When I started this project I had only one thing in my mind. Start when settlers came and end with the present day farming. I had no idea that I would get bogged down in the swamp. But I did warn you that waders were a necessary item if you were going to accompany me on this trek.
The Congress, in 1783, named the lands extending from Pennsylvania and West Virginia west to the Mississippi as The Northwest Territory.
Those who lived in Pennsylvania , Virginia, New York and other “ civilized “ territories saw the expansion as a prime opportunity. A day spent in either Boone County Libraries will yield colorful accounts of life in early Boone.
Hunters, and trappers saw an abundance of game: deer, bear, fox, beaver, turkey, and we can’t leave out the raccoon. One saw provisions for the family larder and meat to augment wild plants and berries, which, in their season, were bountiful. The other was primarily interested in the fur pelts which could be used for clothing, bed covering, trading for other supplies and in a pinch, shelter from a winter storm.
On the other hand were those who saw the vast territory as an opportunity to escape the constraints of civilization and make a go at it unrestrained by any outside interference. Most of this group would be, in the largest sense, farmers. They heard the stories of a land flat and made up of rich soil just waiting for him to move in and plant the necessities of life….. Americans have been dreamers since the beginning and these were no different.
The area was sparsely populated and in that area to become Boone County the majority were Indians of the Miami Nation and were centered around what is now Thorntown on the northern edge of the county. (Rich reading of the life of the Native Americans is abundant in the libraries and online..) But that gets ahead of the story and maybe for another day.
The first White men were French trappers who undoubtedly fanned the flames of desire by recounting tales of the largess to be found in this vast wilderness.
What one sees is in part due to what one pursues. Trappers saw furs for the taking. Hunters saw meat for the family and farmers saw land for tilling.
The reality is that much of the land of Boone county was either swamp or marsh. There was water everywhere. But this water parted occasionally to disclose a hillock, which every farmer knew would be just right for his crop. Growing out of the swamp – by definition, a forested area of trees and dense underbrush – were fine stands of Oak, Beech, Maple, Walnut and Poplar. Some of these magnificent specimens were 120 to 150 feet tall and measured 4 feet in diameter.
Between 1783 and 1820 many changes would begin to take place to form this county into the bountiful producer of farm commodities which we enjoy today.
Not everything was appreciated by every person.
Native inhabitants did not like the white man encroaching on his hunting ground.
Farmers questioned their wisdom of choosing to come here to create a home…..water, water, trees and trees and those pesky Indians. The trapper saw the expansion as an interruption to his solitude and a force driving his fur bearers deeper into the swamp.
An early resident wrote about the area, “It takes two horses to carry the simple provisions we carry out and bring into our settlement. There are only the game trails and Indian trails to follow. There are no wagons to haul goods and no roads for them to travel on.”
Remember the Country is only 5 years old when the Territory was opened. Even if you go back to 1620
you are only looking at 163 years. The moon was an object to look at and the stars twinkled. We have a lot to cover and for awhile we must take it one step at a time. Keep your waders on.