Daredevil Heroes like Daniel Boone
United States history is filled with heroes who’ve left their mark through great deeds and inspiring stories. These individuals have shaped our history as a nation and found their way into national folklore—often becoming even bigger stories than the people themselves. One such hero is Daniel Boone.
Daniel Boone was an American pioneer—one of the earliest to go West, to Manifest Destiny. He helped to settle the land beyond the original 13 Colonies, and was at the forefront of growing our country larger by exploring the territories west of Virginia and North Carolina; what’s now Kentucky.
But how much do you know about Daniel Boone outside of the folklore that accompanies his name? Here’s a quick history lesson that lends some truth and context to Daniel Boone: one of the daredevil heroes responsible for expanding the borders of the early United States of America.
The History of Daniel Boone
The North Carolina backwoods couldn’t confine Daniel Boone. Born in 1734, he grew up wild by all accounts, never fearing the unknown. That sentiment would quickly become the foundation for his legacy—and the tall tales that eventually followed his exploits.
After getting his first rifle at the age of 12, Daniel Boone went on to prove his talents as a hunter and pathfinder. As a young man, he befriended the Native American people in the area and learned how to track, hunt and forage from them. Perhaps the earliest folk story about Boone came from a hunting expedition he led as a young man:
Boone and his friends were hunting in the woods—the group of boys were no older than 15 or 16. Suddenly, the howl of a panther sounded nearby, startling the boys. Everyone scattered to try and confuse the panther—everyone except Daniel Boone. He waited for the panther to show itself, calmly cocked his rifle and shot the predator through the heart, just as it leaped at him.
This story, among many others, set the tone for who Daniel Boone would grow into as a man—and as a daredevil American hero. But that’s not all he was! Many historical accounts also described him as a highly intelligent man—albeit one without formal schooling. In fact, while his peers went to school, Daniel instead trudged into the wilderness for days at a time. Nevertheless, he taught himself to read and write, and often enjoyed both while out foraging.
Charting a Path to Adventure
Fearless that he was, Daniel Boone’s hunting expeditions deep into Cherokee territory, beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains. As a man in his 20s, Boone commonly took groups of men further and further west, seeking new lands and the mysteries that came with them. More specifically, however, Boone sought to find new hunting grounds as the animal populations became more and more depleted in his home state of North Carolina.
Quiet and courageous, he was drawn to the beauty of Kentucky country with its abundance of game that included deer, bears, and great herds of bison. In fact, history largely credits Daniel Boone with being the “father of Kentucky.” It was none other than Boone, who blazed the 300-mile trail from Virginia through the Cumberland Gap into central Kentucky, establishing a fort at the Kentucky river named Boonesborough.
The path paved by Boone and company was eventually recognized as the “Wilderness Road,” used by pioneers to travel from the colonies to Kentucky and, eventually, beyond.
The Man Behind the Legend
Through his hunting and adventuring exploits—and even for his time spent serving in the continental army—Daniel Boone quickly became a larger-than-life figure. Settlers talked about a man that would disappear into the wilderness for weeks at a time, only to reemerge in another season, looking strong and healthy, no worse for the wear. What’s more, those who adventured with him would regale people of (likely embellished) tales of his bravery, intelligence and other-worldly sense of connection to nature.
And while we might never know the truth behind some of the stories of Daniel Boone, we certainly know that his contributions to our country helped shape everything we have today. His legacy in indelible and the reverence that’s followed him through history is what makes him an American icon.
Daniel Boone is amongst the likes of American heroes both real and fictional—names like Davy Crockett and Wyatt Earp or Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed. So much of these stories is lost to history, so we rely on what’s been passed down through the centuries. One thing’s for certain: there’s a reason we know Daniel Boone’s name today. It’s because he was, undoubtedly, an American hero.
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