David Sapp spent almost two years researching old deeds, land surveys and other historical records to map the exact route of the historic Boone’s Lick Trail across Boone County.
By this summer, the trail, one of the first routes used by 19th-century settlers heading west, will be marked by signs designed by a Boone County resident.
Efforts to locate and document the trail began several years ago when Don Sanders, who was president of the Boone County Historical Society in 1994 and 1995, advocated preservation of the Boone’s Lick Trail.
Sanders knew a portion of the trail ran across his family farm. In the late 1990s, he invited Sapp and other members of the historical society to view the swales formed by wagon wheels that settlers created on their journey west. Sanders was unsure where the trail ran. His uncertainty launched Sapp’s project to pinpoint the route.
The Sanders family donated a half-mile portion of Boonslick Road to the county. That portion is the longest well-preserved portion of the trail in Boone County. After Sanders died in September 1999, his wife, Dolores, following her husband’s wishes, gave 14.44 acres of land to the county in October 2000.
In order to accurately map the trail in Boone County, Sapp sifted through numerous maps, including some that were incorrect. He was eventually able to identify between 25 and 28 exact points of the trail from old deeds and land surveys. These points, in addition to the swales found along the trail, provided enough proof for the Boone County Commission to recognize the route.
The historical society is in the midst of judging more than 30 designs for the trail signs and expects to announce the winner and have the final design on display at the Walters-Boone County Historical Museum by Feb. 1.
Three local artists, Mike Vangel, Helen Wulff and Sabra Tull Meyer, will join Beth Brown, a representative from the Boone County Park Board to judge the entries.
The winning design will appear on a pair of signs — one for each direction — at four sites on existing roads that follow the Boone’s Lick route. The roads include Route HH west of Murry, O’Rear Road, O.B. Brown Road and Lathrop School Road. The society hopes to have the signs in place by early summer.
The project, which is estimated to cost $800, is being financed by the Boone County Historical Society through the Don Sanders Memorial Fund. The cost includes installation of the signs and the $200 cash prize given to the winning artist.
Daniel Boone first began to blaze the Boone’s Lick Trail as early as 1800. He was drawn to the area because deer gathered around the salt lick that bears his name in Howard County. His two sons later followed this path to St. Louis to sell salt. The route from St. Charles to Franklin was one of the first paths settlers traveled when heading west.
Although the official spelling of Boone’s Lick Trail has been an unresolved controversy for years, Sapp made the decision to use “Boone’s Lick Trail” rather than “Booneslick” or “Boonslick” on the signs.
Sapp, president of the historical society, said the “Boone’s Lick” spelling shows the land was owned by the Boone family and reveals its relation to the salt lick.
The spelling “Boonslick” refers primarily to the region of Boone, Howard, Saline, Chariton and Randolph counties.