MISSOURI HISTORICAL REVIEW

VOLUME 6, #3
APRIL 1912

DANIEL BOONE

    It has been said that a greater number of biographies of Daniel Boone have been given to the public, than of George Washington. It is by no means improbable that a greater number of biographies have been penned concerning him than any other single American, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln, not counting the innumerable sketches, miscellaneous and fugitive articles which have been written from time to time, about this singular character. Certainly, this is a remarkable tribute to any individual, and forcefully illustrates how firm is the grasp which the story of his life has obtained upon the popular mind. The writer hereof, possesses and has read, not less than ten biographies of Daniel Boone, of varying degrees of merit, and the majority of them have told much the same story, and ofttimes in much the same way. Yet singularly enough, but one of his numerous biographers, has correctly stated the date of his birth,(l) while among some of them as much discrepancy prevails relative to other historic facts, as that which prevails regarding the date of his entrance into the world. they have been content to "fringe an inch of fact with acres of conjecture." The writer, therefore, who would give to his readers as accurately and impartially as it can now be done, the story of his life, would confer upon his countrymen a lasting benefit and give to the work a book in which he might say of his hero, in the language of the immortal Shakespeare:

"Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read;
And tongues to be your being shall rehearse,
When all the breathers of this world are dead;
You still shall live,---such virtue has my pen,--
Where breath most breathes--even in the months of men."

    The name of Daniel Boone has so long been familiar to my ear and eye, that I, like many others have come to regard everything pertaining to his life as of importance, provided it be founded upon fact. A new chapter, therefore, concerning him, may not be lacking in interest to those who are, or are not familiar with the story of his life; and I trust I may be pardoned for adding yet another chapter to the many which others have given to the public touching his life. Some of my ancestors both upon the paternal and maternal side, were long and intimately associated with this famous pioneer, and shared with him the perils and the glory of subduing the wilderness, and of converting the hunting grounds of the Indians to the more useful purposes of civilization. Because of this association the life of Boone has ever possessed more than passing interest to me, and I have ever loved to trace the winding footsteps of these sturdy old pioneers through their fortunes and misfortunes; their victories and defeats. My great grandfather, William Bryant, followed closely upon the path of Boone from North Carolina to Kentucky, where he caused to be erected amid the primeval solitudes, the most celebrated of all the pioneer Kentucky forts or blockhouses, known in history as Bryant's Station and which was located in Lafayette County, about five miles northeast of Lexington. His name and the name of the station which he built (in 1779), have frequently been mentioned in the histories and the various lives of Boone.(2)

    It is, however, of another event with which Daniel Boone was connected, and also an ancestor of the writer hereof on the maternal side that I would now speak, and of which I have seen no account in history, but the facts herein detailed are preserved in a manuscript history and genealogy of the Inman family of Tennessee.(3)

    About the year 1767, a party of explorers left their homes in North Carolina to visit the vast and almost wholly unknown region lying west of the Cumberland mountains. This party was led by Daniel Boone, who, even at that early period had established a well deserved reputation for daring, and consummate knowledge of woodcraft. In this company were three brothers who bore the scriptural names of Shadrach Inman, Meshack Inman and Abednego Inman, the first of whom was a great grandfather of the writer hereof. In due season they crossed the mountain ranges lying in their path of travel, and winter soon swept down upon them. For days they pushed forward through deep snows. They had little or no food during this time, for that which they had brought with them had been exhausted. They were therefore compelled to depend upon such game for their subsistence as they could bring down with their rifles, and killing game at that season of the year was not always easily accomplished. When they had arrived near the central part of the present state of Tennessee, and were encamped near a cave, probably the famous Nick-a-Jack cave, they were surprised and attacked one night by Indians. Being asleep at the time of the attack, and not having taken the precaution to post sentinels, nearly all of the little band of adventurers were either killed or wounded. Among the slain was Meshack Inman. Among the wounded were Shadrach Inman and his brother, Abednego Inman. The former received a wound in the side from a spear, which weapon is still in existence and in the possession of one of his descendants. Abednego Inman received a wound in the forehead from an Indian tomahawk, leaving a scar which he carried for the remainder of his life, but surviving his wound, he placed himself in hiding in a large hollow tree, where he remained for nine days without food and with but little water, at the end of which period he was so far recovered as to be able to leave his strange habitation, and eventually and with extreme difficulty, to make his way back to his home in North Carolina. The company was thus broken up and dispersed, and the expedition abandoned. Among the number of those who escaped were Boone and Shadrach Inman. Boone on account of his superior skill in woodcraft and knowledge of Indian wiles, escaped unharmed and returned home. The Indians pursued him keenly through the dense forest, but like a fleeting shadow he eluded them, and led the few survivors of his little company safely back to their homes. 

    Notwithstanding these misfortunes, our brave adventurers were not to be diverted from their purpose of exploring and taking possession of a portion of the sole of Tennessee, for some of them returned to the locality at a later date, and established homes there, while Boone with other kindred spirits, among whom was William Bryant, established themselves in the wilds of Kentucky, at Boonesborough and Bryant's Station. 

    Shadrach Inman, above named, settled in Jefferson County, Tennessee, and was a Revolutionary officer, his commission as Lieutenant being dated may 4, 1774, and his commissions are in the possession of one of his descendants, Mrs. Mamie Inman Watkins, of Macomb City, Miss. Shadrach Inman is said to have been highly energetic and patriotic citizen, and one of the best known and most highly respected men of Jefferson county, where he lived and died. He married in North Carolina, Mary Jane McPheeters, whose mother, Mary Jane McDowell, was a sister of John McDowell, some time Governor of North Carolina.(4) He owned a valuable plantation on the Nolachucky river, together with many Negro slaves, a number of which he bequeathed to his wife and children by his last will. One of his sons, Captain Shadrach Inman Jr., was also a Revolutionary officer, and was killed in the battle of Musgrove's Mill, South Carolina, August 19, 1780, while gallantly leading a charge against the British, and against a greatly superior force. He died fighting hand to hand with the enemy, and his conduct in this action has been highly commended by several historians(5), and his loss was deeply regretted.

    One of the daughters of Captain Shadrach Inman, Senior, Susannah Inman, married in Tennessee, in 1802, Thomas Chilton. They removed to Southeastern Missouri, during the territorial era of that State, and from them are descended many of the Chiltons of that section of the country. Numerous members of this family of Chiltons have represented various counties of Southeastern Missouri in the State Legislature, covering a long period of time, and there have been not a few notable names in other branches of the family in the history of the Southern states of our country.

    It is not too much to say that the name of Daniel Boone is a household work throughout the length and breadth of the land. His career appeals to the readers of history with a fascination that is little less than marvelous. His fame, instead of growing dimmer year by year, has continued to increase and to shine with brighter effulgence with the flight of time. In truth, some writers, in their efforts to garnish the life of this famous frontiersman, have deemed nothing of importance or worth the while, except as it would subserve the purpose of enlarging the measure of his fame. But the writer who fails to observe proper respect for historical  accuracy, is likely to find that he has magnified his hero to such proportions that but little semblance to the real man remains; that he has become, in the lurid imaginings of the writer, instead of a real personage, clothed with human attributes, merely a fantastic and grotesque figure. The simple story of his life truthfully told, is all-sufficient, without aid from the pen of the romancer who would portray him, not as he was, but as imagination would depict him. Mere mention of the name of Daniel Boone serves to recall the names of many of his contemporaries who would long ago have slipped into underserved forgetfulness, were it not for the name and fame of this world renowned pioneer. His likeness is now a sort of composite photograph in which are blended the features of nearly all who were associated with him in the great westward movement of his age, and in the portrait of Boone we catch the dim and confused likeness of many another heroic character whose personality was as conspicuous as that of Boone himself. In truth the universality of his fame has served to lift from obscurity into notoriety many, who, otherwise would now be reposing in some neglected spot of earth with the grim specter whom we call Oblivion, keeping watch above their place of rest. Not that all of them, by any means, would have been overtaken by such fate. For there were numerous persons among his contemporaries and associates, whose services were as conspicuous (and more so) than those of Boone, who might well be left to stand upon their own individual merit. Yet herein, is one singular feature in connection with the fame of this unique character, it is remarkable that the fame of Boone should so far transcend that of hosts of others who had equal if not superior claims to recognition than Boone himself.

    Surpassed as he was by many, in actual achievement and intellectual attainment, yet there are few names in the long list of America's eminent men that outshine in luster the name of Daniel Boone. As a commander, he was not to be compared with General Washington or General George Rogers Clarke, of Colonel Benjamin Logan, or others of even lesser note than these. As an empire-builder, he did not take rank with James Robertson or John Sevier, or Colonel Richard Henderson. As an explorer and pathfinder, there were other brave spirits who heralded the advance of Boone into the western wilderness. As a statesman, he performed no service that would entitle him to remembrance. The gift of moving men by the power of speech was denied him, and he neither invited nor repelled the conversation of others. As a scholar he won no honors and obtained no prizes, except in the wide school of nature.

    Yet, notwithstanding all of these things, the fame of this kind-hearted and pathetic but heroic character has transcended that of nearly every other man of his own or of any other age of the history of the country.

    How did it happen? This question can not be fully and successfully answered in many words or in few. Yet it can not be said that the verdict of the popular mind is not just, or that his fame is of greater proportions that it should be. There were so many incidents in his career to appeal to the masses, and to touch the heart-strings of humanity, that he is now, and will long continue to be a wonderful personality. He stands upon a pedestal, high above the common throng. He has gained for himself in the hearts of his countrymen niche, little less enduring than the Wilderness Road or Cumberland Gap; as lasting as the history of Kentucky and Missouri; as immeasurable as the volume of the Ohio or the Mississippi.

    The life of Boone may well be studied to the pleasure and profit of American youth, and by all others who delight to con the lessons of sublime courage and fortitude, to be drawn from the lives of Boone and his associates. When we contemplate the reverses of fortune which overtook him, and which seemed to pursue him to the end; the loss of his eldest son while yet a youth, at the hands of Indians, when first setting out from North Carolina, to plant a colony in Kentucky; the loss of a brother killed by Indians, while hunting in company with himself; the siege of the fort which he built, and which he successfully defended against the assaults of bloodthirsty savages; the capture of one of his daughters and her companions by Indians, and their rescue by Boone and a number of his friends; his own capture by the Indians, and adoption with their usual pomp and ceremony as a member of one of their tribes; his participation in the defense of Bryant's Station, when besieged by Indians in August, 1782; the loss of another son fighting by his side in the battle of the Blue Licks, which battle was but the bloody sequel to the siege of Bryant's Station; the loss of a brother-in-law, also slain by Indians while hunting in company with William Bryant and others; and finally, as a culmination of his sorrows, the loss of his lands in Kentucky and Missouri, which he had hazarded and given so much to secure, on account of informalities; and thus turned forth, as it were, at an age when most men long to be free from the turmoils of life and the hardships of the pioneer - these misfortunes would have embittered the souls of most men. but a careful perusal of the history of his life and a somewhat careful inquiry in the realm of tradition, fails to reveal that such was the case. Bravely and uncomplainingly he went his way, and to the end he was the same silent and unperturbed spirit; and he died, as he had lived, in the vanguard of civilization, and where mighty forests, abounding with game, were always within easy reach. to the end he was smiling and serene, and resigned to the will of providence, for his faith was simple and child-like. His last days were spend in fashioning with loving hands various articles as mementos for relatives and friends, and an occasional hunting trip until age and failing eyesight forced him to remember that he was no longer young, and that he must bid adieu to the pursuits of his earlier days. Dreaming little, and caring less, how wide was to be the measure of his fame, he sinks at last into the arms of Mother Earth, like one "who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams." 

    Two states now claim the honor of affording a final resting place for all that was mortal of Daniel Boone, and all his countrymen share alike the legacy of his fame.

Thomas Julian Bryant


Footnotes:

  1. John S.C. Abbott

  2. History of Kentucky, Humphrey Marshall
    History of Kentucky, Mann Butler
    History of Kentucky, Lewis Collins
    Sketches of Western Adventure, John A. McClung
    Chronicles of Border Warfare, A. S. Withers (new ed. Thwaites).
    Life of Boone, Timothy Flint
    Life of Boone, G. Canning Hill
    Life of Boone, John S.C. Abbott
    Borger Boy, Wm. H. Bogart
    Life of Boone, C. B. Hartley

  3. Compiled by Mrs. May Inman Gray, and Augusta Bradford

  4. In the pioneer History of Kentucky we also find the names of
    McDowell and McPheeters associated together; for we read
    in the life of Boone that on the 27th of March, 1775, he found 
    the bodies of Thomas McDowell and Jeremiah McPheeters, who
    had been killed and scalped by the Indians. See---
    Life of Boone, (Border Boy), W. H. Bogard, p. 121
    Life of Boone, C. B. Hartley, p. 95
    Life of Boone, J. S. C. Abbott, p. 126
    Life of Boone, G. Canning Hill, p. 95

  5. Wheeler's History of North Carolina
    Ramsay's Annals of Tennessee
    King's Mountain and its Heroes, Dr. L. C. Draper


Submitted by Barbara Jordan Straw