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The "Mother of Counties"

Howard County was created under an act of the general assembly, approved on January 13, 1816. It was named for Benjamin Howard, first Missouri Territory governor. Howard County was the ninth organized county in the Missouri Territory and was created from the counties of St. Louis and St. Charles.

Although it is much smaller today, when originally organized, Howard County comprised nearly 22,000 square miles - about one-third as large as the present state of Missouri. Obviously, Howard County is not that large today. The following counties (or parts of counties) were at first part of Howard County: Adair; Boone; Caldwell; Carroll; Chariton; Clay; Clinton; Cole; Cooper; Daviess; DeKalb; Gentry; Grundy; Harrison; Henry; Johnson; Lafayette; Linn; Livingston; Macon; Mercer; Moniteau; Morgan; Pettis; Putnam; Randolph; Ray; Saline; Sullivan; Worth; the northern parts of Benton, Miller, and St. Clair; and possibly parts of Audrain, Monroe, and Shelby. Also, the following counties (or parts of counties) in Iowa were at first part of Howard County: Clarke; Decatur; Ringgold; Union; Wayne; parts of Adams and Taylor; and probably parts of Appanoose, Lucas, and Monroe.

The following history of Howard County is from The History of Howard and Cooper Counties, St. Louis: National Historical Company, 1883, pp. 88-99.


History, we are told, "is but a record of the life and career of peoples and nations." The historian, in rescuing from oblivion the life of a nation, or a particular people, should "nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice." Myths, however beautiful, are but fanciful; traditions, however pleasing, are uncertain, and legends, though the very essence of poesy and song, are unauthentic. The novelist will take the most fragile thread of romance, and from it weave a fabric of surpassing beauty. But the historian should put his feet upon the solid rock of truth, and turning a deaf ear to the allurements of fancy, he should sift with careful scrutiny, the evidence brought before him, from which he is to give the record of what has been.

Standing down the stream of time, far removed from its source, he must retrace with patience and care, its meanderings, guided by the relics of the past which lie upon its shores, growing fainter, and still more faint and uncertain as he nears its fountain, oftimes concealed in the debris of ages, and the mists of impenetrable darkness. Written records grow less and less explicit, and finally fail altogether as he approaches the beginning of the community, whose lives he is seeking to rescue from the gloom of a rapidly receding past.

Memory, wonderful as are its powers, is yet frequently at fault, and only by a comparison of its many aggregations, can he be satisfied that he is pursuing stable-footed truth in his researches amid the early paths of his subject. It cannot then be unimportant or uninteresting to trace the progress of Howard and Cooper counties, from their crude beginnings to their present proud position among their sister counties. To this end, therefore, we have endeavored to gather the scattered and loosening threads of the past into a compact web of the present, trusting that the harmony and perfectness of the work may speak with no uncertain sound to the future. Records have been traced as far as they have yielded information sought for; the memories of the pioneers have been laid under tribute, and every available source has been called into requisition from which we could obtain reliable material, out of which we could construct a truthful and faithful history of these counties.

The French settled Canada and the northwestern part of the United States, as well as the country about the mouths of the Mississippi river. They came into the upper Mississippi and Missouri valleys in 1764, under the lead of Pierre Laclede Liguest, who held a charter from the French government, giving him the exclusive right of trade with the Indians in all the country as far north as St. Peter's river. Laclede established his colony in St. Louis in 1764, and from this point they immediately began their trading and trapping excursions into the unbroken wilderness. Their method of proceeding was to penetrate into the interior and establish small local posts for trading with the Indians, whence the trappers and hunters were outfitted and sent out into the adjacent woods. In this way, the country west and northwest of St. Louis was traversed and explored at a very early day, as far west as the Rocky mountains. But of the extent of their operations, but little has been recorded; hence, but little is known of the posts established by them.

That these daring Frenchmen had explored that portion of Howard county lying contiguous to the Missouri river, even prior to the year 1800, there can be no doubt; that there existed within the present limits of the county a trading post, for several years before its settlement proper, there can be no doubt. The names of the streams, such as Bonne Femme, Moniteau, etc., attest the fact that they were of French origin, and had been seen and named by the French pioneers.

Levens and Drake, in their condensed but carefully prepared history of Cooper county, say: "While Nash and his companions were in Howard county (1804), they visited Barclay's and Boone's Licks, also a trading post situated about two miles northwest of Old Franklin, kept by a white man by the name of Prewitt. The existence of this trading post, and the fact that 'Barclay's and Boone's Licks' had already received their names from the white persons who visited them, show conclusively that this portion of the country had been explored, even before this, by Americans. But no history mentions this trading post, nor does any give the name of Prewitt; hence, we are unable to determine when he came to the Boone's Lick country, how long he remained, and where he went; he evidently left before the year 1808, as Benjamin Cooper, who moved to Howard county in that year, said there was then no settlement in this part of the state." Boone's Lick, from which this region of country took its name, is situated about eight miles northwest of New Franklin, in Boone's Lick township, on section 4, T. 49, R. 17, on land owned by William N. Marshall. This place was visited by Daniel Boone at an early date, - the time not known. Here he found several salt springs, and as such places were frequented by deer and other game, he not only often hunted in the neighborhood, but, according to John M. Peck, who visited the old hunter at his home in St. Charles county, a few years prior to his death, pitched his camp there for one winter and put up a cabin. Mr. Peck does not give the date. The presumption is that he got his information from the lips of the old hunter himself, and he would further suppose that he camped there between the years 1795 and 1807; nearer the former than the latter date, for the reason that he was at that time younger and more robust, and more inclined to enjoy sylvan sports. The first authentic record we have upon the subject of a settlement, in what is now known as Howard county, dates back to the year 1800 (see first deed, chap. III, this book), when Joseph Marie deeded a tract of land described by survey to Asa Morgan. Joseph Marie settled upon said land in the year 1800, where he made improvements. This land was situated near what is known as "Eagle's Nest," about one mile southwest of where Fort Kincaid was afterwards erected, in what is now Franklin township. In 1800, Charles Dehault Delassus, lieutenant-governor of Upper Louisiana, granted Ira P. Nash a large tract of land in the present limits of Howard county. This land was surveyed on the 26th of January, 1804, and certified to on the 15th day of February, of that year.

The next Americans, of whom we have any definite knowledge, as to the date of their coming to Howard county, were Ira P. Nash, above named, a deputy United States surveyor, Stephen Hancock and Stephen Jackson, who came up the Missouri river in the month of February, 1804. These men located a claim on the public lands of Howard county, nearly opposite to the mouth of the La Mine river. They remained there until the month of March, in the same year, employing their time in surveying, hunting, and fishing; and during that month they returned to their homes, which were situated on the Missouri river, about twenty-five miles above St. Charles.

In July, 1804, Ira P. Nash, in company with William Nash, James H. Whitesides, William Clark, and Daniel Hubbard, again came into what is now Howard county, and surveyed a tract of land near the present site of Old Franklin. On this second trip, Mr. Nash claimed, when he came up the river the February before, he had left a compass in a certain hollow tree, and started out with two-companions to find it, agreeing to meet the remainder of the company the next day at Barclay's Lick, which he did, bringing the compass with him, thus proving, beyond a doubt, that he had visited the country before.

Lewis and Clarke, on their exploring expedition across the Rocky mountains, and down the Columbia river to the Pacific ocean, arrived at the mouth of the Bonne Femme, in Howard county, on the 7th day of June, 1804, and camped for the night. When they arrived at the mouth of the "Big Moniteau creek," they found a point of rocks covered with hieroglyphic paintings, but the large number of rattlesnakes, which they found there, prevented a close examination of the place. Continuing their way up the river, they arrived at the mouth of the Lamine on the 8th of the same month, and on the 9th at Arrow Rock.

When they returned from their journey in 1806, after having successfully accomplished all the objects for which they were sent out, they passed down the Missouri river, and camped, on the 18th of September, in Howard county, opposite to the mouth of the La Mine river. And, as they journeyed down the river on that day, they must have passed the present site of Boonville and Franklin early on the morning of the 19th of September, 1806.

The next evidence we have of any white persons being in the Boone's Lick country, is the following: -

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 twenty-five 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.

Previous to the year 1808, every white American who came to the Boone's Lick country, came with the intention of only remaining there a short time. Three parties had entered it while on exploring and surveying expeditions; two parties had been to its fine salt licks to make salt; and no doubt, many of the adventurous settlers living in the eastern part of this state, had often, on their hunting expeditions, pierced the trackless forest to the Boone's Lick country; but, of course, there is no record of these, hence, those expeditions of which there is no record, are placed as being the first to this part of the country, when, in reality, they may not be.

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 south west 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 nor permitted to remain long at his new home. Governor Merriwether 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 of 1810.

The rich territory, however, was not destined to be left forever to the reign of wild beasts and savage Indians. Aside from the fact that the character of the men of the early days caused them continually to revolt against living in thickly settled communities, they Boone's Lick country presented advantages, which those seeking a home where they could find the richest of lands and the most healthful of climate, could not, and did not, fail to perceive. Its fertile soil promised, with little labor, the most abundant harvests. Its forests were filled with every variety of game, and its streams with all kinds of fish. Is it a wonder, then, that those seeking homes where these things could be found, should select and settle first the rich lands of Cooper and Howard counties, risking all the dangers from the Indians, who lived in great numbers close around them? Two years after the settlement of Benjamin Cooper, and his removal to Loutre island, the first lasting settlement was made 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.

The names of the parties who settled north of the river, in Howard county, were:

From Madison County, Ky.: -
Lieut.-Col. Benjamin Cooper
Francis Cooper
William Cooper
Daniel Cooper
John Cooper
Capt. Sarshall Cooper
Braxton Cooper, Sr.
Joseph Cooper
Stephen Cooper
Braxton Cooper, Jr.
Robert Cooper
James Hancock
Albert Hancock
William Berry
John Berry
Robert Erwin
Robert Brown
Joseph Wolfskill
William Thorp
John Thorp
Josiah Thorp
James Thorp
Gilead Rupe
James Jones
John Peak
William Wolfskill
Adam Woods

From Estill County, Ky.: -
Amos Ashcraft
Otho Ashcraft
Jesse Ashcraft
James Alexander

From Tennessee: -
John Ferrell
Henry Ferrell
Robert Hancock

From Virginia: - James Kile
From South Carolina: - Gray Bynum
From Georgia: - Stephen Jackson
From Ste. Genevieve: - Peter Popineau
Previous Residence Unknown: - John Busby, James Anderson, Middletown Anderson, William Anderson.

The women belonging to these families did not arrive until the following July or August. We do not pretend to say these men were all of the early settlers who came in 1810. There were perhaps, a few others, but the names we have given embrace nearly the entire number who migrated in the colony with Colonel Benjamin Cooper, in the spring of that year. After their arrival in this "land of promise," they immediately began the erection of their houses, all of which were single or double log cabins, and to prepare for farming by clearing and fencing small "patches" of ground. As a general thing, they settled in and near the Missouri river bottom. They knew that the country was full of Indians, and that these were liable at any time to begin their murderous assaults upon the whites; hence, they located in neighborhoods, where, in case of danger, they could render each other timely aid. that portion of Howard county, which is now embraced in Franklin and Boone's Lick townships, was the first settled.

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 which 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, 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 to this end, began the erection of three forts in Howard county, bearing the names respectively, of Fort Cooper, Fort Hempstead, and Fort Kincaid. Fort Cooper was located about two miles southwest of Boone's Lick. Fort Kincaid was east southeast, about nine miles distant, and about one mile north of the present Boonville railroad bridge. Fort Hempstead was about one and a half miles north of Fort Kincaid. Each fort was a series of log houses, built together around an enclosure. In each house lived a family, and the stock was corraled, 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, which Sarshall Cooper as captain; first lieutenant, William McMahon; second lieutenant, John Monroe; ensign, Benjamin Cooper, Jr.

Sergeants - 1st. John McMurray, 2d. Samuel MacHanan, 3d. Adam Woods, 4th. Davis Todd, 5th. John Mathis.

Corporals - 1st. Andrew Smith, 2d. Thomas Vaughan, 3d. James McMahan, 4th. John Busby, 5th. James Barnes, 6th. Jesse Ashcraft.

The above were the officers chosen by their comrades and neighbors, to command the company, which consisted of 112 men, who were able to bear arms. The following list comprises all the men and boys who were in the different forts: -

James Alexander
James Anderson
Middleton Anderson
William Anderson
Gray Bynum
John Busby
Robert Brown
Samuel Brown
Benjamin Cooper
Sarshall Cooper
Frank Cooper
William Cooper
David Cooper
John Cooper
Braxton Cooper
Joseph Cooper
Stephen Cooper
Robert Cooper
Henly Cooper
Patrick Cooper
Jesse Cox
Solomon Cox
John Ferrill
Henry Ferrill
Edward Good
Harmon Gregg
William Gregg
David Gregg
Robert Heath
Robert Hancock
Abbott Hancock
Josiah Higgins
Frederick Hyatt
Robert Irvine
David Jones
John Jones
Jesse Jones
George Jackson
Stephen Jackson
James Jackson
Samuel McMahan
Thomas McMahan
James McMahan
William McMahan
John O'Bannon
Judiah Osmond
Samuel Perry
William Read
Benoni Sappington
John Sappington
James Sappington
Daniel Tillman
John Thorp
William Thorp
Samuel Turley
Stephen Turley
Ezekiel Williams
Thomas Wasson
Joseph Wasson
Adam Woods
William Wolfskill
Joseph Wolfskill
William Wolfskill, Jr.

George Alcorn
James Alcorn
William Allen
John Arnold
Price Arnold
Joseph Austin
John Austin
Robert Austin
William Baxter
Big Berry
John Berry
William Berry
David Boggs
Joseph Boggs
Muke Box
Joseph Boyers
Robert Brown
Samuel Brown
William Brown
Townsend Brown
Christopher Brown
Christopher Burckhartt
Nicholas S. Burckhartt
Andrew Carson
Lindsay Carson (father of Kit Carson)
Moses Carson
Charles Canole
William Canole
Isaac Clark
Joseph Cooley
James Cooley
Ferrin Cooley
Braxton Cooper, Jr.
James Cockrell
Thomas Chandler
James Creason
John Creason
Peter Creason
William Creason
Daniel Crump
Harper Davis
James Douglas
Daniel Durbin
John Elliott
Braxton Fugate
Hiram Fugate
Reuben Fugate
Sarshall Fugate
Simeon Fugate
Reuben Gentry
Samuel Gibbs
Abner Grooms
John Grooms
William Grooms
Alfred Head
Moses Head
Robert Hinkson
John James
James Jones
Abner Johnson
Noah Katew
Joseph McLane
William McLane
Ewing McLane
David McQuitley
William Monroe (called Long Gun)
Joseph Moody
Susan Mullens
Thompson Mullens
John Peak
William Pipes
Michael Poage
Robert Poage
Joseph Poage
Christopher Richardson
Jesse Richardson
James Richardson
Silas Richardson
John Rupe
Henry Simons
Reuben Smith
Andrew Smith
Thomas Smith
John Snethan
James Snethan
Joseph Still
John Stinson
Nathan Teague
Solomon Teters
David Teters
John Teters
Isaac Thornton
John Thornton
Davis Todd
Elisha Todd
Jonathan Todd
Levi Todd
James Turner
Philip Turner
Jesse Turner
Thomas Vaughan
Robert Wilds
William Wadkins
James Whitley
Benjamin Young
John Yarnell

Amos Ashcraft
Jesse Ashcraft
Otho Ashcraft
Amos Barnes
Aquilla Barnes
Abraham Barnes
James Barnes
John Barnes
Shadrach Barnes
Robert Barclay
Francis Berry
Campbell Bolen
Delany Bolen
William Brazil
David Burris
Henry Burris
Reuben Cornelius
Pryor Duncan
Stephen Fields
John Fields
Cornelius Gooch
Thomas Gray
John Hines
Daniel Hubbard
Asaph Hubbard
Eusebius Hubbard
Joseph Jolly
David Kincaid
Matthew Kincaid
John Kincaid
John McMurray
Adam McCord
Daniel Monroe
John Monroe
John Mathis
William Nash
John Pursley
William Ridgeway
William Robertson
Edward Robertson
Gilead Rupe
Enoch Taylor
Isaac Taylor
William Taylor
Enoch Turner
Giles Williams
Britton Williams
Francis Wood
Henry Weeden

Life in the forts was not one of idleness and ease. it was one of vigilance and activity for two or three years. The settlers were deprived of many of the comforts and pleasures which are enjoyed by the people of to-day. They had but little labor-saving machinery, and what they had was imperfect and inefficient. School was taught, and religious services were held in the forts. The forts were also supplied with mills and looms. The first cog-wheel horse-mill erected in the county was at Fort Kincaid in 1815; the next one was put at Fort Hempstead. After the Indian troubles were over, people came twenty miles to these mills. The first cloth made in the county (in the forts) was manufactured from a poisonous plant, which was indigenous to the country, and known as the nettle, which was covered with sharp, brittle hairs. This cloth was used for pants and shirts for summer wear. In the winter, buckskin hunting-shirts and pants were worn.

The low flats along the river, creeks and branches were covered with a thick growth of nettles about three feet high, sometimes standing in patches of twenty acres or more. These were permitted to remain standing until they became decayed in the winter, when they were gathered. They were then broken up, spun into long strings, and woven into cloth, from which the garments were made. This would be a very tedious job at the present day, when a lady's dress requires from thirty yards of cloth; but in those old times five or six yards was a much as was ever put into a dress. Little children usually wore a long leathern shirt over their tow shirt. For several years during the early settlement of this country, the men and women wore garments made out of the same kind of material. The first dry goods were sold by Robert Morris, at the forts, in 1815. The number of men, as we have already stated, able to bear arms, was 112, which represented a population of between 500 and 600, who were then living within the present limits of Howard county. A few, perhaps, had returned to their former homes, or had moved further down the river in the direction of Loutre island and St. Louis, upon the eve of the anticipated Indian hostilities, but the great majority of the pioneers, had come to stay, and not a few of these attested their devotion to their new found homes by the sacrifice of their property and their lives to the cupidity and ferocity of savage foes.

I would like to thank Preston Sights for the use of the county outline map of Missouri.

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2001 by Sherryl Barger for the Howard County MOGenWeb Project

This pg. was last updated on October 29, 2006.