Previous to 1800 a tract of land lying upon the Bay de Charles, 3 miles above the present site of Hannibal, was granted to Manturi Bouvet, a trapper and fur trader. Some Canadian French joined him there, and a little settlement sprung up with which the Indians carried on a lively trade, and on a fall or spring day a hundred bark canoes, loaded with furs and skins, might have been seen moored in the bay. Bouvet grew rich, and it was rumored that he possessed a barrel of gold which he kept buried near his house, and when a few years later his hut was burned and all trace of him was lost, many supposed that he had been murdered, while others believed that fearing that he would be treacherously dealt with, he fired his cabin himself while deep sleep was upon the little settlement, and taking his gold in a canoe, made his way to New Orleans. The ruins of the stone chimney are still to be seen, and also numerous cavities close by made by parties digging for his gold. The grant was sold by the Public Administrator before the church door while the people were at service, and Charles de Gratiot became the purchaser. The deed made out in his name is recorded at St. Louis. Settlements were made in South River Valley near Palmyra in 1814, at Taylor’s Mills in 1816, at Palmyra in 1818, and at Hannibal in 1819 by emigrants from Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina. The first families that, cut their way through the forests were those of Grafford, Moss, McKay, Haywood, Durkee, and Foreman in 1814. These settlers were encouraged by the arrival in 1816 of the families of Bush, Turner, Bates and Dulany. In 1817 came Feagan, Masterson, Lyle, Palmer, Cash, Longmire, Parish, Nesbit, Vallandingham, Keithley and Culbertson. In 1818, Calvert, Spaulding, Donley, Young, Mathews, Willis, Barton, Lane, Shropshire, Richey, Ray and White arrived-a hardy stock of immigrants. These were followed in 1819 by Arrnstrong, Wa1ker, Rice, Lake, (the wife of Burgess Lake is now living in her eighty fifth year,) McFall, Frye and Taylor. In 820 Came McFarland, Dunn, Lear, Gupton, Fort and Glasscock, who are still living, and vividly recount the story of their early dangers and hardships. Hawkins Smith erected the first mill on South River, and the settlers came forty miles to mill, remaining one or two days for their grist. Palmyra afterwards became a great trading point for the Indians. The first difficulty between them and the whites occurred in 1817, when an Indian shot a white man and a few weeks later the white man killed the Indian. He was taken as a prisoner to St. Louis in a canoe. The section of country just about Palmyra settled up quite rapidly, the soil being of the finest quality and springs abounding. In the early days, the first Sunday after the arrival of a new settler the entire neighborhood called upon him, and carried him a piece of venison or some present of game, counted his Negroes, (his influence was in proportion to the number of these,) and made arrangements to help him build his house. A log-rolling day was appointed, and with hearty good will a cabin soon erected. The Sacs and Fxes hunted over this entire region, and the site of Palmyra was the council ground of these tribes long before the whites came into the country. After it was settled it was a favorite trading point with them, and their distinguished chiefs, Keokuk and Black Hawk, were frequently here. The venerable Presley Carr Lane, one of the few pioneers who yet remain (1874), says: “I well remember seeing, soon after the first settlement of Palmyra, the long file of Indians coming into the village, the men in advance, carrying nothing but bows and arrows, while the squaws brought up the rear, each one with a bark sack containing about 2 bushels of pecans, on her back.”
These pecans grew in the Mississippi Bottom, east of Palmyra, north of Hannibal, but the trees have all been destroyed. In these early days, every family raised from 50 to 100 Pounds of cotton for home use, and the picking of this was turned into a merry making. The evening was the time selected, and the young people collected about the great log fire, when the cotton was drying, frolic and work going hand in hand. It does not require a vivid imagination to suggest that perhaps more than one love story was told, while the fingers separated the seed from the cotton. After it was picked, women spun and wove it, and then fashioned it into garments.
Marion was taken from Ralls, and its boundaries defined December 14th, 1822; organized December 23rd, 1826, and the first court was held March 26th, 1827, at the house of Richard Brewer; Elijah Stapp, James J. Mahan, Wm. J. McElroy and John Longmire, justices; Joshua Gentry, sheriff, and Theodore Jones, clerk. The court adjourned for dinner, and re-assembled in the house of Abraham K. Frye, when Daniel Hendricks presented his commission from the Governor, and took his seat as one of the justices. The settlement of Marion was increased from 183o to 1835 by efforts made in Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Pittsburg by Mr. Wm. Muldrow. About 300 immigrants came into the county through his efforts, and a town called Marion City was laid off 6 miles east of Palmyra in 1834, but in the great freshet of 1844, it was entirely washed away. Marion College, and the preparatory schools at East and West Ely (manual labor schools), were established, and the services of such men as Ezra S. Ely, D. D., Dr. D. Nelson, Rev. Marks, D.D., Profs. McKee, Potts, Goodrich, Hays, Roach and Blatchford were secured. These schools flourished for 10 years, and were then abandoned.
This county furnished troops for the Black Hawk War in 1832; for the Florida War in 1837; for the Mormon War in 1838; for the Mexican War in 1846; and for the Civil War in 1861. Marion County has been the residence of a number of distinguished men: 5 congressmen, 5 State senators, also Bishop Marvin, Nelson, the author of a work on Infidelity, Dr. Hobson, Uriel Wright, Judge Dryden, Samuel Glover and Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens).