Early in grade school, we memorized the date of the Louisiana Purchase - 1803, remember? The Daniel Boones and others moved their families, livestock and possessions before 1803 from Kentucky to upper Louisiana. The century was new when the Boones arrived in what would later be called Missouri. It was 1800! The famous woodsman was 65 years old, and his beloved Becky was past 60. Their log cabins had dirt floors, window holes with no glass, candles and open fireplaces for night lights and reading, and parched corn for dessert. Daniel and Rebecca Bryan Boone never owned a home with a floor.
The three-story, blue limestone mansion near St. Louis and St. Charles - which today is often open for visitors for a fee - was never owned by Daniel and Rebecca Bryan Boone, as is implied. It was for their son’s large family. Nathan and Olive Van Bibber Boone had two boys and 11 girls! The elder Boones helped design and build the structure, but it was never theirs. Daniel Boone sometimes helped a little with the work during the seven years required for its construction.
When they lived in Kentucky, Daniel and Becky taught their boys how to locate salt springs and how to boil the water to make salt at Blue Licks. Salt was essential not only in their diets and for the diets of horses, cows, and dogs - all animals - but also was needed for preserving foods; tanning hides; and making deer meat jerky, winter’s cabbage sauerkraut and seasoning for bland corn meal mush.
Mush often was the only grain pioneers had on their dining tables in winter. Historically, salt was even used for money!
Where salty water has been "oozing" out of the ground for centuries, the water either evaporates, seeps into the ground or runs off, leaving salty, "brackish" earth. American Indians learned where salt springs were by carefully following wild animals when they went to lick the earth at these salt springs.
A great way to locate deer - for food, pants, coats and moccasins - was to hide and wait near the place where animals came to lick salt. A "lick" was a good place for hunters to get meat for their tables and hides for clothing, moccasins, raccoon caps, etc.
Morgan Boone, unmarried and free to travel, hunted for four years before Daniel and Rebecca Boone moved from Kentucky to what is now called Missouri.
Friendly natives told Morgan where to find a particular salt lick that was adjacent to the Missouri River. The brothers knew it would be a good location for loading dry salt, for shipping and for receiving supplies on the return trips.
In 1805, Morgan and Nathan visited this special salt spring near the Missouri River. Although it was far from home, they made plans to come back with helpers, tools, kettles, guns and other necessities.
They had 12 huge iron kettles made for the "furnace" and employed men named Morrison to go with them to cut trees, saw and split wood from the adjoining forest, and set up shelters of various split wood to protect the salt from inclement weather. It would be many months before they could actually boil and collect enough dry salt to need shipping containers to send salt to the market in St. Louis.
Special note: I’ll have to use some imagination to tell you how to make salt in the next part of the story. My special interest in these salt makers is because I have made pottery replicas of this "salt factory" with local clay. Also, I am a sixth-generation niece of Rebecca Bryan Boone, the mother of Nathan and Daniel Morgan Boone, the salt makers.