top of page


Immigration into the County had been halted by the War of 1812, but by 1815, there was a steady flow of people coming to the County. Settlers brought with them wagons and horses. Mules were brought in from Santa Fe after the opening of the Santa Fe trail in 1821. Settlers began to mark out roads and to cut their way through the forests. Oxen were often used for wagon transportation and continued to be used for many more years.


The prairie presented few obstacles to travel, but to go through a forest was an entirely different matter. A wise selection of a route was needed or there would be lots of labor in cutting trees and fording streams.


No public roads were laid out (except on paper) until 1819. But no construction work was done upon the roads, nor were they thought necessary for a many more years. The first petition for a public road in Cooper County was presented by B.W. Levens. It asked for the location of a road leading from Boonville to the mouth of the Moniteau Creek. The second petition for the location of a public road was by Anderson Reavis, presented on the same day. The road that was petitioned for a road running from the mouth of the Grand Moniteau to the Boonville and Potosi Road. When Cooper County was officially organized as a county in 1819, the stream of immigration to the south side of the river was increasing and roads were needed.


Early roads were often cattle trails, and later, covered with gravel or made from planks of wood laid down. Some towns had roads called “The Old Plank” road.


(1921)The Centennial Road Law was signed into law to improve road conditions in the state. (Source: Courtesy of Missouri Bicentennial Timeline)

“Improvements to road conditions became a popular topic of state politics with the rise of automobile purchases in 1917. Before 1907, highway improvements were left entirely to counties, many of which did not have trained engineers. The Centennial Road Law shifted highway building efforts in Missouri from the local level, to the state level, by granting the State Highway Commission the authority to supervise highways and bridges. In the 1920s and 30s, the commission undertook massive road building projects that improved the highway system to “Get Missouri out of the mud.”




Source: MoDOT


We have President Dwight D. Eisenhower to thank for the cross-country I-system that runs through the County. It’s a story that took many years of World Wars I and II experiences by then General Eisenhower, to bring into reality.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower


It was not until the Allies broke through the Western Wall and tapped into Germany’s sprawling autobahn network that General Eisenhower saw for himself what a modern army could do with an infrastructure capable of accommodating it. The enhanced mobility that the autobahn provided the Allies was something to behold, and years later was still cause for reminiscing. ‘The old convoy,’ Eisenhower wrote, referring to his experience with the FTMC, ‘had started me thinking about good, two-lane highways, but Germany had made me see the wisdom of broader ribbons across the land.’


Not surprisingly, therefore, when Eisenhower became the 34th U.S. president in 1953, he pushed for the building of an interstate highway system. Although Congress had first authorized a national highway system in 1944, it had always been woefully underfunded.Throwing the full weight of his presidency behind the project, Eisenhower declared to Congress on February 22, 1955: ‘Our unity as a nation is sustained by free communication of thought and by easy transportation of people and goods. The ceaseless flow of information throughout the Republic is matched by individual and commercial movement over a vast system of interconnected highways crisscrossing the country and joining at our national borders with friendly neighbors to the north and south.


‘Together, the uniting forces of our communication and transportation systems are dynamic elements in the very name we bear — United States. Without them, we would be a mere alliance of many separate parts.’



Interstate 70 (I-70) is over 2,150 miles of highway from Cove Fort, Utah to Baltimore, Maryland. Two hundred miles of the highway and two hundred fifty miles of this super highway runs right through the center of Missouri. It appears that both Missouri and Kansas can each lay claim to I-70 beginnings. The first three contracts for the highway were signed in Missouri on August 2, 1956. The first section to be paved were in Kansas on September 26 the same year.


But I-70 is just a small piece of the 48,000+ miles of highway system that crisscrosses the US.

As farm folks look on, a worker smooths concrete on I-70 near Boonville, Mo.

Source: National Archives

Interstate 70 (I-70) is just over 2,150 miles of highway from Cove Fort, Utah, to Baltimore, Maryland. Two hundred fifty miles of this super highway runs through Missouri and 30 of those miles run through the middle of Cooper County between Boone and Saline Counties.

But I-70 is just a piece of the highway system that was conceived by President Dwight D. Eisenhower during the 1950s. This brain child was the result of a two-month trip between DC and San Francisco in 1919 and Eisenhower’s final months of World War II in Europe.

The first Transcontinental Motor Convoy across the US took place in 1919. Eisenhower had been assigned as an observer and he remembered well the difficulties encountered as the convoy traveled from the White House to Gettysburg, and then on to San Francisco. The trip took two months.

During the final months of World War II, Eisenhower was in Germany and saw the autobahn Hitler had designed. It was a far cry from the historic Lincoln Highway used in America for traveling coast to coast.

Eisenhower took office in 1953, and by 1954 had announced his idea of an interstate highway system similar to the German autobahn. It took a couple of years for Congress to work through the financing, but H.R. 10660 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Maryland Democrat George Fallon on April 19, 1956. This time the bill worked its way through Congress quickly and was signed into law by President Eisenhower on June 29. The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 provided $25B for 41,000 miles of highway to be completed in 10 years and was hailed as the Greatest Public Works Project in American History. Some of the first construction began in Missouri and Kansas before the end of the year.

While federal and state governments worked together to iron out the details and actually build the new highway system, cities and towns across America were dealing with the impact these new highways would have on them.

Boonville, just north of I-70, would need a business loop. On August 18, 1959, the citizens of Boonville voted on a $150,000 General Obligation Bond for acquiring rights-of-way for streets and avenues for Business Loop 70. The ballots were counted and, on August 20, it was announced that the bond had passed.

Creating the business loop required the tearing down and/or relocating of at least 11 houses. Most of this was accomplished during the spring of 1960.

Another issue came up during that summer. The Historical Society wanted to change the names of all streets that connected with I-70. On September 6, 1960, Councilman Coley reported their suggestions to the City Council. Elm St. to Main St. would be renamed Ashley Road; Rt. 87 business loop to Main St. would become Bingham Road; and Boonslick Blvd. would be the new name for Main St. connecting to Rt. B. Motion was made and seconded to make the changes and the motion passed unanimously.

However, these changes did not meet with the approval of the community. At the October 3rd City Council meeting, Mayor Bell read a letter from the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce requesting that Main Street’s name not be changed. Councilman Callis moved that the original motion be sustained and the motion was seconded by Councilman Althauser. The motion carried unanimously.

Mr. Brownsberger attended the October 28th Council meeting and, representing the Chamber of Commerce, presented a petition with 245 signatures requesting that Boonslick Blvd be changed back to Main St. The Council agreed and voted to restore Main Street’s name.

Thanks to I-70, Boonville has Ashley and Bingham Roads, but thanks to the citizens, we still have Main Street.

Source: "Historically Yours" by Elizabeth Davis

Dedication of the I-70 bridge October 8, 1960

Dedication of the I-70 bridge October 8, 1960 from on top of cliff.
From the Wayne Lammers collection

Looking east from the Cooper County side of the I-70 Dedication.
From the Wayne Lammers collection


Today it seems that some Cooper County towns are slowly starting to gain in population.

Could it be that some city folks are getting just a bit disenchanted with the big cities? True, Cooper County doesn’t have much big-name entertainment or many exciting things to do or see, but there is a lot of local talent, several excellent community yearly events and a variety of groups to join. And reasonably priced homes and low taxes!


Could it be that they see that Cooper County has: good roads, free, accessible parking, excellent schools, adequate shopping, but not too far from Columbia; low crime and theft, no gangs, good health care, excellent sheriff and fire departments, lovely parks and friendly people?

bottom of page