The pond bank is almost the highest point on our farm. I used to walk there at daybreak or in evenings when the first stars appeared.
Our land touches the creek that pioneers called "Cedar River." Boone and Callaway Counties share Cedar Creek for many miles. I face north and know that Route WW is a couple of miles beyond our trees. It's quiet. I see and hear nothing man-made. This is what the wilderness looked like when pioneers pushed the frontier westward through here in the early 1800s.
Europeans found clear, flowing streams with fish and beaver, lush prairies with fertile soil for crops that would feed their livestock and families. Forests had logs for building homes and wild animals for food and clothing. Pelts from skunks, raccoons, opossums and beaver were commodities for trading. Wild turkeys, quail and white-tailed deer along with nuts, berries and wild plants, meant food for their tables. Central Missouri was attractive.
Edwin Stephens, in Boone County's first atlas, said: "It is, of course ... impossible to present a complete and accurate detail of the early history of the section comprising Boone County," And then he presented "tolerably, clearly" some interesting facts gleaned from "old residenters, yet living." He said that ox-drawn wagons passed right on through this area in the years 1815-17. This was "merely a passway" for most settlers who headed for the metropolis called Franklin, whose soil, resources and climate had a glowing reputation.
Before Columbia, "three men stopped along the highway and erected cabins as taverns." William Callahan built near the creek that bears his name; he is said to be the first resident of Boone County. About the same time, John Graham built near the present site of Rocky Fork Church, and Robert Hinkson lived near the source of the creek that bears his name.
Wagons followed the muddy, rambling tracks of Nathan and Daniel Morgan Boone, who opened a salt factory at a spring beyond Franklin in 1807. Stephens called those uncharted wagon tracks "this highway," but it soon got the name of Boonslick Trail, and most of Central Missouri was known as Boonslick Country. A "lick" was where wild animals licked the brackish ground to get salt.
Stephens said that the savages became bold and dangerous during the three-year War of 1812. "Settlers betook themselves to means of defense." They erected forts named Cooper, Hempsted and Kincaid on the north side of the river and Cole on the south, in the area near where Boonville now stands.
Two smaller forts were Arnold's near Franklin and Head's Fort near Rocheport. He said the "inmates' condition was one of great peril and frequently nigh unto absolute destruction."
In 1814, they received help from government troops under the command of Gen. Henry Dodge and, with 112 settlers under Capt. Sarshall Cooper, captured a tribe of Miami Indians and thus ended the war.
The inmates, overjoyed at being released, set themselves to work with redoubled energy, clearing the forests and developing the country. In the spring of 1816, those at Head's Fort settled on what was later known as Thrall's Prairie. They were "among the best citizens of that time, men who left their impress upon the history and development of our county."