Thursday, November 26, 2015

Defending the Boone's Lick Country 1812 - 1815

During the last decade of the 1700's and the years just before the War of 1812 the furthest Westward settlements of the United States were in an area known then as the Boone's Lick country. Daniel Boone had pushed West along the Missouri River and discovered a salt spring near present day New Franklin, Missouri and established a salt mining operation. By about 1810 some 200-odd families had settled in the area mostly coming up out of Kentucky. One must remember the "settlement" spanned several present day counties in Mid Missouri along what was known then as the Boone's Lick trail which wound it's way North of the Missouri river where the Northern Plains meet the Ozark Highland geological features.

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!!!!!!


  1. Such an interesting post, and what a family lineage you have,...... which must make you very proud.

    1. Vera - I am lucky in that I happen to have the entire lineage documented from the time the first one got on the boat in Bristol in 1608 until today. The only question is where they originated from in Europe. There is some discrepancy between the names that got on the boat in that the father had one name and the son and mother had another. One was VERY French with no trace of it left there and the other is totally Irish that is easily traceable. It get's even more interesting that one proclaimed himself a Huguenot while the family ended up being Baptist by the middle 1700's. No explanation has ever been found for the connection.

  2. That reminds me of where I grew up in the valley of VA only the time period was the 1750s when they were building defensive structures. They would build a stone foundation and it would kind of be a cellar/first floor with stone slits from where they could shoot. The upper story was thick logs. I don't know any still visible but I did use maps and found the stone work of one scattered around. They were always near a good spring. By the 1760s there was a trained militia with neighborhood companies that were required to train and penalties if you didn't show up. There were not any big battles only a few quick raids as the Indians weren't stupid and could tell from scouting that this was not going to be a soft target so conflict was avoided for the most part. There never were Indians in that area so nobody stole their land as the modern myth would lead people to believe. The valley was kind of unsettled because the Indian tribes were at war with each other and this was a no man's land until whites moved in. You have to go back until maybe 1200AD to find any settlements. America before whites was not some place of peace and love with people who looked like hippies living happily together but instead a violent place recovering from the collapse of the previous great civilizations that were influenced by the civilizations from the south. Few understand that white settlers were encountering people who had gone through a collapse several hundred years before and had not recovered to the point of building great towns and small cities like what were here at one time. They had in fact encountered the survivors who were in tune with the environment and had been fighting each other for centuries. Collapse is a natural course for civilization but I amazingly don't think it could ever happen as we are so far advanced.

    1. I lost part of a sentence at the end some how, should say that I encounter people who amazingly....

    2. Sf - The forts here looked about the same although many didn't have time to quarry any stone. The one's close to the river bluffs and the Limestone deposits though had them. Pretty much those are all that remain of most of them although there are still some maps that show the old locations around.

      I think these people just don't understand how the Indians lived and just how few of them were really around. I am sorry but when you are a tribe the size of say the Potowotomie that can only field say 200 people and still try and claim a territory the size of Kentucky as your own you are going to have issues. There simply were not enough of them at any time in history to claim the land they wish they could. I for one think the Europeans were much better to them than any other example from history.

  3. That is neat that the school is still there. I have to admit I'm rather curious now to try some bear bacon and coon sausage...

    1. Lisa - One of the references said Bear meat and Coon Bacon too. Not sure how you make coon into bacon though :)

  4. I adore history, and my roots here are very shallow lol. Thank you for sharing!


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