Celebrating a Legend

Kentucky to mark
Daniel Boone’s 275th birthday

Many events statewide, new book
by author Brown, among Boone
activities planned in November

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

November 2009 Kentucky Edition Cover

November 2009
Kentucky Edition Cover

(November 2009) – Even though he was born and raised in New York City, Meredith Mason Brown has Kentucky blood running through his veins. His ancestors knew and worked alongside Daniel Boone on the Kentucky frontier, and it is this impetus that fueled him to pen a new biography on Boone in time to celebrate Boone’s 275th birthday.
“Boone was more complicated than you’d think of a woodsman,” said Brown, 68. He has compiled hours of research into “Frontiersman Daniel Boone and the Making of America.”
From the time he was old enough to remember, Brown recalls a rifle hanging on the wall of his father’s study. This wasn’t just any rifle; it had belonged to his ancestor, Col. John Floyd. Floyd had been acquainted with Boone and is credited with helping Boone rescue his daughter, Jemima, and the two Callaway girls from Indians in July 1776 outside of Fort Boonesborough, near present-day Richmond, Ky. It is this personal connection to Boone and the knowledge of his own ancestor’s role in history that spurred him to put pen to paper and recount Boone’s life in a new light.
In “Frontiersman,” Brown has tackled a topic that has been written about countless times. Relying upon his own perspective and background, Brown created a work that provides a fresh perspective on Boone when there are only the same primary sources to draw from that have been referred to by many other authors over the last two centuries.

Searching for Boone
family roots inspired
re-enacting activities

(November 2009) – For as long as I can remember, my paternal grandmother told me we were related to Squire Boone. Well, that’s nice, but there are only 1,001 Squire Boones out there living in the same time period as famed woodsman Daniel Boone who were related to him. Which Squire Boone?
No one else in the family seemed to be able to tell me but all were proud of their lineage. They knew they were Boones; they didn’t have to prove it on paper.
But I was always the different one. To me, it did matter which Squire Boone. Not that I would have ever doubted my grandmother’s word, but I just had to know HOW I was related to Daniel Boone. I couldn’t comfortably tell people that I was descended from a certain Boone ancestor if I couldn’t prove that point.
So set out to prove it I did. Fifteen years later, I realize all the time I spent sifting through family files, court records, pension records, census records, marriage licenses, death certificates (if available), traveling from county courthouse to county courthouse, and chasing county historians for just a minute of their time was well worth my time.
Obviously, it proved what I already knew: I was a Boone descendant. But yes, I did discover quickly which Squire Boone my grandmother was talking about. She meant Squire Boone (1696-1765), Daniel Boone’s father who settled in North Carolina. Now I was getting someplace.
Of course, there was also Squire Boone Jr., Daniel’s younger brother, who I’m technically related to as well. But the real jewel in the family was Samuel Boone (1728-1816), Daniel’s older brother.
I could claim him as my very own Boone. I am directly descended from Samuel and his wife, Sarah Day, who is credited with teaching her brother-in-law Daniel how to read and write.
Knowing that Samuel’s father was Squire Boone put everything into perspective. I could safely say I was related to Squire Boone through his son, Samuel Boone, and so on down the line.
But now what would I do with all of this research material I had so meticulously amassed? Would my kids really appreciate what I had done? Who else in this world would be interested in my direct family line? Of course, I could always write that book about the Boone family that I had wanted to write for sometime (maybe the kids would take note then).
But for me, it’s enough just to know that part of the puzzle is complete. Genealogy is like putting together a gigantic puzzle of your family tree. Each time a piece of the puzzle fits, you get that elated feeling of knowing you are one step closer to realizing who you are, why you do the things you do, and why you look the way you do. Genealogy can take you on a journey not only to discover the past but to discover things about yourself that you never knew. Researching my family tree has been like coming full circle in life, as they say.
Several years ago, I applied all of the information I’ve gathered into a new hobby, one that you could say is in my genes: living history re-enacting. As a re-enactor portraying someone who lived in the Revolutionary War era, I’m filled with thoughts of my ancestor Samuel Boone and his family.
Of course, I knew about my family before I ever knew what re-enacting was, and I was born with that strong attachment to history. Re-enacting gave me a way to vent, shall we say, what I know about my family. Or, in other words, to live out their lives while teaching others about history. It was also the best way I knew of keeping my grandmother’s memory alive for others who had never known her.
I’ve come full circle in my genealogy quest to the point now where I have only one missing link: James Harvey Boone (1819-1899). I know he’s dead by now, but where in the world is that man buried?
I’ve searched all over Clark and Powell counties in Kentucky for that man, in every nook and cranny that he must have walked over in his lifetime. During the time I’ve spent searching for him, I’ve met new relatives and made new friends, often encountering people from the hills and hollars I’ve tramped through that I’ll never forget.
My grandmother, Sally Clay Boone Dawson, was from Clark County. Her Boone ancestors literally stepped out of Fort Boonesborough in Madison County, Ky., and over what is now the county line into Clark County, Ky. There they have remained for more than 200 years. That’s a lot of history in one place.
Before my grandmother and my grandfather, Shirley Dawson, passed away, they made sure I would take the sacred family photos and cherish them as they had. And to this day, my great-grandfather, Levi Daniel Boone, hangs above my bed in his original oval frame. He smiles at me every night before I go to bed and every morning when I wake up, reminding me that he, too, was a descendant of Squire Boone.

• RoundAbout contributing writer Helen E. McKinney is a La Grange, Ky., native who resides in Shelby County. Email her at: hlnmck@aol.com.

Men such as historical researchers Lyman Draper and John Dabney Shane, who sought out oral histories of many early pioneers, the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, and the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort are major source holders for primary materials. Any serious researcher will sift through voluminous records of musty books and delicate original documents such as deeds, marriage licenses and court order books to ascertain what history is really all about.
For individuals like Brown, it’s all about the person that Boone really was. A glimpse of the true man can be found by digging deep and piecing together what history has recorded of this sometimes larger-than-life figure.
In addition to the already mentioned sources, Brown looked at many depositions given by Boone involving land dispute suits. “You can almost hear Boone talking in those depositions,” he said. “Boone played an important role in western settlement.”
The Kentucky Historical Society houses the Martin F. Schmidt Library, which contains a few original records in various collections that are connected to Boone. These include land surveys in their online library catalog and digital collections websites. The Kentucky Historical Society also contains primary sources from some of Boone’s contemporaries, and records pertaining to his relatives, including Squire Boone, said Bill Morris, Library Technician.
“We have a few historical researchers who come here to do research on Boone, but the majority of our Boone researchers are family history and genealogy researchers who have either an established or suspected link to the man,” said Morris. “The most unique type of resource we hold here at the library are our surname files, which contain research notes, family group sheets, obits and clippings, which researchers have left with us.”
In honor of Boone and his accomplishments, the Kentucky Historical Society plays host to an annual member gathering, which features scholarly speakers, symposia and other special activities, said Russell Harris, Senior Associate Editor of The Register. Known as “Boone Day,” it celebrates the date, June 7, 1769, when Boone first viewed what is now known as the Bluegrass Region of central Kentucky, after traversing the mountainous terrain between the Cumberland Gap and the overlook at what came to be known as Pilot Knob in present day Rockcastle County, Ky.
Both Morris and Harris agreed that “Although Boone is not the only early explorer to have a lasting association with Kentucky, he holds the most prominent place among his peers in terms of popular folklore and culture, if not historical significance.” 
At the time Boone lived, 1734-1820, there were many changes in America. This is the overriding concept of Brown’s book. During his lifetime, the United States was not officially the United States until 1776. Kentucky was a territory of Virginia until becoming a state in 1792. A westward drive of settlement (Kentucky being the west at the time), the killing of precious game and the breaking of Indian power in the eastern United States all took place during Boone’s lifestime. These were monumental changes in a society that was still trying to define itself.
“His achievements made him news,” said Brown. “Boone was always on the frontier,” whether it was in Kentucky, Missouri, or wherever his sense of exploration took him.
It was his “tales that drew settlers to Kentucky.”
Bill Farmer, Fort Manager at Fort Boonesborough State Park, said, “The more things change, and the farther away from our founding principles we get, the more important it becomes to recognize the type of people who helped make this country great. Boone played a very significant role in several aspects of the exploration and settlement of this part of the country, was part of the larger picture at a “national” level, and was a man of good character.”
Part of his good character can be attributed to his Quaker upbringing. “The Bible was one of his two favorite books, the other being Gulliver’s Travels,” said Brown. He added that Boone was not an illiterate woodsman. Boone was a compilation of many things: a hunter his entire life, but also a surveyor, land investor, trader and tavern keeper.

See What Boone Saw

• Cumberland Gap National Park: Daniel Boone blazed the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountains and hunted this area extensively. Visitors can view some of the same beautiful vistas, unique sandstone formations, impressive underground caverns and diverse animal and plant life that Boone saw. Visit www.nps.gov/cuga.
• Daniel Boone National Forest: This forest stretches along more than 700,000 acres of rugged terrain and steep forested ridges, with more than 3,400 miles of sandstone cliffs. Within the forest are the Red River Gorge Geological Area and Natural Bridge State Resort Park. Visit www.fs.fed.us/r8/boone/ and www.parks.ky.gov.
• Fort Boonesbor-ough: On Boone’s third trip into Kentucky in 1775, he and his companions built the fort along the Kentucky River near present-day Richmond. The reconstructed fort and museum give a glimpse of what 18th century life was like. Nearby in Athens is the site of Boone Station, which Boone built after leaving Fort Boonesborough in 1779 with 15-20 families. Visit www.parks.ky.gov.
• Boone Tavern: South from Fort Boonesborough on I-75 to Berea is this restaurant and inn named after Boone and operated by Berea College. Visit www.boonetavernhotel.com.
• Frankfort Cemetery: Downtown Frankfort is the final resting place for Daniel Boone and his wife, Rebecca. The graves are located on a bluff above Kentucky’s capitol, overlooking the Kentucky River. For more information call (502) 227-2403.

Boone was able to adapt to his surroundings and use them to his advantage. While growing up in Exeter, Pa., “Boone became fond of life in the woods,” writes Brown. He became acquainted with the nearby Native Americans, learning many things from them, which added to his skills and knowledge as a hunter and woodsman.
“He was capable of fighting and killing when he had to, but he was not an indiscriminate hater and killer of Indians,” said Brown. Boone was also a family man, married to Rebecca Bryan for more than 50 years and the father of 10 children.
“We celebrate all sorts of birthdays and occasions in this country, and rightly so for Daniel Boone, especially here in Kentucky,” said living history re-enactor Michael Fields. Fields often portrays Blackfish, the Shawnee chief that adopted Boone in 1778 after Boone and a party of 27 men were taken captive while on a salt making expedition on the Licking River. Boone remained with Blackfish and his family for a time and was harshly criticized by white settlers for not escaping and returning to Fort Boonesborough sooner than he did.
“If not for Daniel Boone, how would Kentucky have been settled? How would history in Kentucky have been remembered?” asks Fields. “Daniel Boone and Kentucky are synonymous; we should remember our past no matter how far removed it is from our present.”

Daniel Boone

Daniel Boone was
born on Oct. 22, 1734,
if one follows the Julian calendar. He was born
on Nov. 2, 1734, if one
follows the Gregorian calendar, which was
adopted 1752.

Fields said he has been interested in history “since I was a kid. I was outside playing Daniel Boone, building shelters, running the creeks, spending most of the time outdoors.” Basically, enjoying the same things Boone would have enjoyed.
But Fields sees a difference in kids today. “With each generation, history taught in schools takes a back seat to other subjects or activities or is generally ignored, and with the electronic age, kids no longer have the attachment to land and outdoor activity like days past.”
But Kentuckians still seem to have an attachment to Boone, 189 years after his death. Fort Boonesborough draws an average of 35,000 to 40,000 visitors annually, said Farmer. “A huge percentage of these are residents or former residents of Kentucky.”
Students and adults alike can witness first-hand “the who, why and how of early settlement of Kentucky,” Farmer said, not just read about it in a book. “Most people don’t realize that the biggest incentive and driving force for coming to Kentucky was to acquire land.”
Boone conducted more than 170 land surveys totaling about 400,000 acres, said Brown. He writes in “Frontiersman” that “surveying was important in part because without a survey by an official surveyor, land would not be allocated and registered. Surveying was also highly profitable.”
Boone knew where to find good land, and where springs and salt licks were located – features important to the settlers. But opinions vary as to how competent a surveyor he was. Oftentimes, the land claims he filed were also claimed by others; the land was tied up in litigation and title fights and as a result did not become a lasting fortune for his heirs.
With emphasis on Boone’s 275th birthday, many individuals are re-discovering – or perhaps discovering – Boone for the first time. A visit to Fort Boonesborough, which played a major part of Boone’s life in Kentucky, can enlighten the visitor to Boone’s 18th century world.

Meredith Mason Brown

Photo by Helen McKinney

Author Meredith
Mason Brown’s family
connection to Boone
inspired him to write
a new biography
on the man.

One can “learn what a large part African Americans played in the successful building of farms and homesteads and completing the required building and crop cultivation to claim land. They can learn which Native American tribes were most affected by the arrival of European setters, and why/how they were affected,” said Farmer. “They can learn how these folks got here, who they were, why they came, where they came from, and the results of their efforts.”
As the results of Boone’s efforts to settle Kentucky are remembered, it must be noted that he thought humbly of himself. He was often quoted as remarking that he was “but a common man,” a phrase that has stuck with his image.
“I think that is true because there are hundreds of others with the spirit, drive and dream to wander a new land that was owned by another people that were hostile toward them for months and years at a time,” said Fields. “He was in search of new life and betterment, with the acquisition of land.”
In today’s world, betterment is sought in monetary terms, he said. “There are hearty souls out there, but most could hardly endure living in the wild for such a length of time.”

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