The Cooper County Historical Society met at the United Church of Christ on 7th Street in Boonville on Sunday, April 8.
Following the business meeting, David Sapp, a member of the Boon County Historical Society, presented “The Boone’s Lick Road: Artery to the Trans-Mississippi West.”
The Boone’s Lick Road was the first highway across the continent after the Louisiana Purchase. No matter which trail you took—be it the Santa Fe, the California, or the Oregon—you still started out on the Boone’s Lick. The Boone’s Lick Road was of major importance for our nation’s westward expansion. Families traveled, for the most part, by land, not river. And travel was mainly east to west. Travel north or south wasn’t practical.
William Clark, of William and Clark fame, traveled overland from St. Charles with the Dragoons to Fort Osage in 1808 and kept a journal. He never called the trail they used the Boone’s Lick Road, but descriptions of the land and/or places they passed, along with the miles from one place to the next made it clear they were on the Boone’s Lick Road.
In 1820, Old Franklin was the first town along the original route. Williamsburg used to be called Fruit. Around 1822, when Boone County was created, and Columbia became the county seat, Columbia managed to get a section of the Boonslick Road to drop down about five miles, so the Road would go through there.
One point of interest concerned the units of measure used when surveying land: 1 rod equaled 16 feet and 1 chain equaled 66 feet.
Writers of the local newspapers showed the rise and fall of Franklin. In 1818, John M. Peck reported Franklin had about 70 families, 400-500 people. Stephen Long, in July 1819, reported 100-120 log houses and about 600-800 people. By December, it appeared there were about 1,000 people in Franklin. The population in January 1823 was about 1,000.
By 1826 the population was beginning to decline due to the encroachment of the Missouri River.