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Perry County Courthouse

The greatest need of Perry County, when it was created from the Ste. Genevieve District in 1821 was a courthouse. Although there were a few small areas where groups of people lived, there were no towns in the county where a courthouse could be built.

Bernard Layton gave the county 51 acres of his 640-acre Spanish Land Grant for that purpose. The land was to be laid out in lots and sold to raise money to build the first Perry County Courthouse. 

In the meantime, the Perry County Court met four times a year in the home of Bede Moore, a two-story log building about one and a half miles north of Perryville to conduct county business. 

In 1825, a contract was made for the first courthouse. Funding for the $1,486.25 project came from the sale of 55 lots from the property deeded to the county by Layton.

It was 1826 before the first courthouse was ready to use on the square. No pictures or sketches of the white two-storied frame building with green shutters and a Spanish brown roof with cupola sitting on top have survived. Thomas Hayden contracted to build this courthouse on the northeast corner of the square and completed it in 1826.

By 1859 the first courthouse had been outgrown and, in that year, the second Courthouse was built just west of the first one. This building was in the center of the north side of the square and was a two-storied Federal style brick building built for $8,000. John R. Layton superintended the construction and it was completed in 1861. This building continued in use until after the turn of the century when grand jury reports indicated the condition of the building was beyond repair.

In 1903 county residents presented a petition calling for an election and supported a proposition for a $30,000 bond issue to finance a new courthouse. From several plans submitted the Court selected a proposal from J.W. Gaddis of Vincennes, Indiana.

Caldwell and Drake from Columbus, Indiana contracted for construction in January 1904 and work began in February. The laying of the cornerstone ceremony was on June 4, 1904. The celebration included a parade, speeches, music and the largest crowd, ever assembled in Perry County  to watch as a huge block of stone was place in its bed of mortar where it has remained for generations. With elements of Federal, Romanesque, Gothic and Classical styles the courthouse was completed on November 17, 1904 when Gaddis officially handed over the keys to the governing body. Total cost of the red brick, 65-by-92-foot building was $32,762.98.

A deep well was sunk for water on the property and other modern amenities were included such as a boiler system for heat and a tile sewer for plumbing.

In February of 1905 wrecking and removing the old courthouse began along with the sale of old furniture. 

In 2015 the courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and the citizens of Perry County voted to support a tax for its upkeep. In 2017 the courthouse underwent a major renovation to repair and preserve its original beauty and significance to the history of Perry County. 

Over the last one hundred years the present-day courthouse has conducted the county and state business dealing with land records, birth and death records, court proceedings, laws, elections, county maintenance and many other daily activities. It has been modernized with many new inventions such as telephones, electric, indoor plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems and an elevator. 

Over the years the Perry County Health Department, Perry County's 911 Department, Probation Office, Coroner, Prosecuting Attorney, Sheriff, County Commission, County Clerk, County Treasurer, County Collector, Circuit Clerk, Circuit Court, Recorder of Deeds and County Assessor have held office within its walls. Over the last one hundred years we too have grown and expanded our county offices. Today only the Circuit Clerk, Circuit Court, Recorder of Deeds, Juvenile Office and County Administrator are housed there. 

Group tours of the Perry County Courthouse are available by appointment. Please contact Trish Erzfeld, Director of the Perry County Heritage Tourism. 

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Concordia Lutheran Church of Frohna, Missouri built the Little School in 1898. It was a day school where the children of the parish were taught "reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic" as well as religion. For the most part, children in the primary grades were taught in this building. 

Prior to the construction of this school, a number of other buildings were used by the congregation. One of these was the log cabin dwelling on the Bergt farm which is now a part of the Saxon Lutheran Memorial located just a short distance north and east of the Little School on Saxon Memorial Drive. The Rev. Christian H. Loeber taught school in this log cabin in 1850 and 1851. This building is one of the oldest existing buildings used as a parish day school in the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod.

From 1851-1854 the parsonage was used for school purposes. This home occupied the site where the "Wukasch Teacherage" was built at a later date. Records indicate that the old log church located on the present cemetery was used after 1854. The old rock church (near the old log church) became the school when the present church building was constructed in 1874. Enrollment had increased to 90 pupils. To accommodate such a large enrollment, the old log church was repaired and both buildings were now used for school purposes. It was at this time that Matthias Wukasch and Henry Welp were the teachers. It is interesting to note that both of these teachers served the congregation for 50 years. Also worthy of note is the date of 1883 when the English language was added as a subject in the curriculum. 

In time the log church became too small and so the Big School (Die Grosse Schule) was erected in 1889 and was dedicated in July of 1890. About a decade later the old rock church showed signs of deterioration. The Little School was built to replace it in 1898. By now the enrollment had reached a record high of 133 pupils. 

The Big School was razed in 1969 to make room for parking space. At this time the present school building was also constructed. It was dedicated on 24 August 1969. After the new modern school was built, many people felt that the Little School should be torn down since it was no longer being used. About ten families were convinced that the school should be preserved as memorial to Christian Education. These families formed the Concordia Historical Society in Frohna after which the petitioned the congregation for permission to renovate the building and assume the responsibility for its upkeep. Permission was granted and the Little School was dedicated as a museum on 7 August 1977. Since that time the society has engaged in further restoration of the building to its original décor. 

The Little School is open for tours by appointment. Contact Trish Erzfeld, Director of the Perry County Heritage Tourism.

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Recently, several Perry County Historical Society members have been asking about Friedenberg Cemetery in Perry County, Missouri which inspired the director of our Genealogical Research Library and Archive Center, to pursue reprinting Chapter 11 - Peace Lutheran Cemetery - cemetery plat and lists from an out of print Friedenberg book.  The Perry County Historical Society has been granted copyright permission from Rev. Dr. Daniel Harmelink, Executive Director of Concordia Historical Institute, to reproduce portions of the book "Friedenberg Remembrances:  A Story of Peace, Faith and Life" by Friedenberg Lutheran Historical Society Book Committee, Copyright 1998 by Martin P. Oswald.

If you are of Bavarian German Lutheran descent from Perry County, Missouri, you are likely related to this group that created the Friedenberg Peace Lutheran Church.  Records have been found dating back to 1862-1863 which contain the following list of surnames composing the membership: Amschler, Angermann, Bergmann, Boxdorfer, Dippold, Fassold, Funke, Hallenberger, Hermann, Hoehn, Kleyla, Klobe, Knoll, Kropf, Lang, Lintner, Muench, Ochs, Popp, Rauh, Rothewald, Sandler, Schade, Schaupert, Schrumpf, Schuetz, Springer, Stuebinger, Taeuber, Uebel, Weinrich, Weith and Wirth.

Initially, the families that started arriving in 1838 worshipped most frequently in the home of Ferdinand Bergmann (3 Mar 1803 – 26 Nov 1853) on the north side of Cinque Hommes Creek. This group of Germans pre-dates the Saxon Lutherans who arrived in the Altenburg area around 1839. The congregation of 13 voting members organized as Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church in September 1844 with Reverend E. O. Wolff as resident pastor.  

It soon grew too crowded in the Bergmann home and in 1846, the small group built a log cabin church, also on the north side of Cinque Homme Creek, about one mile North of P Road and just east of present day Highway 61.  As you drive by today, you can see a peaceful valley of crops with a large metal building with a green roof in the distance.  You can just imagine, 170 years ago a log cabin church sitting on the bank of Cinque Hommes Creek somewhere on the far edge of that field.

Soon it was necessary to build a larger log cabin church.  In 1852, they moved to the location of the cemetery under a cedar tree on the south side of Cinque Homme Creek on the Frankenberg Hill.  Across the road, they built a parsonage and a school.  For 33 years, from 1852 to 1885, the congregation worshipped in the log church on the Frankenberg Hill overlooking Cinque Hommes bottom. Peace Lutheran Cemetery is still located at this site near the intersection of Highway 61 and P Road and is maintained by an endowment to Immanuel Lutheran Church of Perryville, Missouri.

Eventually the congregation outgrew this church, and a new site was chosen to the southeast on another hill.  They named their new location Friedenberg (Hill of Peace) and their church Peace Lutheran Church.  A one room school and a parsonage were built first in 1874 across the road from the future church site.  School was taught in this red brick school house for over 70 years until 1946.  After 1946, the school was used for Saturday school where religion was taught, for dart games and Sunday School.  The names and initials of school children can still be seen etched into the soft brick. 

There was a disastrous parsonage fire in 1942 and many valuable records were lost.  The pastor and his children lived in the one room schoolhouse (while school was still in session!) until a new parsonage could be erected.  In 1975, the school and parsonage were sold and still stands today on the property of Dale and Sandy Koenig.  The Peace Lutheran School building is over 140 years old! 

In 1885, the congregation moved from the Frankenberg Hill, to Friedenberg and built the present simple, red-brick worship facility overlooking the quiet Missouri countryside.  The new church was dedicated debt-free on 27 September 1885.  This church served the congregation for the next 95 years! 

As the social and economic climate of the area changed, membership began to decline. In 1980, Peace Congregation voted to disband. The people resolved to preserve their buildings as a reminder of the heritage of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and asked Concordia Historical Institute (CHI) located at 804 Seminary Place in St. Louis to take over the property.  Concordia Historical Institute is the Department of Archives and History of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The Institute continues to own, operate and support “Hill of Peace” as a "walk-in history book" that vividly demonstrates the change in the life of the rural church that was so important in previous eras.  

The facilities, the people, and the "peace" still live on in Friedenberg through the continued efforts of the Friedenberg Historical Society 501(c)(3).  The small group of members continue to maintain the church and grounds for generations to enjoy for years to come.  Anyone interested in joining the Friedenberg Historical Society or donating time or money for the continued support of the historic “Hill of Peace” and our ancestor’s history, please contact Sandy Koenig at earlybird4848@yahoo.com.

The original Ladies Aid house, called Friedenberg Hall, was dedicated in September 1935 and burned to the ground in 2012. The current Friedenberg Hall was erected in 2014 and is available for rental across the road from the church.  Whether it is a church retreat, business meeting, wedding reception or anniversary, a baptism or confirmation reception, Friedenberg Hall provides a clean, modern facility within a quiet and historic location.  Friedenberg Hall is perfect for a family reunion or birthday party and provides a full service kitchen/serving area and handicap-accessible bathrooms.  The Hall can accommodate up to 90 people and is only 5 miles from Perryville and less than one and a half miles from Highway 61. To reserve your special day at Friedenberg Hall, please call Sandy at 573-768-1658.  Rental Fee—$100/day.  Refundable Deposit—$50.

Three annual Church Services are held each year at Friedenberg Peace Lutheran Church typically at 3:00 pm on the 2nd Sunday in March, October and December to celebrate and serve as a reunion of descendants.  Please consider attending the Fall Service at 3:00pm on Sunday, October 9, 2016 at Friedenberg Peace Lutheran Church at 510 PCR 304 Perryville, MO  63775. 

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The Dirt on Menfro

Perry County was organized May 21, 1821 and named after the naval war hero of 1812, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. But it was before that when some of our earliest settlers were already laying down farming roots in Perry County soil.

Levi Wiggins was one of many people to request a land grant in Perry County’s Bios Brule Bottoms. On November 30, 1803, by his agent; Robert Anderson, he claimed a one-mile square of land, 640 acres situated on the Mississippi River at the mouth of the Cape St. Come Creek. Wiggins’ sworn to have inhabited and cultivated the land since 1801 by Daniel Thorn and continued to work the property until 1804. Part of the one square mile of land Levi Wiggins owned was referred to as land grant #1328 which eventually became known as the Town of Menfro. The Bois Brule Bottoms of Perry County was known early as one of the most fertile pieces of territory in the district of Ste. Genevieve. It was the fertility of this soil which attracted the early settlers. People that came to the Bois Brule area had great hopes for their futures. The “Bottoms” were wooded heavily with Oak, Pine, Walnut, Ash and of course Pecan and once the timber was cleared it had promised results for crop growers. The Mississippi River which borders the Bottom area is a vital resource to the rich and fertile soil. But the partnership between the land and river was often muddied by the seasonal “overflows” as the old timers called it. Nevertheless, farmland was cleared, homes were built and the bottoms became a sea of corn, wheat, alfalfa, milo, soybeans and fescue.

Every town, village or settlement has a reason for being and Menfro was no different. But in spite the active and ever growing farm community it wasn’t until March 3, 1902 that an application was made by the St. Louis, Memphis and Southeastern Railroad Company to lay a track to provide transportation between Memphis and St. Louis. The Town of Menfro would eventually be given a name and St. Louis would have a source of rail transportation needed to the 1904 World’s Fair. The town soon boasted a depot, general store, tavern, hotel, bank, post office, school and several other businesses to provide and supply the community with its needs. Menfro was incorporated May 9, 1914 and with a board of Trustees they set down town ordinances and appointed a town clerk. Menfro continued to thrive until the devastating flood of 1943 when the Mississippi River overflowed its banks flooding the entire Bios Brule Bottoms and the Town of Menfro. Driving the farmers from their homes in the bottoms and out of Menfro most sought safety on higher ground surrounding their once sought after rich farm ground. For those who chose to return with the receding waters ousting would come again in 1973 and 1993. This was considered the final blow for the town driving out the last of the businesses and the low lying residents.

Today, the rich fertile soil of the Bios Brule Bottoms has been identified by United States Department of Agriculture’s NCRS as a loess soil and has been named Menfro after the small town in Perry County where the soil series originates. Over a million acres of Menfro soils have been identified in Missouri in more than 40 counties and it is the official state soil of Missouri. It is not surprising that the major land use of Menfro soil is agriculture and woodland but I’m sure Levi Wiggins already knew that.

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As the season of church picnics draw to a close again with the ending of summer I would like for everyone to stop and remember the communities centered around these churches. All the communities within Perry County at one time or another boasted stores, schools, mills and proud residents. But the churches were and are the heartbeat of every community. It was because of the local church that neighbors could meet, socialize and bond into not only a family of faith but a town of support.

Every year the “church picnic” was no doubt the social event of the summer for each and every congregation. With a home cooked meal, music and games for the children the day was spent with family, friends and neighbors. Then there was the coveted make shift store commonly known as the “fancy stand.” Handmade linens, doilies, quilts, baked goods, canned fruits and vegetables, and assorted plants and flowers were proudly provided by the women to fetch the highest donations. 

It appears that the picnic crowds are slowly dwindling as the years go by and that the once anticipated summer events are becoming extinct. When was the last time you attending and supported a church picnic?

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