American Biography – Daniel Boone (1734 – 1820) Daniel was born near Reading, Pennsylvania. As a youth, he moved with his family to North Carolina. He received little formal education, but did learn how to read and write. Later in life, he and his companions took turns reading Gulliver’s Travels to each other as they wandered the western wilderness. He began hunting and trapping when he was twelve. In 1755, he served as a teamster and blacksmith during General Braddock’s disastrous campaign against the French. The rest of his life was spent hunting, trapping, wandering and exploring the vast uncharted western frontier. By 1765, he had traveled as far south as Florida (then under Spanish rule). Two years later he made his first trip to Kentucky. Although he was later credited with “discovering” Kentucky, he was not the first white person to visit the area. Nevertheless, he came to know the territory better than any of his white contemporaries and became identified with it in the public mind. He and several companions spent the years between 1769-1771 hunting and trapping across the land. Twice their furs and hides were stolen by Amerindians. When he finally returned to his wife and family in North Carolina, he was no wealthier than when he left. As the eastern colonies like North Carolina became more populated, he decided that he needed more “elbow room”. He needed to move farther west. In 1773, he led a party composed of his own and several other families into Kentucky. As they traveled through a northern pass between Virginia and Kentucky, called the Cumberland Gap, they were attacked by Amerindians. The survivors refused to continue, despite Boone’s pleas. In 1775, Boone led a party of surveyors back into the region and helped build a road called “The Wilderness Trail”. This road prepared the way for the establishment of several settlements, including Boonesboro. Later that same year, he brought his wife and daughter to the new settlement. They were the first white women in Kentucky. Their arrival is regarded as the beginning of the first permanent colonial settlement in the territory. Kentucky became a county of Virginia. Daniel was appointed Lieutenant Colonel in the Virginia militia, a delegate to the legislature, and sheriff. In 1778, he was captured by the Shawnee. He was greatly respected by them and the Shawnee chief adopted him as a son. Daniel was renamed Big Turtle (after the Amerindian belief that the earth lay on the back of a big turtle; the name suggested a person of great strength and power). Daniel escaped after a few months and is said to have traveled almost 260 km on one meal to reach safety. As the native people were pushed back and the British withdrew after the end of the American Revolution, more settlers poured into the territory. By 1786, Boone began to feel cramped again. He moved further west to present-day West Virginia. But, because of this failure to register his extensive claims properly, he lost them. He worked as a surveyor for a while, wandering along the Ohio River. In 1789, he followed his son, Daniel Morgan Boone, to Missouri, which was then under Spanish rule. The Spanish gave him a sizable land grant and he continued to hunt and trap. By the time of his death, Daniel was a legendary figure among his fellow Americans. Several books had already been written about him. One of them inspired the English poet, Lord Byron, to devote seven stanzas of his epic poem “Don Juan” (Canto VIII) to Daniel. Later, he served as the model for the character “Leatherstocking” who was created by James Fennimore Cooper for books such as Last of the Mohicans. Even during his lifetime, Daniel was a character of controversy. Some Americans regarded him as little better than a vagrant, never being able to settle down, uncomfortable with civilization. Others saw him as the herald of civilization to the untamed frontier. Daniel, during an interview with one of his biographers, stated that he was “a creature of Providence, ordained by Heaven as a pioneer in the wilderness, to advance the civilization and the extension of his country” – or so the biographer said! Question for thought: How would you describe Daniel Boone? Does your description fit into any of today’s definitions of the “American way”? Support your thesis.