Monday, July 20, 2009

On the Road to Smithton in 1820

[Franklin] Missouri Intelligencer, August 26, 1820, p. 3, col. 5:

CAUTION TO TRAVELLERS. On the main road from St. Charles to Franklin, about 75 miles from the latter, as the writer of this was informed at Mr. Fruits; he did not advance from that place above a quarter of a mile when he observed a road branching off towards the left and a sign post setting forth that the road to Franklin, by Smithton, is only 62 miles. Now this same road, when it branches off, and indeed, continues for several miles very smooth, and well marked with carriage wheels, drawn, it would seem for the mere purpose of enticing the traveller that way. Having advanced perhaps 7 miles, he arrives at a house, previous to which, the carriage marks and road nearly vanish, then he is guided, chiefly by blazed trees and stakes, “many a weary, many a wandering foot,” through as tedious a rout as ever bewildered wight explored, without seeing a house or habitation, for about 20 miles; then, at Mr. Todd’s he will learn that Smithton is still 8 miles distant–a town consisting of one or two houses, where he cannot be accommodated. The only alternative left him is, to make the best of his way to the main road, by crossing, in a north direction, about 4 miles. Whether the motives of the projectors of this tedious route were to aid or mislead the traveller, or to answer some other private purpose, the writer, being an entire stranger, will not take upon him to say–but can assure them they have any thing but his thanks, and those of his horse, for his pains & shall only add, whoever would comprehend the following confusion “Had you seen this road before it was made, you’d lift up your hands and thank? General ‘Wade’” had best go this road.


Many have been the times we have heard that the enterprising proprietors of the Smithton company rerouted travelers on the Boone’s Lick road through their new town. The main road that crossed Boone County about six miles north of Smithton, later Columbia, passed through no towns at this time, but it was well traveled and marked, had been cleared of most obstacles, and passed several taverns where the traveler could stop. Compare that situation with this fascinating firsthand account of what the first unsuspecting wayfarers who took the "new" road to Smithton, later Columbia, experienced. Mr. Fruit would have been Enoch or Alexander Fruit(e), both of whom settled in Callaway County in 1819 near present Williamsburg. This was the point of departure for the new south branch of the Boone’s Lick road through Columbia. The Mr. Todd mentioned was probably North R. Todd, who had property near the present community of Shaw at the intersection of Rt. Z and St. Charles Road.

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