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BOLA Is Sponsor Of Bicentennial

Bank of Louisiana is proud to be a Community Friend Sponsor of the upcoming Louisiana Missouri 2018 Bicentennial Celebration. Jim Ross, Bank of Louisiana President presented the donation to Cindy Blaylock, Co-Chair of the celebration committee.

• Louisiana’s Past Looking Forward • Man Who Built First Pike County Courthouse Got Around

Editor’s note: Louisiana celebrates its bicentennial in 2018. Following is the first in a series of monthly articles that will examine 200 years of local history.

Obadiah Dickerson.

His name is largely forgotten today. But the man whose business served as the first Pike County Courthouse also played a role in three other Northeast Missouri counties.

The Kentucky native came to Missouri in 1816 or 1817, just in time for a formal organization of the region along the Mississippi River north of St. Louis.

Though other settlers had arrived previously, the 1883 book “The History of Pike County, Missouri” gives credit to John Bryson as owner of the land where Louisiana was located. He ventured from South Carolina in the fall of 1816 and built the first house on what is now Ninth Street between Tennessee and Georgia.

In 1818, Louisiana was formally founded by Samuel Caldwell and Joel Shaw, who bought land from Bryson and some of their own.

The Territorial Legislature in December 1818 agreed to set up Pike County, with the law taking effect on Feb. 1, 1819. In those early years, the county was much larger than the present 685 square miles, with boundaries extending to the Iowa border and as far west as what would become Randolph and Macon counties.

Dickerson, who sometimes was referred to as “Dickinson,” built his dwelling as a hotel and tavern at the corner of Second and Georgia streets in Louisiana during the spring of 1819 and “assisted in the organization of this now populous and wealthy county,” according to the 1878 publication “The History of Shelby County, Missouri.”

The first circuit court case was heard there on April 12, 1819. Serving as judge was David Todd. Secretary of the Missouri Territory Frederick Bates said he had a “special trust and confidence in the integrity, abilities, and diligence” of Todd. Michael Noyes was appointed clerk.

The court’s second term opened on Aug. 9, 1819, but was moved to the town schoolhouse when, for unstated reasons, legal proceedings were “unable to continue” at Dickerson’s place, reported the publication “History of Northeast Missouri.”

The Shelby County book said that upon the death of his wife, Dickerson was so “moved by that laudable ambition that led so many others to follow the sun as it journeyed to the west” that he left Pike County. He and a friend — Pike County pioneer and its first sheriff, Samuel Caldwell — joined two other men in laying out Palmyra. Dickerson was a county commissioner and the city’s first postmaster. A street there is named for him.

“He kept the office in his hat a great portion of the time,” according to “Palmyra, Missouri, Sesquicentennial 1819-1969.” “Being frequently absent from home, in the woods hunting, or attending some public gathering of settlers, the few letters constituting ‘the mail’ were deposited under the lining of his huge bell-crown hat, often made a receptacle for papers, documents, handkerchiefs, etc., by gentlemen of the olden time.”

Dickerson had an answer to the infrequent question of why he used his hat so much.

‘“So that if I meet a man who has a letter belonging to him I can give it to him, sir,’” he responded. “I meet more men when I travel about than come to the office when I stay home.’ As the mail at the Palmyra office increased, the major petitioned the department for a new and a larger hat.”

The book said Dickerson was a “pioneer of vision and foresight, and thinking that Pike County, of which this area was then a part, would soon split up because of the rapidly growing population, he decided to lay out a town and get it established as a county seat of the new county when it was formed.”

Back in Louisiana, a commission of Andrew Edwards, John Jordon, James Bryson, James Johnson and Peyton Watson was appointed to find a place for a new courthouse and jail.

The facility was “built of brick” while the separate jail “was of hewn logs,” according to “The History of Pike County, Missouri.” When the jail was finally torn down, logs were used to build several houses “on the south side of Georgia Street, which were long known as ‘Dutch Row.’”

Bowling Green was declared the county seat in 1822. Over the years, five county courthouses would be built there. Cornerstone ceremonies for the current Bedford stone and Georgia granite structure were held in September 1917 and the building was occupied in January 1919. It cost $100,000 – the equivalent today of almost $1.9 million.

Dickerson in 1831 built a cabin on the Salt River between Shelbina and Shelbyville. He was elected a Missouri state representative in 1834 and later oversaw construction of the first Shelby County Courthouse.

Dickerson was “a well-informed man…of wide acquaintance in his day,” according to the book “General History of Shelby County.”

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