Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Election Day calls to mind history of our hometown

This first full week in November 2000 is one of the most significant weeks in Columbia’s history.

I’ve lived more than 86 years in Boone County, east of Columbia’s city limits. Tomorrow, major decisions will be made for city, county, state and nation, so this would be an excellent time to break all records for numbers of voters going alone into those voting boxes to indicate their private wishes.

Many of Columbia’s residents have lived in other countries, and we must teach them how Americans make decisions.

That prompts me to condense our history into a nutshell, so we can remember - and respect - the obstacles our predecessors had to overcome to develop this metropolis out of a seemingly hopeless wilderness.

American Indians hunted and farmed in Boone County and moved when drought or fleas made life miserable. Women dismantled tepees and left the fleas - setting up elsewhere near a water source and good hunting.

Two hundred years ago, Europeans moved from east of the Mississippi River, also seeking water sources and hunting grounds. Most came from central Kentucky and built dirt-floor log cabins, raised livestock and tilled the soil to raise gardens and grain.

The first permanent settlement in what is now Boone County was about 190 years ago - by three Cooper families and a hundred others, counting children.

Morgan and Nathan Boone blazed a trail from near St. Charles to a salt "lick" where they boiled water to collect salt for their families and to ship some downriver to the St. Louis market. Other settlers followed their tracks in the wilderness and named the route Boone’s Lick Trail in Boonslick Country.

When the friendly Indians became belligerent, at the prodding of the British, the settlers took refuge, crowding into forts for two whole years, without adequate food or water. Many "inmates" died or were killed during that War of 1812. At war’s end the survivors came joyously out of the forts and diligently improved their farms to get on with their lives. The Indian threat was almost over after they signed a treaty in 1815 releasing claim to all land north of the river.

The trail was soon full of covered wagons pulled by oxen as more settlers pushed westward. Land was in demand, so the U.S. government opened a land office in 1818 in Franklin, a settlement on the Missouri River.

A cluster of five hastily built log cabins and a store and tavern called Smithton was on a hilltop overlooking the future location of Columbia. Newcomers didn’t build their homes there because of a water shortage.

Thirty-five "hard working, intelligent, wealthy settlers," said to be Kentucky’s best, formed The Smithton Company. The men bought thousands of acres of land for $4 to $6 an acre - many for themselves and some to resell for profit. They traded land of equal value to the Smithton settlers who took down their cabins and rebuilt them east of Flat Branch, a tributary of Hinkson Creek.

The company sold "in" lots of 11 acres - downtown- and "out" lots of 44 acres. The sellers planned and named the straight, parallel streets and made Broadway 100 feet wide so livestock shows and auctions could be held in the middle.

One wealthy settler dealt in fine horses and owned many slaves. These workers dug clay, formed bricks, burned them and built Columbia’s unique two-story brick mansion on his farm bordering Hinkson Creek.

Tomorrow voters will decide the future of that 111 acre farm and the slave cabin that remains.

Let’s all vote! You vote your way, I vote my way, and no one need ever know how we voted.

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