Blackwater township was one of the original five townships laid out when Pettis County was organized in 1833. It occupied then, not only its present territory, but all of Houstonia and parts of Dresden and La Monte townships. It continued in this organization until 1844; at which time its boundaries were changed to include the territory now occupied by Houstonia, and itself taking from it parts of Dresden and La Monte townships. Blackwater held this territory until 1873, when the county adopted township organization and took Houstonia township away from it, leaving its territory as it is today.
This township is bounded on the north by Saline County, on the west by Johnson County, on the south by La Monte township and on the east by Houstonia and Hughesville townships. It contains 23,560 acres, and some of the most magnificent homesteads in the county.
The western and central parts of this township are high, rolling prairie land, while the eastern part is more or less broken. It is well drained by several small streams, the largest of which bears the same name as the township. The Blackwater enters the township at about section 30 and flows across the northwest corner through sections 30, 19, 20 and 21. Blackwater township derives its name from this stream. The south fork of Blackwater finds its headwaters in La Monte Township. Following these two streams in size come Elk Fork Creek, Beaver Dam Creek, Wolf Creek, and numerous other small branches each of which has its local name and importance. Along all of these water courses a fine growth of timber exists and in the driest season the springs along their banks afford a never failing supply of water for stock.
The physical features of the township are perhaps more diversified than those of any other part of the county. Nowhere in such close proximity is to be found the rough and woody hills bordering at once on the beautiful rolling prairie as are seen in this section. But little, or at least a comparatively small amount of the land is so broken that it would not be susceptible of cultivation.
Among the earliest settlers of the township was Isaiah Prigmore, who came to this township in 1829 from Kentucky. Peter Fisher came to the township in 1832 from Kentucky and lived here a number of years and died in Texas. Benjamin Snelling settled in the township in 1833. He now rests in one of the township cemeteries. Samuel Fisher came to the township in 1834 from Kentucky. B F Prigmore was born in the township in 1838. George Miller came to the township in 1836, from Cooper County lived here a number of years and died in the southern part of the State. Loh Loper and Hiram Taylor, attracted by the productiveness of this section, came here in 1837 from Illinois and lived in 1840 from Cooper County . He was prominently identified with the interests of the township for many years. Elijah Roberts came in 1840, from Cooper county. HE lived a number of years in the township but finally went to Texas and died. James Scott came in 1838 from Cooper County and lived a number of years in the township. His wife died in the township on the original homestead, at the advanced age of 90 years. David S Ramsey came to the township in 1840, from near the vicinity of Georgetown, this county. He lived here a number of years but died before the Civil War.
The first school taught in Blackwater township was taught by subscription. The site of the school house was near the old Blackwater Chapel and the master was a man by the name of Jones. The first public school was taught in a building near the Joseph C Higgins farm. The old building was destroyed by a storm in 1875 and later rebuilt near its old site.
This township has more schools than any other in the county, except Green Ridge. Sunny Dell has an attendance of 15, and Ruth Yates is the teacher. Stokeley has an attendance of 18 and Mrs. Arthur Bradley is the teacher. Bleak Mound's attendance is 27 and Elizabeth May is the teacher. Eden Valley has an attendance of 23 and Arthur Bradley is the teacher. Dunksburg has an attendance of 27 and Ester Westbrook is the teacher. Brookside's attendance is 16 and Myra Kemper is the teacher. Elder Ridge has an attendance of 35 and Bonnie Lynn is the teacher. Oak Grove's attendance is 11 and Ada Lewis is the teacher. These are all public schools, operated under that system, are splendidly attended and capably taught. Seven public schools, in all in this township. Buildings are well built and well kept.
The first preaching in the township was at Mr. Prigmore's, by Duke Young, from near Tebo. He was of the Christian denomination. The first church was organized at James Roberts' and was of the Old Iron Side Baptists, and was organized by Martellus Embry. This was on South Fork. They built a small house of worship, with hewed benches, and in this they continued to worship for a number of years.
The next organization was that of M E Denomination. This class was organized by John Rice. They built a place of worship on section 5, township 47 range 23 and called it "Blackwater Chapel." South Fork Baptist Church, three miles south of Sweet Springs, then called Browns-Presbyterian Church was organized in the fall of 1880 and a church building erected the same year five miles north and west of La Monte. T H Maddox was the builder. T H Allen was the first pastor.
Wake Forest Baptist Church was organized in November 1866 by Rev A P Williams and Rev. W M Bell three miles south of Houstonia and a church was built there in 1870. Absalom Williams, Ben F Pitts, Rodney Fisher and Phoebe Pitts were the original members of the congregation. Blackwater Chapel is a Methodist Church and is one of the older church organizations in the county . the present church building is a frame in good condition. The church is furnished with good comfortable pews and has an organ. The church cemetery, "Blackwater," adjoins the church. Membership is 53 and they have a Sunday school attendance of 30.
County Line is a Baptist Church and is situated in the southwestern part of the township. It was established in 1844. The church has a membership of 44 and a Sunday school with an attendance of 44. The building is a frame, well furnished and the church property is valued at $2000. Hickory Grove is in this township. There is a building, but it is closed and services discontinued.
Farming and stock raising is the principal industry in this township. The land is rich and grows everything most that can be grown in Missouri. Every farmer is a stock raiser. He has learned to drive his crops from the farm rather than haul them off. Cattle, hogs, sheep and goats are raised in great numbers.
The Lexington branch of the Missouri Pacific railway touches section 24 in the extreme northeast corner of this township.
Source: McGruder, Mark A. History of Pettis County, Missouri (Topeka: Historical Publishing Company, 1919)
Transcribed by Laura Paxton