"I can't say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.” The words were written by Daniel Boone. And if Daniel were to wake up from his current sleep, he would be bewildered again. And when he found out that most of him was back in Kentucky, he would be very angry. Because once he was dead, this man who kept moving his entire life to avoid “people” finally fell into the clutches of the "people" he hated the most - politicians and their close kin in the real estate business, lawyers.
Daniel reached adulthood in North Carolina. There he showed such natural talent as a hunter, he dropped out of school to take it up professionally. Most of what he killed was sold in public markets. A sister-in-law taught him to read and write, and other men would later follow him because he could regal them with readings from the “Bible” and “Gulliver’s Travels”.
When he was 21 years old he married 16 year old Rebecca Bryan. They had ten children - although when they found the time I have no idea, Daniel was away from home so much.
Daniel was a short and shy man, and taciturn except when surrounded by his family. He was not the first white man in Kentucky. He was however one of the first Europeans who managed to walk out of Kentucky alive.
He was not a great Indian fighter, and in his old age insisted, “I never killed but three”, adding, “I am very sorry to say that I ever killed any, for they have always been kinder to me than the whites.”
And when he walked back into Kentucky it was as the supervisor of forty lumbermen, hired to cut a trail through the forest. Boonsboro was named after him because he was in charge of the crew who built the fort. It was not his fort.
It was there, surrounded by their children, grandchildren and great-grand children that Rebecca died, in 1813. And it was there that Daniel Boone died in September of 1820, after eating too many sweet potatoes and suffering indigestion. He was 85.
But as was common with frontiersmen and women, the graves (above) were unmarked until the 1830’s.
Then, beginning in the mid-1840’s, as the Boone legend was created by novelists (and with hundreds of trees baring marks supposedly carved by Daniel, which increased the property value) investors in Frankfort, the new capital of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, decided that the late Daniel was just the draw they needed to attract new customers (and investors) to their new municipal cemetery.
One booster wrote that it was “…fitting that the soil of Kentucky should afford the final resting place for his remains, ….that the generation which was reaping the fruits of his toils (should)…have in their midst…the sepulcher of this Primeval Patriarch whose stout heart would be watched by the cradle of this now powerful Commonwealth.”
The next morning, 17 July, 1845, the determined delegation appeared at the front door of Harvey Griswold, who now owned the graveyard. Harvey argued, but the lawyers from Kentucky answered every protest, promising to erect a monument to replace the missing relics of Daniel and Rebecca. And with the "approval" of the two grand daughters, it appeared the law was on the Kentucky side. Three local black men had been hired to disinter the graves; King Bryan, Henry Augbert, and Jeff Callaway. Jeff had been a slave for the Callaway family, and now as a free man he was digging up the father of his one time owner, Mrs. Flander Boone Callaway.
On Friday, 12 September, 1845, the “remains” of Daniel and Rebecca Boone laid in state in the (old) State House. That night, the skeletons were arraigned on a table to be examined as if they were paleontology exhibits. Daniel’s skull, minus his jaw, was passed around, examined even by eight year old John Mason Brown. When the skull had finally been examined by a phrenologist, all the bones were reloaded into two elaborate coffins and finally allowed a measure of peace.
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