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The Value of Daniel Boone and the Wilderness Road to Genealogists
The Wilderness Road trail was first marked by Daniel Boone in March of 1775. Ultimately it became known as the great emigrant trail which led from southwestern Virginia via the Cumberland Gap into central Kentucky. The Gap was in the Appalachian Mountains in the vicinity of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee down to the Ohio River.
Between 1775 and 1792, more than 300,000 settlers traversed this trail going deeper into the wilderness country as far as the Ohio River.
Daniel Boone was descended from the Quaker, George Boone, who came to America and settled in Philadelphia. The emigrant, George Boone, as well as his descendants, had large families numbering in double digits. The thing is these descendants traditionally repeated the same names over and over again down the line. Also, many of them seemed to strike a trail of exploration into the American West.
Daniel Boone was born in 1734 in Pennsylvania. His parents took the family into the frontier regions of North Carolina when Daniel was but a young lad. Living in the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains during the early 18th century meant that one was always confronted with Indian raids, massacres, and slavery. One of Daniel’s daughters was stolen by the Indians. He fought in the French and Indian War of 1754. Boone and his brothers would venture through the Cumberland Gap on hunting expeditions and ultimately directed their families into Kentucky.
Daniel Boone tells his tale of leaving his home on the Yadkin River in North Carolina.
The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boone by John Filson
“I sold my farm on the Yadkin, and what goods we could not carry with us; and on the twenty-fifth day of September 1773, bade a farewell to our friends, and proceeded on our journey to Kentucky, in company with five families more, and forty men that joined us in Powel’s Valley, which is one hundred and fifty miles from the now settled parts of Kentucky. This promising beginning was soon overcast with a cloud of adversity; for upon the tenth day of October, the rear of our company was attacked by a number of Indians, who killed six, and wounded one man. Of these, my eldest son was one that fell into the action. Though we defended ourselves and repulsed the enemy, this unhappy affair scattered our cattle, brought us into extreme difficulty, and so discouraged the whole company, that we retreated forty miles, to the settlement on Clench River. We had passed over two mountains, viz. Powel’s and Walden’s, and were approaching Cumberland Mountain when this adverse fortune overtook us. These mountains are in the wilderness, as we pass from the old settlements in Virginia to Kentucky, are ranged in an S. west and N. east direction, are of a great length and breadth and are not far distant from each other. Over these, nature hath formed passes, that are less difficult than might be expected from a view of such huge piles. The aspect of these cliffs is so wild and horrid, that it is impossible to behold them without terror. The spectator is apt to imagine that nature had formerly suffered some violent convulsion; and that these are the dismembered remains of the dreadful shock; the ruins, not of Persepolis or Palmyra, but of the world!”
Soon after I returned home, I was ordered to take the command of three garrisons during the campaign, which Governor Dunmore carried on against the Shawnee Indians: After the conclusion of this, the Militia was discharged from each garrison, and I being relieved from my post, was solicited by a number of North-Carolina gentlemen, that were about purchasing the lands lying on the S. side of Kentucky River, from the Cherokee Indians, to attend their treaty at Watauga, in March, 1775, to negotiate with them, and, mention the boundaries of the purchase. This I accepted, and at the request of the same gentlemen, undertook to mark out a road in the best passage from the settlement through the wilderness to Kentucky, with such assistance as I thought necessary to employ for such an important undertaking.
I soon began this work, having collected a number of enterprising men, well-armed. We proceeded with all possible expedition until we came within fifteen miles of where Boonesborough now stands, and where we were fired upon by a party of Indians that killed two and wounded two of our number; yet, although surprised and taken at a disadvantage, we stood our ground. This was on the twentieth of March 1775. Three days after, we were fired upon again and had two men killed, and three wounded. Afterward, we proceeded on to the Kentucky river without opposition; and on the first day of April began to erect the fort of Boonesborough at a salt lick, about sixty yards from the river, on the S. side.
On the fourth day, the Indians killed one of our men. — We were busily employed in building this fort, until the fourteenth day of June following, without any further opposition from the Indians; and having finished the works, I returned to my family, on Clench.
In a short time, I proceeded to remove my family from Clench to this garrison; where we arrived safe without any other difficulties than such as are common to this passage, my wife and daughter being the first white women that ever stood on the banks of Kentucky river.
On the twenty-fourth day of December following, we had one man killed, and one wounded, by the Indians, who seemed determined to persecute us for erecting this fortification.
On the fourteenth day of July 1776, two of Col. Calaway’s daughters, and one of mine, were taken prisoners near the fort. I immediately pursued the Indians, with only eight men, and on the sixteenth overtook them, killed two of the party, and recovered the girls. The same day on which this attempt was made, the Indians divided themselves into different parties and attacked several forts, which were shortly before this time erected, doing a great deal of mischief. This was extremely distressing to the new settlers. The innocent husbandman was shot down, while busy cultivating the soil for his family’s supply. Most of the cattle around the stations were destroyed. They continued their hostilities in this manner until the fifteenth of April 1777, when they attacked Boonesborough with a party of above one hundred in number, killed one man, and wounded four — Their loss in this attack was not certainly known to us.
On the fourth day of July following, a party of about two hundred Indians attacked Boonesborough, killed one man, and wounded two. They besieged us for forty-eight hours; during which time seven of them were killed, and at last, finding themselves not likely to prevail, they raised the siege and departed.
The Indians had disposed their warriors in different parties at this time and attacked the different garrisons to prevent their assisting each other, and did much injury to the distressed inhabitants.
On the nineteenth day of this month, Col. Logan’s fort was besieged by a party of about two hundred Indians. During this dreadful siege, they did a great deal of mischief, distressed the garrison, in which were only fifteen men, killed two, and wounded one. The enemy's loss was uncertain, from the common practice that the Indians have of carrying off their dead in time of battle. Col. Harrod’s fort was then defended by only sixty-five men, and Boonesborough by twenty-two, there is no more forts or white men in the country, except at the Falls, a considerable distance from these, and all taken collectively, were but a handful to the numerous warriors that were everywhere dispersed through the country, intent upon doing all the mischief that savage barbarity could invent. Thus, we passed through a scene of suffering that exceeds description.
On the twenty-fifth of this month, a reinforcement of forty-five men arrived from North Carolina, and about the twentieth of August following, Col. Bowman arrived with one hundred men from Virginia. Now we began to strengthen, and from hence, for the space of six weeks, we had skirmishes with Indians, in one quarter or other, almost every day.
The savages now learned the superiority of the Long Knife, as they call the Virginians, by experience; being out-generaled in almost every battle. Our affairs began to wear a new aspect, and the enemy, not daring to venture on open war, practiced secret mischief at times.”