August 15, 2013

Trekking the Boone's Lick Trail

Within the Blanche E. Chenoweth collection you'll find photographs from her many road trips with her family across the United States. Among the photos of landscapes and dirt roads you will come across this picture:

The Chenoweth family by the Loutre Lick Springs marker
of Boone's Lick Road.

If you're ever in Missouri anywhere between St. Charles and New Franklin, you might notice several granite markers scattered in different parts of some towns and along the highway. Though they may seem like mere lawn ornaments today, these stones once marked the path of one of the most significant trails in early American history.

The Boone's Lick Trail was a a 120-mile stretch of trail blazed by the famous pioneer Daniel Boone in 1799. When a salt lick was discovered along the Missouri River, Boone's sons, Nathan and Daniel Morgan, further developed the trail. Salt was essential for early settlers since they used it to cure meat, so the brothers made a business out of boiling out and selling the salt.

Boone's Lick Trail
Route of Boone's Lick Road

It played a significant role in developing the state of Missouri; however, it is largely unknown by most of the residents of the state today. According to historian Ken Kamper, resident historian  at the Daniel Boone Home and Boonesfield Village, "The Boone's Lick Trail was the only trail people were using going west until they got to the Oregon Trail and the Santa Fe Trail. It was a major corridor for 40 years."

Car on dirt road
Family car trip on a dirt road in Kansas
Road trip through the mountains
Only so much is written about the Boone's Lick Trail; however, a traveler can discover a plethora of details not written in the history books just by visiting just a few historic sites along the trail. These sites - historic St. Charles, the Boone home near Defiance, the historic town of Arrow Rock and the Boone's Lick State Historic Site - provide a sense of early Missouri history and an appreciation for the trail that once linked these locations. in historic landmarks along the trail.

Today not much remains of the original trail aside from the granite road markers scattered across the state; most of the trail is now part of U.S. Highway 40. As sad as this might sound for most historical sites, a group of Missourians actually wanted for it to be turned into a highway. In 1911, the Daughters of the American Revolution led crusaded for a national highway to be built along the existing trails. In a sense, this trail gave birth to the highway system and became a part of the first highway in the United States.

View more of the Chenoweth family road trips in the Blanche Espy Chenoweth collection of the University of Houston Digital Library.

1 comment: