In 1813, Henry Fry (the first known settler in Reynolds County) was not a man of the soil, but rather a hunter, fur trapper and trader among the then transient Indians who passed through the area that would later become Black River Township in Reynolds County Missouri. The many small streams near the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Black River were well suited for trapping due to the abundant beaver population. At the time, beaver pelts were in demand in Europe and Fry’s success on the Black River may have influenced others to come to this beautiful place near where the East, Middle and West Forks of the Black River come together.
Marvin Munger, a man of many talents, came from New York and settled at the headwaters of the East Fork of the Black River. Gradually, the area received settlers in search of their dreams.
Before the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, land grants were common throughout the Upper Louisiana Territory, a part of which later became Reynolds County. Black River Township had only one such grant, but it was enormous in size and would obscure the progress of settlers coming to this region. The Catholic Priest, James Maxwell, had petitioned the Spanish government for a land grant back in 1799, promising a great influx of Catholic settlers from Ireland. Although the fulfillment of his promise never came to pass, Maxwell was awarded ownership of 96,000 acres of prime property in and around the Black River and held the land until his death in 1814. Control then passed to his nephews.
Land beyond Reverend Maxwell’s holdings, however, saw the gradual footprint of many early settlers. Early maps show two hamlets, Buford and Munger.
Black River Township was also known in the early years as Black River Campground and was the destination for new arrivals to the area. “New arrivals, (“squatters”) only camped long enough to (with the help of willing neighbors) cut, shape and raise logs into a cabin; they were all glad to have a new neighbor. At the time, anyone within thirty or forty miles was considered a neighbor. Soon, more and more settlers arrived. The historic communities of *Munger, Corridon, *Bee Fork, Edgehill, West Fork and *Alamode continued to grow. In 1890 there were 686 people on the census in Black River Township alone, and postal villages in Black, Edge Hill, *Bee Fork, *Munger, Oates, and *Warren’s Store on West Fork were thriving. (*communities no longer exist on current maps)
Many of these early settlers were illiterate, but knew the benefit of an education for their children. Schools were built and the first church in Reynolds County, the Black River Baptist Church, was built in Black in 1833. At the same time, the communities of Lesterville, Centerville and Ellington (formerly known as Barnesville and Logans Creek) began to thrive.
A driving tour of this area is dotted with landmarks of the past. Whenever you see an old structure, be reminded of these brave pioneers who helped to shape the history of this new frontier in the United States.
Be certain to see the Buford-Carty Log Home and Farmstead near Black. This two story home (see left above) was built in 1847 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.