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Daniel Boone and The Cumberland Gap
Iconic American frontiersman Daniel Boone was born November 2nd 1734 near Reading, PA. His family eventually settled on the Yadkin River in North Carolina after two of his siblings married non-Quakers. Daniel received his first rifle at the age of 12 & spent most of his time hunting rather than in school. Still, he was often the only literate member of his hunting parties & would entertain the men by reading stories around the camp fire. He served with the British in the French & Indian War & was a wagon driver during General Braddock's failed attempt to take the French outpost at Ft. Duquesne at the Battle of Monongohela. Braddock's aide during the campaign was George Washington.
Later he served as an officer in the Kentucky Militia during the American Revolution fighting mostly British aided Indians. He was captured by the Shawnee in 1778 & was adopted by their tribe. He later left the tribe & returned to the town he founded, Boonesborough, KY. Upon arrival he found the settlement in disrepair & roused the men into bringing the settlement back to defense readiness. This natural leadership quality would be required of Daniel throughout his adult life. Boone's primary occupation was hunting. He would go on "long hunts" for weeks or even months at a time alone or with a hunting party. He hunted for deer & after the hunt would sell the hides or "buckskins" for a dollar each which is why today we refer to a dollar as a buck. Boone's first encounter with Kentucky was during a hunting expedition in 1767. He began a two year hunt into KY in 1769 but the Shawnee stole his hides & told him never to return. But he did return. In September 1773 he & his family & 50 others attempted the first European settlement into Kentucky. On October 9th Boone's eldest son James and a small party of men were captured by Shawnee & Cherokee & brutally tortured to death. The massacre would begin Dunmore's War which would end with the Battle of Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774 resulting in the Indians relinquishing all claims to Kentucky. In 1775 Daniel Boone was hired by the Transylvania Company to lead a team of loggers through the Cumberland Gap to widen it, carving out what is now known as The Wilderness Road, making it more easily accessible to pioneers on their way to Kentucky & Tennessee. Boone would bring his family through the gap where he founded Boonesborough, KY on April 1, 1775. By 1810 300,000 pioneers would follow his trail into KY in search of fertile land. Many exploits, both fictional & non-fictional would be attributed to Daniel Boone during his life. One factual incident occurred on July 14, 1776 when Boone's daughter Jemima & two other girls were captured by Indians. On the third morning as the Indians were preparing breakfast, a shot rang out to which Jemima cried, "That's father's gun!" After a brief round of fire in which two Indians would be killed, the remainder retreated & the girls were taken safely home. The incident would make Boone a national hero. Boone died September 26, 1820 at the age of 85. To me, Daniel Boone embodies the very essence of the American spirit...that America is a land of great opportunity to anyone willing to work for it & that each individual is the master of his own success. He is quoted as saying, "I wouldn't give a tinker's damn for a man who isn't sometimes afraid. Fear's the spice that makes it interesting to go ahead."
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