Submitted by Ellen Knoernschild, Friends of Historic Augusta
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the designation of many properties in Augusta being admitted to the National Register of Historic Places. The Friends of Historic Augusta seeks to preserve Augusta’s history and to share it with residents and visitors. The article below is the first in a series throughout the year that will highlight the history and historic buildings in Augusta.
PART 1: EARLY SETTLEMENT OF AUGUSTA AREA
Free land to all settlers was the promise of the Spanish government in “upper Louisiana” in the late 1700’s. Spain was concerned about English claims. Daniel Boone was promised 11,000 arpents (about 8000 acres) if he would bring 100 families with him from Kentucky and Virginia. Most of the families were given 340 acres. These Spanish land grants, clustered along the Missouri River and larger creeks, still appear on topographic maps with the survey number and name of the original grantee. After 5 years of residency the grant could be confirmed in New Orleans.
Life remained primitive for many years. Henry Crow’s grant was near what would become Augusta. He died in 1828. He had a large estate at the time of his death -- $577 not counting land or crops; but his kitchen equipment and personal possessions were of more value than his livestock. His 33 head of cattle, 64 hogs, 15 sheep and 24 geese were worth $141. Compare the $3 he got for a steer to $10 for a bed, 50 cents for a hog to $2.00 for a kettle, and 80 cents for a sheep to $2.50 for a Bible Dictionary. The clock was worth as much as 13 hogs. Household items must have been brought from Kentucky 30 years earlier and could not be readily purchased.
In 1800 France gained control of Louisiana. France also issued land grants but was careless, sometimes issuing the same grant to several people. After the Louisiana Purchase all grants were investigated. The Spanish ones were all confirmed and the French ones negated. Until Missouri became a state in 1820 and surveying was done, the only land which could be sold was the Spanish land grants.
PART 2: FOUNDING OF AUGUSTA
In 1810, Leonard Harold, a wealthy entrepreneur from Virginia (possibly Mount Pleasant in Augusta County), came to this area. He married the daughter of Henry Crow, who had a Spanish land grant near what would become Augusta. Harold started buying and selling Spanish land grants. Missouri finally became a state in August 1821, after three years of congressional argument over slavery and the passage of the Missouri Compromise. There was a rush to buy the public lands, mostly at $1.00 an acre. A “cash only” requirement slowed sales. Harold bought 360 choice acres. With an excellent boat landing it was expensive, selling for $2.50 an acre. A ferry started, and by 1825 there was regular steamboat service.
In 1836 Leonard heard that Julius Mallinckrodt was planning a town 1/2 mile west of his property. Leonard was in a rush to start his town first. He had 54 lots surveyed on March 28, 1836, had the plat drawn up that day and took the steamboat to St. Charles the next day to have the survey recorded. The auction was only two weeks later and almost all the lots sold. The average price was $25. All the purchasers had English names. When Julius Mallinckrodt had his auction a few months later the purchasers were German. But the state wouldn’t allow another boat landing, plus the town of New Dortmund was wiped out by a flood.
Leonard’s town developed quickly with mills, pubs, hotels, a saddle-maker’s shop and other businesses on the waterfront. Leonard built a large log house with glass windows (the sign of an expensive house), a tobacco barn, and slave cabins.