The pioneers in the settlement of Holt county were Blank and Peter Stephenson, from Parke county, Indiana, who in the spring of 1838, settled about five miles southeast of the present town of Oregon. Their locations were on section seven of township 59, range 37. The succeeding year several families moved into the same neighborhood.
In the spring of 1838, Judge R. H. Russel, John Sterred, John Russel and James Kee, set out from Indiana for Missouri, where in August, he was joined by the three others who had come overland. The whole party then came on to Holt County, and settled near where Blank and Peter Stephenson had already located. Blank Stephenson is said to have been the first constable in the county, and some time in the year 1839 assumed the duties of that office.
It is related that he undertook to catch a horse thief passing through the county. He followed him to the northern part of the county, and being mounted on a good horse soon arrived in the neighborhood of the thief’s rendezvous. The latter learned from confederates the business which brought Stephenson to the neighborhood. It was about dark when the constable arrived, and putting up his horse for the night he went to bed and slept soundly till morning. The enterprising horse thief improved the time by adding another to the list of his adventures. He stole Stephenson’s horse and ran it off during the night leaving the officer of the law to make the best of his way home, a distance of about forty miles, on foot in the morning. Judge R. H. Russel was the first postmaster in the county. The post-office was called Thorp’s Mill, and was kept at Judge Russel’s house. Thorp’s Mill was so called from one John Thorp, who came in 1840, and built a mill on Mills creek, two miles southeast of Oregon. Judge Russel carried the mail to Andrew County once a week. Postage in those days was twenty-five cents collectable on the delivery of the letters. The postmaster would set out and deliver only an average of three or four letters each trip; as for newspapers they were things unknown.
John Baldwin came from Parke County, Indiana, in the fall of 1839, and settled on section eighteen of township fify-nine, range thirty-seven. George McKintyre came in the the fall of 1839, and made a settlement on section five, same congressional township, where he still lives. Smith McIntyre cause at the same time and settled on the same section. John M. Briggs, the widow Jackson and family, were other early settlers of this part of the county, arriving in the 1840. The first store ever started in Holt County was established by George and Augustus Borchers, in the fall of 1840, on the south line of section seven. The Borchers were Germans, and were the first citizens of that nationality who ever came to Holt County. George is deceased and Augustus is residing as Hamburg, Iowa.
Roland Burnett, Harmon G. Noland, John Gibson and others in 1880 settled in the vicinity of Oregon. Burnett established a claim on what after became the town site of Oregon, but it was subsequently decided that the county possessed the title, and Mr. Burnett moved to the farm north of the town.
The Blairs and the Baldwins were the earliest settlers of Benton Township. John M. Blair, with his sons Uriah and James Blair, reached Holt county April 12th, 1839, at that date settling near the bluff line south of Mound City on section 29, of township 61, range 38. The Blairs came from Indiana, about 1827 removed to Pike County, Illinois, subsequently to Iowa, and came to Holt County in 1839. John M. Blair died in the summer of 1849, on Carson River, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains while en route to California with an expedition from Holt County. James and Uriah Blair are still citizens of the county, and the former resides on the place where his father first settled. Jeremiah Baldwin, his brother Daniel Baldwin and his son Lambert Baldwin, settled in the fall of 1839, in the neighborhood of the Blairs. Jeremiah Baldwin is still living on the place of his first settlement. John Hughes a son, also named John, were settlers in 1839 in the neighborhood of the Blairs and Baldwins, and additional settlements were made in the same locality in 1840.
The Sharpes, W. A. and Araham, settled Sharpe’s Grove, in the neighborhood of Craig, in 1841, and about the same time Rovert and John Nichells gave their name to Nickell’s Grove in the eastern part of the county. German settlers were the first to begin the improvement of the extreme northwestern part. John H. Roselitis was the pioneer, and Henry Dankers, Henry Peters and Andrew Buck followed shortly after. The descendants of these men are still mostly living in that part of the county and are among our most substantial and influential citizens.
Whig Valley is the only portion of the county where the political sentiments of the inhabitants seem to have been so marked as to leave a record in the name of the locality. Theodore Higley and other early settlers of that part of the county were Whigs, and gave the name of the once great party to the beautiful and fertile valley which they occupied. In the histories of the several townships will be found denied accounts of the early settlement of each part of this county.
Source: "An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Holt County, MO; 1877"