DANIEL BOONE: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer by John Mack Faragher

DANIEL BOONE: The Life and Legend of an American Pioneer

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Daniel Boone's name has been synonymous with the American frontier ever since a highly colored narrative of his exploits appeared in John Filson's Kentucke (1784)--when Boone was still alive. Here, Faragher (History/Mount Holyoke College) sorts through the public record, reminiscences by Boone's contemporaries and descendants, and surviving fragments in Boone's own hand to draw a convincing portrait of the man and his times. As his subtitle suggests, Faragher recognizes that the myth is as big as the man himself, and he devotes considerable energy to tracing its growth. While hardly a debunker, Faragher is quick to point out discrepancies between the legend and the historical record--for example, Boone's own claim that he killed no more than three men during his entire life strongly contradicts his posthumous reputation as an Indian fighter. The multiplicity of Boone relics as well is contrasted to the stark simplicity of the pioneer's actual life. Even the popular image of Boone in a coonskin cap is a latter-day embellishment: Boone actually preferred a Quaker-style beaver hat. Boone's lackadaisical career in politics, his shortcomings as a surveyor, and his failures in land speculation are set in the context of the anarchic early history of Kentucky. The genuine exploits get full coverage here: Boone's dramatic rescue of his daughter from raiding Shawnees; his own capture by Shawnee raiders and his subsequent escape; his role in the defense of Boonesborough in 1778; and his vigorous way of life even in his declining years. Among the surprises are such details as Boone's borrowing from Gulliver's Travels, his favorite book, for a tall tale. Ample quotations in original frontier spelling give Faragher's account extra authenticity. An intriguing study of a central figure in the American imagination.

Pub Date: Nov. 3rd, 1992
ISBN: 0805030077
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Henry Holt