(Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series — Day 1: St. Louis to Danville.)
Recently I was visiting Boone’s Lick State Historic Site in Franklin, Mo., which is part of the Missouri State Park system.
When I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed a large pink granite historic marker. My first thought was that I’d seen markers like this before.
On the marker were these words: BOONE’S LICK, DISCOVERED BY DANIEL BOONE 1804, TERMINUS BOONE’S LICK ROAD, MARKED BY THE DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION AND THE STATE OF MISSOURI – 1913.
This made me think about where I had seen pink or red granite markers like this, and what route this road took to get here… to where the road ends.
I decided to research the Boone’s Lick Road using both old maps and new maps, and using “Google Maps” on the computer.
I then charted out the route that the road most likely took and planned to follow it while looking for historic markers along the way.
Why was the road built in the first place? It turns out that after Daniel Boone and his family came to Missouri in 1799 and settled in what is now St. Charles County, he and his sons started to explore the state.
It was two of Daniel Boone’s sons, not Daniel Boone, who discovered the salt spring that is now Boone’s Lick Historic Site in spite of what the marker says.
Nathan Boone and Daniel Morgan Boone followed an old Indian trail and named the salt spring Boone’s Lick.
Daniel Boone’s sons set up a business, boiled the spring water to extract the salt, and then sold the salt down the river to St. Louis and to travelers heading farther west.
Before refrigeration, salt was the only way of preserving food, curing meat, and tanning hides so it was a very important commodity and back then salt sold for $4 a bushel.
Lewis and Clark, on their journey west, had noted many salt springs in this area and Boone’s Lick was the largest. Salt production ended here in 1833.
Nathan Boone helped survey and straighten the trail and named it the Boone’s Lick Road. It became a state road in 1827 and was an important corridor for travel for over 40 years.
This road was eventually used by travelers to access the Sante Fe Trail, the California Trail, and the Oregon Trail.
The Boone’s Lick Road also was connected east to the St. Charles Rock Road that led from St. Louis to St. Charles.
The Daughters of the American Revolution and the State of Missouri placed 32 pink granite markers along the Boone’s Lick Road where stagecoach stops, forts, outposts, taverns, towns, and other sites had been located.
I decided to take a trip and see how many of these markers I could find. This trip took me two days of travel with a campout each night at a Missouri State Park.
I only found 20 of these pink granite Daughters of the American Revolution markers, but I also found many other historic markers along the road.
I tried to follow the sections of road that were the original route of the Boone’s Lick Road. But it has been 108 years since these markers were installed in 1913 and roads have been moved, straightened, raised, widened, rerouted, and even eliminated over a period of time.
If there was an obvious old section of road, I took it. Some of these were dead ends and some returned to the main road.
I would take all of these just in case I had missed a marker.
I found markers in small towns, open fields, front yards of private residences, in front of courthouses, in front of businesses, in parks, and in the woods.
I know that historic markers are also moved so I drove around in small towns and into parks looking for markers that were no longer along the road.
The very first Daughters of the American Revolution pink granite marker is in downtown St. Louis in a park across the street from the Old Courthouse.
I remember seeing this marker when it was originally located at Broadway and Walnut Street, next to the Old Busch Stadium, two blocks away.
It says: ST. CHARLES ROCK ROAD, BOONE’S LICK ROAD, ST. LOUIS FIRST TRAIL WEST STARTED NEAR THIS CORNER – 1764.
All of these pink markers then say: MARKED BY THE DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION AND THE STATE OF MISSOURI 1913.
There is a St. Charles Street downtown but when this trail began in 1764, this first trail marker would have been outside the city limits.
There is no telling today what route the original trail actually went through the city so I took the road that eventually becomes St. Charles Rock Road.
I found a metal sign marker a couple of blocks south of St. Charles Rock Road at the corner of Lackland Road and Walton Road, that says “Site of Twelve Mile Inn 1856.”
This marker is twelve miles from the St. Louis riverfront, a day’s journey at the time. It says that the two-story log structure became a popular stopping place for cool well water and shelter for those traveling to St. Charles.
The next pink granite marker was at St. Charles Rock Road and Interstate 270, that says: ST. CHARLES ROCK ROAD, BOONE’S LICK ROAD, INDIAN TRAIL.
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In downtown St. Charles, next to the courthouse on the corner of Jefferson Street and N. 2nd Street, is a brass marker announcing the start of the Boone’s Lick Trail.
The actual trail, though, is ten blocks south and is called Boone’s Lick Road.
On the corner of South 4th Street and Boone’s Lick Road is another brass marker with a replica stage coach next to it.
Boone’s Lick Road ends at Highway 94, and the original trail follows 94 southwest mainly on the right side on Old Highway 94 also known as St. Peters Parkway.
I took Old Highway 94 until I turned right when I came to Central School Road. I then went straight onto Highway N when I crossed Mid-Rivers Mall Drive.
There is another pink granite marker immediately on the right that says: BOONE’S LICK ROAD, KOUNTZ FORT 1800. This marker is in the front yard of a private home and has a big “No Trespassing” sign next to it.
I stayed on Highway N through Cottleville until I came to Highway K. The section of Highway N after Cottleville has been rebuilt and slightly rerouted with sections of old Highway N on both the left and right sides.