The New Student's Reference Work/Boone, Daniel

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Boone, Daniel. For more than a century this famous hunter and Indian fighter and pioneer, has fired the imaginations of the American boy and inspired biographer, orator and poet. Of the hundreds of backwoodsmen who, in Revolutionary days, broke across the Alleghenies, his personality is the most picturesque, his character the most admirable and his life the longest. Born on the frontier in Pennsylvania in 1735, he lived on the frontier in North Carolina, blazed a way through the Kentucky wilderness for settlers, and died at an outpost of civilization in Missouri in 1820. The spirit of the red man was no more alien to the settlement than was Daniel Boone's. In the eighty-five years of his life he never lacked “elbow-room,” free land, stirring adventure, game for his unerring rifle or courage and resource to meet danger.


The boy who fancies this the ideal career does not realize the rough schooling that was the necessary preparation for it. Except for the scattered clearings, the valley of the Schuylkill, where he was born, was wild pasture and untamed forests. His parents were Quakers, and they and their Quaker and Dutch neighbors were dependent for a living more upon hunting than upon crops. So the boy grew up in the wild, strong, brave, inured to hardship and as skilled in woodcraft as an Indian. Scarcity of game forced the family to emigrate to the high western valley of North Carolina. There, at the age of 21, Boone married. When he was 24, he joined a party under the guidance of John Finley, and by way of the old Indian trail across Cumberland Gap broke into the hunter's paradise of Kentucky. Contrary to popular belief, Boone was not the first white man in Kentucky, and, as a permanent settlement, Harrodsburg antedated Boonsboro by a year. His son Enoch was, however, the first white child born in the state (1777), and Boone, as justice of the peace, celebrated the first marriage ceremony (1776). The hero of border warfare, he is, as a military figure, insignificant beside George Rogers Clark. But in the mischances of frontier life, with daring men constantly making early and violent exits from the stage, Boone seemed to bear a charmed life. For half a century he slept with his food-pouch filled and his moccassins tied to his gun-stock. His adventures are more stirring than those of the most lurid dime novel.

Such was his fame that, when he emigrated to Missouri in 1792, the Spanish government gave him 8,000 acres of land and made him commandant of the Osage district. There he dwelt in patriarchal state, his sons and daughters around him, for nearly thirty years, hunters, explorers and emigrants taking counsel of his wisdom. For artists he seems to have had great fascination as a subject, and several went out to paint his portrait. One has described him in old age as of medium height but erect and athletic. His head was of noble shape, with a high, bold forehead, his mouth wide and thin-lipped, his eye a clear blue and of direct gaze. Courage and honesty were his patent traits; his expression was mild, his manner amiable. He was unspoiled by his great reputation, and remained the simple, unlettered child of nature to the last. At eighty-two years of age he looked ten years younger, and went off on a long hunting trip to the Kansas River. He died suddenly in his 86th year, and his bones were removed to Frankfort, Kentucky. His adventures, as told by himself, are edited by John Filson. The latest and best biography is by Reuben Gold Thwaites.