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Nearly two years passed before the War of 1812 broke out. Before this time, the life of the settler was fairly quiet. Nature supplied them with nearly all that they wished to eat or drink. When a place of shelter for his family had been provided, the settler could spend his time hunting and fishing. These were pleasant pastimes for him and they also provided some of the necessities for life. This life of ease and rest was suddenly changed by the beginning of the war. Great Britain declared war in 1812 against the United States. The Indians wanted to keep their land, and joined the war on the side of Great Britain. The settlers immediately began to build a fort for their protection from potential Indian attacks. The two Cole forts were built under the direction of Stephen Cole. By the fall of 1814, the settlers on the south side of the river had become so concerned for their safety that they gathered at the home of Hannah Cole to fortify and enlarge the original Cole fort.


The forts most likely incorporated existing structures. They were family forts, fortified log cabins with loop holes cut so they could fire muskets through them or simple blockhouses to run to when danger was sensed. Cooper’s Fort and Fort Hempstead on the North side of the River are the two that come closest to what most people think of as forts in size and design.  Cooper’s Fort held upwards of 20 or so families and over 100 young (unmarried) men.  They were purposely built as forts, relatively large to house multiple families. Hannah and Stephen Cole’s forts were relatively small, maybe sufficient for about ten to a dozen families each. Any drawings of the forts at this time are artists conceptions based on what little information we have about forts, and what we know about forts further east in Kentucky, Tennessee etc. We have no period made images of any these Boonslick forts.

It is thought that Hannah Cole’s fort was built on a bluff close to the Missouri River. 

The enlarged Hannah Cole Fort was built between 1812-1814, and was much larger than the first, and was well fortified.




This is an artist’s conception of what the fort looked like.

According to an old text, they built a cabin in 1810 then built the fort in 1814. That is a reasonable conclusion although we lack specific dates. The first death among the Boonslick settlers occurred April 26, 1814 when Jonathan Todd and Thomas Smith were killed. Judge Joseph Thorpe lived in Cooper's Fort as a boy and recalled the incident:

"At a very early hour next morning the men in our settlement were called together, guns in hand, ready for self-defense... they immediately set to work to build forts for protection, each settlement having its own fortifications, and the result was there were five forts built." Further research and documents reveal that there were actually nine fortifications in the Boonslick Country. Thorpe probably remembered only those closest to Cooper's Fort.

The August 13, 1814 edition of the Missouri Gazette reported:

"A few days ago, a barge belonging to Messrs. M. Lisa & Co. which was ascending the Missouri to their trading establishment, were induced to stop at Mackay's Saline, (commonly called Boon's Lick) as the country was overrun by the Indians and all the inhabitants were in Forts. The crew which arrived here on Saturday night, last...reports that on the south side of the Missouri, the Indians had taken all the horses and were killing the cattle for food; that on their arrival at the Saline, the people of Coles' fort were interring a man just shot by the Indians."



The Cooper family came to Missouri Territory from Culpepper County, Virginia, by way of Madison County, Kentucky. In the spring of 1808, Colonel Benjamin Cooper came up the Missouri River from the Loutre Island settlement and tried to establish a settlement on the north side of the river which was opposite the present town of Arrow Rock. He built a cabin, cleared a small piece of ground and began the work for a permanent home. However, Indian claims to this land had not yet been settled and Governor Meriwether Lewis issued an order directing him to return to Loutre Island.


In February, 1810, Benjamin and his brother Sarshall Cooper, with several others, returned to what is now Howard County. He settled at the same place and in the same cabin which he had built two years before. He led the settlers in building a fort for protection against the Indians. At that time, about a total of 150 people from both sides of the river made up the Boonslick area settlements. As the settlements were a great distance from St., Louis, the Governor considered them beyond his jurisdiction of government, so they were basically on their own for their defense.


Although the Cooper family did not cross the river to live in what is now Cooper County, the County was named after Sarshall Cooper, a frontiersman who was chosen by the 112 rangers under his command to be their Captain.

Many of these men from Cooper’s Fort later became famous trappers, politicians and prominent business leaders.

Cooper's Fort.jpeg

The old Cooper's Fort marker is long gone, but in the video you can see part of it

Joyce and David Campbell, descendants of Sarshell Cooper, near Cooper's Fort

Actual site of the Cooper Fort is unknown, but it is somewhere over Joyce's shoulder, near the Missouri River

This is where they placed the Cooper's Fort plaque many years ago. See it in the video above


By Wayne Lammers

In the expansion in the early 1800’s in America, The Far West received the greatest migration of humanity that our nation has ever known. Families from the east and beyond were drawn like magnets to the western unknown. This magnet pulled at the hearts of people who wanted to improve themselves and their livelihoods. They wanted to be free…free to control their own destiny.

The early pioneers that made this journey were, as we say, the “Salt of the Earth.” They marched to their own drum beat, by existing on the vast lands out west, and to be free. They had to be of strong will, and determined to look adversity in the eye and spit. They were hearty and invincible.

Many a day goes by when I get up in the morning, look in the mirror and see my face and wonder how the early pioneers would get up in the same morning over 200 years ago. What we have today, the old settlers could never dream of, with all the techno items and gadgets. The cold and the hot weather - all taken in stride, it was never questioned. They did what they had to do to survive the day.

In Boonville, just south of the Missouri River, Hannah Cole’s Fort was the beginning of the early white history in our Central Missouri Settlements.

Forts of the Boonslick.jpeg

The forts were built in the area where the river is straight and the banks are north and south.


Johnson’s History of Cooper County – pages 0100 – 0149
Twenty families and a number of young men resided in the fort. McLean’s Fort, afterwards called Fort Hempstead, which was erected on a high hill.  It was the most easterly fort of the settlement. These forts were on the north side of the river. All was not ease and comfort within the fort, and the white men were denied the freedom of … of about 400, made their appearance before the fort. At this time there were two hunting parties … Only Savage succeeded in attaining the fort. As soon as Savage … north side. Todd and Smith Are Killed -In the early spring of 1812 prior to the killing of Smith.

Click for full version.



Boonslick Incredible Cooper Family Bicentennial Boonslick History pages 14-15.

Settlement in Lamine Township 

Lamine Township was settled first in 1812. The very first settlers were David Jones, a Revolutionary War soldier; Thomas and James McMahan; Stephen, Samuel and Jesse Turley; and Saunders Townsend. Others came soon afterwards. In 1812 a fort, called McMahan’s Fort, was built in this township.


References: (Courtesy of Mike Dickey, Site Administrator, Arrow Rock Historic Site)

Google Books – A History of Cooper County Missouri, 1876 

Google Books – History of Howard and Cooper Counties, Missouri, 1883  

Google Books – History of Cooper County Missouri, 1919 

Library of Congress – Illustrated Historical Atlas of Cooper County, 1897  

The Tribes of Missouri Part 2 (Things Fall Apart)

Full text of "History of Howard and Cooper counties, Missouri" written and compiled from the most authentic official and private sources, including a history of its townships, towns, and villages: together with a condensed history of Missouri, a reliable and detailed history of Howard and Cooper counties--its pioneer record, resources, biographical sketches of prominent citizens.

History of Howard and Cooper Counties - Volume II - Part D  (full version at website)


Johnson's History of Cooper County - pages 0100 - 0149 (full version at website)
Continued) by all the inhabitants of this fort. Twenty families and a number of young men resided in the fort. McLean's Fort, afterwards called Fort Hempstead, was erected on a high hill near Sulphur ... the Spanish Needle Prairie. It was the most easterly fort of the settlement. These forts were on the north side of the river. On ... time all was not ease and comfort within the fort, and the white men were denied the freedom of ... of about 400, made their appearance before the fort. At this time there were two hunting parties ... the ground. Only Savage succeeded in attaining the fort. As soon as Savage ... north side. Todd and Smith Are Killed -In the early spring of 1812 prior to the killing of Smith.

History of Howard and Cooper Counties - Volume II - Part B (full version at website)
River and numerous smaller streams. EARLY SETTLEMENT Among the early settlers of this township, were James Taylor, who ... law of James Taylor was also one of the early settlers of this township. He was born in North ... Kelly, one of its old and most respected pioneers. EARLY SETTLERS This township, from the best information which can be obtained, was settled early in the spring of 1818. The first settlers ... sides of the township are surrounded by water. EARLY SETTLERS The township was settled first in 1812 ... In the year 1812 or 1813 there was a fort, called “Fort McMahan,” built somewhere in this township, but the exact ... once a place of memorable notoriety. In those early days it was not unfrequently called the Devil.


Johnson's History of Cooper County - pages 0050 - 0099 (full version at website)
Peck, who in the early days traveled in this section, gives a very ... Eagle's Nest", about one mile southwest of where Fort Kincaid was afterward erected, in what is now Franklin ... this section, committed atrocious deeds, and gave the early pioneer settlers much trouble. But all the tribulations ... The Indians with which our early settlers had to contend were idle, shiftless, vicious ... been written regarding the log house of the early pioneer. It furnished an inexpensive and convenient shelter ... side and architecture, the log house of the early pioneer was the greatest democratizing agent of the ... my little old log cabin on the hill." Early Farming Implements -The farming implements of the pioneers
Resource:  Levens and Drake:  A History of Cooper County, Missouri 

Bottom of Page 50 Governor Howard resigned Oct. 25, 1810, to enter the War of 1812, and died in St. Louis in 1814. ... the mighty Missouri formation has taken place. Cooper County has risen to become one of the ... been eliminated and time conserved. The history of Cooper County, from the time of the red men and ... that be ever resided in the present county of Cooper, yet it is very probable that he ... which settled in the present limits of Cooper County, has been positive in his statement that ... assumed that Boone ever resided permanently in either Howard or Cooper County are in error. However, John W. Peck, who ... tract of land in what is now Howard County. This land was surveyed on Jan. 26.
History of Cooper County Missouri by W. F. Johnson, pages 50-99
Johnson's History of Cooper County - pages 0450 - 0499  (full version at website)
Howard and Cooper Counties. Joseph Yarnell was an Indian fighter, a ... people remained during the troublesome days of the War of 1812. A traditional story handed down for the past ... attend a party across the Missouri River in Howard County. Bottom of Page 452 there was only one ... Shelby's raiders made their famous trip through Cooper County, during the Civil War, some of Shelby's men welded a broken ... Crews) Pulley, who were pioneer settlers of Cooper County. The children born to this marriage are: ... the best known of the pioneers of Cooper County. Frederick W. Miller served his adopted country ... Bernardine, a teacher in the public schools of Cooper County; Mary, bookkeeper in the Commercial Bank of Boonville.

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