In the early 1800’s a man by the name of Martin Warren, a blacksmith by trade, had settled into the area in a centrally located house that was not difficult to discover. Prairie residents would repeatedly stop by at the Warren house to inquire information about settlements, laws, and other people. This stopping place was initially referred to as Warren’s corner which over time became Warren’s burg, and eventually became the current name Warrensburg. On May 9, 1836, a handful of original founding fathers authorized the purchase of the land area that would eventually become called Warrensburg in honor of Martin Warren, the first man to settle in the area. Contrary to popular belief, Warren was not tremendously in favor of creating a township in this area but eventually decided to sell some of the farm land he owned. On October 3, 1836, the township line of Warrensburg was drawn up from the north county line to the south county line. The original boundary lines were 12 miles wide on the south and 10.5 miles wide on the north. The boundary distance measured an incredible 26 miles distance which made the original area of Warrensburg more than 260 square miles. Over time, small pieces have been chopped away to create cities and towns decreasing total area to the current 64 square miles people live in today.
By frontier standards, Warrensburg grew rather rapidly as more and more settlers went west to seek their fortune and their future. In 1855, less than 20 years after the official creation of Warrensburg, the population exceeded 750 people. In that same year, people desired to incorporate their village and the measure was eventually signed into law on the 23rd day of November, 1855. On the first Monday of April 1856, less than one year after Warrensburg incorporated, the city held their first official election. The first mayor was named Dr. John Foushee and the first council consisted of William H. Anderson, James M. Bratton, Dr. William Calhoun, and Alexander Marr. The first county court would take place about three months later in August.
The Legend of Old Drum
On the night of October 18, 1869 a frustrated man by the name of Leonidas Hornsby swore to shoot the first sheep-killing dog he found on his property, after a number of his sheep had recently been killed by what he suspected to be dogs. On that night, Charles Burden, the neighbor and brother-in-law of Leonidas Hornsby, found his favorite dog “Old Drum” dead. Although Hornsby had hunted with Old Drum and acknowledged him to be one of the best hunting dogs he had ever seen, he also suspected that Old Drum was the dog killing his sheep. Burden could not let the death of Old Drum go unpunished, and decided to take Hornsby to court for the damages.
This trial quickly became one of the strangest in the history of Johnson County, and each man was determined to win the case. After multiple trials and appeals by the loser in each trial the case finally reached the Missouri Supreme Court, and the $50 in damages awarded to Burden for the loss of his favorite hunting dog was upheld. One of Burden’s lawyers, a man named George Vest, won the case with his closing argument known as the “eulogy” to the dog.
The “Eulogy” to Old Drum
“Gentlemen of the jury, the best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter whom he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us — those whom we trust with our happiness and good name — may become traitors in their faith. The money that a man has he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world — the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous — is his dog.
“Gentlemen of the jury, a man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and poverty, in health and sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow, and the snow drives fiercely, if only he can be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer; he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounter with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.
“If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies. And when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace, and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.” – George Graham Vest