I left Elizabethtown and instead of heading further south I decided to head eastward to check out the stomping grounds of a childhood hero. Everyone in the country knows about Daniel Boone or, well, they should. I grew up with a healthy dose of him from watching the television show with Fess Parker. As I grew up and become more interested in history, I came to realize that the fictional stories were a pale shadow in comparison to the factual ones. It was also during those times I came to learn of another frontiersman, Simon Kenton (AKA: Simon Butler.) Simon Kenton is one of those historical names that, if you’re not REAL interested in the time period, you’ve probably never heard of before. I was first introduced to him in the historical novel “The Frontiersman” by Allan w. Eckert. He’s a similar historical figure in that his real story is just too good to be fiction.
I’ve always been fascinated by the time period; the harsh conditions, homesteading, the interchange between Native Americans and the new settlers, and the thought of what the countryside must have looked like back then. I couldn’t pass up the chance to at least do a fly-over of some of that territory. While planning a flight I will sometimes do some quick internet searches/scans of areas and it was during that I happened upon a word I’ve never heard in correlation with Daniel Boone before – Transylvania.
Shortly after Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774, a land speculation company was formed which finally settled on the name of the “Transylvania Company.” These 17th century Donald Trumps decided it would be a great idea to jump on a large chunk of land in Kentucky given up by the Shawnee as part of the truce of the previous war. This is an interesting point about treaties at the time because this one worked like this:
The Iroquis who were the ones that negotiated things first even though they really didn’t live there. You see, their “buddies” the Shawnee lived there. The Iroquis handed it over six years prior in 1768 but really didn’t talk to their Shawnee allies about it which, as you can imagine, ticked the Shawnee off. This led to a little scuffle called Lord Dunmore’s War with the incoming settlers. This didn’t last very long and the Shawnee were forced into signing a treaty and heading elsewhere. The Shawnee, however, failed to mentionl the Cherokee who used the area of Kentucky as their sacred hunting lands. With two of the three tribes out of the action, The Transylvania Company hoped to make a colony and get the area properly tamed and “civilized.” They purchased a huge chunk of land from the Cherokee leaders and moved forward with their plan.
Of course, as intelligent thoughtful men of capitol gain, they went with the one name they knew could get the job done in the area: Daniel Boone. He was hired to blaze a wider trail through the Cumberland Gap and lead the way to an area marked out along the Kentucky River which would be called Boonesborough.
Boonesborough, the capitol of Transylvania.
I’m sure it all made sense at the time.
Daniel Boone or no Daniel Boone, the settlers and trailblazers suffered constant pressures of attack from the natives who were still none too pleased by the presence of a large group of settlers stomping onto their land. This sort of thing was taking place all over the new territory and would be repeated over and over again as the frontier moved further westward. Trying to carve out a settlement and a fort in these conditions while undermanned and under-supplied must have been quite a feat but Boone’s group accomplished it. Unfortunately, what they might not have mentioned to Boone was that in 1775 the whole idea of a public purchase of native lands without the consent of the territorial government and the King of England was, well, illegal.
And, of course, in 1777 that little thing called the Revolutionary War broke out and things got REAL interesting when the British decided to begin hiring up the local native bands and handing them guns. This led to the Siege of Boonesborough which, unfortunately, didn’t turn out very well for anyone involved; including Daniel Boone.
In 1778, the whole idea was declared void by the Virginia Assembly and the great Transylvania Colony went up in a puff of bureaucratic smoke. Daniel Boone, however, did get a cool fort town named after him. But, just think, we almost had a colony named Transylvania! The hills of Kentucky could have been covered in thick fog, large bats and Eastern European castles!
An interesting sidenote – Also in 1775, a small camp was made just north of Boonesboro by another party of frontiersmen. It was called Lexington. Funny how history works, isn’t it?
Some interesting links to check out -
In the video, I take things down to the deck and fly along the Kentucky River so as to give an idea of the landscape near the Boonesboro fort. Coming in from the north, you can see how the fort gives a sweeping view all along the river and was, actually, an excellent choice for a foothold in the area.
After the flyby, I head further south and land Lake Cumberland, Kentucky for a brief break. From there, I made plans to retrace Boone’s path through the Cumberland Gap and down into Tennessee.