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.


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


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.

Charles Russell Lowell Farragut At Mobile Bay facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail