Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Before there was Columbia, there were stumps and a tavern

It was a poor location because it lacked one essential item - water! They dug deep wells, three of them, and gave up because groundwater wouldn’t flow uphill! That unsuccessful location, named Smithton, was dismantled and traded to developers for land down the hill, where "living water" was available. The future town depended on whether Missouri would be accepted as a slave state. Finally, it was! Columbia would be the new name.

Newcomers were eager to live in this proposed town, which had wide streets, space reserved for stores, schools and government, and a wide central street called "Broad Way." Broadway was made unusually wide to accommodate crowds for political meetings, farm sales and even horse shows and races. The new town was called Columbia.

Women no longer had to carry buckets of water up that steep hill. Wealthy Kentucky landowners waited around for the outcome of Missouri’s request to become a slave state. If slavery was approved, slaves could make bricks and build Columbia’s first real houses.

Some residents who came with Daniel Boone’s party built cabins within shouting distance of each other, not far from where they crossed the Mississippi River near St. Louis. Others were leery because they lacked knowledge of their new neighbors, American Indians. Forests of tree stumps remained where cabins sprang up quickly.

Kentucky buyers dragged their feet about buying land, waiting to see whether Missouri would be a slave state. Finally, it was approved! Slave owners bought land and rushed back to Kentucky to bring their families, possessions, farm animals, farming equipment and slaves.

Fields were spotted by stumps where cabin lumber had been cut. Stumps were still difficult to eradicate in my time! I am rural from birth and enjoy historian William Switzler’s comments about early days. For example: "School benches were made from trunks of trees, split down the middle and each half forming a bench providing a seat of torture to children doomed to sit with their feet dangling in space with no rest for the arms or back."

A section of Switzler’s book is devoted to personal reports of Boone County merchants and soldiers, including my grandfather, James Lawrence Henry. Grandpa Henry was a native New Yorker who ran away from wealth to seek his fortune. In Missouri, he worked in milling, was co-owner of a combination grist and lumber mill, and then superintendent of a livery stable. In Boone County, he drove the stagecoach between Columbia and Sturgeon. He owned a steam sawmill near Centralia and moved it to Columbia’s Hinkson Creek.

Readers might want to visit the Boone County Historical Society on Ponderosa Street to trace relatives in Switzler’s history of our Boone County. The historical society has played an important role in preserving the history of the Boones and other early residents. Don’t miss its displays and library.


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