Daniel Boone (1734–1820)


Daniel Boone was a legendary frontiersman and a member of the House of Delegates (1781–1782, 1787–1788, 1791). Born in Pennsylvania the son of Quakers, he moved to North Carolina as a young man. His first long hunting trip was in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Boone briefly lived in Culpeper County after the Cherokee War drove him north, and by the end of the decade he was making regular trips to Kentucky. In 1775 he was hired to cut a road from present-day Tennessee, through the Cumberland Gap, to the Kentucky River—what came to be known as the Wilderness Road. His fame as a woodsman grew, enhanced by violent run-ins with Indians and the embellishments of writers. In 1780 he was elected to the House of Delegates from the newly created Fayette County (in what later became the state of Kentucky). Boone moved several times, ran a store, and twice more won election to the House of Delegates. In 1799 the Spanish granted him land in what was then Louisiana and what later became Missouri. He died there in 1820.

Early Years

Boone was born on October 22, 1734, near Reading, Pennsylvania, the son of Squire Boone and Sarah Morgan Boone. Boone’s parents were Quakers, but following a dispute between Squire Boone and the Society of Friends, the family left Pennsylvania about the beginning of May 1750 and in October of that year settled near the Yadkin River in what is now Davie County, North Carolina. En route Daniel Boone made his first long trek as a professional hunter. With one companion he left the family’s camp in the Shenandoah Valley and spent several months hunting in the Blue Ridge Mountains and along the Roanoke River.

Plan of Fort Le Quesne

Boone served as a teamster on General Edward Braddock‘s ill-fated expedition to Fort Duquesne in 1755, after which he returned to the Yadkin Valley and on August 14, 1756, married Rebecca Bryan, a member of a prominent local family. They settled near present-day Farmington, Davie County, North Carolina, and had six sons and four daughters. Early in 1760 Boone temporarily moved his family to Culpeper County to escape the fighting of the Cherokee War and then resumed his life as a professional hunter in the backcountry. He ranged as far as the Holston and Clinch rivers and won renown for his skills with his gun and traps.

In May 1769 Boone and five companions followed a path through the Cumberland Gap into Virginia’s Kentucky wilderness. They spent two years there exploring, hunting, and trapping and returned to the Yadkin Valley in the spring of 1771. In September 1773 Boone set out for Kentucky again, guiding a small party of farmers who intended to establish a settlement there, but during the journey Indians attacked the party and killed one of Boone’s sons. Boone retreated to the Clinch River valley with his family and stayed there for two years. In 1774, during Dunmore’s War, Boone served as a captain in the Fincastle County militia, overseeing the region’s defenses under the command of Colonel William Preston.

In the Kentucky Portion of Virginia

Daniel Boone Protects His Family.

In 1775 the North Carolina land speculator Richard Henderson hired Boone to cut a road from the westernmost settlements into Kentucky. The route, later celebrated as the Wilderness Road, ran from present-day Kingsport, Tennessee, through the Cumberland Gap to the Kentucky River, where the first contingent of Henderson’s colonists, including Boone’s family, built Boonesborough, one of the first settlements in Kentucky. The next summer Indians carried away one of Boone’s daughters and two of her companions. Boone tracked the party through the wilderness for three days and rescued the girls on the banks of the Licking River. Boone’s fame as a woodsman rested on skills he demonstrated on this and similar occasions, but some of the exploits later attributed to him were embellishments of more modest accomplishments or outright fiction.

In January 1778 Boone led an expedition of about thirty men to the salt springs on the Licking River. While hunting in February he was captured and taken to the Shawnee chief Blackfish, from whom he learned of an Indian plan to drive the settlers out of Kentucky. Hoping to delay the attack, Boone offered to obtain the surrender of his men at the salt springs, accompany the Indians to Boonesborough the following spring, and help them to negotiate the fort’s capitulation. He duly persuaded the salt makers to lay down their arms. Some of the captives were sold to the British. Blackfish adopted the remainder, including Boone, who was given the name Sheltowee, or Big Turtle. Boone subsequently escaped in time to return to Boonesborough and lead a successful defense of the settlement. Yet his motives came under suspicion, in part because of the Loyalism of his wife’s family, and Boone was later summoned before a court-martial. He was acquitted and soon afterward promoted to major in the militia. Stung by the legal action, Boone and several of his friends formed a new settlement called Boone’s Station, and Boone built his own cabin on Marble Creek, several miles away from Boone’s Station.

John Filson’s Book on the Settlement of Kentucky

After the creation of Fayette County in 1780, Boone was successively appointed a lieutenant colonel in the militia, elected to the House of Delegates, and commissioned sheriff. While attending the assembly that convened in Richmond in May 1781 but adjourned first to Charlottesville and then to Staunton when the British army marched up the James River, he was taken prisoner but quickly paroled. Boone returned to Kentucky early in 1782, and in August of that year he helped lead an attack on a band of Indians at Blue Lick, where sixty-six Kentuckians died, including another of his sons. About this same time Boone met John Filson, a schoolmaster from Pennsylvania who included a romanticized version of Boone’s life in his Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke (1784). The book brought Boone international fame when a French version was published in Paris in 1785.

Boone became deputy surveyor of Fayette County in December 1782 and began speculating in land, but his ventures failed and involved him in expensive and unsuccessful lawsuits. He moved to Limestone in 1783 and opened a trading store and tavern in the small Ohio River port town. When the town was incorporated as Maysville in 1787, Boone was named a trustee, and he won election the same year to the House of Delegates from Bourbon County. In 1789 he moved to Point Pleasant and made another unsuccessful attempt to run a store. In 1791 Boone was elected to the General Assembly a third time, representing Kanawha County. During all three of his House terms he sat on the Committee on Propositions and Grievances, and in his final term he was also appointed to the Committee for Religion. While attending the assembly Boone contracted to furnish supplies to the county militia. His debts from his store, however, made it impossible for him to obtain credit, and he lost the contract, closed his store, and moved into a cabin in the woods about sixty miles up the Kanawha River from Point Pleasant. Boone was plagued with debts for the remainder of the decade, and a warrant for his arrest was issued in 1798 but never served.

Later Years

Daniel Boone's Grave

In October 1799 the Spanish governor of Louisiana granted Boone a tract of land at Femme Osage, near the Missouri River. Boone lived the last twenty years of his life in what is now the state of Missouri, but in 1809 a court ruled that he had not satisfied the conditions under which the grant was issued, and he appealed to Congress for a tract of the public domain in recognition of his services to the country. Five years later Congress confirmed his title to the Missouri land. Boone died at the home of his son Nathan Boone on September 26, 1820, and was buried in the family graveyard. In 1845 bones that were presumed to be those of Boone and his wife were removed from the Missouri graveyard at the behest of the Kentucky legislature and reinterred with much ceremony in a cemetery near the state capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky.

October 22, 1734
Daniel Boone is born near Reading, Pennsylvania.
May 1750
Daniel Boone and his family relocate from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.
Daniel Boone participates in General Edward Braddock's ill-fated expedition to Fort Duquesne.
August 14, 1756
Daniel Boone and Rebecca Bryan marry.
May 1769
Daniel Boone and five companions follow a path through the Cumberland Gap into Virginia's Kentucky wilderness. They spend two years there exploring, hunting and trapping.
September 1773
Daniel Boone travels into Virginia's Kentucky wilderness, guiding a small party of farmers.
Daniel Boone serves as a captain in the Fincastle County militia, overseeing the region's defenses during Dunmore's War.
Daniel Boone is hired to a cut a road from the westernmost settlements into Kentucky.
Indians capture one of Daniel Boone's daughters and two of her companions. Boone rescues the girls on the banks of the Licking River.
January 1778
Daniel Boone leads an expedition of about thirty men to the salt springs on the Licking River.
February 1778
Shawnee Indians capture Daniel Boone and he learns of a plan to drive settlers from Kentucky. Boone eventually escapes and leads a successful defense of the settlement.
Daniel Boone represents Fayette County in the House of Delegates.
August 1782
Daniel Boone leads an attack on a band of Indians at Blue Lick. Sixty-six Kentuckians die, including one of Boone's sons.
December 1782
Daniel Boone becomes deputy surveyor of Fayette County.
Daniel Boone moves to Limestone on the Ohio River and opens a trading store and tavern.
The town of Limestone on the Ohio River incorporates as Maysville and Daniel Boone is named a trustee.
Daniel Boone represents Bourbon County in the House of Delegates.
Daniel Boone moves to Point Pleasant and makes another unsuccessful attempt to run a store.
Daniel Boone represents Kanawha County in the House of Delegates.
October 1799
The Spanish governor of Louisiana grants Daniel Boone a tract of land at Femme Osage, near the Missouri River.
A court rules that Daniel Boone has not satisfied the conditions under which his grant of land in Louisiana was issued.
Congress confirms the title to Daniel Boone's land in Missouri.
September 26, 1820
Daniel Boone dies at the Missouri home of his son Nathan Boone.
The bones presumed to be of Daniel Boone and his wife are reinterred near the state capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky.
  • Gunter, Donald W. “Boone, Daniel.” In the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 2, edited by Sara B. Bearss, John T. Kneebone, J. Jefferson Looney, Brent Tarter, and Sandra Gioia Treadway, 88–89. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2001.
APA Citation:
Gunter, Donald & Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Daniel Boone (1734–1820). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/boone-daniel-1734-1820.
MLA Citation:
Gunter, Donald, and Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Daniel Boone (1734–1820)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 20 May. 2024
Last updated: 2021, December 22
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