Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Settlers pull through war with American Indians

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 savages."

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 country."

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 Capt. Cooper.

I’ll tell more about these great pioneers, another Tuesday.

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