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John Sikes  1816-1867

Founder of Sikeston, Missouri

     In early days, eastern Missouri was divided into five districts: New Madrid, Cape Girardeau, Ste. Genevieve, St. Louis and St. Charles.  The districts continued after the Louisiana Purchase was completed until the Territory of Missouri was organized by Congress on June 4, 1812.  One, of the early settlers was the Needham Sikes family who came from North Carolina to Tennessee, thence to Missouri in 1813, about a year and a half after the great New Madrid earthquakes.  The New Madrid earthquakes occurred from December 16, 1811 to February 7, 1812.

     John Sikes was born the 5th of April, 1816 to Needham and Mary Shields Sikes.  On January 14th, 1844 he married Catherine Stallcup Meyers, whose family owned the whole site of the present town of Sikeston.  In 1860, John Sikes stated in a land title: "I, John Sikes, am going to start me a town and I am going to call it the Town of Sikeston."

     During the War between the States, there were turbulent times throughout this area.  There was a band of outlaws, called guerillas, that roamed the country and made life miserable for the settlers.  During 1864, they came to the Sikes' store and tried to make John Sikes tell them where the family money and jewelry were buried.  He refused, so they hanged him to a big oak tree in front of the store.  Mrs. Sikes, who saw the whole thing, took one hundred dollars which was hidden in a sack of cotton on the porch and sent it over to them by a Negro girl.  Mr. Sikes had turned quite black in the face, but they cut him down and he recovered.  (From that time on, he grew a beard to cover the rope burns on his neck and kept his face clean shaven.)  The Confederate and Federal soldiers both were after the guerillas, but somehow were never able to catch them.

     About a week later the Sikes' house was burned in the night, the family being unaware of it until the structure was falling in.  Mr. Frank Boyce, a nephew of Mr. Sikes, ran in and picked up a big featherbed.  When he laid it down on the ground, two little girls rolled out of it.  One of them was the mother of Audrey Chaney, Mary Catherine "Kate" Brown, and the other, Ella May Brown, her sister.  Their mother, Lydia Stallcup Brown, Mrs. Sikes' sister, died in 1863, and Mrs. Sikes had taken the two little girls to raise. 
Conditions continued so unsettled throughout the area that Mr. and Mrs. Sikes and family went to St. Louis and stayed until the war was over.

     In 1867, a man named William Maulsby came in from the country, got drunk, and  created a disturbance.  Mr. Sikes, knowing him well, took him out to his horse which was tied to a hitch, handed him his shotgun, and advised him to go home.  As Mr. Sikes turned to go back into the store, Mr. Maulsby shot him in the back.  John Sikes lived about three days, and died on December 23rd, 1867.

     He was buried in a coffin with a glass window so that his face could be viewed.  Over time, his gravesite eroded, and his coffin could be seen, and was vandalized by young boys throwing rocks at the glass window.  Family members had John and Catherine moved to City Cemetery, and erected a large tombstone, where they now reside in a place of honor. 

This information on John Sikes is taken from A History of Sikeston written by Audrey Chaney, and submitted by family member Cay Sikes,

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