histories say the town grew up around Jack's Ferry, established in 1819.
Others note Gilead Rupe as the "first white settler", arriving about
1815 and building a cabin two miles southwest of Lexington. An early
article in Missouri Historical Review states, "Lexington ...was
first settled by A. and W. Owens, from North Carolina, in 1817...."
What did these people do that gave us the city as it is today? Why did
they do it?
The Very Beginning
The first plat maps of Lafayette County are the key: they show the original
land purchases from the US Land Office in Town 51, Range 27. The purchases
weren't random; the maps show a clear plan among seven, possibly eight,
men to profit by creating a community.
On March 19, 1819, Wilson Owen made the first purchase, of the northeast
quarter (160 acres) of Section 34. The trail from Boonville to Fort
Osage passed through this land, intersecting with a couple of old Native
American trails. Two weeks later, on April 3, 1819, a triangular site
on the Missouri River, in Section 33, at the location of "Jack's Ferry",
was purchased by six men: the same Wilson Owen, Benjamin Gooch, William
McKenzie, Abel Owen, Gilead Rupe, and Samuel Turley. William Jack, their
seventh partner, purchased the equipment and license for the ferry.
On the same day that the six purchased the ferry site, Wilson Owen bought
80 more acres immediately west of his original purchase, and Abel Owen
bought 160 acres adjoining Wilson's land to the south. On June 30, 1819,
McKenzie bought the 160 acres immediately east of the ferry site. Gilead
Rupe had purchased 640 acres to the southwest on March 30 and bought
another adjoining 160 on June 30. So, at the same time as they were
establishing the ferry, four of the six men also purchased 1360 acres
of land near its site. An eighth man, David Jones, purchased 160 acres
on May 19, 1819, immediately northwest of Wilson Owen's land. The pattern
of land purchases makes their intent clear; they were creating a settlement
from which to prosper.
The two Owens were brothers, and Benjamin Gooch was their brother-in-law,
as the Owens were married to Elizabeth and Martha Gooch. Jones may have
been related to them as well. As the second European-American arrivals,
they, no doubt, connected with Rupe, the first.
of Lafayette County
the history of
the Owen family?