Five Interesting Facts You Might Not Know About Ralls County
Did you know that Ralls County, Missouri is the only Ralls County in the United States? A co-worker was kind enough to lend me a few books on local history, including Ralls County by K. Allen Ballard, part of Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series. There are a ton of great pictures dating all the way back to the early 1800s published in the book, and it is also full of information about the county, its people and its economy. Here are just a few interesting things I learned from flipping through it.
- Ralls County is named after Daniel Ralls, who was a Pike County Representative. It is said that Ralls was literally carried into the legislative chamber on his deathbead, where he cast the deciding vote which made Thomas Hart Benton Missouri's first U.S. senator. Shortly after, the state's newest county was named Ralls County.
- Fr. Augustus Tolton, the first black Roman Catholic priest in America, is usually associated with Quincy, but he was actually born into slavery in Ralls County. Tolton was baptized at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Rensselaer. He and his family escaped to Quincy, where he would return to pastor after being ordained in Rome.
- The cost to build the Ralls County Courthouse was $18,000. Built between 1856-1858, it is one of the state's oldest courthouses in continuous use.
- A Frankford farmer, Valentine Tapley, wagered in 1860 never to shave again if Abraham Lincoln became president. When he died in 1910, his beard was supposedly 20 feet long.
- Telephones first arrived in New London in 1889.
If you're interested in local history, the Images of America books are recommended. Arcadia Publishing has also published similar books about Quincy, Hannibal, Keokuk, Kirksville, Jacksonville, Mexico, Nauvoo, The Lake of the Ozarks, and several other communities around the Tri-States. These books are very well done, and are pretty easy to find, too. I've seen them in just about every local bookshop, and sometimes even at Walgreens.