The Ballad of the Boonslick

THE BALLAD OF THE BOONSLICK is one of Bob Dyer's best songs demonstrating his ability to bring out the common aspects of local history and combine it with a good sense of music. The Boone's Lick Country was named after the salt lick used by Daniel Boone's sons, Daniel M. and Nathan, to manufacture salt. The actual site is about 12 miles northwest of Boonville, but all of northwestern Missouri lying west of Cedar Creek and north and west of the Osage River — a good third of the state — was at one time known as the Boone's Lick Country.


Well, they came here from Kentucky,
They came here from Virginia,
They came here from Tennessee.
And they settled in the bottoms
On the banks of the Missouri
With the Indians and animals and trees.
But the living wasn't easy,
The food was tough and greasy,
But the living was free.

They were the pioneers,
They came from far and near.
And they lived off the fat of the land,
And they lived by the skill of their hands,
And they worked on their dreams.

Nathan Boone and his brother came
With their aging father.
They hunted and they trapped the game.
They made their home beside the river,
Wandered up and down her,
Gave the land a part of their fame.
It was a land of salt and honey
Where you didn't need much money,
But you had to be brave.

They were the pioneers,...

Then the Coles and the Coopers
In the middle of the winter
Left their Loutre Island home.
And they came up the river
To the Boone's Lick country,
Carried everything that they owned.
And they found a place to settle;
They made their clothes of nettles,
And they made it on their own.

They were the pioneers,...

Then the merchants and the traders
And the New Madrid claimers
Saw their opportunity.
They built a town called Franklin
And a town called Boonville;
People started coming in streams.
They were rich Southern planters
With their slaves and their manners,
And Germans from the Old Country.

They were the pioneers,
They came from far and near.
And they pushed out the Indian bands,
And their pockets got fat off the land,
And they planted their seeds.

They planted hemp and tobacco,
Packed it on to steamboats,
Shipped it down to New Orleans.
They were Santa Fe traders,
Land speculators,
Schemers of a thousand schemes.
But then the river started flooding
And Franklin crumbled into the stream.

They were the pioneers,
They came from far and near.
But the river had a will of its own,
And the loss of the town and their homes
Was the price that they paid.

With the fall of Franklin
Came the rise of Boonville.
Fortunes, they were lost and made.
She was a boom town city
On the bluffs above the river
Queen of the steamboat trade.
But then the bloody war of brothers came
And after she was never the same.

But she knew the pioneers;
She knew their hopes and their fears.
Now she lives in the glow of the past,
And though she tries to make the memories last,
They are fading away.

© Bob Dyer, 1982.

© 1982, Cathy Barton & Dave Para