Boone County Early Towns

No history of Boone County would be considered authentic, unless in the opening paragraph it is stated that Boone County was named for Col. Daniel Boone (name usually spelled Boon), the famous Kentucky hunter and pioneer Missourian. While it is generally believed that Boone was never in the county that bears his name, still the early settlers of Missouri had the greatest admiration for him and for his deeds of bravery. It is a fact worth mentioning that the death of Daniel Boone occurred in St. Charles county, Missouri, on September 26, 1820, and the legislative enactment that subdivided Howard county (often called the "mother of counties") and created Boone county was passed by the territorial legislature in October, 1820, and approved by the governor oh November 16, 1820, just a few weeks following the death of Daniel Boone. A son of Daniel Boone was then a member of the legislature from Montgomery County and all the members wore crape on their arms for the remainder of the session. It was natural, therefore, that this county should be named in honor of the man they loved and whose death they all regretted.

As far as known, the first house built in Boone County was built by John and William Berry. The land office records at Boonville and the United States government plat book in the recorder's office of Boone County show that the first land ever patented by anyone was near the present village of Woodlandville, formerly a part of the Model Farm but still earlier known as "Thrall's Prairie," named in honor of Augustus Thrall. But the certified copy of the government book of entries, now belonging to the Bayless Abstract Company, shows that the first land entered in this county was by Elijah Foster, July 2, 1818. This land is located one mile south of Rock Bridge. The patent to it was not issued till September 8, 1821. Durrett Hubbard was the patentee.

Early Towns

The early towns of Boone County were Smithton, Columbia, Stonesport, Rocheport, Persia and Nashville, all of which, except Columbia and Rocheport, have long ceased to exist.


Smithton, named for Gen. Thomas A. Smith, register of the United States land office at Franklin, was the first county seat of Boone County. It was situated where Smithton addition to Columbia is now located, about one mile west and a little north of the present courthouse. Twenty families lived in Smithton, and the first terms of circuit court and county court were there held. Several stores did a flourishing business. In the Missouri Intelligencer, a newspaper published at Franklin, in Howard County, on file at the State Historical Society, the following notice appears.


The Trustees of Smithton wish immediately to contract for building a double hewed-log house, shingle roof and stone chimneys, one story and a half high, in that town. Timber and stone are very convenient.

They will also contract for digging and walling a well. The improvements to be finished by the first of November next, when payment will be made. Apply to the subscribers,

Taylor Berrt
Richard Gentry
David Todd
Trustees. July 23, 1819.

But the inability to get water in that locality doomed Smithton, and caused the citizens to move the town to the east and build on the banks of Flat branch and the other streams flowing into it on the east side; this town they called Columbia. The transfer occurred in 1821.


The citizens of Columbia have ever been proud of the fact that it was named for America's discoverer; and some of her enthusiastic citizens still say that Columbus should be proud of his namesake. As soon as Boone County was organized, the legislature appointed five commissioners to locate the seat of justice, receive donations and procure a site for a courthouse and jail. The report of said commissioners, as printed in the Missouri Intelligencer of April 14, 1821, is as follows:


The commissioners of Boon County have located the permanent seat of justice in said county, near the centre upon the lands adjoining Smithton, and have laid off the above town. This town site is located in a neighborhood of first rate lands, and intersected by the most public roads in the state leading to St. Louis, and from the "Upper Missouri to the expected seat of government, and in every respect is calculated to meet the expectation of the public and its friends.

The commissioners propose to sell lots therein on the third Monday in May, being county court day; and on the first Monday in August, being circuit court day, at the town of Smithton, and will adjourn to the town site, on which days they expect the sales will be entirely closed.

L. Bass, John Gray, David Jackson, Absalom Hicks, Jefferson Fulcher, Commissioners.
April 14, 1821.

The first trustees of Columbia, in an advertisement printed in the Intelligencer May 21, 1821, informed the public that persons who had purchased lots in Smithton could exchange the same for lots in Columbia, on the first Monday in August, 1821. The lots in the original town of Columbia were 1421, feet from north to south, and eighty feet from east and west; there were some eleven acre lots, and some forty-acre lots. All the streets were sixty-six feet wide, except Broadway and Fourth Street, which were laid out one hundred feet each, they being supposed to be the principal streets of the town. Market square was located one block west and one block south of the present Missouri, Kansas & Texas station, but it has since been divided into lots and is now occupied by residences.

After selling all the lots they could, it became necessary to divide the remaining lots among the trustees, who owned them; so a different number was written on different pieces of paper, the pieces put in a hat, one man was blindfolded and a drawing was had. If number six, for example, was drawn for Mr. A., a deed was thereupon executed to him, conveying him lot six in the original town, also eleven-acre lot six in Columbia; and so on, till all of the lots were disposed of. Columbia has been the county seat ever since 1821; and there have been built in Columbia three courthouses, in 1824, in 1846, and in 1909.

The first brick residence built in Columbia was built by Charles Hardin, and may be seen on the south side of Locust, between Fourth and Fifth streets; it is said on good authority that this was the first brick dwelling built in Missouri, west of St. Charles. Charles Hardin, and his wife, Mrs. Hannah Hardin, occupied this house many years; they were the parents of Governor Charles H. Hardin, Missouri's twenty-third governor. Charles Hardin was the first postmaster in Columbia.

From the little village that Columbia was for many years, she has grown till today there are ten thousand people living in Columbia, twenty miles of paved streets and sixty-eight miles of granitoid sidewalks. Located in Columbia are the following: University of Missouri, Agricultural College, Christian College, Stephens College, Missouri Bible College, University Military Academy, five ward and two high schools, Catholic school, Stephens Publishing House, Hamilton-Brown shoe factory, flouring mills, ice and packing house, brick plant, laundries, three planing mills, five banks and one trust company, one monthly, three daily and three weekly papers, the government model road, State Historical Society, Wabash and Missouri, Kansas & Texas railroads, municipal water and light plant, Parker Memorial Hospital, and Baptist, Catholic, Christian, Christian Science, Episcopal, Holiness, Methodist and Presbyterian churches.


On September 2, 1825, a notice appeared in the Missouri Intelligencer advertising the lots in Rocheport for sale. Among other things, it was stated that the roads leading in all directions would be good, with only a little work on them, and that the views from the town were more beautiful than anywhere on the river between its mouth and Fort Osage. Rocheport soon became an important shipping point. All of the goods for Columbia and western Boone County were shipped through Rocheport for many years. Then, as now, Rocheport drew considerable business from Howard, Cooper and Moniteau counties. It was incorporated in 1843, and its corporate limits extended by act of the legislature in 1853.

Rocheport was one of the towns in the central part of the state that wanted the state capitol when it was removed from St. Charles in 1826. It is said that had Rocheport had the support of the representatives from Boone County, the capitol would have been located in Rocheport. The Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad was built through Rocheport in 1892-93, and Rocheport has lost that distinctive river transportation feature which she once had; but Rocheport's merchants, banks, newspapers and traders have kept up the business record of this well-known hamlet.

The Columbia and Rocheport turnpike, fifteen miles in length, connects Rocheport with Columbia, and passes through one of the best parts of Boone County. For many years after steam boating was abandoned, the Rocheport hack, driven by William Ridgway, was Rocheport's principal method of transportation. This turnpike now forms a part of the Old Trails Road, Missouri's first cross state highway.

A number of distinguished men have come from Rocheport, Cornel Jno. F. Philips, afterward judge of United States court. Dr. A. W. McAlester, dean of medical department of university. Judge E. W. Hinton, dean of law department of university, Capt. F. F. C. Triplett and J. de W, Robinson, two well-known Boone county lawyers, and Dr. Wm. S. Woods, of Kansas City, S. C. Hunt, of Columbia, and Jno. T. Mitchell, of Centralia, well-known bankers of those cities.


In 1836, the town of Stonesport was laid out by Josiah Ramsey and Washington Ramsey, and named for Asa Stone, an extensive land owner in that neighborhood; the town was located on the Missouri river, one and a half miles west of Claysville. Stonesport was quite a shipping point, and continued to be a town till the high water of 1844, when a sand bar was formed in front of it, and boats were unable to land there. The next year it was abandoned and a convenient landing nearby was selected; and, at that time, Henry Clay was the idol of Boone Countians, most of whom were Whigs, so the new town was named Claysville.

There are few graves of Revolutionary soldiers in Boone County; but in the old cemetery at Stonesport, Captain William Ramsey, an officer in Washington's army, is buried. Captain Ramsey was the father of the founders of Stonesport, to-wit: Josiah Ramsey and George Washington Ramsey. H. H. Rice, now a citizen of Hartsburg, says that he knew Captain Ramsey very well, and often talked with him about General Washington.


On April 1, 1820, the Missouri Intelligencer contained an advertisement, signed by O. Babbitt, J. Teffts, E. Stanley and N. Patten, Jr., offering the lots of Persia for sale on July 4, 1820. Persia was described as being on the main road leading from Franklin to St. Charles, about twenty-eight miles from Franklin close to Roche Perche creek, and near the center of the contemplated county. It was stated that the waters of that creek were sufficient to supply mills of any description, and that there were plenty of springs nearby. It was also stated that it was the intention of the proprietors soon to erect saw and grist mills near the town, and a wagon bridge across the creek, and that a brewery, distillery and carding machine would soon be constructed there. But Persia never became the rival of Columbia that it was expected she would be; and now not a vestige of it remains.


In 1819, Ira P. Nash laid out a town on the bank of the Missouri river, two miles below the present town of Providence, near the mouth of Little Bonne Ferame creek, which town he named for himself. Nash was a surveyor and was employed by the Spanish government to locate certain claims, one of which he located in Boone county, and Nashville was laid out on said claim. A notice appeared in the Missouri Intelligencer of December 18, 1819, advertising the sale of the lots of Nashville, on Saturday, January 1, 1820, by which it appears that Peter Bass, J. M. White and others were interested with Nash. In 1825, Nash brought suit in the Boone circuit court for the partition of the remaining lots in Nashville, and the division of the proceeds of the sales. Nashville continued to be a town of some importance till 1844, the year of the high water, when all of it was washed into the Missouri river, except two or three houses which stood till 1865, when they were washed away.


In 1836, Petersburg was laid out in Bourbon township, near Silver's Fork, five miles south of Sturgeon; but all evidence of that town has long since passed away. It contained at least one noted person. Miss Mary Cunningham, who married Gen. John A. Logan, United States senator from Illinois, and Republican nominee for vice-president in 1884. Mrs. Logan has always been loyal to Boone County, and to her numerous relatives, the Fountains and Tuckers many of whom still reside here. She wrote an interesting letter, which was read on July 4, 1890, the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the laying of the comer stone of the university.


In 1856, Col. Thad Hickman laid out Burlington, which was located on the Missouri river, two miles to the west of the present town of Hartsburg, or Hart City. Burlington soon had one hundred people and proved to be a great shipping point, especially for tobacco, which then was one of the main products of the southern part of Cedar Township. But in 1887 it was washed away by the Missouri river, and now the site of the town is in the middle part of that treacherous stream. For some reason, no plat of either Burlington or Petersburg was ever filed or recorded.


Like other counties in the central portion of our state, Boone County had a town named for Daniel Boone. It was platted and laid out in January, 1836. The record says that "Mr. John Wood is both resident and proprietor of this town." It was also stated that the town was located on the road leading from Columbia to St. Charles, at the crossing of Cedar creek. Boonsborough, though popularly named, long ago ceased to exist.


In January, 1848, Eusibus Hubbard and David Jacob platted a town on the east side of the Range line road, half way between the present towns of Deer Park and Englewood, which they called Summerville. But this was only a town on paper.


In March, 1849, the town of Bourbonton was laid out by Wm. H. Harris and Wm. F. Cartwill. This town was situated two miles west of the present city of Sturgeon, and was popularly called Buena Vista.

But Bourbonton was abandoned and its houses were moved to Sturgeon after the building of the North Missouri Railroad.

Tales of an Old Timer

Boone County Biographies and Citizens

Toll Roads

Under the provisions of chapter 64 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, 1865, the people along several roads leading into Columbia, assisted by some patriotic men in Columbia, began to organize toll roads, shortly after the Civil war. Geo. C. Pratt, afterwards railroad commissioner of Missouri, made the surveys, and superintended most of the work.

N. T. Mitchell, Jas. H. Waugh, Robt. L. Todd, John H. Sampson, F. T. Russell, John Hinton and others organized the Columbia and Rocheport Turnpike Company, which operated a gravel road between the two towns named till 1912. Then, the east part of the road was sold to the Columbia Special Road District, and the rest of the gravel road was abandoned by the company.

Joel H. Haden, Philip Prather, Monroe Bateman, Eli Mars and others formed the Columbia and Blackfoot Turnpike Company, and constructed a gravel road from Columbia to a point near Hinton. This road is still in operation.

P. H. Robnett, David Gordon, M. R. Arnold, R. R. Vivion and others formed themselves into the Columbia and Cedar Creek Turnpike Company, and built a gravel road from Columbia to the Callaway line. This company abandoned its franchise in 1903, but the gravel road still remains.

John Machir, Boyle Gordon, Michael Fisher, Thos. H. Hickman and others were the charter members of the Columbia and Jefferson City Gravel Road Company, afterwards the Columbia and Ashland Gravel Road Company. This company still operates a gravel road as far south as Ashland, the part from Ashland to Claysville having been abandoned some years ago.

Long before the construction of any of these toll roads (in 1853), a plank road was built from Columbia to Providence; Providence was then the great shipping point for Boone County. A company composed of Warren Woodson, Jas. S. Rollins, Moss Prewitt, D. B. Cunningham, John Parker and others subscribed the money and built it. The plank road cost thirty thousand dollars, but it proved to be a failure, for it was soon worn out, and was never rebuilt.

Another gravel road, the one from Columbia northeast toward Shaw, or the Twin churches, was built in 1904, partly by private subscription, and partly with money donated by the county. It has never been a toll road.

The Providence road and the Cedar Creek gravel road are now partly in the Columbia Special Road District; and such parts are kept in good repair by the efficient commissioners of that district.

State Roads

Prior to the time of our turnpike roads, the legislature of Missouri, on motion of the representative from Boone County, passed an act establishing a state road, leading from the town of Columbia to the town of Williamsburg, in Callaway county, by way of David Gordon's, Thomas Arnold's and Thomas Grant's. It was made the duty of the county court to keep this road open and in good repair.

Two other state roads established in Boone County in February, 1857, by legislative enactment were one from Fayette to Sturgeon, and the other from Providence to the mouth of Cedar creek, opposite Jefferson City. A similar provision was in this act, in regard to the duty of the county court to work the road.

The Cross-State Highway

In the summer of 1911, the State Board of Agriculture decided that, in the interests of good roads, it would be well to have a cross-state highway established. Immediately different routes were suggested, the northern route, the central route and the southern route, and a spirited contest resulted. The Columbia Commercial Club took the lead; and E. W. Stephens, Walter Williams, J. A. Hudson, S. C. Hunt, T. S. Gordon, Jas. W. Schwabe and N. T. Gentry started automobiles, and visited every county and every town along the central route, which was practically the line of the Boon's Lick road and the Santa Fe Trail. Meetings were held at Marshall, Glasgow, Fayette, Rocheport, Columbia, Millersburg, Stephens Store, Fulton, Williamsburg, Mineola, New Florence, High Hill, Jonesburg, Warrenton and St. Charles; and the people of those localities were thoroughly aroused.

After driving in automobiles over the proposed routes, and being entertained at Columbia and other cities and towns through the country, the State Board of Agriculture held a public meeting in the opera house in Jefferson City on August 2, 1911, at which the governor presided, and arguments were then presented in behalf of the various lines of road. George Robertson, of Mexico, and John F. Morton, of Richmond, spoke in behalf of the northern route; Sam B. Cook, of Jefferson City, and J. H. Bothwell, of Sedalia, spoke in behalf of the southern route; and U. S. Hall, of Glasgow, and Walter Williams, of Columbia, spoke in behalf of the central route. About two hundred of Boone county's road boosters and the Hartsburg brass band accompanied the representatives of the Columbia Commercial Club to this meeting on a special train; and they, in company with similar delegations from Callaway, Montgomery, St. Charles, Howard, Saline and Lafayette counties, all wearing badges, paraded the streets of Jefferson City, carrying banners, marked Boon's Lick road, Santa Fe trail, Nature's road, Historical route, etc., etc. Some sixteen hundred delegates were in attendance, and the meeting resembled a state political convention.

A committee on resolutions, consisting of Frank W. Buffum, from Pike, Newlan Conkling, from Carroll, James W. Gill from Montgomery, John R. Hairston, from Howard, David H. Harris, from Callaway, N. T. Gentry, from Boone, A. H. Bolte, from Franklin, J. W. Hunter, from Moniteau, and M. V. Carroll, from Pettis, recommended the permanent improvement of the roads all over the state, the enactment of laws for the encouragement of road building, and the use of convicts to work on our public highways. The resolutions were unanimously adopted by the convention.

So much improvement was made on the roads and so much interest was shown by the people along the central route that the State Board of Agriculture, at its next meeting, August 17, 1911, unanimously decided in favor of the central route as the state highway of Missouri.

Following this decision, a celebration was held in Columbia, at which time R. B. Price, riding a prancing gray horse, represented Governor Alexander McNair, T. C. Scruggs represented Uncle Sam, and Wm. E. Bradford represented Daniel Boone, carrying a rifle and accompanied by his faithful dog. All of the steam whistles in town were sounded, all of the church and school bells were rung, and a long procession paraded up and down Broadway, carrying shovels, picks and axes, followed by J, A. Hudson, seated on a road grader, and driving six three-year-old mules.

Accordingly, October 28, 1911, the state highway, officially termed the "Old Trails Road" was dedicated. The dedication ceremonies were held in the University Auditorium in Columbia, and were attended by Governor Hadley, Mayor F. H. Kreisman of St. Louis, Mayor D. A. Brown of Kansas City, Congressmen Borland, Hamlin and Shackleford, State Highway Engineer Curtis Hill, the State Board of Agriculture and others interested in good roads from all parts of the state. The Columbia chapter of the D. A. R. gave a splendid dinner, which was served by them in Lathrop hall; and the occasion was one long to be remembered in Boone county. E. W. Stephens, president of Columbia Commercial Club, was toastmaster.

Columbia Special Road District

During this time, the people of Columbia and the surrounding country formed themselves into a special road district, under the provisions of Article VI of Chapter 102 of Revised Statutes of Missouri 1909, and the name ''Columbia Special Road District" was given to the district. J. A. Hudson, S. P. Conley and John L. Dodd were appointed commissioners by the county court, and they at once called a special election to vote on a proposition to issue one hundred thousand dollars in bonds, for the purpose of improving the roads within said eight-mile district. Another contest was then had in Columbia on the subject of good roads; and again the Commercial Club, headed by E. W. Stephens, took an active part. After holding meetings in the Airdome in Columbia, and at the various school houses and churches in the road district, the voters decided in favor of issuing the bonds. The Columbia brass band stood on the courthouse square on the day of election and played patriotic airs, and representatives of the D. A. R. met the voters and pinned on each a badge, bearing the words, "I am for good roads.'' It is not surprising that the result was about fourteen to one in favor of the bond issue. This election was held on September 8, 1911, and for its unanimity surpassed any election ever held in the city or county.

Similar road districts have since been formed to the east of Columbia, known as the Harg district, and one to the southeast, known as the Deer Park district. 



© Missouri American History and Genealogy Project
Created August 16, 2017 by Judy White

Source: History of Northeast Missouri, edited by Walter Williams, Volume I, Lewis Publishing Company, 1913