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Document Number: AJ-159
Author: Boone, Nathan, 1781-1856
Title: Recollections on Daniel Boone's First Journey to Kentucky, 1769 [manuscript]
Source: Draper Manuscripts: Draper's Notes, 6 S 44-68, Wisconsin Historical Society.
Pages/Illustrations: 26 / 0
Citable URL:

Author Note

Daniel Boone was born in 1734 to a large farm family in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he received little if any formal education. When he was sixteen years old the family moved to the wilds of western North Carolina and at the age of twenty-one, in 1755, he enlisted in the American militia. He participated in Braddock’s failed attack on the French Fort Duquesne (modern Pittsburgh), where he met explorer John Findley.

After marrying and farming in North Carolina for more than a decade, in 1767 Boone and two companions crossed the Cumberland Mountains to the edge of Kentucky on a winter hunting trip. The next year he received a visit from Findley, who asked his help finding a viable route for emigration into the West.

They left in May 1769, passed through Cumberland Gap, and a month later were in Kentucky’s fertile valleys, where Boone spent two years hunting and exploring. In 1773 he led a group of family and friends to settle there but they were driven back by Indians. In 1775 they tried again, cutting the Wilderness Road and founding Boonesborough.

The Indian inhabitants attempted to eject white interlopers for most of the next two decades. Important encounters took place in 1776, 1778, and 1782 before hostilities effectively ended in 1794. In 1778 Boone was captured by the Shawnee, as described in AJ-150.

In the 1780s and 1790s Boone held virtually all important public offices in the region. He became one of its wealthiest landowners and speculators, controlling nearly one hundred thousand acres. Legal and financial difficulties plagued him, however, and when in 1799 the Spanish government invited him to found a settlement in Missouri, he headed further west and planted new roots near present-day St. Charles. He finally paid off his Kentucky debts in 1814 and died in Missouri in 1820, at the advanced age of eighty-six.

Boone’s son Nathan (1781-1856), who provided the details given in this interview, was born in Kentucky but hunted and trapped across the Mississippi in the opening years of the nineteenth century. His contacts with Plains Indian nations led to his employment by William Clark as a guide in 1808. He moved to a Spanish land grant about twenty miles from St. Charles, Missouri, in 1809 where he worked as a trader and a surveyor. After forming a local Missouri militia in 1811, he went on to serve in a variety of military positions in the Mississippi Valley and on the Plains, including service in the Black Hawk War of 1832. His surveying and military travels took him as far as Wisconsin in the northeast and New Mexico in the southwest before he retired from the U.S. Army with rank of Lt. Colonel in 1853.

Document Note

Lyman Copeland Draper visited Colonel Nathan Boone at the latter’s home in Greene County, Missouri, in the fall of 1851. He spent three weeks interviewing Boone and his wife in October and November, taking away more than three hundred pages of notes. These are now preserved in series 6S of the Draper manuscripts (Draper’s Notes); pages 44-53 have been selected for presentation here. For more documents on early Kentucky, see AJ-125, AJ-150, AJ-151, AJ-155, AJ-157, and AJ-158.

Other Internet and Reference Resources

The printed literature on Daniel Boone and the exploration and settlement of Kentucky is immense. A convenient online source to selected digitized images of this literature is the Kentuckiana Digital Library at

Another useful website is “The First American West: the Ohio River Valley 1750-1820” at, a collection of fifteen hundred pages of original historical materials documenting the land, people, exploration, and transformation of the trans-Appalachian West selected from the collections of the University of Chicago Library and the Filson Historical Society of Louisville, Kentucky.

A discussion of Daniel Boone as an iconic figure in American history can be found at, produced by the American Studies Program, University of Virginia.

A brief account of the Shawnees during these years is available at Ohio History Central at shawnee.shtml.

Finally, the University Library, University of Louisville, kyhistory/boone.html provides links to Daniel Boone biography, Boone family history, and Boone historic sites.

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