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To a well-defined hereditary instinct that demanded freedom of movement and wide areas for action had been added a youth spent on the frontier and the experience, gained at the most impressionable period of life, while his father's family was journeying through the woods. Besides all this he was fascinated by speculation regarding the country that lay beyond the mountains, to whose eastward base he often penetrated during his earlier years on the Yadkin. These qualities are believed to have resulted in a number of extensive trips toward the west for exploring and hunting purposes that may have begun as early as 1760," some of which were made in company with other men and some alone. But of these half legendary expeditions nothing certain can be said. As of a large proportion of the events of the time, no contemporary evidence of them exist. Human life and action are lost behind the veil that hides those years like a thistledown that has floated away in the wind.
But with the year 1769 there begins in the pathmaker's career a period of known things. It beheld the commencement of a journey by Boone which was to arouse all the North Carolina and Virginia cabins and suggest to the dissatisfied population a means whereby they might, with one stroke, be rid of their troubles and solve the mystery of the West. In May of that year a party of six men, of whom Boone was leader, set out to penetrate far beyond the mountains into the country south of the Ohio River. For more than a month the woodsmen travelled steadily to the westward and on the seventh day of June, after several hours spent in ascending a low range of hills, they reached the top of an eminence and saw stretching away beneath them an immense and luxuriant country spread out like a map and watered by a pleasant river. Even as they looked upon the scene, and realized that their quest was done, they beheld innumerable bison and deer moving over the open spaces that lay like islands amid the sea of cane-brakes and woods. The spot from which they gazed down into the country of “Kentucke” is believed to be in Morgan County, of that state.
1 On a beech tree that stood near the Wautaga River in the extreme eastern corner of Tennessee and west of the Great Smoky Mountains until as late as the early years of the nineteenth century, could be seen the following ancient inscription cut by the knife of a hunter:
Here the wanderers made camp and lived and hunted for more than six months. They were in that neutral territory used by the Indians of both the North and the South as a hunting ground, and not permanently occupied by natives of any tribe. Though the red men must have known of their long journey and presence they were not molested until December, when Boone and Stuart, while on an excursion, were suddenly made prisoners. They were intruders in the sight of the Indians, who treated them with kindness and displayed no other design than to take them out of the country. On the seventh night of the captivity Boone contrived their escape without attacking the sleeping natives, and the two white men returned with caution to their camp. The other four were not there, nor from that day did any man have knowledge of them. Nevertheless the two persisted in remaining, and in the following month, while they were hunting in the woods, a younger brother of Boone’ and another white man
The other members of the expedition were John Finley (or Findley), James Moncey, Joseph Holden, William (ool and John Stuart. All were experienced frontiersmen, and, like Boone, had made previous trips in the same d rection.
? He was Squire Boone, named after his father. The identity of the other man is unknown.
from the Yadkin calmly walked up to them. That meeting in the wilderness was an instance of the ability with which backwoodsmen came to practise the art of woodcraft. Squire Boone and his companion had come four hundred miles through unknown forests and found the objects of their search, of whose whereabouts they had no previous knowledge. Soon after this incident Stuart was killed by Indians. That left three. Then Squire's unknown companion failed to come back one night, and of the eight who had left North Carolina there remained only Daniel Boone and his brother.
Still the survivors persisted in their sojourn, representatives of a race that was never afterward to relinquish the land. By May the ammunition of the brothers ran low and Squire spent three months in a trip to North Carolina to replenish their stock, rejoining Daniel in July. During those months Daniel Boone, solitary premonitor of white supremacy, not only evaded captivity or death by the exercise of a skill quite beyond present understanding, but actively explored central Kentucky. He gained an intimate acquaintance with the country in all its features. Of this period Boone afterward went so far as to say: “I confess I never before was under greater necessity of exercising philosophy and fortitude. A few days I passed uncomfortably.” Such was his comment on a situation in which any ordinary man might have been killed in twenty-four hours or else have starved to death in a week.” In March of 1771, after an absence of almost two years in the wilderness, Boone suddenly appeared unscathed among his neighbors on the Yadkin.
1 Boone's family had begun to be concerned about him, and had sent Squire to take more ammunition to the absent one.
Though game existed in abundance, every shot made to secure food was a proclama. tion of his presence and whereabouts.
It can readily be imagined with what interest Boone was greeted on his return from such a journey. His neighbors were almost excited. The time was one in which acts of valor were performed by many men, but his exploit stood out alone. It lifted him to a very high place in the estimation of those who knew of him, for the people among whom he lived were keen in estimating the character and metal of their fellows. But the degree of bravery and ability that the man had displayed was overshadowed by another feature of the expedition which his tale presented. His elaborate description of the distant region into which he had penetrated was so inviting that its desirability as a place for white habitation was apparent, and at once took first place in the public consideration given to the exploit. Mere bravery had always been obtainable to any extent when wanted, but here was something much more rare — news of a fair country where men such as they could live free lives, uncrowded by conditions that irked them. The fact that but two had come back of the eight who had gone away was of little consequence. Such things were trifles with which the people had always been familiar. They knew that more children would come to take the places of men that vanished and so, in time, they would win. The perils of the forest they could endure, but to hardships imposed on them by other white men they would not submit. And as though to clinch the matter Boone declared his determination to take his family into the far country where he had wandered.
His example was soon followed by similar declarations, and as the narrative of the returned traveller made its slow way through the scattered population and its significance grew into the minds of the cabin dwellers,