Missouri's Little Dixie




Land Family

The Land and Ayers family exemplify the Southern cultural experience that was occurring in Missouri’s Little Dixie between 1810 to 1860. In the mid-1830’s, the Land and Ayers families followed the westward migration from their native Virginia to Saline County, Missouri. They, like so many other families from the Upper South, participated in this great Southern movement of settlers immigrating predominately from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia to central Missouri’s Little Dixie. These two families are also a manifestation of the Southern cultural traditions and values that were being brought to the region from their native state, a heritage that was shared by many others living in Little Dixie. The Southern cultural traditions brought to Saline County by the families include their Upper South agricultural, pursuing Southern politics, sympathizing with the Confederate cause during the Civil War, and practicing a religious tradition that was brought with them from the South.

In 1836, the Land family moved from their native Virginia and settled in the (Thomas) Shackelford neighborhood near “old” Jefferson, Saline County, Missouri. Thomas Shackelford had arrived earlier than the Lands in 1820, and was a native of Kentucky and his wife Eliza was from North Carolina. The Land farm was located 2 1/2 miles west of Cambridge, which was founded in 1845. The reason for the Lands move is not known, but it is affirmed that other families emigrated from the Land’s native hinterlands of Virginia to eastern Saline County Missouri. Early settlers in the Shackelford neighborhood include Wm. T. Gilliam, George Hawkins, Dr. Kinear, Peter Huff, Almond Gwinn, and Joseph and Samuel Grove, all of whom arrived from the states of Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

The Land family, like the Schackelfords and other Southerners in the region, prospered on the rich alluvion soils of Little Dixie. Robert was a farmer growing typical crops of the day and claimed the carpenter profession. Mr. Land also successfully served as a County Judge for many years. In the 1860 Federal Census, Robert and America (Fore) Land reported owning 7 slaves and had an estate valued at $13,225, which was substantial for the period. In 1837, the Lands helped in organizing the Cambridge Methodist Church, which followed their Protestant background while living in Virginia. In 1829, it was reported that Robert had “converted to God” and joined the Methodist Church. Charlotte, a sister of Robert C., also converted to God and the Methodist Church in 1829 and migrated with her brother to Missouri. In the mid-1840’s, after the Methodist Church in Missouri split over the issue of slavery, the Cambridge church seceded and became the Cambridge M. E. Church, South. The rival M.E. Church North, which supported an abolitionist doctrines, was few in number in Missouri by 1861.


Robert C. and America Land

(Images are in a private collection and may not be copied or used without the permission of their owner.)

The Land children advanced in their economic standing while living in the Shackelford and Cambridge community, and maintained their Southern cultural identity. Two of the Land children owned business establishments, William H. and Peter W. Land. William, who lived in Cambridge with his family, owned a business not far from the Missouri River wharf. In the 1860 Federal Census, William H. Land owned 4 slaves and one slave house and had an estate valued at $5,500. But as the fortunes of change took place along the many Missouri River towns of Little Dixie, in 1883 the Land son William moved his business to the new prosperous railroad town of Gilliam.

Peter W. Land, the fourth surviving child of Robert and America Land, was married to Virginia C. Ayers on November 21, 1855. Miss Ayers was born in Buckingham County, Virginia, March 19, 1836, and was the daughter of Mattias (Mathias) and Nancy Ayers. Peter and Virginia had seven children. In 1857, Peter and Virginia moved to Howard County. The Lands were extensively involved in agriculture and raised tobacco. Peter Land also owned a business which specialized in the handling of tobacco and other stock, shipping goods as far away as St. Louis, New York, Chicago, and Cincinnati. In 1881, the Lands returned to live in Saline County. Virginia Ayers died December 29, 1894.

Robert F. Land, remained with his parents near Cambridge where he engaged in farming and the raising of livestock. In the 1860 Federal Census, Robert's estate was worth $650 and he was not a slave owner. During the Civil War, Robert choose the cause of Missouri’s pro-South forces and the Confederacy. In 1861, he enlisted in the Missouri State Guard lead by General Sterling Price, Captain W. B. Brown’s company organized in Saline County. Robert re-enlisted in Company H, Slayback’s Regiment, General Jo Shelby’s Division, M.S.G., in November of 1864. Land fought in the battles of Boonville, Lexington, Little Blue, Westport, etc. and surrendered at Shreveport in 1865. Earlier, on February 16, 1864, Robert F. married Josephine M. Ayers, daughter of Mattias and Nancy G. Ayers.



Josephine M. "Ayers" Land, also know as "Mamma Joe," in c. 1887.

(Images are in a private collection and may not be copied or used without the permission of their owner.)


In the 1860 Federal Census, William Fore was reported as living with Robert and America (Fore) Land. William owned 2 slaves and had an estate valued at $5,150.

Robert C. Land, who was affectionately known as "Father Land," was born in Buckingham County, Virginia, December 23, 1801. On November 23, 1826, Mr. Land married America A. Fore. Robert and America had 6 children born in both Virginia and Saline County, Missouri.

Their children were:

William H. born December 13, 1827, Virginia

Stephen B. born May 12, 1829, Virginia

Harriet H. - m. Capt. J. B. Smith born October 4, 1830, Virginia

Peter W. born December 25, 1831, Prince Edward County, Virginia

Robert F. born November 20, 1835, Prince Edward County, Virginia

John J. born June 14, 1839, Saline County, Missouri

Deaths are recorded as: Robert C. on July 28, 1882; America on March 26th, 1872; William H. on April 26, 1906; Stephen B. on November 11, 1850; Harriet H. in 1908; Peter W. on April 3, 1905; Robert F. on August 21, 1906; John J. in 1863. Charlotte, Robert’s sister, was born in Buckingham County, Virginia, on June 3, 1803. She died February 22, 1885, and had never married.


"Grandma Land"

It is not known who "Grandma Land" married, but the image was taken c. 1900 at Corder, Missouri.

(Images are in a private collection and may not be copied or used without the permission of their owner.)




Ayers Family

The Ayers family arrived in Saline County in 1836, presumably emigrating from Virginia with the Lands. Mattias (Mathias) Ayers and his family settled at the Gwinn settlement, whereon the historic town of Frankfort was built. The Ayers had a large family, of which are known: Alexander, James Jones, and Hickerson. "Mothers Ayers," as she was known to her relatives, was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and was also a member of both the Cambridge and later Gilliam "Missionary Society." The Ayers family were successful farmers in Saline County.

On July 4, 1837, Miss Ann E. Ayers, daughter of Mattias and Nancy, married Fayette Henry Gilliam, of Saline County. The Gilliams raised six children, four daughters and two sons. Known are, M. E., Ann E., Sarah M. (died Sept. 6, 1855), I.R. (died Aug. 25, 1864), and M. L. who was born April 2, 1842. Mr. Gilliam was born in Prince Edward County, Virginia, on March 30, 1814, and was raised and educated in that state. In 1835, the young Mr. Gilliam moved to Saline County, Missouri. Gilliam settled at Cambridge were he successfully engaged in the mercantile business. He later purchased a large farm 1 and 1/2 miles from Cambridge. In 1850, Mr. Gilliam emigrated to California during the gold rush era and was successful in his mining adventures. Returning to Saline County in 1851, Gilliam built a large sawmill on his farm and grew considerably wealthy. After the Civil War and the completion of the railroad to the town of Gilliam, F. H. Gilliam established an extensive flour mill and lumber business in that town and continued his farming operations. After the death of his wife Ann, Mr. Gilliam remarried.  Fayette was the brother of Judge William T. Gilliam, propietor of the plantation "Longview" near the town of Gilliam.  

On May 1st, 1872, Philip H. Franklin married M. E. Gilliam, daughter of F. H. and Ann Gilliam. Philip was born in Campbell County, Virginia, on July 4th, 1841. Mr. Philip Franklin who was raised and educated in Virginia, joined the Confederate "11th Virginia" when war was declared in 1861. The "11th Virginia" was at one time commanded by Longstreet and Beauregard. Philip Franklin fought at the battles of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Petersbrug, and many other battles and engagements in the east. He was wounded at Williamsburg, and at a battle at Frazier’s Farm he was taken prisoner in 1862. Philip was taken to Fort Delaware and later exchanged on August 31, 1862. In 1868, Mr. Franklin emigrated to Saline County, Missouri, where he was a druggist at Cambridge. In 1876 he moved his business to Marshall, Missouri. From 1876 to 1878, Mr. Franklin was the chairman of the Democratic Saline County Committee. In 1881, the Franklins had two children, Daisy C. and Philip H., Jr..

Walter L. and Maria C. Ayers, grandchildren of Mattias and Nancy, also lived and prospered in Saline County. Walter, the son of Walter Leake and Sarah Ayres, was born in Saline County February 17, 1849. In 1872, Walter Junior moved to Texas where he intended to make his home. In 1873, Walter returned to Cambridge, Saline County, and married Sarah Haynie April 4, 1879. In the following year on December 22, 1880, the Ayers first child (a son) was born. Walter and Maria Ayers raised corn, wheat, tobacco, oats, and fruit on their Cambridge farm. Before this, Walter had been a carpenter by trade, as had many of the Lands and Ayers men.

Maria C. Ayers married James E. Nickell of Saline County on June 5, 1879.

Mr. Nickell, who was born July 18, 1839, was the son of Carvile and Nancy Ann Nickell. During the Civil War, James fought in Missouri’s pro-South forces and enlisted in Company E., 1st Regiment, Missouri Calvary, Missouri State Guard. He fought at the battles of Prairie Grove, Newtonia, Cane Hill, Lexington, Cape Girardeau, Helana, Little Rock, Salina River, Mark’s Mill, Wilsons’ Creek, Corinth, Shiloh, Grenada, and other battles of the West and Trans-Mississippi. He was slightly wounded in the left wrist at Corinth and in the side at Cane Hill. Mr. Nickell surrendered to Union forces in May of 1865.

Like the Land family, the Ayers and their relatives thrived economically in Saline County, Missouri. In 1860, Nancy Ayers’ estates was valued at $28,905, which was a very large property value for the period. F. H. Gilliam reported $19,200 in property values. Benjamin F. Ayers reported owning $9,957, while Peter Ayers reported a more average value of $2,010. Slaves accounted for a large portion of Nancy’s, Gilliam’s, and Benjamin’s values. This slave ownership by both the Ayers and Land families follows the traditions of slave owners in Little Dixie, which on average were better off economically than their non-slave owning counterparts. Nancy Ayers owned 15 slaves and two slave houses while F. H. Gilliam owned two slaves and two slave houses (a 50 year old female and a 21 year old male). Benjamin Ayers owned 3 slaves and one slave house (a 40 yr. old female, 6 yr. old female, and a 2 yr. old female). No other Ayers family members reported the holding of bonded persons.

Ayers family births and deaths: Mattias Ayres was born August 31, 1781 and died in Saline County, May 8, 1857. Mr. Ayres married Miss Nancy Howell who was born in Buchanan County, Virginia, September 1, 1781. Nancy died in Saline County March 4, 1884. Other Ayers:


Nancy Howell - Ayers

Susan born February 22, 1815

Walter Leake born March 29, 1817

Sarah Meatilda born March 16, 1819, died September 6, 1855

Benjamin Franklin born February 16, 1821

Ann Elizabeth born November 23, 1822

Samuel Mattias born May 18, 1823, November 19, 1850

Mary Jane born January 15, 1827

Martha Judith Leake born May 8, 1828

John Howell born September 5, 1830, died September 17,


Isabella Hales born April 1, 1832, May 28, 1847

Peter Nathan born July 21, 1834

Catherine Virginia born March 19, 1836, died December 29,


Josephine Mearia Liouisa born November 2, 1838, died March 2, 1920


Written by Gary Gene Fuenfhausen, C. 2004




Mrs. Josephine M. L. Land family bible and papers. Owned by Gary Fuenfhausen.

History of Saline County, Missouri. St. Louis: Missouri Historical Company, 1881.

1840 Federal Census, Missouri

1850 Federal Census, Missouri

1860 Federal Census, Missouri

1860 Federal Slave Census, Missouri

History of Saline County, Missouri. 1967

Branded As Rebels. Eakin, Joanne Chiles, and Hale, Donald R., compl. by. 1993

“Early History of the Methodist Episcopal Church and of the Methodist Episcopal

Church, South, in Saline County, MO.” Missouri Historical Review, October

1911-July 1912, Vol. VI.

“The Division In Missouri Methodism In 1845”, by Hauser Winter. Missouri Historical

Review. October 1942-July 1943.

Agriculture and Slavery in Missouri’s Little Dixie, by R. Douglas Hurt. Columbia:

University of Missouri Press, 1992.

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 Copyright  2009

Research and Photographs by Gary Gene Fuenfhausen.  All published materials on this site are fully copy written and may not be used in any manner without the written consent of its owner.   

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