You can learn a lot about North Carolina pioneers, trailblazers and its “heroes and sheroes” by following the clues left by the state’s highway historical markers.
Such is the case with the incomparable frontiersman Daniel Boone. North Carolina’s “history on a stick” writers describe Boone as “a hunter, fur-trader, farmer, explorer and archetype of the American wilderness.”
Daniel was born in Pennsylvania in 1734 and died in 1820 in Missouri (before it was a state). Additionally, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky also claim to be “home” to Daniel Boone.
North Carolina historians say Daniel Boone lived in the Tar Heel state for more years than he lived anywhere else. So there!
Boone called North Carolina home for 21 years, from 1752 to 1773. He was in his teens when his parents – Squire and Sarah Boone – moved to North Carolina in 1751, eventually buying land along the Yadkin River in Davie County, near present-day Mocksville. The Boones had 11 children. Daniel was sixth in line.
Daniel began courting Rebecca Ann Bryan of Virginia, who was being raised by her grandparents in the Yadkin Valley. The young lovers were married in 1756. He was 22, and she was 17.
They immediately took in two of Daniel’s nephews who had been orphaned. Daniel and Rebecca would raise nine children of their own, and they adopted the six children of Rebecca’s widowed brother.
One historian noted that “Rebecca was an experienced community midwife, the family doctor, leather tanner, linen-maker...and sharpshooter.” There were a lot of mouths to feed in the Boone family. Someone had to put food on the table when Daniel was off traipsing around in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Watauga County.
From North Carolina, the Boones gravitated toward open spaces, leading them west into Tennessee and Kentucky. After some land speculation deals in Kentucky went sour for Daniel, the family was in a bit of a “legal and financial” scrape.
He decided it best to move on again, this time leaving the United States to settle west of the Mississippi River in a place called Missouri, which was part of Spanish Louisiana at the time.
Missouri gained statehood in 1821, about a year after Daniel Boone’s death in 1820. He was buried in a small graveyard near Marthasville, Mo., next to Rebecca, who had died in 1813.
Their graves are in the David Bryan Family Cemetery. (David Bryan was Rebecca’s first cousin.)
That was that. Until 1845...when investors of a new cemetery in Frankfort, Ky., allegedly obtained approval from Boone family descendants to have the remains of Daniel and Rebecca “reinterred in the Bluegrass State.”
Kingpins in the “corpse relocation” operation were brothers Judge Mason Brown and Orlando Brown, a newspaper publisher and Kentucky’s secretary of state. They secured state funds to carry out their plan, which included the erection a grand monument memorializing the Boones at the new burial site.
The 200-year-anniversary of Daniel Boone’s death was observed last year, causing a new wave of speculation about who is buried where?
Perhaps the Kentucky crowd really didn’t have the family’s consent to dig up the original graves? Or the authority? Perhaps they dug up the wrong bodies?
“It’s one of those great Kentucky-Missouri mysteries, and people are fascinated by it,” said Sara Elliott, executive director of Liberty Hall, a museum in Frankfort. “It sparked an interest in whether or not they had actually exhumed Daniel Boone.”
Next: What the research reveals.