Daniel Boone (1734–1820), legendary American frontiersman
Daniel Boone was born to a family of English Quakers in Oley (now Exeter) township, near Reading, PA on November 2, 1734. The Boones later moved to South Carolina, in 1752. In the French and Indian War, Daniel served with the British-led colonial forces, taking part as a wagoner in Colonel Braddock’s failed expedition against Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh) in 1755, and later fighting in General John Forbes’s successful attack on the fort in 1758.
After the war Boone became interested in settling on the frontier. At first he set his eyes on Florida, but his wife, the former Rebecca Bryan, whom he had married in 1756, refused to go there. He then turned to the Kentucky region, which he explored on several treks from 1769-1771. In 1773 he undertook to organize and lead an expedition of several families into Kentucky, but a vicious attack by the Cherokee that cost the life of his son James forced Boone and the survivors to turn back.
In march of 1775 Boone returned to Kentucky, this time at the head of an advance party on behalf of land speculator Richard Henderson and the Transylvania Company. Along with his armed band of 30 men Boone blazed the famous Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap and founded the settlement of Boonesboro on the banks of the Kentucky River. Henderson arrived in a few weeks with additional settlers, and later that year Boone guided in a second party that included his family. When Kentucky was made a county of Virginia in 1776, Boone was elected a captain of the Kentucky militia.
During the American Revolution, while on an expedition to find salt in the Blue Licks on the Licking River in February 1778, Boone and his party were captured by British-allied Shawnee. Well known and respected by his Indian captors, Boone was made a member of the tribe and was adopted as a son by the Shawnee chief, Blackfish, but remained a prisoner. Boone soon learned that the Shawnee were planning to attack the Boonesboro settlement. In order to learn the attack plans, Boone deceived the Shawnee into thinking that he would get the settlers to surrender peacefully, but instead escaped after four months of captivity and warned to settlers of the impending attack, which then failed.
After the attack a few of Boone's old enemies accused him of treason for allegedly aiding the enemy, but Boone was popular with most settlers and was not only acquitted, but also elected major. But Boone soon grew restless and ever susceptable to the call of the wilderness, he headed out again, founding a new settlement at Boone’s Station, near what is now Athens, KY in 1779.
After the Revolution Boone worked as a land surveyor along the Ohio River and later served several terms in the Virginia Legislature. Prosperity eluded him, as, despite his services to the state, many of his best land claims were ruled imperfect and stripped from him in ejectment suits. Disgusted, Boone and his wife left in 1799 for Missouri, where the Spanish government granted him a large tract in the Femme Osage Valley and made him district magistrate. When the United States took over the territory upon the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, Boone's land titles were again found to be defective, but this time, after years of legal battles, his status as a frontier hero secured a restoration of part of his holdings thanks to a direct intercession by Congress in 1814.
Daniel Boone’s adventures in Kentucky had become well-known with the publication of an alleged autobiographical account in the widely read Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke (1784), by John Filson, and Lord Byron’s verses on him in Don Juan (1823) later earned him international renown. Although historical scholarship has disproven many of the legends about Boone's life, he remains a mythic figure of towering proportions in the American imagination, a powerful symbol of the frontier ideals of courage, determination, and rugged individualism.