Simon Kenton

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Kenton, Simon Grave.jpg
Grave of Simon Kenton, spy, frontiersman, and militia commander. The grave and monument is in Urbana, Champaign County, Ohio. The photograph was taken ca. 1940-1949.

Simon Kenton was a legendary frontiersman in Ohio and the Midwest. He was born on April 3, 1755, in Fauquier County, Virginia. He grew up helping his father on the family farm and therefore had little opportunity to go to school. At the age of sixteen, Kenton became involved in a fight involving a woman. Believing he had killed a man, he fled to the Ohio Country where he changed his name to Simon Butler.

Kenton spent the next two years hunting along the Ohio River. In 1774, he served as a scout during Lord Dunmore's War. By 1775, Kenton had moved to Boonesborough, Kentucky. For the next few years, he worked as a scout for the settlement, often coming in contact with the local Native Americans and at one point saving the life of Daniel Boone.

During the American Revolution, Kenton participated in a number of military engagements against the British and Native Americans. In 1778, he joined George Rogers Clark on a difficult but successful expedition into the Illinois Country to attack British outposts as well as Native American settlements. Returning home, he accompanied Daniel Boone in an attack on the Shawnee native's settlement of Chillicothe near what is now Oldtown, Ohio. That same year, Kenton was captured by Native Americans who tortured him and attempted to burn him at the stake. Simon Girty rescued him and instead of being killed, Kenton was sent to Fort Detroit as part of a prisoner trade with the British. By mid-1779, Kenton was free and had returned to service under George Rogers Clark. In 1782, he discovered that the man that he thought he had killed had actually lived. Therefore, he was able to resume his own name once again.

During the next several years, Kenton lived a relatively quiet life. He settled near Maysville, Kentucky, married Martha Dowden and purchased some large tracts of land. This life continued until 1794, when Kenton served in the militia under General Anthony Wayne and fought at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. After the death of his wife, Kenton remarried in 1798 and the same year moved to Ohio. He first lived near present-day Springfield but a few years later settled in Urbana. By 1805, Kenton had become a brigadier general in the Ohio militia. During the War of 1812, he participated in the Battle of the Thames in Canada.

Kenton moved to the Zanesfield, Ohio, around 1820. During the last years of his life, Kenton lived in poverty because of land ownership disputes and mismanagement of his money. He survived on a government pension of twenty dollars a month. In 1836, Kenton died in Logan County near Zanesfield and was buried there. In 1865, his remains were moved to Urbana. The state of Ohio constructed a monument to mark his grave in 1884.

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