore of St. Louis in order to establish a landing for a ferry
across the Mississippi River and he built roads leading from this
landing, and a bridge across a creek nearby to connect with other roads.
1797 he applied for and obtained a concession for the operation of his
ferry from the Spanish Commendant [sic]
Trudeau, and he ran it until his death in 1799. The Piggott family,
including John who owned a part of the ferry, made improvements and John
ran it. It was sold in 1815 and eventually became known as Wiggins
Samuel Wiggins had obtained an exclusive charter which forbade any other
ferry to operate within one mile of his ferry in 1819, two years after
the first steamboat, the "General Pike", arrived at St. Louis
and made several ferry trips to demonstrate its possibilities for profit
from the greatly increasing numbers of immigrants coming to Missouri and
the West. However this modern development was to be eventually replaced.
According to an 1880 report by George C. Higgins, the exact location of
the original ferry was about eight miles north of St. Louis at what is
"known as Big Bend, at the place of the Pictured Rocks, --I think
that is the name--also the place at which the new bridge talked of for
the Mississippi river crosses."
ferry was not, as we have already seen, John's first nor last experience
on the river. According to A History of Northeast Missouri,
"He was probably the first white man in Pike unless it be some
French with M. de la Motte, or Crozet in 1712... It is said he was with
Lieu8tenant Pike in August 1805, when he sought the source of the river,
but returned to St. Louis after reaching Hurricane Island."
also made explorations through the country west of the Mississippi
River, up the Missouri River, and overland through St. Charles, Lincoln,
and other counties in Missouri ate4r the Spanish Lieutenant-Governor
gave permission for such explorations in 1794. His interest in and
knowledge of rivers were shared by his brothers, Isaac, Jesse, and
Nancy Ashpaugh Basye tells of her father-in-law Isaac's life in a letter
written April 26, 1907:
| My husband's father left
Illinois near St. Louis in 1834 with family to Des Moines
county, Iowa. He was a christian [sic]
man long years before I knew him. He belonged to the Baptist and
remained faithful; and always a benevolent and poor man's
friend... He went to war, 1812. He went up the Missouri river
three years before Clark and Lewis, and he piloted a boat called
a pirogue. He was on the river three months without a bite of
bread. They lived on game. He said he never lived healthier in
his life. He had never sickness enough to call a Doctor.
(Isaac's grandson, Captain
Dewitt Clinton Basye, the first white child to be born in Brunswick,
Missouri, continued this tradition. He writes in a letter dated January
22, 1903, at the age of sixty-six:
|At 16 I went on the river and learned piloting. I
have been to the headwaters of the Missouri and the headwaters
of the Yukon in Alaska, having spent one winter and four summers
in the land of the midnight sun in charge of a steamer on the
Isaac served as a corporal in Captain James Moore's company of mounted
rangers of the Illinois Territory. The War of 1812, as was the Indian
War fought by John in 1791, was first stirred according to the American
|...by the red men north of the Ohio
River...welded into a formidable confederacy by two remarkable
twin brothers, Tecumseh and The Prophet, who were actually
persuading their thirsty braves to give up firewater. The
Indians, with insatiable tomahawks, were once more ravaging the
frontier north of the Ohio River, using weapons purchased from
the so-called British "hair-buyers" of Canada...
General William H. Harrison, advancing
with a thousand men upon the Indian headquarters, repelled a
night surprise attack at Tippicanoe in present Indiana, on
November 7, 1811...
The battle of Tippicanoe further inflamed American patriots,
especially when they learned that British made arms had been
found in the bloody field...
Seventeen Basyes fought in
this war in Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia. John
was also a corporal serving under his friend Captain John E. Allen in
the Missouri Infantry Militia.
opposed to slavery, and said that he wanted to live long enough to see
the slaves set free. He did, dying in 1864 at the age of eighty-four.
Jesse and Edmond were not so fortunate. They both drowned in the Ohio
River, Jesse at the age of forty-four. According to records Edmond was
trying to pilot a traveler across the Ohio River at Louisville when he
brother William received a cut from an ax when he was clearing ground
outside Louisville and he was only twenty-thee when he died from the
effects of the wound. Still another brother Elizamond was involved in a
less serious incident while clearing with his ax in Indianapolis where
he was one of the earliest settlers. The History of Indianapolis and
Marion County, Indiana tells of it:
| In order to open
Washington, which the plan of the town had appointed for the
principal thoroughfare, and offer was made by the settlers to
give the timber to anybody who would clear off the trees. It
would have been a very profitable contract a year later. The
offer was accepted by Lismond Basye, who had come from Franklin
County, that same fall. The trees were oak, ash, and walnut
mostly, and he thought he had a small fortune safe. When he got
them all down, and the street "to be" was worse
blocked than before, and there was no mill to saw them, he gave
up the job in despair, and the people burned the supurb [sic]
timber as it lay.
The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties, Wisconsin and A
History of Northeast Missouri say that Elizamond built the first
home in Indianapolis after it was platted. He was a physician, a
Methodist, and was elected as one of its first justices of the peace
who, aside from county officials, were the only local officials for the
next ten years. His candidacy is described in Early Reminiscences of
| While Mr. B. was a
candidate, Mr. Nathanial [sic] Cox
wishing to vote understandingly and for those he considered
qualified, in order to satisfy himself on this point, propounded
this question for the (would-be) esquire to answer: Said Cox,
"Should you be elected, Mr. Basye, and a person was brought
before you charged with burglary, and proved guilty beyond the
shadow of a doubt, what would you do with him? Basye studied a
few moments, raised his spectacles, looked wise (as he was) and
said: "I would fine him one hundred dollars and compel him
to marry the woman." This answer was satisfactory to Mr.
Cox, as he generally gave 'Squire Basye what business he had in
after years. The 'Squire almost invariably decided in favor of
the plantiff [sic], which had a
tendency to secure him nearly the entire business of the
village; and when defendants in former cases became plantiffs [sic]
in others, they always patronized 'Squire Basye, for two
reasons: first, they were sure of success; and second, they
would know the exact amount of judgment before the trial, which
was considered in those days an advantage to the person bringing
suit. There were a great many amusing trials had before 'Squire
Basye, that are yet fresh in my mind; but as the mention of them
might not be agreeable to some of the parties yet living, I
refrain from publishing them.
we have seen, Taylorsville, Kentucky became the Spencer County Seat and
we will next see John establish the county seat of Pike County at
Bowling Green, Missouri, but Elizamond and his family and friends hit
the land speculators' jackpot in Indianapolis.
Kentucky the people of Louisville (the largest city) and Lexington waged
such a bitter conflict to win the designation as state capital that
Frankfort was named in 1792. Indiana's capital was migratory, but it
finally settled in Indianapolis. Boorstin explains why:
|...Vincennes, its oldest town, was a territorial
capital (1800-1813), but demand for a more central location
caused removal to a now forgotten place called Corydon, which
had been the site of the constitutional convention of 1816.
Corydon, suddenly equipped for its new dignity, soon possessed a
grand new hotel (only a mile from the capitol), "built for
the ages," with solid stone walls eighteen inches thick.
But by 1825 Corydon's day of glory had already passed, for in that
year the capital was moved to Indianapolis (which had been
settled only in 1820).
we have already seen, John Walter Basye was one of the first settlers in
Louisiana, Missouri. The St. Louis Republic reported:
| The present site of
Louisiana was explored, so the history runs, by John W. Basye,
who came up from St. Louis as early as 1791. He found the timber
very heavy and so densly [sic]
grown with underbrush and grapevine as to make progress through
it very difficult. He returned to St. Louis, but came here
again, and later founded Bowling Green. He boasted that at the
time the Louisiana Purchase was made he personally knew every
white man within the limit of the territory now included in
Missouri and Illinois, and no doubt he did.
first wife Agnes died in the early part of 1814 after giving birth to
their eighth child. Louisiana, next in our line, was six years old and
Walter was forty-four. He married Ann Templeton later that same year and
they had four children. John and Ann moved to Louisiana and in 1818 John
and his friend John Allen formed a partnership in order to establish a
horse saw and grist mill. John had originally been granted 1,300 acres
by the Spanish but when the title proved to be unclear he exchanged it
for about 1,000 acres in Pike County.
Transportation by water was as important in Missouri at this time as it
had been in Virginia and some of the land he chose fronted the
Mississippi River as we can see in this surveyor's diagram:
town was platted six months after John and Ann moved there and they
lived in a one room log house he built where the Carnegie Library now
stands on Third Street.
1820 they moved to the present site of Bowling Green. To get there they
went for a few miles on Grassy Creek Road which ended at the salt works
and had been established as one of the first acts of the county. Then
they went on through untraveled forest to the "top of the
hill" as it was called then. John had built another log house there
and the main consideration for its location was a big spring, but it is
said that he regretted having to take so much prairie land in order to
get the spring property.
grandson, Isaac Walter Basye, speaking at Bowling Green's Centennial
|...How I wish they would paint me pictures of
those first days and nights 100 years ago spent on "top of
the hill" with no near neighbors. They need not give me a
picture of the hour of nightfall, for that is already ingrained
in my being--the hour which his companion and the seven children
are gathered around the family altar, and he reads aloud a
chapter from his guide book. All this is familiar from which was
told me, but I should so like to have them repeat in audible
tones the patriot's prayer on that first night here, as he
committed the infant babe, my father and the older children to
the watch-care of Him who never sleeps.
and the commissioners appointed to locate the county seat laid out the
town in 1826. It had been designated as such in 1823 when the term of court
first convened at John's home.
result of John's exchange of visits with Elizamond while he still lived
in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and their reports of the opportunities in
Pike County, many people moved to John's town and it was named in honor
of this Kentucky group.
1929 John built another house, this time a large two room log house
which Otto Basye describes:
The house was built of logs about seven or eight inches in
diameter laid in the American way, horizontally, not in the
French way, perpendicularly. No nails were used in its
construction, because nails were in that day all hand made and
expensive. The ends of the logs were trimmed or mortised so as
to fit into each other and then held fast by wooden pins fitted
into holes bored through the ends.
The logs were cut from selected trees in the forest and hauled
to the building site and laid green. Walnut logs were usually
selected. The logs were stripped of bark and trimmed, the lower
ones being somewhat larger and resting on large stones set in
the ground at intervals for the foundation. There was, of
course, no excavation made for a basement. With the help of his
sons, it took Basye only a few days to build this home.
The log house is about twice as long as it is wide, and is an
example of the third stage in pioneer-co0lonial log houses. The
earliest ones had only one room with an outside chimney. The
sloping roof of the Basye house was covered with clapboard
shingles, but the second generation removed them and put on
machine-made shingles. The floor was a puncheon floor, and later
was replaced with lumber flooring.
From the center of the house there rises a wide brick chimney
about five feet through, on each side of which is a large
fireplace. Extending from one side of the chimney to the wall
were two parallel partitions to made a clothes closet. A
partition, with door opening through it, extended from the other
side of the chimney to the other wall, thus making the two
original equalized rooms of this early home. The chinks between
the logs were filled with mud, but the second generation
plastered and papered the inside walls and ceilings, and
weatherboarded [sic] the outside.
In one of the two rooms all cooking was done in the fireplace,
and it was both the dining room and the living room, also
serving as a bedroom. Trundle beds were used. The second
generation added three rooms of frame construction, one called
the boys' room, another the girls' room, and the third a
kitchen. The long porch was later inclosed [sic]
and made into a dining room
Originally there was only one outside door. The next generation
made three other outside doors and seven inside doors, a total
of 11 doors in this house now of six rooms.
The water supply was a matter of utmost concern. For two years
all water for household used was carried uphill from the big
spring about three or four blocks away. Thereupon in 1831 John
dug a large cistern by the side of his home, which has for more
than a hundred years furnished the water supply. This is said to
be the oldest cistern in northern Missouri.
Then he dug an outside cellar, walling it with stones and
covering it with dirt. Here was kept all fruit, vegetables, milk
and butter. The next generation built a carpenter shop over the
first Methodist services were held in the Basye home which was also the
first post office, jail, funeral home, tavern, and inn for travelers.
Court was held in his loom house.
was the Methodist class leader and taught the first Sunday School; he
was the first postmaster, coroner, inn-keeper and jailer. He also killed
a first and only bear ever killed inside the town limits--he was a
broad-shouldered, muscular man, about five feet eleven inches tall and
was never sick until the last two days of his life. He died in 1845 at
the age of seventy-five.
had bought Daniel Logan and his wife Jemima at a slave auction in St.
Louis. He was opposed to slavery and gave them their liberty. They were
living by themselves in a log cabin on his farm when he died and they
continued to live there until their deaths--highly respected by all of
Civil War was not declared for another fifteen years but the events
leading up to it were happening now. It was to badly affect many in our
family, especially the Basyes who had lived as slave-owning
"southerners" for almost two hundred years.