Daniel Boone was an American pioneer, explorer, woodsman, and frontiersman, whose frontier exploits made him one of the first folk heroes of the United States. Boone is most famous for his exploration and settlement of what is now Kentucky, which was then part of Virginia but on the other side of the mountains from the settled areas. As a young adult, Boone supplemented his farm income by hunting and trapping game, and selling their pelts in the fur market. Through this occupational interest, Boone first learned the easy routes to the area. Despite some resistance from American Indian tribes such as the Shawnee, in 1775, Boone blazed his Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountains from North Carolina and Tennessee into Kentucky. There, he founded the village of Boonesborough, Kentucky, one of the first American settlements west of the Appalachians. Before the end of the 18th century, more than 200,000 Americans migrated to Kentucky/Virginia by following the route marked by Boone. Boone was a militia officer during the Revolutionary War (1775–83), which, in Kentucky, was fought primarily between the American settlers and the British-aided Indians. Boone was captured by Shawnee warriors in 1778. He escaped and alerted Boonesborough that the Shawnees were planning an attack. Although heavily outnumbered, Americans repelled the Shawnee warriors in the Siege of Boonesborough. Boone was elected to the first of his three terms in the Virginia General Assembly, during the Revolutionary War, and fought in the Battle of Blue Licks in 1782. Blue Licks, a Shawnee victory over the Patriots, was one of the last battles of the Revolutionary War, coming after the main fighting ended in October 1781. Following the war, Boone worked as a surveyor and merchant, but fell deeply into debt through failed Kentucky land speculation.
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Copyright © 2017 by Uncle Philip.
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First Edition: January 2017
THE ADVENTURES OF DANIEL BOONE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Some men choose to live in crowded cities;--others are pleased with the peaceful quiet of a country farm; while some love to roam through wild forests, and make their homes in the wilderness. The man of whom I shall now speak, was one of this last class. Perhaps you never heard of DANIEL BOONE, the Kentucky rifleman. If not, then I have a strange and interesting story to tell you.
If, when a child was born, we knew that he was to become a remarkable man, the time and place of his birth would, perhaps, be always remembered. But as this can not be known, great mistakes are often made on these points. As to the time when Daniel Boone was born, there is no difficulty; but people have fallen into many blunders about the place. Some have said that he was born in England, before his parents left that country; others that he came into this world during the passage of his parents across the Atlantic. One has told us that he was born in Virginia; another in Maryland; while many have stated that he was a native of North Carolina. These are all mistakes. Daniel Boone was born in the year 1746, in Bucks county, in the state of Pennsylvania.
From some cause or other, when the boy was but three years old, his parents moved from this home, and settled upon the Schuylkill river, not far from the town of Reading. Here they lived for ten years; and it was during this time that their son Daniel began to show his passion for hunting. He was scarcely able to carry a gun, when he was shooting all the squirrels, rackoons, and even wild-cats (it is said), that he could find in that region. As he grew older, his courage increased, and then we find him amusing himself with higher game. Other lads in the neighborhood were soon taught by him the use of the rifle, and were then able to join him in his adventures. On one occasion, they all started out for a hunt, and after amusing themselves till it was almost dark, were returning homeward, when suddenly a wild cry was heard in the woods. The boys screamed out, "A panther! a panther!" and ran off as fast as they could. Boone stood firmly, looking around for the animal. It was a panther indeed. His eye lighted upon him just in the act of springing toward him: in an instant he levelled his rifle, and shot him through the heart.
But this sort of sport was not enough for him. He seemed resolved to go away from men, and live in the forests with these animals. One morning he started off as usual, with his rifle and dog. Night came on, but Daniel did not return to his home. Another day and night passed away, and still the boy did not make his appearance. His parents were now greatly alarmed. The neighbors joined them in making search for the lad. After wandering about a great while, they at length saw smoke rising from a cabin in the distance. Upon reaching it, they found the boy. The floor of the cabin was covered with the skins of such animals as he had slain, and pieces of meat were roasting before the fire for his supper. Here, at a distance of three miles from any settlement, he had built his cabin of sods and branches, and sheltered himself in the wilderness.
It was while his father was living on the head-waters of the Schuylkill, that young Boone received, so far as we know, all his education. Short indeed were his schoolboy days. It happened that an Irish schoolmaster strolled into the settlement, and, by the advice of Mr. Boone and other parents, opened a school in the neighborhood. It was not then as it is now. Good schoolhouses were not scattered over the land; nor were schoolmasters always able to teach their pupils. The schoolhouse where the boys of this settlement went was a log cabin, built in the midst of the woods. The schoolmaster was a strange man: sometimes good-humored, and then indulging the lads; sometimes surly and ill-natured, and then beating them severely. It was his usual custom, after hearing the first lessons of the morning, to allow the children to be out for a half hour at play, during which time he strolled off to refresh himself from his labors. He always walked in the same direction, and the boys thought that after his return, when they were called in, he was generally more cruel than ever. They were whipped more severely, and, oftentimes without any cause. They observed this, but did not know the meaning of it. One morning young Boone asked that he might go out, and had scarcely left the schoolroom, when he saw a squirrel running over the trunk of a fallen tree. True to his nature, he instantly gave chase, until at last the squirrel darted into a bower of vines and branches. Boone thrust his hand in, and, to his surprise, laid of hold of a bottle of whiskey. This was in the direction of his master's morning walks, and he thought now that he understood the secret of much of his ill-nature. He returned to the schoolroom; but when they were dismissed for that day, he told some of the larger boys of his discovery. Their plan was soon arranged. Early the next morning a bottle of whiskey, having tartar emetic in it, was placed in the bower, and the other bottle thrown away. At the usual hour, the lads were sent out to play, and the master started on his walk. But their play was to come afterward: they longed for the master to return. At length they were called in, and in a little time saw the success of their experiment. The master began to look pale and sick, yet still went on with his work. Several boys were called up, one after the other, to recite lessons, and all whipped soundly, whether right or wrong. At last young Boone was called out to answer questions in arithmetic. He came forward with his slate and pencil, and the master began: "If you subtract six from nine, what remains?" said he. "Three, sir," said Boone. "Very good," said the master; "now let us come to fractions. If you take three quarters from a whole number, what remains?"--"The whole, sir," answered Boone. "You blockhead!" cried the master, beating him, "you stupid little fool, how can you show that?"--"If I take one bottle of whiskey," said Boone, "and put in its place another in which I have mixed an emetic, the whole will remain, if nobody drinks it!" The Irishman, dreadfully sick, was now doubly enraged. He seized Boone, and commenced beating him: the children shouted and roared; the scuffle continued, until Boone knocked the master down upon the floor, and rushed out of the room. It was a day of freedom now for the lads. The story soon ran through the neighborhood; Boone was rebuked by his parents, but the schoolmaster was dismissed, and thus ended the boy's education.
Thus freed from school, he now returned more ardently than ever to his favorite pursuit. His dog and rifle were his constant companions, and day after day he started from home, only to roam through the forests. Hunting seemed to be the only business of his life; and he was never so happy as when at night he came home laden with game. He was an untiring wanderer.
I do not know but that this passion for roaming was in some degree inherited by Daniel Boone. His father had already had three homes: one in England, one in Bucks county, and another on the Schuylkill; and he now thought of removing further. It is said that the passion of Daniel for hunting was one cause which prompted his father to think of this. Land was becoming scarce, the neighborhood a little crowded, and game less abundant; and, to mend matters, he began to cast his eyes around for a new home. He was not long in choosing one. He had heard of a rich and beautiful country on the banks of the Yadkin river in North Carolina, and he determined that this should be the next resting-place for him and his household.
All things were made ready as soon as possible, and the journey commenced. It was a fine spring morning when the father started for his new home, with his wife and children, his flocks and herds. Their journey lay hundreds of miles through a trackless wilderness; yet with cheerful and fearless hearts they pressed onward. When hungry, they feasted upon venison and wild turkeys (for Daniel, with his rifle, was in company); when thirsty, they found cool springs of water to refresh them by the way; when wearied at night, they laid themselves down and slept under the wide-spreading branches of the forest. At length they reached the land they looked for, and the father found it to be all that he expected. The woods in that region were unbroken; no man seemed yet to have found them. Land was soon cleared, a cabin built, and the father in a little time found himself once more happily settled with his family.
The old man with his other sons went busily to the work of making a farm. As for Daniel, they knew it was idle to expect his help in such employment, and therefore left him to roam about with his rifle. This was a glorious country for the youth; wild woods were all around him, and the game, having not yet learned to fear the crack of the rifle wandered fearlessly through them. This he thought was, of all places, the home for him. I hope you will not think that he was the idle and useless boy of the family, for it was not so. While the farm was improving, Daniel was supplying the family with provisions. The table at home was always filled with game, and they had enough and to spare. Their house became known as a warm-hearted and hospitable abode; for the wayfaring wanderer, when lost in the woods, was sure to find here a welcome, a shelter, and an abundance. Then, too, if money was wanted in the family, the peltries of the animals shot by Daniel supplied it: so that he was, in a large degree, the supporter of the household. In this way years rolled onward--the farm still enlarging and improving, Daniel still hunting, and the home one of constant peace, happiness, and plenty.
At length the story of the success and comfort of the family brought neighbors around them. Different parts of the forests began to be cleared; smoke was soon seen rising from new cabins; and the sharp crack of other rifles than Daniel's was sometimes heard in the morning. This grieved him sadly. Most people would have been pleased to find neighbors in the loneliness of the woods; but what pleased others did not please him. They were crowding upon him; they were driving away his game: this was his trouble. But, after all, there was one good farmer who came into the region and made his settlement; which settlement, as it turned out, proved a happy thing for Daniel. This was a very worthy man named Bryan. He cleared his land, built his cabin upon a sloping hill, not very far from Mr. Boone's, and before a great while, by dint of industry, had a good farm of more than a hundred acres. This farm was beautifully situated. A pretty stream of water almost encircled it. On the banks of the Schuylkill, Daniel Boone found all his education, such as it was; on the banks of the Yadkin he found something far better. I must tell you now of a very strange adventure.
One evening, with another young friend, he started out upon what is called a "fire-hunt." Perhaps you do not know what this means. I will explain it to you. Two people are always necessary for a fire-hunt. One goes before, carrying a blazing torch of pitch-pine wood (or lightwood, as it is called in the southern country), while the other follows behind with his rifle. In this way the two hunters move through the forests. When an animal is startled, he will stand gazing at the light, and his eyes may be seen shining distinctly: this is called "shining the eyes." The hunter with the rifle, thus seeing him, while the other shines him, levels his gun with steady aim, and has a fair shot. This mode of hunting is still practised in many parts of our country, and is everywhere known as a fire-hunt.
Boone, with his companion, started out upon such a hunt, and very soon reached the woods skirting the lower end of Mr. Bryan's farm. It seems they were on horseback, Boone being behind with the rifle. They had not gone far, when his companion reined up his horse, and two eyes were seen distinctly shining. Boone levelled his rifle, but something prevented his firing. The animal darted off. Boone leaped from his horse, left his companion, and instantly dashed after it. It was too dark to see plainly, still he pursued; he was close upon its track, when a fence coming in the way, the animal leaped it with a clear bound. Boone climbed over as fast as he could with his rifle, but the game had got ahead. Nothing daunted by this, he pushed on, until he found himself at last not very far from Mr. Bryan's home. But the animal was gone. It was a strange chase. He determined to go into Mr Bryan's house, and tell his adventure. As he drew near, the dogs raised a loud barking, the master came out, bade him welcome, and carried him into the house. Mr. Bryan had scarcely introduced him to his family as "the son of his neighbor Boone," when suddenly the door of the room was burst open, and in rushed a little lad of seven, followed by a girl of sixteen years, crying out, "O father! father! sister is frightened to death! She went down to the river, and was chased by a panther!" The hunter and his game had met. There stood Boone, leaning upon his rifle, and Rebecca Bryan before him, gasping for breath. From that moment he continued to pursue it; Farmer Bryan's house became a favorite resort for him; he loved it as well as the woods. The business was now changed: Rebecca Bryan completely shined his eyes; and after a time, to the great joy of themselves and both families, Daniel Boone and Rebecca Bryan were married. It proved, as you will see, a very happy marriage to both parties.
Being now a married man, it became Daniel Boone's duty to seek a new home for himself. In a little time, therefore, he left his wife, and wandered into the unsettled parts of North Carolina in search of one. After moving about for some time, he found, upon the head-waters of the Yadkin, a rich soil, covered with a heavy and once more unbroken forest. "Here," thought Daniel Boone, "is the resting-place for me; here Rebecca Bryan and myself may be happy: this shall be our home." He returned to his wife, and she, with a cheerful heart, joined in all his plans. With tears in her eyes, she bade farewell to her friends; yet, with a light spirit, she started off with her husband. A clearing in the woods was soon made, a log cabin of his own soon built, and a portion of ground planted. Boone seems now to have thought that he must do something more than use his rifle. He was to make a home for his wife and busied himself, accordingly, in enlarging his farm as fast as he could, and industriously cultivating it. Still, on his busiest day, he would find a leisure hour to saunter with his gun to the woods, and was sure never to return without game. His own table was loaded with it, as when at his father's, and his house, like his father's, soon became known as a warm and kind shelter for the wandering traveller. In this industrious and quiet way of farming and hunting, years were spent, and Daniel Boone was contented and happy. Several little children were now added to his group; and, with his wife, his children, and his rifle, for companions, he felt that all was well.
But his peace was at length disturbed once more. His old troubles pursued him; men again began to come near. The crash of falling trees was heard, as the new settlers levelled the forests; huts were seen springing up all around him; other hunters were roaming through the woods, and other dogs than his were heard barking. This was more than he was willing to bear. Happy as he had made his home, he determined to leave it, and find another in the wilderness, where he could have that wilderness to himself. For some time he was at a loss to know where to go; yet his heart was fixed in the determination to move. The circumstances which pointed him to his new home, and where that new home was made, you may learn in the next chapter.
My young friends all know where the state of Kentucky is situated. It is hardly necessary for me to say, that at the time of which I am writing, that region was an unbroken wilderness.
It was in the year 1754 that a white man first visited the country of Kentucky. This was James M'Bride. In company with several others during that year, he was passing down the Ohio, when he discovered the mouth of Kentucky river, and made a landing. Near the spot where he landed, he cut upon a tree the first letters of his name; and these letters, it is said, could be seen and distinctly read for many years afterward. With his companions, he wandered through the wilderness; the country struck them all as being remarkably beautiful. It is not wonderful, then, that when they returned home, they were filled with fine stories about the new region. They declared that it was "the best tract of land in North America, and probably in the world."
In spite of their pleasant stories, however, it was a long time before any one was disposed to follow in their track. At length, Doctor Walker, of Virginia, with a number of friends, started upon a western tour of discovery. Some say that he was in search of the Ohio river particularly; others that he went merely to collect strange plants and flowers. Be this as it may, he with his party wandered through Powell's Valley, and passed the mountains at what is called the Cumberland Gap. They then crossed the Cumberland river, and roaming on through the forests, at length, after much fatigue and suffering, reached the Big Sandy. The country was beautiful, yet they were too much worn out to go further, and from this point began to return homeward. They had suffered more than M'Bride, and therefore their story was not so bright as his; yet they gave a very pleasant account of the new country.
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