Squire Boone Chapter 2: The long hunts lead to Kentucky

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By Ron Van Stockum

Shortly after his marriage in 1765, Squire Boone accompanied his older brother Daniel and several others on a trip to hunt and explore new lands in Florida, which had become a  British at the end  of the French and Indian War.

The men traveled through Salisbury, N.C., through South Carolina and Savannah, Ga., and into St. Augustine, Fla. , in the first of what would become to be known as the long hunts, the sort of months-long hunting trips that eventually landed them in Kentucky.  But the trip to Florida wasn’t exactly as planned.

In a highly acclaimed biography of Daniel Boone, described their expedition as "an extended bachelor party, featuring a good deal of flirting and cavorting with pretty serving girls and Seminole Indian maidens."

They found very little game in a wet country covered with greenbrier. They traded their deerskins in Pensacola and returned by a more direct route through Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, arriving home on Christmas Day 1765.

In the following year, Daniel moved his family 65 miles up the Yadkin River because the population in the Forks of the Yadkin had grown significantly during the 15 years that the Boone family had lived there, and game was scarce.

And in September 1767, Squire Boone sold the remaining 590 acres of the 640-acre farm in the Forks that had deeded to him by his father and followed his brother, locating his family near that of his sister Hannah and her husband, John Stewart.

Reports and rumors, some exaggerated, of the beautiful and productive land to be found in Kentucky, got the attention of Daniel and his brother.  Even years later, one frontier preacher exclaimed, "O my dear honeys, heaven is a Kentucky of a place."[The Christian Traveler (1828) quoted in Moore, The Frontier Mind, 24.] [Faragher, 373]


On to Kentucky

Accordingly, Daniel Boone, accompanied by Squire and a friend[Draper 2B152-53]"It is thought" -- Spraker, 73; "accompanied" -- Faragher, 71; Jillson, , William Hill, made his first incursion  into what is now Kentucky during a long hunt in the fall and winter of 1767-68.

Describing the routes that the Boone brothers took on their long hunts is not possible, except in general terms. But Neal Hammon, an architect from Shelbyville and authority on the routes taken by the early pioneers, describes their route in the following terms.

"They probably followed the route taken by Major Andrew Lewis in his ill-fated Big Sandy Campaign of 1756, through Burkes Garden in Southwestern Virginia and, in the vicinity of nearby Tazewell, crossed into the mountains of the Cumberland Plateau, picking up the headwaters of the Levisa fork of the Big Sandy River. They may have followed that river through present day Pikeville to Prestonsburg and perhaps as far as present day Paintsville."

They returned home the following spring after spending the winter trapping and hunting.  Daniel and his companions could not have realized that they had entered into a region later to be incorporated into the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Daniel in Filson’s Kentucke made no mention of this earlier trip and described the 1769trip as being “in quest of the country of Kentucke.”


‘The Beautiful Level of Kentucke’

In the winter of 1768-69, John Finley, [Filson's spelling] peddler and horse-trader, was Daniel's guest in the upper Yadkin.  The two had known each other in the French and Indian War, having been wagoneers in support of Gen. Braddock's aborted invasion of Canada in 1755.  Squire Boone was there when Finley spoke glowingly of Kentucky.

And on May 1, 1769, Finley, Daniel Boone, his brother-in-law John Stewart, and three others left the Upper Yadkin for Kentucky with their equipment and supplies packed on 10 to 15 pack horses.  Squire decided to remain at home and help with the crops.

Most historians agree to the route this parry followed into Kentucky, and some have described it in great detail. Filson’s Kentucke says:

“We proceeded successfully, and after a long and fatiguing journey through a mountainous wilderness, in a westward direction, on the seventh day of June following, we found ourselves on Red River, where John Finley had formerly been trading with the Indians, and, from the top of an eminence, saw with pleasure the beautiful level of Kentucke." 

The Red River rises in the mountainous region of the Cumberland Plateau, in eastern Wolfe County, approximately 15 miles east of Campton.  It flows generally west, through Red River Gorge in the Daniel Boone National Forest, then past Stanton and Clay City.  It joins the Kentucky approximately 11 miles southeast of Winchester.

Each year the Kentucky Historical Society commemorates this day, the seventh of June 1769, as “Boone Day.”

Not mentioned by Lyman Draper in his unfinished biography or in Boone’s narrative in Filson’s Kentucke, was their passage through the Cumberland Gap, which was to become the gateway to the West.

This famous gap, associated by many with Boone, had provided ingress into Kentucky for many years, even before it was used in 1750 by famed explorer Dr. Thomas Walker, who had named it after the Duke of Cumberland.


A remarkable rendezvous

For the next six months Boone and his companions took advantage of the abundance of game to hunt and to trap.  This was a typical “Long Hunt,” peculiar to Southwest Virginia, long in distance and long in time.

During such hunts it was usually necessary to send back furs and hides and to receive replenishments from the settlements to the east.

They established “Station Camp,” on a stream called Station Camp Creek, which empties into the Kentucky River at Irvine, Kentucky, the seat of Estill County.

The arrival of Squire Boone was anticipated daily. He was to arrive "with supplies of salt, etc.”

But near the end of December 1769 Boone and Stewart, hunting together, were captured by a band of Indians who later turned them loose after taking all their furs and hides and horses.  Then, in a futile attempt to reclaim their own horses, they were recaptured, managed to escape and after several days hard travel reached Station Camp, which they found abandoned.

Continuing to the south they located their companions who were discouraged and heading home. But it was here that Boone found his brother Squire, who, with Alexander Neely, had come over the mountains with horses and supplies.

Willard Rouse Jillson, a distinguished Kentucky historian and geologist, has described this rendezvous as being remarkable:

“Many deeds of bravery and heroism mark the pages of early Kentucky history, but none can compare with this spontaneous, intelligent and perfectly timed expedition designed and executed by Squire Boone to bring relief to his brother Daniel.  Historians generally, from John Filson to the present time, it must be agreed, have failed to see the full significance of this action and Squire Boone’s fame has suffered accordingly.”

 [FCHQ, July 1942, 148]Squire said years later he had come "in search of the Western world and my brother Daniel Boone."

D[Fara.,82 and FC Squire Boone Collection, 1812 Petition.  See Memorial.]

aniel, Squire, Stewart and Neely remained in Kentucky, but the others returned home.  Shortly afterward, while hunting with Daniel, John Stewart disappeared (his skeleton was found in 1775).

This was a great loss for Daniel, for Stewart was brother-in-law, good friend and favorite hunting companion.  Neely, alarmed, left alone to return to the Yadkin.

Next: Alone in the wilderness