National Historical Company, St. Louis  1883

Play:  Across the Wide Missouri

In 1807, Nathan and Daniel M. Boone, sons of old Daniel Boone, who lived with their father in what is now St. Charles county, about 25 miles west of the city of St. Charles, on the Femme Osage Creek, came up the Missouri River and manufactured salt at Boone’s Lick,  in Howard County.  After they had manufactured a considerable amount, they shipped it down the river to St. Louis, where they sold it.  It is thought by many that this was the first instance of salt being manufactured in what was at that time a part of the territory of Louisiana, now the state of Missouri.  Though soon after, salt was manufactured in large quantities – “salt licks” being discovered in many parts of the state.  Although these were the first white persons who remained for any length of time in the Boone’s Lick country, they were not permanent settlers, as they only came to make salt, and left as soon as they had finished.

                                               Click on  Daniel Boone                                                      Boon's Lick

But in 1808, in the spring, one adventurous spirit determined to forsake what happened to him to be the too thickly settled portion of the state, and move farther west to the more pleasant solitudes of the uninhabited forest.  In the spring of that year, Colonel Benjamin Cooper and his family, consisting of his wife and five sons, moved to the Boone’s Lick country, and located in what is now Howard County, about two miles southwest of Boone’s Lick, in the Missouri river bottom.   Here he built him a cabin, cleared a piece of ground, and commenced arrangements to make a permanent settlement at that place.  But he was not permitted to remain long at this new home.  Governor Meriwether Lewis, at that time governor of the territory, issued an order directing him to return below the mouth of the Gasconade River, as he was so far advanced into the Indian country, and so far away from protection, that in case of an Indian war he would be unable to protect him.  So he returned to Loutre Island, about four miles south of the Gasconade River, where he remained until the year 1810.

Two years after the settlement of Benjamin Cooper and his removal to Loutre Island, the first lasting settlement was make in the Boone’s Lick country, and this party was but the forerunner of many others, who soon followed, and in little more than one-half of a century, have thickly settled one of the richest and most attractive parts of the state of Missouri.

When the settlers first came to this county, wild game of all kinds was very abundant, and so tame as not to be easily frightened at the approach of white men.  This game furnished the settlers with all their meat, and, in fact, with all the provisions they used, for most of the time, they had but little else than meat.  There were large numbers of deer, turkeys, elk, and other large animals, and, to use the expression of an old settler, “they could be killed as easily as sheep are now killed in our pastures.”  They settlers spent most of their time in hunting and fishing, as it was no use to plant crops to be destroyed by wild game.  Small game, such as squirrels, rabbits, partridges, etc., swarmed around the homes of the frontiersmen in such numbers that when they did attempt to raise a crop of any kind, in order to save a part of it, they were forced to kill them in large numbers.

Not only were the settlers and their families thus well provided with food by nature, but also their animals were furnished with everything necessary to their well being.  The range was so good during the whole year, that their stock lived without being fed by their owners.  Even when the ground was covered with snow, the animals, taught by instinct, would in a few minutes paw from under the snow enough grass to last them all day.  Their only use of corn, of which they planted very little, was to make bread, and bread made of corn was the only kind they ever had.

During the two succeeding years (1811 and 1812), quite a number of emigrants had taken up their line of march for the Boone’s Lick country.  Many of these included families of wealth, culture, and refinement, who left their well furnished homes and life-long friends in the east, to take up their abode among the savages and wild beasts of the western wilderness.  Scarcely, however, had they reached their destination, when they heard the dim mutterings which foreshadowed a long and bloody conflict with the Indians, who had been induced by the emissaries of the British government to unite with Great Britain in her attempt to defeat the United States of America.

Being fully convinced that the Indians were making preparations to attack the settlements along the Missouri River, they determined to be ready to receive them properly when they did appear, and this end, began the erection of three forts in Howard County, bearing the names respectively, of Fort Cooper, Fort Hempstead, and Fort Kincaid… Each fort was a series of log houses, built together around and enclosure.  In each house lived a family, and the stock was corralled, and the property of the settlers secured at night in the enclosure.  There were other smaller forts, but the above were the most important.  Immediately after the erection of these forts, the pioneers organized themselves into a military company, with Sarshall Cooper as captain; first lieutenant, William McMahon; second lieutenant, John Monroe; ensign, Benjamin Cooper, Jr.

Fort Cooper included, among others:  Benjamin, Sarshall, Frank, William, David, John, Braxton, Joseph, Stephen, Robert, Henry and Patrick Cooper, Joseph, William, and William Wolfskill, Jr.  Fort Hempstead:  William Monroe (called Long Gun), Big, John, and William Berry, Andrew, Moses and Lindsay Carson (father of Kit Carson), and Braxton Cooper, Jr.   Fort Kincaid:  Amos, Jesse, and Otho Ashcroft, David and Henry Burris, and David and Matthew Kincaid, et al.

Excerpts taken from The History of Howard and Cooper Counties, Nat’l Historical Co. 1883

In 1792 the tax rolls of Madison County, Kentucky showed the following families, among others, residing there:  Josiah Boon, George, John, Jonathan, Squire (Daniel Boone’s father), and Squire Boone, Jr., Benjamin, Braxton, Francis and Sarshall Cooper, John, Lindsay (Kit Carson’s father), and Robert Carson, Charles Burris, Robert, William, John, David and James Kincaid, George, Joseph and William Wolfskill. 

Fort Boonesborough,  Kentucky



Rumors of impending war with England filtered into the wilderness late in 1811, bringing misgivings.

Governor Benjamin Howard sent a messenger from St. Louis to Boon’s Lick advising settlers to move east for protection.  Captain Sarshall 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 200 men and boys that will fight to the last and we have 100 women and girls that will take there places, which makes a good force.  So we can defend this settlement, which with God’s help we will do.  So if we had few barrels of powder and 200 lead is all we ask.”

In 1810 Kentuckians predominated among the men living north of the (Missouri) river, most with families.  A count of noses revealed:

From Madison County, Kentucky

Benjamin, Francis, William, Daniel, John, Sarshall, Braxton, Joseph, Stephen, and Robert Cooper and Braxton Cooper, Jr., James and Albert Hancock, William and John Berry, Robert Irvine, Robert Brown, Joseph and William Wolfskill, William, John, Josiah and James Thorpe, Gillard Roupe, James Jones, John Peak and Adam Woods.

William Wolfskill

When the Indians became morose and restless the settlers built strongholds.  Stephen Cole’s Fort, built in 1812, was located east of the site of Boonville on a river bluff…  Forts Cooper, Hempstead, and Kincaid were reared in the Boon’s Lick neighborhood. 

A company of 112 rangers was formed, commanded by Sarshall Cooper.  The rangers were as colorful and daring in their day as the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American war.  Captain Cooper’s muster roll included not only all the Cooper men but also Lindsay Carson, father of Kit Carson, the western scout.

Captain Sarshall Cooper did not overestimate his rangers.  During three years of war the Indians failed in every major offensive.  Thrice they descended stealthily with from 300 to 500 braves but never surprised the settlements.  They were promptly repulsed by effective fire from the long hunting rifles of the frontiersmen, many of whom could hit a squirrel’s eye at 100 yards.

At the first sign of trouble in 1812 settlers on both sides of the river abandoned their meager farm operations and “forted up”.  Hunters brought in ample game, and scouts the latest information.

The Indians proceeded to steal horses, drive off cattle and murder settlers caught off guard.  The first victims were Jonathan Todd and Thomas Smith of the settlement north of the river.  While hunting stray horses on Thrall’s Prairie near the present line between Boone and Howard counties, they were attacked by 200 Sac and Foxes.

They gave a good account of themselves and sold their lives dearly.  Firing effectively during a mile retreat, they gave the savages a fore-taste of what war against the white man would mean.  They killed four or six Indians.  Reports vary.  Then they were killed near each other.

The Indians scalped them, cut off their heads and stuck them on poles beside the trail.  Rangers who brought in the bodies captured a spying Indian.  While they were taking him to Kincaid for questioning he broke away and unable to overtake him, they shot, killing him instantly.

The murders of Todd and Smith whetted the Sac and Fox thirst for blood but they felt unequal to attacking the populous forts north of the river.  So they crossed the Missouri toward Cole’s fort.  The bad news had reached the south settlement and James Cole and James Davis were out investigating. 

The rampant, yet crafty braves cut off their return.  Silently, that the Cole garrison might not know, the tribesmen bore down from the west.  A marathon of 25 miles ensued with the pursuers sometimes within range.  At dusk the pair gained Johnson’s “factory,” a deserted trading post 200 yards from the mouth of Moniteau Creek, in what is now Moniteau County.  The Indians surrounded the factory but deferred attack.  Cole and Davis removed a floor plank, found a canoe and floated downstream.

Entering the river, an unlucky stroke of the paddle betrayed them.  Hiding in thickets along the south bank, they crept west, and with daylight made a run for it.  Close pressed near Big Lick, they turned, fired and each killed and Indian.  Their fire was returned without effect. They reached the fort safely.  The Indians skulked about for two days but did not attack. 

Shortly thereafter, however, 400 Indians suddenly appeared in a wide semi-circle along the forest’s fringe beyond Stephen Cole’s fort.  Two parties of hunters were absent from the garrison.  When a pair named Smith and Savage returned they were pursued and attacked.  In the first fire Smith was mortally wounded.  He staggered to within fifty yards of the refuge.  Then two more shots dropped him.  Handing Savage his gun he gasped, “Save yourself; I’m done.” 

Through a hail of bullets Savage gained safety.  The Indians scalped Smith, mutilated his body and danced and yelled while the settlers peered from behind their wooded enclosure.  The warriors waved the gory scalp.  Samuel Cole, 11, begged his mother to let him shoot.  Hannah refused, saying that since the fort was not fired on it would be folly to invite attack with some defenders absent.  The Indians finally withdrew.  That night the other hunters slipped home. 

Black Hawk, the former running mate of Samuel Cole, had wandered far from his boyhood haunts and few Indians just then roamed the bluffs about Stephen Cole’s abandoned fort near the crowded citadels north of the river.  Black Hawk, who, merely a brave in peacetime, was a leader in war, won the rank of chief.  He was a lively, ambitious, crafty youth who got around and, in time, knew his way about.   His name was Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, meaning Black Sparrowhawk. 

Around 1810 and later he dwelt for some time at the house of Adam Zumwalt on the south side of the Cuivre River in northern St Charles County.  Zumwalt, a small time distiller, had four beautiful daughters.  Blackhawk became enamored of one and offered to buy her for 12 horses.  The girls utilized Blackhawk’s infatuation to make him bring water from the spring, chop wood and do other chores.  That was the way to win a white wife, they said.  He attended dances, learning the quadrille.  He was well treated, settlers there depending on his influence for peace.

In 1812 the British gave him a uniform, called him “General” and gave him command of 500 Indians.  He then made a special request that he be permitted to attack the St. Charles settlements, saying he was familiar with the country.  Doubtless he yearned to assign Miss Zumwalt to chop wood.  The British, however, vetoed the idea and sent him into Michigan and Ohio.  Temporarily the theater of war was removed from the Boon’s Lick country. 

Early in the Spring of 1813 Indians appeared north of the river.  James Alcorn, Frank Wood and two other men making salt at Burekhardt’s Lick to supply the forts were attacked by 20.  They killed three, wounded others and drove off the rest.  Wood killed two, although suffering from a severe wound in the arm received from Indians a week before. 

In another attack on salt makers there, John Austin’s mount was shot in the head and fell on him.  As he was trying to extricate himself from under the dead animal the painted warriors advanced.  George Huff killed two Indians with one shot and others fell back.  Austin and Huff then raced to Fort Kincaid and to safety. 

During July, 1813, about 500 Miami Indians were camped near the site of Miami, Saline County.  About 100 of them, possibly with some Quapas, slipped across the river and down to the settlement in the bottoms four miles northwest of the site of Booneville.  They were disguised as Sacs and Foxes.

Campbell Bowlin and Adam McCord were tying flax at Bowlin’s cabin.  The Indians fired on them when they went out into a field to investigate moccasin tracks.  Bowlin was killed. McCord escaped to Kincaid.  Settlers traced the moccasin tracks to the Miami village and Colonel Benjamin Cooper of Fort Cooper wrote to Governor William Clark in St. Louis, asking that proper action be taken against the Miamis. 

On receipt of Cooper’s letter Governor Clark dispatched General Henry Dodge with 350 mounted rangers to go to the relief of the settlers.  However, communication and transportation being slow, it was September before the command arrived in the Boon’s Lick country.

In the meantime, earlier that month Braxton Cooper, Jr., was killed two miles northeast of the site of New Franklin and within a mile of Fort Cooper.  He was alone, cutting logs for a cabin.  Young, well armed and fearless, he fought against overwhelming odds.  That night, guided by the mournful howls of a faithful dog that stayed by his dead master, David Boggs and Jesse Turner, crawled out to where Cooper lay face down, a knife, bloody to the hilt, clutched in his right hand.  An Indian’s buckskin hunting shirt, bloody and having two bullet holes, lay nearby.  Cooper had not been scalped.  Evidently he put his assailants to flight before he died.

With indignation at fever heat General Dodge’s companies from St. Louis, Loutre Island and Cape Girardeau appeared, commanded by Captains W. Compton, Isaac Ban Bibler and Daugherty respectively.  He also had as scouts 40 friendly Delawares and Shawnees from along the Mississippi. 

Dodge joined Captain Sarshall Cooper’s company of Boon’s Lick rangers by swimming his cavalry to the south bank at a point near Arrow Rock.  The crossing required two hours.  General Dodge, carrying blank commissions, made Benjamin Cooper, elder brother of Sarshall, a major.  Nathaniel Cooke and Daniel M. Boone also were majors, coming with the expedition from St. Louis.

After the scouts located the Miamis, the force surrounded the savages who had thrown up earthworks at Miami Bend.  One look at the preponderance of whites, and the Miamis  proposed to the Shawnees that they be accepted as prisoners of war.  Dodge conferred with his staff.  All agreed to it.  But after the surrender the frontiersmen discovered among possessions of the Miamis the rifle of Campbell Bowlin. 

Major Cooper and the Boon’s Lick rangers gathered about General Dodge with cocked guns, demanding the Indian guilty of murdering Bowlin be delivered to them for hanging, or they would kill all the prisoners – 31 braves and 122 squaws and children.  Without looking at his men, Dodge drew his sword, pointed it close to Major Cooper’s breast, reminding him of his pledge to protect the prisoners.  He cautioned that if the threat were carried out Cooper would be the first to feel the consequences.  Major Boone rode up at that tense moment and, going to Dodge’s side, announced he would stand by him to the end.  Cooper and his men yielded to their superior officer.  The Miamis were herded to St. Louis.  General Dodge later was governor of Wisconsin Territory and twice United States Senator from Wisconsin.  However, for years he was unpopular in the Boon’s Lick country.  Frontiersmen gave and expected no quarter in Indian warfare. 

Removal of the Miamis did not stop outrages.  William McLean was killed near the site of Fayette a few weeks later in October, 1813.  The same month Joseph Still and young Stephen Cooper, returning from scouting the Chariton River, were intercepted by about 100 unmounted Sacs.  With rifles cocked the scouts rode to the line, fired and spurred through.  Still wounded a brave and Cooper killed one.  Still was shot dead from his horse.  A rain of lead and arrows missed Cooper, and his steed soon out distanced his pursuers.  Joe, a slave of Samuel Brown, was slain near the site of Estill.  Two slaves of James and John Heath, cutting wood for making salt on Heath’s Creek in the present Blackwater township, were captured by Indians.  A posse of 60 whites pursued them to the Chariton but they escaped with their prisoners.

In 1814 William Gregg, who lived in a family blockhouse on the south side of the Missouri above the site of Arrow Rock, was ambushed and killed.  His daughter Patsy, a prisoner, rode behind a brave.  She spied a relief posse.  Slipping the Indian’s knife from its sheath, she cut the thong that bound an arm to one of his and leaped from his mount into the brush.  The posse then opened fire and scattered the savages. 

The morale of the settlers was most severely shaken by the murder of Captain Sarshall Cooper on the stormy night of April 14, 1814.  An Indian slipped inside the stockade of Cooper’s Fort.  He removed chinking from between logs, unheard above the crashing elements.  As Cooper sat before his fireplace he was shot dead in the midst of his family.  The Indian escaped.  Cooper was buried inside the stockade to prevent mutilation of his body.  

Excerpts taken from E.J. Melton’s History of Cooper County, Missouri

Nathan Boone homestead                          Nathan Boone home

Joseph Cooper Wolfskill