MIKE WAGONER

MIKE WAGONER

Historians tend to agree with an assessment from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Daniel Boone “was one of the great characters of frontier America; his story a mix of folklore and robust deeds.”

Boone’s sense of humor was a tad on the dry side. He once said: “I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.”

Much of the heavy-lifting research into the life and times of pioneer Daniel Boone was conducted by Missouri-based historians.

Their findings add to the intrigue about the “final-answer” to the question: “Where is the resting place of Daniel Boone and his wife, Rebecca Ann Bryan Boone?”

The Boones spent their final years in Missouri (a territory at the time). Rebecca died in 1813, at age 74. She was buried near Marthasville, Mo., in the David Bryan Family Cemetery, near Tuque and Charrette creeks. (David Bryan was Rebecca’s first cousin.)

Daniel died in 1820, at age 85. He was laid to rest at Rebecca’s side.

However, that apple cart was upset 25 years later, when on July 17, 1845, the Boones were disinterred, and their remains were transferred to a cemetery in Kentucky’s capital city of Frankfort. It was an enterprise fueled by wealthy and politically connected investors there.

An unnamed nephew of the Boones was credited with handing over the bodies of Daniel and Rebecca to the “Kentucky body snatchers.”

The cemetery publicist raved on, saying: “One of the most beautiful cemeteries to be found...is in Frankfort, on the crest of the hill that the Kentucky River winds by. There, in the bosom of the land his foot first trod upon, rests the remains of Daniel Boone, the sturdy pioneer....”

Missourians were furious that a gaggle of grave robbers had masqueraded as Kentucky gentlemen. Questions were raised. Since the original Boone family graves had been unmarked, did they dig up the right people in the right places?

Enter Ken Kamper of Hermann, Mo., the founder of the Daniel Boone and Frontier Families Research Association. He has invested a half century of his life trying to separate Boone family “facts from fiction.” He is convinced that the grave diggers got the right bodies.

“When the Boones’ graves were dug up,” Kamper said, “the small bones turned to powder when touched, while the larger bones...remained intact.” The Kentucky delegation gathered up the big bones, put them in separate boxes and carted them off.

Hence, Kamper calculates that 70% to 80% of all the remains of Daniel and Rebeca remained in Marthasville.

Another historian who was deeply involved in the case was the late Ralph Gregory of Marthasville, who died two days shy of his 106th birthday in 2015.

Karen Cernich, a freelance journalist, said Gregory enjoyed telling people: “While the Kentucky delegation may have taken Boone’s bones, his heart and brain remain in Missouri.”

On Oct. 29, 1915, 70 years after the bodies were exhumed, the townspeople of Marthasville dedicated a new monument to memorialize the Boones. The Marthasville Record provided extensive news coverage.

“A free chicken dinner was prepared by the enterprising citizens of Marthasville and vicinity who believe in doing things in the right spirit. It was said that fully 2,200 people were present,” the article reported.

Judge Theodore Waldemar Hukriede “made the opening address. He bewailed the fact that (Daniel Boone’s) remains had been allowed to be removed.”

This resonated with the people. They elected Judge Hukriede to the U.S. House of Representatives.

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