"Night came, but with it an increase of the fury of the gale, and the stream became utterly impassable. Early in the morning Kenton, who was separated from his companions, observed three Indians and a white man, well mounted, rapidly approaching. Raising his rifle, he took steady aim at the breast of the foremost Indian, and pulled the trigger. The powder flashed in the pan. Kenton took to his heels, but was soon overtaken and captured. The Indians seemed greatly exasperated at the loss of their horses. One seized him by the hair and shook his head 'till his teeth rattled.' The others scourged him severely with their ramrods over the head and face, exclaiming at every blow, 'Steal Indian hoss, hey!'
"Just then Kenton saw Montgomery coming boldly to his assistance. Instantly two Indian rifles were discharged, and Montgomery fell dead. His bloody scalp was waved in the face of Kenton, with menaces of a similar fate. Clark had sought safety in flight. Kenton was thrown upon the ground upon his back. His neck was fastened by a halter to a sapling; his arms, extended to their full length, were pinioned to the earth by stakes; his feet were fastened in a similar manner. A stout stick was passed across his breast, and so attached to the earth that he could not move his body. All this was done in the most violent and cruel manner, accompanied by frequent cuffs, and blows, as the maddened Indians called him in the broken English which they had acquired, 'a tief, a hoss steal, a rascal,' which expressions the Indians had learned to intersperse with English oaths.
"In this condition of suffering Kenton remained through the day and through the night. The next morning the savages having collected their scattered horses, put Kenton upon a young colt, tied his hands behind him and his feet beneath the horse's belly, and set out on their return. The country was rough and Kenton could not at all protect himself from the brambles through which they passed. Thus they rode all day. When night came, their prisoner was bound to the earth as before. The next day they reached the Indian village, which was called Chilicothe, on the Miami river, forty or fifty miles west of the present city of Chilicothe, Ohio. A courier was sent forward, to inform the village of their arrival. Every man, woman and child came running out, to view the prisoner. One of their chiefs, Blackfish, approached Kenton with a strong hickory switch in his hand, and addressing him said,
"'You have been stealing our horses, have you?'
"'Yes,' was the defiant reply.
"'Did Colonel Boone,' inquired the chief, 'tell you to steal our horses?'
"'No,' said Kenton, 'I did it of my own accord.'
"Blackfish then with brawny arms so mercilessly applied the scourge to the bare head and shoulders of his prisoner, as to cause the blood to flow freely, and to occasion the acutest pain.
"In the mean time the whole crowd of men, women and children danced and hooted and clapped their hands, assailing him with the choicest epithets of Indian vituperation. With loud cries they demanded that he should be tied to the stake, that they might all enjoy the pleasure of tormenting him. A stake was immediately planted in the ground, and he was firmly fastened to it. His entire clothing was torn from him, mainly by the Indian women. The whole party then danced around him until midnight, yelling in the most frantic manner, smiting him with their hands and lacerating his flesh with their switches.
"At midnight they released him from the stake, and allowed him some little repose, in preparation for their principal amusement in the morning, of having their prisoner run the gauntlet. Three hundred Indians of all ages and both sexes were assembled for the savage festival. The Indians were ranged in two parallel lines, about six feet apart, all armed with sticks, hickory rods, whips, and other means of inflicting torture. Between these lines, for more than half a mile to the village, the wretched prisoner was doomed to run for his life, exposed to such injury as his tormentors could inflict as he passed. If he succeeded in reaching the council-house alive, it would prove an asylum to him for the present.
"At a given signal, Kenton started in the perilous race; exerting his utmost strength and activity, he passed swiftly along the line, receiving numerous blows, stripes, buffets, and wounds, until he approached the town, near which he saw an Indian leisurely awaiting his advance, with a drawn knife in his hand, intent upon his death.
"To avoid him, he instantly broke through the line, and made his rapid way towards the council-house, pursued by the promiscuous crowd, whooping and yelling like infernal furies at his heels. Entering the town in advance of his pursuers, just as he supposed the council-house within his reach, an Indian was perceived leisurely approaching him with his blanket wrapped around him; but suddenly he threw off the blanket and sprung upon Kenton as he advanced. Exhausted with fatigue and wounds, he was thrown to the ground, and in a moment he was beset with crowds, eager to inflict upon him the kick or blow which had been avoided by breaking through the line. Here beaten, kicked and scourged, until he was nearly lifeless, he was left to die."[B]
[Footnote B: Macdonald's Sketches.]
A few hours afterwards he was supplied with food and water, and was suffered to recuperate for a few days, until he was enabled to attend at the council-house, and receive the announcement of his final doom. It was here decided that he should be made a public sacrifice to the vengeance of the nation. The Indian town of Wappatomica, upon the present site of Zanesville, Ohio, was the appointed place of his execution. Being in a state of utter exhaustion his escape was deemed impossible, and he was carelessly guarded. In despair he attempted it. He was promptly recaptured and punished by being taken to a neighboring creek where he was dragged through mud and water, till life was nearly extinct. Still his constitutional vigor triumphed, and he revived.
Wappatomica was a British trading post. Here Kenton met an old comrade, Simon Girty, who had become a renegade, had joined the Indians, and had so adopted their dress and manners as hardly to be distinguished from his savage associates. Girty cautiously endeavored to save the condemned prisoner. He represented to the band that it would be of great advantage to them to have possession of one so intimately acquainted with all the white settlements and their resources.
A respite was granted. Another council was held. The spirit of Indian revenge prevailed. Kenton was again doomed to death, to be preceded by the terrible ordeal of running the gauntlet.
But a British officer, influenced by the persuasions of the Indian chief Logan, the friend of the white man, urged upon the Indian chiefs that the British officers at Detroit would regard the possession of Kenton, with the information he had at his command, as a great acquisition, and that they would pay for him a ransom of at least one hundred dollars. They took him to Detroit; the ransom was paid, and Kenton became the prisoner of the British officers, instead of the savage chieftains. Still he was a prisoner, though treated with ordinary humanity, and was allowed the liberty of the town.
There were two other American captives there, Captain Nathan Bullit and Jesse Coffer. Escape seemed impossible, as it could only be effected through a wilderness four hundred miles in extent, crowded with wandering Indian bands, where they would be imminently exposed to recapture, or to death by starvation.
Simon Kenton was a very handsome man. He won the sympathies of a very kind English woman, Mrs. Harvey, the wife of one of the traders at the post. She secretly obtained for him and his two companions, and concealed in a hollow tree, powder, lead, moccasins, and a quantity of dried beef. One dark night, when the Indians were engaged in a drunken bout, she met Kenton in the garden and handed him three of the best rifles, which she had selected from those stacked near the house. The biographer of these events writes:
"When a woman engages to do an action, she will risk limb, life or character, to serve him whom she respects or wishes to befriend. How differently the same action would be viewed by different persons! By Kenton and his friends her conduct was viewed as the benevolent conduct of a good angel; while if the part she played in behalf of Kenton and his companions had been known to the commander at Detroit, she would have been looked upon as a traitress, who merited the scorn and contempt of all honest citizens. This night was the last that Kenton ever saw or heard of her."
Our fugitives traveled mostly by night, guided by the stars. After passing through a series of wonderful adventures, which we have not space here to record, on the thirty-third day of their escape, they reached the settlement at the Falls of the Ohio, now Louisville. During the rest of the war, Kenton was a very active partisan. He died in the year 1836, over eighty years of age, having been for more than a quarter of a century an honored member of the Methodist Church.
Life in the Wilderness.
Stewart killed by the Indians.—Squire Boone returns to the Settlements.—Solitary Life of Daniel Boone.—Return of Squire Boone.—Extended and Romantic Explorations.—Charms and Perils of the Wilderness.—The Emigrant Party.—The Fatal Ambuscade.—Retreat of the Emigrants.—Solitude of the Wilderness.—Expedition of Lewis and Clarke.—Extraordinary Adventures of Cotter.
There were now four hungry men to occupy the little camp of our bold adventurers. They do not seem to have been conscious of enduring any hardships. The winter was mild. Their snug tent furnished perfect protection from wind and rain. With abundant fuel, their camp-fire ever blazed brightly. Still it was necessary for them to be diligent in hunting, to supply themselves with their daily food. Bread, eggs, milk, butter, sugar, and even salt, were articles of which they were entirely destitute.
One day, not long after the arrival of Squire Boone, Daniel Boone, with his companion Stewart, was a long distance from the camp, hunting. Suddenly the terrible war-whoop of the Indians resounded from a thicket, and a shower of arrows fell around them. Stewart, pierced by one of these deadly missiles, fell mortally wounded. A sturdy savage sprang from the ambuscade upon his victim, and with a yell buried a tomahawk in his brain. Then, grasping with one hand the hair on the top of his head, he made a rapid circular cut with his gleaming knife, and tore off the scalp, leaving the skull bare. The revolting deed was done quicker than it can be described. Shaking the bloody trophy in his hand, he gave a whoop of exultation which echoed far and wide through the solitudes of the forest.
Boone, swift of foot as the antelope, escaped and reached the camp with the sad tidings of the death of his companion, and of the presence, in their immediate vicinity, of hostile Indians. This so affrighted the North Carolinian who had come with Squire Boone, that he resolved upon an immediate return to the Yadkin. He set out alone, and doubtless perished by the way, as he was never heard of again. A skeleton, subsequently found in the wilderness, was supposed to be the remains of the unfortunate hunter. He probably perished through exhaustion, or by the arrow or tomahawk of the savage.
The two brothers, Daniel and Squire, were now left entirely alone.
They selected a favorable spot in a wild ravine where they would be the least likely to be discovered by hunting bands, and built for themselves a snug and comfortable log-house, in which they would be more effectually sheltered from the storms and cold of winter, and into which they moved from their open camp. Here they remained, two loving brothers of congenial tastes, during the months of January, February, March and April. Solitary as their life must have been probably, every hour brought busy employment. Each day's food was to be obtained by the rifle. Wood was to be procured for their fire. All their clothing, from the cap to the moccasin, was to be fashioned by their own hands from the skin of the deer, which they had carefully tanned into pliancy and softness; and there were to be added to their cabin many conveniences which required much ingenuity with knife and hatchet for their only tools, and with neither nail nor screw for their construction. In addition to this they were under the necessity of being ever on the alert to discover indications of the approach of the Indians.
The winter passed away, not only undisturbed, but evidently very happily. It is remarkable that their retreat was not discovered by any of the Indian bands, who in pursuit of game were constantly roving over those rich hunting grounds.
As summer's warmth returned, Squire Boone decided to retrace his steps to the Yadkin, to carry to his brother's family news of his safety, and to obtain much needed supplies of powder and of lead. There is no satisfactory explanation of the motives which could have induced Daniel, after the absence of a year from his home, to remain alone in that solitary cabin. In his autobiography he has assigned no reason for the extraordinary decision. One of the most judicious of his biographers makes the following statement which by no means solves the mystery:
"When the spring came it was time for another movement. The spring came early, and the awaking to its foliage seemed like the passing from night to the day. The game had reduced their powder and lead, and without these there was no existence to the white man. Again Daniel Boone rises to the emergency. It was necessary that the settlement which they had made should be continued and protected, and it was the duty in the progress of events that one of them should remain to that task. He made the selection and chose himself. He had the courage to remain alone. And while he felt the keenest desire to see his own family, he felt that he had a noble purpose to serve and was prepared for it."[C]
[Footnote C: Life of Boone, by W. H. Bogart.]
Daniel Boone, in his quaint autobiography, in the following terms alludes to the departure of his brother and his own solitary mode of life during the three months of his brother's absence:
"On the first day of May, 1770, my brother returned home to the settlement by himself for a new recruit of horses and ammunition, leaving me by myself without bread, salt or sugar, without company of my fellow creatures, or even a horse or dog. I confess I never before was under greater necessity of exercising philosophy and fortitude. A few days I passed uncomfortably. The idea of a beloved wife and family, and their anxiety on account of my absence and exposed situation, made sensible impressions on my heart. A thousand dreadful apprehensions presented themselves to my view, and had undoubtedly exposed me to melancholy if further indulged.
"One day I took a tour through the country, and the diversity and beauties of nature I met with in this charming season, expelled every gloomy and vexatious thought. Just at the close of the day the gentle gales retired and left the place to the disposal of a profound calm. Not a breeze shook the most tremulous leaf. I had gained the summit of a commanding ridge, and looking around with astonishing delight beheld the ample plain, the beauteous tracts below. On the other hand I surveyed the famous river Ohio, that rolled in silent dignity, marking the western boundary of Kentucky, with inconceivable grandeur. At a vast distance I beheld the mountains lift their venerable heads and penetrate the clouds.
"I kindled a fire near a fountain of sweet water, and feasted on the loin of a buck. The fallen shades of night soon overspread the whole hemisphere, and the earth seemed to gape after the hovering moisture. My roving excursion this day had fatigued my body and diverted my imagination. I laid me down to sleep, and I woke not until the sun had chased away the night. I continued this tour, and in a few days explored a considerable part of the country, each day equally pleased as the first. I returned to my old camp which was not disturbed in my absence. I did not confine my lodging to it, but often reposed in thick cane brakes, to avoid the savages, who I believe often visited it, but, fortunately for me, in my absence.
"In this situation I was constantly exposed to danger and death. How unhappy such a condition for a man tormented with fear, which is vain if no danger comes; and if it does, only augments the pain! It was my happiness to be destitute of this afflicting passion, with which I had the greatest reason to be affected. The prowling wolves diverted my nocturnal hours with perpetual howlings, and the various species of animals in this vast forest, in the day-time were continually in my view. Thus I was surrounded with plenty in the midst of want. I was happy in the midst of dangers and inconveniences. In such a diversity it was impossible I should be disposed to melancholy. No populous city, with all the varieties of commerce and stately structures, could afford so much pleasure to my mind, as the beauties of nature I found here.
"Thus through an uninterrupted scene of sylvan pleasures, I spent the time until the twenty-seventh day of July following, when my brother, to my great felicity, met me, according to appointment, at our old camp."
Boone was at this time thirty-six years of age. He was about five feet ten inches in height, and of remarkably vigorous and athletic frame. His life in the open air, his perfect temperance, and his freedom from all exciting passions, gave him constant health. Squire brought back to his brother the gratifying news that his wife Rebecca was in good health and spirits, and cheerfully acquiesced in whatever decision her husband might make, in reference to his absence. She had full confidence in the soundness of his judgment, and in his conjugal and parental love. The children were all well, and from the farm and the forest the wants of the family were fully supplied.
It appears that Squire Boone had succeeded in bringing one or two horses across the mountains. The abundance of grass kept them in fine condition. Upon the backs of these horses, the pioneers could traverse the treeless prairies without obstruction, and large portions of the forest were as free from underbrush as the park of an English nobleman. Invaluable as these animals were to the adventurers, they greatly increased their perils. They could not easily be concealed. Their footprints could not be effaced, and there was nothing the Indians coveted so greatly as a horse.
The two adventurers now set out on horseback for an exploring tour to the south-west. Following a line nearly parallel with the Cumberland Range, after traversing a magnificent region of beauty and fertility for about one hundred and fifty miles, they reached the banks of the Cumberland river. This majestic stream takes its rise on the western slope of the Cumberland mountains. After an exceedingly circuitous route of six hundred miles, running far down into Tennessee, it turns north-westerly again, and empties its waters into the Ohio, about sixty miles above the entrance of that river into the Mississippi.
It was mid-summer. The weather was delightful. The forest free from underbrush, attractive as the most artificial park, and the smooth sweep of the treeless prairie presented before them as enticing a route of travel as the imagination could desire. There were of course hardships and privations, which would have been regarded as very severe by the dwellers in the sealed houses, but none which disturbed in the slightest degree the equanimity of these hardy adventurers. They journeyed very leisurely; seven months being occupied in the tour. Probably only a few miles were accomplished each day. With soft saddles made of the skin of buffalo, with their horses never urged beyond a walk, with bright skies above them, and vistas of beauty ever opening before them, and luxuriance, bloom and fragrance spread everywhere around, their journey seemed replete with enjoyment of the purest kind.
Though it was necessary to practice the extreme of caution, to avoid capture by the Indians, our adventurers do not seem to have been annoyed in the slightest degree with any painful fears on that account. Each morning they carefully scanned the horizon, to see if anywhere there could be seen the smoke of the camp-fire curling up from the open prairie or from the forest. Through the day they were ever on the alert, examining the trails which they occasionally passed, to see if there were any fresh foot prints, or other indications of the recent presence of their foe. At night, before venturing to kindle their own camp-fire, they looked cautiously in every direction, to see if a gleam from an Indian encampment could anywhere be seen. Thus from the first of August to the ensuing month of March, these two bold men traversed, for many hundred miles, an unknown country, filled with wandering hunting bands of hostile Indians, and yet avoided capture or detection.
If a storm arose, they would rear their cabin in some secluded dell, and basking in the warmth of their camp-fire wait until the returning sun invited them to resume their journey. Or if they came to some of nature's favored haunts, where Eden-like attractions were spread around them, on the borders of the lake, by the banks of the stream, or beneath the brow of the mountain, they would tarry for a few days, reveling in delights, which they both had the taste to appreciate.
In this way, they very thoroughly explored the upper valley of the Cumberland river. For some reason not given, they preferred to return north several hundred miles to the Kentucky river, as the seat of their contemplated settlement. The head waters of this stream are near those of the Cumberland. It however flows through the very heart of Kentucky, till it enters the Ohio river, midway between the present cities of Cincinnati and Louisville. It was in the month of March that they reached the Kentucky river on their return. For some time they wandered along its banks searching for the more suitable situation for the location of a colony.
"The exemption of these men," said W. H. Bogart, "from assault by the Indians during all this long period of seven months, in which, armed and on horseback, they seem to have roamed just where they chose, is most wonderful. It has something about it which seems like a special interposition of Providence, beyond the ordinary guardianship over the progress of man. On the safety of these men rested the hope of a nation. A very distinguished authority has declared, that without Boone, the settlements could not have been upheld and the conquest of Kentucky would have been reserved for the emigrants of the nineteenth century."
Boone having now, after an absence of nearly two years, apparently accomplished the great object of his mission; having, after the most careful and extensive exploration, selected such a spot as he deemed most attractive for the future home of his family, decided to return to the Yadkin and make preparations for their emigration across the mountains. To us now, such a movement seems to indicate an almost insane boldness and recklessness. To take wife and children into a pathless wilderness filled with unfriendly savages, five hundred miles from any of the settlements of civilization, would seem to invite death. A family could not long be concealed. Their discovery by the Indians would be almost the certain precursor of their destruction. Boone, in his autobiography, says in allusion to this hazardous adventure:
"I returned home to my family with a determination to bring them as soon as possible, at the risk of my life and fortune, to live in Kentucky, which I esteemed a second paradise."
The two brothers accomplished the journey safely, and Daniel Boone found his family, after his long absence, in health and prosperity. One would have supposed that the charms of home on the banks of the Yadkin, where they could dwell in peace, abundance and safety, would have lured our adventurer to rest from his wanderings. And it is probable that for a time, he wavered in his resolution. Two years elapsed ere he set out for his new home in the Far-West.
There was much to be done in preparation for so momentous a movement. He sold his farm on the Yadkin and invested the proceeds in such comforts as would be available on the banks of the Kentucky. Money would be of no value to him there. A path had been discovered by which horses could be led through the mountains, and thus many articles could be transported which could not be taken in packs on the back. Several of the neighbors, elated by the description which Boone gave of the paradise he had found, were anxious to join his family in their emigration. There were also quite a number of young men rising here and there, who, lured by the romance of the adventure, were eager to accompany the expedition. All these events caused delays. The party of emigrants became more numerous than Boone at first expected.
It was not until the twenty-fifth of September, 1773, that Daniel Boone, his brother Squire, and quite a large party of emigrants, probably in all—men, women and children—not less than sixty in number, commenced their journey across the mountains. There were five families and forty pioneers, all well armed, who were quite at home amid the trials and privations of the wilderness. Four horses, heavily laden, led the train through the narrow trails of the forest. Then came, in single file, the remainder of the party, of all ages and both sexes. It must have been a singular spectacle which was presented, as this long line wound its way through the valleys and over the ridges.
Squire Boone was quite familiar with the path. It was delightful autumnal weather. The days were long and calm, and yet not oppressively hot. There were no gloved gentlemen or delicate ladies in the company. All were hardy men and women, accustomed to endurance. Each day's journey was short. An hour before the sun disappeared in the west, the little village of cabins arose, where some spring gurgled from the cliff, or some sparkling mountain stream rippled before them. In front of each cabin the camp-fire blazed. All was animation and apparent joy, as the women prepared the evening meal, and the wearied children rested upon their couch of dried leaves or fragrant twigs. If a storm arose, they had but to remain beneath their shelter until it passed away.
"Traveling," says Madame de Stael, who was accustomed to the most luxurious of European conveyances, "is the most painful of pleasures." Probably our travelers on this journey experienced as many pleasures and as few pains as often fall to the lot of any tourist. The solitary wilderness has its attractions as well as the thronged town.
These bold men armed with their rifles, under such an accomplished leader as Daniel Boone, penetrated the wilderness with almost the strength of an invading army. Upon the open prairie, the superiority of their arms would compensate for almost any inferiority of numbers. Indeed they had little to fear from the savages, unless struck suddenly with overwhelming numbers leaping upon them from some ambush. Pleasant days came and went, while nothing occurred to interrupt the prosperity of their journey. They were approaching the celebrated Cumberland Gap, which seems to be a door that nature has thrown open for passing through this great mountain barrier. The vigilance they ought to have practiced had been in some degree relaxed by their freedom from all alarm. The cows had fallen a few miles behind, seven young men were with them, a son of Daniel Boone being one of the number. The main party was not aware how far the cattle had fallen in the rear.
It is probable that the savages had been following them for several days, watching for an opportunity to strike, for suddenly, as they were passing through a narrow ravine, the fearful war-whoop resounded from the thickets on both sides, a shower of arrows fell upon them, and six of the seven young men were instantly struck down by these deadly missiles. One only escaped. The attack was so sudden, so unexpected, that the emigrants had scarcely time for one discharge of their fire-arms, ere they were struck with death. The party in advance heard with consternation the reports of the muskets, and immediately returned to the scene of the disaster. But several miles intervened. They met the fugitive who had escaped, bleeding and almost breathless.
Hurrying on, an awful spectacle met their view. The bodies of six of the young men lay in the path, mangled and gory, with their scalps torn from their heads: the cattle were driven into the forest beyond pursuit. One of these victims was the eldest son of Daniel Boone. James was a noble lad of but seventeen years. His untimely death was a terrible blow to his father and mother. This massacre took place on the tenth of October, only a fortnight after the expedition had commenced its march. The gloom which it threw over the minds of the emigrants was so great, that the majority refused to press any farther into a wilderness where they would encounter such perils.
They had already passed two mountain ridges. Between them there was a very beautiful valley, through which flows the Clinch River. This many leagues below, uniting with the Holston River, flowing on the other side of Powell's Ridge, composes the majestic Tennessee, which, extending far down into Alabama, turns again north, and traversing the whole breadth of Tennessee and Kentucky, empties into the Ohio.
Notwithstanding the remonstrances of Daniel Boone and his brother, the majority of the emigrants resolved to retreat forty miles over the Walden Ridge, and establish themselves in the valley of the Clinch. Daniel Boone, finding all his attempts to encourage them to proceed in vain, decided with his customary good sense to acquiesce in their wishes, and quietly to await further developments. The whole party consequently retraced their steps, and reared their cabins on fertile meadows in the valley of the Clinch River. Here, between parallel ridges of mountains running north-east and south-west, Boone with his disheartened emigrants passed seven months. This settlement was within the limits of the present State of Virginia, in its most extreme south-western corner.
The value of the vast country beyond the mountains was beginning to attract the attention of the governors of the several colonies. Governor Dunmore of Virginia had sent a party of surveyors to explore the valley of the Ohio River as far as the celebrated Falls of the Ohio, near the present site of Louisville. Quite a body of these surveyors had built and fortified a camp near the Falls, and were busy in exploring the country, in preparation for the granting of lands as rewards for services to the officers and soldiers in the French war. These pioneers were far away in the wilderness, four hundred miles beyond any settlement of the whites. They were surrounded by thousands of Indian warriors, and still they felt somewhat secure, as a treaty of peace had been made by the Governor of Virginia with the neighboring chiefs. But, notwithstanding this treaty, many of the more intelligent of the Indians foresaw the inevitable destruction of their hunting grounds, should the white men succeed in establishing themselves on their lands, and cutting them up into farms.
A friendly Indian had informed Governor Dunmore that a very formidable conspiracy had been organised by the tribes for the destruction of the party encamped at the Falls of the Ohio, and for the extermination of every other party of whites who should penetrate their hunting grounds. It was in accordance with this conspiracy that Daniel Boone's party was so fiercely assailed when near the Gap, in the Cumberland mountains; and it was probably the knowledge of this conspiracy, thus practically developed, which led the husbands and fathers to abandon their enterprise of plunging into the wilderness of Kentucky.
There were about forty men all numbered, in the little band of surveyors at the Falls. They were in terrible peril. Unconscious of danger, and supposing the Indians to be friendly, they were liable to be attacked on any day by overwhelming numbers of savages, and utterly exterminated. It consequently became a matter of great moment that Governor Dunmore should send them word of their danger, and if possible secure their safe return to the settlements. But who would undertake such a mission? One fraught with greater danger could not easily be imagined. The courier must traverse on foot a distance of four or five hundred miles through a pathless wilderness, filled with hunting bands of hostile savages. He must live upon the game he could shoot each day, when every discharge of his musket was liable to bring upon him scores of foes. He must either eat his food raw, or cook it at a fire whose gleam at night, or smoke by day, would be almost sure to attract the attention of death-dealing enemies. He must conceal his footprints from hunting bands, wandering far and wide in every direction, so keen in their sagacity that they could almost follow the track of the lightest-footed animal through the forest or over the prairie.
The Indians had also well-trained dogs, who being once put upon the scent, could with unerring instinct follow any object of search, until it was overtaken.
The name of Daniel Boone was mentioned to Governor Dunmore as precisely the man to meet this exigency. The Governor made application to the practiced hunter, and Boone, without the slightest hesitancy, accepted the perilous office. Indeed he seems to have been entirely unconscious of the heroism he was developing. Never did knight errant of the middle ages undertake an achievement of equal daring; for capture not only was certain death, but death under the most frightful tortures. But Boone, calm, imperturbable, pensive, with never a shade of boastfulness in word or action, embarked in the enterprise as if it had been merely one of the ordinary occurrences of every-day life. In the following modest words he records the event in his autobiography:
"I remained with my family on the Clinch river until the sixth of June, 1774, when I, and one Michael Stoner, were solicited by Governor Dunmore of Virginia, to go to the Falls of the Ohio to conduct into the settlements a number of surveyors that had been sent thither by him some months before, this country having about this time drawn the attention of many adventurers. We immediately complied with the Governor's request, and conducted in the surveyors, completing a tour of eight hundred miles, through many difficulties, in sixty-two days."
The narrative which follows will give the reader some idea of the wilderness which Boone was about to penetrate and the perils which he was to encounter.
An emigrant of these early days who lived to witness the transformation of the wilderness from a scene of unbroken solitude into the haunts of busy men, in the following words describes this change and its influence upon the mind:
"To a person who has witnessed all the changes which have taken place in the western country since its first settlement, its former appearance is like a dream or romance. He will find it difficult to realise the features of that wilderness which was the abode of his infant days. The little cabin of his father no longer exists. The little field and truck patch which gave him a scanty supply of coarse bread and vegetables have been swallowed up in the extended meadows, orchard or grain fields. The rude fort in which his people had resided so many painful summers has vanished.
"Everywhere surrounded by the busy hum of men and the splendor, arts, refinements and comforts of civilised life, his former state and that of his country have vanished from his memory; or if sometimes he bestows a reflection on its original aspect, the mind seems to be carried back to a period of time much more remote than it really is. One advantage at least results from having lived in a state of society ever on the change and always for the better, that it doubles the retrospect of life. With me at any rate it has had that effect. Did not the definite number of my years teach me to the contrary, I should think myself at least one hundred years old instead of fifty. The case is said to be widely different with those who have passed their lives in cities or ancient settlements where, from year to year, the same unchanging aspect of things presents itself.
"One prominent feature of the wilderness is its solitude. Those who plunged into the bosom of this forest left behind them not only the busy hum of men, but of domesticated animal life generally. The solitude of the night was interrupted only by the howl of the wolf, the melancholy moan of the ill-boding owl or the shriek of the frightful panther. Even the faithful dog, the only steadfast companion of man among the brute creation, partook of the silence of the desert; the discipline of his master forbade him to bark or move but in obedience to his command, and his native sagacity soon taught the propriety of obedience to this severe government.
"The day was, if possible, more solitary than the night. The noise of the wild turkey, the croaking of the raven, or the woodpecker tapping the hollow beech tree, did not much enliven the dreary scene. The various tribes of singing birds are not inhabitants of the desert. They are not carnivorous and therefore must be fed from the labors of man. At any rate they did not exist in this country at its first settlement.
"Let the imagination of the reader pursue the track of the adventurer into the solitary wilderness, bending his course towards the setting sun over undulating hills, under the shade of large forest trees, and wading through the rank weeds and grass which then covered the earth. Now he views from the top of a hill the winding course of a creek whose streams he wishes to explore. Doubtful of its course and of his own, he ascertains the cardinal points of north and south by the thickness of the moss and bark on the north side of the ancient trees. Now descending into a valley, he presages his approach to a river by seeing large ash, basswood and sugar trees beautifully festooned with wild grape vines. Watchful as Argus, his restless eye catches everything around him.
"In an unknown region and surrounded with dangers, he is the sentinel of his own safety and relies on himself for protection. The toilsome march of the day being ended, at the fall of night he seeks for safety some narrow sequestered hollow, and by the side of a large log builds a fire and, after eating a coarse and scanty meal, wraps himself up in his blanket and lays him self down for repose on his bed of leaves, with his feet to the fire, hoping for favorable dreams, ominous of future good luck, while his faithful dog and gun rest by his side.
"But let not the reader suppose that the pilgrim of the wilderness could feast his imagination with the romantic beauties of nature, without any drawback from conflicting passions. His situation did not afford him much time for contemplation. He was an exile from the warm clothing and plentiful mansions of society. His homely woodman's dress soon became old and ragged. The cravings of hunger compelled him to sustain from day to day the fatigues of the chase. Often he had to eat his venison, bear's meat, or wild turkey without bread or salt. His situation was not without its dangers. He did not know at what moment his foot might be stung by a serpent, at what moment he might meet with the formidable bear, or on what limb of a tree over his head the murderous panther might be perched, in a squatting attitude, to drop down upon him and tear him in pieces in a moment.
"Exiled from society and its comforts, the situation of the first adventurers was perilous in the extreme. The bite of a serpent, a broken limb, a wound of any kind, or a fit of sickness in the wilderness without those accommodations which wounds and sickness require, was a dreadful calamity. The bed of sickness, without medical aid, and above all to be destitute of the kind attention of a mother, sister, wife, or other female friends, was a situation which could not be anticipated by the tenant of the forest, with other sentiments than those of the deepest horror."[D]
[Footnote D: Doddridge's Notes.]
There are no narratives of more thrilling interest than those which describe the perils and hair-breadth escapes which some of these bold hunters encountered. Immediately after the purchase of Louisiana, an expedition under Lewis and Clark was fitted out, under President Jefferson's administration, to explore the vast, mysterious, undefined realms which the government had purchased. In the month of May, 1804, the expedition, in birch canoes, commenced the ascent of the Missouri river.
They knew not whence its source, what its length or the number of its tributaries, through what regions of fertility or barrenness it flowed, or what the character of the nations who might inhabit its banks. Paddling up the rapid current of this flood of waters in their frail boats, the ascent was slow. By the latter part of October they had reached a point fifteen hundred miles above the spot where the Missouri enters the Mississippi. Here they spent the winter with some friendly Indians called the Mandans.
Early in April, Lewis and Clark, with thirty men in their canoes, resumed their voyage. Their course was nearly west. In May they reached the mouth of the Yellow Stone river, and on the 13th of June came to the Great Falls of the Missouri. Here they found a series of cataracts ten miles in length. At one spot the river plunged over a precipice eighty-seven feet in height. Carrying their canoes around these falls, they re-embarked, and paddled through what they called "The Gates of the Rocky Mountains." Here for six miles they were in a narrow channel with perpendicular walls of rock, rising on both sides to the height of twelve hundred feet. Thus these adventurers continued their voyage till they reached the head of navigation, three thousand miles from the mouth of the Missouri river. Passing through the mountains they launched their canoes on streams flowing to the west, through which they entered the Columbia river, reaching its mouth, through a thousand perils on the 15th of November. They were now more than four thousand miles distant from the mouth of the Missouri. Such was the breadth of the estate we had purchased of France.
Here they passed their second winter. In the early spring they commenced their return. When they arrived at the Falls of the Missouri they encountered a numerous band of Indians, very bold and daring, called the Blackfoot. These savages were astonished beyond measure, at the effect of the rifle which could emit thunder and lightning, and a deadly though invisible bolt. Some of the boldest endeavored to wrench the rifles from some of the Americans. Mr. Lewis found it necessary to shoot one of them before they would desist. The rest fled in dismay, but burning with the desire for revenge. The explorers continuing their voyage arrived at Saint Louis on the 23rd of September, 1806, having been absent more than two years, and having traveled more than nine thousand miles.
When the expedition, on its return, had reached the head waters of the Missouri, two of these fearless men, Colter and Potts, decided to remain in the wilderness to hunt beaver. Being well aware of the hostility of the Blackfoot Indians, within whose regions they were, they set their traps at night, and took them up in the first dawn of the day. Early one morning, they were ascending a creek in a canoe, visiting their traps, when they were alarmed by a great noise, like the trampling of animals. They could see nothing, as the perpendicular banks of the river impeded their view. Yet they hoped that the noise was occasioned simply by the rush of a herd of buffaloes.
Their doubts were soon painfully removed. A band of six hundred Blackfoot warriors appeared upon each side of the creek. Escape was hopeless. The Indians beckoned to the hunters to come ashore. Colter turned the head of the canoe towards the bank, and as soon as it touched the land, a burly savage seized the rifle belonging to Potts, and wrenched it from his hand. But Colter, who was a man of extraordinary activity and strength, grasped the rifle, tore it from the hands of the Indian, and handed it back to Potts. Colter stepped ashore and was a captive. Potts, with apparent infatuation, but probably influenced by deliberate thought, pushed again out into the stream. He knew that, as a captive, death by horrible torture awaited him. He preferred to provoke the savages to his instant destruction. An arrow was shot at him, which pierced his body. He took deliberate aim at the Indian who threw it and shot him dead upon the spot. Instantly a shower of arrows whizzed through the air, and he fell a dead man in the bottom of the boat. The earthly troubles of Potts were ended. But fearful were those upon which Colter was about to enter.
The Indians, after some deliberation respecting the manner in which they would put him to death, stripped him entirely naked, and one of the chiefs led him out upon the prairie to the distance of three or four hundred yards from the rest of the band who were grouped together. Colter then perceived that he was to have the dreadful privilege of running for his life;—he, entirely naked and unarmed, to be pursued by six hundred fleet-footed Indians with arrows and javelins, and with their feet and limbs protected from thorns and brambles by moccasins and deerskin leggins.
"Save yourself if you can," said the chief in the Blackfoot language as he set him loose. Colter sprung forward with almost supernatural speed. Instantly the Indian's war-whoop burst from the lips of his six hundred pursuers. They were upon a plain about six miles in breadth abounding with the prickly pear. At the end of the plain there was Jefferson river, a stream but a few rods wide. Every step Colter took, bounding forward with almost the speed of an antelope, his naked feet were torn by the thorns. The physical effort he made was so great that the blood gushed from his nostrils, and flowed profusely down over his chest. He had half crossed the plain before he ventured to glance over his shoulder upon his pursuers, who, with hideous yells, like baying bloodhounds, seemed close upon his heels. Much to his relief he perceived that he had greatly distanced most of the Indians, though one stout savage, with a javelin in his hand, was within a hundred yards of him.
Hope reanimated him. Regardless of lacerated feet and blood, he pressed forward with renovated vigor until he arrived within about a mile of the river, when he found that his pursuer was gaining rapidly upon him. He could hear his breathing and the sound of his footsteps, and expected every moment to feel the sharp javelin piercing his back.
In his desperation he suddenly stopped, turned round and stretching out both of his arms, rushed, in his utter defencelessness, upon the armed warrior. The savage, startled by this unexpected movement and by the bloody appearance of his victim, stumbled and fell, breaking his spear as he attempted to throw it. Colter instantly snatched up the pointed part, and pinned his foe, quivering with convulsions to the earth.
Again he plunged forward on the race for life. The Indians, as they came up, stopped for a moment around the body of their slain comrade, and then, with hideous yells, resumed the pursuit. The stream was fringed with a dense growth of cotton-wood trees. Colter rushed through them, thus concealed from observation, and seeing near by a large raft of drift timber, he plunged into the water, dived under the raft and fortunately succeeded in getting his head above the water between the logs, where smaller wood covered him to the depth of several feet.
Scarcely had he attained this hiding place ere the Indians like so many fiends came rushing down to the river's bank. They searched the cotton-wood thickets, and traversed the raft in all directions. They frequently came so near the hiding place of Colter that he could see them through the chinks. He was terribly afraid that they would set fire to the raft. Night came on, and the Indians disappeared. Colter, in the darkness, dived from under the raft, swam down the river to a considerable distance, and then landed and traveled all night, following the course of the stream.
"Although happy in having escaped from the Indians, his situation was still dreadful. He was completely naked under a burning sun. The soles of his feet were filled with the thorns of the prickly pear. He was hungry and had no means of killing game, although he saw abundance around him; and was at a great distance from the nearest settlement. After some days of sore travel, during which he had no other sustenance than the root known by naturalists under the name of psoralea esculenta, he at length arrived in safety at Lisa Fort, on the Big Horn, a branch of the Yellow Stone river."
Captivity and Flight.
Heroism of Thomas Higgins and of Mrs. Pursley.—Affairs at Boonesborough.—Continued Alarms.—Need of Salt.—Its Manufacture.—Indian Schemes.—Capture of Boone and twenty-seven men.—Dilemma of the British at Detroit.—Blackfish adopts Colonel Boone.—Adoption Ceremony.—Indian Designs.—Escape of Boone.—Attacks the Savages.—The Fort Threatened.
The following well authenticated account of the adventures of a ranger is so graphically described in Brown's History of Illinois, that we give it in the words of the writer:
"Thomas Higgins, a native Kentuckian, was, in the summer of 1814, stationed in a block-house eight miles south of Greenville, in what is now Bond County, Illinois. On the evening of the 30th of August, 1814, a small party of Indians having been seen prowling about the station, Lieutenant Journay, with all his men, twelve only in number, sallied forth the next morning, just before daybreak, in pursuit of them. They had not proceeded far on the border of the prairie, before they were in an ambuscade of seventy or eighty savages. At the first fire, the lieutenant and three of his men were killed. Six fled to the fort under cover of the smoke, for the morning was sultry, and the air being damp, the smoke from the guns hung like a cloud over the scene. But Higgins remained behind to have 'one more pull at the enemy,' and to avenge the death of his companions.
"He sprang behind a small elm scarcely sufficient to protect his body, when, the smoke partly rising, discovered to him a number of Indians, upon whom he fired, and shot down the foremost one. Concealed still by the smoke, Higgins reloaded, mounted his horse, and turned to fly, when a voice, apparently from the grass, hailed him with: Tom, you won't leave me, will you?
"He turned immediately around, and seeing a fellow soldier by the name of Burgess lying on the ground, wounded and gasping for breath, replied, 'No, I will not leave you; come along.' 'I can't come,' said Burgess, 'my leg is all smashed to pieces.'
"Higgins dismounted, and taking up his friend, whose ankle had been broken, was about to lift him on his horse, when the animal, taking fright, darted off in an instant and left them both behind. 'This is too bad,' said Higgins, 'but don't fear. You hop off on your three legs and I will stay behind between you and the Indians and keep them off. Get into the tallest grass and creep as near the ground as possible.' Burgess did so and escaped.
"The smoke which had hitherto concealed Higgins now cleared away, and he resolved, if possible, to retreat. To follow the track of Burgess was most expedient. It would, however, endanger his friend. He determined, therefore, to venture boldly forward and, if discovered, to secure his own safety by the rapidity of his flight. On leaving a small thicket in which he had sought refuge, he discovered a tall, portly savage near by, and two others in the direction between him and the fort.
"He started, therefore, for a little rivulet near, but found one of his limbs failing him, it having been struck by a ball in the first encounter, of which, till now, he was scarcely conscious. The largest Indian pressed close upon him, and Higgins turned round two or three times in order to fire. The Indian halted and danced about to prevent his taking aim. He saw that it was unsafe to fire at random, and perceiving two others approaching, knew that he must be overpowered unless he could dispose of the forward Indian first. He resolved, therefore, to halt and receive his fire.
"The Indian raised his rifle, and Higgins, watching his eye, turned suddenly as his finger pressed the trigger, and received the ball in his thigh. He fell, but rose immediately and ran. The foremost Indian, now certain of his prey, loaded again, and with the other two pressed on. They overtook him. He fell again, and as he rose the whole three fired, and he received all their balls. He now fell and rose a third time, and the Indians, throwing away their guns, advanced upon him with spears and knives. As he presented his gun at one or another, each fell back. At last the largest Indian, supposing his gun to be empty, from his fire having been thus reserved, advanced boldly to the charge. Higgins fired and the savage fell.
"He had now four bullets in his body, an empty gun in his hand, two Indians unharmed as yet before him, and a whole tribe but a few yards distant. Any other man would have despaired. Not so with him. He had slain the most dangerous of the three, and having but little to fear from the others, began to load his rifle. They raised a savage whoop and rushed to the encounter. A bloody conflict now ensued. The Indians stabbed him in several places. Their spears, however, were but thin poles, hastily prepared, and which bent whenever they struck a rib or a muscle. The wounds they made were not therefore deep, though numerous.
"At last one of them threw his tomahawk. It struck him upon the cheek, severed his ear, laid bare his skull to the back of his head, and stretched him upon the prairie. The Indians again rushed on, but Higgins, recovering his self-possession, kept them off with his feet and hands. Grasping at length one of their spears, the Indian, in attempting to pull it from him, raised Higgins up, who, taking his rifle, dashed out the brains of the nearest savage. In doing this, however, it broke, the barrel only remaining in his hand. The other Indian, who had heretofore fought with caution, came now manfully into the battle. His character as a warrior was in jeopardy. To have fled from a man thus wounded and disarmed, or to have suffered his victim to escape, would have tarnished his fame for ever. Uttering, therefore, a terrific yell, he rushed on and attempted to stab the exhausted ranger. But the latter warded off his blow with one hand and brandished his rifle barrel with the other. The Indian was as yet unharmed, and, under existing circumstances, by far the most powerful man. Higgins' courage, however, was unexhausted and inexhaustible.
"The savage at last began to retreat from the glare of his untamed eye to the spot where he had dropped his rifle. Higgins knew that if he recovered that, his own case was desperate. Throwing, therefore, his rifle barrel aside, and drawing his hunting knife he rushed upon his foe. A desperate strife ensued—deep gashes were inflicted on both sides. Higgins, fatigued and exhausted by the loss of blood, was no longer a match for the savage. The latter succeeded in throwing his adversary from him, and went immediately in pursuit of his rifle. Higgins at the same time rose and sought for the gun of the other Indian. Both, therefore, bleeding and out of breath, were in search of arms to renew the combat.
"The smoke had now passed away, and a large number of Indians were in view. Nothing, it would seem, could now save the gallant ranger. There was, however, an eye to pity and an arm to save, and that arm was a woman's. The little garrison had witnessed the whole combat. It consisted of but six men and one woman; that woman, however, was a host—a Mrs. Pursley. When she saw Higgins contending single-handed with a whole tribe of savages, she urged the rangers to attempt his rescue. The rangers objected, as the Indians were ten to one. Mrs. Pursley, therefore, snatched a rifle from her husband's hand, and declaring that 'so fine a fellow as Tom Higgins should not be lost for want of help,' mounted a horse and sallied forth to his rescue.
"The men, unwilling to be outdone by a woman, followed at full gallop, reached the spot where Higgins had fainted and fell, before the Indians came up, and while the savage with whom he had been engaged was looking for his rifle, his friends lifted the wounded ranger up and throwing him across a horse before one of the party, reached the fort in safety.
"Higgins was insensible for several days, and his life was preserved by continued care. His friends extracted two of the balls from his thigh. Two, however, yet remained, one of which gave him a good deal of pain. Hearing afterwards that a physician had settled within a day's ride of him, he determined to go and see him. The physician asked him fifty dollars for the operation. This Higgins flatly refused, saying that it was more than half a year's pension. On reaching home he found that the exercise of riding had made the ball discernable; he requested his wife, therefore, to hand him his razor. With her assistance he laid open his thigh until the edge of the razor touched the bullet, then, inserting his two thumbs into the gash, 'he flirted it out,' as he used to say, 'without it costing him a cent.'
"The other ball yet remained. It gave him, however, but little pain, and he carried it with him to the grave. Higgins died in Fayette County, Illinois, a few years ago. He was the most perfect specimen of a frontier man in his day, and was once assistant door-keeper of the House of Representatives in Illinois. The facts above stated are familiar to many to whom Higgins was personally known, and there is no doubt of their correctness."[E]
[Footnote E: Brown's Illinois.]
This narrative gives one a very vivid idea of the nature of the conflict in which Boone, through so many years of his life, was engaged. The little fort, whose feeble garrison he commanded, was liable at any time to be assailed by overwhelming numbers.
Daniel Boone, during his occupancy of the fort at Boonesborough, manifested the most constant vigilance to guard against surprise. He was however struggling against a foe whose cunning and strategems were such, as not to allow him an hour of quiet. One morning two men laboring in the field were shot at by the Indians. Not being hit, they ran for the fort. They were pursued by the savages, and one was tomahawked and scalped within a few hundred feet of the gate. Boone hearing the alarm, inconsiderately rushed out with ten men upon the miscreants. They fled before him hotly pursued. In the eagerness of the chase, Boone had not counted the number of his foes. Some of them rushing from their ambush cut off his retreat. At one discharge, six of his men fell wounded. Boone's leg was shattered by a ball.
As he fell to the ground, the tomahawk of a savage was over his head. Simon Kenton, who was one of Boone's party, with sure aim pierced the heart of the savage with a rifle bullet and he fell dead. Reinforcements rushed from the fort, and fortunately succeeded in rescuing the adventurous party, the wounded and all. It is said of Boone, that though a silent man and not given to compliments, he manifested very deep gratitude to his friend Kenton for saving his life. The very peculiar character of Boone is vividly presented in the following sketch, from the graphic pen of Mr. Peck:
"As dangers thickened and appearances grew more alarming, as scouts came in with rumors of Indians seen here and there, and as the hardy and bold woodsmen sat around their camp-fires with the loaded rifle at hand, rehearsing for the twentieth time the tales of noble daring, or the hair-breadth escapes, Boone would sit silent, apparently not heeding the conversation, employed in repairing the rents in his hunting shirt and leggins, moulding bullets or cleaning his rifle. Yet the eyes of the garrison were upon him. Concerning 'Indian signs' he was an oracle.
"Sometimes with one or two trusty companions, but more frequently alone, as night closed in, he would steal noiselessly away into the woods, to reconnoiter the surrounding wilderness. And in the day time, stealthily would he creep along with his trusty rifle resting on his arm, ready for the least sign of danger, his keen, piercing eyes glancing into every thicket and canebrake, or watch intently for 'signs' of the wiley enemy. Accustomed to range the country as a hunter and a scout, he would frequently meet the approaching travelers on the road and pilot them into the settlement, while his rifle supplied them with provisions. He was ever more ready to aid the community, or to engage in public services, than to attend to his private interests."
The want of salt had become one of the greatest privations of the garrison. It was an article essential to comfort and health, and yet, in the warfare then existing, was almost impossible of attainment. Upon the Sicking river, nearly a hundred miles north from Boonesborough, there were valuable springs richly impregnated with salt. Animals from all quarters frequented these springs, licking the saturated clay around them. Hence the name of Salt Licks. Evaporating the water by boiling in large kettles, salt of a good quality was easily obtained. The necessities of the garrison became so great, that Colonel Boone took a well-armed party of thirty men, and threading their way through the wilderness, at length reached the springs unassailed. It was one of the boldest of adventures. It was certain that the watchful Indians would learn that a party had left the cover of the fort, and would fall upon them with great ferocity.
Colonel Boone, who desired to obtain salt for all the garrisons, deemed it consequently necessary to work night and day with the greatest possible diligence. They could never venture to move a step beyond the grasp of their rifles. For nearly four weeks the salt-makers pursued their work unassailed. The news of so strong and well armed a party having left the fort, reached the ears of the Indians. They had a very great dread of Boone, and knew very well he would not be found sleeping or unprotected, at the springs. They shrewdly inferred that the departure of so many men must greatly weaken the garrison, and that they could never hope for a more favorable opportunity to attack Boonesborough.
This formidable fortress was the great object of their dread. They thought that if they could lay it in ashes, making it the funeral pyre of all its inmates, the weaker forts would be immediately abandoned by their garrisons in despair, or could easily be captured. An expedition was formed, consisting of more than a hundred Indian warriors, and accompanied it is said by two Frenchmen. Boone had sent three men back to the garrison, loaded with salt, and to convey tidings of the good condition of the party at the springs.
On the morning of the seventh of February, Boone, who was unequalled in his skill as a hunter, and also in the sagacity by which he could avoid the Indians, was out in search of game as food for the party. Emboldened by the absence of all signs of the vicinity of the Indians, he had wandered some distance from the springs, where he encountered this band of warriors, attended by the two Frenchmen, on the march for the assault on Boonesborough. Though exceedingly fleet of foot, his attempt to escape was in vain. The young Indian runners overtook and captured him.
The Indians seem to have had great respect for Boone. Even with them he had acquired the reputation of being a just and humane man, while his extraordinary abilities, both as a hunter and a warrior, had won their admiration. Boone was not heading a war party to assail them. He had not robbed them of any of their horses. They were therefore not exasperated against him personally. It is also not improbable that the Frenchmen who were with them had influenced them not to treat their prisoner with barbarity.
Boone, whose spirits seemed never to be perturbed, yielded so gracefully to his captors as to awaken in their bosoms some emotions of kindness. They promised that if the party at the springs would yield without resistance—which resistance, though unavailing, they knew would cost them the lives of many of their warriors—the lives of the captives should be safe, and they should not be exposed to any inhuman treatment. Boone was much perplexed. Had he been with his men, he would have fought to the last extremity, and his presence not improbably might have inspirited them, even to a successful defence. But deprived of their leader, taken entirely by surprise, and outnumbered three or four to one, their massacre was certain. And it was also certain that the Indians, exasperated by the loss which they would have encountered, would put every prisoner to death, through all the horrors of fiendlike torture.
Under these circumstances, Colonel Boone very wisely decided upon surrender. It would have been very impolitic and cruel to do otherwise. He having thus given his word, the Indians placed implicit confidence in it. They were also perfectly faithful to their own promises. Boone was allowed to approach his men, and represent the necessity of a surrender, which was immediately effected. The Indians were so elated by this great victory, and were so well satisfied with the result of the campaign, that instead of continuing their march for the attack of Boonesborough, they returned with their illustrious captive and his twenty-seven companions to their head-quarters on the Little Miami River.
The modest, unaffected account which Boone himself gives of these transactions, is worthy of record here:
"On the seventh of February, as I was hunting to procure meat for the company, I met a party of one hundred and two Indians, and two Frenchmen, on their march against Boonesborough; that place being particularly the object of the enemy. They pursued and took me, and brought me the eighth day to the Licks, where twenty-seven of my party were, three of them having previously returned home with the salt. I, knowing it was impossible for them to escape, capitulated with the enemy, and at a distance, in their view, gave notice to my men of their situation with orders not to resist, but surrender themselves captives.
"The generous usage the Indians had promised before in my capitulation, was afterwards fully complied with, and we proceeded with them as prisoners to Old Chilicothe, the principal Indian town on Little Miami, where we arrived, after an uncomfortable journey in very severe weather, on the eighteenth of February, and received as good treatment as prisoners could expect from savages. On the tenth of March following, I and ten of my men were conducted by forty Indians to Detroit, where we arrived the thirtieth day, and were treated by Governor Hamilton, the British commander at that post, with great humanity.
"During our travels, the Indians entertained me well, and their affection for me was so great, that they utterly refused to leave me there with the others, although the Governor offered them one hundred pounds sterling for me, on purpose to give me a parole to go home. Several English gentlemen there, being sensible of my adverse fortune, and touched with human sympathy, generously offered a friendly supply for my wants, which I refused with many thanks for their kindness, adding that I never expected it would be in my power to recompense such unmerited generosity."
The British officers in Detroit could not venture to interfere in behalf of Colonel Boone, in any way which would displease their savage allies, for they relied much upon them in their warfare against the colonies.
There was much in the character of our hero to win the affection of the savages. His silent, unboastful courage they admired. He was more than their equal in his skill in traversing the pathless forest. His prowess as a hunter they fully appreciated. It was their hope that he would consent to be incorporated in their tribe, and they would gladly have accepted him as one of their chiefs. The savages had almost universally sufficient intelligence to appreciate the vast superiority of the white man.
The Indians spent ten days at Detroit, and surrendered, for a ransom, all their captives to the English, excepting Colonel Boone. Him they took back on a long and fatiguing journey to Old Chilicothe on the Little Miami. The country they traversed, now so full of wealth, activity, and all the resources of individual and social happiness, was then a vast wilderness, silent and lonely. Still in its solitude it was very beautiful, embellished with fertile plains, magnificent groves, and crystal streams. At Chilicothe, Colonel Boone was formally adopted, according to an Indian custom, into the family of Blackfish, one of the distinguished chiefs of the Shawanese tribe.
"At Chilicothe," writes Boone, "I spent my time as comfortably as I could expect. I was adopted according to their custom, into a family where I became a son, and had a great share in the affection of my new parents, brothers, sisters and friends. I was exceedingly familiar and friendly with them, always appearing as cheerful and satisfied as possible, and they put great confidence in me. I often went hunting with them, and frequently gained their applause for my activity, at our shooting matches. I was careful not to excel them when shooting, for no people are more envious than they in their sport. I could observe in their countenances and gestures, the greatest expressions of joy when they exceeded me, and when the reverse happened, of envy. The Shawanese king took great notice of me, and treated me with profound respect and entire friendship, often trusting me to hunt at my liberty. I frequently returned with the spoils of the woods, and as often presented some of what I had taken to him, expressive of my duty to my sovereign. My food and lodging were in common with them. Not so good, indeed, as I could desire, but necessity makes everything acceptable."
The spirit manifested by Boone under these circumstances, when he was apparently a hopeless prisoner in the hands of the Indians, was not influenced by artifice alone. He had real sympathy for the savages, being fully conscious of the wrongs which were often inflicted upon them, and which goaded their untamed natures to fearful barbarities. He had always treated them not only kindly, but with fraternal respect. The generous treatment he had received in return won his regards. His peculiarly placid nature was not easily disturbed by any reverses. Let what would happen, he never allowed himself to complain or to worry. Thus making the best of circumstances, he always looked upon the brightest side of things, and was reasonably happy, even in this direful captivity. Still he could not forget his home, and was continually on the alert to avail himself of whatever opportunity might be presented to escape and return to his friends.
The ceremony of adoption was pretty severe and painful. All the hair of the head was plucked out by a tedious operation, leaving simply a tuft three or four inches in diameter on the crown. This was called the scalp-lock. The hair was here allowed to grow long, and was dressed with ribbons and feathers. It was to an individual warrior what the banner is to an army. The victor tore it from the skull as his trophy. Having thus denuded the head and dressed the scalp-lock, the candidate was taken to the river and very thoroughly scrubbed, that all the white blood might be washed out of him. His face was painted in the most approved style of Indian taste, when he was led to the council lodge and addressed by the chief in a long and formal speech, in which he expatiates upon the honor conferred upon the adopted son, and upon the corresponding duties expected of him.
Colonel Boone having passed through this transformation, with his Indian dress and his painted cheeks, his tufted scalp-lock and his whole person embrowned by constant exposure to the open air, could scarcely be distinguished from any of his Indian associates. His wary captors however, notwithstanding all the kindness with which they treated him, seemed to be conscious that it must be his desire to return to his friends. They therefore habitually, but without a remark suggestive of any suspicions, adopted precautions to prevent his escape. So skilful a hunter as Boone could, with his rifle and a supply of ammunition, traverse the solitary expanse around for almost any length of time, living in abundance. But deprived of his rifle or of ammunition, he would soon almost inevitably perish of starvation. The Indians were therefore very careful not to allow him to accumulate any ammunition, which was so essential to sustain him in a journey through the wilderness.
Though Boone was often allowed to go out alone to hunt, they always counted his balls and the charges of powder. Thus they could judge whether he had concealed any ammunition to aid him, should he attempt to escape. He however, with equal sagacity, cut the balls in halves, and used very small charges of powder. Thus he secretly laid aside quite a little store of ammunition. As ever undismayed by misfortune, he serenely gave the energies of his mind to the careful survey of the country around.
"During the time that I hunted for them," he writes, "I found the land for a great extent about this river to exceed the soil of Kentucky if possible, and remarkably well watered."
Upon one of the branches of the Scioto river, which stream runs about sixty miles east of the Little Miami, there were some salt springs. Early in June a party of the Indians set out for these "Licks" to make salt. They took Boone with them. The Indians were quite averse to anything like hard work. Boone not only understood the process of manufacture perfectly, but was always quietly and energetically devoted to whatever he undertook. The Indians, inspired by the double motive of the desire to obtain as much salt as possible, and to hold securely the prisoner, whom they so highly valued, kept him so busy at the kettles as to give him no opportunity to escape.
After an absence of about a fortnight, they returned with a good supply of salt to the Little Miami. Here Boone was quite alarmed to find that during his absence the chiefs had been marshaling a band of four hundred and fifty of their bravest warriors to attack Boonesborough. In that fort were his wife and his children. Its capture would probably insure their slaughter. He was aware that the fort was not sufficiently guarded by its present inmates, and that, unapprehensive of impending danger, they were liable to be taken entirely by surprise. Boone was sufficiently acquainted with the Shawanese dialect to understand every word they said, while he very sagaciously had assumed, from the moment of his captivity, that he was entirely ignorant of their language.
Boone's anxiety was very great. He was compelled to assume a smiling face as he attended their war dances. Apparently unmoved, he listened to the details of their plans for the surprise of the fort. Indeed, to disarm suspicion and to convince them that he had truly become one of their number, he co-operated in giving efficiency to their hostile designs against all he held most dear in the world.
It had now become a matter of infinite moment that he should immediately escape and carry to his friends in the fort the tidings of their peril. But the slightest unwary movement would have led the suspicious Indians so to redouble their vigilance as to render escape utterly impossible. So skilfully did he conceal the emotions which agitated him, and so successfully did he feign entire contentment with his lot, that his captors, all absorbed in the enterprise in which they were engaged, remitted their ordinary vigilance.
On the morning of the sixteenth of June, Boone rose very early to take his usual hunt. With his secreted ammunition, and the amount allowed him by the Indians for the day, he hoped to be able to save himself from starvation, during his flight of five days through the pathless wilderness. There was a distance of one hundred and sixty miles between Old Chilicothe and Boonesborough. The moment his flight should be suspected, four hundred and fifty Indian warriors, breathing vengeance, and in perfect preparation for the pursuit, would be on his track. His capture would almost certainly result in his death by the most cruel tortures; for the infuriated Indians would wreak upon him all their vengeance.
It is however not probable that this silent, pensive man allowed these thoughts seriously to disturb his equanimity. An instinctive trust in God seemed to inspire him. He was forty-three years of age. In the knowledge of wood-craft, and in powers of endurance, no Indian surpassed him. Though he would be pursued by sagacious and veteran warriors and by young Indian braves, a pack of four hundred and fifty savages following with keener scent than that of the bloodhound, one poor victim, yet undismayed, he entered upon the appalling enterprise. The history of the world perhaps presents but few feats so difficult, and yet so successfully performed. And yet the only record which this modest man makes, in his autobiography, of this wonderful adventure is as follows:
"On the sixteenth, before sunrise, I departed in the most secret manner, and arrived at Boonesborough on the twentieth, after a journey of one hundred and sixty miles, during which I had but one meal."
It was necessary, as soon as Boone got out of sight of the village, to fly with the utmost speed, to put as great a distance as possible between himself and his pursuers, before they should suspect his attempt at escape. He subsequently learned that as soon as the Indians apprehended that he had actually fled, there was the most intense commotion in their camp, and immediately a large number of their fleetest runners and keenest hunters were put upon his trail. He dared not fire a gun. Had he killed any game he could not have ventured to kindle a fire to cook it. He had secretly provided himself with a few cuts of dried venison with which he could appease his hunger as he pressed forward by day and by night, scarcely allowing himself one moment for rest or sleep. His route lay through forests and swamps, and across many streams swollen by recent rains.
At length he reached the Ohio river. Its current was swift and turbid, rolling in a majestic flood half a mile in width, filling the bed of the stream with almost fathomless waters from shore to shore. Experienced as Colonel Boone was in wood-craft, he was not a skilful swimmer. The thought of how he should cross the Ohio had caused him much anxiety. Upon reaching its banks he fortunately—may we not say providentially—found an old canoe which had drifted among the bushes upon the shore. There was a large hole at one end, and it was nearly filled with water. He succeeded in bailing out the water and plugging up the hole, and crossed the river in safety. Then for the first time he so far indulged in a feeling of security as to venture to shoot a turkey, and kindling a fire he feasted abundantly upon the rich repast. It was the only meal in which he indulged during his flight of five days.
On his arrival at Boonesborough, he was welcomed as one risen from the grave. Much to his disappointment he found that his wife with his children, despairing of ever seeing him again, had left the fort and returned to the house of her father, in North Carolina. She supposed that the Indians had killed him. "Oppressed," writes Boone, "with the distresses of the country and bereaved of me, her only happiness, she had undertaken her long and perilous journey through the wilderness." It is gratifying to record that she reached her friends in safety.
Boone found the fort as he had apprehended, in a bad state of defence. His presence, his military skill, and the intelligence he brought, immediately inspired every man to the intensest exertion. The gates were strengthened, new bastions were formed, and provisions were laid in, to stand a siege. Everything was done which could be done to repel an assault from they knew not how many savages, aided by British leaders, for the band from old Chilicothe, was to be joined by warriors from several other tribes. In ten days, Boonesborough was ready for the onset. These arduous labors being completed, Boone heroically resolved to strike consternation into the Indians, by showing them that he was prepared for aggressive as well as defensive warfare, and that they must leave behind them warriors for the protection of their own villages.
Selecting a small party of but nineteen men, about the first of August he emerged from Boonesborough, marched boldly to the Ohio, crossed the river, entered the valley of the Scioto, and was within four miles of an Indian town, Paint Creek, which he intended to destroy, when he chanced to encounter a band of thirty savages painted, thoroughly armed and on the war path, to join the band advancing from Old Chilicothe. The Indians were attacked with such vehemence by Boone, that they fled in consternation, leaving behind them three horses and all their baggage. The savages also lost one killed and two wounded, while they inflicted no loss whatever upon the white men.
Boone sent forward some swift runners as spies, and they speedily returned with the report that the Indians in a panic had entirely abandoned Paint Creek. Aware that the warriors would rush to join the four hundred and fifty from Old Chilicothe, and that they might cut off his retreat, or reach Boonesborough before his return, he immediately commenced a rapid movement back to the fort. Every man would be needed there for an obstinate defence. This foray had extended one hundred and fifty miles from the fort. It greatly alarmed the Indians. It emboldened the hearts of the garrison, and gave them intelligence of the approach of their foes. After an absence of but seven days, Boone with his heroic little band quite triumphantly re-entered the fort.
The approach of the foe is described in the following terms by Boone:
"On the eighth of August, the Indian army arrived, being four hundred and forty-four in number, commanded by Captain Duquesne, eleven other Frenchmen and some of their own chiefs, and marched up in view of our fort, with British and French colors flying. And having sent a summons to me in His Britannic Majesty's name to surrender the fort, I requested two days' consideration which was granted. It was now a critical period with us. We were a small number in the garrison; a powerful army before our walls, whose appearance proclaimed inevitable death; fearfully painted and marking their footsteps with desolation. Death was preferable to captivity; and if taken by storm, we must inevitably be devoted to destruction.
"In this situation we concluded to maintain our garrison if possible. We immediately proceeded to collect what we could of our horses and other cattle, and bring them through the posterns into the fort; and in the evening of the ninth, I returned the answer 'that we were determined to defend our fort while a man was living.'
"'Now,' said I to their commander who stood attentively hearing my sentiments, 'we laugh at your formidable preparations, but thank you for giving us notice, and time for our defence. Your efforts will not prevail, for our gates shall forever deny you admittance.'
"Whether this answer affected their courage or not, I cannot tell, but contrary to our expectations, they formed a scheme to deceive us, declaring it was their orders from Governor Hamilton to take us captives, and not to destroy us; but if nine of us would come out and treat with them, they would immediately withdraw their forces from our walls, and return home peaceably. This sounded grateful in our ears, and we agreed to the proposal."
Victories and Defeats.
Situation of the Fort.—Indian Treachery.—Bombardment.—Boone goes to North Carolina.—New Trials.—Boone Robbed.—He Returns to Kentucky.—Massacre of Col. Rogers.—Adventure of Col. Bowman.—New Attack by the British and Indians.—Retaliatory Measures.—Wonderful Exploit.
There were but fifty men in the garrison at Boonesborough. They were assailed by a body of more than ten to one of the bravest Indian warriors, under the command of an officer in the British army. The boldest in the fort felt that their situation was almost desperate. The ferocity of the Indian, and the intelligence of the white man, were combined against them. They knew that the British commander, however humane he might be, would have no power, should the fort be taken by storm, to save them from death by the most horrible tortures.
General Duquesne was acting under instructions from Governor Hamilton, the British officer in supreme command at Detroit. Boone knew that the Governor felt very kindly towards him. When he had been carried to that place a captive, the Governor had made very earnest endeavors to obtain his liberation. Influenced by these considerations, he consented to hold the conference.
But, better acquainted with the Indian character than perhaps Duquesne could have been, he selected nine of the most athletic and strong of the garrison, and appointed the place of meeting in front of the fort, at a distance of only one hundred and twenty feet from the walls. The riflemen of the garrison were placed in a position to cover the spot with their guns, so that in case of treachery the Indians would meet with instant punishment, and the retreat of the party from the fort would probably be secured. The language of Boone is:
"We held a treaty within sixty yards of the garrison on purpose to divert them from a breach of honor, as we could not avoid suspicion of the savages."
The terms proposed by General Duquesne were extremely liberal. And while they might satisfy the British party, whose object in the war was simply to conquer the colonists and bring them back to loyalty, they could by no means have satisfied the Indians, who desired not merely to drive the white men back from their hunting grounds, but to plunder them of their possessions and to gratify their savage natures by hearing the shrieks of their victims at the stake and by carrying home the trophies of numerous scalps.
Boone and his men, buried in the depths of the wilderness, had probably taken little interest in the controversy which was just then rising between the colonies and the mother country. They had regarded the King of England as their lawful sovereign, and their minds had never been agitated by the question of revolution or of independence. When, therefore, General Duquesne proposed that they should take the oath of allegiance to the King of Great Britain, and that then they should be permitted to return unmolested to their homes and their friends beyond the mountains, taking all their possessions with them, Colonel Boone and his associates were very ready to accept such terms. It justly appeared to them in their isolated condition, five hundred miles away from the Atlantic coast, that this was vastly preferable to remaining in the wilderness assailed by thousands of Indians guided by English energy and abundantly provided with all the munitions of war from British arsenals.
But Boone knew very well that the Indians would never willingly assent to this treaty. Still he and his fellow commissioners signed it while very curious to learn how it would be regarded by their savage foes. The commissioners on both sides had appeared at the appointed place of conference, as is usual on such occasions, entirely unarmed. There were, however, a large number of Indians lingering around and drawing nearer as the conference proceeded. After the treaty was signed, the old Indian chief Blackfish, Boone's adopted father, and who, exasperated by the escape of his ungrateful son, had been watching him with a very unamiable expression of countenance, arose and made a formal speech in the most approved style of Indian eloquence. He commented upon the bravery of the two armies, and of the desirableness that there should be entire friendship between them, and closed by saying that it was a custom with them on all such important occasions to ratify the treaty by two Indians shaking hands with each white man.
This shallow pretense, scarcely up to the sagacity of children, by which Blackfish hoped that two savages grappling each one of the commissioners would easily be able to make prisoners of them, and then by threats of torture compel the surrender of the fort, did not in the slightest degree deceive Colonel Boone. He was well aware of his own strength and of that of the men who accompanied him. He also knew that his riflemen occupied concealed positions, from which, with unerring aim, they could instantly punish the savages for any act of treachery. He therefore consented to the arrangement. The grasp was given. Instantly a terrible scene of confusion ensued.
The burly savages tried to drag off their victims. The surrounding Indians rushed in to their aid, and a deadly fire was opened upon them from the fort, which was energetically responded to by all the armed savages from behind stumps and trees. One of the fiercest of battles had instantly blazed forth. Still these stalwart pioneers were not taken by surprise. Aided by the bullets of the fort, they shook off their assailants, and all succeeded in escaping within the heavy gates, which were immediately closed behind them. One only of their number, Boone's brother, was wounded. This escape seems almost miraculous. But the majority of the Indians in intelligence were mere children: sometimes very cunning, but often with the grossest stupidity mingled with their strategy.
Duquesne and Blackfish, the associated leaders, now commenced the siege of the fort with all their energies. Dividing their forces into two parties, they kept up an incessant fire upon the garrison for nine days and nine nights. It was one of the most heroic of those bloody struggles between civilization and barbarism, which have rendered the plains of Kentucky memorable.
The savages were very careful not to expose themselves to the rifles of the besieged. They were stationed behind rocks, and trees, and stumps, so that it was seldom that the garrison could catch even a glimpse of the foes who were assailing them. It was necessary for those within the fort to be sparing of their ammunition. They seldom fired unless they could take deliberate aim, and then the bullet was almost always sure to reach its mark. Colonel Boone, in describing this attempt of the Indians to capture the commissioners by stratagem, and of the storm of war which followed, writes:
"They immediately grappled us, but, although surrounded by hundreds of savages, we extricated ourselves from them and escaped all safe into the garrison except one, who was wounded through a heavy fire from their army. They immediately attacked us on every side, and a constant heavy fire ensued between us, day and night, for the space of nine days. In this time the enemy began to undermine our fort, which was situated about sixty yards from the Kentucky river. They began at the water mark and proceeded in the bank some distance, which we understood by their making the water muddy with the clay. We immediately proceeded to disappoint their design by cutting a trench across their subterranean passage. The enemy discovering our counter mine by the clay we threw out of the fort, desisted from that stratagem. Experience now fully convincing them that neither their power nor their policy could effect their purpose, on the twentieth of August they raised the siege and departed.
"During this siege, which threatened death in every form, we had two men killed and four wounded, besides a number of cattle. We killed of the enemy thirty-seven and wounded a great number. After they were gone we picked up one hundred and twenty-five pounds weight of bullets, besides what stuck in the logs of our fort, which certainly is a great proof of their industry."
It is said that during this siege, one of the negroes, probably a slave, deserted from the fort with one of their best rifles, and joined the Indians. Concealing himself in a tree, where unseen he could take deliberate aim, he became one of the most successful of the assailants. But the eagle eye of Boone detected him, and though, as was afterwards ascertained by actual measurement, the tree was five hundred and twenty-five feet distant from the fort, Boone took deliberate aim, fired, and the man was seen to drop heavily from his covert to the ground. The bullet from Boone's rifle had pierced his brain.
At one time the Indians had succeeded in setting fire to the fort, by throwing flaming combustibles upon it, attached to their arrows. One of the young men extinguished the flames, exposing himself to the concentrated and deadly fire of the assailants in doing so. Though the bullets fell like hailstones around him, the brave fellow escaped unscathed.
This repulse quite disheartened the Indians. Henceforth they regarded Boonesborough as a Gibraltar; impregnable to any force which they could bring against it. They never assailed it again. Though Boonesborough is now but a small village in Kentucky, it has a history which will render it forever memorable in the annals of heroism.
It will be remembered that Boone's family, supposing him to have perished by the hands of the Indians, had returned to the home of Mrs. Boone's father in North Carolina. Colonel Boone, anxious to rejoin his wife and children, and feeling that Boonesborough was safe from any immediate attack by the Indians, soon after the dispersion of the savages entered again upon the long journey through the wilderness, to find his friends east of the mountains. In the autumn of 1778, Colonel Boone again found himself, after all his wonderful adventures, in a peaceful home on the banks of the Yadkin.
The settlements in Kentucky continued rapidly to increase. The savages had apparently relinquished all hope of holding exclusive possession of the country. Though there were occasional acts of violence and cruelty, there was quite a truce in the Indian warfare. But the white settlers, and those who wished to emigrate, were greatly embarrassed by conflicting land claims. Many of the pioneers found their titles pronounced to be of no validity. Others who wished to emigrate, experienced great difficulty in obtaining secure possession of their lands. The reputation of Kentucky as in all respects one of the most desirable of earthly regions for comfortable homes, added to the desire of many families to escape from the horrors of revolutionary war, which was sweeping the sea-board, led to a constant tide of emigration beyond the mountains.
Under these circumstances the Government of Virginia established a court, consisting of four prominent citizens, to go from place to place, examine such titles as should be presented to them, and to confirm those which were good. This commission commenced its duties at St. Asaph. All the old terms of settlement proposed by Henderson and the Transylvania Company were abrogated. Thus Colonel Boone had no title to a single acre of land in Kentucky. A new law however was enacted as follows:
"Any person may acquire title to so much unappropriated land, as he or she may desire to purchase, on paying the consideration of forty pounds for every one hundred acres, and so in proportion."
This money was to be paid to the State Treasurer, who would give for it a receipt. This receipt was to be deposited with the State Auditor, who would in exchange for it give a certificate. This certificate was to be lodged at the Land Office. There it was to be registered, and a warrant was to be given, authorizing the survey of the land selected. Surveyors who had passed the ordeal of William and Mary College, having defined the boundaries of the land, were to make a return to the Land Office. A due record was there to be made of the survey, a deed was to be given in the name of the State, which deed was to be signed by the Governor, with the seal of the Commonwealth attached.
This was a perplexing labyrinth for the pioneer to pass through, before he could get a title to his land. Not only Colonel Boone, but it seems that his family were anxious to return to the beautiful fields of Kentucky. During the few months he remained on the Yadkin, he was busy in converting every particle of property he possessed into money, and in raising every dollar he could for the purchase of lands he so greatly desired. The sum he obtained amounted to about twenty thousand dollars, in the depreciated paper currency of that day. To Daniel Boone this was a large sum. With this the simple-hearted man started for Richmond to pay it to the State Treasurer, and to obtain for it the promised certificate. He was also entrusted with quite large sums of money from his neighbors, for a similar purpose.
On his way he was robbed of every dollar. It was a terrible blow to him, for it not only left him penniless, but exposed him to the insinuation of having feigned the robbery, that he might retain the money entrusted to him by his friends. Those who knew Daniel Boone well would have no more suspected him of fraud than an angel of light. With others however, his character suffered. Rumor was busy in denouncing him.
Colonel Nathaniel Hart had entrusted Boone with two thousand nine hundred pounds. This of course was all gone. A letter, however, is preserved from Colonel Hart, which bears noble testimony to the character of the man from whom he had suffered: