Daniel Morgan Boone's Missing Years: Sending Ozarks Pine to St. Louis
“Scene on the Missouri River” taken from an unknown geography book published in 1872 showing a raft of logs in the lower right hand corner with sleeping and supply quarters and small boat riding along. The Big Piney and Gasconade River rafts would have been smaller. Courtesy of Mike Dickey, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Arrow Rock Historic Site.
In March 1817, the editor of the Missouri Gazette made an announcement:
By a gentleman arrived a few days ago from
the Gasconade, I am informed that the saw mills in the pine country, some
distance up that river, will shortly furnish an abundant supply of pine
plank, scantling, etc. to our market . . . near 300,000 feet, a considerable
part of which is now on its way to St. Louis.
Missouri's first large commercial pine lumbering enterprise had begun.
Writers have published long accounts of Morgan Boone's fabled father, Daniel Boone (1734-1820), and of Morgan's younger brother, Nathan (1781-1856). Few accounts involving Morgan Boone (1769-1839) exist and the following story accounts for a small part of adventurer Morgan's life. Commentators opine that Morgan's manner was more like his father's than was Nathan's, and certainly Morgan had many more adult years working with their illustrious father. Like Daniel Senior, Morgan participated in wide-ranging economic ventures, chasing opportunities on the American frontier from Pennsylvania to the Kansas Indian Territory.
Morgan was the first Boone in the trans-Mississippi when in 1797, he negotiated with the Spanish authorities for the Boone family colonial grants in the St. Charles district. The slaveholding Kentucky Booties arrived in Spanish Missouri in 1799, and the men served in several local government offices. Morgan, like his father, functioned as an officer of the territorial court and discovered the famed Boone's Lick.2 The Boone men jointly pursued market hunting in the Ozarks and up the Missouri River, and in other economic investments and military assignments. Morgan was conspicuous as a military officer in the War of 1812, and, like brother Nathan, surveyed lands in Missouri Territory. With a respected reputation and skill, his contemporaries selected him as a co-commissioner to locate the Permanent Seat of Government at Jefferson City and the county seats of Gasconade, Henry, and Johnson Counties. Morgan Boone was commonly found in a position of trust and responsibility.3
This writing concerns Morgan Boone's timber investments and years with associates in the Northern Ozarks. By statehood he was one of a half-dozen pine plank sawmillers who supplied the expensive, soft yellow pine to builders in the Lower Missouri River Valley. Much of this pioneer episode is still cloaked in the hazy hindsight of frontier history. What is certain is that Morgan Boone allied himself with friends and family in St. Charles County to exploit Ozarks yellow pine in a Boone-family commercial enterprise dependent upon river transport. The success of Boone and his milling neighbors in the territorial interior is contemporary with the accelerated political rhetoric calling for a new state with forecasts of commercial opportunity in Missouri.
The Ozarks Gasconade Mills
Neighborhoods on the Missouri frontier were self-sufficient, but families and individuals relied upon their own creativity in seeking commercial markets. Farmers became traders, at least seasonally, as they sought profits in agriculture, stock, and natural resources. In the early nineteenth century, Missourians plied the waterways, moving goods and services throughout the interior counties. Their anxious spirit of gain only accelerated as the Upper South migrations westward quickly translated into markets in the Lower Missouri River Valley. The efforts of backwoods entrepreneurs, using waterways that led to St. Charles and St. Louis, ensured that value-added products were advertised in the weekly newspapers. By statehood, the "new" occupation of raftsman for lumber and logs acquired an economic significance for Missouri commerce.4
Politicians formed local governments to make settlement more attractive by creating a forum for law enforcement, judicial hearings, investments in land and business, and marriage and inheritance. This legal umbrella aided risk-takers in the marketing of yellow pine as millers exploited the Gasconade River watershed. In October, 1818, the federal government opened public land sales in Missouri Territory, immigration was rapidly increasing, residents began talking of statehood, and pine lumber from the "Gasconade Mills" region was floating toward St. Louis. Family histories relate that most of the Gasconade Mills' sawyers had previously lived in Kentucky and that the "Gasconade Mills" vernacular term applied to the Little Piney Creek and Big Piney River valleys.5
Gasconade Mills Sawyers
In 1816, James McDonald and his two sons—John and Archibald—founded the first two pine saw mills, far up the Gasconade watershed on Little Piney Creek and Big Piney River—at the far western edge of St. Louis County. Three years later, as new Missouri counties formed, the two McDonald mills and Sylvester Pattie and William Harle's mill on Big Piney had done well in the Ozarks, even though the latter had endured malicious prosecution in St. Louis County and had lost substantial profits.6 A new Franklin County, formed in December 1818, convened active government the following year and assessed its four townships, including the expansive Gasconade Township in its western boundaries. The assessor reported three sawmills, and to ease individual financial risk, three sets of partners owned them (Boone promoted the mills in 1817, but had not yet invested in one of them). Owners managed one or two slaves at each mill, and the businesses had blacksmith tools, carts, oxen, wagons, farm improvements, and fields of corn for their animals; oxen were cheaper and more durable than horses for the rough work. Unfortunately, the specific mill locations on the unsurveyed tributaries to the Gasconade are not identified in the tax assessments. The earlier McDonald and Pattie sites were on Big Piney; Archibald McDonald and Alexander Willard's mill was on Little Piney Creek.7
The Fifth Principal Meridian was surveyed in 1815. In 1816, base lines for congressional townships were recorded in St. Louis, and surveys up the Missouri River proceeded, as the federal government prepared to open land offices. But in the backwoods of the upper Gasconade watershed, section lines in the counties did not commence until the 1830s and 1840s. Morgan Boone, who apparently had just completed surveys in Lincoln County, invested in a pine mill right after the 1819 Franklin County assessments, as he replaced blacksmith Alexander Willard (who had been with Lewis and Clark's Discovery Corps) in a partnership with Archibald McDonald on Little Piney Creek. Modern traditions locate a Boone's mill on Boone's Creek, tributary to Big Piney in Texas County. However, official Gasconade County minutes recorded that Boone's first mill a statehood was on Little Piney Creek in modern Phelps Count, while subsequent public records recorded the 1825 sale of Boone's second mill on Big Piney River. Thus, Morgan Boone invested in more than one mill site, and he later moved his plank lumbering from Little Piney (the former Archibald McDonald and Alexander Willard mill) to Big Piney, where he partnered with merchant and former salt-making partner James Morrison of St. Charles.8
A New Local Government
The Missouri General Assembly celebrated statehood by creating new counties, including Gasconade, for the state's expanding population. New business necessitated the appointment of county officers, including justices of the peace and road overseers; the establishment of civil, criminal, and probate proceedings (all three heard in one court); the award of ferry, liquor, and merchant licenses; the selection of election judges and the location of polling places; the election of militia leaders; and surveys of municipal township boundaries and roads. In December 1820, the General Assembly appointed entrepreneur Morgan Boone as a commissioner to locate the first Gasconade County seat and jail, as Boone began serving in a series of official appointments.9
The following month, in January 1821, the new Gasconade County Court declared that the county would be divided into three townships—Clark, Boulware, and Boone—the latter extending to the southern boundary line of the county, i.e., southward into unsurveyed lands. Then Morgan Boone became one among five men appointed by the court to "lay off" a road from the mouth of the Gasconade River to "Patrick Cullen & Co mill." In May, Boone and other road overseers received $9.00 for the work, and in November 1821, the court ordered Patrick Cullen to "lay off Boone Township into road districts."10
Morgan Boone's role as a county official responsible for surveying in the backcountry continued a family tradition—this time, the road to terminate at Patrick Cullen and Company's powder mill was a site for processing saltpeter into gunpowder, a pioneer industry that the Boone extended family had participated in just below the mouth of Big Piney on the Gasconade River in Fall 1811; the Boones exported the minerals to St. Louis. Carl Sauer wrote that by 1816, Cullen's mill mixed "saltpeter with locally-made charcoal, and sulphur" near Waynesville, to make gunpowder to market to regional hunters in the Ozarks. In May 1822, the court proudly announced its first county road—from the Town of Gasconade to Cullen's powder mill—and signatories in the minutes included Patrick Cullen and Morgan Boone.11
New counties required rapid reorganization of townships and citizens in Boone Township petitioned for new boundaries in January 1822. The county justices created Skaggs Township, and "all the residue" became Boone Township. The description in county minutes suggests that the mouth of Big Piney Fork would divide Boone and Skaggs, meaning that prior to January 1822, all of the Little Piney was in Boone Township, a municipal township area that changed as the justices developed Gasconade's political geography. After January 1822, the east-west flow of Little Piney and a small part of its north-south axis was in Skaggs Township, while most of the upper Little Piney remained in Boone Township.
In May 1822, the court received a petition for a road "from Benjamin Skaggs to Daniel M. Boone's mill" and ordered Skaggs, Boone, and Sylvester Pattie as "reviewers to lay off said road" and report the result. The court appointed others "to divide the road leading from Skaggs to Boone's mill into two convenient districts." Then the court appointed "John McDonald, overseer of the upper district of the road leading from Benj Skaggs to D.M. Boone's mill on Little Piney Fork" and appointed "James Harrison, overseer of the lower district of the road leading from B. Skaggs to Daniel M. Boone's mill." Thus, Morgan Boone established his first sawmill on Little Piney Creek; after 1822, his second pine mill was on Boone's Creek that flows into Big Piney in Texas County.12 Local government, at the busy May 1822 term of court, established another new township, named for Patrick Cullen, and its boundaries were taken from Boone Township, as Cullen Township formed in the southwest corner of Gasconade County. Democracy in the Northern Ozarks was well underway.13
Elections at Gasconade Mills
A government objective for establishing several new townships in 1821-1822 was to position polling places for upcoming elections. So, in May 1822, the county selected houses and mill sites as temporary but official public places for voting. Not surprisingly, men who served local government as road surveyors, overseers, and co-creators of township boundaries served as election judges. The large Gasconade County—stretching along the Missouri River into a distant interior Ozarks—included Clark, Boulware, Boone, Skaggs, Gibson, Gray, and Cullen townships.
Sawmillers and their buildings were crucial in these beginnings of local government, as they were well-known places where voters assembled to exercise their franchise. County justices, in May 1822, chose the house of settler John Duncan (who gave his name to Duncan Creek downriver from Jerome) as the Skaggs Township polling place, and included James Harrison of Little Piney as one of the election judges. John McDonald and Company's sawmill (located on Spring Creek) was the Boone Township polling place, with Morgan Boone, Sylvester Pattie, and John Baldridge as election judges. Voters living westward on the Gasconade River journeyed to Cullen and Company mill to cast ballots in Cullen Township.14
The next election in 1824 found voters in Boone Township going to Morgan Boone's sawmill on Boone's Creek to select their choices. Barney Lowe, who had assessed Boone Township in 1822, was elected judge to serve with Morgan Boone and Sylvester Pattie. By summer, however, Pattie dropped out as a judge, because he sold his mill and prepared to leave the Ozarks for the Far West. On August 2, 1824, voters at Boone's mill cast ballots for five offices—governor, lieutenant governor, U.S. senator, U.S. representative, and county sheriff (at this time, the governor appointed the secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, etc.). Voting was completely "public"—no secret ballot. Americans in the early republic demanded that citizens display their choice as free men without debt to monarchial influences. In Gasconade County, some of these rare primary sources voting records that identify clusters of political loyalty have been preserved.
In one race, a candidate attracted all twenty-one ballots in Boone township—gubernatorial aspirant, William H. Ashley, in an unsuccessful bid (Frederick Bates won). Ashley was a former military general in the War of 1812, well known among the veteran militia lumbermen, and the woodsmen knew about (and had probably visited) Ashley's nearby saltpeter operation on Ashley's Creek, east of the Big Piney sawmills, that had supplied Ashley's gunpowder factory in Potosi. In 1820, Ashley had gained the Missouri lieutenant governor's office, and, while he was one of the state's first statewide officers, had organized (with Andrew Henry) the Rocky Mountain fur trade rendezvous. Those voting for Ashley included John and Alexander Baldridge, Morgan Boone, Sylvester Pattie, James Harrison, Charles Drolette, Newel Hayden, Barney Lowe, and others who pursued and profited from the pine river trade in one way or another. Adjoining neighborhoods, however, had different pasts and different loyalties. To the west of Boone Township in Cullen Township, where ballots were cast again at Cullen's mill, Ashley received only five votes to Bates' fifteen, and in Merrimack Township to the east, Ashley garnered but two votes to Bates' eighteen.15
Pine Mill Partnerships
Partners combined as principals in the Piney River trade, some of whom had already worked in milling and/or rafting. In 1820, Franklin County had divided the long Gasconade County into north and south townships. Although property owners were not assessed for all that they owned, the county assessments did help in establishing patterns of wealth and investment. In the south township, the Baldridge brothers (from St. Charles County), and J.H. Burckhartt and George Walton (from St. Louis County), had recently constructed their mill frames on Big Piney, as they had only modest personal assessments a year earlier. Clearly, some rafters, like the Baldridges, later became mill owners. The 1820 real property assessments indicate that John Baldridge partnered with his brother Alexander Baldridge, at a new mill assessed at $9.62 1/2; while Burckhartt and Walton owned a mill site assessed at $5.17 1/2. Alexander Willard decided to leave the mill business and sold his one-half interest to Morgan Boone, who became partner with Archibald McDonald. By the 1820 assessment, there were at least five pine mills in the upper Gasconade watershed, and all of them originated in partnerships. They included James (1760-1821) and John McDonald's; Pattie and Harle; the Baldridge brothers; J.H. Burckhartt (1789-1853) and George Walton (1777-1843); and Morgan Boon and Archibald McDonald.16
This latest assessment prior to statehood indicated that Sylvester Pattie's brother-in-law, William Harle, had left the milling business. Pattie's improvement was assessed at $11.37 1/2, a high assessment that reflects commerce with his combined lumber and grist mill manufacturing. The public record recorded only James and John McDonald's mill site at a higher valuation than Pattie's ($13.12 1/2) and it, too, was another saw and grist industry, located downriver from Pattie, at Spring Creek. Franklin County assessed Archibald McDonald (as Alexander Willard was no longer an owner) at $3.87 1/2 on Little Piney, but the new investor, Morgan Boone, had appeared and a reorganization at that mill was underway. McDonald's low assessment may suggest that the Little Piney mill had suffered some kind of damage, or perhaps it was a smaller operation to begin with.17
Morgan Boone prepared to commence sawmilling on Little Piney Creek, leaving earlier work on the north side of the Missouri River. Boone, in February 1818, had advertised what turned out to be a short-lived effort in a horse-driven sawmill at his speculative Missouriton venture in St. Charles County. In another misfortune, perhaps slowing his move to the Ozarks, Morgan accused his neighbor Issac Darst of stealing one of his five-dollar hogs; Darst filed suit for slander—a common public spectacle in frontier courts—and Boone hired Thomas Hart Benton and Charles Hempstead to extricate himself from the charge. Darst's petition in August 1818 asked the court to keep Morgan in St. Charles County, as Boone had indicated that he was moving to the interior of the state. The litigants continued the case into July 1819, until Darst dropped the charges and both men agreed to pay for their own court costs. Meanwhile, Morgan Boone sold his original St. Charles County land grant in January 1819, and moved to his second speculative grant near Loutre Lick, joining relatives in the upper Loutre River drainage west of Isaac Van Bibber's tavern on the overland Booneslick Trail. Van Bibber (1771-1840) was Morgan and Nathan Boone's nephew, and in 1818, purchased his land from Nathan. By April 1819, brothers Nathan and Jesse Bryan Boone, and their nephew Boone Hays, had entered hundreds of acres nearby. Morgan, meanwhile, reputedly had survey work in Lincoln County, as he pursued his mobile adventures in early Missouri.18
Morgan Boone and Others in the Pineries
Morgan Boone, at age fifty-one, reorganized his resources and invested in a sawmill in the Gasconade pineries. In April 1820, Morgan penned a request from "Gasconade Mills" to St. Charles merchant, Hiram Baber (a nephew by virtue of his marriage to Harriet, daughter of Jesse Boone), for clothing and supplies. He stipulated that John Baldridge could pick them up, and, "if John wants anything let him have it and I hope that I shall be able to pay you shortly." The former association of Boones and Baldridges in salt-making (necessary for preserving food), marking frontier trails, and militia assignments and war, was now active in sawmilling and rafting pine plank. The Baldridges, who had rafted lumber on the two Pineys since 1817 for the McDonalds and perhaps Sylvester Pattie, added Morgan Boone to their Ozarks milling clients.19
Gasconade County government, as previously in Franklin County, provided more glimpses of sawmilling investment. Gasconade's first assessments in 1821, that included the previous five sawmillers, add new businessmen and record higher valuations, as the pine trade expanded. The highest valuations at $2,000 were for Pattie's mill at modern Slabtown and John Baldridge's new pine business with brother Alexander, at Baldridge Creek on Big Piney; the high valuations suggest that the Baldridges had a grist mill, too. John Baldridge had one slave, and became one of the first men empanelled for grand jury duty with the new circuit court. Sawmillers, in fact, continued to be summoned and to serve on the county's grand jury until fading from the lists in the late 1820s. Morgan Boone and Archibald McDonald paid taxes on a $1,000 assessment on Little Piney, just as James and John McDonald at Spring Creek. Another mill, that of Joshua H. Burckhartt and George Walton's, was less at $750; the general location of the latter mill is unknown, although later in the decade it is certain that Burckhartt was on Big Piney River.20
Distinctive to Morgan Boone's operation were four slaves that he brought into the Boone-Archibald McDonald operation, the highest number of slaves in public records associated with pine millers. In 1797, Morgan Boone tasked four slaves to make improvements on his colonial land grant prior to bringing the rest of the Kentucky Boones into Missouri. Almost a generation later, Morgan still had resources in slavery to commence the pine trade. Derry Coburn (c. 1779-1851), Morgan's legendary slave and favored hunting companion for his father Daniel, was in his twenties and thirties when traveling with the Boones market hunting, and would have been about forty when Morgan commenced work in the pineries. In 1809, Morgan had sued three other men who assaulted Derry in nearby Dardenne township. Derry enjoyed a modest measure of freedom crossing the countryside, but was attacked and beaten so that he spent "a great length of time" healing up. The court awarded damages to Morgan. Derry continued to travel throughout the territory with the Boones.
Accounts indicate that Coburn was a skilled woodsman, boatman, and cook, and was surely a member of the Piney mill workers, as he had participated in the Boones' 1811 saltpeter extraction on the Gasconade, but we don't know how Boone deployed his slaves. Were they instrumental in bringing the McDonald-Boone sawmill into better repair and production? Did the slaves help prepare Morgan's move to Boone's Creek on Big Piney? Did Morgan move the Little Piney mill to Big Piney, or did he and the slaves construct separate machinery on Big Piney? We can only speculate. Rounding out the extended Boone family connections in the pineries, Morgan's brother-in-law, Matthias "Tice" Van Bibber, long-time hunting companion of Morgan and Nathan Boone, came to work in the Ozarks, and Jesse Van Bibber was there during the 1820 assessment. From a domestic point of view, Morgan's relatives and slaves helped prepare a place for his own family, reminiscent of opening the farm on the Femme Osage. His ninth child, Milton, was born in St. Charles County, but his tenth, Cassandra, was born in the pineries. Surely, Boone's slaves performed some carpentry and mechanic work, as well as a multitude of tasks in opening a diversified agrarian property in the Ozarks. After Daniel Boone's death on September 26, 1820, Derry Coburn probably lived in the pineries until Morgan sold his mill.22
Boone Township Lumbering, Whiskey & Ginseng
By 1822 the Ozarks piney woods millers managed a vigorous lumber trade from Boone Township, Gasconade County, and it included slavery and money-lending. Morgan Boone had invested in three lots in the town of Gasconade; that year's assessment indicated only two Boone slaves and suggests that Morgan had completed his mill installation on Boone's Creek, so perhaps he sold two for liquid capital or sent them back downriver to another Boone property in the Missouri River Valley.23
Neighboring men marketed all the pine plank that they could export to the lower Missouri River settlements. Lumbermen also conducted the rafting business as they and their forebearers did in the Ohio River Valley, since other products went downriver with the rafts. Distilled whiskey offered perhaps the highest profit margin in the rafting business, certainly more than local exchange. Corn produced more grain in less time, for less labor on less land, than any competitive grain—perfect for a distilling commerce. The agrarian millers had acreages of corn in the river bottoms for human and animal diets, and liquid corn was certainly consumed locally. But barrels of it rafted to downriver settlements had a ready market, and rafts provided cheaper transport than boats or wagons. By 1822, with at least six pine mills in operation for raft transport, it may not be coincidental that a new partnership appeared—millers Henry Johnson and George Dulle established a commercial distillery in the pinery (domestic stills were not assessed); Johnson and Dulle were already manufacturing gunpowder and had a grist mill. An expanding economy radiating from the pineries might also be inferred by noting the assessment of "Baldridge and Company" in 1825—John and Alexander Baldridge owned the first "pleasure carriage" in Gasconade County valued at $100.00, a rare sight in the Ozark pineries. By 1826, the brothers acquired a second slave and then a third the following year, as the Baldridges sawed and rafted plank for town markets.24
The founding of commercial distilleries on the Gasconade waterways came at the height of alcohol consumption in American history. W.J. Rorabaugh concluded that the annual per capita consumption exceeded five gallons during the era of founding of the Gasconade Mills (triple the modern figures). Technological improvements coupled with cheap corn led to the construction of rural and urban distilleries. Like pine plank, the liquor was non-perishable for its trip downriver, with no external material costs in transportation, save the barrels. And to the advantage of Ozark distilleries, St. Louis had some of the worst drinking water in the country, the sediment-laden Mississippi River. Distillers worked near the mills to sell locally and to be near the next raft leaving for riverside levees.25
Ginseng roots also came downriver. Merchants near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers advertised for timber, plank, cedar posts, rails, furs, pelts, salts, whiskey, ginseng, and more that could be transported on rafts and flatboats. By the late eighteenth century, Asian markets purchased all ginseng exports sent to the Orient. Prior to full-time fur trading, John Jacob Astor's first fortune came from ginseng; Daniel Boone's family traded in upper Ohio ginseng and furs, as did Thomas James, merchant and iron manufacturer in Ohio before he founded Maramec Iron in Phelps County. By June 1817, James Clemens, Jr. and Company in St. Louis offered ginseng contracts at any point between Cape Girardeau and St. Louis, and at his stores in St. Louis and St. Charles. In September 1818, Clemens partnered with a St. Charles store under the management of Hiram H. Baber, Morgan Boone's nephew and merchant supplier to the pineries. The successful relationship evolved into a Clemens and Baber Company in St. Charles that lasted until 1823 or later. Agriculturalists supplemented their income by digging roots in the fall, but the only large scale Missouri ginseng region was the upper Big Piney and Gasconade River basin. By the Civil War, however, diggers had exhausted the commercial future of the prized folk medicine.26
Transitions: Mobile Lumbermen in the Pine Lands
By the mid-1820s, entrepreneurs in the piney woods began to go elsewhere to seek their fortune. The sources do not indicated whether the major floods of the 1820s had any influence, but it is reasonable to think that they did. Floods and erosion reorganized frontier geography along the Missouri River and its tributaries. As the river banks gave way, St. Andrews and Missouriton met their slow demise, and by 1826, settlements at Franklin, Chariton, Town of Gasconade, Pinckney, Newport, Labadie, Charette, and others suffered. Moreover, the mills sawed timber taken from a six- to ten-mile-wide pine belt that lay in a north-south axis on both sides of the Big Piney. Outside of the pine belt, scatterings of pine and broad savannahs spread over the large prairie regions in modern Texas, Pulaski, and Phelps counties; thus, the Big Piney woods drainage did not have an overlapping border with the massive pinelands of the Current River watershed. A decade of sawing and export, 1816-1825, surely decimated the easiest stumpage to exploit, leaving more difficult logging for export. Sawyers who remained, adjusted their vision of a future that included continued rafting downriver, coupled with the development of a regional market, as immigration gradually swelled the local population.27
Rafter Hiram Scott went to the Rocky Mountain fur trade in 1822, came back after a few years, left again, and was killed in modern Nebraska, where Scott's Bluff and the National Park's Scott's Bluff National Monument memorializes his name. In August 1824, Sylvester Pattie sold his saw and grist mill, carts, blacksmith tools, and "the right of preemption (if any)" to lumbermen Charles and Bazille Drolette on credit arrangements extending over eighteen months. Pattie may have been in financial difficulty himself, as his cash selling price was $375.00, far below his $2,000 assessment at statehood; or his legal problems and association with Eleanor Beauchamp that extended from 1818 into 1823 in St. Charles County circuit court, may have had more of a negative impact on him than sources indicate. Pattie's agreement with the Drolettes included an option to pay cash or plank in installments totally 50,000 board feet delivered over one year (at $4.00 per hundred in St. Louis, the 50,000 feet of plank would have grossed $2,000, but the market was probably less, since the state was still recovering from a depression). Perhaps Pattie's saw and grist mill needed considerable new maintenance, a legacy of William Harle's exit from the business years earlier. The Drolettes obligated themselves to deliver 10,000 feet by October 15, 1824; 20,000 feet by April 1, 1825; and another 20,000 feet by November 10, 1825. But for unknown reasons, after the first two payments (60% of the sale price), Pattie left the Ozarks in summer 1825 and headed west with his son, James (c. 1803-1833), for trading adventures in the southern Rocky Mountains. Sylvester died in southern California in May 1829, but his son returned and met Timothy Flint, who chronicled his years in the Far West and made Pattie a household name in the fur trade literature.28
In March 1824, Morgan Boone became owner of property in his third Missouri River town. Earlier, in 1818, he tried to sell his own lots in Missouriton, speculated in three lots in the Town of Gasconade in 1820, and then decided to invest a hefty $500.00 in a Newport town lot, county seat of Franklin. The lot was adjacent to John Sullens, another colonial land claimant who invested in multiple economies. John and his Sullens' relations had large landholdings along Fee Fee Creek and in Bonhomme Township in St. Louis County, moved upriver into Franklin County where John donated land for the county seat, had operated a ferry across the Missouri River from his landing at Newport (just upriver from Charette or Marthasville), and also had interests in the pine trade on Big Piney, a commerce that beached rafts at Newport for area sawmills. Did Boone and Sullens have a plan in mind? Whether they did or not, a year later, in June 1825, Morgan Boone and partner James Morrison, sold their Boone's Creek mill on credit to Samuel Nesbit. The fifty-six-year-old Morgan headed to Kansas Indian Territory to become the first American settler at the mouth of the Kansas River, later accepting a post as a federal farmer on Kansas Indian lands, a job with a predictable paycheck, while Morrison continued his family mercantile interests in St. Charles.29
Boone and Morrison included in the transfer of the Boone's Creek mill only one yoke of oxen, but added the usual carts, log chains, equipment, and "all the improvements on the premises" to Samuel Nesbit, and Nesbit signed a number of short-term notes payable in plank to Boone and Morrison. The deal indebted Nesbit to "one hundred and twenty-five thousand feet of good merchantable pine plank to be delivered at said sawmill on the Piney Fork of Gasconade River to be delivered as his notes become due." The former $8.00 per hundred-foot price for pine plank on the St. Louis levee near statehood had surely fallen, as profits had during the national depression of the early 1820s. But with the improved economy of 1825, this sale may have supported a $5.00 per hundred-foot price, which would be a gross of $6,250 (or at $4.00, a gross of $5,000, or at $3.00, a gross of $3,750); whichever price, this sale represented one of the more highly valued mills in the pineries. Nesbit apparently delivered his obligation, since in November 1826, Nesbit mortgaged his sawmill to St. Louis builders and manufacturers Joseph Laveille and George Morton, without any notice of any outstanding notes due Boone and Morrison.30
Morgan Boone's Newport neighbor, John Sullens, became entangled with one of the McDonalds. John McDonald (1781-1859), the earliest pine sawmiller (with his father James), beginning c. 1816, decided that it was time to take a new partner in his lumbering on Big Piney. By 1824, he had sawn, rafted, and sold enough plank to satisfy the inheritance of his two sisters from his father's estate, and to purchase his mother's one-half ownership of the mill. So, John McDonald made an agreement with John Sullens in Franklin County. McDonald transferred one-half interest in his saw and grist mill to Sullens, and nearby land (except a field occupied by neighbor Solomon King), including six yoke of oxen, five log chains, five ploughs, one set of blacksmith tools, one set of bench tools for a joiner, 150 bushels of corn, and the axes and other tools. Sullens was to take ownership of the Spring Creek mill on September 1, 1824, and was to pay McDonald a succession of notes: $300.00 on May 1, 1825; another $300.00 on May 1, 1826; and finally $400.00 on May 1, 1827 for a total of $1,000. Presumably, John McDonald rafted plank to Sullens at Newport for marketing in Franklin County. Was there also an economic vision that tied this sale to Morgan Boone's mill on Boone's Creek and the Boone lot adjacent to Sullens at Newport? Did the famous 1824 and 1826 floods damage prospects at Newport and on Spring Creek? Sullens made partial payments to McDonald (while Boone sold out, moving on west), but by June 1828, John McDonald sued Sullens for non-compliance. The jury added up payments, assessed damages to McDonald and the mill operation, but gave judgment and execution to McDonald for $542.36. Sullens, desirous of a foothold in the pineries, postponed his move to Big Piney.31
Commercial Expansions at Gasconade Mills
John McDonald's mill, like Morgan Boone's, was a valuable property, but unlike Boone, he didn't go far, since he soon moved west to Roubidoux Creek to set up another mill with his brother-in-law, Joshua H. Burckhartt. It is unclear what he did with his Spring Creek mill site. Another Gasconade Mills lumber and rafting family, the Waldo brothers—six young men from the upper Ohio River Valley—kept looking West, and finally went westward. David Waldo made a fortune in Jackson County as a long-distance trader, while Waldo's brothers went to St. Clair County and did well as merchants and millers in new settlements in the upper Osage River Valley.
New immigrants joined veteran sawmillers in the Ozarks and expanded the piney exports downriver. Bates, Baldridge, Bell, Bradford, Lynch, McDonald, Ormsby, Sullens, Truesdale, Walton, and more became names interwoven in subsequent decades in Ozarks pine and hardwood sawmilling. These lumbering families had histories living for a time in St. Louis or St. Charles Counties. For example, carpenter William Lynch, who lived in St. Charles and had sold furniture to the Missouri General Assembly, saw a better future in Ozarks sawmilling. Like John McDonald, John Baldridge (1782-1847) was a veteran who relocated nearby. In April 1827, he sold one-half of a "saw mill situated on Piney Fork of the Gasconade" with one-half of "five yoke of oxen, cart, chains, yokes," etc. for $1,000.00 to brother Alexander, and moved just east to the Licking area, where he and his piney woods friend Barney Lowe assumed a more sedentary life in farming and stock raising. Raising stock was surely easier than lumbering and rafting. Others mentioned above engaged in rafting, milling, and storekeeping.32
A decade after the optimistic forecast of the Missouri Gazette in 1817, the Gasconade Mills area attracted wealthy investors. Laveille and Morton had begun their construction empire in St. Louis building the Old Courthouse, the Old Cathedral, the Episcopal Church, St. Louis University, estates for the wealthy, warehouses for commerce, and the first buildings at Jefferson Barracks—all were places to "show off" the Ozarks yellow pine. Laveille and Morton became partners or owners of at least three Big Piney sawmills and began contracting with others for delivery of rafts. More settlers came to open farms, graze stock, and provide seasonal labor and hogs and cattle to the consumers' market within the Gasconade Mills commerce. By 1828, another St. Louis investor co-founded the first company store handling manufactured, consumer goods, associated with William Truesdale's pine mills on Big Piney—Ozark lumbermen did not always have to journey to St. Louis mercantiles to buy everything (the store was on Arthur's Creek). Nor did Ozark residents take ever rafting trip downriver; by 1840, a year after Morgan Boone died in Jackson County, Missouri, ten mills sawed plank in Texas County. Rafters came from St. Louis each spring to transport lumber to the urban markets. The reciprocal labor and commercial relationship of lumber commerce on Big Piney and the lower Missouri River Valley continued until the Civil War. Well before then, merchants transferred Big Piney plank at the mouth of the Gasconade to steamboats for transport up and down the Missouri River and beyond, as builders used Ozarks yellow pine in an ever-expanding cultural landscape of Missouri buildings.33
1. Missouri Gazette, March 29, 1817. St. Louis merchants wanted an alternative source to the Allegheny white pine lumber exported down the Ohio and to St. Louis. By the mid-1830s, white pine from the upper Mississippi River regions flooded the St. Louis Markets.
2. Nathan Boone told Lyman Draper of Morgan's discovery of the lick in My Father, Daniel Boone: The Draper Interviews with Nathan Boone, ed. Neal O. Hammon (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1999), 126; and of James Morrison's preemption claim of the property, which he later leased to the Boone brothers, ibid, 123. Prior to Morrison, James Mackay had surveyed the area, but the Spanish government never confirmed his claim, see Ray Wood, Prologue to Lewis and Clark, The Mackay and Evans Expedition (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2003), 154.
3. Gasconade County Minutes, Vol. A (1821-1837), 4, and Laws of . . . Missouri, 1824, Vol. 1 (Jefferson City, MO: W. Lusk & Son, 1842), 773, for Town of Gasconade & Jefferson City at statehood; Uel Lambin, History of Henry County, Missouri (Clinton, MO: The Printery, 1978, rpt 1919), 85; and The History of Johnson County, Missouri (Kansas City, MO: Kansas City Historical Company, 1881), 189, years 1834 and 1836, respectively.
4. Michael Allen, Western Rivermen, 1763-1861: Ohio and Mississippi Boatmen and the Myth of the Alligator Horse (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990), 148.
5. Gasconade Mills was a vernacular term that referred to any of the riverine corridor along Big and Little Piney and the Gasconade, but during the 1820s, the core of the Gasconade Mills was from Slabtown down to Spring Creek on Big Piney.
6. For references to Sylvester Pattie, see Lynn Morrow, "Sylvester Pattie's Gasconade Pine: Origins of St. Charles County's River-trade Lumbermen," Part I and II, St. Charles County Heritage (July 2008 and October 2008).
7. Franklin County Tax List, 1819-1820, WHMC-Columbia; note that James is the father of John and Archibald McDonald, hence two of the pine mills are in the McDonald family, and that Alexander Willard (1778-1866) married James' daughter Eleanor McDonald (1790-1868) in 1807 in St. Louis County. Eleanor's sister, Christiana (1785-1865) married Henry Dodge (1782-1867) in 1801 in Bonhomme Township; Henry became sheriff of Ste. Genevieve County, militia officer in the War of 1812, was experienced in the Mississippi River lead trade, and later was governor of Wisconsin. For any unsurveyed lands, e.g., mill seats, the land registrar's office in St. Louis directed that the applicant "list the water course on which the land lies," Missouri Gazette, May 31, 1817.
8. Everett Marshall King, History of Maries County (Cape Girardeau, MO: Ramire Press, 1968), 27, relates that section lines began in 1833-34; Goodspeed's History of Pulaski County, 106, says that "little [land was] entered by 1835," and surveys continued into the 1840s; and in Texas County, surveyors ran them in the 1840s.
9. Other commissioners were John McDonald, Patrick Cullen, ferryman Edward Simons, and Moses Welton, Gasconade County Minutes, Vol. A (1821-1837), 4; Kentucky immigrants brought militia organization to Missouri, but it was more loosely managed, as the threats were much less, in Mary Ellen Rowe, Bulwark of the Republic (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2003), 33.
10. The other road overseers were William West, William Hughes, Samuel Duncan, and Benjamin Skaggs.
11. Road Petition 1822, Gasconade County microfilm (C47017), MSA, and Carl Sauer, Geography of the Ozark Highland of Missouri, 154. The Cullen mill site, by tradition, is a large cave north of Waynesville called variously Indian Cave, Pike's Peak Cave, Kraft Cave, and Roubidoux Cave, email from Terry Primas to Lynn Morrow, December 27, 2004. Boones on Big Piney in 1811, related by James Cole in W.D. Lay, typescript, "Selected Portions of Draper's Notes regarding the Booneslick," 1991 (WHMC, Columbia, MO), 48-49.
12. Gasconade County Minutes, Vol. A, May 1822.
14. Ibid. John Duncan, Jr., was also a local leader, as he was a corporal in the local militia. The following year, in 1823, the county continued to rely on the sawyers and called on John McDonald and John Baldridge to serve as commissioners of the school lands in Boone Township.
15. May 1824 for election judges; Gasconade County Voting History, Elections by Precinct, microfilm, MSA; and Pattie's replacement was Elijah Crippen.
16. James McDonald died in 1821, and John assumed management of the mill. John had another brother, James A. McDonald, who lived on the family plantation in St. Ferdinand Township and was not part of the Big Piney mill production, although he may have helped arrange sales in St. Louis County. The Burckhartts had migrated to Bonhomme Bottom by 1809, where J.H. Burckhartt married Nancy McDonald, while George Walton married Elizabeth McDonald, sisters of James A., John, and Archibald McDonald. Archibald McDonald married Nancy Walton, sister of George. Alexander Willard married Eleanor McDonald, sister to the McDonald brothers, and although Willard did not then own an interest in a pine mill, he probably did area work blacksmithing, as the family lived at Gasconade Mills, and their son Joel was born there in March 1822. The marital and business associations of the intermarried McDonald-Walton folks were remembered when James A. and Nancy McDonald named their son, William Walton McDonald (1821-1896), principal founder of the 1860 Old Stagecoach Stop, a National Register of Historic Places on the square of Waynesville. Reference to the Baldridge rafting partnership is in two depositions contained in Henry Walton v. James and Daniel Baldridge, replevin, October 1824, St. Louis circuit court.
17. Pattie's mill was at modern Slabtown Spring, near Pattie (Paddy) Creek; Slabtown is a post-Civil War name, but no antebellum name for that spring has yet been discovered. Other grist mill owners associated with pine saw mills in the 1820s include the Baldridges, Daniel Waldo (Burckhartt and Hayden may have continued his grist operation), and William Truesdale's on Arthur Creek by 1827.
18. Isaac Darst v. Daniel M. Boone, St. Charles Circuit Court, November 1818, slander and $1,000 in damages, Boone's brother-in-law Milton Lewis (1784-1860) provided a security bond for Morgan, settled in St. Charles Circuit Record Book A-2, p. 395-96; Jesse Van Bibber is listed in the Franklin County 1820 assessments, too, and appears in a local court case; Missouriton, near the mouth of Femme Osage Creek, was the landing for unloading salt from Boone's Lick, and James Morrison, owner of the lick, had a stone house up the Femme Osage. Boone's relatives had several mills in the home neighborhood, including Jonathan Bryan's water and animal-powered mills, and Daniel B. Hays' water mill (Hays' extant 1830s stone house has yellow pine in its rafters). See Morgan Boone's ad for the Town of Missouri "in the heart of the Femme Osage settlement," Missouri Gazette, March 7, 1818.
19. Charles and Bazille Drolette (brothers?) appear in the 1820 assessments responsible for only 50 cents each in taxes, suggesting that they may have been rafters, too, since in 1824, Sylvester Pattie sold his mill business to them; see Batman, 42, for the sale. Ken Kamper's map has the Boone family land entries in Loutre River drainage and Kamper, "Daniel Morgan Boone, Missouri's Pathfinder," typescript, September 1991, 5; Morgan Boone to Hiram Baber, April 5, 1820, Missouri Historical Society, transcribed copy by Ken Kamper to Lynn Morrow; and Pattie's note to Baldridge and Scott in 1817, which implies a business arrangement, is cited in Batman, 37. See author's "Baldridge Brothers: Rafters and Saw Millers," St. Charles County Heritage (April 2009), 112-129.
20. Assessments are for the mill only, but the men had additional personal assessments, Gasconade County Assessments, 1821, microfilm, MSA; Baldridge jury duty in Gasconade County Minutes, Vol. A, September 1822 term, and millers in Gasconade County Voting History, microfilm, MSA.
21. Daniel Morgan Boone v. Abraham and James Canady and James Cain, St. Charles Circuit Court, February 1809, assault and battery; award was $12.64 and costs.
22. Isaac Van Bibber was on the upper Loutre River managing his tavern on the Boone's Lick Road, and Faragher wrote about Derry Coburn and his hunting trips into the Ozarks in Daniel Boone, var. 283-314. Matthias, or Tice, was brother to Oliver Van Bibber, Nathan's wife, in Faragher, "Well in Halth but Deep in Markury," the Autumn Years of Daniel Boone," Gateway Heritage (Winter 1993), 16; Nathan Boone mistakenly told Lyman Draper that Matthias "Tice" Van Bibber died, c. 1807, in My Father, Daniel Boone, ed. Neal O. Hammon, 124, or there was a second Tice Van Bibber in the family. Jesse Van Bibber also spent time at Morgan Boone's mill, as while there, he received a court subpoena. See also Morgan Boone family genealogy in "Boone Family," Boone-Hays Families, Native Sons of Kansas City Scrapbooks, WHMC-KC; Milton was born March 11, 1820, and Cassandra on November 3, 1821. Derry Coburn, too, came from Kentucky, a former slave of Judge John Coburn, who later pleaded Daniel Boone Senior's case to Congress for confirmation of his lands in Missouri. See comments on the Coburns in Meredith Mason Brown, Frontiersmen, Daniel Boone and the Making of America (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008).
23. See Gasconade County Deeds, Vol. A, 301, for a town plat of Gasconade; ibid., Deeds, Vol. A, 37.
24. Terry Jordan and Matti Kaups, The American
Backwoods Frontier, 115, discuss the commercial value of corn. The
public records indicate frequent changes on the Big Piney during the 1820s.
Gasconade County assessments, 1825, list the Baldridge & Company; the
Johnson and Dulle distillery, in 1823, had an $80.00 valuation on record;
and the Waldo Brothers (John, Daniel, and David) had a commercial distillery
downriver by 1824. Rafter—and later miller—Newell Hayden appears on
assessments by 1822. Although Morgan Boone and Tice Van Bibber are assessed
annually, Boone left for Kansas Territory; but what happened to Van Bibber?
He is listed with delinquent assessments in 1825, 1826, and 1827—did he die
in the pineries?
25. W.J. Rorabaugh, The Alcoholic Republic, 8.
26. Williams, "Products of the Forest: Mapping the Census of 1840," Journal of Forest History 24 (1980), 4-23. Williams' mapping obviously places the large 1833 Pulaski County boundaries at the center of the ginseng trade. The same region and the Black River were the only two that indicated exports in barrels of tar, pitch, rosin, and turpentine, indicative of the pine forests in the upper watersheds, while Pulaski County, the state leader in the number of sawmills with 22, and the Boone's Lick area, led the state in the value of lumber products. Pulaski also had the highest number of distilleries in the Ozark counties. See Compendium of the Enumeration of the Inhabitants and Statistics of the United States (Washington D.C. Thomas Allen, 1841), 314-21. Two recent overviews of the ginseng trade are Kirstin Johannsen, Ginseng Dreams (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2006) and David Taylor, Ginseng, the Divine Root (Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2006). James Clemens, Jr. (1791-1878) built one of St. Louis' greatest Greek Revival houses in 1858 on Cass Avenue, St. Louis Place, that is extant but in poor repair. Clemens was not the only St. Louis merchant who advertised for ginseng. See Clemens' background in Encyclopedia of the History of St. Louis, William Hyde and Howard Conrad, ed. Vol. I (New York: The Southern History Company, 1899), 407-08, & Necrology files, Missouri Historical Museum. For Thomas James, see James D. Norris, Frontier Iron, The Story of the Maramec Iron Works, 1826-1876 (Madison: The State Historical Society of Wisconsin and the James Foundation, 1972), 15.
27. Timothy Nigh and Walter Schroeder, Atlas of Missouri Ecoregions (Jefferson City, MO: Department of Conservation, 2002), 169. Local histories in the Gasconade watershed from Texas to Maries counties commonly point to the sawmills as a constant antebellum labor market for early settlers.
28. Scott's name is also attached to the town, Scott's Bluff, NE, where various legends about his life and death circulate, summed up by Merrill J. Mattes, "Hiram Scott, Fur Trader," Nebraska History 26 (1945), 127-62. Gasconade County Deeds A, 32, for the Pattie sale to the Drolettes; James Ohio Pattie, Personal Narrative of James O. Pattie, ed. Richard Batman (Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1988) for a modern edition of the Timothy Flint effort; Batman assumes that James Pattie died in the cholera epidemic in 1833. However, most of Sylvester's children lived in the Ozarks for years, especially in Maries and Osage counties. Son Thomas Pattie was near Paydown Spring in the 1830s and 1840s, but it is unknown whether he was involved in the mill; see King, Maries County, 68ff, and Batman, American Ecclesiastes, 318-19. For details of Pattie and Beauchamp, see Lynn Morrow, "Sylvester Pattie's Gasconade Pine: Origins of St. Charles County's River-trade Lumbermen," St. Charles County Heritage (July 2008), Part II.
29. Curiously, in August 1825, Morgan Boone and others from Jefferson Township in Cole County, submitted a road petition to the Cole County court for improvements from Jefferson City to Barton's Ford on Gasconade River. Presumably, a better road would make transport of pine plank overland an option. Perhaps Boone lent his name to help others from St. Charles County, such as Dan Colgan, Jr. and Hiram Baber, who had moved to Jefferson City to expand their commercial careers in the new Permanent Seat of Government. See History of Cole, Moniteau, Morgan, Benton, Mill, Maries, and Osage Counties, Missouri (Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889), 225.
30. The American State Papers show John and Nathan Sullens' grant in 1797 in the St. Andrews area in Bonhomme; Michael Sone to Daniel Boone, lot, Franklin County Deeds A, 186; Sullens' ferry in Goodspeed, Franklin County, 271, and in 1807, locals established the Fee Fee Baptist Church in Mrs. Jane Sullens' house; sawmill sale in Gasconade County Deed Book A, 33 & 43; Morgan Boone (1769-1839) & James Morrison (1767-1848) were two of the very earliest militia officers in St. Charles District, dating from 1806. Merchants James and Jesse Morrison were twin brothers, who in 1827, dissolved their partnership when Jesse moved to Galena, IL, but James continued business in St. Charles. See Morrison Family Papers, Missouri Historical Society. The Morrisons had other Ozark interior business, as Jesse Morrison and John Castleman of "Wayne County in Missouri Territory" litigated over $250.00 in Castleman v. Morrison, debt, November 1820, St. Charles County circuit court; and Morrison connections in Brown, Westering River, 184. Joseph Laveille, by 1837, graded Ozark yellow pine as 1st rate brought $5.00 per hundred feet; 2nd rate, $4.50 per hundred, and other 2nd rate brought $4.00 per hundred; see Joseph Laveille probate case, 1842, account with William Carr Lane, St. Louis County Probate, MSA.
31. Franklin County Circuit Court Record Book A, 237-39, MSA. There are other mid-1820s cases involving pine rafts and John McDonald, but it is unclear which John McDonald is the litigant—the John McDonald from Bonhomme, well established on Big Piney, or John McDonald in Franklin County, also a miller and builder in Newport and Union. A John Robertson and Absalom Cornelius operate a pine sawmill in 1825 and are rafting pine to John McDonald. An unsatisfied agreement appears in Cornelieus v. McDonald, debt, 1828, in the Supreme Court, MSA. Another case, involving a February 1826 sale of a mill for $1,000 in notes over two years to John McDonald, or satisfied by rafting 100,000 feet of pine, may be the sale of the Spring Creek mill, as John McDonald then fades from the public records context on Big Piney.
32. Gasconade County Deeds, A, 56. Lynch sold several items to the Secretary of State's office, State Auditors Collection, Box 1, MSA.
33. Goodspeed, Texas County, 427, for St. Louisans coming each spring; Goodspeed, Maries, 591, for "considerable employment was rafting timber and lumber down the Big Piney, Gasconade and Missouri from the pineries at the head of Big Piney"; Goodspeed, Osage, 642, "hogs and cattle were driven off occasionally to the mills at the head of Big Piney"; Godspeed, Gasconade, 620, for "farmers and settlers made a profitable business rafting pine lumber. . . ." For the St. Louis buildings, see Walter B. Stevens, Centennial History of Missouri (St. Louis: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1921), 530.
Lynn Morrow is the Director of the Local Records Preservation Program for the Missouri State Archives. He has published many essays and co-edited several books in the genres of nonfiction and Missouriana.
© Lynn Morrow
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