Boonville is the oldest town in Central Missouri and is located in the very heart of the historic Boon's Lick Country. It was settled in February, 1810 by a party of pioneers which included Hannah Cole, a widow, and her family of nine children and Stephen Cole, her brother-in-law, with his wife, Phoebe, and their five children. The Coles were the first white settlers to locate on the south side of the Missouri River west of St. Louis.
The early period of Boonville's history was occasionally marked by the violence of skirmishes with the Sac and Fox Indians who roamed this area before their relocation in 1814. When the Indians became hostile in 1812, the Coles moved to the safety of the forts on the north side of the river. When they returned to the south shore in 1814 they fortified Hannah Cole's cabin because of its excellent location on the river bluffs and its access to fresh water. After 1814 other settlers soon came to build their homes in and around her fort and, in July, 1816, the fort became the site of the first county court for Howard County.
Boonville, named for Daniel Boone, became the center of the Boon's Lick Country, an area where the soil was reputed to be the most fertile in the United States Territory. It also was near the intersection of ancient Indian Trails whose unchanging importance to centuries of travelers - from the Boon's Lick Trail to the later Santa Fe Trail -has been preserved by the modern interstate highways of today.
Boonville's early history was recounted first in A History of Cooper County. Missouri, written and published in 1876 by Henry C. Levens and Nathaniel M. Drake. This was in compliance with a resolution of Congress and by Proclamation of the President of the United States commemorating the centennial of America. Much of this early material is based upon personal recollections of surviving children of Hannah Cole, particularly her youngest son, Samuel Cole. The Levens and Drake history is still considered authoritative for this period.
Boonville was laid out as a town in 1817 by Asa Morgan for whom Morgan Street is named, and Charles Lucas. The first lots were sold in 1819 and recorded by a Mr. A. Fuller as bringing "a fabulous price". A donation by Morgan and Lucas of 50 acres secured Boonville as the county seat for Cooper County, formed in 1818 and named for Colonel Benjamin Cooper who had led the Coles into the Boon's Lick area.
Boonville's position on the Missouri River, highway of the frontier, brought settlers and merchandise to its wharves and caused rapid development of a prosperous river trade. Situated at a point where the Ozark uplands meet the western prairies, the Santa Fe Trail and other overland commercial routes were opened to the south and southwest. Boonville merchants vied with Boonville fur trappers and traders, explorers, soldiers and educators in opening the western empire for settlement. A roster of Boonville's early citizens reads like a "Who's Who" of the frontier and includes such famous people as George Graham Vest, David Barton, William Ash and George Caleb Bingham.
Boonville was incorporated by the State of Missouri on February 10,1839 and enjoyed a continuous and prosperous growth during the 30 years preceding the Civil War. With the outbreak of conflict, Boonville's strategic location on the Missouri River made it a pawn of opposing forces. On June 17,1861, a month before Bull Run, the First Battle of Boonville was fought one mile east of the city. Federal troops, commanded by General Nathaniel Lyon, defeated a force of Missouri State Confederate troops led by Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson. Military strategists consider it had an important bearing on keeping Missouri in the Union and the Missouri River under Union control. A marker on the courthouse lawn, erected by the John A. Hayn Post of the Grand Army of the Republic, commemorates the Battles of Boonville, June 17 and September 13, 1861, and the "capture of Boonville" by General Sterling Price's Confederate Army on October 14,. 1864.
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The first Missouri State Fair was held in Boonville in 1853.
The oldest theater west of the Allegheny Mountains still in use as a theater was built in Boonville in 1855-1857.
The oldest county jail in continuous use in Missouri was built in Boonville in 1848 and used until 1979.
One of the last public hangings in Missouri took place in Boonville, 1930.
Daniel Boone came to Missouri in 1779 at the request of the Spanish Lieutenant Governor, Trudeau. Boone was promised a grant of 1,000 arpents (an old French unit of land equal to about 1 acre per arpent) of land. He was to function as the commandant of the Femme Osage District with the Power to be judge, jury and sheriff. He was 65 years of age upon arrival to Missouri and died in 1820 at the home of his son, Nathan Boone, near Defiance, Missouri.
Boonville Chamber of Commerce
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Boonville Chamber of Commerce
Boonville, MO 65233