Daniel Boone

The name Daniel Boone will forever be synonymous with the saga of the American frontier. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Boone was the inveterate wayfarer who achieved lasting fame guiding land-hungry settlers to the Kentucky frontier and fighting to defend them against Indian attack.

Boone was born November 2, 1734 (some sources say October 22 - more info here and here), in the log farmhouse that evolved into - and was replaced by - the main house of the Daniel Boone Homestead, situated east of Reading in Berks County.

Daniel's father, Squire Boone, was an English Quaker born in Devonshire in 1696. While still a youth, Squire, his brother George and sister Sarah embarked for Philadelphia to appraise the possibilities of settlement for their father's family, who immigrated finally in 1717.

Squire settled first in Abington, then moved to Gwynedd, where he met Sarah Morgan, born in 1700 to Welsh Quakers. Married in 1720, they lived first near Gwynedd, then in Chalfont, Bucks County, before purchasing 250 acres of the Homestead in 1730. Squire's father and brothers also lived in the area and became prominent in business, local government and the Friends Meeting.

Daniel was the sixth child, one of eleven, born to Squire and Sarah. Although little is known of Daniel's Pennsylvania years, he undoubtedly helped his father as farmer, weaver and blacksmith and had the usual experiences of a boy growing up in the back country.

In 1750 Squire and Sarah joined the growing southward movement of Pennsylvanians, and concluded their long trek in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina. While their principal motive may have been economic, it is also a fact that Squire had been "read out of Meeting" by the Exeter Friends in 1748 for his unrepentance in allowing his son Israel to marry a non-Quaker.

Daniel was then only 15 1/2 years old, but ahead was a life filled with the rigors of the American frontier. In 1756 he married Rebecca Bryan and with her - when he was home - raised ten children. In 1773 he failed in his first attempt to settle Kentucky, but in 1775 he succeeded in establishing Boonesborough. Between 1775 and 1783 Daniel Boone was a leader among settlers in opening new parts of Kentucky and in resisting Indian raids. Although Boone lost two sons and a brother in the fighting, he was merciful and compassionate toward his native adversaries.

Twice, Boone returned to visit his boyhood home - in 1781 and in 1788 - a hero and legend in his day. Though his legend grew, his finances languished. Beset by creditors and personal disillusion, Boone finally left Kentucky in 1799 for Missouri, where he died near St. Louis on September 26, 1820.

In Pennsylvania, Daniel's boyhood home changed to reflect the growth, prosperity and cultural diversity of eastern Berks County. William Maugridge purchased the property from Squire in 1750. An Englishman who was related to the Boones (though not himself a Quaker), he served Berks County as a judge from its establishment in 1752 until his death in 1766. In 1770 John DeTurk, a Pennsylvania German, purchased the property and prospered there until he died in 1808.

Since 1938 the Daniel Boone Homestead has been a state-owned historic site, administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. It includes 579 acres of land, seven eighteenth-century structures, a lake, picnic areas and other recreational facilities. The site interprets the lives of the Boone, Maugridge and DeTurk families through exhibits, programs, tours and publications. The site also serves as a wildlife refuge, where visitors may enjoy numerous species of animals and birds.