This reporter went out and dug up, from your local legends, the story of Frenchman’s Bluff. Many around this county are familiar with the bluff area on the western edge of Cuivre River State Park outside the city of Troy in Lincoln County Missouri. The bluff area is often referred to as lover’s leap, because young lovers go to the cliff to sneak a few moments by themselves.
Now let’s get into the story of Frenchman’s Bluff. In the 1800’s a well-to-do Frenchman owned all the land around the bluff. He had seen the lack of shops in the local area and had set up a small store and a trading post of sorts. On one fine summer’s day he was tending to his store when an Native American chief and his daughter came into the store.
From the very moment the Frenchman laid his eyes upon her face he was spellbound by her. Her beauty was as majestic as an eagle soaring in the heavens. He let the Chief have anything he wanted from the store and did not charge him anything. As the Chief readied himself to leave, the Frenchman asked if he could load up his wagon full of supplies, jewelry and valuables and bring them to the camp that night as a gift. It was his hopes to see the beautiful Princess again.
After she had left, the image of her was imprinted in his mind. The minutes seemed like hours as the day dragged on until the time when he could close the store, and feast his eyes on her again.
Finally the moment was there when he could hurry the last customer out and get on his way. He quickly loaded his wagons with goods and headed for the camp.
As he drove into the camp, a line of warriors stood watching him intensely, as if he was a disease that they didn’t want to catch.
In his mind, though, it seemed more like they wanted to rid themselves of the disease all together. But the Frenchman steadily rode on past the line of warriors and straight to the Chief who was sitting next to a campfire. He couldn’t help but notice the beautiful maiden sitting next to her father.
The Frenchman stepped down from his wagon politely making conversation with the Chief. The language was easy for him, as he had learned it many years before. Finally he decided to tell the Chief why he was there.
“My good Chief,” He said. “I will happily trade all the goods in my wagon for your daughter’s hand in marriage.” But the Chief would not accept, he only insisted that it was against their tribal laws to allow marriage outside of their tribe. The Frenchman refused to accept that answer. He began offering the Chief everything that he had. His home, his land, even his store, it didn’t matter to him. Whatever the Chief would have asked for he would have gladly given it for the woman that sat watching this exchange.
The Chief remained steadfast. No was his answer and it wasn’t going to change. He sent the Frenchman away with a warning to never return. As the Frenchman pulled himself up onto the seat of the wagon he vowed unto himself that he would be with the Princess.
Back at home the Frenchman lay in his bed thinking of nothing but her. In the early morning hours he rose from his restlessness. “As the heavens give rain for the grass to live, her love gives me life. Without her I am nothing.”
And with that he left for the encampment.
As he approached the silent camp he thought on how it had looked earlier that day. He remembered seeing which tepees people had come and gone from, he was certain he knew which one was hers. He quietly snuck through the camp and to the tepee, peeking inside he could see her sleeping peacefully in the firelight. He stepped inside, bending down he whispered his love for her. She open her eyes and he could see his love and affection reflected there.
She took his hand and looked at him questioningly, she knew that her father would never allow this.
“Run away with me,” was all he said. She quickly rose and began wrapping her few belongings in a quilt.
They were almost free from the camp when something dropped from her belongings and clattered to the ground. The warriors who were standing guard let out a fierce war cry, alerting the entire encampment. The young couple ran for the Frenchman’s wagon, which had been parked a little way from the camp. They jumped onto it and he cracked the whips, his horses sprang to life and bolted forward. It wasn’t enough – the warriors on their horses were gaining on them fast. They rode onward, hoping to somehow outrun their pursuers.
The horse pulling the wagon halted suddenly tossing the couple violently. They jumped from the wagon and saw the open air in front of them as they overlooked the cliff with the fields down below.
The two joined hands knowing that this would be the end, there was no escape in either direction.
The tears flowed down the beautiful maiden’s cheeks as she looked into the eyes of her love.
“We cannot be together in this world, so at least we will be together in the afterlife.”
As the rising sun lit the sky they took their final look into each other’s eyes. Pressing their lips together in their first kiss they said goodbye.
Now many people say that they fell to their deaths, but this reporter likes to think that just maybe they jumped together in hopes of a new life after this one had ended. Rumor says that if you got to the top of the bluff around 5:30 a.m. that you can see them walking hand in hand along the Cuivre River.
Song Of Solomon 8: 6-7
“Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.”
If you know a local folktale or urban legend from local Lincoln County contact Norm at (636) 233-6878.