THE HALSTEAD FAMILY IN BRECKENRIDGE TOWNSHIP IN 1837
Narrator: Mrs. Mary Halstead Alexander, 76, Hamilton, Missouri
Mrs. Alexander is a niece of Dr. J.L. Halstead of Breckenridge who died a few years age over 100 years old. Her father a brother of the doctor came one year and a half ahead of Dr. Halstead who came 1857 and brought with him the salves, building material and implements. The buildings were all built by slave labor under their father's supervision on the section of land south of Breckenridge which Dr. Halstead had entered 1855. He also had bought 120 acres of timber land making a total of 760 acres at a price of $2.50 an acre for the prairie and $4.50 an acre for the timber, showing the comparative low value in these days of prairie land. Dr. Halstead paid for this land in gold coin and rode alone horseback with it through a thinly settled frontier.
For a year and a half 1855-7 Mrs. Alexander's father and his family lived in this newly built home. They could see deer grazing on the prairies, and turkey, grouse and prairie chickens scurried as men approached. They depended largely on their own place for clothing-for they had sheep. At first they raised cotton to give the salves something to do; but after the Missouri river began to carry boats to Richmond, it was cheaper (especially when you no longer had slaves) to buy it there.
When Dr. Halstead with his family came to take charge of the farm, Mrs. Alexander's father moved his family to Breckenridge where he helped to build many of the early buildings there. They moved in mid-day; that evening the train passed by their home. The children had never seen a train and were unprepared for its awful appearance. They ran shrieking into the house.
She recalls some of the closing events of the Civil War about Breckenridge. She heard the shots which killed the southern sympathizer Humphrey Weldon. (See his paper) Her own father was not active as a Southerner but Dr. Halstead was one of those who helped to raise the Confederate flag in Breckenridge and she recalls that Henry Gist (later killed by the Union militia) was one of the Southerners forced by the militia to dig up the stump of the Confederate flag-pole.
She recalls too that one night her father was called out of bed to identify a man by the name of Ireland. He had delivered some cattle and was caught riding at night by the militia as a suspect. Before he was released, men who knew him and his calling as a cattle trader had to identify him.
She recalls hearing her father say that when he first came to Missouri, small change money was so scarce that he once had seen a dollar cut into quarters to make change. His brother Dr. Halstead told of the days about 1841 in the Richmond country when there were 6 1/2 and 12 1/2 cent pieces, for 5 and 10 cent pieces were not coined till about that time.
The year 1858 was a memorable drought year (few can recall it and nobody seems to be able to compare it to the 1934 drought). No rain fell from April to September. Corn and all crops were an entire failure. These few farmers who had sold old corn sold it easily at $1 per bushel; whereas if the corn crop had been good, they would have received 10 to 20 cents. Families who used real coffee two or three times a week were simply extravagant, for people usually used coffee substitute-parched corn, dried sweet potatoes and the like for a beverage. Everything was very high.
Mr. and Mrs. Alexander bought unimproved land north of Nettleton and made it into a valuable farm and there reared a family of nine children.
Interviewed July 1934.
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