New Appalachian Moments Blog Post by Scott Ballard
The cultural awareness of Daniel Boone begins with John Filson’s 1784 publication, The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke (sic), which included, in the first edition, a brief add-on in the appendix entitled the Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boon (sic)…the irony is that the BACK section of the book became much more popular than the main part!
That addendum made Boone a legend in his own time, and even though Boone’s experiences and life up that point were fascinating, Filson felt the need to stretch the truth a bit more to make Kentucky seem even more attractive…and perhaps you saw this coming already, but Filson was a land speculator!
After the publication of the book, people began asking Boone to locate and survey tracts of land in the Bluegrass state. He was more than obliged to do so and also make some money off of his “local knowledge” of the territory. His fee: one half of the land he surveyed. After a busy four years, Boone reckoned he owned title to 50,000 acres or 78 square miles of land.
We don’t know if Boone realized it or not at that moment, but these surveys were often on land that had prior claims. And Boone, the outdoorsman, did not spend much time indoors doing the necessary paperwork to establish legal title to the land.
The consequence was that thousands upon thousands of acres of land were lost by his customers and thus also to him. In short order these customers began to label this heretofore honest backwoodsman as a charlatan and a cheat and the lawsuits began.
Daniel attempted to settle the lawsuits by selling his own land, but that didn’t work because of the lack of clear titles. The Boones eventually lost all of their land in Kentucky due to errors or in paying off debts.
The prevailing conventional wisdom is that Boone moved from Kentucky because it was getting too crowded or that his enduring wanderlust just took over and it was time to find a new frontier…that probably was not the case.
In 1799 Daniel led his family westward across the Mississippi into what was then called Upper Louisiana, what we know today as Missouri.
The Boones were doing well in their new digs until the Louisiana Purchase took place five years later. They again lost all of their land. It wasn’t until a special act of Congress in 1812 that their claim to another tract of land was confirmed so that the Boones could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Daniel’s wife Rebecca only enjoyed that comfort for one year before she died, followed by Daniel 8 years later…
Boone’s wandering spirit lived on after death as he and Rebecca were moved and reinterred back in Kentucky 25 years later, at least we think so, Boone’s grave in Missouri had been unmarked!