Gateway to the Classics: A First Book in American History by Edward Eggleston
A First Book in American History by  Edward Eggleston

Daniel Boone

Daniel boone was born in Pennsylvania in 1735. Boone was a hunter from the time he was old enough to hold a gun to his shoulder. He got just enough education to know how to read and write in a rough way. But in the woods he learned the lessons that made him the great pioneer and explorer.


The Boy Hunter

One day the boy did not return from his hunting. The neighbors searched several days before they found him. He had built a little cabin of sod and boughs. Skins of animals were drying around the hut, and the young half-savage was toasting a piece of meat before the fire. This love for the wilderness was the ruling passion of his life.


Trying to be a Savage

By the time Daniel was thirteen the part of Pennsylvania in which he lived had become settled. The Boones, like true backwoodsmen, moved to a wilder region on the Yadkin River, in North Carolina. While Daniel's father and brothers cleared a new farm, the boy hunter was left to supply the table with meat.

One of Boone's modes of hunting was by "shining deer," as it was called in that country-that is, hunting deer at night with torches, and killing them by shooting at their glistening eyes. One night, Boone, hunting in this fashion, saw a pair of eyes shining in the dark which he thought to be deer's eyes, but which proved to be those of a neighbor's daughter, whom Boone afterwards married.

As the country was settling, he moved on to the headwaters of the river, where he and his young wife set up their log cabin in the lonesome wilderness. At this time the Alleghany Mountains formed a great wall, beyond which was a vast wilderness, with no inhabitants but Indians and wild animals. (See map, page 110.) Boone was too fond of wild life and too daring not to wish to take on the other side. Fifteen years before the Revolutionary War began, he pushed across the mountain wall and hunted bears in what is now Tennessee.

In 1769 he went into Kentucky with five others. Here he hunted the buffalo for the first time, and came near being run down by a herd of them. At length he and a man named Stewart were taken captive by the Indians. Boone pretended to be very cheerful. When he had been seven days in captivity, the Indians, having eaten a hearty supper, all fell into a sound sleep. Boone sat up. One of the Indians moved. Boone lay down again. After a while he rose up once more. As the Indians all lay still, he wakened Stewart, and they took two guns and quietly slipped away, getting back in safety to a cabin they had built. But they never found any trace of the four men who had crossed the Alleghanies with them.


Boone Escapes

One day, when Boone and Stewart were hunting, a lot of arrows were shot out of a canebrake near them, and Stewart fell dead. Boone's brother and another man had come from North Carolina to find Daniel. The other man walked out one day and was eaten up by wolves. There were now only the two Boones left of eight men in all who had crossed the mountains.

By this time Boone ought to have had enough of the wilderness. But the fearless Daniel sent his brother back to North Carolina for ammunition and horses, while he spent the winter in this almost boundless forest, with no neighbors but Indians, wolves, and other wild creatures. This was just what Daniel Boone liked, for he was himself a wild man.

Once the Indians chased him. Seeing them at a distance, following his tracks like dogs after a deer, he caught hold of one of those long, wild grapevines that dangle from the tall trees in Kentucky, and swung himself away out in the air and then dropped down. When the Indians came to the place they could not follow his tracks, and Boone got away.

He lived alone three months, till his brother returned. Then the Boones selected a spot on which to settle, and went back to North Carolina for their families and their friends. On their way out again, in 1773, the Indians attacked Boone's party and killed six men, among whom was Boone's eldest son. The women of the party now went to the nearest settlement, but Boone made several journeys to and fro. In 1775, just as the Revolutionary War broke out, he built a fort in Kentucky, and called it Boonesborough. Even while building the fort Boone and his friends were attacked by Indians. When the fort was completed, Boone's wife and daughters came to Boonesborough, and they were the first white women in Kentucky.

A daughter of Boone's and two other girls were captured by the Indians while picking flowers outside of the fort. These cunning backwoods girls managed to drop shreds torn from their clothes, and to break a bough now and then, so as to guide their fathers in following them. The party was overtaken by Boone and others, and the girls were rescued.


A Backwoods Girl

To tell of all the battles around Boonesborough, or of all of Daniel Boone's fights and escapes, would take a great part of this book. Once, when hunting, he encountered two Indians. He "treed," as they called it-that is, he got behind one of the large trees of the forest. The Indians did the same. Boone partly exposed himself, and one of the Indian fired, but Boone, who was very quick, dodged at the flash of the Indian's gun. He played the same trick on the other. Then he shot one of the Indians, and killed the Indian with a knife such as hunters of that time carried in their belts.

One day Boone was attacked by a hundred savages. He tried the speed of his legs, but one young Indian was swifter than he, and he was captured. The Indians thought him a great prize. They shaved his head, leaving a single lock, painted his face, and dressed him up like an Indian. Then they gave him to an old woman who had lost her son. She had her choice to adopt him or give him up to be burned alive. After looking at him a long time the squaw made up her mind to adopt him.

The Indians among whom Boone was a prisoner were fighting on the English side in the Revolution. The English officers who were then at Detroit bought all their captives from the Indians, except Boone, and they offered five hundred dollars for Captain Boone. But the Indians would not sell so great a warrior. The English officers were sorry for him, and out of real kindness, when they could not buy him, they offered him money. Boone refused to receive any favors from those who were fighting against his country.


Daniel Boone

He pretended to like the Indian way of living. He stayed a long time with them, and took part in all their sports. He seemed to have forgotten his own people. But when he found that they were preparing to attack Boonesborough, he got ready to escape. Pretending to chase a deer, while holding a piece of his breakfast in his hand, he succeeded in getting away. By running in streams of water he kept the Indians from following his tracks. He lived on roots and berries, and only once ventured to discharge his gun to get food.

When he got back to Boonesborough he found that his family had given him up for dead and gone back to North Carolina. He repaired the fort, and beat off five hundred Indians who attacked it.

Boone brought his family to Kentucky again, and was in many severe fights after this. Kentucky had no rest from bloodshed until Wayne defeated the Indians in Ohio, in 1794. (See page 146.) When Kentucky had filled up with people, the old pioneer went off to Missouri so as to get "elbowroom." The amusements of his old age were lying in wait for deer, shooting wild turkeys, and hunting for bee trees. He was eighty-five years old when he died.

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