Generations of Frontier Legacy
In 1781, Nathan Boone was born in Kentucky, the youngest son of Daniel Boone. Boone grew up to be similar to his famous father in character, temperament and achievement.
During his life, Boone spent time much as his father had pursuing the frontier careers of surveyor, trapper, hunter and soldier. In 1805, with his brother Daniel Morgan, he opened the salt-making business that would immortalize the Boone name in mid-Missouri. Though his stint as frontier entrepreneur was short, the location of his saltworks, near Boonville, would be known as the Boone's Lick for years to come. The Boone's Lick Road, on which the brothers moved their supplies and finished product, would become a major thoroughfare in early Missouri.
Giving up the salt business for a career in surveying, Boone helped lay out some of Missouri's first roadways. Boone also took a turn at politics as a member of the first constitutional convention for Missouri in 1820. However, it is his life as a soldier for which he is best known.
As a captain of the Missouri Rangers during the War of 1812, Boone established himself as a capable leader and demonstrated abilities quite equal to his legendary father. In 1833, he was made a captain of dragoons, a military regiment at the time, and was stationed at Fort Gibson in Oklahoma. He was assigned the task of surveying the boundaries between the Creek and Cherokee Indian nations. Ten years later, he conducted an expedition into the unsettled area of what is now Oklahoma and Kansas. On Feb. 16, 1847, Boone was made major of the First Dragoons. In 1850, he was given a commission as lieutenant colonel of the Second Dragoons. He resigned from military service on July 15, 1853, because of failing health.
As early as 1834, Boone's sons, James, Benjamin Howard and John Colter were acquiring land on which to build the family home near where Ash Grove now stands. Boone and his wife, Olive, left their stone mansion in what is now Defiance, Mo., in 1837 and moved into the newly built house, where Boone lived until his death in 1856. This house is now the center of Nathan Boone Homestead State Historic Site. Nathan and Olive are buried in the nearby family cemetery.
The house the Boones built began as a double pen log cabin with an open dogtrot through the center. It was a story and a half with a sleeping loft on the second floor. It was built primarily of locally harvested ash logs with walnut being used for the sills and much of the trim work. As time went on, the cabin evolved with the dogtrot being closed in and the exterior being covered in walnut weatherboarding. The interior was finished with plaster and lathe. During its evolution, from cabin to house, many repairs and improvements were made to update and modernize it and it was lived in until the 1960s.
In addition to the family cemetery, there are slave graves on the property. The Boone family's slaves were instrumental in the operation of the homestead and all of the Boone's agricultural pursuits. Many of the former slaves continued to live on or near the homestead properties after the Civil War. Of the numerous headstones, to date, two have been found with names inscribed on them.
With planned landscape restoration and the absence of modern intrusions, the view from the house will not be significantly different than when the Boone family settled here. Prairie grasslands with large areas of open limestone glades surrounded the house. The woodland areas consisted of large groves of ash, walnut and oak trees broken by glades of limestone outcroppings.
The historic site consists of the cabin, remnants of outbuildings, the family and slave cemeteries and 370 acres of the original Boone homestead. The site is currently open and has a small picnic area (grills are available), hiking trails and accessible restrooms with running water.