Eli Bass was
born on December 11, 1804, according to his gravestone in
Ashland, MO. He had been born in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of Peter
Bass, a prominent property and slave owner. Peter Bass moved
his family just north of Ashland, MO, in southern Boone County
in 1819. The family residence was one mile north of the
New Salem Cemetery. Upon his fatherís death, Eli and his
brother, John, were left the family fortune. Instead of
enjoying the fruit of their fatherís lifetime of work, the
brothers decided to make something more for themselves.
John went to law school, and became a prominent lawyer in St.
Louis, while Eli took control of the family plantation.
Margaret Johnson on February 26, 1829, ten years after moving to
Boone County. Within a few years, Eli had invested in
large tracts of prime land in Boone County, thus accumulating a
census gave details of 44 year old Eliís vast holdings.
According to the census, Eli and 38 year old Margaret had raised
7 children. Their children were: Mary, 17; Sarah, 16; William,
14; John, 12; Robert, 10; Felix, 3; and Everett, 3. Eli was the
wealthiest farmer in Boone County. The 1850 agricultural census
revealed to the county the magnitude of Eliís holdings. Eli had become the countyís largest slaveholder, with 52
slaves. Amazingly, his plantation was valued at
$150,000, containing 2,000 improved and 8,000 unimproved acres.
In 1850, his livestock included 20 horses, 50 asses, 30 milk
cows, 14 working oxen, 400 sheep, and 200 swine. Harvests
listed for the 1850 census showed 600 bushels of wheat, 300
bushels of rye, 10,000 bushels of corn, 1,000 bushels of oats,
400 pounds of flax, and 100 tons of hay. A total of 100 bushels
of Irish potatoes and 20 bushels of sweet potatoes, along with
20 gallons of wine, and 650 lbs. of butter only added to the
plantationís tremendous wealth.
Eli was said
to be a true gentleman. He possessed extensive knowledge, along
with a great deal of practical sense. Eli managed the estate
beautifully, making it and his family prosper. Being one of the
largest real estate owners in central Missouri, he let his true
southern hospitality shine through. The herds of Eliís estate
were as magnificent as his estate, and they too were managed
plantation was said to be the largest west of the Mississippi
River. The Bass familyís plantation home was erected in 1817,
and was comprised of 36 rooms. Unfortunately, the massive
chimney from Eliís home is the only remnant of the plantation
today, as a house fire in 1917 destroyed it.
Remnants of Bass' plantation home, 2003
putting high importance on learning, made sure that his children
were well schooled. He sent for five tutors from the east to
personally school his children. Out of his generosity, Eli also
invited neighbor children to take lessons alongside his
Out of concern for education in general, Eli contributed $3,000
to the building of a State University in Columbia, MO. Being an
honest Baptist man, he passed his ambition and honesty down to
his children. The sons were said to be ďamong the most
enterprising and intelligent citizens of Boone County.Ē
Eliís wife, Margaret Johnson, had also contributed largely to
the family and to the estate. She was said to be a very
Christian lady, easily loved by all she came across.
Memorial to Bass
Additionally, Eli became a prominent livestock breeder. Cattle
breeding was Eliís specialty. He imported the finest Shorthorns
from Kentucky to his plantation, and began his
venture into cattle breeding.
It was also said that he produced more mules than anyone else in
his time. Eli also made his mark in nearly all other classes of
livestock. He later passed on this art of breeding to his
son, William. William took interest in both jacks and mules,
and became a noteworthy breeder as the years passed.
1860ís, slaves played a major roll in the economic successes of
their Boone County owners. ďSlaves, integrated into almost
every phase of the county economy, showed that they could be
employed profitably in diversified agriculture.Ē
The perfect example of how to manage such an operation was
displayed by Eli Bass.
Graves of Eli
Bass and Family, New Salem Cemetery
It has been
said Eli, always
expressing true compassion for his slaves, had
maintained many slaves even after the Civil War. Though they
were all allowed to go, many appreciated the lifestyle they
could continue to live on the plantation, and understood the
typical white manís opinion of them. This opinion would not
allow the black population to excel in a white world. They
maintained such a lifestyle until Eliís death on July 23, 1865.
He was buried in New Salem Cemetery, near the plantation.
This marked a sad day for his slaves and Boone County, as the
Bassí plantation would never again be the same.
Ashton, J. Monthly Bulletin, Volume XXI, Number XI,
November, 1923. History of Shorthorns in Missouri
Prior to the Civil War.
This page was designed by
under direction of Dr. Lyndon Irwin