Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

If pioneer men had itchy feet, the women packed to move

Imagine that you are heading into an unknown wilderness with half a dozen oxen pulling your covered wagon; you’re hauling everything you own, and you’ll walk a lot because the road is just a bumpy "trace" or "trail." It follows the wagon tracks made by Daniel Morgan and Nathan Boone, sons of Daniel and Rebecca Boone. They hauled huge iron kettles 100 miles west of their homes near St. Louis to a wilderness where salt water oozed from the ground. That was not far from the present location of Arrow Rock.

The 65-year-old Boone had taught the boys to make salt at the Blue Licks when they all lived in Kentucky. For this Missouri enterprise, they explored and found a salt spring farther west than any settlement of white pioneers at that time. They operated what they called a "salt factory" at favorable times of the year.

We know stories about our pioneer men, but history leaves most of the women with the short entries we find in our family Bibles: born, married, names and birth dates of children, and perhaps the dates and places of burials. But when the men wanted to go deeper into the wilderness, the women knew to pack up again and go along. It was a rugged life for women and children, but it was the only life they knew.

Things were difficult for brave Hannah Cole. American Indians had killed her husband, leaving her with nine children. Cole and her family traveled with a large group of pioneers who built their stockade homes - called forts - on the north side of the Missouri River. They had lush pastures during summer and winter and fertile soil for gardens and crops. They were 2? miles southwest of the salt factory that operated part time.

Hannah Cole and the Stephen Cole family elected to cross the river by pirogue, which is a handmade canoe. They also found fertile river soil and hoped to find fewer Indians. Their cabins were east of present-day Boonville, in separate locations.

The natives were relatively quiet on both sides of the river until Dec. 14, l914. Samuel McMahan and others were cutting a bee tree north of the river to get honey. A band of Indians attacked McMahan on his way home. They first shot and killed his horse and then attacked and brutally killed McMahan himself. Not satisfied, they mutilated the body and left three spears sticking in his back. James Cole helped take McMahan’s body to his home. Knowing that vengeance would be fierce, the Indians scattered and disappeared.

The "History of Cooper County" refers to Samuel Cole as Capt. Samuel Cole, the first resident of the very area on which the town of Boonville is presently situated.

As the population grew, Hannah Cole’s cabin was in demand for public gatherings. After the end of the War of 1812, about 1816 that is, the population near the Coles’ cabins south of the Missouri River exploded as it had done near the salt factory north of the river. As more and more settlers arrived, Hannah Cole allowed her cabin to serve as a gathering place. It served as the first courthouse when Howard County was organized. It was situated at the top of a long, sloping hill southeast of present-day Boonville. Hannah Cole is one of the most widely admired women of the early development of this nation.

The flattering reports of rich soil in an almost unsettled area with a healthful climate spread far and wide. A flood of newcomers had pulled up stakes elsewhere and moved south of the Missouri River. The population by 1828 was 7,000, and it was more than 17,000 by 1860!


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