Daniel Boone was a man of the frontier in early America. As the frontier moved, he moved with it and became one of the most well-known men of his time.
Boone was born in 1734 near Reading, Pennsylvania. He did not receive much in the way of formal education and spent his youth assisting his father in his various businesses, including weaving, blacksmithing, farming, and raising stock. Boone also spent his early years supplementing his family's food supply and money by hunting. In 1750, the family moved to North Carolina, arriving at Buffalo Lick on the Yadkin River a year later. In 1755, he participated in the French and Indian War with a detachment of North Carolina militiamen in General Edward Braddock's attack on Fort Duquesne in western Pennsylvania. Before the army reached the fort, a combined French and Native American force ambushed the English. Braddock was killed, and Boone barely escaped with his life. It was during Braddock's expedition that Boone met John Finley (also reported as Findley or Finely), a hunter and explorer who had visited the Kentucky wilderness on several occasions. Because of Finley's stories, the young man became fascinated with the region.
Daniel Boone first went to Kentucky in the fall of 1767. He spent the winter exploring and hunting but returned to his home in North Carolina the next spring. The signing of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768) by the Iroquois Indians encouraged Boone to return to Kentucky in 1769. The treaty declared that the Iroquois would relinquish all of their lands east and south of the Ohio River to the English. Many Ohio natives opposed the treaty and believed the Iroquois had no right to speak for the various tribes in Ohio. So these other natives usually refused to follow the treaty's stipulations. This was especially true of the Shawnee Indians, who had long hunted south of the Ohio River. The Native Americans also were unhappy that the treaty ignored the Proclamation of 1763, which promised the natives that no English settlers would move west of the Appalachian Mountains. Rather than having the Appalachians separating the two sides, now only the Ohio River kept the whites from moving into the Ohio Country.
On this most recent trip, Boone remained in Kentucky for two years until a longing for his wife and children prompted him to return to North Carolina. In 1775, Richard Henderson, the head of the Transylvania Company, hired Boone to assist him in establishing a settlement in Kentucky. Boone and his settlers set off in March of that same year and arrived at the site that they had chosen for their community by the first of April. They immediately began to build Fort Boonesborough for protection.
Boone spent the next several years exploring, surveying, and trapping. He also faced constant opposition from local Native Americans. The Shawnees especially disliked the whites moving onto their lands. During the American Revolution, Boone played an active role against the British and their Indian allies in the Ohio Country, accompanying both militia forces and regular army troops north of the Ohio River on several occasions to secure this territory for the Americans and to open it up for settlement.
In February 1778, while Boone and approximately two dozen settlers were collecting salt at Blue Licks in Kentucky, a band of one-hundred Shawnee Indians under Chief Blackfish captured him. The native leader informed Boone of his intention to kill the men collecting salt and to destroy Fort Boonesborough. The chief intended to take the women and children at the fort prisoner and adopt them into the Shawnee tribe. Boone informed Blackfish that the women, children, and handful of men at the fort faced starvation. They would not be able to put up a fight against the Shawnees. However, the settlers also would not be able to survive the trek from Boonesborough to Blackfish's village at Old Chillicothe (modern-day Oldtown, Ohio). Boone offered himself and the men collecting salt as hostages for the winter. In the spring, Boone pledged to take Blackfish and his warriors to Boonesborough. The frontiersman claimed that he would convince the settlers in the fort to surrender peacefully. Hopefully, with the harsh winter over, the women and children could survive the almost two-hundred mile march to Old Chillicothe. Blackfish agreed to the plan.
Boone and his men spent the rest of the winter with the Shawnee at Old Chillicothe. The Shawnees adopted most of them into their tribe. Boone especially acted as if he enjoyed his new life. In reality, he was looking for a chance to escape. In June 1778, while he accompanied his adopted family to a saltlick along the Scioto River, Boone found his opportunity and successfully made it back to Boonesborough. He helped the settlers prepare for a Shawnee attack, which the whites successfully repelled in September of that year.
Boone spent the next five years in various government positions, including sheriff, deputy surveyor, and a delegate to the legislature. The frontiersman also continued to assist the American military in the struggle against the Native Americans in the Ohio Country. By 1788, Boone was nearly bankrupt. He had laid claim to large tracts of land in Kentucky during the 1770s, but he had filed the paperwork establishing his ownership incorrectly. The end result was that he lost all of his Kentucky lands. By 1799, Boone had left Kentucky for Missouri, where he died in 1820.
Many Americans celebrate Daniel Boone as one of the greatest frontiersmen of his time. Boone did much to open the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains, including the Ohio Country, to white settlement. In many respects, he was typical of the British colonists and the settlers who succeeded them after the American Revolution. Many of these people viewed the west as a land of opportunity and endless possibility. They faced innumerable hardships to expand the borders of the United States of America. However, in many cases, entire Native American tribes were displaced and removed due to the settlers' desire for land.