History - New London was founded in 1800 and was incorporated in 1819 while it was in Pike County, Missouri Territory.  In 1820 New London became the county seat of the newly formed Ralls County.  Missouri became a state in 1821.  This mural featuring the Ralls County Courthouse was painted on a wall in downtown New London to commemorate the 175 anniversary of New London's incorporation.

Daniel Ralls and his family came to the Missouri Territory in 1817 after he served in the War of 1812.  His father was Nathaniel W. Ralls, originally from Stafford County, Virginia, who served in the Continental Army at Valley Forge during the American Revolution.

Daniel settled in Pike County, Missouri Territory, where he held several offices.  He was elected to the Missouri Territory General Assembly in 1820 when Missouri statehood in the US was eminent.  He fell gravely ill and had to be carried into the Assembly Room to
cast the deciding vote that elected Thomas Hart Benton to the United States Senate.  He died in St. Louis shortly after.

November, 1820, i
n honor of Daniel Ralls' service, the General Assembly named the new county being carved from Pike County
for him.  His homestead was about 4 miles west of New London.

July 26, 2008
  - This was my first visit to the county named after my great great great grandfather, Daniel Ralls. 
After checking out the events celebrating the restoration and 150th anniversary of the Ralls County Courthouse for the week of July 22-27, 2008, I decided to go to the party.  Early in the week there were contests that determined the prettiest baby, the Sesqui Queen, and the strongest antique tractor.  On Saturday there was a parade and festival.

Daniel Ralls' father, Nathaniel W. Ralls, is my primary NSDAR patriot ancestor, so I was delighted to represent Daniel Ralls' family in the parade.  A Ralls second cousin, Lowell Graves, was there with his family, but he didn't ride in the parade.  

The parade gathered at the Elementary School south of New London. We were to drive through the town on the main street by the Courthouse, and it looked to me like the parade was miles long.  Here are pictures of me waving, the sign on the car, and my driver and her car.  She is the wife of the County Surveyor and a member of the local Corvette Club.

The Army jeep started off the parade (R).  The Army Corps of Engineers maintains Mark Twain Lake and has a presence in Ralls County.  After the flags, military service organizations, and honor guard came the candidates for office (L).


And then everyone else showed off their vehicles and costumes. The red hat ladies had a really cute float, but I did not get a picture of it.

Here is the antibellum Courthouse today, carefully restored and updated.  The festival was held on the Courthouse grounds.  There were a number of craft and food vendors.  For entertainment there were strolling music groups, a concert, and reenactments of episodes in the War of 1812, the Civil War, and Native Indian life.  Cars and costumes were judged. And there was a Spelling Bee and Quilt Show.  In the evening there was a musical show on the Courthouse steps featuring a local entertainer.

To celebrate this event, Crown Valley Winery labeled red, white, and rose wines as Ralls County Courthouse wines, and sold the wines to benefit the Sesquicentennial.  And there were other commemorative items like tee shirts, mugs, pictures of the Courthouse, medallions, and commemorative postmarked envelopes.
Sunday there was a multimedia production with the combined choirs at the First Baptist Church behind the Courthouse.  Made me feel real patriotic. All in all a really good party.


The next week I visited the Ralls County Historical Society in Perry (R) and found the location of the grave of Col. John W. Ralls, Daniel Ralls oldest son and my great great grandfather. 

On the building next to the Historical Society is the name Gill.  My great grandmother was Mary Belle Gill Ralls,
the daughter of a prominent Perry citizen, Thomas F. Gill, and the wife of Edgar Hays Ralls, Col. John Ralls' son. 

The Historical Society also knew the location of Edgar Ralls' grave.


Then I visited the Ralls Lodge #33 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in Center, MO. (R)  Dallas Ousterhout, a member of this Lodge for 60 years, showed me the Lodge office and meeting room on the second floor of the Ralls County State Bank building. The Lodge was named for my great great grandfather, Col. John W. Ralls.

John Ralls held several office connected to the State legislature before he held the combined offices of county clerk, circuit clerk and recorder of deeds in Ralls County, Missouri, from 1838 to 1848. 

In 1846-47 he was Grand Master Mason of the Missouri Grand Lodge. 

In 1847 during the US War with Mexico, Col. Ralls led a Regiment to New Mexico that participated in the capture of the city of Santa Cruz de los Rosales

He returned to Ralls county in 1848, and in 1850 he passed the bar and developed a legal practice. 

On May 14, 1853,
Col. John W. Ralls and seven other Masons founded Ralls Lodge #33, and Col. Ralls was appointed the first Worshipful Master of the Lodge.

A picture of  Col. John Ralls (R) in his US military uniform was hanging in the Lodge meeting room.  I took a picture of his picture before I went to see his grave in a nearby cemetery. 

I learned that there is another portrait of him in Columbia, Missouri at the Grand Lodge of Missouri, and that some of his papers are kept in the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, Missouri.



Below are two views of the marker on Col. John Ralls grave in a cemetery near Center, Mo.


I spent a day in Hannibal, Missouri,
the boyhood home of Samuel Clemens, the world renowned author who used the pen name Mark Twain.  His adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn came straight out of his memories of his childhood, although the names of the characters were changed to protect the innocent. 

Hannibal memorialized those two rascals, Tom and Huck, in bronze at the foot of Cardiff Hill (R).

J. M. Clemens was Samuel Clemens father.  The building below is part of the Boyhood Home of Mark Twain Museum complex of four buildings.  Samuel Clemens family home is across the street from his father's law office.  Another building to the right of the law office was the home of the young girl that was Mark Twain's model for Becky Thacher.

The museum complex does an excellent job of recreating the early Victorian middle class
life that Samuel Clemens experienced when he grew up in Hannibal.

In nearby Florida, Missouri, another museum marks Samuel Clemens' birthplace.

J. M. Clemens died in 1847.  He was an attorney and a contemporary of  Col. John Ralls of New London, Mo.  Since New London is only nine miles from Hannibal, J. M. Clemens could have actually known him

Samuel Clemens certainly knew
Col. John Ralls and mentioned him in his essay "A Campaign That Failed".  Col. Ralls was authorized to administer an oath to individuals wishing to join the State Militia and protect Missouri from invaders during the Civil War.  Since one Governor, Jackson, was a Confederate and Missouri was officially a  Union state there was some confusion about which side a recruit was joining.

 In this essay
Col. John Ralls administered the oath to young Samuel Clemens.  Actually Samuel Clemens avoided the Civil War issue by going to Nevada with his brother.

Mark Twain is memorialized in Hannibal in the steamboat landing park and a lofty overlook of the Mississippi River.  I took a trip on the riverboat that bears his name, visited the cave he featured in Huck Finn's adventures, and saw a Mark Twain impersonator's informative show about the life and times of Mark Twain.

The Mississippi Riverboat Mark Twain

View of Hannibal from the Mississippi Riverboat Mark Twain

Hannibal Landmarks Seen From the River

Lover's Leap Rockcliffe Mansion (L) Lighthouse Mark Twain's Statue

The picture on the left shows the retaining wall built to keep the Mississippi River out of Hannibal.  In the Spring of 2008 the Mississippi River rose 17 feet.  To be on the safe side, the citizens of Hannibal erected a temporary barrier of concrete highway barriers and sandbags - the white line in front of the building.   Hannibal was not effected by the 2008 floods.

The cool Mark Twain Cave offered relief from the heat.  There was, sure enough, a shoe like formation that hangs from the cave roof.  The very place Huck and Tom found a great treasure.  Many people have inscribed their names on the walls and roof, including that infamous outlaw, Jesse James.

Is Hannibal touristy?  You bet it is, but it is also a real window on a bygone time.

Check back, I'll soon be adding pictures of Louisiana, Clarksville, and St. Louis, Missouri.