This will be the last story on the Harmony Mission series. Hope you have learned some interesting facts about Harmony Mission and hopefully this spring we can have the tour to Harmony. We are so sorry we couldn’t have the tour (due to high water) and our Papinville Picnic (due to the covid outbreak). Let’s hope that next year things will be back to normal.
This week the story will begin with the farming of the mission and end with what happened to the buildings, cemetery and Harmony Mission becoming the first county seat of Bates County known as Batesville.
The mission farm consisted of about 92 acres, but they found the prairie sod hard to break and resistant to growing crops. The mission did have live stock. Several of the missionaries went out to find horses, oxen, hogs and cows. These animals could not come with them on their journey up the rivers so they had to wait until they had established their mission. In the journal it was written: The live stock upon our farm consists of five horses; eighty-five head of cattle, including oxen, cows, and young cattle; and thirty- two swine. To this number may be added twenty-four calves and thirty pigs. Since our arrival here we have slaughtered, for the use of the Mission , nine cattle and twenty-two swine. On March 12,1822 they purchased 25 cows and 9 calves for $237.00, 2 horses , good size for working, for $100.00 and 10 fat swines for $40.00. The stock was kept in corrals on the prairie grass north of the cabins where the barns where located. The prairie grass was plentiful for hay for the live stock.
A grist and saw mill was built by Daniel Austin, a mill wright that came with the mission family. It was built on the west bank of the Marais des Cygnes River, across from the U.S. Factory (where Papinville now is located), on March 1822. The mission had 16 men working on the frame and gearing of the mill. On November 6 the first corn was ground. The next spring the flood damaged the mill and the mill was later converted to horse power.
The first water source was two small streams with springs. They also used the river when it was not muddy. The missionaries had logged in their journal about two wells they had at the mission: The main source of water came from a well about 150 yards east of the cabins. It had stone steps on the north side leading part way down. This is the only thing left of the mission you can see today.
The Mission Cemetery is located about three-eights of a mile north of the cabin area. The land was formerly owned by Harrison Galloway and is now owned by Rick Jagels. It is not known when the first burial took place but the first death was John Seeley’s child October 19, 1821. A week later, Jane, the wife of Rev. Montgomery (Missionary family member) died. By December, 6 of the mission family had passed on. In those days burial was done promptly after death.
A visit to the cemetery was made in 1916 by W. O. Atkeson and he described in his “Bates County History” book the following : The few old settlers who know of the cemetery’s location called it the “Old Indian Burying Grounds”. On approaching the cemetery, the old Mission trail running north to Independence was plainly seen. The cemetery is located on a high, dry knoll of land about 50 yards west of the trail. It is in timber-land, the trees being rather young, indicating that the original cemetery was on open prairie. Nothing is to be found their today.
Beginning about 1830, members of the missionary families started to leave. Several stayed around to still educate some of the Osage and their own children. In 1836 the American Board of Missions closed the mission. A few missionaries returned to their homes back east, some of the preachers relocated in the surrounding areas starting up churches and some became farmers.
The main mission building was used as a store by William Waldo and his partner. It is known that a steamboat (The Wave) carried supplies to the store from St. Louis in 1844 and in 1846 Captain Waldo navigated another steamboat (The Maid of the Osage) to Harmony.
Bates County was established in 1841. With permission being obtained from the governor, the county seat was placed at the location of Harmony Mission. The site was named Batesville. Bates County was the third county running south of the Missouri River. At this time Bates and Vernon Counties were one county. Vernon County was established in 1855. The building erected by the missionaries for school and church was used for holding court, the clerk’s office and the Post Office. Freeman Barrows, who migrated from Massachusetts in 1838 was the first county clerk and post master.
When a courthouse was built in the newly incorporated town of Papinville in 1847, the mission was abandoned. Some of the buildings were bought and moved to Papinville, the orchard continued to serve the surrounding area until it disappeared from lack of care.
Harmony Mission brought a fine class of settlers who became leading citizens of Bates, Henry and Vernon Counties. Harmony however, was not successful in work with the Osages. The real importance of the Mission lay in the first religious centers in Missouri and from it radiated religious influence that resulted in organizing of many churches in the western part of the state.
The brave missionaries that remained in the area were the basis for the pioneer development of our area. We thank them for their faith.
Next year Papinville will be celebrating it’s 175 anniversary. The stories will be about the history and people that established the town of Papinville. There is a lot of history in this community and we would love to tell and show you the history that we are proud of in this small community. If you have never been to Papinville you need to come and see the following: museum, walkway of history, school with original furnishings, iron and wooden bridge crossing the Marais des Cygnes River (on the National Historical Register) and a large shelter house that can be used for reunions, picnics, school and organization groups. For more information call the following numbers: 417-395-2594 or 417-395-4288. Come and see where Bates County got started.
Submitted by: Phyllis Stewart (Treasure and Activity Director)
Information from : “The First Protestant Osage Missions 1821-1837” by Wm. W. Graves
“History of Bates County” by W. O.Atkeson