Pathfinder Daniel Boone
We all know Daniel Boone, right? King of the Wild Frontier?
In my last few blog posts about Pathfinders I’ve talked mostly about the men on the western frontier.
But I am fascinated that at one time, Kentucky was the far west in America.
Daniel Boone was the first man to chart a real trail to reach Kentucky from the east. He blazed a trail called The Wilderness Road in 1775. It was steep, the trails narrow and treacherous and it became an old version of the modern superhighway. It was used for trade and eventually reached to Ohio then Indiana, and Illinois.
And it all started with Daniel Boone.
Getting across mountains was always tricky. And that’s true if you’re talking the Rockies, the Alps or the Appalachians.
Boone was born in 1734 in a log cabin, the sixth of eleven children. His family lived in Pennsylvania, near present day Reading. It was the far western edge of the frontier.
And then he moved farther west.
With his wife and ten children he settled in Kentucky. Boone fought in The French and Indian War, The Revoluationary War and in countless skirmishes. He hunted to feed his family but also he harvested furs and sold them to support his growing brood.
Nearly every year he went on a ‘long hunt’ and he worked as a surveyor. Once he was gone for fur years and family lore says that Jemima, the fourth child of Daniel Boone as not Boone’s child. He was gone so long he was presumed dead. Boone’s brother married his wife and a baby was born to them. With Daniel back, the brother moved out and Daniel moved back in. He and his wife had six more children.
In 1776, Boone was hired by a prominent judge, who had invested in land in Kentucky, to find a trail passable road through the Appalachian Mountains. Boone blazed a trail through the Cumberland Gap–a notch in the Appalachian Mountains located near where Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia meet. The Road went through Kentucky to the Ohio River. The trail would be a pathway to the west for 300,000 settlers over 35 years. This led to the first settlements in Kentucky and eventually to Kentucky’ becoming the 15th state admitted to the Union.
There were many frontiersmen pushing their way west, this was long before Lewis and Clark, but Boone got the good press.
John Filson’s “The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boon”, was a short biography contained in a book The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke.
First published in 1784, Filson’s book established Boone as one of the first folk heroes of the New World. Filson interviewed Boone for the book but Boone was a man of few words. Where Filson needed to, he decorated up the story until he created a legend (okay he lied, whatever).
Over the years editors felt free to add, and subtract from the biography to suit themselves. It was translated into German and French and made Boone a legend in Europe. Lord Byron, the celebrated English poet, even included Boone in one of his poems.
Daniel Boone died at age 85 in Missouri. There is an interesting legend about his burial and two cemeteries, one in Missouri, one in Kentucky, claim Boone is buried there.