Why is this important enough for me to mention it on a homesteading/sustaining blog you might ask? Well because of the circumstances that those early settlers had to face especially during the War of 1812 situated on the furthest Western frontier as they were. The situation was grim and desperate to say the least. The governor of the territory at the time suggested the settlers of the area abandon their homesteads and retreat to the relative safety of St. Louis. To which the earliest military commander of the area at the time, Col. Cooper replied.
“We have made our homes here and all we have is here and it would ruin us to leave now. We be all good Americans, not a Tory or one of his Pups among us, and we have 2 hundred Man and Boys that will fight to the last and have 100 Women and Girls that will take their places with. Makes a good force So we can defend the settlement. With God’s Help we will do.”
What were these early settlers facing? Well the British were stirring up as many of the Indian tribes as possible to attack the frontier. Also Tecumseh and his brother Tenskawatawa were uniting the various tribes from the Great Lakes down into the Texas area into a confederation to attack all along the frontier area and it was a good bet the Boone's Lick settlements would be top on their target list.
Basically these early settlers were spaced few and far between, likely to be attacked by raiders and no hope of any official military help. In fact several hundred of their own had already been taken into Federal service and formed into a couple of Ranger companies and were being used in the North in present day Wisconsin.
How did these early settlers adapt and defend their homes? Well they built small forts literally everywhere. From single family strongholds to multiple family forts. There are many old maps that show the locations of these small family frontier forts dotting the countryside. If you go there today in most cases nothing remains but some few will still show tooled stones strewn around.
Samuel McMahan from Arrow Rock reminisced about the family forts of the era.
“The forts were simply strong log houses, with a projecting upper story, and with loop holes for musketry.” Some of these family forts had stockades while others did not. The larger forts, such as Coopers Fort and Fort Hempstead probably fit the vision we normally have of forts stockade pickets and a blockhouse at one or more corners of the fort.
As it turned out the massed Indian raids did in fact come to the area only a bit later than feared which gave the US government and the local settlers a bit of a false feeling of security. Yet when the attacks did come these small forts proved invaluable to defending the area.
I have the honor of being a direct descendant of one of these early families which originally settled on a piece of land not but about five miles from the Small-Hold today. All that remains of the old settlement, which still bears my surname, is a one room school house that was restored as it is now on national park land and a small creek that empties out into Cedar creek which was later to become the Western boundary between the Boone's Lick and St. Charles counties. The settlement was excavated at some point and the foundations of the old family fort and houses within were marked but that's about it.
Still these simple fortifications did their job. Many families around here today can attest to that as the names are still here. The provision rolls of that time period mentioned "Bear Bacon and Coon sausage" as staples after the period of the great raids because all the stock had been killed and the fields burned but a few simple fortifications and the will to defend your own won out.
Something to keep in mind as Thanksgiving day comes to a close.
Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!