Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Coopers led pioneers far west into hostile territory

In February 1804, Ira Nash, eccentric genius and U.S. government surveyor, Stephen Hancock and Stephen Jackson were "the first men to put their feet upon this sacred soil," which we now call Boone County.

They came up the Missouri River in February, surveyed, hunted, fished, built a cabin and departed in March. While on a hunting trip in 1805, Daniel Morgan Boone, son of the famous old woodsman, located a "spring" of salty water - oozing from the ground - more than 100 miles west of the Boone family’s settlement in the St. Louis/St. Charles area.

A saltwater spring was a great find for pioneers; salt is essential in our diets, and it improves the flavors of wild meat and cornmeal mush.

Animals also need - crave - salt; they licked the brackish earth where salt accumulated as the water seeped away from saline springs. Obviously, that’s a good place to hunt game. Deer, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits and waterfowl provided meat for frontier tables upon which there was almost nothing besides meat and mush!

In November 1806, Morgan Boone and his younger brother Nathan, sons of 71-year-old Daniel, started a salt "factory" at those salt springs far from home. They boiled water in iron kettles, dried the remaining sludge in the sun, then used the precious salt to flavor food, tan deer hides for clothing, make jerky and preserve foods; sometimes salt was even sold for cash.

The Boone brothers’ wagon tracks across the state - once a mere Indian "trace" - became a cross-state route known as the Boone’s Lick Trail, and Central Missouri was known as Boonslick Country. But there was still no settlement of Caucasian people west of Cedar Creek and north of the Missouri River.

In 1808, the three Cooper brothers - Benjamin, Braxton and Sarshell - explored farther west. They planted a corn crop and built a log cabin about two miles southwest of the Boones’ salt factory. The Coopers planned to bring the Loutre Island settlers there, but territorial Governor Meriwether Lewis directed the Coopers to leave because they were too far west to have government protection from the natives. Two years later, the three Coopers came back, bringing the Loutre Island families with them! Benjamin Cooper’s cabin stood unharmed, although Indians occupied all the adjacent country.

As planned, the newcomers built other cabins in a line with Cooper’s, thus creating a protective stockade - fort - by driving 10-foot-long stakes into the ground endwise, between cabins. Cabin doors and window holes faced inward. There was only one opening for the entrance and exit of the stockade. It was as protective as was as possible. Widow Hannah Cole, with her nine children, and the Stephen Coles had built across the river when they arrived from Loutre Island.

In 1812, except for an occasional bear or panther, the settler’s life was one of peace and quiet. His livestock found lush grazing in summer and winter. Family names of newcomers who also went south of the river and built a stockade were: Jolly, Darnell, Ruse, Box, Olin, Savage and Burgess.

A few months after the fort was completed, about 400 natives appeared when most of the men were hunting. Two men, Smith and Savage, were pursued by the Indians. Smith was killed, but Savage, shot at 25 times, was not wounded.

Next Monday, I’ll continue to share facts written in 1876 by Henry C. Levens and N.M. Drake.

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