The Boones in Pennsylvania
By ISAAC CRAWFORD SUTTON
The Boone family were Quakers, and since Quakers were subject to persecution in England, they quite naturally turned to “Penn’s Woods” as a haven where they could worship as they pleased and where they could perhaps better their circumstances. Daniel’s grandfather, George Boone, lived in the village of Bradnich. near Exeter. England, where he pursued his trade as a weaver. He and his wife, Mary Maugridge, were members of the Collumpton Society of Friends.
Being a cautious man, before venturing to the new country. George sent his three oldest children. George Jr.. Sarah. and Squire (Daniel’s father). to size tip the situation here. They sailed for America late in 1712, and on their arrival settled near the Abingdon (now Abington) Friends Monthly Meeting, in Bucks County. Sarah married Jacob Stover. and soon afterward moved to Oley Valley. then in Philadelphia County, now in Berks. about eight miles east of Reading.
Although the children’s reports to their father were most favorable, it was five years before he finally emigrated to the province, bringing with him the rest of his family. They sailed on August 17, 1717, and arrived in Philadelphia some seven weeks later, on October 10.
After a short stay with his children in Abingdon. George and his household settled in North Wales and became members of the Gwynned Meeting. Two years later George moved to Oley Valley along with his son George. Jr. There they purchased about 400 acres along the Owatin (now Spring) Creek and built their cabins. His daughter, Sarah Stover. and her husband Jacob lived nearby, having moved there in 1714.
Soon after settling, George Sr. and his family organized the Exeter Friends Meeting in the Valley, and gave the ground on which the meeting house still stands. Here many of the Boones lie buried, and also some of the Lincolns: for Mordecai Lincoln. great- great-grandfather of the “Great Emancipator,” lived in the vicinity and the two families intermarried.
Squire Boone, George’s youngest son, married Sarah Morgan in 1726. She was a Welsh Quaker girl whose family was prominent in the Gwynned Meeting. Sarah was taller than her husband and is said to have been of distinguished appearance, with black hair and dark flashing eyes. Squire had a ruddy complexion, red hair and light blue eyes.
During the first ten years of their married life. Squire and Sarah lived in a stone house (which is still standing), built on the bank of the Neshaminy Creek near the town of Chalfont, in Bucks County. Here the first three of their twelve children were born. In 1730 they, too, moved to Oley Valley; there Squire had bought from “Ralph Ashton, gentleman,” of Philadelphia, a tract of 250 acres not far from the home of his father, his brother George, and his sisters, Sarah Stover and Mary Webb.
With the help of his neighbors, Squire Boone built a log cabin on a stone foundation, which now supports part of the present stone house. As was customary with the early pioneers, he built his cabin over a spring so that water would be readily available, and in order to provide a cool place for perishable food, safe from marauding Indians and wild animals. The eastern portion of the present stone house, adjoining the cabin, was probably built by Daniel’s father. Squire’s family had soon outgrown the cabin, and in addition he needed room for his loom, for, like his father, he was a weaver. Here they lived until 1750, when they migrated to the Yadkin Valley, South Carolina.
After the family moved, the cabin was torn down and the western half of the house was constructed on the foundations of the cabin, the stone in the gable bearing the date 1779. The old homestead underwent many changes in the course of succeeding generations, but it somehow has managed to survive to the present time. In 1937, when it was taken over by the state, it was in a deplorable condition. Under the supervision of the Pennsylvania State Historical Commission the charming old red shale stone house has now been restored. A large part of the work of restoration was done by unemployed youth of the neighborhood under the National Youth Administration. The homestead is located near the present village of Baumstown, a short distance from the Philadelphia-Reading Pike.
Daniel, the sixth of twelve children, was born on November 2, 1734, (October 22nd by the old calendar. It is not known whether he was born in the eastern half of the standing stone house or in the adjoining cabin, but the chances are that if the stone addition was then standing, the birth took place in a second story bedroom rather than in the loft of the cabin.
It was during the fourteen years of his youth in Pennsylvania that Daniel began to develop his strong physique, his uncanny skill as a woodsman, and his noble character as a man. His father was apparently not an imposing man, nor a man of outstanding ability. His affairs did not prosper as well as those of the other members of the family; otherwise it is doubtful that he would have left the valley and his relatives there.
From his mother Daniel inherited his sturdy frame. He had broad shoulders and slender hips, a combination of great strength with unusual agility. His mother did much to shape his character through her companionship. To her he owed his religious nature. The religious conviction which served the pioneer all his life is poignantly and simply expressed in a letter to his sister-in-law written in his seventy-second year. “I am as ignerant as a Child all the Religan I have to Love and fear God believe in Jesus Christ Dowall the good to my Neighbors and my Self that I can and Do as Little harm as I can help and trust in God’s mercy for Rest.”
On Sundays, when a boy, Daniel used to walk with his mother to Exeter Meeting two miles through the woods, carrying an old English gun, as a protection from lurking beasts or Indians, or perhaps to provide a wild turkey for dinner. The author has seen the gun, on the butt of which is carved, “D. Boon. 1746. my Mother Chirch Gun.” She also took him with her to help drive the cattle to their summer grazing land, which her husband had bought when Daniel was ten years old. It is said they often camped there together during the summer season.
The boy’s formal education was scant, as evidenced by the poor spelling, punctuation and grammar of his letters later in life, it is said that he learned to read and write from his sister-in-law, Sarah, wife of his brother Samuel. He apparently also received some instruction in mathematics, for he afterwards kept neat and accurate accounts when serving as magistrate in Missouri, and at one time he served as assistant surveyor of Transylvania (Kentucky). It is probable that he received this instruction from his uncle George, who was formerly a school teacher in Abingdon and who had the reputation of being a good mathematician and a surveyor.
Daniel’s practical training was typical of that of a boy on a pioneer plantation. In addition to farming, he learned the tanning of leather and the use of carpenter’s tools, and also blacksmithing at his father’s forge. While still a boy he became skilled at using a wooden dart and sling and with these weapons he could kill or stun small animals and birds. In his early adolescent years he was entrusted with a gun, and soon he became an exceptionally good shot and a formidable hunter. On the other side of the butt of his mother’s “chirch gun”, is carved: “D. Boon. cilled. Big Panther. this gun. I was 13 year Old in Bucks Ca. Pa.”
When he became older, he acquired a rifle made by one of the local gun-smiths. Incidentally, Daniel’s cousin Samuel was a gun-smith and his brother Squire was apprenticed to him for five years and thus became proficient in the craft. It was the custom of the pioneers to gather occasionally at the nearest village for a social time, when various contests were held, including target shooting and wrestling. On many such occasions Daniel is said to have carried off first honors in both.
His uncanny ability in dealing with Indians and in outwitting them in the forest no doubt had its beginning in Berks County. In plain view of the Boone homestead is Monocacy hill, at the base of which was the Indian town of that name where friendly Leni Lenape (Delawares) lived. It was here that William Penn is reported to have visited old Chief Tenoughan in the cold winter of 1684, after having walked on the ice all the way up the Schuylkill River from Philadelphia. When Daniel was a boy, most of the Lenape moved west and afterward there were probably only a straggling few who remained in the neighborhood. In the mountains on the northern side of the valley, however, lived bands of Conestogas and Eries. No doubt the lad played and hunted with many an Indian boy.
When Daniel was eight years old, the famous Moravian leader Count Zinzendorf presided at a synod held in the barn of John DeTurk nearby. It is said that the Boone family went there to hear him preach and saw him baptize three Indians who had been converted to Christianity. Young Daniel was probably with his parents on this occasion.
Squire Boone at one time became part owner of a shad fishery on the nearby Schuylkill River. There is a tale that Daniel went to the river with his mother one warm spring day to help clean some fish to bring home. The boy was left asleep near the fish with his hat over his face, while his mother went to a neighbor’s house to offer a share of the catch. The neighbor accepted and sent her daughters after the fish. When they saw a pail containing fish entrails near the sleeping boy they dashed the contents in the boy’s face, whereupon he gave them both a sound beating. Their mother then ran to Mrs. Boone in complaint. Mrs. Boone was ordinarily a calm, gentle woman, but she could be spirited when occasion warranted. She retorted: “If thee has not brought up thy daughters to better behavior it is high time they were taught better manners. And if Daniel has given them a lesson, I hope, for my part, that it will in the end do them no harm, and I have only to add, that I did thee good day.”
It is said that Daniel was fond of practical jokes, and that once, with his friend Henry Miller, he was guilty of taking some neighbors’ wagons apart and tying the wheels and other parts up in the trees.
In his father’s blacksmith shop Daniel became skilled in metal work. When he was twenty-one years old he enlisted as a blacksmith and wagoner in Braddock’s ill-fated expedition and was lucky to escape from the Indians on one of Braddock’s horses at the time of the disastrous defeat. His blacksmith’s skill served him well later in life in repairing his rifle and those of his pioneer friends and, when a prisoner, those of the Indians.
Daniel was sixteen years old when his father sold his Oley Valley property and migrated to North Carolina. Squire Boone was in bad odor with the Exeter Meeting, by which he had been rebuked and “disowned” because some of his children had married out of meeting.” The Boones could never endure regimentation. His migration was also probably motivated by his having exhausted the soil of his land. The pioneers knew little of rotation of crops and fertilization of the soil. When the land was worked out, they moved. The family lived near Winchester, Va., for over a year, near their friend John Lincoln, Abraham’s grandfather, before eventually migrating to Yadkin Valley, North Carolina.
Daniel is said to have been five feet ten inches in height, sturdily built, and of remarkable strength. He had fair skin, sandy hair and eyebrows, blue eyes, a large mouth, thin lips and a Roman nose. The Indians of Kentucky called him “wide mouth.”
It was not until he was forty-seven years old that he returned to his birthplace. His Uncle James wrote in his Bible “1781 Oct. 20. Then Daniel came to see us for the first time.” Two years before, the old cabin had been torn down and, on the stone foundation was built the rest of the stone house which now stands.
Again in 1788 Daniel returned to Pennsylvania, with his wife, a daughter and two sons. James Boone then recorded in his Bible: “1788, Feb. 12, Then Daniel (with Rebecca his wife, and their son Nathan) came to see us.” It is reported that he placed his hand on the big timber over the fire-place and said to his son Nathan, “Just so tall was your clad when we left here.” The timber is still there and is just five feet ten inches from the level of the original floor, as shown by the old stone foundation of the cabin. Never again did Daniel Boone return to Oley Valley.
Boone’s love of the wilderness continued to the end of his life. He never settled down for any length of time, but was ever away on a hunting expedition or exploring unsettled country. His skill in the woods and with the Indians was so outstanding that he became the most famous pioneer of his time, and he has remained to this day, our national ideal of a “pioneer.”
This article appeared in The Historical Review of Berks County, April 1949.
Daniel Boone Homestead
400 Daniel Boone Rd.
Birdsboro PA 19508