I often wonder what it was that attracted settlers to this
untamed wilderness soon after the Boones arrived in "Upper
Louisiana." Before there was a permanent settlement in what
is now Boone County, what brought David Gordon and others of
"Kentucky’s most enterprising and intellectual
settlers" to our area? What were the dangers? How did the
American Indians receive them?
Let me quote from Edwin Stephens’ "History of Boone
County" published in the 1876 Atlas of Boone County:
"Prior to the year of 1810 there are no authentic data
indicating that any permanent settlement of whites had been made
west of Cedar creek, and north of the Missouri River."
American Indians told an old hunter, the famous Daniel Boone, how
to locate a place where animals licked the brackish earth around
a saltwater spring. In 1806 Nathan and Daniel Morgan Boone come
from near St. Charles to locate that "lick" and they
returned the following year to manufacture salt. That saline
water is still oozing out of the ground, 12 miles above the
present site of Boonville, two miles from Boonslick.
Stephens said, "Hence originated the name Boonslick
Country which was, up to the year 1835, applied to all the
country west of Cedar creek, 140 miles, and north of the Missouri
River to the Indian domains."
Stephens then tells of three Cooper brothers, Benjamin,
Braxton and Sarshall, who came to the vicinity in 1808 from
Loutre Island, near present-day Hermann:
"They raised a crop of corn but were compelled by the
Indians to abandon the country and return to Loutre Island."
They came back in 1809 "with a company of 150 persons
embracing men, women and children and thus affected the first
permanent white settlement of the Boonslick Country. They
erected cabins and "enjoyed almost uninterrupted peace"
with the Indians, living on friendly terms with them.
But troubles began in the spring of 1812.
The British, then at war with the settlers, incited the
American Indians, providing them with arms and ammunition.
"The savages become bold and dangerous and the settlers
betook themselves to means of defence." On the north
side of the river, they erected three forts named Cooper,
Hempstead and Kincaid. Later, two other forts were Arnold’s
near Franklin and Head’s, located where the old Boonslick
Trail crossed the Moniteau Creek into Howard County.
Stephens wrote: "From this fort" Head’s,
near Rocheport "come many of the first settlers of
Boone County and many of our present citizens are descendants of
its inmates." For three years the war continued with the
"inmates" in great peril and depending on what they
could raise. Their condition was frequently "nigh on to
complete destruction." They succeeded, however, "by
vigilance, heroism and energy in raising bread for their families
... and lost not over 20 of their number at the hands of the
In 1814 the settlers appealed to William Clark, governor of
the territory, demanding aid. The following spring, 500 troops
under the command of Gen. Henry Dodge came to the rescue. All of
the settlers who were able to bear arms 112 under
Capt. Sarshall Cooper, along with the 500 soldiers,
"ascended the Missouri river, captured a tribe of Miami
Indians and thus ended the war."
"The forts were abandoned; the inmates, rejoiced at being
released from their long imprisonment, set themselves to work
with redoubled energy clearing the forests, and developing the
I must add a personal note: In searching for details about the
salt lick in Howard County I visited 20 years ago in Fayette,
with lovely Miss Toodie Cooper a white lace and black
velvet kind of genteel person the great-granddaughter of
I’ll tell more about these great pioneers, another