Daniel was born November 2, 1734, in Berks County, Pennsylavamia, the sixth of Squire (his given name, not a title) and Sarah Boone's 11 children. His formal schooling was scanty; his interests lay in the woods and hunting for the family larder.
Wanderlust was in Boone's genes. His Quaker grandfather emigrated from England in 1717, seeking religious freedom in Pennsylvania. Boone's father, Squire, moved his family to North Carolina after being censured by the community when two of his children married non-Quakers. Daniel himself went to Kentucky and on to Missouri. His descendants pushed to the Rockies and beyond.
"They had the itching foot," wrote John Bakeless, the preeminent Boone biographer. "Something called. Something beyond the mountains always whispered."
By the late 1760's Boone probably knew the Blue Ridge and eastern Alleghenies as well as any man, but he dreamed of Kentucky. Then in the winter of 1768-69, John Finley showed up on his cabin doorstep, 14 years after they had fled the scene of Braddock's defeat. Boone's son Nathan recalled listening to Finley tell tales of Kentucky by the fireside - of huge buffalo herds feeding on great stands of cane, deer at every salt lick, and lush land of the taking.
Finley had reached Kentucky via the Ohio River, but he had heard of an overland trail - the Warrior's Path - that led through the mountains. It would take a good woodsman to find it. Was Boone interested?
On May 1, 1769, Daniel, his brother-in-law John Stuart, John Finley and three others journeyed over the Blue Ridge, across the Holston, Clinch, and Powell Valleys. Beyond lay the seemingly impenetrable wall of Cumberland Mountain. But the men soon found a hunter's trace that led them to the gap discovered by Dr. Thomas Walker and named for the Duke of Cumberland. There they turned north up the Warrior's Path, a route traveled by hunting and war parties of the Cherokee and Shawnee. Except for brief periods, the Indians built no villages in Kentucky, reserving the land for hunting. The absence of Indians was one reason white settlers were attracted to the region.
At the end of May, Boone and his companions set up a base camp on a creek still called Station Camp, near present day Irvine, Kentucky.
After seven months of excellent hunting, reported Boone, "the time of our sorrow was now arrived." Surprised by Shawnee, his party was robbed of the horses and all the deer skins - a hazard bitterly recorded on a tree by another group of hijacked hunters: "2300 Deer Skins Lost. Ruination By God."
All except Boone and Stuart returned to the settlements, but they were not alone for long. Incredibly, in that great wilderness, Boone's brother Squire found the hunters, bringing fresh horses and ammunition, a feat he was to duplicate two more times - carrying skins back to the Yadkin and returning with supplies - during Boone's two-year hunting and exploration trip. In February 1771, Amaghqua or "Beaver", with a Shawnee hunting party captured Daniel Boone and John Stuart in their camp along the Psquawwetheepi - Red River. Amaghqua, who understood English well enough to converse brokenly in that tongue, learned who they were and that one of the others the Shawnee had treated so kindly and allowed to enter their country provided he would only trade and not hunt or trap or try to settle there was also with them - John Findley. The game and furs they had accumulated were confiscated, along with thier horses, and Boone and Stuart were held for seven days before being released with a stern warning and just enough supplies to sustain them on their return home.
"Now brothers," Amaghqua had said upon setting them free, "you go home and stay there. Do not come here anymore. This is the Indians' hunting ground and all the animals, skins and furs are ours. If you are so foolish as to come here again, you can be sure the wasps and yellow jackets will sting you severely."
But the released men did not go home. Keeping out of sight, they had trailed Amaghqua's party, slipped into the Shawnee camp under cover of night and recovered their horses. Amaghqua was both impressed and angered at such audacity and immediately followed their trail, captured them again and reconfiscated the horses. During the night, however, Boone and Stuart managed to escape on foot and this time eluded Amaghqua's determined efforts to recapture them.
Early the following spring, John Findley was again captured descending the Ohio and though he protested that he had come only to trade, he was killed. At about the same time another Shawnee hunting party discovered Boone, Squire and Stuart had come back into the Kan-tuck-kee hunting grounds and were again killing game. Stuart was overtaken and wounded with gunshot, but he escaped and could not be found. Though the Shawnee made a determined effort to capture Boone , he earned their grudging respect and fear by besting them in woods lore, living in various caves and consistently managing to elude them while occasionally making phenomenally long shots to kill the Indians he encountered. And on the brother's journey home in March of 1771 they arrived empty-handed. The Indians had confiscated their furs from them once again.
Daniel first attempted to settle in Kentucky in 1773. The Boones and a few score others, including some in-laws, set out with a packtrain, cattle, and household goods. Near Powell Valley, Boone sent his eldest son, James, back for more supplies. Dark caught the 16-year-old and his companions only three miles from rejoining the pioneers. Indians attacked. James and his friend Henry Russell were tortured to death. They were buried there, wrapped in one of Rebecca Boone's (James' mother) linen sheets.
Scared and disheartened, the would be settlers convinced Boone to turn back. The first effort to settle Kentucky was a failure.
A man with a grand design for settlement - a whole new colony - was North Carolina's Judge Richard Henderson, an old friend and advocate of Boone. Britain had forbidden further westward settlements, but American rebellion was beginning to boil. Henderson proceeded with his plans.
His Transylvania Company paid 10,000 pounds in goods to the Cherokee for 20 million acres between the Kentucky and Cumberland Rivers. Not all the Cherokee were in favor. "Dragging Canoe" took Boone by the hand and said, "Brother, we have given you a fine land, but I believe you will have much trouble in settleing it."
Hired by Henderson to cut a path for the new settlers, Boone on March 10, 1775, assembled 30 mounted axmen at Long Island in the Holston River.
On March 24 Boone and his exhausted party camped on gently rolling country south of present day Richmond, Kentucky.
Years later Felix Walker recalled: "We were fired on by the Indians...about an hour before day. Captain [Twitty] was shot in both knees, and died the third day after....myself badly wounded."
Some of the men panicked and ran, others grabbed their rifles and fired back. When the skirmish ended, the men threw up a hasty log fort and cared for the wounded.
Of Boone, Walker said he "conducted the company under his care through the wilderness, with great propriety, intrepidity, and courage; and was I to enter an exception to any part of his conduct, it would be on the ground that he appeared void of fear...too little caution for the enterprise."
Courage failed some of the men, and they turned for home. The remaining trailblazers placed Walker on a liter and followed Otter Creek to the Kentucky River. There, Walker recounts, "we made a station, and called it Bonnesborough.
In those first days of Boonesborough most of the men were too busy claiming land to build fortifications and put in crops. Henderson, who arrived with his group on April 20, complained a month later of "no meat but bear fat. Almost starved. Drank a little coffee and trust to luck for dinner."
A convention to form the new government of Transylvania was held at Boonesborough beginning May 23, 1775. Among those attending was James Harrod, who in 1774 had beaten Boone in founding the first permanent British settlement in Kentucky - Harrodsburg. Courts were established, the militia organized, and laws passed to protect game. Speeches of the day referred to the British crown; no one knew that the battles of Lexington and Concord had been fought a month earlier.
Kentucky soon felt the effects of the war. Raids by Indians allied with the British became common. Fearing for their lives, more than half the new settlers left. At one time only 12 women remained in Kentucky, among them Rebecca Boone and her four daughters.
Just after the first Independence Day a small band of Shawnee and Cherokee watched from a canebrake as Jemima Boone and her friends Betsey and Fanny Callaway drifted down the Kentucky in a canoe. Suddenly the girls were overpowered and kidnapped. When they were discovered missing, Boone and others set off in pursuit. Guided by signs the plucky girls had managed to leave, the men caught up with the band on the third day. As the long rifles fired, Jemima yelled, "That's Daddy!"
The rescue was major news in the settlements and later was recounted in Boone's autobiography.
In January of 1778 Boonesborough was desperately in need of salt. The Indians usually kept close to home in winter, so Boone took 30 men to boil a supply at the mineral springs at Blue Licks, 70 miles to the north.Weeks later, off hunting alone, Boone himself was surprised and captured by the Shawnee. At their camp he was shocked to find a force of more than a hundred warriors. They were eager to avenge the murder of their great chief, Cornstalk, who a few months earlier had been killed by the whites while on a mission of peace.
The Shawnee were led by Chief Blackfish, who knew of the saltmaker's camp and intended to attack Boonesborough. Boone promised to surrender the men at Blue Licks, but he persuaded Blackfish that it would be better to take Bonnesborough in the spring when the women and children could more easily survive the trek north, either to be adopted by the Shawnee or sold to the British.
The captured Kentuckians were marched to Old Chillicothe, a Shawnee community on the Little Miami River, near present-day Xenia, Ohio. Boone and ten others were taken to Lt. Gov. Henry Hamilton in Detroit, who paid a bounty for all but Boone, whom Blackfish refused to surrender.
Taken back to Old Chillicothe, Boone, who had been adopted by Blackfish, became known as Sheltowee - Big Turtle.
"I was exceedingly familar and friendly with them, " he says in the Filson autobiography. "I was careful not to exceed many of them in shooting; for no people are more envious than they in this sport."
The site of the Shawnee village is now a broad cornfield on the outskirts of Xenia. Tukemas Pope, artist and chief of the 600-member Remnant Shawnee, lives in nearby Dayton in a home resplendent with native american artifacts and paraphernlia. His group descends from remnants of Tecumseh's band, which was defeated in the War of 1812.
"Big Turtle was adopted for his bravery," Tukemas said. "He was stealing at Blue Licks when we caught him, but that is no big thing. We stole horses constantly. We took them from the settlers and they took them from us. That was part of the game."
Daniel obviously had an affinity with the Shawnee. He had known them all his life. "They shared a love of the forest, hunting, and freedom, " said Steven Channing, formerly a professor of history at the University of Kentucky. "On the other hand, he was usually a loner, and that was alien to them."
When the Shawnee allowed Boone to hunt - under supervision - he began to hoard powder and lead, and "now began to meditate an escape." When a large war party gathered in June, Boone realized that the attack on Boonesborough was imminent. Slipping away from a hunting party, he covered 160 miles in four days and staggered into the settlement. By now he looked more Indian than white. Of his family, he found only Jemima. Rebecca, thinking him dead, had returned to North Carolina.
He quickly saw to the repair and completion of Boonesborough's fortification and sent to nearby settlements and Virginia Militia for help. In early September the 450 Shawnee and French Canadian force arrived on the north bank of the Kentucky.
Playing for time, Boone agreed to talk to Blackfish. Kentucky settler Josiah Collins reported the conversation:
"How d'y, Blackfish."
"Well, Boone, what made you run away from me?"
"Why, because I wanted to see my wife and children."
"Well, you needn't have run away. If you'd asked me, I'd let you come."
The defenders parlayed and stalled for three days; Blackfish and his allies then suggested a peace treaty. Ostensibly shaking hands in friendship, the Indians seized eight Kentucky negotiators, who broke loose and dashed for the fort. The seize of Boonesborough had begun.
For days fierce rifle fire was exchanged. The Indians tried fire arrows and a tunnel into the fort, but rain thwarted both efforts. Finally, the eighth day dawned soggy but quiet. Sometime in the night the Shawnee and French Canadians had stolen away.
"Relations with Other Indians"(Part 1) [ "Relations with Other Indians"(Part 2)
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