Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

Baumstown’s most famous resident lived in the rural village two and a half cen­turies ago, but he hasn’t been forgotten by generations of Berks countians – or by the rest of the nation for that matter. Nineteen Eighty-Four may best be remembered for its apocalyptic tidings, cour­tesy of writer George Orwell, but it also marked, in November, the 250th anniver­sary of the birth of the brave frontiersman. He is America’s best-loved pioneer, one whose countless legends cele­brate him as Indian fighter, surveyor, militiaman, hunter, trapper, trader, negotiator, busi­nessman and legislator. Even the site of his birthplace has been preserved as a record of eighteenth century pioneer life since its dedi­cation to “The American Boy” in 1938.

By tradition he is a great American hero. By birth he is a Pennsylvanian. He is Daniel Boone.

Daniel Boone was born in the vast wilderness of the Oley Valley on November 2, 1734. Although he lived only sixteen years in south­eastern Pennsylvania, his early years and adventures shaped skills and traits for which he was known – and respected – decades later. The story of Daniel Boone’s birth is the saga of a family’s pilgrimage to North America.

Daniel’s grandfather, George Boone III, inaugurated a family tradition of wander­ing to new and uncharted territory. Born in 1666 in the village of Stoak, near Exeter in Devonshire, England, he mar­ried Mary Maugridge and they became members of the Society of Friends. A man of adventure, with an almost insatiable quest for travel, the elder Boone dreamed of transporting his family to William Penn’s “Holy Experi­ment,” where Quakers could freely live, work and worship. George Boone III dispatched his three oldest children – George IV, Sarah and Squire­ – to investigate the storied land. He received a favorable report, secured a letter of recommendation to the Society of Friends in America, and set out with the remaining fam­ily members on August 17, 1717. They arrived at the port of Philadelphia on September 29.

The entire Boone family shared its patriarch’s restless­ness. Upon immigrating to America, the Boones continued wandering from one region to another. They first settled in Abingdon, about thirteen miles north of Phila­delphia. A few months later they moved farther north to a small settle­ment, North Wales, where they joined the Gwynned Monthly Meeting. Two years later, in 1720, George Boone III moved his family west to Oley and built his permanent home.

Squire Boone, Daniel’s father, did not join the family’s first move from North Wales, but remained for several years, during which he met Sarah Morgan whom he married on September 23, 1720. Squire could not escape the wanderlust which afflicted generations of Boones and in 1728 he pur­chased 140 acres of land in New Britain Township, Bucks County, and erected his first home. Two years Later he bought a tract of 250 acres in Berks County where the most famous Boone would be born.

According to tradition, Squire Boone’s first house in Berks County was a shack, replaced shortly afterward by a substantial log house with a huge fireplace. Squire built his home on a gently slop­ing hill near a spring which assured a good water supply, as well as a cool place to keep fresh butter and milk. The spring still flows today, although the water has been rerouted to one side of the foundation wall; the original stone arch constructed by Squire over the spring, how­ever, is still visible.

Daniel Boone was born in this house, the sixth of eleven children. While very little documentary evidence exists concerning the formative years of his life, enough in­formation has been compiled about Boone’s surroundings in Oley to suggest that the area influenced him, molding the character and spirit of the legendary hero.

Mid-eighteenth century Oley was not unlike other regions of Pennsylvania. William Penn established his province because he deeply believed in a promised land in which all religious groups and indi­viduals could live and wor­ship without fear of persecu­tion. Huguenot families and Moravians, as well as a large settlement of Quakers, in­habited the broad valley and it was in this community that young Daniel acquired the traits for which he was respected in later years.

Upon settling in Oley, George Boone and his sons became prominent members of the community. They established a separate branch of the Gwynedd Monthly Meeting, initially naming it the Oley Meeting and, eventually, the Exeter Meeting. They also named the new town­ship Exeter in honor of their home in England. Little mention of Squire Boone ap­pears in community history, possibly because he was the least prosperous of the Boone brothers. According to extant records of the Oley Meeting, he was in good standing in the Society of Friends: he was named a trustee in 1736 and an overseer three years later. By trade, Squire Boone was a weaver and farmer, and he practiced the arts of blacksmithing and gunsmithing. As in most pioneering families, he relied heavily on his wife and children to help with daily tasks. Daniel learned from his father many of the crafts and trades which were re­quired for an austere and rigor­ous eighteenth century country existence.

Legend purports that Daniel Boone was illiterate but, actually, he preferred stalking the tremendous wilderness in quest of adventure to reading and studying. His sister-in-law Sarah Day taught him spelling, reading and the rudiments of arithmetic when he was fourteen. Daniel’s grammar remained poor and his Uncle John, a teacher, attempted to instruct the boy, but he soon conceded his failure because Daniel’s thinking inevitably wandered to the excitement and adventure of the great outdoors. Daniel Boone’s compositions have always exhibited common sense and practicality, but he was easily the least educated of George Boone’s fifty-two grand­children.

Throughout his life, Daniel Boone excelled only in things he genuinely liked. He learned cattle-raising and farming from his father but neglected them in later years. Squire also taught his son various crafts. including forging, welding and gun- and wagon­-mending. Daniel found these skills somewhat less tedi­ous and relied on them throughout his days in the wilderness. In fact, he served ably as a wagoner on Gen. Edward Braddock’s baggage train during the Battle of the Monongahela.

Daniel Boone’s Quaker upbringing taught him respect, tolerance and compassion for all men, characteristics he demonstrated until his death. Due to the notoriety he received in later years result­ing from conflicts with Indians, he has often been depicted as a vengeful “Indian Killer,” ruthless and insensitive. In reality, he was widely recog­nized as the premier Indian tracker and fighter of his day, yet he fought only to defend himself and oiliers. He never participated in wanton, unjustified killings. Even when his son was tortured and savagely murdered by a small band of cruel Indians, Daniel did not seek revenge.

Daniel Boone was often popularized for his curious rela­tionships with Indians. He found them fascinating and emulated them as he watched them hunt and track. In many instances he found communication with Indians – no matter how odd it seemed­ – easier than with his own people. At an early age he recog­nized that Indians were at home in the woods. Without hesitation he followed the local tribes, meticulously study­ing their every movement, their ways and their customs.

Indians learned to trust the young Boone and they con­tinued to trust and respect him as he grew older. He was held in such high esteem by Indians that Blackfish, chief of a Shawnee tribe, adopted him as a son. Unlike most white men, Boone did not attempt to convert the Indians to his ways, but instead eagerly desired to know more about theirs. While he watched them he cultivated the Indian way of thinking which, in later years, would allow him to foresee their moves in almost every situation. This trait enabled Daniel Boone to protect his family and friends in the wilderness and eventually allowed Kentucky to be mapped and settled.

As an adult Daniel Boone spent most of his time in the lonely hinterlands in which he hunted and trapped for months at a time. At one point his wife assumed he had rued in the forests of Kentucky and abandoned their home to join relatives several hun­dred miles away. During his Berks County experience he learned firsthand methods of survival which sustained his extended forays into the North American wilderness. As a boy he acquired knowl­edge of the best woods to use when cooking and the best barks for building a tem­porary night shelter. He learned a great deal about forbearing animals which enabled him to earn a Living by trading the furs of beaver and otter and the hides of deer.

Darnel was nearly sixteen when his father began con­templating another move – this time south. Squire Boone grew increasingly dissatisfied with Berks County. He lost his good standing in the Exeter Meeting because of the mar­riages of two of his children. In 1742 Daniel’s sister, Sarah, was ostracized for marrying a “worldling,” one who was not a member of the Society of Friends. An investigation also showed that she was with child before her wedding. Squire Boone appeared before the Exeter Meeting, con­fessed the errors of his ways and asked for forgiveness.

Five years later Squire’s son Israel “married out” of the Quaker sect. Again the father was summoned before the Meeting and forced to account for his family’s actions. He firmly believed his children had the right to marry whom­ever they pleased and he stood firm against the Society’s accusations. From that point on life in Berks County for Squire was trying.

Squire Boone’s excommu­nication from the Society of Friends was not the only reason for leaving south­eastern Pennsylvania. At the time, the idea of crop rota­tion did not exist, and there was very little fertilization of the soil; furthermore, Squire believed much of the good farmland in Berks County was already settled. The wan­dering spirit surfaced and, with little hesitation, Squire Boone sold the homestead and moved his family to North Carolina.

Imbued with his family’s inherent wanderlust, Daniel Boone left North Carolina to explore the territory of Ken­tucky and establish its boun­daries. In September 1773, Daniel, joined by his family and forty others, journeyed deep into the still wilderness of Kentucky and laid out Fort Boonesborough. He was named trustee and chosen one of six from the settlement “for the purpose of Legisla­tion, or making of and ordaining laws and regulations for the future conduct of the inhabi­tants of Transylvania.” When Virginia divided Kentucky County into three new counties, Boone was selected county lieutenant, lieutenant-colonel of the militia, sheriff of Fayette County and represen­tative to the state assembly. Known as the best frontiersman of his day, he was engaged to help build the “Wilderness Road” and clear the way for the settlement of Kentucky.

Daniel Boone did, indeed, become a legendary hero. Unlike many famous historical personages, he achieved great prominence – and often notoriety – while he lived. There may have been men of his time who made more significant contributions to the settlement of North America, but Daniel Boone has cap­tured the hearts of Americans, past and present, young and old. Daniel Boone remains – two centuries after his death – America’s most beloved pioneer and Pennsylvania’s treasured legend.


On view at the Historical Society of Berks County, headquartered in Reading, is a special exhibit commemorat­ing the 250th birthday of the county’s celebrated fron­tiersman, Daniel Boone. The exhibit features a life-size frontier scene showing the clothing, tools and supplies needed to survive in the isolated wilderness of eigh­teenth century Pennsylvania. A series of six drawings depicts significant events in Boone’s life, including his participation in Braddock’s cam­paign, cutting the Wilderness Road and the settling of Boonesborough. Daniel Boone memorabilia will also be exhibited. “Daniel Boone: A Symbol of His Time” con­tinues through December 29 [1984]. Visiting hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 A.M. to 4 P.M. For additional infor­mation, write: The Historical Society of Berks County, 940 Centre Ave., Reading, PA 19601; or telephone (215) 375-4375.


For Further Reading

Bakeless, John E. Daniel Boone. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1939.

Brown, John M. Daniel Boone. New York: Random House, 1952.

Donehoo, George P. Indian Villages and Place Names in Pennsylvania. Baltimore: Gate­way Press, Inc., 1977.

Fletcher, Stevenson W. Pennsyl­vania Agriculture and Country Life, 1640-1840. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Mu­seum Commission, 1950.

Spraker, Hazel A. The Boone Family. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1922.

Stoudt, John J. “Daniel and Squire Boone: A Study in Historical Symbolism.” Pennsylvania His­tory 3:27-40.

Sutton, Isaac C. “The Boones in Pennsylvania.” Berks County Historical Review 14:74-76.

Wallace, Paul A.W. Daniel Boone in Pennsylvania. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1967.

____. Indians in Pennsyl­vania. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Com­mission, 1981.


Koren P. McCarthy earned her B.A. in history from Lycoming College in 1981 and presently serves as assistant historic site administrator at the Daniel Boone Homestead in Baumstown.