walk of fame recipient Plaque 1

Daniel Boone

  • Born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, on November 2, 1734, to Squire and Sarah (Morgan) Boone, who were Quakers. 
  • Served in the British army during the French and Indian War.
  • Married Rebecca Bryan from the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina on August 14, 1756.
  • Embarked with his brother, Squire, on his first hunting expedition in Kentucky in 1767.
  • Explored Kentucky in 1771 and 1773.
  • Attempted to settle in Kentucky with his family and other pioneers in September 1773. The settlement failed after an Indian attack that led to the deaths of many of the settlers, including Boone’s son James. 
  • Hired in March 1775 by Judge Richard Henderson, who had purchased Kentucky from the Cherokee, to lead thirty men to cut a road into Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap and establish a settlement on the banks of the Kentucky River.
  • Established Fort Boone, which soon became Boonesborough, in April 1775.
  • Rescued with others his daughter Jemima and two of the Callaway girls from the Indians after they were captured on the banks of the Kentucky River on July 14, 1776, an event later fictionalized by James Fennimore Cooper in his classic, The Last of the Mohicans. 
  • Captured with other men by Shawnees while on an expedition for salt at Blue Licks in January 1778.
  • Adopted while in captivity by chief Blackfish and given the Shawnee name, “Shel-tow-ee,” meaning “Big Turtle.”
  • Escaped from the Indians after five months and traveled 160 miles to warn Boonesborough of an impending attack by the Shawnee.
  • Experienced the Great Siege at Boonesborough, September 7-16, 1778, in which  settlers prevailed, thus saving the frontier from British domination.
  • Exonerated for treason in a 1779 court-martial trial.
  • Fought in the Battle of Blue Licks in 1782, where his son Israel was killed.
  • Moved from Kentucky in 1799, having lost his property over disputed land claims.
  • Received a land grant in Spanish-owned Missouri and was made magistrate of the Femme Osage District.
  • Died on September 26, 1820, having been preceded in death by Rebecca in 1813, and buried on Tuque Creek in Missouri.
  • Reburied with Rebecca in 1845 at Frankfort, Kentucky, precipitating a fury of resentment in Missouri that resulted in rumors that the wrong bodies had been moved.
  • Became the subject of numerous myths through the years; for example, the coonskin cap, which he never wore.

Daniel Boone Biography

            Daniel Boone was born to Squire and Sarah Morgan Boone on November 2, 1734 (Gregorian calendar), in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Daniel’s parents reared him in the Quaker religion. His father was a weaver and a blacksmith. His home was one that appreciated peace, equality, and hard work. Daniel reluctantly learned the rudiments of reading and writing, but his father recognized other aptitudes and gave his son the task of hunting game for the family’s supper table. Daniel was given his first gun when he was twelve years old. He learned hunting skills from local pioneers and Native Americans. These relationships with Native Americans and hunters would aid him later in life. Before settling on a career, Daniel worked for the British army during the French and Indian War, driving a wagon for General Edward Braddock in 1755. During this time he met the person who would be his lifelong anchor in a world of change.

            Daniel Boone’s anchor was a young woman named Rebecca Bryan from the Yadkin Valley in North Carolina. They married on August 14, 1756. A fantastic tale of their meeting has Daniel hunting at night and nearly killing Rebecca, who was out rounding up her father’s livestock. This story is pure fiction according to the family; they actually met at a family wedding. It was Rebecca’s industriousness, clean habits, and slow temper that attracted Daniel to her. She was by accounts quite beautiful with dark hair and dark, penetrating eyes. She was the model of a frontier woman, adept at all things domestic as well as capable of raising crops and hunting while Daniel was away. Rebecca reared their ten children as well as several of their relative’s children who had been orphaned. Their marriage would stand the test of Daniel’s long absences, financial hardship, threat of Indian attacks, hard labor, sickness, and the deaths of two of their children.

            It was rumored that Rebecca and Daniel’s fourth child, Jemima, was not fathered by Daniel but by his brother Edward. Daniel had been gone for two years on a long hunt, and Rebecca, thinking him dead, had a relationship with his brother. When Daniel arrived home after being held captive by Native Americans, he found Rebecca pregnant with his brother’s child. Rebecca explained that in missing him she had turned to his brother, who  looked very much like Daniel. Baby Jemima was accepted by Daniel as his own, and  became one of his favorite children.

            Boone preferred the life of a long hunter.  The long hunts into the wilderness would last one year or longer.  He enjoyed the solitude of the woods and had a passion for exploring.  After searching for a place to settle in Florida, Boone and his brother Squire went on a hunting expedition in Kentucky in 1767. Daniel fell in love with Kentucky and put all thoughts of settling in Florida out of his mind. In May 1769, under the likely patronage of Judge Richard Henderson of North Carolina, Boone led a party of six on a major trapping and hunting expedition through the Cumberland Gap. During this hunt, after the party had acquired several skins, a party of Shawnee warriors confiscated their goods. Daniel went on other expeditions to Kentucky in 1771 and 1773, all the while his passion for Kentucky growing. In September 1773, he and his family, along with five other families, attempted to settle in Kentucky. The settlement failed after an Indian attack that led to the deaths of many of the settlers, including Daniel and Rebecca’s son James, who was tortured to death in an attempt by the Delaware, Shawnee, and Cherokee to discourage the white settlers from laying down roots in Kentucky. Boone wanted to stay; however, the other settlers decided to return home. James was not Boone’s only son to be killed by Native Americans; in 1782 his son Israel was killed in the Battle of Blue Licks. Daniel was riddled with guilt over the death of Israel, as it had been his decision to stay at the site despite his suspicion that they were walking into an ambush.

            Boone’s familiarity with Native Americans allowed him to be an ideal negotiator with the tribes. After serving as a captain in Lord Dunmore’s War, Boone helped negotiate a treaty with the Cherokee for Judge Richard Henderson, who purchased Kentucky from the Cherokee in March 1775. Henderson hired Boone to lead thirty men to cut a road in to Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap to the Kentucky River, where he established Fort Boone in April of that year, now known as Boonesborough. This road became known as Boone’s Trace. Boone brought his family and several other settlers to Boonesborough to settle on September 8, 1775. Violence in Kentucky between the settlers and the Native Americans erupted during the Revolutionary War period, with the Indians seeing this as their chance to reclaim Kentucky. During this strife Daniel and Rebecca’s daughter Jemima and two of Richard Callaway’s daughters were captured by an Indian war party on July 14, 1776. Boone and a group of men from Boonesborough followed the party for two days before recovering them and scaring the kidnappers away. Boone was very proud of this success. The event later became the central theme in the fictional work The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper.

            In January 1778 with Fort Boonesborough’s food supply running low and salt needed to preserve meat, Daniel and a group of men embarked on an expedition to Blue Licks to obtain salt.  A large group of Shawnee descended upon Boone’s party.  Being greatly outnumbered, Boone convinced the settlers to surrender to the Indians.  During Boone’s captivity the Shawnee chief, Blackfish, adopted Daniel and gave him the name, Shel-tow-ee, meaning “Big Turtle.”  After five months Boone was able to escape and traveled 160 miles in four days to warn Boonesborough of an impending attack. From September 7 to 16 a Great Siege ensued.  Finally, the Indians withdrew and Boonesborough was saved.  Some historians claim the battle at Boonesborough saved the frontier from British domination.  However, Richard Callaway brought charges against Boone for collaborating with the Indians. A court-martial exonerated Boone of all charges, and he was promoted to major for his services.

            In 1799, beset by financial problems and the loss of his property in Kentucky due to disputed land claims, Daniel and Rebecca moved to Spanish-owned Missouri, where he received a land grant and was soon made magistrate of the Femme Osage District.  After Missouri was acquired by the United States in 1804, he lost his new land and Daniel and Rebecca lived the remainder of their lives with their children. This financial blow paled in comparison to the loss of Rebecca on March 18, 1813. Boone’s last hunt occurred in 1817 with his grandson. Toward the end of Daniel Boone’s life he told his son that he only recalled killing three Native Americans during his whole life. Daniel Boone died September 26, 1820.

            The final resting place of Daniel and Rebecca Boone is a matter of controversy. Daniel and Rebecca Boone were buried on Tuque Creek in Missouri. In 1845 they were reburied in the Frankfort Cemetery in Kentucky amid great pomp and ceremony. In 1862 a large monument was erect overlooking the Kentucky River.  The disinterment caused a fury of resentment in Missouri that resulted in rumors that it was not Daniel Boone’s body that had been moved. An anthropologist later analyzed a crude cast of Daniel’s skull and speculated that it may be the skull of an African American. There were slaves buried in the same location as the Boones in Missouri, making the rumor of Daniel’s mistaken burial a possibility.  However, Boone’s son, Nathan, who was present at the burial and at the disinterment, verified that it was his father’s body that was moved.

            As fantastic as the exploits of Daniel Boone are, the reality of this man’s life is far more interesting. The legend of Boone began in 1784 with the publication of  John Filson’s The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke. . . To which is added an Appendix, Containing the Adventures of Col. Daniel BoonNumerous books, novels, movies, and television shows ensued, most based more on myth than reality.  For example, Boone did not wear a coonskin cap but a dignified beaver felt hat, the height of fashion for the time. Boone was a man of complexity, living in a land that was rapidly changing. He remained compassionate in a world of violence and upheaval, sparing life where he could. The most important aspect of Boone that we can know is that he was deeply loved by his family despite his long absences from them. The man Daniel Boone was a common man who helped pave the way into Kentucky and into legend. By dispelling the numerous myths and fictions about Daniel Boone we can come close to the real man in all of his glory, sorrow, passion, and pain.

Daniel Boone Links


Daniel Boone Suggested Reading

Belue, Ted Franklin. The Hunters of Kentucky: A Narrative History of America’s First Far West, 1750-1792. Stackpole Books: Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 2003.

Faragher, John Mack. Daniel Boone: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer. Henry Holt and Company: New York, 1992.

Kleber, John E., editor. The Kentucky Encyclopedia. 2d ed. University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, 1992.