Boone Homestead is a ‘living history book’

When I was teaching history and geography at the local community college, I used to take my classes to Nathan and Olive Boone Homestead State Historic Site north of Ash Grove.

The park preserves the historic 1837 home of the youngest of famed frontiersman Daniel Boone, who settled in Greene County while serving in the U.S. Army at Fort Gibson in modern-day Oklahoma.

Nathan and his wife Olive left a three-story mansion (today called the “Daniel Boone Home”) in St. Charles County to build a typical dogtrot cabin that eventually was known as “The Boone Mansion” by the Boone’s Greene County neighbors.

In 1851, the Boones entertained an unexpected visitor, a historian named Lyman Copeland Draper. For two weeks Draper stayed with the Boones, interviewing both Nathan and Olive about Nathan’s famous father. 

Draper was collecting interviews of Americans from across the frontier between the Appalachians and the Mississippi River. His idea was to publish those interviews as a series of biographies.

While the series never happened, Draper’s manuscripts became the core of the collection of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Draper served as the society’s secretary from 1854 to 1886. 

Draper’s collection certainly was a major source for a young historian named Frederick Jackson Turner, who proposed his “frontier thesis” of American history in 1893. 

Turner believed that the existence of a frontier was what made America unique in terms of its culture and spirit.

Draper’s interview is considered by many historians today to be one of the most accurate accounts of the life of Daniel Boone, a man who read tall tales and outright lies about him in dime novels. 

A visit to the Boone Homestead, similarly, gives tourists a glimpse of what the Southwest Missouri frontier looked like in the 1830s, and the life of two people who lived in the shadow of Nathan’s famous father all of their lives. 

Ironically the Boones were largely forgotten about after their deaths until the state historic site was created in 1991.

Today the site preserves 370 of the Boone’s original 1,200 aces, including their house and cemeteries where the Boones and other family members are buried, including some of the 15 enslaved people who built the homestead’s buildings and worked the fields.  

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When Nathan and Olive moved to Ash Grove, “Bison, elk and wolves still roamed the hills of the surrounding area,” states the Missouri State Parks brochure for the site.

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