"When grandfather died he left eight children, fifty-two grandchildren, ten great-grandchildren-in all seventy, being as many as the house of Jacob which came into Egypt." This significant entry in the Boone family Bible records the death of George Boone III, the head of the family which came to America, and the grandfather of the American Moses. Here is a poetic coincidence in truth that assumes the aspect of destiny because Grandson Daniel led his people into a promised land-into that rarely trodden Canaan of Kentucke. It was on November 2, 1734, that Daniel Boone was born among the patterned hills of Oley in German Pennsylvania. His father was Squire, third child of grandfather George, and he had come to America with his older brother and sister during the early months of l7l3. On November 27, 1720, he held Sarah Morgan's hand and in a solemn manner declared to the Gwynedd Meeting that he took her to wife. In the chapter of "begats" that followed, these Quaker pioneers named their first son Israel. The parallel of coincidences was continued.
When Lord Byron pays tribute to Daniel Boone in Don Juan he does so because he sees in that Kentucky "general" a much sought-after person: Jean Rousseau's natural man. Yet the poetry of fact was never so attractive to Byron as the poetry of fiction and the pleasing conception of Daniel nourished by the poet is just about as near the truth as Parson Weem's biography is to the actual George Washington. His difficulty in retaining a balanced historical judgment lay in the fact that Boone became a symbol of what he conceived the common purpose animating American life to be. If Daniel was "even in age the child of nature," he was so not because of any desire on his part to return to the primordial past. No! The start of his westward trek derived not from philosophy but from religion. It came, not out of the harsh demands of economic necessity, but from the colorful discipline of a Quaker Meeting.
Oddly enough this is typically Pennsylvania cause this state began with a tinge of idealism and of poetry. Penn's Holy Experiment was just that! He willingly adventured in this new land with slim probability of financial return because he had dreamed a noble dream. His lands to the west of the Delaware were welcoming lands. Those hills which Benjamin West so lovingly painted held out their arms to the diligent seekers of truth. In this new world Penn's new state gave birth to a new state of mind. It became what he wished it to be: a veritable vale of peace. His thought was of a land sanctified by serene living, of a kind of garden for the Friends of God. And somehow this dream-unlike Plato's and More's became an actuality. Somehow it was given to William Penn alone to build on earth his new heaven.
And Oley, which the casual-minded biographers of Boone call a "grim, sparsely-settled frontier region," was just such a garden. Here, near feminine hills and child-like streams, Welsh Quakers, German Pietists, Scotch Covenanters, Swedish Lutherans, English Puritans, and French Huguenots raised upon the foundations of this noble dream their earthly heaven. A mere catalogue of their sectarian names enlivens a century dulled by an overdose of deism: Mennonites, Dunkards, Moravians, Reformed, Lutheran, Amish, Quakers, Schwenkfeldians, Catholics, Universalists, and a very curious local sect, the Newborns. Here in this small valley, the better elements of the Old World united to produce a live-and-let- live Christianity-a life broad in scope and deep in religious experience. Names full of color and romance stand out across these years of national history: George DeBenneville, Ellis Hughes, Andrew Eschenbach, Mordecai Lincoln, Jean Bertholet, Anthony Lee, Yost Yoder, John Hanks, Martin Schenkel, and Matthias Bauman. In this valley, only ten miles across, Penn's noble dream became the Holy Experiment. In this valley Daniel Boone was born.
At first glance the place and circumstance of Daniel's birth does not seem of any positive, formative influence but like many other casual events of history this one must be viewed in its proper light. The danger with these correlations lies in the fact that when once suspected the historian is apt to give them undue weight. The influences of Oley-if they did effect Daniel's character-were positive and during the first half of the eighteenth century the dominating one was religious.
Here religion was vital. It was the be-all and the end-all of life. Nothing supplanted it. Pietism dominated, but a Pietism distrustful of legalism, discontented with rationality, and disgusted with dogmatic theology. Rooted as they were in a positive mysticism there were only two possible ways for these people of Oley to go - there was asceticism as later manifested by a small movement to Ephrata, and then there was hedonism which never was followed at all. The Oley way of life was simple: it was based on the Greek notion of moderation and upon the Teutonic instinct of frugality. The age-old antagonism between legalism and libertinism was here dissolved and in the white-hot crucible of a new land the elements of these differing sects were fused into a mass already alloyed with continental mysticism. Instead of a Hebraistic strictness of conscience, instead of Hellenistic spontaneity of consciousness, these people possessed the conception of conscience and of consciousness wholly dependent upon God. It was here that Daniel Boone was born on November 2, 1734, according to the new style of reckoning.
That George Boone IV left the rich slopes and emerald pastures of Devonshire to come to America to marry his beloved Deborah cannot be said. It is at the very least, a pleasing speculation suggested in part by the facts. As the colorful history of the Boones in Pennsylvania is gleaned from the musty tomes of the past, one family trait appears predominant. It is their proneness to marry at will. Quakers that they were, they may have heeded the sane advice given by William Penn: "Never marry but for love; but see that thou lovest what is lovely."
The real motive for George's emigration is most likely embedded in the fact that on July 27, 1713, only a few months after his arrival in Philadelphia, he married Deborah Howell of Haverford whom he had known and loved back home in Devonshire. After his marriage he settled down on a farm near Abington, his brother Squire and his sister Sarah living with him-these three being the original Boone immigrants to Pennsylvania.
The records of deeds and titles for this period fail to show any transfer of lands to George Boone IV, and it must be assumed that he settled down on land not his own, probably as a tenant farmer-a situation more nearly suited to his age and condition. There are traditional rumors that he taught the Abington Meeting School, but these need verification. On October 26, 1713, he produced a certificate of his good and orderly conversation while a member of the Monthly Meeting at Bradwitch, Devonshire. This was well received by the Friends at Abington.
The year 1714 must have been eventful for his sister Sarah. Jacob Stover (variously spelled Stauher and Stober) purchased 500 acres of land along the Manatawney Creek in Oley. His motive is embedded in the fact that on March 15, 1714, he married Sarah in the city of Philadelphia. Stover was plain-a Mennonite.
The letters which these children sent back home fired the imagination of their persecuted Quaker father. Across the seas there was a new land, free from tyranny, where acreage was cheap and plentiful. Grandfather George decided to bring the remainder of the family to the New World, and these Boones are said to have arrived in Philadelphia on September 29, 1717. They lived for a few weeks with George Boone IV at Abington. On October 31, 1717, grandfather produced a certificate in Gwynedd Meeting of his good life and orderly conversation while a member of the Monthly Meeting at Callumpton in Great Britain. This was well received by the Friends of Gwynedd.
George Boone IV occupied the early months of 1718 by making a transcript of the Abington Meeting Records. In October he bought 400 acres along the Manatawney, near Jacob Stover's tract, at £14 per hundred acres and fourteen shillings quit rent-lands that today would bring a stunning figure. In February of this year (and it must be remembered that February was the last month) his father also purchased 400 acres of land near his son's lands at the same price.
The dominant family trait appeared in June, 1720, when grandfather George acknowledged to the Gwynedd Meeting "his forwardness in giving consent to John Webb to keep company with his daughter (Mary) in order to marry, contrary to the established order among Friends." John Webb solved the difficulty by joining the Meeting.
The first documentary allusion to the Boones in Oley occurs in a petition to the Provincial Court in Philadelphia requesting the formation of Oley Township out of what was then Philadelphia. George Boone (III or IV?) and Jacob Stover were among the signers. The date of this document was September 5, 1720.
Seven years afterwards the inhabitants of the western part of the region petitioned for a road from Tulpehocken to Oley:
To the Honorable Bench:
We, whose names are herewith inscribed, ye inhabitants of ye northwest part of ye township of Oley & Tulpehocken & parts adjacent; having no road as yet established amongst us by means whereof we suffer diver inconveniences & a great part of ye land at present not settled, through which ye hereby petitioned road is naturally designated to go by of; whereof there will be no opposition. in ye laying it out.
Wherefore, we, your petitioners, humbly request that you will be pleased to order a highroad to be laid out, beginning at ye Lutheran Meeting House at Tulpehocken and to end at ye high road at Ye Quaker Meeting House near George Boone's mill in Oley.
And your petitioners shall ever pray!
Among the signers of this petition was Benjamin Boone, the seventh child of Grandfather George.
On December 3, 1728, Squire Boone became the owner of a tract of land in New Britain township, Bucks county, when 147 acres were deeded him by Thomas Shute of Philadelphia. Less than two years afterwards, on October 20, 1730, he purchased 158 3/4 acres from Ralph Ashton situated a mile and a half from the Oley Meeting House. Tradition holds that he moved into Oley during the spring of 1731.
With the coming of the third decade of the century the Boones increased both in numbers and in prosperity. One of their number was already in the west, for in 1730 Jacob Stover secured a conditional grant of 10,000 acres in what is now Massanutten County, Virginia. He was probably the purchasing agent for a group of Pennsylvanians who migrated there. In 1733 Grandfather George erected a large stone house to supercede the log cabin. It is said that he never lived in it, preferring the simple life. In this same year George Boone IV purchased 1,500 acres from Stover's tract, the titles of which were confirmed in December, 1735.
Daniel Boone was born on October 22, 1734, "old stile, hence new stile November 2, 1734." He was the sixth of eleven children: Sarah, Israel, Samuel, Jonathan, Elizabeth, Daniel, Mary, George, Edward, Squire Jr., and Hannah. The first four of these were born in Bucks County. In this same year George Boone IV received 277 acres of land in Oley by patent from Thomas Penn. One acre of this he deeded to Anthony Lee, John Webb (his brother-in-law), and Squire Boone for a consideration of twenty shillings. These in turn conveyed it to Ellis Hughes, Thomas Ellis, and James Boone in trust for a house of worship for the people called Quakers in Oley, on which they could erect a house of worship and lay out a burial plot. It is not clear whether George Boone IV purchased the land surrounding the old meeting house, or whether a new one was erected. There was a meeting house standing at the time the transfer was made. In 1734 George Boone III, George Boone IV, and Squire Boone are listed as freeholders in Oley. Stover's name is not on the list.
The records of the Meeting now begin.
On December 27, 1739, Richard Lunday complained against Joseph Gibson of some difference between them and the Meeting appointed several overseers, among whom was Squire Boone, to investigate. Next month the difference was reported settled. Second Month (April), 1741, discovered a complaint against John James for scandalous action. George Boone and James Boone were appointed to investigate. Someone was accused of palming a red fox for a gray one.
In July, 1742, the dominant trait of the Boones again appears: Whereas Sarah, the daughter of Squire Boone, hath contrary to the good order used amongst Friends joined herself in marriage to one that is not joined to our Society; & it being by sundry persons supposed, that her father & mother have countenanced their proceedings; it is ordered that Richard Lunday, John Scarlet & Thomas Ellis make proper inquiry into the said affair and report to the next Meeting.
These men did as they were bidden, reporting that they had spoken to Squire Boone touching his daughter . . . & that the said Squire declareth that he was in no ways countenancing or consenting to the said marriage; but confesseth himself at fault in keeping them in his house after he knew of their keeping company, (but he was in a great streight not knowing what to do, seeing he was somewhat sensible that they had been too conversant before) & hopeth to be more careful in the future.
Sarah's husband was named John Wilcox.
The meeting for Tenth Month (December), 1747, ordered Thomas Ellis, John Hughes, and James Boone to draw up a "Testimony" against Israel Boone "for marrying a wife not in unity with Friends," and to bring it to the next meeting. Not content with investigating Israel, they also appointed James Boone and Daniel Coles to speak with Squire Boone for countenancing his son's disorderly conduct. At the next Monthly Meeting the clerk read this "Testimony" against Israel:
Whereas Israel Boone, son of Squire Boone of Exeter, having been educated and brought up amongst Friends, & as a member of this Meeting, hath of late married a wife not in unity with Friends; tho' he has been precautioned of the dangerous consequences which mixed marriages are subject to by Friends who at the request of his parents spoke with him; notwithstanding which he rejected the advice given him by those who desired his present & future welfare, to the fulfilling & accomplishing of his own will; Therefore this Meeting thinks themselves engaged for the clearing of the Blessed. Truth & the Professors thereof to give public testimony against him as not being a member amongst us till such a time as we may be sensible of his coming to a Godly sorrow in himself; which, if it is given way to will work true repentance & amendment 'of life, and that it may do so is the earnest wish of us his Friends.
Signed on behalf and by order of the Meeting held at Maidencreek this 28th day of Eleventh Month, 1747. (January 1748) by James Boone
But the Friends who were requested to speak to Squire Boone were not so well-received. They report that they had done so and "that he did not see that he had transgressed and therefore was not willing to condemn it until he saw it to be a transgression." After these discussions the overseers reported to the Meeting that "love and unity subsist in a pretty good degree amongst us." The Monthly Meeting for First Month (March), 1748, brought the climax. The overseers reported that Squire Boone was not willing to give any satisfaction to them and the Meeting ordered a "Testimony" drawn up against him.
This was brought to the May Meeting:
Whereas Squire Boone of Exeter in the County of Philadelphia hath been a Professor amongst us for a number of years, & as a member of this Meeting, who for want of giving heed to that gift of God within himself which united him as a member amongst us, bath of late fallen from that good order and discipline of Friends, which he hath so long made Profession of in many particulars: vizt; in & by countenancing his son's marriage with one who is not in unity with Friends, & giving room to a reflecting spirit even against the order and discipline of Friends in general, as may more at large be seen in his letter to our Monthly Meeting; & for as much as we have from time to time used many endeavors to bring him to a sense of his outgoing . . . therefore this Meeting thinks themselves engaged . . . to give public testimony against him as not being a member amongst us, until such time' as we may be sensible of his coming to a Godly sorrow in himself.
Signed on behalf of the Meeting held at Maidencreek this 28th day of Third Month (May) 1748.
Three months later it was reported that Ellis Hughes had given Squire Boone a copy of this "Testimony" and that Morris Ellis had read it on a First Day according to appointment.
Squire Boone lived for a year and a half longer in Oley. After he had decided to move to the west he found that when he had bought his land in 1730 a certain legal confirmation of sale had inadvertently been omitted. This was rectified April 10, 1750. On the next day he sold to William Maugridge "a certain messuage or Tenement and tract of land containing 158 3/4 acres." A few weeks later he moved into the Carolinas, stopping for a few months with his widowed sister Sarah in Virginia.
This whole affair ends in the record-book-just as we of the twentieth century feel it should-with a tinge of poetry that again takes on the aspect of destiny. Sarah Boone, the mother of Daniel, requested from the women's Meeting at Exeter her certificate as traveling minister. She was granted it, inscribed to "Friends in Virginia, Carolina and elsewhere."