The Last Pioneer Killed by Indians in NW Missouri

The first permanent settlers in Daviess County came to stay around 1830. This followed the last important Indian battle in Northwest Missouri, which occurred in July, 1818, when six Osage ndians (without guns) were shot and killed near Orrick. History records no Indian difficulties in Daviess County. But if you journey down river and back in time to 1810, you’ll discover an historic pioneer Indian problem in Northwest Missouri: the Boone’s Lick Country War.

The first permanent settlers in Daviess County came to stay around 1830. This followed the last important Indian battle in Northwest Missouri, which occurred in July, 1818, when six Osage ndians (without guns) were shot and killed near Orrick. History records no Indian difficulties in Daviess County. But if you journey down river and back in time to 1810, you’ll discover an historic pioneer Indian problem in Northwest Missouri: the Boone’s Lick Country War.

The best summary of this “war” of 1810-14 is told by the Rev. J.M. Peck in his memoirs, written in 1819. Remember that the Territory of Missouri north of the Missouri River was called St. Charles County or district until 1812; Howard County was formed in 1816 (Ray County or district, from which later came Daviess County, was formed in 1821 just as Missouri became a state).

Howard District was nearly 22,000 square miles and included a part of Iowa and all the west side of the Osage River in south Missouri. The district extended westward to the mouth of the Kansas River at the present Kansas City.

The Missouri River area west of the present Jefferson City was called Boone’s Lick Country. There were no pioneers who came to stay until Lt. Col. Benjamin Cooper Sr. and his family moved upriver in early 1808. Territory Gov. Merriwether Lewis ordered them to move back to Loutre Island, about 4 miles below the entrance of the Gasconade River. They stayed there until spring 1810.

Indian troubles started near the Loutre River settlement in July, 1810. A small band of Potawatomie Indians took some horses and supplies from there and were followed by six settlers to Boone’s Lick (8 miles northwest of New Franklin, S4-T49-R17) in the present day Boone County. The settlers recovered some of the property.

The night before starting the return trip, however, the settlers were raided. William T. Cole was killed as were two other settlers and four Indians. Cole’s brother, Stephen, was wounded.

This small battle seems to have resulted in a military response into the area west of Cedar Creek in 1810 and 1811. Gen. Henry S. Dodge, then major of the battalion, was in command of the soldiers and Col. Cooper led the backwoodsmen. Other principal officers were Capt. Sarshall Cooper, William Head, Stephen Cole, Capt. John Thompson from St. Louis, Capt Daughterty of Caope Girardeau, and Capt. Edward Hempstead. Major Dodge also had Delaware and Shawnee Indians in his battalion, a force of mounted troops.

Col. Cooper headed Cooper’s Fort, built on the bottom prairie where he tried to settle in 1808. Fort McLane was built on the bluff a mile west of where new Franklin was later constructed. Kincaid’s Fort was put near the river about a mile and a half up from the Old Franklin site. Head’s Fort was put near Moniteau Creek at the end of the old trace from St. Charles.

Cole’s Fort was made on the south side of the Missouri River, about a mile below the present Boonville. William Cole’s widow and children settled there soon after the murder of her husband.

It is told that in the spring of 1812, tribes from Lake Michigan including Sauk, Fox, Kickapoo and Potawatomie were supplied and encouraged by the British Limie Torie Government to aid its war against American citizens. The war began to get hot in the Boone County area in 1812. Some battle casualties were:

— Jonathan Todd and Thomas Smith of Fr. McLane, killed with several Indians near Thrall’s Prairie

— two Indians, killed by James Cole and James Davis, while trying to keep settlers from returning safely to Cole’s Fort

— William Campbell killed by Quapaw Indians 5 miles northwest of Boonville in July 1812; his companion, Adam McCoul, escaped to warn settlement forces. Col. Cooper and Major Dodge led 500 frontiersmen and regular soldiers in pursuit and 180 Quapaws surrendered near the Missouri River and were taken to St. Louis as prisoners of war

— Braxton Cooper Jr., killed in September, 1813, by Indians 2 miles northwest of New Franklin while cutting logs to build a cabin

— Joseph Still of Fort McLane, killed on the Chariton River in October, 1813, but no circumstances were known except that it was probably the work of Indians

— William McLane, killed near Moniteau Creek in October 1813, after being pursued from the Fayette area by a band of Indians estimated at 150 in number

— Capt. Sarshall Cooper, killed April 14, 1814, by a gunshot through a hole in his cabin wall; this murder may have been done by Frenchmen whom the captain had stoppped from supplying whiskey, powder and shot to Indians

Others killed in the area of Boone’s Lick by Indians were Sgt. Samuel McMahan of Fort Cooper, William Gregg of Fort Cooper, John Smith and James (John) Busby, both probably of Fort Cooper.

The last death mentioned in this was a black man namd Joe who belonged to Samuel Brown of Fort McLane. Joe was killed 3/4-mile east of the present Estill in Boone County. Thus, the last reported pioneer settler killed in Northwest Missouri was during the Boone’s Lick Country War in 1814. This was approximately 16 years before the start of the settlement of Daviess County and 7 years before the old Ray County district was formed.

Written by David Stark, Gallatin, for the Gallatin North Missourian published Sept. 29, 1993.