[as published in the Callaway Gazette, Fulton, Mo., on November 16, 1883 (punctuation edited for readability; italicized names in brackets are spellings used in Ovid Bell, Cote Sans Dessein: A History, Fulton, Mo.: published by author (1930))]
Letter From T.J. Ferguson. [Thomas James Ferguson (1809-1890)]
The undersigned not being in a situation to attend your meeting on the 10th inst., submits a few items that may be of some little interest to the people now living.
The old village of Cote Sans Dessein (pronounced by the old French Cote Sans Dusaw) was settled by the French about the year 1812. I first saw it in September 1817. I remember that there were then bearing apple and peach trees in several gardens. The village at that time contained 300 or 400 inhabitants. There were two small dry goods stores, one grocery or dram shop, one tavern, and one blacksmith shop. This point was selected by Baptiste Roy and his brothers as a very suitable place for trapping and hunting. The Osage river valley was only three miles above and was at that time an excellent place for beaver, deer, and bear. In the year 1808, Baptiste Roy purchased of Pierre Chouteau 610 arpents of land, on which he settled a number of persons, the most of whom were hunters and trappers and in his employ. The names of the principal persons there in 1817 were Baptiste, Joe, Louis, and Francis Roy [also Roi or LeRoy], four brothers; James Teabo [Thibault or Tibeau], Revards [Rivard or Rivierre], Vinciens [Vincennes or Vincent], Donoya [Denoyer or Desnoyer] (called Pecars) [Pikeux], Graziers [Graza or Grezar or Grezard], (called Captain) four; Feye [Foy], Laplant, (or Labran) [Laptant], Urnoe, [Urno or Erno] Tyro (or Tyo) [Tayon or Tyon], Peachu [Peachy or Peache], Shalifaux [Chalifoux or Chalifaux], Rails [Reille or Reilhe], and others.
The only Americans there then were Daniel, Bob, and Harvey Colgan; Major Evans, grandfather of the late William, Jesse, and John King; Mr. Harvey Hubbard, also grandfather of the late John, Jesse E., and Joseph Farmer; William Dunnica; Asa Williams, the father of Henry, Asa L., W.G. Williams, now living; also Mrs. E. Foy and Sallie Jennings; Jonathan Hollaway, grandfather of J.L. and N.B. Ferguson; also Mrs. C.W. Samuels and Sallie Miller, in the fall of 1817; Joshua, John S. and William Ferguson; Dennis Askrew; Thomas Duley; William B. Scott, father of Mrs. Colonel John Boyce and also of Mrs. William M. Ramsey, now living; General Jonathan Ramsey, a member in the first convention that formed the first constitution of Missouri; Josiah Ramsey, the great hunter; Lampkins, Rounsaville, Joe and James Gordon, William Lenox and three sons; and probably others.
My father, John S. Ferguson, being a millwright by trade, built the first horse mill in the county, early in the spring of 1818, which did the grinding for a distance of twenty miles up and down the river, the materials for which he brought with him from Kentucky on a small batteau (or keel boat). The most of our meat we had the first year was obtained from the woods. Deer, turkeys (and occasionally a bear) were plenty and good. Cattle and horses wintered on rushes and wild pea vines. The first school taught in our neighborhood was in the winter of 1818-19, by Joseph James, four miles above Cote Sans Dessein.
In the fall of 1818 John Scrips [Scripps], a Methodist preacher, made his first visit to the county and preached the first night at William Nash’s, and the next night at my father’s, John S. Ferguson, and continued to preach at my father’s house one year. For more than twenty years afterwards, my father’s house was the preaching place for the neighborhood. My mother, Mary Ferguson, Hannah Ramsey, Josiah Ramsey, and old Tom Nash (colored) constituted the first Methodist class formed in this neighborhood, probably in the county. Old Josiah Ramsey was appointed class leader, and, being a pious old man, held a prayer meeting every Sabbath at some place in the neighborhood.
The Methodist preacher of that day had to encounter many hardships, and often suffered with cold and hunger in travelling through the wilderness from one appointment to another, some twenty miles or more apart. They were compelled to be dependent on the few members of the church for clothing, etc.; but they were more than welcome by the hardy pioneer, and were furnished with everything necessary for their comfort as far as could be. While John Scrips was on this circuit, which embraced a part of Boone county, he became in want of a hat. A Mr. Hatton, of Boone county, a hatter by trade, told him if he would bring him some coonskins he would make him a hat, which he (Scrips) at once promised to do. In his rounds on the circuit he would make known to the people of each preaching place the offer of Mr. Hatton. The colored people were only too glad to give him one, two, or three coonskins at each place, which he rolled up and tied to the hind part of his saddle, and on to his next appointment. So that by the time he got back to Hatton’s he had skins enough to make his hat. On his next round to Hatton’s his hat was ready for him (a low crown, broad brim hat). I suppose a Methodist or any other preacher that would carry a bundle of coonskins on his horse behind him at this day would be laughed at, even by the colored people.
There are but few persons now living that I knew in 1818. I give their names as follows: Nancy Nash, now Holman, aged seventy-six; Nancy Askroens, now Mrs. Gordon, aged about seventy; Josiah R. Lampkin, Cole county, nearly seventy-four; Mary Scott, now Mrs. Boyd, suppose seventy-two; Elizabeth Dunnica, formerly Ferguson, seventy-six; old Jim Ramsey (colored), eighty-two; Thomas J. Ferguson, nearly seventy-four. These are the only names of persons now living that I can remember that were here in this vicinity at that time.