Boone, Daniel

Boone, Daniel.jpg

Daniel Boone was a man of the frontier and one of the most well-known men of his time.

Boone was born in 1734 near Reading, Pennsylvania. He did not receive much formal education and spent his youth assisting his father in his various businesses, including weaving, blacksmithing, farming, and raising stock. Boone also spent his early years supplementing his family's food supply and money by hunting. In 1750, the family moved to North Carolina, arriving at Buffalo Lick on the Yadkin River a year later.

In 1755, Boone participated in the French and Indian War with a detachment of North Carolina militiamen who took part in General Edward Braddock's attack on Fort Duquesne in western Pennsylvania. Before the army reached the fort, a combined French and American Indian force ambushed the English. Braddock was killed, and Boone barely escaped with his life. It was during Braddock's expedition that Boone met John Finley (also spelled Findley or Finely), a hunter and explorer who had visited the Kentucky wilderness on several occasions. Because of Finley's stories, the young man became fascinated with the region.

Daniel Boone first went to Kentucky in the fall of 1767. He spent the winter exploring and hunting but returned to his home in North Carolina the next spring. The signing of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768) by the Iroquois encouraged Boone to return to Kentucky in 1769. The treaty declared that the Iroquois would relinquish all of their lands east and south of the Ohio River to the English. Many American Indians in the Ohio Country opposed the treaty and believed the Iroquois had no right to speak for the various tribes in Ohio. So these groups usually refused to follow the treaty's stipulations. This was especially true of the Shawnee, who had long hunted south of the Ohio River. The American Indians also were unhappy that the treaty ignored the Proclamation of 1763, which promised that no English settlers would move west of the Appalachian Mountains.

On his next trip, Boone remained in Kentucky for two years until a longing for his wife and children prompted him to return to North Carolina. In 1775, Richard Henderson, the head of the Transylvania Company, hired Boone to assist him in establishing a settlement in Kentucky. Boone and his settlers set off in March of that same year and arrived at the site that they had chosen for their community by the first of April. They immediately began to build Fort Boonesborough for protection. Boone spent the next several years exploring, surveying, and trapping. The settlement faced constant opposition from local American Indians. The Shawnee especially disliked the settlers moving onto their lands.

During the American Revolution, Boone played an active role against the British and their American Indian allies in the Ohio Country, accompanying both militia forces and regular army troops north of the Ohio River on several occasions to secure this territory for the settlers and to open it up for settlement.

In February 1778, while Boone and approximately two dozen settlers were collecting salt at Blue Licks in Kentucky, a band of one-hundred Shawnee under Chief Blackfish captured him. The chief informed Boone of his intention to kill the men collecting salt, destroy Fort Boonesborough, and take the women and children at the fort prisoner and adopt them into the Shawnee tribe. Boone informed Blackfish that the people at the fort faced starvation. They would not be able to put up a fight against the Shawnees. However, the settlers also would not be able to survive the trek from Boonesborough to Blackfish's village at Old Chillicothe (modern-day Oldtown, Ohio). Boone offered himself and the men collecting salt as hostages for the winter. In the spring, Boone pledged to take Blackfish and his warriors to Boonesborough. The frontiersman claimed that he would convince the settlers in the fort to surrender peacefully. Hopefully, with the harsh winter over, the women and children could survive the almost two-hundred mile march to Old Chillicothe. Blackfish agreed to the plan.

Boone and his men spent the rest of the winter with the Shawnee at Old Chillicothe. The Shawnees adopted most of them into their tribe. Boone especially acted as if he enjoyed his new life. In reality, he was looking for a chance to escape. In June 1778, while he accompanied his adopted family to a saltlick along the Scioto River, Boone found his opportunity and successfully made it back to Boonesborough. He helped the settlers prepare for a Shawnee attack, which the settlement successfully repelled in September of that year.

Boone spent the next five years in various government positions, including sheriff, deputy surveyor, and a delegate to the legislature. The frontiersman also continued to assist the U.S. military in the struggle against the American Indians in the Ohio Country. By 1788, Boone was nearly bankrupt. He had laid claim to large tracts of land in Kentucky during the 1770s, but he had filed the paperwork establishing his ownership incorrectly. The end result was that he lost all of his Kentucky lands. By 1799, Boone had left Kentucky for Missouri, where he died in 1820.

Many in the United States celebrate Daniel Boone as one of the greatest frontiersmen of his time. Boone did much to open the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains, including the Ohio Country, to settlement. In many respects, he was typical of the British colonists and the settlers who succeeded them after the American Revolution. Many of these people viewed the west as a land of opportunity and endless possibility. They faced innumerable hardships to expand the borders of the United States of America. However, in many cases, entire American Indian tribes were displaced and removed due to the settlers' desire for land.