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Southwest >> Kentucky
explorer and early settler of Kentucky
Daniel Boone was born on a farm near Reading, Pennsylvania, on November 2, 1734. When he was 10, his father bought more land some distance from the homestead, and Daniel went there to live and tend cattle. It was here that he began learning how to live in the wilderness, thanks to the friendly Indians who lived in the area. When he was 12, his father gave him a rifle, and Daniel soon became famous for his excellent shooting skills.
By 1750, the area around the Boone homestead had become too populated for the elder Boone's tastes, so he moved his family to a farm on the Yadkin River in North Carolina. Daniel's hunting skills kept the family in meat, and also provided skins and pelts he could trade for "luxury" items.
In 1755, Boone volunteered to drive a supply wagon on General Edward Braddock's march across Pennsylvania to Fort Duquesne (present-day Pittsburgh). Along the way, he became friendly with another wagon driver named John Finley, who regaled him with tales of a vast country he had seen beyond the Appalachians that was extraordinarily rich in game and farmland. Boone was fascinated by the tales and may have been prepared then to explore the land, but Finley was unable to tell him how to get there. Braddock's army was ambushed before it got to Fort Duquesne and most of his men were killed, but Boone and Finley were able to escape with their wagons. Daniel then returned to his father's farm.
Soon after returning home, Boone courted and married Rebecca Bryan, the 17-year-old daughter of a neighbor. Rebecca proved to be every bit as capable with a rifle as Daniel, and happily moved with him every time he decided it was time to push farther into the wilderness. She also willingly stayed behind whenever Daniel set out on some exploratory adventure, and refused to worry when he didn't come home for a while.
In the autumn of 1767, Boone and a couple of friends spent a little over a year exploring to the west, reaching a point in present-day Floyd County, Kentucky, before returning home in the spring of 1768.
In the winter of 1768, Boone's friend from the wagon train, now a peddler, stopped by the Boone home. He had by now learned of an old Indian trail leading into the wilderness he had once told Boone about, and wanted Boone to join him on an expedition. The two men, along with five of Boone's friends, set out in May 1769. Heading west from the Yadkin Valley, they eventually found the trail, which took them through the Cumberland Gap and into what is now Kentucky. There, they found the vast herds of game Finley had talked about, as well as vast expanses of excellent farmland. The small party spent two years exploring and hunting the area, reaching the falls of the Ohio River at present-day Louisville before returning home.
In 1773, Boone, his family, and a group of neighbors set out to homestead the region he had explored. The group was forced to turn back, however, after Indians tortured and killed Boone's oldest son, James.
In 1775, the Transylvania Company, which had been formed to establish a colony in Kentucky, bought a tract of land from the Cherokee and then hired Boone to lead a group of woodsmen to improve and connect existing Indian trails to the tract. The route they blazed became known as the Wilderness Road. Once the road was completed, Boone staked out a claim on the Kentucky River near present-day Lexington, where he built a fort. He then returned home to get his wife and daughter, along with several of his friends and neighbors, and took them over the Wilderness Road to Boonesborough (the name he had given to his fort).
The settlers of Boonesborough found themselves under frequent attack by Indians. In 1776, the Shawnee captured Boone's daughter and two other girls. Two days later, Boone caught up with the Shawnee and, through a surprise attack, rescued the girls. In 1778, Boone and about 30 other men were attacked and captured by a party of Shawnee, who subsequently adopted him into the tribe as a son of Chief Blackfish. Although Boone willingly lived as a Shawnee for some time, he finally made his escape upon learning that Chief Blackfish was planning to attack Boonesborough. Upon reaching the settlement, Boone directed its residents in preparing and strengthening defenses. Despite being greatly outnumbered, the settlers were able to withstand a ten-day siege and ultimately forced the Shawnee to withdraw.
As more and more settlers came into Kentucky, the land claims made by the first settlers began to come under scrutiny. Many of Boonesborough's first families, including Boone himself, had their lands taken away from them because they had failed to obtain proper title. In 1788, Boone moved his family to Point Pleasant, in what is now West Virginia.
By 1799 the wilderness which Boone had helped open to settlers had become "too crowded" for his liking. That year he obtained a land grant in the Femme Osage District, about 40 miles from present-day Saint Louis, Missouri, in what was then the Spanish-controlled Louisiana Territory. Once there, he was appointed magistrate by the Spanish officials, making him responsible for keeping law and order in the area. When not busy with this chore he spent as much time as possible hunting and exploring even further west.
Daniel Boone made his last hunting trip at the age of 83, and died in the St. Charles, Missouri, home of his son, Nathan, on September 26, 1820.
In 1845, Daniel and Rebecca Boone's remains were moved to Frankfort, Kentucky, where a monument was erected in his memory.
The marking of the Boone trail through North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky -- beginning at his home on the Yadkin River and ending at Boonesborough -- was completed in 1915.
A cemetery now marks the site of Boonesborough, Kentucky.
This page was last updated on January 14, 2017.