Daniel Boone – Part 2

Daniel Boone played an extremely significant role in the development of Kentucky, first as a county of Virginia and then as a state. This can be seen through historical events and through the historical landmarks within our state. He definitely left a trail through Kentucky, and I don’t mean the Wilderness Trail or Boone’s Trace.

Come with me as we trace Daniel’s path through Kentucky within the events of history and historical places within the state, not just Ft. Boonesborough, where we spent a lot of time in our first post: Daniel Boone – the Man, the Myth, the Legend. Give me just a few minutes though, as we start there.

Ft. Boonesborough

When Daniel Boone and his “Axe Men” arrived at the future spot of Fort Boonesborough on April 1, 1775, the Colonies of America were on the brink of war. When the Revolutionary War began on April 19, 1775 at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Daniel and his men were busy building cabins for themselves, completely unaware that a war had ensued between the Colonists and the British.

But as soon as Boone heard about the war, he joined the Virginia Militia of Kentucky County. Because of his previous service during the French and Indian War and his knowledge of the wilderness, he was quickly made Captain. He became the leader in defending Boonesborough against Indian raids and found himself involved in many skirmishes.

Jemima and the Callaway Girls

One such event occurred on July 14, 1776. Boone’s daughter, Jemima (only 13 years old at the time), along with Betsey and Fanny Callaway (daughters of Richard Callaway), were canoeing along the Kentucky River not far from the fort. When they drifted too close to shore, a mix of Cherokee and Shawnee Indians jumped from the bushes and captured all three girls. As they were drug through the woods, the girls naturally screamed for help. Boone and several other men ran to the rescue but were too late as the girls were no where to be found.

Quick to action, Boone gathered up two groups of men, one to head north and one to head south in search of the girls. Finally identifying footprints, the two groups joined in pursuit of the girls, following and losing the trail for nearly 40 miles north toward Shawnee Villages.

Taking two days to locate the girls, Boone and his eight men planned for a silent approach as they feared the girls would be “tomahawked” if they were to attack the tribe.

Suddenly, one of Boone’s men, thinking they had been seen, fired at a Native American, impelling the rest of the rescue party to rise and charge the camp, shouting as they ran. In the attack that followed, some of the American Indians escaped, while two fell to the rifles of Boone and a companion. Boone had ordered the girls to lie flat, and none was harmed.

The Historical Marker that stands today marking the spot of the Kentucky River / Photo Credit: The Historical Marker Database

SIDE NOTE: “Fanny Callaway ended up marrying Captain John Holder, who was a member of the rescue party. Captain Holder established Holders Tavern at the site where Hall’s on the River stands today. [Winchester, Kentucky]” – Hall’s on the River

Boone’s Capture at the Salt Lick

Another well know event took place in January of 1778.

The winter of 1777 had been hard for the settlers of Fort Boonesborough, and the fort was running low on salt, a very important mineral needed for survival during those days, as it was used to cure and preserve meat. Boone again gathered a party of men, but this time they headed off to a distant salt spring along Kentucky’s Licking River.

Once they arrived, Boone set his 30 men to boiling the salt out of the spring water.

The Salt Rendering Process

“However, finding salt reserves (often in ground surface springs called “licks”) and then rendering the mineral into a usable form was as tedious process. In organized operations, when workers located a salt lick, they first drilled through the mud and sand in a nearby creek bed until they struck the salt water. Extracted through pipes, the water was pumped by either man or horse power into large salt kettles. Weighing up to 90 pounds, the kettles were boiled in wood-fired furnaces built on the ground. As the saline water boiled, it evaporated, leaving salt residue behind. This long-drawn-out process often produced 25 to 50 pounds of salt per 1,000 gallons of salt water.” Explore KY History

While his men were working on rendering salt, Boone left to scout the area for Indians as well as to hunt for meat. His luck was both good and bad. He managed to shoot a bear but also found himself captured by a group of Shawnee Indians who took him back to their village in Ohio.

Once there, Chief Blackfish informed Boone that a “100-warrior force was on its way to attack Boonesborough” (Kentucky Monthly). With quick thinking, Boone convinced Chief Blackfish that the settlers would give up the fort and live as one with the Shawnee, but only if the surrender was postponed until spring. Boone was trying to buy the families at Boonesborough some time. Chief Blackfish agreed, as long as the men at the salt lick surrendered too.

Boone managed to convince the men at the salt lick to surrender, but four men did escape. Boone was actually relieved knowing the men would report their capture upon return to Boonesborough. The remaining men were spared after Boone pleaded for their lives and agreed to the running of the gauntlet. Chief Blackfish was very impressed with Boone who came away with only a few superficial wounds.

Boone’s speech, combined with his successful running of the gauntlet, inspired Blackfish to spare the other captives and to adopt Boone as his son, giving him the name “Shel-tow-ee,” or “Big Turtle.”Boone’s party was well treated; 16 were taken into the tribe. At this time, the Revolution was well underway, and the British were paying American Indians for captured colonists; Blackfish sold the remaining 10 to the British. Boone himself adapted well to Native American life and, according to various accounts, was given a squaw who saw to his various needs. Life was good for Big Turtle, and chroniclers still debate the extent to which Boone willingly took to life among the Shawnee.

Kentucky Monthly

When June rolled around, Boone began to hear the Shawnee and Chief Blackfish talk of their attack on Boonesborough once again. He knew he had to warn those at the fort, so he planned his escape. On June 16, 1778, Boone put his plan into action, escaped, and ran for home. He covered 160 miles in only 5 days. (To read more about that escape, click here.)

Upon his return to Boonesborough, he learned that Rebecca and his children had returned to their home in North Carolina, believing Boone was dead. The only family member remaining at Boonesborough was Jemima who has recently married Flanders Callaway, one of her rescuers several years before.

Now, the original four men who had escaped at the surrender of the salt licks had returned to the fort earlier that year claiming Boone a traitor. They had not understood that the surrender was meant to buy the settlers some time. In addition, when the settlers heard that Boone had negotiated turning the fort over to the Shawnee, they considered him a spy. So, when Boone returned to Boonesborough in June, it was not to a warm welcome.

The Siege of Boonesborough

In September of 1778, Chief Blackfish arrived at Fort Boonesborough expecting the settlers to surrender the fort. Boone willingly left the fort to have discussions with Blackfish. This willingness was seen by the settlers as questionable behavior and was the last straw in regards to their trust of Boone. So, when Boone took a vote on whether to surrender or fight-to-the-death, the men voted to fight.

The Siege began on September 8 as the settlers of Boonesborough and the Shawnee fired upon one another. Over a period of several days, numerous attempts were made by the Shawnee to take down the fort including digging a tunnel under it and attempting to set fire to it as well.

On September 17th, the Shawnee made their finally attempt to take down the fort by setting fire to it once again. The Shawnee were beaten back by the settlers and a heavy rain quickly put out the fires. On the final day of the siege, the Shawnee lost more men than they had the entire length of the siege.

The Court Martial that Followed

Shortly after the siege, Richard Callaway and Captain Benjamin Logan (from Logan’s Station) brought charges against Boone. Those charges claimed he was working with the British rather than against them, with these 4 events as evidence:

  • Boone had surrendered the salt making party without a fight;
  • While in captivity, Boone had promised to surrender Boonesborough to the British;
  • After his return, he had led the Paint Lick expedition, which weakened Boonesborough at a time when Blackfish’s army was expected;
  • Boone had exposed the officers to ambush by agreeing to meet the Indians at the peace treaty outside the fort. (My Revolutionary War.com)

Boone was ultimately found not guilty and was even promoted to Major for his actions but just the same, Boone was humiliated by the court martial. He left Fort Boonesborough, retrieved his family from North Carolina, and returned to Kentucky. Upon his return, he settled in a new area. He established the settlement of Boone’s Station in 1779 (near Lexington, KY) and never returned to the fort that was his namesake.

Battle of Blue Licks

Now, I want to remind you that all of these events were taking place while America was at war with the British. Then, in October 1781, Lord Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown, officially ending the Revolutionary War.

Just as it began, so it ended, with the settlers out west having delayed knowledge of the event. So, fighting continued to erupt throughout states like South Carolina and Georgia as militiamen tried to push the British back to the eastern shore. West of the Alleghenies, the British were trying to retain hold of the land using Native American allies to do so.

After an attack on Bryan’s Station, just outside of Lexington, on August 16th, Col. John Todd gathered Kentucky militia from Fayette and Lincoln counties in pursuit of Capt. William Caldwell who led the siege. One of those militiamen was the now Lieutenant Colonel, Daniel Boone. On August 19, 1782, one of Col. Todd’s men spotted several warriors wading the Licking River near the Lower Blue Licks.

As the warriors disappeared, Todd pushed his men to a nearby ford and over the river. Once across the militia quickly formed in three columns and prepared to attack. Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Boone formed the left, Major Hugh McGary the center and Col. Stephen Trigg held the right. Todd deployed a thin line of skirmishers and ordered an advance against an unseen enemy.


The battle lasted all of 15 minutes but ended up being the largest battle of the Revolutionary War held on Kentucky soil. Col. Todd’s men suffered dearly with nearly 100 casualties including Todd himself, Boone’s son Isaiah, Boone’s nephew Thomas, and Col. Stephen Trigg.

This battle would end up being the very last battle fought for our independence from Britain, and it would go down in history as a British victory.

To watch a PBS video regarding the battle, click here.

A Brief Home in Maysville

In 1786, Daniel and Rebecca Boone resettled for a short period in a booming river town along the Ohio River. Daniel and Rebecca ran a tavern there. Daniel also continued as a surveyor, horse trader, and land speculator.

In 1787, the town was established as Limestone at the tavern run by the Boones. His dear friends, Simon Kenton and John May (for whom the town would later be renamed) laid out the town.

Boone was “initially prosperous, owning seven slaves by 1787, a large number for Kentucky at the time, which was dominated by small farms rather than large plantations.” (The Historic Daniel Boone Home)

Boone, however, was not a businessman and would go on to lose his fortunes.

Although Boone helped open up Kentucky to thousands of settlers, he ultimately was unsuccessful when it came to securing his own piece of the pie. During the 1780s and 1790s, he worked as a surveyor in Kentucky while also investing in real estate. However, his efforts as a land speculator failed to make him rich. Boone ended up getting swindled in some deals and in other cases failed to properly register his land claims. He got hit with lawsuits for selling property to which he didn’t have valid title and also got sued for producing faulty surveys. 

Boone even received death threats after his testimony in various court cases resulted in people losing their land claims. Boone tried, but largely failed, at other business ventures as well. He owned a store and tavern in Limestone (present-day Maysville); served as a supplier of ginseng root (the market eventually collapsed, leaving him in debt); and bought horses with the intention of reselling them (before this could happen a number of the animals escaped).

The History Channel

Last Home in Kentucky

By 1795, Daniel had moved to the area of Carlisle, KY where he built a one room log cabin for himself, Rebecca, and his 10 children. He and his family did not stay there long either, as he continued to struggle with land acquisition and constant lawsuits.

Because he wasn’t a skilled negotiator — his ability to read legal documents was marginal at best — and after numerous lawsuits, losses and the outstanding warrant for his arrest, Boone lost all of his land in Kentucky by 1798.

The History Channel

By 1799, Daniel had a sour taste in his mouth for the state of Kentucky, so he decided to start a new chapter in another country. Boone is said to have stated that he would never again step foot in Kentucky.

Spanish Louisiana

In 1798, the Spanish were eager to have settlers in the area known as Upper Louisiana. Knowing Boone’s reputation, they offered him 850 acres of land and the post of Commadant of the Femme Osage District (present day St. Charles County, Missouri).

Daniel accepted the offer and moved out of the country in 1799.

He built a canoe from a six-foot poplar tree so he could move some household items by river. Boone made the journey with his wife, two of his daughters and their husbands, and son Daniel Morgan Boone. Several other Kentucky families came along, and son Nathan Boone soon followed.

Historic Missourians

As a Commadant, he would settled disputes among the area settlers and would often hold court under a large tree on his son Nathan’s land.

Good fortune did not last long for Boone, unfortunately. In 1804, at the age of 70, Boone lost claim to his land again. This time it occurred because Spain transferred the land to France, who later sold it to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Now, Boone didn’t give up. He wrote to Congress petitioning that the land be returned to him for his service to the country.

Boone’s petition was received by both the House and the Senate in 1810, but no legislation was enacted on the subject during the 11th Congress. Boone’s petition, however, was revived during the 12th and 13th Congresses, and on February 10, 1814, Congress passed an “Act for the Relief of Daniel Boone,” which confirmed his title to the land.

National Archives

Sadly, while waiting for Congress to pass legislation, Daniel’s wife, Rebecca passed away on March 18, 1813 at home of their daughter Jemima in present-day Marthasville, Missouri. She was buried in the Boone-Bryan family cemetery overlooking the Missouri River.

Rebecca Boone / Image Credit: Journal-Patriot

Bad luck continued to rain down on Daniel. Once word got out that Daniel had received the title for his 850 acres in Missouri, Kentuckians traveled to Missouri looking for Daniel to repay his old debts. Daniel eventually had to sell his land to pay off those debts.

Nathan Boone’s Home in Missouri is now a historic site and museum / Defiance, MO / Photo Credit: The Historic Daniel Boone Home

He spent his remaining years living in the home of his son Nathan, daughter-in-law Olive Vanbibber Boone, and their fourteen children. Daniel quietly died of natural causes in Nathan’s home on September 26, 1820 surrounded by his children and grandchildren.

He was buried in the Boone-Bryan family cemetery near his wife Rebecca.

Last Visit to Kentucky – Frankfort

While that should bring our story to an end, it in fact does not. In 1845, the Frankfort Cemetery in Kentucky had just opened and was hoping to bring attention and business to the cemetery. The owners of the cemetery convinced Daniel and Rebecca’s descendants to move their remains to a spot in the cemetery overlooking the Kentucky River. They promised to erect a monument to honor Boone.

On September 13, 1845, Daniel and Rebecca were reinterred into Frankfort Cemetery with much pomp and circumstance, in front of thousands of visitors, Kentucky’s governor, and other dignitaries as well.

It seemed Daniel had returned to Kentucky after all.

Debate and Uncertainty

“However, charges eventually surfaced that Boone’s Missouri grave had been poorly marked and the wrong remains were dug up and reburied in Kentucky. In 1983, a forensic anthropologist examined a cast made of Boone’s supposed skull before the reburial and announced it was possibly that of an African-American man rather than a Caucasian one. When a second forensics expert later studied the cast of the skull, though, she decided it wasn’t in good enough condition to serve as the basis for any scientific conclusions.”



It seems a shame that Boone was left with so little in the end, after everything he had done to open up Kentucky and the west. It’s also a shame that he is likely resting in two different states today, and in one where he presumably never wanted to return. Daniel and Rebecca should have remained where they were originally buried. I understand Kentucky’s want to reclaim its frontier woodsman, but upsetting their final resting place was going too far, in my opinion.

With or without his body in Frankfort Cemetery, Daniel Boone will forever receive the accolades he deserves for his sense of adventure, courageousness, and wilderness skills that so many of us will never be able to comprehend.

Want to visit the places Daniel Boone walked?

Here are the historic places that we covered in this post that can be visited within the great state of Kentucky!

While we have visited all of these places (except Boone’s Station), they are not all created equal. Some places have wonderful things to see and others are more about hiking the land where Boone walked. Please make sure to complete your own research of these places before heading out.

In Closing

I do hope that I have done Boone proud with his history. There is so much, I can’t cover it all. That’s why numerous books have been written about him. The purpose of my blog is to focus on the places you can visit and/or tour within Kentucky. I feel I have covered those places well, and I hope you agree. Our state parks are just that. State parks. They are state funded. Unfortunately, those funds don’t seem to go as far as needed. Your tourism, your entry fee, your donation helps keep our historic places alive and open. So, get out there and see Kentucky. It is, after all, a little slice of Heaven.

Happy Travels!

6 thoughts on “Daniel Boone – Part 2

  1. I really enjoyed reading “Daniel Boone – part 1 and 2, which, to me, is a brilliant description of Daniel Boone’s life story!

  2. My name is Niki Henderson and I have been told my ancestor Richard Henderson was Boone right hand man and fell in love with and married an Indian while here in Kentucky….. any articles on this ???

    1. Hi Niki, thanks for the question. My blog focuses on the history of places (and the people that lived there) that can be toured and/or visited in Kentucky. I have not yet come across a place tied to Richard Henderson. I can certainly look into it and see what I can find for future trips and posts.

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