Daniel Boone

booneBorn as son to a blacksmith and weaver in 1734, Daniel Boone came into the world in a small Quaker village near Reading, Pennsylvania. This small village doubled not only as a home but also as a trading post the Native Americans and allowed Boone to be exposed to the Delawares at a very young age. Even in his younger years, Daniel was blessed and cursed with wanderlust that he would carry with him for the rest of his years. The wilderness surrounding his modest village soon became like a second home to young Daniel and he would escape to its comfort whenever he could. Though this was a good home for the young boy his parents moved him to the Yadkin Valley in North Carolina where young Daniel grew into manhood. At the mere age of fifteen, Daniel led his first longhunt and began to make a name for himself as a scout and as a marksman.

For his first extended trip away from home in 1755, Daniel joined with his fellow militia men to cut a path through the wilderness for Colonel Braddock in his march to Fort Duquesne. It was along this path that Daniel met the man who would forever alter his life, John Finley. He regaled the young man with tales of the fabled “can-tuc-ee” and the small trail that led into it known only as the “Warrior’s Path”. Daniel placed this knowledge in the back of his mind to be tapped into in the not too distant future. Along this path to Duquesne, Braddock and his party were ambushed by Indians. Realizing the futility of this battle, Boone took to his horse and rode away for he had had enough of war.

After the ambush, Boone returned back to his home in the Yadkin valley where he met Rebecca Bryan. She was but seventeen when she married Daniel and nine months after their marriage she bore him their first of eight children, James. Daniel relaxed from his adventurous life for a short time, but this peace was disturbed by a man of small stature who chose to come visit Boone’s home in the Yadkin Valley: it was the legendary John Finely! He had returned to ask Daniel to lead a hunt into the uncharted lands of can-tuc-ee. Daniel quickly agreed and assembled a team of longhunters from neighboring homes and immediately they set off in what may prove to be the most devastating, but yet most beneficial expedition in Daniel’s life.

They set out early in the summer looking for the elusive warriors’ path or “path of the armed ones” as the Shawnees would call it. With the assistance of Finley’s memory, Daniel located the trail (that cuts present day Kentucky in two) and they followed it eagerly into the unknown land. They found a plentiful supply of game and a wilderness like none of these men had ever seen. They remained in this land for several months hunting and trapping with great success until they had no more room on their horses to pack out any more hides. This land was not only claimed by the hunters, but also by the Shawnees to the north as their hunting grounds and they did not take kindly to men encroaching upon their territory. Upon seeing the white men, the band of warriors swept down upon them, took all of their hard-earned skins and told them to leave and never return to this sacred ground. All the men left but Daniel and his close friend Stuart who remained in this land waiting for more supplies to be brought in from North Carolina. When they finally arrived with Daniel’s brother-in-law Squire, Stuart disappeared and would never again be seen. Unfailing in their efforts, Squire and Daniel refused to accept defeat and continued to hunt and trap beaver and buffalo throughout the winter. As they made their journey homeward they were found by a raiding band of Cherokees. The Cherokee, like the Shawnee, relieved them of all their skins and horses and sent them back to the land from which they had come. Soured by this experience, Daniel returned home only to collect his family and many settlers to go with him back to his prized land. Along the route back to can-tuc-ee, they were ambushed by a war party. As Daniel led the main party to safety, the Indians captured and tortured James Boone to death. Daniel buried him in an unmarked location along the river where he fell defending his fellow hunters. Once they arrived, Boone set about establishing a settlement, under orders from the Transylvania Company, along a salt lick that would come to be known as Boonesborough.

During this great expansion into the unknown lands of what the white men called Kentucky, the Indian raids had been growing greater in number. It was on one of these raids, when marauding Shawnee Indians captured Betsy and Fanny Callaway, and Jemima Boone, Daniel’s daughter. For three days Daniel and his fellow men tracked the party until they finally caught up with them and rescued the girls. This event would be almost immediately immortalized by literature as one of the first acts of savagery against Boonesborough. To lead this now loose confederation of forts against the Indians, a young man by the name of George Rogers Clark was sent to Boonesborough. Along with him came the famed Simon Kenton who was making a name for himself along the Ohio river frontier and he could not have come at a better time. For shortly after the coming of Clark, an Indian attack on the settlement trapped Boone and a few of his men outside of the fort and a musket ball tore through Daniel’s ankle. Upon seeing Boone fall Kenton rushed from the safety of the fort and lifted Daniel upon his shoulders and carried him to the safety of their modest fort. From this day forward, the ankle of Daniel Boone would ever prove to be a nuisance.

While they had been cooped up as prisoners within the walls of their fort for so long, meat had become their primary dietary item. However due to it’s nature, they were unable to keep it long because of the lack of salt available to them. So, in secret, Daniel took a small party of frontiersmen to a local salt lick to procure salt for the settlements. While Daniel left their camp to scout ahead, he was taken by a raiding band of Shawnee. He convinced his captors to allow him to talk his men into surrendering that they may not be slaughtered. His fellow men agreed, and they were marched above the Ohio into the Shawnee homeland. There, Blackfish the great Shawnee chief ordered all the captives, save Boone, to be taken to Detroit and sold to the British. Boone was then adopted into the Shawnee nation to replace Blackfish’s son and he was given the name Sheltowee, Big Turtle. Daniel came to love his new Shawnee family, but this love did not overpower his love for his white family and friends. Upon hearing the plan for a grand army of Shawnees to move against Boonesborough, Daniel fled to warn his friends and resume his position in the fort. The Indians tracked him for the three days that Daniel traveled back to his home.

Upon reaching his fort, Daniel immediately began preparing his fellow frontiersman for the battle that they would soon be having. The siege of Blackfish lasted for nine days, but under the command of Boone it withstood the attack and on the tenth day the Shawnees withdrew. Shortly after the attack of Boonesborough, Daniel Boone was court-martialed for surrendering his men at the Salt-Licks. Daniel was acquitted of the charges and as a result of the experience he was promoted to Major. He was however soured by this entire experience and left Boonesborough.

Daniel Boone then decided that he wanted to live the rest of his days in peace. He planned to build a home for himself and Rebecca to live in. Due to his contributions to the settlement of Kentucky, Daniel was given a land grant and there he built his home. At the age of sixty-five, Daniel decided that his homeland was becoming too crowded with the new-age pioneers and he made the move westward to Missouri saying that he needed “elbow room.” Once he was here, he suffered one of his greatest sadness of all: the death of his beloved wife Rebecca. Daniel buried her and lived out his remaining days in a simple cabin with several old Shawnees, who many years ago he would’ve considered to be enemies. Before he died, Daniel gave away his land grant in Kentucky piece by piece to his creditors so that when he died, “no man will say that Boone was a dishonest man” (Daniel Boone, 1818). He died early in the morning on September 26, 1820 at the age of eighty-six. Daniel had dedicated his entire life into his dream which is today known as Kentucky. Daniel had sacrificed everything for the land and fought endlessly to keep his honor burning bright. Despite the many years that have progressed since Daniel passed on, his timeless tale is still told and the flame he kindled continues to inspire others.

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For more information on Daniel Boone, check out these resources:

The Frontiersmen by Allan W. Eckert

Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer by John Mack Faragher

The Court-Martial of Daniel Boone by Allan W. Eckert

Boone and Crockett: The Hunter Heroes on the The History Channel

http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=3 - Ohio History