The following is an historical account of the Black Hawk War and what is called the “Heatherly War” in Daviess County, MO.

Black Hawk War 1831

Settlers had just begun to come into what is now Daviess County (MO) when all of North Missouri was aroused over the threatened attack of Indians under Chief Black Hawk. In the fall of 1831, many of the settlers took their families back nearer the Missouri River where the county was more thickly populated and better protection was offered, in case of attack by the Indians.

It is said that Daniel Devaul, when the first alarm came, announced his intention of staying and seeing the thing through. He made a very heavy door to replace the thin slab one, and cut holes through which to shoot. A few of the neighbors decided to stand by him and the Devaul cabin was arranged to withstand the siege.

About this time a second alarm came, conditions seemed much more terrifying. Mr. Devaul and his two friends decided not to risk their lives any longer and followed the neighbors to a place of safety. Some of the pioneers who did not leave the county built a block house surrounded by palisades near a spring on the old John Merritt farm.

Scouts were sent out and every one was ready for business if the Indians appeared. But there was no need for alarm as the Indians who sometimes visited the county were very peaceably inclined.

A company of rangers was organized in Ray County by Colonel Skouts and many young men living within the boundaries of the present Daviess County joined the company. Among them were Hardin Stone, Theodore Peniston and Milford Donaho.

Maj. McGee relates this incident which occurred while the men were in service:

“It was while scouting at the head waters of the Chariton river that the rangers met a company from Howard County on a similar warlike mission. During the meeting the question of markmanship came up and a shooting match was arranged between the two companies. A Mr. Josiah Davis was selected by the Howard County boys to show Daviess County youngsters how to handle shooting irons while the gallant hunter and ranger Milford Donaho was selected as the Ray and Daviess County representative to show the Howard County boys that while they could hold a full hand at brag, when it came to a sharp eye and a steady hand the rangers were at home to all comers. It was reported a close match, but Mr. Donaho was declared the winner.”

The Indian War was soon over and with the danger removed the settlers soon began to return and many others came with them.

The ‘Heatherly War’

What is usually styled the “Heatherly War” is important chiefly because of the excitement it created in the northwestern counties of Missouri.

A family by the name of Heatherly lived in what is now Grundy County on Medicine river. With them were four men, Thomas, Watkins, Hawkins and a colored man. All were regarded as rather desperate characters. In 1836 they were organized into a regular horse-stealing band, and made raids wherever there was any chance of meeting with success.

In the fall of that year they took horses from a man by the name of Dunbar and his companion. Both men were killed trying to defend their property.

The character of the Heatherly gang being pretty well known, they were under the necessity of doing something to divert suspicion. They therefore invented the story that the Indians, the lowas and the Sacs, were on the warpath, scalping and killing and burning the homes of the settlers. Any mention of an attack by the Indians was terrifying to the settlers and they had visions of whole armies of savages pouring in upon them.

The inhabitants at Moore’s and Thompson’s settlements assembled. Those at Moore’s hastily built a block house. The militia was ordered out by General Thompson, two companies were ordered out from Ray, and two from Clay, a number joining from Daviess and Livingston.

It was soon learned that it was a false alarm and the settlers determined to find out the cause. It was soon traced to the Heatherly gang, who had stated that Indians had been murdering. The bodies of the two men were found in the river. Detection being practically certain, Hawkins, one of the gang, turned state’s evidence. The gang was sent to the penitentiary.


Indian trails later developed into the first roads in Daviess County, MO.