“Many heroic exploits and chivalrous adventures are related to me which exist only in the regions of fancy. With me the world has taken great liberties, and yet I have been but a common man.”
— Daniel Boone
Daniel Boone departed this life on September 26, 1820 — 200 years ago today, at his son’s home in Missouri.
His son, Nathan Boone, related the quiet passing of a common man who remains a legend:
He recognized all his relatives who came to see him during his last sickness and talked until within a few minutes of his last breath. Some ten minutes before he breathed his last, his daughter Mrs. Callaway arrived. He recognized her and died placidly, only exhibiting a scowl with his last breath.
Towards the last when asked if he suffered pain, he would say he did in his breast and between his shoulders. He died on the morning of September 26th., 1820, about sunrise – the fourteenth day after his arrival here.
Father’s body was conveyed to the Flanders Callaway home at Charette, and there the funeral took place. There were no military honors or Masonic honors, the latter of which he was a member, as there were then but very few in that region.
The Reverend James Craig of the Baptist denomination, my son-in-law, delivered the funeral discourse. There was a very large funeral, and the remains were buried beside his wife, a mile below Charette Creek and on the elevated second bank of the Missouri, a mile from the river.
As I wrote back in 2014:
I imbibed that classic American frontier tale so early that it seeped into my bones. I can’t remember ever not-knowing every single beat of Boone’s tale: the youngster who preferred the forest to the classroom; the young teamster listening avidly to trader John Finley’s stories of fabled Caintuck; the Long Hunter finding his way through the Cumberland Gap to that rich and dangerous land; the settlement-builder leading his beloved Rebecca and family into the wilderness to stake his claim; the military leader fighting the Shawnee — yet strangely lacking bloodthirsty rancor; the first-generation pioneer ripped off by the sly progeny of the civilization he made possible.
The restless hunter moving ever further West, escaping what grew up in the land he won at the cost of blood, toil, tears and sweat. Oh, yes, I absorbed early the paradox of the frontiersman: the man of the wilderness who brings with him what will destroy that which he loves.
Indeed, Boone is the very embodiment of the Frontiersman’s Paradox.
Though he tried to be a farmer and a land developer, and was thrust into the role of military leader and even politician, Daniel Boone was at heart a hunter and a wanderer of wild places. It is in that spirit that I continue to honor him, and in that spirit I offer a tale from the end of his life, as recounted by his son Nathan Boone, himself an eminent frontiersman.
From My Father, Daniel Boone: The Draper Interviews with Nathan Boone. Edited by Neal O. Hammon
In the fall of 1817, late in November, my father, Daniel Boone, then entered upon his eighty-fourth year, started on a hunting trip with his grandson James Boone, my oldest son. This was before Jess Boone moved to the country.
They started with each mounted-on horseback. Upon leaving Flanders Callaway’s they proceeded on and camped the first night on the headwaters of Charette, about thirteen miles from Callaway’s house. Night overtook them sooner than expected, and they camped rather late and had not time to prepare a shelter. That night two inches of snow fell. The snow and the glare of the fire caused a wild duck to land beside the fire, and James Boone caught it easily, to his bewilderment.
Father was exhilarated to be camping out again. He had brought his gun, his kettle, a light axe, provisions, and two or three traps. He seemed to be himself in his ancient element. After the evening meal he told stories of his “olden time” adventures.
The pair had the duck for breakfast the next morning and continued on their way. The weather had become cold and blustery, so they went only eight miles that day and stopped at a house of entertainment at Camp Branch, a noted camping place for travelers. The next day they went twenty-two miles to Loutre Lick. The weather had moderated a little but was still cold, and all but two miles that day’s travel was on the exposed prairie. The cold had affected my father’s aged frame, and he found that he could proceed no further since he could not bear the exposure. He then decided to remain at his granddaughter’s, Mrs. Major Van Bibber’s, at Loutre Lick and abandon the intended hunt.
It was his original intention to have gone to the headwaters of Loutre Creek, some twenty miles above the lick, and then go across some ten miles to the nearest or south fork of the Salt River. Here they expected to find bear, deer and turkeys, and perhaps some chance buffalo and beaver, and to stay a few weeks snugly encamped.
My father said he was naturally inclined each fall to go hunting and trapping as the farmer is in spring to set about putting in his crops.