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Daniel Boone And The Founding Of Kentucky
... Boone lived hunting up to ninety; And, what's s...

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The Burning Of The Philadelphia
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Daniel Boone And The Founding Of Kentucky






... Boone lived hunting up to ninety;
And, what's still stranger, left behind a name
For which men vainly decimate the throng,
Not only famous, but of that GOOD fame,
Without which glory's but a tavern song,--
Simple, serene, the antipodes of shame,
Which hate nor envy e'er could tinge with wrong;

'T is true he shrank from men, even of his nation;
When they built up unto his darling trees,
He moved some hundred miles off, for a station
Where there were fewer houses and more ease;

* * *

But where he met the individual man,
He showed himself as kind as mortal can.

* * *

The freeborn forest found and kept them free,
And fresh as is a torrent or a tree.

And tall, and strong, and swift of foot were they,
Beyond the dwarfing city's pale abortions,
Because their thoughts had never been the prey
Of care or gain; the green woods were their portions

* * *

Simple they were, not savage; and their rifles,
Though very true, were yet not used for trifles.

* * *

Serene, not sullen, were the solitudes
Of this unsighing people of the woods.
--Byron.


Daniel Boone will always occupy a unique place in our history as the
archetype of the hunter and wilderness wanderer. He was a true pioneer,
and stood at the head of that class of Indian-fighters, game-hunters,
forest-fellers, and backwoods farmers who, generation after generation,
pushed westward the border of civilization from the Alleghanies to the
Pacific. As he himself said, he was "an instrument ordained of God to
settle the wilderness." Born in Pennsylvania, he drifted south into
western North Carolina, and settled on what was then the extreme
frontier. There he married, built a log cabin, and hunted, chopped
trees, and tilled the ground like any other frontiersman. The Alleghany
Mountains still marked a boundary beyond which the settlers dared not
go; for west of them lay immense reaches of frowning forest, uninhabited
save by bands of warlike Indians. Occasionally some venturesome hunter
or trapper penetrated this immense wilderness, and returned with strange
stories of what he had seen and done.

In 1769 Boone, excited by these vague and wondrous tales, determined
himself to cross the mountains and find out what manner of land it was
that lay beyond. With a few chosen companions he set out, making his own
trail through the gloomy forest. After weeks of wandering, he at last
emerged into the beautiful and fertile country of Kentucky, for which,
in after years, the red men and the white strove with such obstinate
fury that it grew to be called "the dark and bloody ground." But when
Boone first saw it, it was a fair and smiling land of groves and glades
and running waters, where the open forest grew tall and beautiful, and
where innumerable herds of game grazed, roaming ceaselessly to and fro
along the trails they had trodden during countless generations. Kentucky
was not owned by any Indian tribe, and was visited only by wandering
war-parties and hunting-parties who came from among the savage nations
living north of the Ohio or south of the Tennessee.

A roving war-party stumbled upon one of Boone's companions and killed
him, and the others then left Boone and journeyed home; but his
brother came out to join him, and the two spent the winter together.
Self-reliant, fearless, and the frowning defiles of Cumberland Gap, they
were attacked by Indians, and driven back--two of Boone's own sons being
slain. In 1775, however, he made another attempt; and this attempt was
successful. The Indians attacked the newcomers; but by this time the
parties of would-be settlers were sufficiently numerous to hold their
own. They beat back the Indians, and built rough little hamlets,
surrounded by log stockades, at Boonesborough and Harrodsburg; and the
permanent settlement of Kentucky had begun.

The next few years were passed by Boone amid unending Indian conflicts.
He was a leader among the settlers, both in peace and in war. At one
time he represented them in the House of Burgesses of Virginia; at
another time he was a member of the first little Kentucky parliament
itself; and he became a colonel of the frontier militia. He tilled the
land, and he chopped the trees himself; he helped to build the cabins
and stockades with his own hands, wielding the longhandled, light-headed
frontier ax as skilfully as other frontiersmen. His main business was
that of surveyor, for his knowledge of the country, and his ability to
travel through it, in spite of the danger from Indians, created much
demand for his services among people who wished to lay off tracts of
wild land for their own future use. But whatever he did, and wherever he
went, he had to be sleeplessly on the lookout for his Indian foes. When
he and his fellows tilled the stump-dotted fields of corn, one or more
of the party were always on guard, with weapon at the ready, for fear of
lurking savages. When he went to the House of Burgesses he carried his
long rifle, and traversed roads not a mile of which was free from the
danger of Indian attack. The settlements in the early years depended
exclusively upon game for their meat, and Boone was the mightiest of all
the hunters, so that upon him devolved the task of keeping his people
supplied. He killed many buffaloes, and pickled the buffalo beef for
use in winter. He killed great numbers of black bear, and made bacon of
them, precisely as if they had been hogs. The common game were deer and
elk. At that time none of the hunters of Kentucky would waste a shot on
anything so small as a prairie-chicken or wild duck; but they sometimes
killed geese and swans when they came south in winter and lit on the
rivers.

But whenever Boone went into the woods after game, he had perpetually to
keep watch lest he himself might be hunted in turn. He never lay in wait
at a game-lick, save with ears strained to hear the approach of some
crawling red foe. He never crept up to a turkey he heard calling,
without exercising the utmost care to see that it was not an Indian;
for one of the favorite devices of the Indians was to imitate the turkey
call, and thus allure within range some inexperienced hunter.

Besides this warfare, which went on in the midst of his usual vocations,
Boone frequently took the field on set expeditions against the savages.
Once when he and a party of other men were making salt at a lick, they
were surprised and carried off by the Indians. The old hunter was a
prisoner with them for some months, but finally made his escape and came
home through the trackless woods as straight as the wild pigeon flies.
He was ever on the watch to ward off the Indian inroads, and to follow
the warparties, and try to rescue the prisoners. Once his own daughter,
and two other girls who were with her, were carried off by a band of
Indians. Boone raised some friends and followed the trail steadily for
two days and a night; then they came to where the Indians had killed a
buffalo calf and were camped around it. Firing from a little distance,
the whites shot two of the Indians, and, rushing in, rescued the girls.
On another occasion, when Boone had gone to visit a salt-lick with his
brother, the Indians ambushed them and shot the latter. Boone himself
escaped, but the Indians followed him for three miles by the aid of
a tracking dog, until Boone turned, shot the dog, and then eluded his
pursuers. In company with Simon Kenton and many other noted hunters and
wilderness warriors, he once and again took part in expeditions into the
Indian country, where they killed the braves and drove off the horses.
Twice bands of Indians, accompanied by French, Tory, and British
partizans from Detroit, bearing the flag of Great Britain, attacked
Boonesboroug. In each case Boone and his fellow-settlers beat them off
with loss. At the fatal battle of the Blue Licks, in which two hundred
of the best riflemen of Kentucky were beaten with terrible slaughter by
a great force of Indians from the lakes, Boone commanded the left wing.
Leading his men, rifle in hand, he pushed back and overthrew the force
against him; but meanwhile the Indians destroyed the right wing and
center, and got round in his rear, so that there was nothing left for
Boone's men except to flee with all possible speed.

As Kentucky became settled, Boone grew restless and ill at ease.
He loved the wilderness; he loved the great forests and the great
prairie-like glades, and the life in the little lonely cabin, where from
the door he could see the deer come out into the clearing at nightfall.
The neighborhood of his own kind made him feel cramped and ill at ease.
So he moved ever westward with the frontier; and as Kentucky filled up
he crossed the Mississippi and settled on the borders of the prairie
country of Missouri, where the Spaniards, who ruled the territory, made
him an alcalde, or judge. He lived to a great age, and died out on the
border, a backwoods hunter to the last.





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