The archetypal Frontier Partisan will be honored this Saturday as a new sculpture of Simon Kenton is unveiled in his old stomping grounds along the Ohio River, a frontier he was instrumental in securing in the decades of conflict during and after the American Revolution.
Muzzleloader Magazine, which features Kenton on its cover in the current issue, posted a message from Mark Sage on the unveiling:
I thought that the readers of Muzzleloader might like to know that on Saturday, September 17, 2022, Simon Kenton, will be returning to the town of Old Washington (next door to Maysville, Kentucky) in the form of a life-size, bronze statue created by historian, gun builder, collector, violin maker and sculpture artist Earl Lanning. The life-size statue of Kenton is 89 inches high and features wonderful, artistic and historical detail. It will be placed on the site of the old county courthouse in the town of Old Washington, during the Simon Kenton festival. There will be an unveiling of the statue and a dedication ceremony with historians, members of the Piqua Shawnees, artists and notable people in the muzzleloading and frontier history fraternity present, including the statue’s creator Earl Lanning.
Old Washington was incorporated by the Virginia legislature in 1786. It was located near an ancient buffalo road that led down to the Ohio and near Kenton’s Station (established in 1784). Simon had a store in Old Washington and was in fact responsible discovering the area in 1775 while traveling down the Ohio River with Thomas Williams while searching for the cane lands of Kentucky. The two frontiersmen found Limestone Creek with its small harbor and a buffalo road nearby leading into the interior, immediately recognizing the economic and strategic potential of the area.
Simon Kenton built a fort uphill from the river known as Kenton’s Station. He resided there until 1796, assisting many people to locate land and helped protect the frontier during times of Native American conflict.
Sage rightly notes that, while the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap may be the iconic highway to the West, Maysville was actually an equally critical point of entry to Kentucky’s interior, for boat traffic down the Ohio River. That boat traffic was a significant, if less picturesque, adjunct to the pioneers who crossed the Appalachians to reach their Promised Land.
It does my heart good to see this tribute, especially in this iconoclastic era. The wresting of the trans-Appalachian from its native inhabitants, and from the imperial grasp of first the French and then the British, and the American colonization of this heartland, is a fraught tale. Anybody who has read Allan W. Eckert’s narrative The Frontiersmen knows just how dark and bloody this history is.
It is right that we have set aside the old, triumphalist narrative that made this a straightforward victory of civilization over savagery. It is right that we now confront the injustice and destructiveness wrought in the name of American “progress.” We can appreciate the Frontiersman’s Paradox that makes the “Winning of the West” a more ambiguous proposition than it was once perceived.
But there is nothing ambiguous about Simon Kenton’s status.
Simon Kenton is a hero, in every classical sense of the term. He earned his legendary status with his extraordinary prowess and his fundamental nobility, which was recognized by his Shawnee enemies. On Saturday, in solidarity with those who honor Kenton at the Old Washington doin’s, I will fire off a salute to the greatest of all the Frontier Partisans.