Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

‘Kentucky’s best’ started settlement of Columbia

In my last three columns I’ve attempted to describe the transition of our wilderness into a planned community by concerned, ambitious citizens working together on the frontier. A time line of events may help us put local history into perspective:

Before 1800 — In Kentucky, Daniel Boone taught his sons to boil saline water to make salt. American Indians hunted and farmed in our area, moving frequently.

1700-1800 — Many of "Kentucky’s best" followed the Boones to "Upper Louisiana" stopping near present day St. Charles.

1803 — Young Nathan Boone started building a three-story, "blue limestone" mansion with his father’s help. Sixty-eight year-old Daniel Boone and his wife, Rebecca, lived out their lives in a dirt-floor cabin near Nathan and Olive.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark began their long exploration for President Thomas Jefferson.

1804 or 1805 — When on a long hunt, friendly American Indians told Daniel Boone the location of a spring where animals licked the ground to get salt.

1806 — Nathan and D. Morgan Boone went 150 miles west, located the spring and planned how they’d manufacture salt there; they continued the mansion project.

1807 — Nathan and Morgan, with three helpers, returned with 12 iron kettles and loads of tools and supplies, and began to make salt, dry it and ship it by keel boat to St. Louis. There was no settlement in what would become Boone County. Missouri would become a state 14 years later.

1808 — Nathan and Morgan Boone expanded the salt "factory" bringing square iron kettles made with rounded bottoms, providing more rapid evaporation.

1809 — Benjamin, Braxton and Sarshall Cooper planted a corn crop near, but were driven back by hostile American Indians.

1810 — Cooper returned and established the first settlement, numbering 150 people. Nathan Boone and his helpers completed the first three-story limestone mansion west of the Mississippi River.

1811 — The Boones sold the salt works. Indians and settlers enjoyed two years of peaceful coexistence in "Upper Louisiana."

1812 — Earthquake tragedy in southeast Missouri; President Jefferson offered free land near Rocheport; 20 families moved, others came later. War! Britain incited the American Indians and provided arms and ammunition to fight the Europeans. Settlers sought protection in forts; their lives were in danger for more than two years.

1815 — End of War of 1812; "Kentucky’s best," mostly from Head’s Fort north of Rocheport, peacefully worked to improve their farms and homes. American Indians released all claims north of the Missouri River.

1816-18 — Many Kentucky wagons bypassed our area to settle in or near Franklin. The river town had churches, schools, a factory, a newspaper, a jail and more.

1818 — U.S. government sold land for $4 to $6 per acre. Thirty-five enterprising men bought more than 2700 acres to use or resell. A cluster of five or six log cabins called Smithton overlooked Flat Branch and what would later be Columbia’s business district. Many new families wanted to settle there.

1819-20 — Water wells at Smithton, north of today’s Grant School, did not supply enough water. Residents became discontented. "Smithton Company" planned and mapped a city down the hill where abundant water was available, calling it "Columbia." Many wagons arrived. Sellers traded for hilltop lots of equal value.

1821 — Smithton residents dismantled their cabins and moved them to Columbia. Much farmland was sold throughout the area.

1823 — Booneslick Trail was rerouted to bring wagons down Columbia’s Broadway. David Gordon’s two-story brick home was built with hand-formed bricks and homemade plaster — the first of its kind. Standing in the midst of crude log cabins and forests to be cleared, it was called "a sentinel guarding Columbia’s eastern portal."

1999 — A hundred and seventy-six years later, "Gordon Manor’s ruins guard Columbia’s eastern portal."

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