John Filson's "Adventures Of Colonel Daniel Boon"

Pioneer Writes Of His Experiences In The Kentucky Wilderness

By John Filson - 1784

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 14th day of July 1776, two of Col. Calaway's daughters and one of mine were taken prisoners near the fort. I immediately pursued the Indians, with only eight men, and on the 16th, overtook them, killed two of the party, and recovered the girls.

The same day on which this attempt was made, the Indians divided themselves into different parties and attacked several forts which were shortly before this time erected doing a great deal of mischief. This was extremely distressing to the new settlers. The innocent husbandman was shot down, while busy cultivating the soil for his family's supply. Most of the cattle around the stations were destroyed.

They continued their hostilities in this manner, until the 15th of April 1777, when they attacked Boonesborough, with a party of above 100 in number; killed one man, and wounded four. Their loss in this attack was not certainly known to us.

On the fourth day of July, following, a party of about 200 Indians attacked Boonesborough; killed one man, and wounded two. They besieged us 48 hours; during which time seven of them were killed, and at last, finding themselves not likely to prevail, they raised the siege and departed. The Indians had disposed their warriors in different parties at this time and attacked the different garrisons to prevent their assisting each other and did much injury to the distressed inhabitants.

On the 19th day of this month, Col. Logan's fort was besieged by a party of about 200 Indians. During this dreadful siege, they did a great deal of mischief, distressed the garrison (in which were only 15 men), killed two, and wounded one. The enemy's loss was uncertain, from the common practice, which the Indians have, of carrying off their dead in time of battle.

Col. Harrod's fort was, then, defended by only 65 men, and Boonesborough by 22, there being no more forts or white men in the country, except at the Falls; a considerable distance from these. All taken, collectively, were but a handful to the numerous warriors that were everywhere dispersed through the country, intent upon doing all the mischief that savage barbarity could invent. Thus, we passed through a scene of sufferings that exceeds description.

On the 25th of this month, a reinforcement of 45 men arrived from North Carolina, and about the 20th of August, following, Col. Bowman arrived with 100 men from Virginia. Now we began to strengthen; and from hence, for the space of six weeks, we had skirmishes with Indians, in one quarter or other, almost every day.

The Indians now learned the superiority of the "Long Knife," as they call the Virginians, by experience; being out-generalled in almost every battle. Our affairs began to wear a new aspect, and the enemy, not daring to venture on open war, practiced secret mischief at times.

On the first day of January 1778, I went with a party of 30 men to the Blue Licks, on Licking River, to make salt for the different garrisons in the country. On the seventh day of February, as I was hunting to procure meat for the company, I met with a party of 102 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, on the eighth day, to the Licks, where 27 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 Chillicothe, the principal Indian town, on Little Miami, where we arrived after an uncomfortable journey in very severe weather on the 18th day of February and received as good treatment as prisoners could expect from Indians.

On the tenth day of March, following, I and ten of my men were conducted by 40 Indians to Detroit, where we arrived the 30th 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 100 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 Indians left my men in captivity with the British at Detroit, and on the tenth day of April, brought me towards Old Chillicothe, where we arrived on the 25th day of the same month. This was a long and fatiguing march, through an exceedingly fertile country, remarkable for fine springs and streams of water. At Chillicothe, I spent my time as comfortably as I could expect; 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 a hunting with them, and frequently gained their applause for my activity at our shooting matches. I was careful not to exceed many of them in shooting; for no people are more envious than they in this 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 entrusting 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 duty to my sovereign. My food and lodging was in common with them, not so good, indeed, as I could desire, but necessity made everything acceptable.

I now began to meditate an escape, and carefully avoided their suspicions, continuing with them at Old Chillicothe until the first day of June, following; and then was taken by them to the salt springs on Scioto, and kept there, making salt, ten days. During this time, I hunted some for them, and found the land, for a great extent, about this river to exceed the soil of Kentucke, if possible, and remarkably well-watered.

When I returned to Chillicothe, alarmed to see 450 Indians, of their choicest warriors, painted and armed in a fearful manner, ready to march against Boonesborough, I was determined to escape the first opportunity.

(Series Continues Next Month)