Before 1815, prowling bands of American Indians harassed European intruders here in what was then Upper Louisiana. It would later be called Boone County, Mo. In 1815, the Indians released claims to land north of the Missouri River. The wagon-track highways were crowded with covered prairie schooner homes and people pulling two-wheel carts; livestock walked along behind. Gradually log cabin taverns were built at creek crossings to accommodate travelers. People were attracted to the climate, the fertile land, abundant water and forests with wild game. Franklin, on the Missouri River, was the "metropolis in the wilderness."
In 1818, President Thomas Jefferson located a U.S. Government Land Office in Franklin, and the fertile farmland attracted intelligent, well-educated, wealthy immigrants. For about 10 years, Franklin - now referred to as Old Franklin - experienced a population explosion. The town boasted schools, churches, a jail, educational institutions, a library, a tobacco "factory," five stores, three taverns and a printing office with a newspaper. However, in 1828, "the treacherous river swept most of it away!" Of course they built New Franklin up on a hill.
Earlier, all of Central Missouri became known as Boone’s Lick Country. Nathan and Morgan produced salt where slightly salty water continuously oozed out of the ground. Duing the four years they produced salt, Daniel Boone’s sons made many overland trips from their homes near St. Charles, 140 miles to the east.
Immigrants followed the Boone boys’ wagon tracks as Missouri’s "Boone’s Lick Trail" as this "highway" moved traffic headed farther west to Santa Fe, Oregon and most of the other trails west. It’s well established that Daniel Boone never visited Boone County. He might have hunted along the river, but he was a 65-year-old man when he left Kentucky.
There was no Missouri, no Boone County and no Columbia when the Boone’s Lick Trail bypassed Columbia in 1806 as the Boone boys picked their way through the wilderness toward the salt lick. There wasn’t even Smithton, which was a cluster of five houses and Gentry’s "home, store, tavern and house of entertainment." With no more than 20 residents, Smithton families could not get "living" water - water from the ground that just kept flowing into pits called "springs." The hilltop site was abandoned. There was abundant water on both sides of Flat Branch, a tributaryof Hinkson Creek.
Trading their homesites on the hill for sites of equal value with adequate water, Smithton’s residents moved to the newly platted area called "Columbia." In September 1820, the county was named Boone, honoring Daniel, whose death was announced as they met to choose a county name. Missouri was accepted as a state the next year, l821.
Rocheport - Roche Percee - was platted in 1825 at the site of John Graham’s ferry crossing and near Head’s Fort, from which many Columbia residents came. The government gave land to victims of the New Madrid earthquake in southeastern Missouri; 20 families accepted and moved to farms near Rocheport.
Ashland, founded in 1853, is known for its Civil War story of "the battle that never happened." Troops of both armies were camped nearby, ready for the fight. At daylight, commanders recognized each other - they were friends who had previously agreed to avoid battle. They reversed direction and were punished for it.
Centralia, established in 1857, was an undeveloped spot of flat land that happened to be the central point on a proposed railroad line from St. Louis to Ottumwa, Iowa. Centralia is in the northeast part of Boone County, and it is known as a progressive community.