Daniel Boone is one of America’s best known pioneers and explorers. Boone’s efforts as a frontiersman led to the settlement of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Born on November 2, 1734, in Berks County, near Reading, Pennsylvania, Boone devoted most of his life to exploring, protecting, and settling the American frontier.
Boone was the sixth child of farmer Squire Boone, and his wife Sarah Morgan. Despite his limited formal education, Daniel Boone learned the survival skills required by woodmen very early. By the time he was twelve, he had made a reputation as a skilled marksman.
In 1755, Boone started to work with the British commander in America, General Edward Braddock, as his wagoner. He joined the General’s attempt to take Fort Duquesne and it was there that he met John Finley. In 1756, he married Rebecca Bryan and made North Carolina his home. Daniel Boone spent the next ten years farming and hunting. An adventurous person, he often recalled Finley’s tales of Kentucky wilderness.
In 1769, John Finley visited the Boones. He was looking for an explorer who could lead him over land to Kentucky. Boone’s adventurous spirit and skills made him the perfect choice. In 1769, Boone set out for Kentucky, accompanied by Finley and five other men. They explored a new overland route through the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountain range that led to Kentucky.
Boone was taken in by the locals of Kentucky. For a seasoned hunter like Boone, the land full of deer, turkey, and other gaming birds was very attractive. The green pastures made the region ideal for farming. Boone decided to return to Kentucky and make it his home.
In 1775, Boone led an expedition of about thirty men right into the heart of Kentucky. The primary objective of the expedition was to improve accessibility to Kentucky by finding a better route. The resultant discovery of what is now known as the Wilderness Trail is an important landmark in Boone’s explorations.
Association with Indians
Boone’s contribution to the settlement of Kentucky is also significant. He fulfilled his dreams of moving his family to Kentucky by establishing a settlement that he called Boonesborough. Daniel Boone built a fort around the settlement. He popularized the Wilderness Trail, which resulted in the settlement of over 200,000 Europeans in Kentucky and Virginia.
In the course of his explorations, Boone often found himself confronted by the natives of the regions he explored. In 1776, he went up against the Shawnee Indians in an attempt to rescue his daughter, who had been kidnapped by them. A couple of years later, he was captured by yet another group of Shawnees. The tribe had planned to attack Boonesborough. Boone distinguished himself and earned the respect of the tribe with a superb display of his marksmanship. The Shawnee Chief Blackfish adopted Boone as his son and set aside his plans of attacking Boonesborough.
The British troops would not let the matter rest, and once again made plans with the Shawnees to attack Boonesborough. Boone fled from the tribe and proceeded to protect his home. Boonesborough withstood a combined siege of the British-Shawnee forces for over ten days. The forces withdrew, leaving Boone victorious.
Toward the end of the Revolutionary War, Boone lived in Kanawha County in West Virginia. In 1792, with Kentucky’s admission as the fifteenth state, many lost their land because of a lack of a title deed, including Daniel Boone. Stripped of all his land, Boone moved to Missouri with his family.
Later Life and Legends
In 1800, Spain appointed Boone magistrate of the Femme Osage District. Daniel Boone once again became the owner of a large tract of land, but this too was short-lived. With the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, Boone sold most of his land to repay his debts in Kentucky. Having lost his wife Rebecca in 1813, Boone spent the rest of his life with his son, Nathan, in St. Charles, and died in 1820.
Daniel Boone is an American hero whose exploits have attained mythic proportions in American folklore. In his own words, “Many heroic actions and chivalrous adventures are related of me which exist only in the regions of fancy.” When John Filson’s “The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boon” was published in 1784, Boone became a living legend. Lord Byron mentions him in his epic poem Don Juan. Many of the facts have fallen into obscurity with all of the tall tales being spun about Boone’s life.