The True Daniel Boone


Daniel Boone has been known throughout history as one of America’s best land surveyors. His exploration through Kentucky led to the beginning of our colonization of the West. Boone has many myths that surround him making him out to be a recluse that went into the wilderness because that is where he belonged. Myths like the Daniel Boone Show in the 60’s and 70’s portray him as a wild man who will go fight off Indians and kill dangerous woodland animals daily. But there was more to him than just being a mountain man conquering the wilderness. Boone fought in the French and Indian War and was a militia officer during the Revolutionary war. He executed over 150 surveys of new terrain in his life and in 1783 he was appointed Deputy Surveyor of Lincoln County, south of the Kentucky River. [1] American history depicts Daniel Boone as a loner wild man who didn’t fit in society and enjoyed living in the wilderness away from civilization, but from his work in the military and for Lincoln County it is clear he was just a particularly skilled surveyor who was exploring for the good of our country and the lives of his own family.

So was Daniel Boone a recluse who enjoyed living in the wilderness? Or did he always act in the best interest of his country and family? To answer that question we need to look at Boone’s life and what influenced him all the way from childhood to death. Boone was born in Oley Valley in Pennsylvania and was the 6th of 11 children. He was given his first gun when he was 12 and quickly learned to hunt. There are myths of Boone hunting as a child and killing a panther as it lunged towards him, but there is no evidence behind that.[2] That is one of the many myths that shape Daniel Boone in history to be a mountain man who thrives in the wilderness. Because Boone was introduced to the wilderness at such a young age he became very skilled and comfortable in the woods.

When Boone was older he volunteered for the French and Indian War, and then later was a militia officer during the Revolutionary War. He loved America and was willing to fight for it, which doesn’t sound as much like the way he is depicted by people today. People tend to not view Daniel Boone as military man because history portrays him as a mountain man conquering the woods. People think of Boone as a wild man because he symbolizes the western frontier as the poster child for westward expansion. Everyone sees the west as this scary unpredictable place, which is why they would label Boone in that same way. It is more interesting to hear of his adventures in the wilderness and encounters with aggressive Indians but history does not tell the full story of Boone and his life outside of the wilderness.

Boone married Rebecca Bryan and together had 10 kids.[3] He supported his family initially through hunting and trapping where he perfected his wilderness skills even more. He lived in a log cabin with his wife and kids and would be out for weeks or even months at a time hunting. He was very skilled in surviving and hunting in the woods but to him it was just what he had to do to support his family. Boone had heard roomers of the fertile and animal-filled land that is now Kentucky, so he set off to explore this land on a two-year hunting expedition. When he returned he brought his family and a group of 50 other settlers to try to colonize this new land.[4] Boone had vision and saw that America was full of great soil and beautiful land and he was doing his part helping our country by trying to colonize these new areas.

One of the most famous tales of Daniel Boone occurs when he is trying to settle in Kentucky. On July 14th 1776, Shawnee Indians captured three teenage girls, one of them being one of Boone’s daughters Jemima. As soon as new reached him, Boone got a group of men together and went off after them. They eventually caught up to them and ambushed, getting back the girls.[5] This created a huge amount of fame around his name and he began to be thought of as a man who could conquer the wilderness and Indians that were in the American West. Although this is true, he was not always living out in the woods hunting animals and killing dangerous Indians, he did the things he had to in order to keep his family safe and his country growing.

Later in his life Boone moved with his family to Bourbon County, Ohio where he ran a tavern and worked as a surveyor and land speculator.[6] He would still be going out into the wilderness like in the legends but it was for his job to make money and support his family. He was very successful in Ohio and made enough money to own seven slaves. He was elected into the Virginia state assembly as a representative from Bourbon County.[7] He was well known for being involved in his county despite his long trips into the woods to survey land. It is not easy to find stories of Boones career in government because the stories of him out surviving dangerous encounters in the wilderness are so much more told.

Daniel Boone had a life outside of the woods but that is not how he is depicted in American history. When people think about the west they think of dangerous uncharted areas and explorers conquering this terrain. People see Boone as such a loner woodsman because that is what they want to think of a man who explored the dangerous west. People see in Boone what they want to see when they think of a man exploring the unknown west but he had more to his life than the wilderness. From when he joined the militia to help defend his country, to when he helped colonize new lands, to his days running a tavern in Ohio, it is clear that Daniel Boone was not a recluse that wanted to live in the woods. Though many courageous, heroic stories of Daniel Boone conquering the wilderness are true there was more to him than what is commonly heard. So the myths say Daniel Boone was a recluse who enjoyed living in the wilderness, but that myth is busted because he truly cared about his country and family and his actions were to support them.

[1] . Guerringue, Lee. “Land Surveying and the Historic Past of American Men.” Carlson Software. January 15, 2015. Accessed October 13, 2015

[2] “Daniel Boone (1734-1820).” Explorers of the Millennium. N.p., 1 09 2011. Web. 13 Oct 2015.


[3] “The Life of Daniel Boone.” Boone Association. Boone Association. Web. 15 Jan 2013.


[4] Laugher, Franklin. “Daniel Boone Explores Kentucky.” Golden Nuggets of U.S. History. ,n.d.

Web. 22 Oct 2012.


[5] “The Life of Daniel Boone.” Boone Association. Boone Association. Web. 15 Jan 2013.


[6] Boone, Daniel. Daniel Boone Settles Kentucky. 1769.

[7] “The Life of Daniel Boone.” Boone Association. Boone Association. Web. 15 Jan 2013.


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