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Nathan Boone State Historic Site

Nathan Boone Homestead

Just north of Ash Grove sits a site that tells the story of America's push westward. KSMU's Michele Skalicky takes you to the Nathan Boone Homestead State Historic site...

Many people know more about Nathan Boone’s father, Daniel than they know about Nathan, but Nathan Boone made a significant mark on history, too.Dave Roggensees is Natural History Manager at the Site. He says Boones’ life was significant because he did so much to bring America west, yet he did it behind the scenes…

"People in power knew him, but he wasn't one of those that caught the imagination and had works written about 'the famous Nathan Boone of the West.' He was the person who just performed the tasks that were necessary to move us westward, but he did so outside of the limelight."

According to Roggensees, Nathan Boone very much followed in his father’s footsteps, but he wasn’t nearly as famous. He says that gives them an opportunity to teach an important history lesson…

"We have the heroes, yet it's the common people who pushed forward our nation into its future who carry it forward."

Nathan’s achievements were many, according to Roggensees. He was a scout and guide for William Clark in 1908 when the treaty with the Osage was negotiated on Fire Prairie.In 1820, he helped write the Missouri Constitutional Convention. During the War of 1812 he was a captain in the Missouri Rangers—federal troops that were raised to protect the territory of Missouri.The Boon Slick area of Central Missouri is named for Nathan Boone and his brother Daniel Morgan Boone.In 1832, Nathan Boone was recruited to be a captain in the Mounted Ranger Battalion—the 1st mounted unit in the US Army since the War of 1812.He stayed in the Army until 1853...

"So, we have a man who became the backbone of the Dragoons, the Rangers became Dragoons, and then the Dragoons became the Cavalry, which, that's a classic image from western lore and film, the Cavalry riding in to save the day. Well, when the first Dragoon regiment was created in 1833, some of the officers from the Rangers were brought forward, and Nathan was one of those officers."

Boone helped lay out the Frontier Military Road, in 1837, which linked Fort Gibson to Fort Leavenworth. Nathan Boone was born in Virginia on March 1, 1781 when his father was serving in the Virginia Legislature and Thomas Jefferson was governor. That was the same year the Battle of Yorktown was won…

"So, we have a person here who was born in the year that the United State achieved, at least the military foundation for its independence with the victory at Yorktown."

Nathan’s brother Israel was killed in 1782 in what’s called the Last Battle of the Revolution—the Battle of the Blue Licks…

"And, Nathan grew up hearing this lore, and that's part of the beauty of this site."

Nathan Boone was respected for his knowledge of the land between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains and for his knowledge of and ability to communicate with all of the Indian Tribes in the region…

"He worked with the Stokes Commission setting up a boundary between the Cherokee Tribe and the Creek Tribe in the Territory in 1833 and 1834. He did the same thing in what became Iowa between the Sioux and the Sauk and Fox to keep those tribes separated once treaties were made with them, and he was the person whe could communicate and safely perform these tasks without getting killed."

According to Roggensees, for more than 40 years, Nathan Boone was instrumental in the United State’s relations with Native American tribes.Nathan moved his family to Southwest Missouri in 1837. Land drew the Boone’s west—Roggensees says the house they built is evidence of their effort to bring order out of the land and use it for their future. The house is made out of ash and walnut logs harvested on site.The land was designated an historic site in 1991 by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The house was restored and efforts continue to bring the landscape back to what it once was. Prairie grasses once again grow in fields around the house as they did when the Boone’s first arrived there. Much of the original house was retained, though some flooring had to be replaced…

Roggensees says the house is the artifact at the site—it’s a physical artifact that was witness to the oral histories being written down.In 1851, Nathan and his wife had a houseguest—Lymond Copeland Draper--who carried out the 1st major oral history project. Draper’s collection, according to Roggensees, is invaluable to studying the period before the Civil War. Not too far away from the house are two cemeteries…one is the Boone family cemetery, another was for slaves. Roggensees says the Boones’ story is the story of America…

"The institutions he was a part of--he was a part of Indian removal, he was a part of the slave system--those were negatives, yet, he handed on a faith in the future that has carried us to today, and, maybe, if we can look at his examples and look at how society has grown, we can keep charting a course for the future so that history will serve us today, and that'll give us hope for tomorrow. That's a lot of the Boone story. It is a story of America, and we're all a part of that story."

View photos of the Nathan Boone Homestead State Historic Site at ksmu.org.

Nathan and Olive's home (photo credit: Michele Skalicky) Restored Prairie (photo credit: Michele Skalicky) Big Blue Stem with the Boone Home in the Background (photo credit: Michele Skalicky) Olive and Nathan Boone (photo credit: Michele Skalicky) Looking west from the Boone porch (photo credit: Michele Skalicky) One of four quilt hooks in the ceiling of the Boone home (photo credit: Michele Skalicky) Dave Roggensees  (photo credit: Michele Skalicky) The Boone home Olive and Nathan Boone's headstones (photo credit: Michele Skalicky) The Slave Cemetery at the Nathan Boone Homestead State Historic Site  (photo credit: Michele Skalicky)