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jrbakerjr  History  
This county is bounded on the west by the State of Kansas, on the east by St. Clair and Cedar, north by Bates, and south by Barton Counties. This county was formed from Bates and Cass Counties, February 17th, 1851, and in 1860 contained a population of 5062. The assessors' returns for 1859 gave the number of acres subject to tax at 504,201, being a larger number of acres than any county returned in the State. This county suffered severely during the war of the rebellion, and was one of those entirely depopulated, but it is now being rapidly filled up by an intelligent and energetic class of citizens, and the next census will show a larger population than ever before.
The Face of the Country is generally undulating, with rather more timber than prairie. The prairies are of a
rich sandy loam, underlaid by a substratum of clay, except upon the large mounds, which are quite numerous throughout the county, where the yellow limestone soil is found very productive. There is an abundance of timber for all time to come, especially when it is considered that stone coal of good quality is found almost everywhere upon the prairie uplands. The timber is large, and embraces nearly all kinds found in Southwest Missouri except cedar. The county is drained by the Little Osage and Marmaton Rivers, Big Dry Wood, Little Dry Wood, east and west forks of Clear Creek, and the small tributaries of each.
The Soil is fertile, and well adapted to agricultural purposes. Stock, growing is a very successful and
profitable business, for which the native grasses and climate render this county peculiarly well adapted.
Many persons do not feed their young cattle or stock hogs during the entire year, as the grass in the timbered
bottoms and prairie valleys never dies, unless burned down by prairie fires, and the "mast" and roots are generally very abundant for hogs, and they prefer them to corn. Ruins of Earthworks and Furnaces probably constructed by De Soto more than 300 years ago.—There are some antiquities in this county which have caused universal curiosity with all who have ever seen them. They are thus described by K. G. Pearson, in a communication to the Jefferson Inquirer, in January, 1847:
Gold and Silver Mines.—On the prairie, between the waters of the lower Dry Woods and Clear Creek, in Bates
(now Vernon) County, are to be seen the signs of old mining operations, consisting of four ditches, four or five feet wide, extending about a quarter of a mile in length—in four right parallel lines, terminating at the commencement of three parallel curved ditches of like dimensions—these terminating at the commencement of two others, inversely curved, and about 200 yards in length. In the vicinity of these ditches, in a branch, there have been found very fair specimens of silver ore; and about 12 miles from this place, in the nearest timber, can be seen the foundations of three furnaces, with quantities of cinder, among which has been found a piece of pure gold, about the size of a common rifle ball. The ruins of these works are readily visible, and arrest the attention of the most indifferent passer-by. It is probable that men of science have labored here, and with a well-paying success, but history is silent on the subject.
It is possible that the earthwork above described was a part of the fortification made by De Soto in 1541-42,
for his winter quarters, and that during the four months' stay of himself and his company of Spaniards, they may have erected and used the furnaces, for the purposes indicated. There is no question about his having crossed the Ozark Mountains, each way, and it is almost certain that his successor, Moscoso, also visited the country west of the Ozarks in 1542. In the notes of his expeditions, De Soto mentions a place called "The land of Tula," which historians have located on the divide between the Upper Ouchita River and the Little Missouri, in Arkansas. Wilmer, in his Life of De Soto, states that De Soto and his troupe passed over a rough mountainous country, interspersed with gloomy and almost impenetrable forests, climbing high mountains, and crossing deep, rapid rivers," and that "after having journeyed more than 240 miles from Tula, they once more came to cultivated lands and a populous village, bearing the name of Autiamgue. Here De Soto and his companions fixed their winter quarters, and strongly fortified their village to defend it against any attacks from the Indians. They remained here during the winter, and left in April, 1542, for the Mississippi River, via Hot Springs of Arkansas."
Our reasons for concluding that the earthworks and furnaces above described were constructed by De Soto, are:
1st—because the locality is the precise distance named in his notes, from the land of Tula above named;
2d, the route across the Ozark ridge is well described;
3d, the earthworks are similar to those found elsewhere, used to aid in fortifying a settlement;
4th, they were in search of precious metals, and the construction of the furnace foundations indicate that they were built by men conversant with the arts and sciences;
5th, the numerous mounds in the vicinity, as well as the tomahawks and arrow-points found
hereabouts, indicate this to have once been a populous Indian village.
As to the correctness of our conclusions, future investigations must determine; but we believe this to have
been the winter quarters of Ferdinand De Soto and his companions in 1541-1542, the field of their mining and smelting experiments, and the burial place of several of De Soto's company, one of whom was the talented interpreter Juan Ortiz (whose thrilling narrative is given at length in Wilmer's life of De Soto).

Source: Missouri as it is in 1867 - NATHAN H. PARKER
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James R. Baker, Jr.
jrbakerjr  History