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Chapter 6

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Pioneers of the Old Southwest

Constance Lindsay Skinner

in the
Chronicles of America edition,
Yale University Press,
New Haven, 1919

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 8

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p129  Chapter VII
The Dark and Bloody Ground

With the coming of spring Daniel Boone's desire, so long cherished and deferred, to make a way for his neighbors through the wilderness was to be fulfilled at last. But ere his ax could slash the thickets from the homeseekers' path, more than two hundred settlers had entered Kentucky by the northern waterways. Eighty or more of these settled at Harrodsburg, where Harrod was laying out his town on a generous plan, with "in‑lots" of half an acre and "out‑lots" of larger size. Among those associated with Harrod was George Rogers Clark, who had surveyed claims for himself during the year before the war.

While over two hundred colonists were picking out home sites wherever their pleasure or prudence dictated, a gigantic land promotion scheme — involving the very tracts where they were sowing their first corn — was being set afoot in North  p130 Carolina by a body of men who figure in the early history of Kentucky as the Transylvania Company. The leader of this organization was Judge Richard Henderson.​1 Judge Henderson dreamed a big dream. His castle in the air had imperial proportions. He resolved, in short, to purchase from the Cherokee Indians the larger part of Kentucky and to establish there a colony after the manner and the economic form of the English Lords Proprietors, whose day in America was so nearly done. Though in the light of history the plan loses none of its dramatic features, it shows the practical defects that must surely have prevented its realization. Like many another Caesar hungering for empire and staking all to win it, the prospective lord of Kentucky, as we shall see, had left the human equation out of his calculations.

 p131  Richard Henderson had known Daniel Boone on the Yadkin; and it was Boone's detailed reports of the marvelous richness and beauty of Kentucky which had inspired him to formulate his gigantic scheme and had enabled him also to win to his support several men of prominence in the Back Country. To sound the Cherokees regarding the purchase and to arrange, if possible, for a conference, Henderson dispatched Boone to the Indian towns in the early days of 1775.

Since we have just learned that Dunmore's War compelled the Shawanoes and their allies to relinquish their right to Kentucky, that, both before and after that event, government surveyors were in the territory surveying for the soldiers' claims, and that the private individuals had already laid out town sites and staked holdings, it may be asked what right of owner­ship the Cherokees possessed in Kentucky, that Henderson desired to purchase it of them. The Indian title to Kentucky seems to have been hardly less vague to the red men than it was to the whites. Several of the nations had laid claim to the territory. As late as 1753, it will be remembered, the Shawanoes had occupied a town at Blue Licks, for John Findlay had been taken there by some of them. But, before Findlay  p132 guided Boone through the Gap in 1769, the Shawanoes had been driven out by the Iroquois, who claimed suzerainty over them as well as over the Cherokees. In 1768, the Iroquois had ceded Kentucky to the British Crown by the treaty of Fort Stanwix; whereupon the Cherokees had protested so vociferously that the Crown's Indian agent, to quiet them, had signed a collateral agreement with them. Though claimed by many, Kentucky was by common consent not inhabited by any of the tribes. It was the great Middle Ground where the Indians hunted. It was the Warriors' Path over which they rode from north and south to slaughter and where many of their fiercest encounters took place. However shadowy the title which Henderson purposed to buy, there was one all-sufficing reason why he must come to terms with the Cherokees: their northernmost towns in Tennessee lay only fifty or sixty miles below Cumberland Gap and hence commanded the route over which he must lead colonists into his empire beyond the hills.

The conference took place early in March, 1775, at the Sycamore Shoals of the Watauga River. Twelve hundred Indians, led by their "town chiefs" — among whom were the old warrior and the old statesman of their nation, Oconostota and  p133 Attakullakulla — came to the treaty grounds and were received by Henderson and his associates and several hundred white men who were eager for a chance to settle on new lands. Though Boone was now on his way into Kentucky for the Transylvania Company, other border leaders of renown or with their fame still to win were present, and among them James Robertson, of serious mien, and that blond gay knight in buckskin, John Sevier.

It is a dramatic picture we evolve for ourselves from the meager narratives of this event — a mass of painted Indians moving through the sycamores by the bright water, to come presently into a tense, immobile semicircle before the large group of armed frontiersmen seated or standing about Richard Henderson, the man with the imperial dream, the ready speaker whose flashing eyes and glowing openly won the hearts of all who came under their sway. What though the Cherokee title be a flimsy one at best and the price offered for it a bagatelle! The spirit of Forward March! is there in that great canvas framed by forest and sky. The somber note that tones its lustrous color, as by a sweep of the brush, is the figure of the Chickamaugan chief, Dragging Canoe, warrior and seer and hater of white men, who urged his tribesmen against the sale and,  p134 when they will not hearken, springs from their midst into the clear space before Henderson and his band of pioneers and, pointing with uplifted arm, warns them that a dark cloud hangs over the land the white man covets which to the red man has long been a bloody ground.2

The purchase, finally consummated, included the country lying between the Kentucky and Cumberland Rivers — almost all the present State of Kentucky, with the adjacent land watered by the Cumberland River and its tributaries, except certain lands previously leased by the Indians to the Watauga Colony. The tract comprised about twenty million acres and extended into Tennessee.

Daniel Boone's work was to cut out a road for the wagons of the Transylvania Company's colonists to pass over. This was to be done by slashing away the briers and underbrush hedging the narrow Warriors' Path that made a direct northward line from Cumberland Gap to the Ohio bank, opposite the mouth of the Scioto River. Just prior to the conference Boone and "thirty guns" had set forth from the Holston to prepare the road and to build a fort on whatever site he should select.

 p135  By April, Henderson and his first group of tenants were on the trail. In Powell's Valley they came up with a party of Virginians Kentucky bound, led by Benjamin Logan; and the two bands joined together for the march. They had not gone far when they heard disquieting news. After leaving Martin's Station, at the gates of his new domain, Henderson received a letter from Boone telling of an attack by Indians, in which two of his men had been killed, but "we stood on the ground and guarded our baggage till the day and lost nothing."​3 These tidings, indicating that despite treaties and sales, the savages were again on the warpath, might well alarm Henderson's colonists. While they halted, some indecisive, others frankly for retreat, there appeared a company of men making all haste out of Kentucky because of Indian unrest. Six of these Henderson persuaded to turn again and go in with him; but this addition hardly offset the loss of those members of his party who thought it too perilous to proceed. Henderson's own courage did not falter. He had staked his all on this stupendous venture and for him it was forward to wealth and glory or retreat into poverty and eclipse. Boone, in the heart of the danger,  p136 was making the same stand. "If we give way to them [the Indians] now," he wrote, "it will ever be the case."

Signs of discord other than Indian opposition met Henderson as he resolutely pushed on. His conversations with some of the fugitives from Kentucky disclosed the first indications of the storm that was to blow away the empire he was going in to found. He told them that the claims they had staked in Kentucky would not hold good with the Transylvania Company. Whereupon James McAfee, who was leading a group of returning men, stated his opinion that the Transylvania Company's claim would not hold good with Virginia. After the parley, three of McAfee's brothers turned back and went with Henderson's party, but whether with intent to join his colony or to make good their own claim is not apparent. Benjamin Logan continued amicably with Henderson on the march but did not recognize him as Lord Proprietor of Kentucky. He left the Transylvania caravan shortly after entering the territory, branched off in the direction of Harrodsburg, and founded St. Asaph's Station, in the present Lincoln County, independently of Henderson though the site lay within Henderson's purchase.

 p137  Notwithstanding delays and apprehensions, Henderson and his colonists finally reached Boone's Fort, which Daniel and his "thirty guns" — lacking two since the Indian encounter — had erected at the mouth of Otter Creek.

An attractive buoyancy of temperament is revealed in Henderson's description in his journal of a giant elm with tall straight trunk and even foliage that shaded a space of one hundred feet.​a Instantly he chose this "divine elm" as the council chamber of Transylvania. Under its leafage he read the constitution of a new colony. It would be too great a stretch of fancy to call it a democratic document, for it was not that, except in deft phrases. Power was certainly declared to be vested in the people; but the substance of power remained in the hands of the Proprietors.

Terms for land grants were generous enough in the beginning, although Henderson made the fatal mistake of demanding quitrents — one of the causes of dissatisfaction which had led to the Regulators' rising in North Carolina. In September he augmented this error by more than doubling the price of land, adding a fee of eight shillings for surveying, and reserving to the Proprietors one half of all gold, silver, lead, and sulphur found on  p138 the land. No land near sulphur springs or showing evidences of metals was to be granted to settlers. Moreover, at the Company's store the price charged for lead were said to be too high — land being necessary for hunting, and hunting being the only means of procuring food — while the wages of labor, as fixed by the Company, were too low. These terms bore too heavily on poor men who were risking their lives in the colony.

Hence newcomers passed by Boonesborough, as the Transylvania settlement was presently called, and went elsewhere. They settled on Henderson's land but refused his terms. They joined in their sympathies with James Harrod, who, having established Harrodsburg in the previous year at the invitation of Virginia, was not in the humor to acknowledge Henderson's claim or to pay him tribute. All were willing to combine with the Transylvania Company defense, and to enforce law they would unite in bonds of brotherhood in Kentucky, even as they had been one with each other on the earlier frontier now left behind them. But they would call no man master; they had done with feudalism. That Henderson should not have foreseen this, especially after the upheaval in North Carolina, proves him in spite of all his brilliant  p139 gifts, to have been a man out of touch with the spirit of the time.

The war of the Revolution broke forth and the Indians descended upon the Kentucky stations. Defense was the one problem in all minds, and defense required powder and lead in plenty. The Transylvania Company was not able to provide the means of defense against the hordes of savages whom Henry Hamilton, the British Governor at Detroit, was sending to make war on the frontiers. Practical men like Harrod and George Rogers Clark — who, not a practical man in his own interests, was a most practical soldier — saw that unification of interests within the territory with the backing of either Virginia or Congress was necessary. Clark personally would have preferred to see the settlers combine as a freemen's state. It was plain that they would not combine and stake their lives as a unit to hold Kentucky for the benefit of the Transylvania Company, whose authority some of the most prominent men in the territory had refused to recognize. The Proprietary of Transylvania could continue to exist only to the danger of every life in Kentucky.

While the Proprietors sent a delegate to the continental Congress to win official recognition for  p140 Transylvania, eighty-four men at Harrodsburg drew up a petition addressed to Virginia stating their doubts of the legality of Henderson's title and requesting Virginia to assert her authority according to the stipulations of her charter. That defense was the primary and essential motive of the Harrodsburg Remonstrance seems plain, for when George Rogers Clark set off on foot with one companion to lay the document before the Virginian authorities, he also went to plead for a load of powder. In his account of the hazardous journey, as a matter of fact, he makes scant reference to Transylvania, except to say that the greed of the Proprietors would soon bring the colony to its end, but shows that his mind was seldom off the powder. It is a detail of history that the Continental Congress refused to seat the delegate from Transylvania. Henderson himself went to Virginia to make the fight for his land before the Assembly.4

The magnetic center of Boonesborough's life was the lovable and unassuming Daniel Boone. Soon after the building of the fort Daniel had brought in his wife and family. He used often to  p141 state with a mild pride that his wife and daughters were the first women to stand on the banks of the Kentucky River. That pride had not been unmixed with anxiety; his daughter Jemima and two daughters of his friend, Richard Calloway, while boating on the river had been captured by Shawanoes and carried off. Boone, accompanied by the girls' lovers and by John Floyd (eager to repay his debt of life-saving to Boone) had pursued them, tra­cing the way the captors had taken by broken twigs and scraps of dress goods which one of the girls had contrived to leave in their path, had come on the Indians unawares, killed them, and recovered the three girls unhurt.

In the summer of 1776, Virginia took official note of "Captain Boone of Boonesborough," for she sent him a small supply of powder. The men of the little colony, which had begun so pretentiously with its constitution and assembly, were now obliged to put all other plans aside and to concentrate on the question of food and defense. There was a dangerous scarcity of powder and lead. The nearest points at which these necessaries could be procured were the Watauga and Holston River settlements, which were themselves none too well stocked. Harrod and Logan, some time in 1777,  p142 reached the Watauga fort with three or four pack-horses and filled their packs from Sevier's store; but, as they neared home, they were detected by red scouts and Logan was badly wounded before he and Harrod were able to drive their precious load safely through the gates at Harrodsburg. In the autumn of 1777, Clark, with a boatload of ammunition, reached Maysville on the Ohio, having successfully run the gauntlet between banks in possession of the foe. He had wrested the powder and lead from the Virginia Council by threats to the effect that if Virginia was so willing to lose Kentucky — for of course "a country not worth defending is not worth claiming" — he and his fellows were quite ready to take Kentucky for themselves and to hold it with their swords against all comers, Virginia included. By even such cogent reasoning had he convinced the Council — which had tried to hedge by expressing doubts that Virginia would receive the Kentucky settlers as "citizens of the State" — that it would be cheaper to give him the powder.

Because so many settlers had fled and the others had come closer together for their common good, Harrodsburg and Boonesborough were now the only occupied posts in Kentucky. Other settlements,  p143 once thriving, were abandoned; and, under the terror, the Wild reclaimed them. In April, 1777, Boonesborough underwent its first siege. Boone, leading a sortie, was shot and fell with a shattered ankle. An Indian rushed upon him and was swinging the tomahawk over him when Simon Kenton, giant frontiersman and hero of many daring deeds, rushed forward, shot the Indian, threw Boone on his back, and fought his way desperately to safety. It was some months ere Boone was his nimble self again. But though he could not "stand up to the guns," he directed all operations from his cabin.

The next year Boone was ready for new ventures growing from the settlers' needs. Salt was necessary to preserve meat through the summer. Accordingly Boone and twenty-seven men went up to the Blue Licks in February, 1778, to replenish their supply by the simple process of boiling the salt water of the Licks till the saline particles adhered to the kettles. Boone was returning alone, with a pack-horse load of salt and game, when a blinding snowstorm overtook him and hid from view four stealthy Shawanoes on his trail. He was seized and carried to a camp of 120 warriors led by the French Canadian, Dequindre, and James and George Girty, two white renegades. Among the  p144 Indians were some of those who had captured him on his first exploring trip through Kentucky and whom he had twice given the slip. Their hilarity was unbounded. Boone quickly learned that this band was on its way to surpass Boonesborough. It was a season when Indian attacks were not expected; nearly threescore of the men were at the salt spring and, to make matters worse, the walls of the new fort where the settlers and their families had gathered were as yet completed on only three sides. Boonesborough was, in short, well-nigh defenseless. To turn the Indians from their purpose, Boone conceived the desperate scheme of offering to lead them to the salt makers' camp with the assurance that he and his companions were willing to join the tribe. He understood Indians well enough to feel sure that once possessed of nearly thirty prisoners, the Shawanoes would not trouble further about Boonesborough but would hasten to make a triumphal entry into their own towns. That some, perhaps all, of the white men would assuredly die, he knew well; but it was the only way to save the women and children in Boonesborough. In spite of Dequindre and the Girtys, who were leading a military expedition for the reduction of a fort, the Shawanoes fell in with the suggestion. When they  p145 had taken their prisoners, the more bloodthirsty warriors in the band wanted to tomahawk them all on the spot. By his diplomatic discourse, however, Boone dissuaded them, for the time being at least, and the whole company set off for the towns on the Little Miami.

The weather became severe, very little game crossed their route, and for days they subsisted on slippery elm bark. The lovers of blood did not hold back their scalping knives and several of the prisoners perished; but Black Fish, the chief then of most power in Shawanoe councils, adopted Boone as his son, and gave him the name of Sheltowee, or Big Turtle. Though watched zealously to prevent escape, Big Turtle was treated with every consideration and honor; and, as we would say today, he played the game. He entered into the Indian life with apparent zest, took part in hunts and sports and the races and shooting matches in which the Indians delighted, but he was always careful not to outrun or outshoot his opponents. Black Fish took him to Detroit when some of the tribe escorted the remainder of the prisoners to the British post. There he met Governor Hamilton and, in the hope of obtaining his liberty, he led the dignitary to believe that he  p146 and the other people of Boonesborough were eager to move to Detroit and take refuge under the British flag.​5 It is said that Boone always carried in a wallet round his neck the King's commission given him in Dunmore's War; and that he exhibited it to Hamilton to bear out his story. Hamilton sought to ransom him from the Indians, but Black Fish would not surrender his new son. The Governor gave Boone a pony, with saddle and trappings, and other presents, including trinkets to be used in procuring his needs and possibly his liberty from the Shawanoes.

Black Fish then took his son home to Chillicothe. Here Boone found Delawares and Mingos assembling with the main body of the Shawanoe warriors. The war belt was being carried through the Ohio country. Again Boonesborough and Harrodsburg were to be the first settlements attacked. To escape and give warning was now the one purpose that obsessed Boone. He redoubled his efforts to  p147 throw the Indians off their guard. He sang and whistled blithely about the camp at the mouth of the Scioto River, whither he had accompanied his Indian father to help in the salt boiling. In short, he seemed so very happy that one day Black Fish took his eye off him for a few moments to watch the passing of a flock of turkeys. Big Turtle passed with the flock, leaving no trace. To his lamenting parent it must have seemed as though he had vanished into the air. Daniel crossed the Ohio and ran the 160 miles to Boonesborough in four days, during which time he had only one meal, from a buffalo he shot at the Blue Licks. When he reached fort after an absence of nearly five months, he found that his wife had given him up for dead and had returned to the Yadkin.

Boone now began with all speed to direct preparations to withstand a siege. Owing to the Indian's leisurely system of councils and ceremonies before taking the warpath, it was not until the first week in September that Black Fish's painted warriors, with some Frenchmen under Dequindre, appeared before Boonesborough. Nine days the siege lasted and was the longest in border history. Dequindre, seeing that the fort might not be taken, resorted to trickery. He requested Boone  p148 and a few of his men to come out for a parley, saying that his orders from Hamilton were to protect the lives of the Americans as far as possible. Boone's friend, Calloway, urged against acceptance of the apparently benign proposal which was made, so Dequindre averred, for "bienfaisance et humanité." But the words were the words of a white man, and Boone hearkened to them. With eight of the garrison he went out to the parley. After a long talk in which good will was expressed on both sides, it was suggested by Black Fish that they all shake hands and, as there were so many more Indians than white men, two Indians should, of course, shake hands with one white man, each grasping one of his hands. The moment that their hands gripped, the trick was clear, for the Indians exerted their strength to drag off the white men. Desperate scuffling ensued in which the whites with difficulty freed themselves and ran for the fort. Calloway had prepared for emergencies. The pursuing Indians were met with a deadly fire. After a defeated attempt to mine the fort the enemy withdrew.

The successful defense of Boonesborough was an achievement of national importance, for had Boonesborough fallen, Harrodsburg alone could  p149 not have stood. The Indians under the British would have overrun Kentucky; and George Rogers Clark — whose base for his Illinois operations was the Kentucky forts — could not have made the campaigns which wrested the Northwest from the control of Great Britain.

Again Virginia took official note of Captain Boone when in 1779 the Legislature established Boonesborough "a town for the reception of traders" and appointed Boone himself one of the trustees to attend to the sale and registration of lots. An odd office that was for Daniel, who never learned to attend to the registration of his own; he declined it. His name appears again, however, a little later when Virginia made the whole of Kentucky one of her counties with the following officers: Colonel David Robinson, County Lieutenant; George Rogers Clark, Anthony Bledsoe, and John Bowman, Majors; Daniel Boone, James Harrod, Benjamin Logan, and John Todd, Captains.

Boonesborough's successful resistance caused land speculators as well as prospective settlers to take heart of grace. Parties made their way to Boonesborough, Harrodsburg, and even to the Falls of the Ohio, where Clark's fort and blockhouses now  p150 stood. In the summer of 1779 Clark had erected on the Kentucky side of the river a large fort which became the nucleus of the town of Louisville. Here, while he was eating his heart out with impatience for money and men to enable him to march to the attack of Detroit, as he had planned, he amused himself by drawing up plans for a city. He laid out private sections and public parks and contemplated the bringing in of families only to inhabit his city, for oddly enough, he who never married was going to make short shrift of mere bachelors in his City Beautiful. Between pen scratches, no doubt, he looked out frequently upon the river to descry if possible a boatload of ammunition or the banners of the troops he had been promised.

When neither appeared, he gave up the idea of Detroit and set about erecting defenses on the southern border, for the Choctaws and Cherokees, united under a white leader named Colbert, were threatening Kentucky by way of the Mississippi. He built in 1780 Fort Jefferson in what is now Ballard County, and had barely completed the new post and garrisoned it with about thirty men when it was besieged by Colbert and his savages. The Indians, assaulting by night, were lured into  p151 a position directly before a cannon which poured lead into a mass of them. The remainder fled in terror from the vicinity of the fort; but Colbert succeeded in rallying them and was returning to the attack when he suddenly encountered Clark with a company of men and was forced to abandon his enterprise.

Clark knew that the Ohio Indians would come down on the settlements again during the summer and that to meet their onslaughts every man in Kentucky would be required. He learned that there was a new influx of land seekers over the Wilderness Road and that speculators were doing a thriving business in Harrodsburg; so, leaving his company to protect Fort Jefferson, he took two men with him and started across the wilds on foot for Harrodsburg. To evade the notice of the Indian bands which were moving about the country the three stripped and painted themselves as warriors and donned the feathered headdress. So successful was their disguise that they were fired on by a party of surveyors near the outskirts of Harrodsburg.

The records do not state what were the sensations of certain speculators in a land office in Harrodsburg when a blue-eyed savage in a war  p152 bonnet sprang through the doorway and, with uplifted weapon, declared the office closed; but we get a hint of the power of Clark's personality and of his genius for dominating men from the terse report that he "enrolled" the speculators. He was informed that another party of men, more nervous than these, was now on its way out of Kentucky. In haste he dispatched a dozen frontiersmen to cut the party off at Crab Orchard and take away the gun of every man who refused to turn back and do his bit for Kentucky. To Clark a man was a gun, and he meant that every gun should do its duty.

The leaders and pioneers of the Dark and Bloody Ground were now warriors, all under Clark's command, while for two years longer the Red Terror ranged Kentucky, falling with savage force now here, now there. In the first battle of 1780, at the Blue Licks, Daniel's brother, Edward Boone, was killed and scalped. Later on in the war, his second son, Israel, suffered a like fate. The toll of life among the settlers was heavy. Many of the best-known border leaders were slain. Food and powder often ran short. Corn might be planted, but whether it would be harvested or not the planters never knew; and the hunter's rifle shot, necessary  p153 though it was, proved only too often an invitation to the lurking foe. But sometimes, through all the dangers of forest and trail, Daniel Boone slipped away silently to Harrodsburg to confer with Clark; or Clark himself, in the Indian guise that suited the wild man in him not ill, made his way to and from the garrisons which looked to him for everything.

Twice Clark gathered together the "guns" of Kentucky and, marching north into the enemy's country, swept down upon the Indian towns of Piqua and Chillicothe and razed them. In 1782, in the second of these enterprises, his cousin, Joseph Rogers, who had been taken prisoner and adopted by the Indians and then wore Indian garb, was shot down by one of Clark's men. On this expedition Boone and Harrod are said to have accompanied Clark.

The ever present terror and horror of those days, especially of the two years preceding this expedition, are vividly suggested by the quaint remark of an old woman who had lived through them, as recorded for us by a traveler. The most beautiful sight she had seen in Kentucky, she said, was a young man dying a natural death in his bed. Dead but unmarred by hatchet or scalping knife, he was  p154 so rare and comely a picture that the women of the post sat up all night looking at him.

But, we ask, what golden emoluments were showered by a grateful country on the men who thus held the land through those years of want and war, and saved an empire for the Union? What practical recognition was there of these brave and unselfish men who daily risked their lives and faced the stealth and cruelty lurking in the wilderness ways? There is meager eloquence in the records. Here, for instance, is a letter from George Rogers Clark to the Governor of Virginia, dated May 27, 1783:

Sir. Nothing but necessity could induce me to make the following request to Your Excellency, which is to grant me a small sum of money on account; as I can assure you, Sir, that I am exceedingly distressed for the want of necessary clothing etc and don't know any channel through which I could procure any except of the Executive. The State I believe will fall considerably in my debt. Any supplies which Your Excellency favors me with might be deducted out of my accounts.​6

Clark had spent all his own substance and all else he could beg, borrow — or appropriate — in the conquest of Illinois and the defense of Kentucky.  p155 His only reward from Virginia was a grant of land from which he realized nothing, and dismissal from her service when she needed him no longer.

All that Clark had asked for himself was a commission in the Continental Army. This was denied him, as it appears now, not through his own errors, which had not at that time taken hold on him, but through the influence of powerful enemies. It is said that both Spain and England, seeing a great soldier without service for his sword, made him offers, which he refused. As long as any acreage remained to him on which to raise money, he continued to pay the debts he had contracted to finance his expeditions, and in this course he had the assistance of his youngest brother, William, to whom he assigned his Indiana grant.

His health impaired by hardship and exposure and his heart broken by his country's indifference, Clark sank into alcoholic excesses. In his sixtieth year, just six years before his death, and when he was a helpless paralytic, he was granted a pension of four hundred dollars. There is a ring of bitter irony in the words with which he accepted the sword sent him by Virginia in his crippled old age: "When Virginia needed a sword I gave her one." He died near Louisville on February 13, 1818.

 p156  Kentucky was admitted to the Union in 1792. But even before Kentucky became a State her affairs, particularly as to land, were arranged, let us say, on a practical business basis. Then it was discovered that Daniel Boone had no legal claim to any foot of ground in Kentucky. Daniel owned nothing but the clothes he wore; and for those — as well as for much powder, lead, food, and such trifles — he was heavily in debt.

So, in 1788, Daniel Boone put the list of his debts in his wallet, gathered his wife and his younger sons about him, and, shouldering his hunter's rifle, once more turned towards the wilds. The country of the Great Kanawha in West Virginia was still a wilderness, and a hunter and trapper might, in some years, earn enough to pay his debts. For others, now, the paths he had hewn and made safe; for Boone once more the wilderness road.

The Author's Notes:

1 Richard Henderson (1734‑1785) was the son of the High Sheriff of Granville County. At first an assistant to his father, he studied law and soon achieved a reputation by the brilliance of his mind and the magnetism of his personality. As presiding Judge at Hillsborough he had come into conflict with the violent element among the Regulators, who had driven him from the court and burned his house and barns. For some time prior to his elevation to the bench, he had been engaged in land speculations. One of Boone's biographers suggests that Boone may have been secretly acting as Henderson's agent during his first lonely explorations of Kentucky. However this may be, it does not appear that Boone and his Yadkin neighbors were acting with Henderson when in September, 1773, they made their first attempt to enter Kentucky as settlers.

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2 This utterance of Dragging Canoe's is generally supposed to be the origin of the descriptive phrase applied to Kentucky — "the Dark and Bloody Ground." See Roosevelt, The Winning of the West, vol. I, p229.

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3 Bogart, Daniel Boone and the Hunters of Kentucky, p121.

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4 In 1778 Virginia disallowed Henderson's title but granted him two hundred thousand acres between the Green and Kentucky rivers for his trouble and expense in opening up the country.

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5 So well did Boone play his part that he a roused suspicion even in those who knew him best. After his return to Boonesborough his old friend, Calloway, formally accused him of treachery on two counts: that Boone had betrayed the salt makers to the Indians and had planned to betray Boonesborough to the British. Boone was tried and acquitted. His simple explanation of his acts satisfied the court-martial and made him a greater hero than ever among the frontier folk.

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6 Calendar of Virginia State Papers, vol. III, p487.

Thayer's Note:

a It is indeed a particularly attractive passage, revealing much of the man. His diary, Mar. 20 to Jul. 25, 1775, can be read in full in The North Carolina Booklet, III.9; the elm, and Henderson, are wonderfully brought to life again for us under May 14.

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