On This Date In History: Daniel Boone died on this date in 1820. He didn’t get attacked by Indians, he didn’t get eaten by a bear and he didn’t die in Kentucky. He simply died quietly at the age of 86. The cause? He reportedly died of eating too many sweet potatoes and died of indigestion. I never have been able to figure out how a pathologist today could make such a determination though. It may be just a later addition to the Boone legend. Today we remain in a credit crisis affecting real estate owners. In Boone’s day, you had to have a proper claim and it seems ole Dan’l didn’t have the proper papers for his land holdings in Kentucky. Because he failed to register his land properly, he lost his land in Kentucky and I suppose that included Boonesboro. Dan may have been gone but they kept the name. Boone in 1799 went west and settled in Missouri at the tender age of 65. He spent his final years hunting and trapping. Later, Fess Parker portrayed Boone in a TV series in the late 60′s. In the series, Parker wore a coonskin cap and there was even a reference to that in the theme song. Trouble was that Boone never wore a coonskin cap. He preferred a broad brimmed beaver hat. Guess Parker had the coonskin cap left over from his previous TV series in which he portrayed Davy Crockett. Kept the Boone series budget costs low. Honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference between Parker’s Crockett and Parker’s Boone as he was one of those guys who acted the same way in all of his roles. But, I must say I think Parker looks more like a Boone than Boone did. There is a statue of Boone, not Parker, near Cherokee Park.
Just about everyone has heard of Daniel Boone, but that wasn’t always the case. On his 50th birthday, The Adventures of Daniel Boone was published which was an narrative supposedly in Boone’s own words. While the 1784 release made Boone more of a household name in America, he was certainly already well known in the Ohio Valley when he lived. Nevertheless, his fame began to rise after he died when Lord Byron wrote about him in a 1823 poem titled Don Juan. Byron’s work was read around the world and Boone’s fame quickly went from the Wilderness to the World with others adding to the Boone legend with tales that may or may not have been true. I read one that said Davy Crockett once killed 105 bears in Tennessee in one season and he is most responsible for that species absence from the Frontier State. I don’t know about the veracity of the Crockett story but there are many Boone bear tales in Tennesee and other areas that live today. Quite often, myths surrounding American Folklore are based on fact. And the stories of Boone are really a reflection of early America as he had a love for adventure and the outdoors while at the same time, maintaining his dignity and perserverance when faced with hardship. For instance, Boone did not run out on his financial obligations. Some histories say he actually did his job well and the gov’t changed the rules. He transferred his claims to members of his family and the debts were his trying to pay back his clients who did lose their claims because he felt responsible since he was the surveyor even though it wasn’t his fault. This comes from a source that is very Boone-centric, yet it seems well intentioned. He claimed that the reason he left Kentucky was because of the intrusion of settlers in the late 19th century into the Blue Grass State. “Too many people! Too crowded, too crowded! I want some elbow room,” he said. What he wanted was to settle on some land that wouldn’t be taken away from him and the Spanish were all too willing to oblige. You see, at that time, the area now known as Missouri was under the control of Spain and was called Upper Louisiana. Shortly thereafter the French gained dominion over the land until Napoleon sold it to the United States.
But, in spite of the changes at the top, Boone was able to keep his claim…until the Uncle Sam took charge and, once again, Boone’s claims were challenged by the government. In 1810, he returned to Kentucky to pay off all of his debts. He only had 50 cents to his name when he returned to Missouri but he had satisfied his creditors. It’s too bad more Americans today do not have the character of Daniel Boone. I’m not sure where we lost it but his actions sure are a contrast to some folks today who purposely default on their mortgages because its “good business.” Boone probably would not have referred to such action in that manner. Boone had great satisfaction at his being able to pay his outstanding debt. Perhaps we as individuals and as a nation should endeavor to gain that same level of satisfaction.