Boonesfield Village has acquired another treature: a newly discovered small Spanish Fort built in 1793. It is now located across the highway from the Boone Home. The following article is courtesy of the St. Louis Post Dispatch and St. Louis Today.
Fort built in 1793 will now guard area's past
By Valerie Schremp Hahn
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Mar. 12 2006
ST. CHARLES COUNTY
An 18th-century stone fort discovered in St. Charles and rebuilt in Defiance could be one of the biggest historical finds in Missouri in the last 50 years, experts say, but until recently, almost no one knew it existed."Does it make a lot of noise, and is it flashy?" asks C.W. Stewart, director of the Daniel Boone Home and Boonesfield Village in Defiance. "No, but it's a real
find. How many 1793 buildings are we going to find that weren't known?"For more than 200 years, the fort sat on property off what is now Muegge Road, where Fischer & Frichtel is building Spring Mill, a development of luxury homes that start at about $500,000.In 2004, as developers cleared farmland on the site, they discovered that the barn had a unique interior. The barn was wood on the outside, but on the inside, four thick stone walls held up its second floor. The stone walls formed
a room on the barn's first floor, which was probably once used as a livestock crib.Word about the building spread to officials at Lindenwood University ,which runs Boonesfield, and the developer asked if they wanted it. At first, Stewart shrugged off the offer - "I need another building like I need another hole in my head," he said - but he figured he'd use the stone for sidewalks or fireplaces.The developer then told Stewart: "It's got the neatest little gunports in the
walls."Stewart knew that anything with gunports had to be built before 1815, when the
government and Indian tribes signed a peace treaty."I'll be right over," he said.Stewart, historian Ken Kamper and archaeologist Steve Dasovich didn't even know what they had until they did a little digging - literally. They found records
from September 1792, when Lt. Gov. Zenon Trudeau wrote a letter to his boss, Baron de Carondelet, the governor of what at the time was known as Spanish Louisiana and included what is now Missouri. Trudeau reported that Iowa Indians
had stolen 38 horses from the village of San Carlos, now known as St. Charles. The horses were the only ones the villagers had to work the land, and there was a bad wheat harvest that year as well.Subsequent letters showed that life got better in San Carlos. In July 1793, the Indians gave the villagers 37 horses and paid for the other one.Because all the horses were stolen at once, they were probably being kept in a common pasture for the village - probably what was known as the old common fields, the researchers figure. They studied old maps and, sure enough, the fort stood in the center of the common fields. Stewart said the villagers most likely built it to protect their horses from being stolen again. Because the horses were returned relatively quickly, the villagers probably never had to use it.
"The reason that we found it and the reason why it exists is because it was unimportant," Stewart said. "It was never used. The only useful thing it did was hold up a barn."Kamper notes that the Spanish forts that once protected St. Charles and St.
Louis are gone, as well as any evidence of the first settlers in the 1700s."Ste. Genevieve still has a lot of the early, pre-American buildings there, but this probably is the only record of a Spanish fort that still exists west of
the Mississippi River, so that makes it a major thing," he said.Dasovich conducted an archeological study of the grounds around the fort and didn't find anything significant, which would back up the theory that the fort was never used for its intended function.The researchers did learn through tree ring dating that the barn dates to 1852, probably built on the stone walls by the Blase family, who later farmed the land. The farm was turned over to the Holtgraewe family, and the land was
eventually sold to the developer. Family names belonging to the Holtgraewes make up Spring Mill's street names - Otto Court, Robert John's Way, Dorothy Ann Court.In August 2004, after Lindenwood workers took several pictures of the fort and
made mechanical drawings, they splashed eight different colors of paint on each interior and exterior wall. They knocked down the walls and hauled truckloads of stone to Boonesfield Village .The stone sat in piles until last summer, when stonemasons used the drawings, pictures and paint colors to rebuild the walls. Lindenwood paid
about $30,000 to move and rebuild the fort.The building is about 24 by 32 feet and its walls are about 18 inches thick. It
has a main entrance, and each wall has two gunports - openings wider on the inside and narrower on the outside. Although each stone isn't back in the exact spot it was originally, the stones fit together surprisingly well, and the
building looks solid and, well, fortress-like.The fort's roof is now being thatched with river cane, a type of bamboo, and
the fort should be open to the public early next month .Eventually, workers will scrub away whatever paint is left showing on the rocks. Because the fort sits on a hillside, benches may be installed for people to watch presentations about the fort and the area's early Spanish history.Everyone involved with preserving the fort agrees: The county's lucky to have
it, even though it took more than 200 years to find."It would have been a shame for this to have wound up in a sidewalk," Stewart said.
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and Weston, Missouri
French interest in the Missouri-Kansas region continued following the explorations of de Bourgmont in the early 1700s. In 1744 a fort was chartered and established on the west bank of the Missouri River just north of present-day Fort Leavenworth. Known as Fort de Cavagnial (or Fort des Canses), this post was established to tap the lucrative fur trade and to form a base for exploration to the southwest all the way to Santa Fe (in Spanish America). The fort became the center of France's economic and military activities in mid-America (Hoffhaus 1984). It remained in service until 1764, when France evacuated all forts in the upper Louisiana region--see historical marker.
On July 2nd, the Corps of Discovery camped opposite an old Kansa village, just above Kickapoo Island, north of present-day Fort Leavenworth. Lewis and Clark had heard of Fort de Cavagnial and decided to take a look. About a mile inland from the old Indian village, they found signs of the fort, including remains of chimneys and a spring which supplied fresh water to the fort (Hoffhaus 1984). Alas, the whereabouts of Fort de Cavagnial were subsequently lost, and the fort's remains cannot be located today, in spite of much searching. A short distance upriver and across the valley from Fort Leavenworth is Weston, Missouri. Weston was founded in 1837 and became a thriving riverport town with a population of 5000 by the mid-19th century (Fanselow 1994). A flood caused the Missouri River to relocate in the late 1800s, which led to a serious economic decline. Lewis and Clark sampled the water from limestone springs at Weston, and the springs later became an important stop for wagon trains. The spring water was perfect for making whisky, and in 1856 Benjamin J. Holladay openned a distillery, which is still in business as the McCormick Distilling Company. The modern Missouri River is quite different in character compared to its pre-control ancestor navigated by Lewis and Clark. The historical maps indicate a river channel that was broad, shallow, and clogged with many ephemeral sand bars. In addition, the uncontrolled river had many diverging side channels, sloughs, and marshy tributaries. The old Missouri River was subject to annual floods from spring runoff in the Great Plains and snow melt in the Rocky Mountains. The DOQ shows a river of completely different character today. Weston, Missouri is now landlocked, and Kickapoo Island is joined to the bottomland on the Missouri side of the river. The modern Missouri River has been "tamed" by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with upstream reservoirs, levees, dredging, and other techniques. Barge traffic and flood control are primary objectives of river management. The net result is a narrower, deeper, single channel that has been straightened or shortened in many places. The Corps strategy seemed to work well until the summer of 1993, when continuous rain and runoff overwhelmed all flood-control structures on the lower Missouri. The valley was completely innundated at Fort Leavenworth. This event has caused the Corps to rethink its approach for future river management.