Cote Sans Dessein

Interesting Facts about Pioneer Settlements, written for the Mokane Herald-Post by William Nash Moore, September 16, 1904.
Transcribed by Carolyn Branch, October 28, 2002

Cote Sans Dessein was first settled by the French, but at what date is unknown. There are those who believe the settlement was made as early as A.D. 1792 Others are of the opinion it was first inhabited about the year 1808, but we have no means of determining which of these dates, or whether either is the correct one. That emigrants passed through what is now Callaway County as early as 1803 we are assured, but so far as is known, none of them have left anything to show that they knew of the village being in existence at that early date.

The village was laid out in narrow strips or parcels of land, one end of which lay on the Missouri River, and then extending back a considerable distance, at right angles to the river bank, and by that means giving each freeholder a water front. These French, as they were called, were a mixed race, the French predominating. They spoke what they called the French language, but it was not the classic French by any means. They were an illiterate people, but they were of a lively and hospitable disposition. They were very small farmers, cultivating only small parcels of land. They subsisted principally by hunting. This, at least, was the condition in which these people were found when the American people from the older states began their settlements in this part of the country.

With this early immigration and the French there soon sprang up a very close friendship. Although neither could speak or understand the others language, still they taught each other by object lessons, so that they soon could converse with one another, if not fluently, at least understandingly. This mixing of these people caused them to mix their languages. A Frenchman in his conversation would mix the English with his French, and the American would mix the French with his English. To a person hearing this kind of conversation for the first time, it was at least entertaining if nothing more.

The French almost invariably placed the noun before the adjective. For a white horse he would say “horse white.” He also used the masculine pronouns, he, his, and him, when they represented nouns of the feminine gender. A married lady they called madam instead of Mrs. If the lady was the wife of John Jones, they called her Madam John.

Tradition tells us a battle was fought here in early times, but it does not say in what year. That there was a battle between one or two Frenchmen and two or three French women on one side, and a party of Indians supposed by the French to be about two hundred on the other, is no doubt true. The French were posted in a block house, which is a kind of wooden fortification. The French were supplied with guns and ammunition. One man did the firing, and the women charged the guns, and as they had plenty of powder and shot, they were in no wise sparing of it as the man’s shoulder, who did the firing could testify.

The besiegers attempted to take the fort by storm but failed. They then attempted to burn it, and in doing so, one of the savages got upon the chimney, and made an attempt to enter the fort by descending it. This was defeated by the thoughtfulness and ingenuity of the women, who ripped up the feather beds, poured the feathers on the fire, and by that means either smoked the savage out or caused him to fall into the fire. This maneuver was attempted more than once, but the ingenuity and bravery of the women baffled all their attempts.

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