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  • Writer's pictureJim Two Crows Wallen

Story of the Month: Olive Boone

Told by Jim Two Crows Wallen


“I was married on the 26th of September 1799. On the first of October, without any company but my husband, I started to Missouri, or Upper Louisiana. We had two ponies and our packhorse. We arrived in St. Louis the last of October. We went to St. Charles County and located about twenty miles above St. Charles. We crossed the river at St. Charles by placing our goods on a skiff. My husband rowed and I steered and held the horse by the bridle. It was rather a perilous trip for so young a couple. I was just sixteen, my husband eighteen.”


Olive VanBibber was 16 when she left her family in Ohio and headed to Louisiana territory, Spanish territory that would become the state of Missouri. She was freshly married to Nathan Boone. When they arrived in St. Charles County the newlyweds traded a horse, saddle and bridle for 640 acres, and life together. Nathan headed out further west to hunt, leaving Olive and a slave woman to set up house in a little log cabin by a spring.


Nathan Boone: “In the spring of 1800 I built this cabin. It was small, without a floor, and as the spring rains began, water came in. Occasionally the puddles on the floor were several inches deep. My dear wife, Olive, and her helper got poles to lay down for string pieces, then peeled elm bark and laid it down as a floor, the rough side up to prevent its warping or rolling up. That winter and spring she and her helper cut all the wood and fed the cattle while my father and I were absent hunting.”


“When she wanted a sieve, she peeled a piece of bark from a hickory tree, bent it together to a proper size in circular shape, lapped the ends and stitched them with bark strings. She then tanned a deer skin with ashes, stretched it tightly over the hoop, and fastened it securely. Then with a heated wire she burned holes through the skin and then had a sieve which answered an exceptionally good purpose. She and her helper would gather nettles, a sort of hemp, toward spring, and when it became rotted by the wet weather, we could spin them. It was extraordinarily strong. A softer yarn was spun from buffalo wool and knitted into socks,” It was quite soft and wears very well.


Olive Boone was a tough woman. She cared for the livestock, and tended the crops, and fixed anything in need of repair. She solved problems, managed the household and the farm, had a baby every other year for most of her life, 14 in all, one died at birth. She was primary caretaker for her family-all at a time when women had no legal rights.


“My wife, Olive Boone, had a loom but no convenient place to put it, so she took possession of the deserted shop while my father and I were away hunting. The weather was cold, and there was no fireplace in the old shop; the Negro girl was sent to the nearest neighbor a mile off to obtain the loan of a crosscut saw, with which Olive and the girl cut through several courses of logs until a suitable-sized aperture for a fireplace was made. Then with stones for the fireplace, sticks for the chimney and mud for mortar these lone women erected a chimney, the draft of which proved decidedly the best of any on the farm.”


In December 1804, Nathan went hunting and trapping with Oliver’s brother Mathias “Tice” VanBibber. They had collected 56 beaver pelts and twelve otters and were near the Kansas River when they remembered that their wives had asked them to be home for the Christmas holiday.


As they headed back to the Boone camp, when Nathan and Tice encountered 22 Osage Indians. They took their three horses and what furs they had told us we had better clear out, for there was another party hunting for us. Luckily, they had time to hide. The next morning, they were met with still another party of Indians. They were Sauks and a standoff developed. Finally, the Indians asked that if they would give them powder, balls, and flints, they could go. And so, Nathan and Tice were left with one hunting rifle and five bullets. They had no coats or blankets, and it was the middle of winter.


The two men used their first four bullets but killed nothing. Finally, Nathan was able to shoot a large panther. Nathan cut the skin into two pieces and we each made a vest, cutting holes for inserting their arms and wearing the fur side next to our bodies.


Eventually, they found the trail that led to a camp of American frontiersmen, including Nathan’s nephew, James Callaway. The men brought them home, both on the brink of death from extreme shock. Olive remarked, it was the first Christmas Nathan had spent at home since our marriage, and I had the Indians to thank for that.


Their little log cabin was eventually replaced with a large 4 story limestone house. Quite a change from a mud filled log cabin, this home would have seen the births of several of her children, and the death of her father-in-law Daniel Boone.


When Olive and Nathan were in their 50’s, they sold their big stone house and moved to Greene County, Missouri. They built a log cabin and lived out their years around family.

They are both buried near the cabin.

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