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You will recall that at the beginning of the Last French War in 1756 the English colonies lived almost entirely between the Alleghany Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. Such continued to be their narrow boundaries up to the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

To understand how, at the end of this war, the western boundary had been extended to the Mississippi, we must turn our attention to those early western pioneers, the backwoodsmen, who rendered very important services to their country.

One of the most noted of these pioneers was Daniel Boone. He was born in Bucks County, Pa., in 1735. Caring little for books, he spent most of his time in hunting and fishing. The woods were his special delight, and naturally he became an expert rifleman.

The story is told that when a small boy he wandered one day into the forest some distance from home, and built himself a rough shelter of logs. There he would spend days at a time with only his rifle and game for company. The rifle served to bring down the game, and this he cooked over a fire of logs. A prince might have envied his dreamless slumber as he lay on a bed of leaves with the skin of a wild animal for covering. This free, wild life trained him for his future career as a fearless hunter and woodsman.

The Kentucky SettlementThe Kentucky Settlement

When Daniel was about thirteen years old his father moved to North Carolina and settled on the Yadkin River, where Daniel grew to manhood. After his marriage at the age of twenty, he built him a hut in the solitude of the wilderness, far removed from other settlers' homes.

But Boone was restless. For years he looked with eager eyes toward the rugged mountains on the west and to the country beyond. Day by day, his desire to visit this wild unknown region increased, until he could no longer restrain it. By the time he was twenty-five he had begun his explorations and had pushed his way as far as Boone's Creek, which is a branch of the Watauga River in Eastern Tennessee. Near this creek there yet stands a beech-tree with the inscription: "D. Boon cilled a bar on (this) tree in the year 1760."

Nine years after this date Daniel Boone, in company with five other men, started out on May 1st to cross the Alleghany Mountains. For five weeks the bold travellers picked their way through the pathless woods. But when in June they reached Kentucky, they were rewarded for all the hardships they had endured. For here was a beautiful country with an abundance of game, including deer, bears, and great herds of bison.

Indian Costume (Female).Indian Costume (Female).

They promptly put up a shelter made of logs and open on one side. The floor of this camp, as it was called, was the earth, covered with leaves and hemlock twigs.

Six months after their arrival Boone and a man named Stewart had an unpleasant experience. While off on a hunting expedition, they were captured by an Indian party. For seven days the dusky warriors carefully guarded their prisoners. But on the seventh night, having gorged themselves with the game killed during the day, the Indians fell into a sound sleep. Boone, while pretending to be asleep, had been watching his opportunity. So when the right moment came he quietly arose, awoke Stewart, and the two crept stealthily away until out of hearing of the Indians. Then, leaping to their feet, they bounded away like deer, through the dark woods toward their camp. This they found deserted, and what had become of their friends they never learned.

Some weeks later Boone was pleasantly surprised by the appearance at the camp of his brother, Squire Boone, and a companion. The four men lived together without special incident, until one day Stewart was surprised and shot by some Indians. Stewart's death so terrified the man who had accompanied Squire Boone, that he gave up the wilderness life and returned to his home.

Indian Costume (Male).Indian Costume (Male).

Boone and his brother remained together in the forest for three months longer, but their ammunition getting low, on May 1st Squire Boone returned to North Carolina for a fresh supply and for horses. Daniel was thus left alone, 500 miles from home. His life was in constant peril from wild beasts and Indians. He dared not sleep in his camp, but resorted at night to a canebrake or some other hiding-place, where he lay concealed, not even kindling a fire lest its light might betray him. During these months of solitary waiting for his brother, Boone endured many privations. He had neither salt, sugar, nor flour, his sole food being game brought down by his rifle. But the return of his brother, in July, with the expected provisions, brought him much good cheer.

After two years of this experience in the wilderness, Daniel Boone returned to his home on the Yadkin to make preparations for removal. By September, 1773, he had sold his farm and was ready to go with his family to settle in Kentucky. His enthusiastic reports of the fertile country he had been exploring found eager listeners, and when his party was ready to start it included, besides his wife and children, five families and forty men, with a sufficient number of horses and cattle. Unhappily they were attacked on their way by Indians, and six men, one of them Boone's eldest son, were killed. Discouraged by this setback the party returned to the nearest settlement, and for a while longer the migration westward was postponed.

But it was Boone's unflinching purpose to settle in the beautiful Kentucky region. It had already become historic, for the Indians called it a "dark ground," a "bloody ground," and an old Indian Chief had related to Boone how many tribes had hunted and fought on its disputed territory.

None of the Indians held an undisputed claim to the land. Nevertheless a friend of Boone, Richard Henderson, and other white men made treaties with the powerful Cherokees, who allowed them to settle here. As soon as it became certain that the Cherokees would not interfere, Henderson sent Boone in charge of thirty men to open a pathway from the Holston River, over Cumberland Gap to the Kentucky River. This is still known as the Wilderness Road, along which so many thousand settlers afterward made their way.

On reaching the Kentucky River, Boone and his men set to work to build a fort on the left bank of the stream. This fort they called Boonesborough. Its four stout walls consisted in part of the outer sides of log cabins and in part of a stockade, some twelve feet high, made by thrusting into the ground stout pieces of timber pointed at the top. There were loopholes in all the cabins, and a loop-holed block-house at each corner of the fort.

Daniel Boone, the leader of this settlement, was a man of interesting personality. He was a tall, slender backwoodsman, with muscles of iron and a rugged nature that enabled him to endure great hardship. Quiet and serious, he possessed courage that never shrank in the face of danger. Men had confidence in him because he had confidence in himself. Moreover, his kind heart and tender sympathies won lasting friendships. He usually though not always dressed like an Indian. A fur cap, a fringed hunting shirt, and leggings and moccasins, all made of skins of wild animals, made up his ordinary costume.

Daniel Boone in his CabinDaniel Boone in his Cabin

If we should go in imagination into Daniel Boone's log cabin out in the clearing not far from the fort, we should find it a simple home with rude furnishings. A ladder against the wall was the stairway by which the children reached the loft. Pegs driven into the wall held the scanty family wardrobe, and upon a rough board, supported by four wooden legs, was spread the family meal.

There was an abundance of plain and simple food. Bear's meat was a substitute for pork, and venison for beef. As salt was scarce, the beef was not salted down or pickled, but was jerked by drying in the sun or smoking over the fire. Corn was also an important article of diet. When away from home to hunt game or to follow the war trail, sometimes the only food which the settler had was the parched corn he carried in his pocket or wallet. Every cabin had its hand-mill for grinding the corn into meal and a mortar for beating it into hominy. The mortar was made by burning a hole into the top of a block of wood.

A Hand Corn Mill.A Hand Corn Mill.

A pioneer boy found his life a busy and interesting one. While still young he received careful training in imitating the notes and calls of birds and wild animals. He learned how to set traps, and how to shoot a rifle with unerring aim. At twelve years of age he became a fort-soldier, with port-hole assigned to him for use in case of an Indian attack. He received careful training, also, in following an Indian trail and in concealing his own when on the warpath. For expert knowledge of this kind was necessary in the midst of dangers from unseen foes that were likely to creep stealthily upon the settlers at all times whether they were working in the clearings or hunting in the forest.

After building the fort, Boone returned to his home in North Carolina for his family. Some months after the family reached Boonesborough, Boone's daughter with two girl friends was one day floating in a boat near the river-bank. Suddenly five Indians darted out of the woods and, seizing the three girls, hurried away with them. When in their flight the Indians observed the eldest of the girls breaking twigs and dropping them in their trail, they threatened to tomahawk her unless she stopped it. But watching her chance, she from time to time tore off strips of her dress, and dropped them as guides to the pursuing whites.

As soon as possible after hearing of the capture Boone, with seven other men from the fort, started upon the trail of the Indians and kept up the pursuit until, early on the second morning, they discovered the Indians sitting around a fire cooking breakfast. Suddenly the whites, firing a volley, killed two of the Indians and frightened the others so badly that they beat a hasty retreat, leaving the girls uninjured.

Early in 1778, Boone and twenty nine other men were captured and carried off by a party of Indian warriors. At that time the Indians in that part of the country were fighting on the English side in the Revolution, and as they received a ransom for any Americans they might hand over to the English, they took Boone and the other men of his party to Detroit.

Although the English offered $500 for Boone's ransom the Indians refused to let him go. They admired him so much that they took him to their home, and with due ceremony adopted him into their tribe. Having plucked out all his hair except a tuft on the top of his head, they dressed this with feathers and ribbons as a scalp-lock. Next they threw him into the river and gave his body a thorough scrubbing in order to wash out all the white blood. Then, daubing his face with paint in true Indian fashion, they looked upon him with huge satisfaction as one of themselves.

A Wigwam.A Wigwam.

Boone remained with them several months, during which he made the best of the life he had to lead. But when he heard that the Indians were planning an attack upon Boonesborough, he determined to escape if possible and give his friends warning. His own words tell the story in a simple way: "On the 16th of June, before sunrise, I departed in the most secret manner, and arrived at Boonesborough on the 20th after a journey of 160 miles, during which I had but one meal." He could not get any food because he dared not use his gun, nor would he build a fire for fear of discovery by his foes. He reached the fort in safety, where he was of great service in beating off the attacking party.

But this is only one of the many hairbreadth escapes of the fearless backwoodsman. Once while in a shed looking after some tobacco, four Indians with loaded guns appeared at the door. They said: "Now, Boone, we got you. You no get away any more. You no cheat us any more." In the meantime, Boone had gathered up in his arms a number of dry tobacco leaves, and with the dust of these suddenly filled the Indians' eyes and nostrils. Then while they were coughing, sneezing, and rubbing their eyes, he made good his escape.

Indian ImplementsIndian Implements

But from all his dangerous adventures Boone came out safely, and for years remained the leader of the settlement at Boonesborough. He was certainly a masterful leader in that early pioneer life in Kentucky. The solitude of the wilderness never lost its charm for him even to the last of his long life. He died in 1820, eighty-five years old. It has been said that but for him the settlement in Kentucky could not have been made for many years.


Review Outline

Western Pioneers And Patriots, Boone's Fondness For Life In The Woods, He Goes To Kentucky, His Solitary Life In The Forest, He Plants A Settlement In Kentucky, Boonesborough, Personal Appearance And Character Of Daniel Boone, His Log Cabin, Food Of The Backwoodsmen, Life Of The Pioneer Boy, Boone's Daughter Captured By The Indians, His Adoption By An Indian Tribe, Boone's Important Work.


To The Pupil

  1. Try to form a picture of Boone alone in the woods in his boyhood, and then tell the story of what he did.

  2. Do the same with Boone alone in the Kentucky forest after his brother had left him.

  3. What do you admire in Boone's character? How did he dress? Describe his log cabin. Give some facts about the Kentucky settlers' diet.

  4. Tell something about the life of the pioneer boy.

  5. Give an account of Boone's adoption into an Indian tribe.

  6. What was Boone's great work?