Daniel Boone (1734–1820)
Birth of a Legend. Daniel Boone was born in Pennsylvania on 22 October 1734. His parents, Sarah and Squire, were Quakers, and Daniel was one of their eleven children. When Daniel was fifteen, the family immigrated to the North Carolina backcountry. Growing up on the frontier Boone learned to shoot and hunt at an early age. Although he had little formal schooling, he was able to read and write his name.
Kentucky. In 1760, at the age of twenty-six, he crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains for the first time on a winter hunt. As a “long hunter” he lived away from white settlements and civilization. Since he hunted in unsettled areas, his knowledge of the outdoors was essential to those who followed him into the western regions for permanent settlement. The pattern of Daniel Boone's life kept him on the frontier and moved him further and further west, just ahead of American settlement. Boone reached Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap for the first time in 1767. The next year he went on a long hunt in the area and was captured briefly by the Shawnee. He was able to escape from them and return home. (In total, he was captured by Indians four times and was able to escape unharmed each time.) Between 1769 and 1771 he continued to explore Kentucky and worked as a guide leading families to settlements there. In 1775 he led an advance party of the Transylvania Company and helped cut the Wilderness Road from the upper Holston River via the Cumberland Gap in southwestern Virginia to the Kentucky River. He founded the town of Boonesborough that same year and four years later founded Boone's Station. He was elected to the Virginia legislature in 1771 and again in 1791.
Hero. Boone was the embodiment of the frontier and became a living legend. In 1784, the year of Boone's fiftieth birthday, John Filson published The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boone; the next year another Boone biography appeared. These books also brought Boone international fame through European editions. But this was the time that Boone began to have legal difficulties. In 1784 he entered a suit for his lands, but he did not win the claim. Along with hundreds of others Boone lost his lands because the titles issued by the Transylvania Company were not recognized by the Virginia legislature. When Kentucky became a state in 1792, Boone made another attempt to keep title to his lands, but the new state denied his request. As a result, when the Spanish government in 1797 invited him to immigrate to Missouri, Boone accepted the offer and moved there two years later. However, in 1806, after the United States had acquired the Louisiana Purchase, Boone went before a federal land commission seeking confirmation of his Spanish land grant. His petition was rejected in 1809, but in 1814 Congress agreed to recognize Boone's claims.
Death. After the death of his wife, Rebecca, in 1813, Boone moved back and forth between the homes of his children, who had settled in Missouri. In the summer of 1820, while he was at his daughter Jemima's home, he suffered recurring bouts of fever. As soon as he was well enough he traveled to his son Nathan's house, where he died on 26 September 1820, a month short of his eighty-sixth birthday. He was buried next to his wife.
Monuments. By the 1840s Boone had become a national hero for his role in exploring the West. During these years the heroes of the past were being commemorated, and Boone was no exception. In April 1845 the Kentucky legislature passed a resolution authorizing the reinternment of Boone's remains at the state capital in Kentucky. Obtaining the consent of his descendants before the Missouri legislature could react, his grave was dug up in July. On 13 September 1845 he was reinterned in the new Frankfort cemetery in Kentucky. The event was accompanied by “marching bands, state dignitaries, military companies, and fraternal organizations,” and thousands of onlookers. Boone's fame helped sell many of the plots in the new cemetery, but it was not Page 311 | Top of Articleuntil 1860 that a monument to him was erected. In 1915 the Daughters of the American Revolution erected another monument at the original Boone grave site at Tuque Creek, Missouri.
John Mack Faragher, Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer (New York: Holt, 1992).