Happy Birthday, Daniel Boone!

Story by Tom Fugate, Kentucky National Guard Cultural Resources Manager

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Today is the birthday of Daniel Boone, born near Reading, Pennsylvania (1734), who led the effort to blaze the trail from eastern Virginia into Kentucky Territory that became the main route west for many early settlers. Boone is often credited with saying, “I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.”

“Daniel Boone is considered one of the founding fathers of the Kentucky National Guard,” said John Trowbridge, command historian.  “Even to this day new officer candidate school graduates are sworn in at his grave site in homage to his place in Kentucky Military History.”

Boone’s influence is so strong that Kentucky’s National Guard headquarters is named in his honor as Boone National Guard Center.

“This is actually cited in Kentucky Guard’s General Orders dated October 25, 1962,” said Trowbridge.

A legend in his own lifetime, Daniel Boone was an explorer and hunter whose exploits made him one of the most famous frontiersmen in American history. One of 11 children raised in a Quaker household, he was born on November 2, 1734, in Berks County Pennsylvania. Little is known of his formative years, other than he aspired to be a woodsman rather than a farmer.

Boone’s legacy will take on a greater presence in the form of a larger than life bronze statue as the center piece of the planned Kentucky National Guard memorial. (File photo)

Family “scandals” resulted in his father’s expulsion from the Society of Friends and the family moved to the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina, arriving in 1751 or 1752. From there Boone explored west into Kentucky in the 1760s and 1770s. In 1775 he established the frontier outpost of Boonesborough, one of the first white settlements in Kentucky. When the Kentucky territory became part of Virginia, Boone was named an officer in the Virginia militia and spent the next several years trailblazing and fighting Indians. His “autobiography,” written by John Filson and published in 1784, depicted Boone as wily and adventurous and made him a folk hero.

Boone tried to establish extensive land claims in Kentucky, but was unable to retain them and many were invalidated after 1780. After living in western Virginia, where he served three times in the state legislature, Boone moved in 1799 to what is now Missouri. He settled there with his son, Daniel Morgan Boone, and was later granted land by the U.S. Congress. He died near St. Louis in 1820 at the age of 85 and is now buried in the Frankfort Cemetery.

Commencing in the 1820s, several actors have portrayed Boone in various buckskin costumes, all of which included a coonskin cap. The most popular of these portrayals was by the actor Fess Parker in the TV series Daniel Boone from 1964-70. The real Boone thought coonskin caps were silly and impractical unlike these actors he always wore a beaver or felt hat instead, which had a wide brim for keeping out the sun and rain.

Boone’s legacy will take on a greater presence in the form of a larger than life bronze statue as the center piece of the planned Kentucky National Guard memorial.

For more information on Daniel Boone and the early history of the Kentucky National Guard, visit the Kentucky National Guard eMuseum.

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