Daniel Boone and Boone County
By: Hillary Delaney
Our county’s namesake, the great frontiersman Daniel Boone, has been a legendary figure throughout Kentucky and the country as a whole. Admiration for Boone’s pioneering exploits inspired localities far and wide to honor his name. There are six counties other than our own in the US named for him. In addition, multiple towns, forests, trails and schools also honor this historic adventurer. This being said, who can lay claim to Daniel Boone? Of course, our Boone County was the earliest county named for him, but did he ever spend time here?
Noted Kentucky historian John Filson is considered the first Boone biographer, having included an appendix titled “The Adventures of Col. Daniel Boon” in his 1784 work, “The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke.” This account, sadly, makes no mention of Boone’s ever having spent time in what we now call Boone County, KY, but it certainly contributed to the noted explorer’s legendary image and fame.
Daniel Boone’s son, Nathan, and his wife Olive were interviewed about Boone’s life in 1851 by historian Lyman Draper. Draper later wrote that Boone was indeed at Big Bone Lick in 1770, and he had “examined the wonderful fossil remains of the mammoth found there,” citing the Nathan Boone interviews as his source. It appears his time here was brief, with the threat of hostile native activity, but he frequently made paths back and forth through the region, and salt licks were a favorite hunting ground.
According to an 1847 letter to the editor of the historic Covington newspaper, the Licking Valley Register, he may have left his “mark.” A member of the Bryson family, who lived on the border between Boone and Gallatin counties, near Big Bone Lick, came across a curious stone in the near his home inscribed with “1773” on the face. He turned the stone over and cleaned it, and was surprised to find the name “Daniel Boone” clearly inscribed beneath a figure of a man’s head. Exciting and historic, even in the mid-1800s, but is there truth to this story?
If this rock does exist, did the family keep it to themselves, or was it a tall tale? In either case, this artifact wasn’t the first. The discovery of “evidence” of Daniel Boone’s presence was popular after the hero’s death in 1820, and went on for years. There are numerous accounts of his name being inscribed on trees, weapons and buildings throughout the pioneer’s known paths of exploration, though few have been proven to be legitimate. As there is little chance of our county having a shot at “Washington slept here,” it would be nice to claim that our namesake “carved here.”