In 1818, David Gordon and one of his sons, James, came from Kentucky to our area to determine whether the soil was fertile, whether there was suitable clay for making bricks and whether the price was right. Good farmland here was selling for $4 an acre at the U.S. Government Land Office in Franklin.
Gordon bought many acres a few miles east of Smithton; then father and son built a cabin on a beautiful hill near where Columbia eventually would be located.
Gordon returned to Kentucky to get ready to move "if Missouri is accepted as a slave state." It was. The wealthy Gordons owned 26 workers and eventually had 14 children, mostly sons who became lawyers. Historian John Crighton noted that slavery in Boone County was compatible with "the Christian religion and the principles of democracy."
Almost 200 years ago, the Gordons and their 26 "helpers" moved to near our infant town, Columbia. Their farm remained in the family for 103 years before Stephens College bought it.
Early residents called the David Gordon mansion "a sentinel guarding Columbia’s eastern portal." This first brick building and first two-story house towered over crude cabins and a forest of tree stumps!
When I was about 9 years old, we four Meyerses attended a big celebration on what was then called Evans’ Pasture. It belonged to Gordon’s daughter, whose generosity was equal to that of her parents. Dad gave me a whole half-dollar to spend at that Fourth of July picnic. I also was permitted to race around the grounds with Marjorie; by holding hands, neither of us could get lost. Red, white and blue bunting was draped over the raised platform where men were making speeches, wiping sweat and whispering together in small groups. Women fanned themselves and their sleeping babies as they enjoyed the shade of huge trees; they paid no attention to the speakers.
The decision was favorable for Missouri to be pro-slavery; therefore, Gordon and those "purchased workmen" came from Kentucky to the farm to dig brick clay, build brick kilns, shape local clay into bricks, dry the bricks and burn them in the kilns. They later burned white limestone rocks to make plaster for the 14-room home they built on the hill overlooking Hinkson Creek and the pastures of several other farms.
Today is the first day of March 2004. In November 2000, Columbia voters approved a five-year, quarter-cent sales tax to fund the purchase of 111 acres of green space from Stephens College. The Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation developed a master plan, which was approved by the city council.
Parts of the park are expected to be ready for use this summer. When it’s completed, it is expected to have approximately 300 parking spaces, a 10-acre lake, two miles of trails, a swimming beach, an outdoor amphitheater, a sledding hill, fish and so much more.
The "Percent For Art Project" for Stephens Lake Park is ready to receive proposals - through March 30 - for major artwork by Missouri residents only. The budget for site-specific public art for Stephens Lake Park is $18,500. That amount must include all artist fees, materials, fabrication, shipping, installation, etc. For more information, call Marie Nau Hunter, (573) 874-7512; e-mail [email protected]; or write Office of Cultural Affairs, 13 N. Eighth St., Columbia, Mo., 65201.
It is my sincere wish that Gordon’s Cabin will be cared for in its present place, will be known as Gordon’s Cabin and will age naturally as most cabins do. Dismantling and rebuilding would destroy its authenticity and end its life!