Bowling Green, Missouri stands today with most thanks to Mr. John W. Bayse; he was the driving force behind getting this part of Eastern Missouri established. This is his story…
John Basye’s Bowling Green
An outline of the life of John W. Basye and the beginning of his Bowling Green
Compiled by Donald W. Hamilton in October 2021
John W. Basye was born April 3, 1770 in Point Lookout, Maryland, and died May 25, 1845. He is buried in his town of Bowling Green, Missouri. The Basye ancestry always had a pioneer spirit to explore and move, even when the Basye ancestors lived in Europe before coming to America. As a young man in 1788 his family moved to what is now Louisville, Kentucky, The time spent in Kentucky proved to be very influential in John Basye’s life. He made many lifetime friends in Kentucky especially during this period. The town of Bowling Green, Missouri was even named in honor of friends that joined him here from Bowling Green, Kentucky. They became known as the” Bowling Greeners.”
In 1791 John Basye left Kentucky and crossed over to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, the first permanent settlement in the Missouri territory. That same year he quite possibly became the first white man to see and explore Pike County. Later in 1791, he returned to Kentucky to serve in the military, fighting in the Indian Wars. Various tribes of Indians were responsible for the massacre of white people of European decent, in Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. He served his regiment until the middle of 1792. His period of service influenced him to want to avoid Indians for the rest of his life. On Christmas Day 1794, he married his first wife, Agnes Ballew, near what became Belleville, Illinois. The Basyes spent a short time as ferry boat owners, operating near the bend of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. John Basye would live in the St. Louis area until the time he settled in the Pike County area early in 1818.
In 1804, a special honor was bestowed upon John and his friend, business associate John E. Allen. They were chosen by the US government to participate in the “northern” transfer ceremony that took place in St. Louis. This event was a celebration of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. During the ceremony they raised and lowered the flag of Spain. Next was the raising and lowering of the flag from France. Finally they raised the flag of the United States. During this time period there was also a similar ceremony held in New Orleans. During the ceremony, according to the Basye family book, it is written that when John returned home from the ceremony, he found that he had a new born daughter. He and Agnes named her Louisiana Basye, in honor of the Louisiana Purchase. It was also printed that years later that Louisiana Missouri was actually named after Louisiana Basye, thus indirectly naming that city after the Louisiana Purchase. In 1814, when John was just 44 years old, Agnes died in child birth, while having their eighth child. Later in the same year he married his second wife Ann Temple. Together they would have four children of their own.
….. Over his time that he lived in St. Louis, John regularly journeyed up and down the land on the Western side of the Mississippi River; traveling between St. Louis and what would become Fort Madison, Iowa… From his work travels, he knew his favorite land was located in what would become Pike County. When he moved from St. Louis, he settled in the newly laid out town of Louisiana, Missouri. They lived on the lot where the Louisiana Carnegie Library is now located. What attracted him to this area were fertile lands, many springs, and his appreciation that there were few if any Indians. John specifically loved the area of Spring Hollow, which is where Bowling Green is now located.
John called himself a farmer and a stock raiser. From his life experiences and travels, he also had an understanding of surveying; as well as being involved in trading of furs, various other goods, and formerly being an operator a ferry boat service. He was a hard working family man, with not only a desire to build and to grow vocationally, but to continue growing as a Christian in the traditions of the Methodist denomination.
John Basye’s most historical achievement was getting the 160 acre land grant from the US Government, for his personal farm. Included on the grant survey was a 75 square acre area that was super imposed for his future town. This160 acres grant was not his first land grant. Years before he was given a Spanish land grant of 1300 acres which was later found to be improperly titled. He later traded that flawed grant for 1000 acres in what would become Pike County.
…..During the year 1818, the federal government opened up a land grant program in the Missouri territory. It is said that St. Louis is the Gateway to the West, but actually, the whole Eastern half of Missouri served as the Gateway to the West. (Anywhere people could get a boat or ferry to cross.)
The County of Pike in the Missouri Territory was founded on December 14, 1818. Originally it covered much of Northeast Missouri, before being divided up into manageable sized counties. The final area of Pike County was located across from Pike County, Illinois. It gives meaning to the folklore “Sweet Betsy from Pike and her brother Ike“ passing through on their journey West. December 23, 1818, (nine days after Pike Missouri was recognized as a county) John Basye would file for and be granted his desired Pike County land, by C. W. Boardman, Register of lands, at the Booneville land office.
Points to consider: Boonville is about 108 miles by car today from Bowling Green. How far did John actually have to ride by horse? Where was he able cross the Missouri River or was the river frozen? We have no evidence that this process could have been completed by mail and as slow as mail would have been then,(weeks or months) could he have risked waiting and possibly lose the right to claim this exact parcel of land?. Considering muddy roads, winter weather and having to cross the Missouri River, how long did it take? He obviously had to start before Pike County was officially named a county on December.14, 1818. There is so much that we will never know. The great land rush of Missouri started in 1818 and lasted for several years. Imagine the motivation that drove John Basye to travel and make his claim.
When was Bowling Green considered founded? This controversy came up before the 1973 Sesquicentennial. Was it the date of the land grant in 1818? Was it 1820 when Basye built his first cabin? Was it 1826 when the lots and blocks were finally established in Bowling Green? Was it February 5, 1829 when the county commissioners, with John Basye as one of those commissioners, ordered all remaining lots in Bowling Green to be sold at auction; with a $1 per lot minimum price required at the courthouse door?
There was no founding year controversy during the 1923 Centennial celebration. Those individuals in charge would have only been just a few generations removed from the beginning of Bowling Green. That fact alone would leave us to believe that the 1923 celebration was held during the accurate year. Why can the year not be proven in documents? According to the Secretary of State’s office in Jefferson City, historical documents during that era were destroyed by a fire at their facility. In 1915 the Pike County court house also had a fire which destroyed their building and many old records. Abstracts are the best remaining accurate real estate exchange records that still exist, but they cannot tell us an exact founding date of the town. Many folks may have original abstracts in their bank safe deposit boxes or in their personal safes. The abstracts we examined helped cross reference the dates of real estate transfers. Any Bowling Green resident that still has access to their original abstracts could verify transfers concerning their own lot’s history. I found interesting facts in the abstract which covers the 106 South Court street insurance office. The Basyes deeded three lots on March 1, 1831 to David Parsons to build a livery stable. Later at that location, a boarding house was constructed. While building my office in 1991, physical evidence of both the stable and boarding house were excavated. The original natural spring/well that served both businesses still exists in the back yard today. We also excavated the original front sidewalk of the boarding house.
In 1823, Bowling Green officially became the county seat recognized by the state, which prompted a log courthouse being built on the square. The fact that the courthouse was not going to be in Louisiana but in Bowling Green, has caused a rivalry that has lasted 200 years between the two towns. In 1823 Bowling Green also officially got a log cabin Post Office (separated from the Basye home) and John Basye was the first postmaster. Prior to that time, mail was delivered and distributed from his house. In 1823 many other businesses began starting up. In essence 1823 was the year Bowling Green really got going as a town, which we presume is why the Centennial was celebrated in 1923. After receiving his land grant in 1818, John Basye contacted many acquaintances. They came from Kentucky, and included fellow war veterans and others that were encouraged to come and settle here. His encouragement and effort were keys to having the town settled in a timely manner.. John Basye definitely was a pioneer real-estate developer as many people that settled here would not have come without his direct invitation. .
It is known that John Basye constructed at least 3 cabins in Bowling Green for himself and his family. He built, owned, and operated a grain mill that was also able to saw logs. At his house before there were boarding facilities, the Basyes would host overnight travelers, preachers and others. He originally used his house for a post office, for funerals and was also the jailer and hosted grand juries in his home. Before there were actual church buildings which came after his death in 1845, John originally hosted and taught weekly Methodist Sunday school and church services at the Basye home. The history books also show that education was important to John Basye and his extended family. No matter what the need of early Bowling Green, John Basye and his family tried to meet those needs.
In closing as with any historical thought; what are the “what if’s” and what effect would they have had on this town? What if John Basye had not gotten his land grant for Bowling Green? Would a town ever evolved here or would he have moved his town plans? Would Louisiana have simply remained the county seat, and would Frankford have become the center point of crossroads in the county; as both Louisiana and Frankford predated Bowling Green?
John Basye was intelligent, having, a vision, knowledge and energy to see his dream through. Without John Basye there definitely wouldn’t have been a Bowling Green as we know it today. The generations since then and in the future will always owe him much gratitude for his gift of Bowling Green.
Reference Materials Utilized: The Basye Family in the United States- by Otto Basye- Copyright 1950- Mid-State Printing Company- Jefferson City, Missouri. The History of Pike County-Missouri—Encyclopedia-of Information- Copyright 1883-Mills and Company – Des Moines, Iowa. Pike County Missouri- Peoples, Places and Pikers- Compiled by Karen Schwadron under Auspices of the Pike County Historical Society-Copyright 1981; Walsworth Publishing- Marceline, Missouri. The 1923 Souvenir Program Booklet of the Bowling Green Centennial; Printed by Bowling Green Times Printing, Bowling Green, Missouri. The 1973 Souvenir Program Booklet of the Bowling Green Sesquicentennial; Printed by Bowling Green Times Printing, Bowling Green, Missouri. Private Abstracts of: John W Basye Home fronted on College Street (Now Champ Clark Drive) Located across from Champ Clark Honey Shuck -provided by. Mrs. Julia Black. The Sue Haley Home located on West Main provided by Sue Haley. The Farmers Insurance Office- (106 S. Court St) – Provided by Don and Marilyn Hamilton. Internet Source: Pike County Genealogy- pcgenweb.com
Check out these celebration booklets and fun finds from past Bowling Green Birthday events!
Booklets gathered by Historian, Donald Hamilton