Editor's Note: We continue our series this month from the pages of John Filson's "The Discovery, Settlement, And Present State Of Kentucke," originally published at Wilmington, Delaware, in October 1784. "The Adventures Of Colonel Daniel Boon" appeared a short time later as an appendix to this popular volume, which assured Boone's immortality as a model, American frontiersman. Filson conveys Boone's experiences in the Kentucky wilderness, as told by Boone himself, through the entries in his daily journal. We hope you enjoy this series.
On the other hand, I surveyed the famous river, Ohio, that rolled in silent dignity, marking the western boundary of Kentucke with inconceivable grandeur. At a vast distance, I beheld the mountains lift their venerable brows, and penetrate the clouds. All things were still.
I kindled a fire near a fountain of sweet water, and feasted on the loin of a buck, which a few hours before, I had killed. The sullen shades of night soon overspread the whole hemisphere, and the earth seemed to gasp 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 awoke, 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, again, to my old camp, which was not disturbed in my absence. I did not confine my lodging to it, but often reposed in thick canebrakes, to avoid the savages, who I believe, often visited my camp; but fortunately, for me, in my absence. In this situation I was constantly exposed to danger and death. How unhappy such a situation 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 daytime, 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 27th day of July, following, when my brother, to my great felicity, met me, according to appointment, at our old camp. Shortly after, we left this place, not thinking it safe to stay there longer, and proceeded to Cumberland River, reconnoitring that part of the country until March 1771, and giving names to the different waters.
Soon after, I returned home to my family with a determination to bring them, as soon as possible, to live in Kentucke, which I esteemed a second paradise, at the risk of my life and fortune.
I returned safe to my old habitation, and found my family in happy circumstances. I sold my farm on the Yadkin and what goods we could not carry with us; and on September 25, 1773, bade a farewell to our friends, and proceeded on our journey to Kentucke, in company with five families more, and 40 men that joined us in Powell's Valley, which is 150 miles from the now settled parts of Kentucke.
This promising beginning was soon overcast with a cloud of adversity; for upon the tenth day of October, the rear of our company was attacked by a number of Indians, who killed six and wounded one man. Of these, my eldest son was one that fell in the action. Though we defended ourselves and repulsed the enemy, yet this unhappy affair scattered our cattle, brought us into extreme difficulty, and so discouraged the whole company that we retreated 40 miles to the settlement on Clinch River.
We had passed over two mountains, viz. Powell's and Walden's, and were approaching Cumberland Mountain, when this adverse fortune overtook us. These mountains are in the wilderness, as we pass from the old settlements in Virginia to Kentucke, are ranged in a S. west and N. east direction, are of a great length and breadth, and not far distant from each other.
Over these, nature hath formed passes that are less difficult than might be expected from a view of such huge piles. The aspect of these cliffs is so wild and horrid that it is impossible to behold them without terror. The spectator is apt to imagine that nature had formerly suffered some violent convulsion; and that these are the dismembered remains of the dreadful shock; the ruins, not of Persepolis or Palmyra, but of the world.
I remained with my family on Clench 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 settlement 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 800 miles, through many difficulties in 62 days.
Soon after I returned home, I was ordered to take the command of three garrisons during the campaign, which Governor Dunmore carried on against the Shawanese Indians; after the conclusion of which, the Militia was discharged from each garrison, and I, being relieved from my post, was solicited by a number of North Carolina gentlemen, that were about purchasing the lands lying on the S. side of Kentucke River, from the Cherokee Indians, to attend their treaty at Wataga, in March, 1775, to negotiate with them, and, mention the boundaries of the purchase. This I accepted, and at the request of the same gentlemen, undertook to mark out a road in the best passage from the settlement through the wilderness to Kentucke, with such assistance as I thought necessary to employ for such an important undertaking.
I soon began this work, having collected a number of enterprising men, well-armed. We proceeded with all possible expedition until we came within 15 miles of where Boonsborough now stands, and where we were fired upon by a party of Indians that killed two and wounded two of our number; yet, although surprised and taken at a disadvantage, we stood our ground. This was on the 20th of March, 1775. Three days after, we were fired upon again, and had two men killed, and three wounded. Afterwards, we proceeded on to Kentucke River without opposition; and on the first day of April, began to erect the fort of Boonsborough at a salt lick, about 60 yards from the river, on the S. side.
On the fourth day, the Indians killed one of our men. We were busily employed in building this fort, until the 14th day of June, following, without any farther opposition from the Indians; and having finished the works, I returned to my family, on Clinch. In a short time, I proceeded to remove my family from Clinch to this garrison; where we arrived safe without any other difficulties than such as are common to this passage, my wife and daughter being the first white women that ever stood on the banks of Kentucke River. On the 24th day of December, following, we had one man killed, and one wounded, by the Indians, who seemed determined to persecute us for erecting this fortification.