Early Schools of Boone County

Bonne Femme Academy

One of the first schools in central Missouri was the Bonne Femme Academy, a school for young men, which was established in 1829; it was situated near what is now known as Bonne Femme church, on the Columbia and Ashland gravel road. Rev. Robert S. Thomas, afterwards professor of English in the university, was one of the early teachers; and the school was so well advertised that young men from other states were in attendance. Prof. George C. Pratt also taught there. In an advertisement in the Missouri Intelligencer, it was stated that this school was located in a healthy and highly moral neighborhood, and that board could be obtained at reasonable prices in respectable homes.

Columbia College

In 1831, the Columbia College was organized, and Dr. A. W. Rollins, Richard Gentry, Warren Woodson, James W. Moss, John B. Gordon and Judge David Todd were the first trustees; this was also a school for young men. From this school, the State University originated, and it may also be added that the first session of the university was held in the Columbia College, which was a brick building situated just west of Parker Memorial hospital, on South Sixth street, and afterwards known as the residence of Rev. R. F. Babb.

Columbia Female Academy

In 1833, the Columbia Female Academy was started, the first school exclusively for women west of the Mississippi River. The first trustees of this school were Dr. William Jewell, Dr. William Provines, Stephen R. Bedford, Roger North Todd and Austin A, King; and the first act done by them was to secure Miss Lucy Ann Wales, of Massachusetts, to take charge of said school. Miss Wales proved to be one of the distinguished educators of the state. The first session of that school was held in the old Presbyterian Church; but later a brick building was erected and used by the school for many years. This building was afterwards used as a residence, then as the Cottage hotel, still later as the Gordon hotel, and now it is rented to the university and used by the home economics department; it is situated at the southwest comer of Cherry and Tenth streets.

Christian College

In 1851, the legislature of Missouri passed an act incorporating Christian College; and James Shannon, W. W. Hudson, Thomas M. Allen, Thomas D. Grant and others were the incorporators. John Augustus Williams, of Kentucky, was elected the first president; and he was succeeded by L. B. Wilkes, J. K. Rogers, Geo. S. Bryant, W. A. Oldham, Frank P. St. Clair, Mrs. Luella W. St. Clair, Mrs. W. T. Moore and Mrs. St. Clair, now Mrs. Woodson Moss.

In 1911, Christian College celebrated its sixtieth anniversary, and a large number of graduates and former students attended; among them being two graduates of the class of 1854, Mrs. Jennie Robards Rogers, of Kansas City, and Mrs. Elizabeth Cooper Pollard, of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The college campus, which is a beautiful lawn, has on it buildings erected by friends and dedicated to the memory of Robert H. Stockton, J. S. Dorsey and J. K. Rogers.

Stephens College

In 1856, the Baptists of Boone County organized a school for young ladies, which was named "Columbia Baptist Female College." Among those who were active in its organization and liberal contributors were James L. Stephens, Warren Woodson, John M. Robinson, Judge James Harris, Moss Prewitt, David H. Hickman, Noah Flood and Robert T. Prewitt. The presidents of this school have been W, R. Rothwell, X. X. Buckner, J. T. Williams, J. H. Hollis, E. S. Dulin, R. P. Rider, T. W. Barrett, Sam Frank Taylor, W. B. Peeler, H. N. Quisenberry, G. W. Hatcher and John M. Wood.

In 1870, James L. Stephens donated twenty thousand dollars to the college, and its name was changed to "Stephens College," by which name it is still known. Later on, he gave ten thousand dollars more to the college.

The Kate Quinn studio was erected by the liberality of M. G, Quinn, of Columbia; and the Sappington Chapel by the liberality of R. E. Sappington, of near Ashland.


Of course the construction in 1858 of the North Missouri Railroad (now the Wabash) was a great event in Boone County's history, as that was one of the early railroads of Missouri. The people of the central part of Boone County were anxious to have that road built through Columbia; but the slavery question was uppermost in the minds of our people at that time. Many persons in adjoining counties feared that if such a railroad should be constructed, the slaves would be more inclined to run away, and could more easily make their escape to Canada. So Howard and Callaway counties declined to aid this road, and it was built to the north of them, and consequently to the north of Columbia. But the people of Boone county, although said road simply passed through its northern part, made liberal contributions to it.

In 1857, a charter was obtained to build the Columbia and Jefferson City railroad; but no work was done on it till 1866, and it was not completed until 1867. It was built from Centralia to Columbia, and was afterwards leased for a long term by the Wabash, and is known as the Columbia branch. The building of this road is due largely to the fore-sight and liberality of David H. Hickman, James L. Stephens, W. W. Tucker, Jefferson Garth and others; and it was appropriate that the only two stations that were originally on the road were named Hickman and Stephens. Hickman was one mile southeast from Hallsville, and it was later abandoned, and the station built just to the east of Hallsville.

In 1869, the Louisiana and Missouri River railroad was laid out, surveyed and much of the grading done through Rocky Fork and Perche townships; and the abutments for a number of bridges were constructed; it extended from Mexico, through Hallsville and Harrisburg, to Fayette and on northwest. A large sum of money was spent in the enterprise, and a debt was incurred by said townships, which it took several years to discharge. The road had much work done on it through Howard County, and it bid fair to be in operation in a short time. But there was a delay in Saline County, and this delay occurred at the wrong time, the time when the money was about to be procured by the sale of the railroad bonds. When the brokers heard that there was going to be trouble to finish the road, they declined to buy the bonds, and the road building was abandoned.

The Chicago & Alton Railroad was the next road to be built in this county, and it was finished in 1878. Centralia is the only Boone county town through which this road runs but it is only about two miles north of Sturgeon. Since 1904 its track has been used by the C. & A. trains, and also by Burlington trains.

The Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad was built through the southern and southwestern parts of this county in 1892 and 1893.

It enters Boone County at Rocheport and practically follows the Missouri River till it crosses the line into Callaway County. From Rocheport east are the towns of Huntsdale, McBaine, Providence, Rutland, Wilton, Hartsburg and Claysville.

At McBaine, a branch of this road, eight miles long, connects with Columbia. This branch was at first known as the Missouri Midland Railroad, was built in 1899, and was for a year operated independently of the M., K. & T.

Columbia Cemetery

One of the most beautiful and historic places of our county is the Columbia Cemetery, which was located in 1820, at the same time that the town of Columbia was laid off. Six of the original lots of this town, each lot eighty by one hundred and forty-two and a half feet, constituted the original cemetery; and for many years our people used that ground for burial purposes, without having the same laid off into private lots. Three times have the grounds been enlarged; and today there are thirty acres within its enclosure.

On February 23, 1853, the general assembly of Missouri passed an act incorporating the Columbia Cemetery Association and by that act Jefferson Garth, James R. Boyce, Moss Prewitt, William P. Switzler, Richard C. Branham, Henry H. Ready and James S. Rollins were named as the first board of trustees. It is a fact worthy of mention that all of the members of the first board of trustees, and all of the members of all succeeding boards who are dead, sleep in this ground thus set apart by them, with one single exception. Richard C. Branham, a Columbia merchant, was drowned in the Gulf of Mexico while trying to escape from a burning vessel, and his body never could be recovered.

Old citizens have told us that the first person buried in this cemetery was Dr. James Wilcox. If that is true, it is unfortunate that there is no monument to mark his grave, and no record of when he died nor where he is buried. The first person buried there according to the record on monuments, was Robert Barr, who died in 1821, shortly after moving here from Lexington, Kentucky.

Among those interred in this cemetery are three presidents of the State University, two presidents of Stephens College, two presidents of Christian College, one acting governor of Missouri, one consul general, one congressman, two judges of the supreme court, one circuit judge, three state senators, twenty-three ministers of the gospel, fourteen university professors, legislators, county and city officials, physicians, lawyers, farmers, bankers, merchants, mechanics, miners, manufacturers and persons of all vocations.

Henry Crumbaugh and B. McAlester said that for many years there was no hearse in Columbia, and that the pallbearers carried the casket all the way over to this cemetery, and then did the work of filling the grave.

Tales of an Old Timer

Thomas Turner is a farmer residing six miles east of Columbia. Though ninety years old, he is possessed of a good memory, and enjoys talking over old times. He told the following about his father's family and early conditions in the county: "My father's name was Thomas Turner, and he came to Boone County from Madison County, Kentucky, in 1828; he drove a carriage for one of our neighbors, who was moving here. He purchased land and entered land east of Columbia, and returned to Kentucky. The next year, he moved to this county, bringing with him my mother and ten children; another child was born to them after moving to Missouri. I remember the trip very well; we came in three wagons, one of them being drawn by oxen, and the other two by horses. We crossed the Ohio River at Louisville and the Mississippi River at St. Louis, using a horse ferry at both places; we were twenty-six days in making the trip. When night would overtake us, we would stretch a tent, and some of us would sleep in the tent, and some of us in the wagons. We continued to use them to sleep in till my father could built a two-room log cabin, each room about eighteen feet square. We used that log cabin till 1833, when my father burned two kilns of brick, cut the timbers and sawed the planks for the brick house that I am now living in. My father lived here till 1836, when he died, and I have lived here ever since, with the exception of one year.

"When we first came here, we could hear wild animals at night, the howling of wolves and the screaming of panthers, and we often heard and saw wild hogs in the woods. The wolves were so bad that they used to kill our pigs at night, and we kept traps set for them. One of my brothers went with me one day to water our horses in a nearby creek, when we saw a gray wolf and four little ones on the side of a bluff. We called all of our dogs and all of our neighbors' dogs; but that she wolf whipped all the dogs in the country. But when we got our guns and went there, the wolf saw us coming, and ran to the woods; and we took a hoe and pulled the little wolves out of the hole in the rocks, and killed them. Then we set a trap at that hole, hoping to catch the old wolf, but she was too smart to go into it.

"I have often seen deer in Boone County, and have killed them many times. One day, about 1830, I was plowing with one of my brothers, and thirty-two deer came into the field, and stopped within two hundred yards of us. We stopped the oxen, and brother ran to the gap in the fence where he had left the gun; and as soon as he got it, the deer seemed to understand, and all ran away before he could get close enough to shoot. These deer interfered so much with our corn, by tramping it and eating it, that we tried in various ways to get rid of them. They jumped our fence at the same place every time, so we set sharp stakes inside of our field, extending out of the ground about a foot or two, and inclined them toward the fence. Several times we saw blood on the points of these stakes, and often we saw that the animals had fallen on the stakes and bent them over or pulled them out of the ground. Once we found a dead deer on one of them. The deer moved their jumping place, and we had to move our sharp stakes to that place.

"There were a few bears in the county at that time, but only a few. One bear in our neighborhood used to climb a tree, a bee tree, at night, gnaw a hole in the tree and eat honey; he hid in the caves during the day time. He tried stealing honey once during the day, and the bees got on him so thick and stung him so severely, that he seemed to lose his sense, and came running down the road, making as much noise as a cyclone. My father got his gun and shot the bear twice, but he ran a mile before he finally dropped.

"I did not see the stars fall in 1832, as I was asleep, but I heard the family talk about it the next morning. Some of our neighbors were frightened almost to death, and an old Negro preacher thought judgment day had come, so he ran and jumped into a well and his master had trouble in pulling him out.

"The first year after coming to Missouri, my father bought a cow and calf for four dollars and a half, and a real good cow for seven dollars. Out of his first crop, he sold two hundred bushels of wheat for one hundred dollars, and hauled the wheat six miles; and he sold eight hundred bushels of oats for one hundred dollars, and hauled that six miles. My father raised a good deal of tobacco, which he had me to haul to Nashville and ship it to St. Louis. I often went to Nashville, and was there at the time of the high water in 1844, and helped some of the merchants move their stocks. We had to walk in water up to our waists, but most of the goods were saved. I knew Ira P. Nash, and often saw him at Nashville; he had the largest orchard in the county, and he did not allow anybody to go in and get his apples.

"It was customary once a year to get a shoemaker to visit our farm, and he would make shoes and boots for all of the men, women, boys and girls on the place, white as well as black. Nearly all of our clothing was made on the place, and mother made it; in fact, we raised some cotton each year for our own use. We had no ice houses, so we put our milk and butter in buckets, and hung the buckets in a well; and, as we did not have any cellar, we buried our apples and potatoes before cold weather.

"When I attended school in this county, it was in a log schoolhouse and was what was called a subscription school; that is each patron paid the tuition of his own children. The price was one dollar per month for each child, and I reckon it was worth that much to pay the teacher for using the hazel switches. The schoolhouse was two miles from my father's home, and the road was simply a passageway through the woods.

"My father was clerk of the Bonne Femme Baptist church, and we attended that church till I heard Alexander Campbell preach near Columbia, in a schoolhouse. Then I joined the Christian church, which has many times been called in honor of Mr. Campbell. Just before my father was forty-five years old, I went with him to Bonne Femme church to muster, and Col. James McClelland was the commanding officer. My father told me that he would not have to attend again, as the law did not require a man under eighteen or over forty-five to attend. (See Revised Statutes of Missouri, 1825, page 533.) My father died at the age of fifty-three, and his eleven children lived to marry, and all raised families.

"In 1849, I went to California, and stayed just one year mining gold; but did not make much money. While there, I saw William Broaddus, a young man who went with me from this neighborhood, run onto a grizzly bear in the mountains, and the bear killed him before we could reach him. I returned by way of Nicaragua, and our sailing vessel got into a calm on the Pacific Ocean, and for forty days we could not go anywhere. We almost ran out of water, and the captain allowed us one pint a day for seven days. Then a storm came up, and we were driven on our way. When I got home, I came to the conclusion that Boone County was the best place on earth, so I have lived here ever since.

"None of our family ever took part in any war, except my brother James, who was a private in the Black Hawk Indian war, and went with the Boone county soldiers. I saw the Boone county company that formed the First Regiment of Missouri Volunteers that took part in the Seminole Indian war. They were marching from Columbia to Millersburg, on their way to Florida, and I met them near where Harg is now situated.

"I am the only one of my father's children now living, but many of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are living in Boone and Callaway. They are named Turner, Hamilton, Quinn, Hendrick, Carlisle, McKimpson, Evans and Stewart."


© 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