The pond bank is almost the highest point on our farm, and I sometimes walk
there at daybreak or in evenings when the first stars appear.
Our land touches the creek that pioneers called “Cedar River.” Boone and
Callaway Counties share Cedar Creek for many miles. I face north and know that
Route WW is a couple of miles beyond our trees. It’s quiet. I see and hear
nothing man-made. This is what the wilderness looked like when pioneers pushed
the frontier westward through here in the early 1800s.
Europeans found clear, flowing streams with fish and beaver, lush prairies
with fertile soil for crops that would feed their livestock and families.
Forests had logs for building homes and wild animals for food and clothing.
Pelts from skunks, raccoons, opossums and beaver were commodities for trading.
Wild turkeys, quail and white-tailed deer along with nuts, berries and wild
plants, meant food for their tables. Central Missouri was attractive.
Edwin Stephens, in Boone County’s first atlas, says, “It is, of course, ...
impossible to present a complete and accurate detail of the early history of
the section comprising Boone County,” And then he presents, “tolerably
clearly” some interesting facts gleaned from “old residenters, yet living.”
He said that ox-drawn wagons, with all of the families’ necessaries, passed
right on through this area in the years 1815-17. This was “merely a passway”
for most settlers who headed for the metropolis called Franklin whose soil,
resources and climate had a glowing reputation.”
Before Columbia “Three men stopped along the highway and erected cabins as
taverns.” William Callahan built near the creek that bears his name; he is
said to be the first resident of Boone County. About the same time, John
Graham built near the present site of Rocky Fork Church, and Robert Hinkson
lived near th~e ~~~source of the creek that bears his name.
Wagons followed the muddy, rambling tracks of Nathan and Daniel Morgan Boone,
who opened a salt factory at a spring beyond Franklin in 1807. Stephens called
those uncharted wagon tracks “this highway,” but it soon got the name of
Boonslick Trail, and most of Central Missouri was known as Boonslick Country.
A “lick” was where wild animals licked the brackish ground to get salt.
Stephens said that the savages became bold and dangerous during the three-year
War of 1812. “Settlers betook themselves to means of defense.” They erected
forts named Cooper, Hempsted and Kincaid on the north side of the river and
Cole on the south, in the area near where Boonville now stands.
Two smaller forts were Arnold’s near Franklin and Head’s Fort near Rocheport.
He said the “inmates’ condition was one of great peril and frequently nigh
unto absolute destruction.”
In 1814, they received help from government troops under the command of Gen.
Henry Dodge and, with 112 settlers under Capt. Sarshall Cooper, captured a
tribe of Miami Indians and thus ended the war. “The settlers lost not over
twenty of their number at the hands of the savages.”
The inmates, overjoyed at being released from their long imprisonment, set
themselves to work with redoubled energy, clearing the forests and developing
the country. In the spring of 1816, those at Head’s Fort settled on what was
later known as Thrall’s Prairie. They were “among of the best citizens of
that time, men who left their impress upon the history and development of our
On another Tuesday we’ll learn that other historians have reinforced the claim
of citizens, “a cut above the rest,” examine the causes Smithton’s early
demise and what life must have been like before Columbia was Columbia. Stay