FRANKLIN COUNTY PIONEERS
The vast territory that lay west of the Mississippi
River was claimed for France by La Salle, who named it "Louisiana," in honor of
his King. It was ceded to Spain and back to France again before it was purchased by
the United States in 1803.
French soldiers and priests explored this region at a very
early date. Trading posts were established at St. Louis and St. Charles, and
trappers and hunters ventured into the deep wilderness. Many of the streams along
the Missouri River still bear the old French names, such as Femme Osage, Du Bois,
Bourbeuse, and Boeuf.
The French made few settlements in Louisiana, but the
Spanish authorities encouraged migration from the American colonies. Grants of land
were offered to all who could prove they had made clearings and declared their intention
of becoming bona fide settlers.
Thus began the great Kentucky-Virginia-Tennessee migration
up the valley of the Missouri River. They came on horseback and afoot. Some
built flat boats and keel boats and toiled laboriously up the river. Others followed
the trail that led from St. Louis and pushed past the frontier at St. Charles, to make
their homes in the wilderness. Attracted by the fertile bottom land, most of these
pioneers located near the north bank of the Missouri River.
This migration was accelerated by the example of the great
Daniel Boone, who came to Missouri in 1795, and took up a claim near Femme Osage creek, in
St. Charles county. A few years later he signed an agreement with the Spanish
authorities to bring one hundred families from Kentucky and Virginia to Upper Louisiana.
Soon there was a thriving community around the Femme Osage, and in 1800, Colonel
Boone was appointed commandant of the district. Daniel Boone frequently crossed the
Missouri River on hunting trips, but was never a resident of Franklin County.
The territory south of the Missouri River was more sparsely
settled at that time, for land in this region was less accessible and desirable. The
more fertile northern banks, however, were open to attack from Indians. Forts were
constructed, but many families crossed the river and located on Tavern, Du Bois, St.
John's , and Boeuf creeks, and at Point Labbadie.
The earliest record of a settlement in Franklin County is
that William Hughes located on Du Bois creek, not far from Washington, in 1794, and
this was the extreme frontier at that time. John Long, a Revolutionary war veteran,
claimed 5,000 arpents along Du Bois creek on a concession from Trudeau, and additional
large tracts of land along St. John's creek. A small part of his grant is now
included in the City of Washington, and this is the first recorded settlement at the
townsite. John Sullins was living at Du Bois in 1799, but moved near Boeuf creek in
1800, and this grant is a part of the farm of Ben Bailey, his direct descendant.
Kinkaid Caldwell located near St. John's creek in 1803, and
Mosias Maupin and Hartley Sappington were in that neighborhood in 1806. Other early
settlers there and around New Port were Philip Miller, Caleb Bailey, James McDaniel,
Daniel and Gideon Richardson, Benjamin Brown, Isiah Todd, Isaac Murphy, Jessie McDonald,
and John Colter, the famous Indian Scout and explorer. Colter had been a member of
the Lewis and Clark expedition and was credited with the discovery of Yellowstone Park.
Most of these pioneers played a very active part in the
early history of Franklin county.
Another very early settlement was at Point Labbadie, which
was located east of the present town of Gray's summit. Among the pioneers in this
neighborhood were Dan, John and Joseph McCoy; Henry, Adam and Jacob Zumwalt; John Day,
George Pursley, John Ridenhour, Peter Pritchett, William Fullerton and Ambrose Boles.
Later on the Groff, North, Ming, Coleman, Wood, Brown, and Jeffries families
located here also. Another noted Indian fighter, "Wild Irish" Robert
Frazier, was a settler here. He, too, had been with the Lewis and Clark expedition.
In 1803, John Ridenhour was killed by Indians near Point
Labbadie. the settlement was broken up because of Indian attacks at this time, but
was re-established the following fall. There were Indian tribes when the first
settlers came, but they were for the most part peaceful and friendly.
There must have been a very large Indian population in this
region at one time, however, for thousands of arrowheads have been found, and they are
especially numerous in the New Port region. The Indians often forded the river near
the old Maupin farm, a few miles above Washington, and frequently camped there.
Another crossing was on the Achilles Jeffries farm, near a Labadie.
It is interesting to note that the early surveys of the
county made use of the old Indian trails, and speak of following the "Trace that
leads east to St. Louis," and of the one that led from the "Shawney village on
the Burbis River to the Gasconade."
"Shawneytown" was the name given to the Indian
village situated in the valley of the Bourbeuse, near the farm of Anderson Coleman.
Later it was moved near Prairie Church, and finally the Indians left for the better
hunting grounds of the west.
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