History of Buffalo Settlement
The first settlers came to Ray County in August 1815. The first settlement was called Buffalo, and was located a short distance south of the present Hardin. It is thought that the buffalo were numerous, therefore the name. The first white family to settle was John Vanderpool, wife Ellen, and their children Winant, Meaddors, Kinnan, Mary, Delilah, Holland and John. They came in a covered wagon from Tennessee and built a one-room house with the logs sealed together with mud. There were few openings. Their home was near a river for water and timber for wood for heat and lumber. The country was almost wild. The Indian’s bark canoes floated on the streams. The streams were full of fish. Hunting and trapping were profitable employments. The first families were subjected to a close intimacy with the Indians. Immigrants made up the new settlement from Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia who came by boat and covered wagon.
Meaddors Vanderpool taught the first school in Ray County in 1819. He also surveyed Ray County. It was a Subscription school and the master was paid in calves, buckskins and wild honey. The building was a rude, unsightly hut made of unhewn logs, roof of rough boards weighted to the rafters with heavy poles. The chimney was made of sticks and the floor was the ground. The seats were puncheons set on pegs. The windows or holes in the sides were closed with greased paper.
Isaac Martin came to Buffalo from Kentucky, Lewis Richards, Stephen and Joseph Field from Tennessee.
In 1816, Abraham Linville, Aaron Linville, John Proffitt and a man named Wood, with their families, joined the Buffalo settlement. They came from Tennessee. The first marriage solemnized was that of Winant Vanderpool to Nancy Linville about Christmas 1816. There being no minister in the neighborhood, they were compelled to go many miles eastward to find one to perform the ceremony.
A son born to Katie, wife of John Proffitt, in the year 1816, was the first male white child born in the county, but he died in infancy. Missouri, daughter of Winant and Nancy Vanderpool, born in 1817, was the first female child born in Ray County. Her father was a Baptist preacher. The second death was Peggy, daughter of Winant and Nancy Vanderpool. The son born to John and Katie Proffitt and Peggy, daughter of Winant and Nancy Vanderpool, were buried on Crooked River in the Buffalo settlement. The first religious services were held at the house of Isaac Martin. Reverend Finis Clark of the Baptist denomination was the first preacher. Rev. William Turnage, a Baptist, preached as early as 1817.
In 1817 the settlers, anticipated an attack from the Indians and for their general safety and protection, built on the Missouri River southeast of where Camden now stands, what they called a fort. A circular enclosure, made by setting cottonwood posts in the earth, formed the stockade. The fort was called North Bluffton. It was not necessary to use the fort for defense because the Indians were friendly and seemed more apt to pilfer than to have motives of hostility.
In 1818, Isaac Martin built a horse mill near his residence on Crooked River. This mill had a capacity of about twenty-five bushels per day. The roads leading to them were poor and lonely but necessity forced people to travel twenty-five to thirty miles to patronize the mill. They would have to stay three to five days, waiting for their grain to be ground; meanwhile subsisting on game and wild honey. Trade in livestock, other than swapping horses was almost unknown. There were few cattle and they could be bought, when found, at three to twenty dollars depending on size. The first settler had no hogs. Much time in the early fall was spent in laying in a supply of meat for the winter. Venison hams, nicely cured, formed a considerable portion of the pioneer’s food. Wild turkey was plentiful. The wild hog was in the woods. Little money was in circulation and little was required. Furs, buckskins, beeswax and wild honey were bartered in the stores. Many settlers without gold or silver actually deposited with the land agent, doeskins and beeswax in payment for land. The settlers performed all domestic and mechanical labor. There were few carpenters among them and skilled artisans were scarce. Many agricultural implements, all wearing apparel and nearly all household articles were made at home. After 1815, a stream of immigration began to pour Into Missouri. One wagon train of settlers after the other came in quick succession to this new and promising land.
John Harris took the first census of Missouri in September 1821 and showed Ray County had a population of 1,789. He received thirty-four dollars for his services. The area of the state comprised 62,182 square miles. In 1837 authority of Congress to include what was called the “Platte Purchase,” an additional area of 3,168 square miles, extended the western boundary. This territory was an Indian reservation until 1836.
Ray County was organized November 16, 1820 and named in honor of John Ray from Howard County, a member of the Constitutional Convention. The county extended from the Grand River on the east to the Platte Purchase on the west and from the Missouri River on the south to the Iowa line on the north. Out of this magnificent expanse of territory, twelve counties besides Ray was formed - Clay, Carroll, Clinton, DeKalb, Gentry, Worth, Harrison, Daviess, Caldwell, Livingston, Grundy and Mercer. Ray may be called the mother of counties.
The population of Ray County in 1830 was 2,657, 1840 — 6,553, 1850 — 10,373, 1860 — 14,072, 1870 — 18,700.
Bluffton was the county seat until 1827 when Richmond was selected as the permanent county seat.
The first bridge erected in Ray County was that across the discharge now known as Willow Creek. A poll tax of 18 3/4 cents was levied and collected with county revenue. The first public road in the county was established in April 1821 and was from Bluffton to John Thornton’s mill. The first ferry license was granted to Isaac Martin to cross Crooked River from his farm. Rates were set by the county court. Isaac Martin was also first road overseer.
Stagecoaches came to Missouri around 1818 and were an important means of travel in spite of poor roads. Beginning in July 1850, a regular monthly stage service for passengers and mail started between Independence and Santa Fe. The first daily overland mail coach left St. Joseph for California by the central route on July 1, 1861 but after 1866 the stage terminus moved westward with the building of the transcontinental railroad and stage services stopped when the road was finished.
It was on April 3, 1860, that the first of the picturesque Pony Express riders picked up the leather mail pouches and was ferried across the Missouri River at St. Joseph on the first lap of a 1,980 mile trip across the continent.
The first newspaper published in Ray County was called the Richmond Herald. The first issue was on Wednesday, March 17, 1852. It was an attractive twenty-eight-column sheet, form 17 x 22 inches, published weekly.
Source: Hardin, Missouri: A Centennial History (1870-1970)