Monday, July 20, 2009

A Missionary Tour of the Boon's Lick Country in 1818

[Columbia] Missouri Statesman, April 3, 1857, p. 1, col. 2, from the diary of Rev. J.M. Peck Originally written by Rev. Peck in 1818 while traveling the Boone’s Lick road in soon-to-be Boone county.

From the St. Louis Watchman.
Reminiscences of Missouri—1818—19.

Missionary Tour to the Boon’s Lick Country.

December 25th, 1818.—The people with whom I tarried last night are young, with one little child, appear to be in fine health and spirits, and have come to this new country to obtain land at government prices when it comes into market. They are industrious, active, and keep private entertainment for travelers. They are not religious, but civil and quiet, as were four travelers, who tarried at the same place.—Learning by inquiry, that I was a missionary, I was invited to pray with the company before we retired. This morning they refused pay for my entertinment; invited me to call and preach whenever I passed that way. To-day my route was first across the Two-Mile Prairie. It derives its name from its average width, commences between two points of timber towards the Missouri, and extends a long distance northward, until lost inthe Grand Prairie. Here are about a dozen families in log cabins, scattered along its borders.

Cruising this prairie in a horse train and after riding several miles through timber and brushwood, I came to a Mr. H___’s, where report said breakfast could be obtained, and which offered quite a contrast with the family of last night. The cabin was a single room of most primitive fashion, spice bush tea was a substitute for coffee, and the flesh of hog, bear, deer, and elk, was plenty of which the landlord showed me enough to supply a regiment. The corn-dodgers were cold and quite unpalatable; for the good woman had never learned the art of cleanliness and cookery. The man was a successful hunter, but probably understood very little of agriculture. I paid fifty cents for these accommodations- for my horse was lame and refused to eat.

As I proceeded westward, cabins and smokes from clearings became more frequent. The Methodist circuit preachers, Messrs. McAllister and Jones, pass through and preach in these scattering settlements about once in six weeks, and Dr. David Doyle, A Baptist minister from North Carolina, settled the last spring to the left of my trail, and near the Two-Mile Prairie. He will soon gather the scattered Baptists of this region into the field.
[Dr. Doyle is still living in this (Boone) county, honored and beloved, in a green old age.—ED. STATESMAN.]
I could only travel my broken down horse in a slow walk, and night found me under the hospitable roof of Mr. Crump, where I was kindly entertained. He was not a professor of religion but had the character of an orderly, excellent man. His wife was a neat, tidy person, and the mother of three children.

Dec. 26th, 1818.—As I was about to start on my way towards Franklin, a Baptist by name of Anderson Woods came along and was hailed by Mr. Crump. He was on his way to the monthly meeting of Bethel Church at the house of Lazarus Wilcox, and finding my horse was none the better, I struck into the trail, and in half an hour we were at the place of meeting, and soon surrounded by the members of the church and others. Brother Woods was not then in the ministry, but could lead a meeting in prayer and exhortation. By request, I preached to the little congregation before church meeting, and again at night to six persons, one of whom was a deaf mute from his birth. He was singularly intelligent for one of that unfortunate class. He knew what were about in worshiping God. His brother, deacon Wilcox, related an incident that ws proof of his knowledge and correct views of the infinitely Holy God. He had occasion to correct his little son for telling a lie.

The deaf mute was much attached to the child, and when the father had corrected and given him a serious talk, the mute got an old book in the house, with divers religious emblems for a frontispiece. One of these was the figure of a large human eye in one of the upper corners. The deaf mute placed the boy between his knees, and while the tears of sympathy and sorrow rolled down his cheeks, he pointed to the emblem of the All-seeing Eye, raised it upward and then to the boy, as though he would pierce him. This was the most impressive way he could say, “the Eye of God, is on you, looks into your heart, and will punish you for lying.” This was done several times. This man, as I learned at a subsequent period, told his exprience to the church by signs—his brother being interpreter—was baptized and lived a Christian life.

Bethel Church was situated on the waters of the Moniteau, twenty miles east of Old Franklin. It was organized June 27th, 1817, by the ministry of Elders David McLain and William Thorp. Elder Edward Turner made them occasional visits, but was not present at the time of my visit. The constituents were Anderson Woods, Betsy Woods, David McQuitty, John Turner and James Harris, all emigrants from Kentucky but Mr. McQuitty, who came from Cape Girardeau county.

On Lord’s day, the 27th, 1818, the weather was pleasant, the sun shone bright, and all nature appeared gay and cheerful. The people report the season as unusually mild and pleasant. I preached from 1st Pet. iii: 18. The house contained two rooms, and was crowded with people, who gave rspectful attention. The settlers in this region, in general, appear to be a respectable class of citizens, tolerably well informed, and enjoy gospel privileges to a greater extent than in most parts of the territory.

On Monday, I rode through the country to Franklin, found a Baptist family by name of Wiseman, where I had been directed to call. A hasty appointment was circulated, and I preached to a room full of people. Franklin is a village of about seventy families (so says my journal of that date). It is situated on the left bank of the Missouri, and on the border of an extensive tract of rich, alluvial bottom land, covered with a heavy forest, except where the axe and fires had destroyed the undergrowth, “deadened” the timber and prepared the fields for the largest crops of corn.

If our readers wish to find the site of this flourishing town–as it then appeared to promise—they must examine the bed of the river directly opposite Boonville. Repeated floods, many years since, drove the inhabitants to the bluff, with such of their houses as could be removed, where New Franklin, not a very [?????] place, now stands. At the period of our visit, no town west of St. Louis, gave better promise for rapid growth than Franklin.—There was no church formed in the village, but I found fourteen Baptists there.
ROCK SPRING, Ill., March 12, 1857

Commentary by David Sapp:

This wonderful piece by the the Baptist preacher Rev. J.M. Peck describes his travels in late 1818 along the Boone’s Lick road across all of later Boone couny to the town of Franklin. Though published in 1857, he appears to have used journal entries made during the trip.

The Rev. Peck seems to have spent Christmas eve, Dec. 24, near Cedar Creek. I have not been able to determine who the family was that he stayed with that night.

It is clear, however, that breakfast the next morning with “Mr. H_____” was taken with Robert Hinkson and family. Rev. Peck, or maybe the newspaper editor, used a common convention of the time in referring to him by his first initial only (possibly because Peck’s comments weren’t the most flattering). Robert Hinkson’s place was at the intersection of the Boone’s Lick road and Hinkson Creek, what is now the Hinkson Creek crossing point on O’Rear Road. Hinkson’s was five miles east of Cedar Creek, an easy morning ride before breakfast.

The Crump family where Peck spent the next night was probably that of George Crump and his wife who had settled in the north central part of Missouri township. Little more is known about this family.

The next day, Dec. 26, Peck soon encountered Anderson Woods and others around Bethel Church, about 3/4 of a mile north of the road. It is interesting that Peck did not mention Thrall’s or anything else suggesting a significant presence along the road in what was or would become Lexington, though it is also clear if you were a Baptist or a “religious” person, you were more likely to have been mentioned by the good reverend.

The Wiseman family in Franklin may have been that of James Wiseman, later settler in the south Boone county area.

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