Questions and Answers

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Question 1:  My son asked me to tell him about Daniel Boone.  I have often heard the name Daniel Boone, and that he was involved at an early time in settling in what was then the wilderness of Kentucky, and that he fought with the Indians, but not much else.  Can you write a thumbnail sketch describing who he was and what he did that made him famous?

Answer: Daniel Boone was born October 22nd, 1734 (per what is called the “Old Style” Julian Calendar in effect at that time) in the English colony of Pennsylvania, near what is now the city of Reading.  In 1752, the English colonies changed over to what is called the “New Style” Gregorian Calendar, which if used, changed Daniel’s birth date to November 2nd, 1734.   His birth was two-and-a-half years after the birth of another to be famous American, George Washington.   At the time the place of Daniel’s birth was near the western edge of white settlement in Pennsylvania, as in all of the colonies almost all of the settlement was near the Atlantic Coast.  Daniel’s father’s name was Squire and his mother’s name was Sarah.  Squire was a blacksmith, weaver, and farmer, and he was  successful at his trades.  When Daniel was fifteen years old, in 1750, his family moved to the western frontier region of the colony of North Carolina.  There he helped with the family farming and at times went off into the western wilderness toward what became he state of Tennessee, to hunt and trap.  He brought meat home for the family and furs and hides for which he received money or needed items through bartering.   

In 1755, Daniel was a wagon driver with British General Edward Braddock’s ill-fated campaign against the French in Pennsylvania.   Braddock was killed, the troops were badly battered and retreated, and some of the wagon drivers, like Daniel Boone, escaped death or capture by cutting the horses loose and then riding one to safety.  Not too long after this experience Daniel at age twenty-one married seventeen year old Rebecca Bryan.

During the 1760s Daniel started taking long hunting and exploring trips toward the west into what became eastern Tennessee, and north into southwestern Virginia and Kentucky, and also at one point went exploring with several other men in northern Florida.  

By the end of the 1760s Kentucky was totally uninhabited by white man or Indian, but was a vast hunting grounds for both the Cherokees from the west and south, and their enemies the Shawnees from north of the Ohio River.   In 1769 Daniel went hunting and exploring in Kentucky with five other men. Daniel and one of the other men, his brother-in-law John Stewart, were captured twice by Indians while hunting together, and after a day or so of captivity escaped both times.  While heading toward Kentucky he marked the trail from North Carolina to eastern Tennessee, which soon after was followed by white families who became the first families to settle in Tennessee.    

After the captures and escapes of Daniel and John Stewart, and after Indians destroyed or stole all of the many furs that had been accumulated, the other four men who had been with Daniel and John Stewart decided to leave Kentucky and go back to the settlements.  About that time, Daniel’s younger brother Squire arrived in Kentucky with a friend bringing supplies.  And a short time after that John Stewart disappeared while hunting (his body found five years later with signs that he had been killed by Indians).  Squire returned to the settlements taking the furs that they had gotten, while Daniel stayed in Kentucky.  Squire brought supplies to Daniel twice thereafter and hunted for a while before heading back home.  In all Daniel remained hunting and exploring in Kentucky for a full two years, before returning to North Carolina.

In 1773, Daniel and his family and friends and relatives headed for Kentucky to set up the first white settlement, however before the reached the Cumberland Gap five of the younger men of the party were killed by Indians, including the Boones oldest son James.  This incident cause everyone to head back to their homes in North Carolina, except for Daniel and his family who took of living in southwestern Virginia.  The next year a war called Lord Dunmore’s War broke out all along Virginia’s western border.  It was named Lord Dunmore’s War after Virginia’s Governor John Murray, Earl of Dunmore.  Daniel was commissioned as a Lieutenant and soon after raised in rank to a Captain and put in charge of three forts in southwestern Virginia.  There are documents showing that he carried out his duties in an exceptional manner.   

Daniel Boone had known Judge Richard Henderson in western North Carolina for some years through Daniel’s need for legal service and advice.  Being very interested in Kentucky as most persons were at the time, Henderson had gotten all the details about Daniel’s explorations into the Kentucky wilderness that had become known as a paradise controlled by sometimes hostile Indians.   While events in the war were still going on in the north, in August a group of nine prominent North Carolina men formed a land company known as the Louisia Company (in January of 1775 the name was changed to the Transylvania Company).  The company was led by Judge Henderson, and their purpose was to establish the 14th colony called Transylvania in what was then the wilderness of Kentucky.  In so doing they planned to sell the land and become wealthy.  Early in the fall Henderson and one of the partners, Captain Nathaniel Hart, along with Daniel Boone who was quite friendly with the Indians, had visited the Cherokee Indian towns in Tennessee for seeing if the Cherokees would be willing to sell their claim to their Kentucky hunting grounds. For various reasons the Indians were willing to exchange nearly 20,000,000 acres for £10,000 of merchandise.  Daniel Boone gathered the Indians at a place called Sycamore Shoals in eastern Tennessee, near the Virginia border.  It is stated that 1200 Indians were present for the signing of a treaty to seal the agreement, however before the affair was over Daniel Boone was on the way, at the lead of 28 men who were hired to cut what became known as Boone’s Wilderness Trail or the Boone Trace.  When they reached the Kentucky River they started a settlement and built a fort, naming it Fort Boonesborough in Daniel Boone’s honor.  The timing of establishing Fort Boonesborough coincided with the start of the Revolutionary War.   RGW-2,8;  DLM-332

The next year Daniel took his family to live at Fort Boonesborough, and the following year, 1776, his fourteen year old daughter, Jemima, and two other girls were kidnapped by Indians.  He led the rescue effort that resulted in the rescue of the girls two-and-a-half days later.

In 1778, Daniel and twenty-eight other men were captured by Indians while away from the fort boiling salt as the Blue Licks spring.   After five months Daniel escaped just before a planned raid on Fort Boonesborough by the Indians.  When the Indians arrived and put the fort under siege, Daniel was the main leader who outsmarted the Indians during the nine-day siege.  Finding the capture of the fort too difficult the Indians gave up and left for their tribal homes north of the Ohio River.  By this time, with all of the many exciting incidents, of blazing the trails, being captured and escaping, rescuing his daughter, and leading the defense in Kentucky, Daniel’s notoriety spread throughout the colonies.

Kentucky became a county of the colony of Virginia, and then in 1780, Kentucky County had been separated into three counties, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Fayette.   Daniel became one of the county’s several militia leaders.  He was also elected to the Virginia Assembly the next year from Fayette County, and while there was captured by the British at Charlottesville, near Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.  He was released soon after his capture.   Daniel got to know Jefferson on a personal basis while in the legislature.  Within the next several years he had appointed roles of Deputy County Surveyor, Sheriff and Coroner for the county, County Lieutenant of Fayette County, a role that outranked all other county civil and militia roles.  He was elected to the Virginia Legislature two more times, and while serving as a regular under George Rogers Clark in Virginia’s frontier army in Kentucky, he rose in rank to Major, Lt. Colonel, and finally was commissioned as a full Colonel.  
In 1782, he lost his next oldest son Israel, while both were at the Battle of Blue Licks.  As the fighting with the Indians north of the Ohio continued after the Revolutionary War treaty with England, Daniel remained in a military role.  In 1789 he and his family moved to what was Kanawha County in what is now West Virginia, during which time he met such leaders as George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Henry Lee (the future father of Robert E. Lee).  After a final peace with the Indians came about in 1794, Daniel and his family returned to Kentucky, and in 1799 he and his family moved to Spanish Upper Louisiana where he became a Spanish official prior to the Louisiana Purchase, where he lived out the last twenty years of his life, still hunting and exploring until near his death in September of 1820.  In his lifetime Daniel became one of the most legendary of America’s early heroes, a recognition that extended into western Europe.  Even today Daniel Boone remains one of the most recognized persons in American history.  
Question 2:  What made Daniel Boone famous?

Answer: Daniel Boone’s lifetime just happened to occur during a very important time in America’s history.  When he was born, the English Colonies were along the east coast, and people that had arrived from England over the years had settled relatively close to the coast.  To the west was a plush wilderness of trees, clear streams, and lands that were rich for farming and abundant with wildlife.  However almost all of those lands were beyond the very difficult to penetrate Appalachian Mountain range, that stretched from the north to the south of what is now the United States.  There was also another problem, various Indian tribes were scattered throughout toward the west and they claimed the lands as theirs.  The Indians were unpredictable, and at times became very hostile to white settlers who came into their territories.  Many who ventured into the wilderness did not return, mainly because to do so required an excellent understanding of the Indians ways as well as how to survive in the wilderness.

There was however a strong reason for the people in the east to migrate westward.  Most of the people in the east were farmers who raised crops for their family’s existence and for using for trading for the other family necessities.   Our good farming practices of today were unknown.  As the farmers used the poor farming practices of their day, the depleting of the nutrition in the soil reduced the production of their crops to where it was difficult or impossible to survive in any reasonable manner.  Most families eventually borrowed money for seed and feed and for purchasing farm animals, and for other needs, from the more well off upper class in their regions.  It usually didn’t take long before they couldn’t repay their debts, and as a result many lost most of what they had accumulated.  Most came to realize that they somehow had to migrate west to where they could start anew for themselves and their children.  But that was impossible unless someone in some manner would lead the way.  Such a move required someone to explore the region ahead, to mark the trail west, to set up a settlement, and to defend that settlement from the Indians until the Indians gave up their hostile acts or their claim to the land.  While there were some others involved, the one person who fit the mold and finally came forward to lead the way, with the courage to set and maintain the course, and who had the needed keen knowledge of the Indian’s ways and how to survive in the wilderness, was Daniel Boone.  People trusted his knowledge and abilities with their lives and followed him westward.  

The trails from North Carolina to Tennessee and from Tennessee into Kentucky, and in time the trail for crossing the Mississippi River to settle in what is now Missouri were Boone marked trails.  Within a short time after living in what is now Missouri, two of Daniel Boone’s grown son’s, Nathan and Daniel Morgan Boone marked the trail for getting to the Boone Salt Lick in 1805, and Nathan marked the trail for going nearly all of the way across the state to the site near Kansas City for building fort Osage in 1808.  At the time these were the only white man’s trails going west into the interior west of the Mississippi River, except for the Spanish trails many miles away in Mexico and the southwest.  All five of these trails were the earliest trails used by thousands of families migrating westward for a hoped for better future.   They represent five of the ten original westward migration trails from Pennsylvania to the Pacific Ocean, the trails responsible for what we call America’s Westward Expansion.  

Daniel became famous because people in his time knew what he had done for opening up the west to white settlement, and they also were aware of his captures and escapes, the rescuing of persons who had been captured by Indians, and many of his other adventures.  He was truly a famous American wilderness hero, and while everyone in his time knew that, modern historian have allowed such important American history fall through the cracks until very few today are able to know about the famous persons who made America the country that it became.  Fortunately for Daniel Boone, his name and image still remains as one of America’s leading legends, even if people don’t really know what he did during his lifetime.