Grindstone Nature Area History

Located in Sec. 19 Twp. 48 N, R 12 W, is the Grindstone Nature area, a 199-acre Columbia city park. It is in the southeast part of town, where the Grindstone Creek winds its way across the middle of the park and flows into Hinkson Creek. The park could be described as a basin surrounded by hills and bluffs, with roads adjacent or close to it on three sides. The roads are as follows: near the north side is Stadium Blvd., or 740; on the west is Rock Quarry Rd.; and Business 63 South is on the east side. The park entrance and parking lot is off Business 63 S. at the Grindstone Creek crossing.

The topography of the park was shaped by the long, slow erosion processes of two streams, Grindstone and Hinkson Creeks, as they meandered and formed their valleys. The bluffs and other rock outcrops are sedimentary, being limestone with chert pockets. These formations were laid down in shallow seas 250 to 300 million years ago.

Animals now extinct once roamed these lands, erosion from a continental ice age had its impact, and the first humans that lived here were Indians. A large portion of the present Grindstone Nature Area is in the National Register of Historic Places, listed as “Gordon Tract Archeological Site” and as such is subject to a strict set of federal regulations. The countryside abounded with wild turkey, deer, grouse, and bear. Plenty of water was available from springs and streams; the bottom lands were fertile, but settlement by white people did not occur until after 1818, when the Indian scares of the War of 1812 were over.

People coming into mid Missouri followed a trail (Boone’s Lick Trail) that was poor at best, having deep holes, thick wood tangles, and high prairie grass that made progress slow. Boone’s Lick Trail got its name from the Boone Brothers, Nathan and Daniel M., sons of the famous pioneer, Daniel Boone. These sons discovered a salt spring north of present-day Boonville in 1806, and the route they took from St. Charles followed a ridge westward passing about seven miles north of Fulton, north of Columbia and continued to Franklin, on the Missouri river. The availability of salt, a precious commodity in pioneer days, added to the lure of his choice country.

In 1815, only five hundred people lived in “Howard County,” a large area in central Missouri that later became thirty nine counties. Once the Indian scares were past, immigration increased rapidly. Settlers came on foot, on horseback, and in carts and covered wagons to get some of this new land, and a U.S. Land Office was opened in Franklin.

Among those making the journey from Madison County, Kentucky in 1818 was one David Gordon, the great grandfather of Marshall Gordon, whose land became the park.

David Gordon (1870-1949), a native of North Carolina, emigrated to Kentucky in an early day, and by shrewd management and hard work laid the foundation for a considerable fortune. Jane Boyle, sister of the Chief Justice of Kentucky, eloped with David Gordon when only fifteen years old. They had a family of thirteen children. David came west from Madison County, Kentucky and developed a homestead in what was then Howard County in the Missouri Territory in 1818. He later added thousands of acres to his holdings in Missouri. He aided in establishing the town site of Columbia and built a cabin in 1818 on East Broadway. In 1823, slave labor was used to burn brick, fell trees, saw lumber, and complete the mansion you can see at 2001 East Broadway, where it still stands as the Stephen’s College Country Club, by Stephen’s Lake. In 1825, the David Gordon family made the trip of at least six hundred miles to this home, bringing much of the household goods, livestock, and many slaves. This home became the scene of many civic events for generations. These included pioneer militia musters, which sometimes lasted three days. A hundred years later, the homes tradition of hospitality still continued as the city’s place to celebrate the Fourth of July.

1821 was the year Boone County’s petition to become a county was granted. Missouri was admitted into the Union, and the site for Columbia was platted and surveyed. It consisted of fifteen to twenty mud daubed huts huddled together in a clearing on Flat Branch, surrounded by dense wilderness.

In 1822, Boone’s Lick Trail was relocated to go down Broadway, bringing stage coach service to Columbia. Probably, the route of this trail was changed a few miles north or south several times before becoming fixed through Boone County and Callaway County in 1825, when Fulton was established and the road was diverted through it. This main East West vehicular route remained fixed for about 100 years (present day Rte. WW). In 1911, the National Old Trails Road was established across the USA, acknowledging the Boonslick Road as the link between the Cumberland Pike and the Santa Fe Trail. Construction of US Highway 40 in 1925 brought changes.

In trying to trace the history of the land use of Grindstone Nature Area, it was found that the north part of the park had been in the ownership of the Gordon family from pioneer days until 1959, when it was sold to a real estate company by Frederick Gordon, the only heir of Marshall Gordon.

Marshall Gordon was the only heir of Boyle Gordon and Ann Gentry Gordon. Ann Gentry was the daughter of Ann Hawkins Gentry and Colonel Richard Gentry. Boyle Gordon, a lawyer, was the eldest son of John Boyle Gordon, who was also a lawyer and the son of David Gordon. Marshall Gordon was born January 6, 1869, on the farm where he spent his entire life. The house still stands at 1133 Ashland Gravel Rd. The original “double-cabin,” or two-room log cabin, was incorporated into the large room which was built over and around it many years ago. Marshall attended agricultural school at the University of Missouri for three years and devoted his entire attention to the cultivation of his land for dairy purposes. He increased his father’s land holdings to three hundred acres and had sixty Holstein cows. He and his dairyman neighbor, Austin H. Shepard, formed the White Eagle Dairy, which produced quality milk for Columbia. Mr. Shepard’s farm was on the east side of Hinkson Creek and was named Eagle Park. It is recorded that the remains of the old Black Mill, one of the first water mills ever erected in Boone County, was on Mr. Gordon’s land. Dating back to 1839, it was situated on Hinkson Creek. Marshall had a fine collection of Indian pottery, arrowheads, and stone axes.

The 1917 Boone County Atlas, in the Missouri Historical Library, shows Marshall Gordon owning all of the Grindstone Nature Area. According to the 1875 Atlas of Boone County, the southern part of the park was owned by R. McKaskie. There is some confusion as to the spelling of his name, since the next Boone County Atlas, published in 1898, records the same acres as belonging to R. McCaskey heirs. Some of the 154 acres of his farm were in the southeast quarter of Sec. 19, Tws. 48N, R 12 W; another portion is the east half of the southwest quarter of Sec. 19, Tws. 48N, R 12 W.

The 1875 Atlas also shows the public road to Ashland crossing Grindstone Creek approximately where the Business 63 South bridge is now, and the old road climbed the long ridge as it does now. Mr. McKaskie’s roadway to his home started at the level of the park’s parking lot and hugged a lower position on this hillside. Rocks were pried or quarried from the hillside to provide a narrow, flat roadbed. These stones were stacked on the lower side to support the road. Where the Grindstone Creek is turned by the hill, the steep slope is held in place by the largest stones. Positioning them must have been an arduous task, but effectively done to have lasted over one hundred years. Creek erosion is now undercutting this support, and some of the rocks have tumbled. Evidence of a small bridge spanning the tributary is the unmortared stone supports on both sides of it. The road then passed the spring house and proceeded to the level area where the home stood among the black locust trees. Below the knoll where McKaskie had his home is a brick-walled spring (no longer usable). Water from this spring was piped into the spring house. The stone foundation of this two-compartment building is all that remains. Cold spring water offered the pioneer his best means of keeping foods fresh, especially milk.

The most obvious man-made structure in the park is the large, round, concrete tower. In it, silage was stored for cow feed. To make silage, the farmer waited until the corn had attained its full height and the ears had soft kernels; the entire plant was then harvested and hauled to the silage cutter, parked by the silo. The cutter finely chopped the corn plants and blew the pieces up a pipe, over the top of the silo. Removable panels covered the line of square openings in the silo as the silage filled it, and they were later removed one at a time, so the fermented corn shreds could be pitched out. A metal, semicircular tube formed a chute in front of the openings. A person climbed up inside the tube to the level of the silage, crawled in, and pitched out the feed to be distributed to the cows that stood on either side of the “concrete sidewalk,” which is still visible among the trees on the south side of the silo. The building that covered the feeding area is now gone.

Corn and other farm crops were produced on the bottom fields surrounding Lost Hill for many years. These farm operations ceased when the land became a park. In order to maintain the beautiful open vistas which characterized this natural lowland basin, a decision was made by Parks and Recreation and the Steering Committee to try to convert it to native prairie. With advice from the Missouri Department of Conservation and the loan of their specialized planter, a mixture of five native species of prairie grasses were sown in the Spring of 1976. In March of 1977, pockets of prairie flower seeds were planted by the committee members.

The two hundred acres of park land were purchased by Columbia in 1975 from the Grindstone Valley Development Corporation for $425,000.00, with fifty percent being from matching federal funds. The acreage is part of a greenbelt concept recommended by the Parks and Recreation Master Plan.

Capital Improvement Projects

Year Completed Project Description
1974 Grindstone Nature Area Purchased
2008 Grindstone Shelter Replacement
2009 Parking lot – seal asphalt
2015 New Trailhead Restroom

Kim Scholl Memorial Bench