Daniel Boone, in his role as colonizer, was commonly perceived to have had a mission when he settled Kentucky--whether from God, the State, or his own inner drives. As we have seen in other incarnations, great pains were taken to show that he was not only worthy of the praise, but he was chosen for his task. His concern, in these readings, was not to civilize Kentucky, but to use his daring, his wood-craft, and his "native intelligence" to open the landscape for his family and other settlers.
As we have also seen, the range of dates for this vision of Boone varies widely. Below are some representative works which view Boone as leading the way, the great pioneer and colonizer.
We will later see John Filson's account of Boone as a representative natural man. It must be remembered that Filson utilized this image to give authority to his story and to entice settlers to Kentucky--in essence, making Boone the ideal colonizer.
In Boone's "own words," he describes the difficulties he underwent in colonizing Kentucky, but felt it was his duty--to his country and countrymen.
"This account of my adventures will inform the reader of the most remarkable events of this country.--I now live in peace and safety, enjoying the sweets of liberty, and the bounties of Providence, with my once fellow-sufferers, in this delightful country, which I have seen purchased with a vast expence of blood and treasure, delighting in the prospect of its being, in a short time, one of the most opulent and powerful states on the continent of North-America; which, with the love and gratitude of my country-men, I esteem a sufficient reward for all my toil and dangers.
Fayette County, Kentucky"
By Samuel L. Metcalfe
Lexington, KY: William G. Hunt, 1821
This work does not have the same monetary stakes which influenced the Filson work. Metcalfe portrays Boone as a natural man, but also a leader who actively helped settlers--as a scout, as a negotiator, as the officer in charge of defending against Indian attacks. The heroics of the Indian Wars, with their underlying message of colonization of Indian lands, take quite a bit of space in this 1821 work.
Boone was shown to have made great sacrifices in colonizing the West, but it was not without its pleasures as well:
"They also make us in some measure acquainted with the dangers and difficulties which our fathers underwent in penetrating and settling this vast wilderness...They fought in the defence of a country whose plains were drenched with the blood of their fellow citizens. They abandoned the pleasures of civilized and polished society and emigrated to these inhospitable wilds, under circumstances the most unfavourable: yet, the spirit of enterprise which prompted them was not to be extinguished by the dangers which surrounded them. The luxuriant beauty of its scenery, the salubrity of its climate and the beauty of its scenery, were well calculated to excite and cherish in them the spirit of adventure. (i-ii)
By J.B. Jones
Baltimore: Sherwood & Co., Printers, 1841 "The Ornum Company's Indian Novels"
Karl Bodmer and Jean-Francois Millet, The Abduction of the Daughters of Boone and Callaway, 1852
Another version of Boone as colonizer is found twenty years later in the 1840s. This book is in the adventure novel genre, but as with most dime novels, provides useful insight into the feelings of a culture. A cut-and-dried hero, who valiantly fought the Indians on behalf of the settlers, seemed to be especially important during the "winning of the west."
"But it was not in Boone's nature to be long at rest. There were still boundless tracts of rich lands to be explored, so, shouldering his rifle, he once more bade adieu to civilization, and plunged alone into the wilderness, to open new roads for the tide of emigration that was soon to follow." (99)
Boone's heroism in colonizing the wilderness is demonstrated, rather melodramatically, in the following amusing exchange:
"'The wolves! the wolves!' cried Isabel, crouching down in despair. 'The wolves! What shall save us now?'
'The strong arm of Daniel Boone,' replied the hunter, starting erect, his eyes flashing fire, like a young giant conscious of his strength." (69-70)
New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1889
Roosevelt's vision of Boone is pervaded by his own love for the outdoors. He sees in Boone a lonely hunter, whose ramblings had the unintended consequence of opening the way for further colonization, "...the solitude-loving hunter, dauntless and self-reliant, enjoyed to the full his wild, lonely life." (143) He imbues Boone with a sense of purpose, however, as other authors in the colonizer/civilizer vein have.
"Finally, however, among these hunters one arose whose wandering were to bear fruit, who was destined to lead through the wilderness the first body of settlers that ever established a community in the far west, completely cut off from the seaboard colonies. This was Daniel Boon." (137)
While Roosevelt's rendering of Boone could also be considered in the "natural man" category, "With Boon hunting and exploration were passions, and the lonely life of the wilderness, with its bold, wild freedom, the only existence for which he really cared." (137), ultimately it is his colonization that Roosevelt found more important.
"Boon is interesting as a leader and explorer; but he is still more interesting as a type. The west was neither discovered, won, nor settled by any single man...it was the outcome of ceaseless strivings of all the dauntless, restless backwoods folks to win homes for their descendants and each penetrate deeper than his neighbors into the remote forest hunting-grounds where the perilous pleasures of the chase and of war could be best enjoyed." (146)
He posits Boone not as the instrument of fate, but of his own yearnings, his own wild ramblings. In an age when America was stretching its boundaries, Boone as a natural man and colonizer seemed to put a more acceptable face on the process of colonization.
By Stewart Edward White for the Boy Scouts of America
New York: Garden City Publishing Company, 1922.
By 1922, Daniel Boone had become a hero for young boys, whose adventurous pursuits and noble and honest heart justified the atrocities involved in settling the wilderness. Stewart Edward White, in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America, utilized Boone as a role model for young boys, invoking an image of the Natural Man we will see later:
"So when you read, or someone tells you, that Daniel Boone or his contemporaries were 'ignorant and uneducated,' don't you believe them. Education is the learning of things that fit one for life. These men may have been to a certain extent illiterate in that they did not read many books; but they read life and nature more closely than we ever will, and to greater purpose than most of us will ever read anything." (16)
The roll-call of Boy Scout honor is laid out in the person of Boone:
"If the Boy Scouts would know a man who in his attitude toward the life to which he was called most nearly embodied the precepts of their laws let them look on Daniel Boone. Gentle, kindly, modest, peace-loving, absolutely fearless, a master of Indian warfare, a mighty hunter, strong as a bear and active as a panther, his life was lived in daily danger, almost perpetual hardship and exposure; yet he died in his bed at nearly ninety years of age." (3)
All the goodness and fearlessness was not for its own sake, however; "...Daniel Boone was reverent in the belief that he was ordained by God to open the wilderness..." (3) All the way up to 1922, the belief that the West was won fairly and honestly, was a cherished one and embodied in Boone. At a time of uncertainty, change, confusion, the 1920s rejuvenated Boone as a national hero who in effect created large parts of the nation, and did it honorably and without fear.
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Last updated 11/10/95