Before Washington began to fight the battles of the Revolution in the east, Daniel Boone and other famous hunters were fighting bears and Indians in what was then called the west. By that war in the woods, these brave and hardy men helped us to get possession of that part of the country.
Daniel Boone was born in Pennsylvania. His father moved to North Carolina, and Daniel helped him cut down the trees round their log cabin in the forest. He ploughed the land, which was thick with stumps, hoed the corn that grew up among those stumps, and then,—as there was no mill near,—he pounded it into meal for "johnny-cake." He learned how to handle a gun quite as soon as he did a hoe. The unfortunate deer or coon that saw young Boone coming toward him knew that he had seen his best days, and that he would soon have the whole Boone family sitting round him at the dinner-table.
When Daniel had grown to manhood, he wandered off with his gun on his shoulder, and crossing the mountains, entered what is now the state of Tennessee. That whole country was then a wilderness, full of savage beasts and still more savage Indians; and Boone had many a sharp fight with both. More than a hundred and thirty years ago, he cut these words on a beech-tree, still standing in Eastern Tennessee,—"D. Boon killed a bar on (this) tree in the year 1760." You will see if you examine the tree, on which the words can still be read, that Boone could not spell very well; but he could do what the bear minded a good deal more,—he could shoot to kill.
Nine years after he cut his name on that tree, Boone, with a few companions, went to a new part of the country. The Indians called it Kentucky. There he saw buffalo, deer, bears, and wolves enough to satisfy the best hunter in America. This region was a kind of No Man's Land, because, though many tribes of Indians roamed over it, none of them pretended to own it. These bands of Indians were always fighting and trying to drive each other out, so Kentucky was often called the "Dark and Bloody Ground." But, much as the savages hated each other, they hated the white men, or the "pale-faces," as they called them, still more.
The hunters were on the lookout for these Indians, but the savages practised all kinds of tricks to get the hunters near enough to shoot them. Sometimes Boone would hear the gobble of a wild turkey. He would listen a moment, then he would say, That is not a wild turkey, but an Indian, imitating that bird; but he won't fool me and get me to come near enough to put a bullet through my head. One evening an old hunter, on his way to his cabin, heard what seemed to be two young owls calling to each other. But his quick ear noticed that there was something not quite natural in their calls, and what was stranger still, that the owls seemed to be on the ground instead of being perched on trees, as all well-behaved owls would be. He crept cautiously along through the bushes till he saw something ahead which looked like a stump. He didn't altogether like the looks of the stump. He aimed his rifle at it, and fired. The stump, or what seemed to be one, fell over backward with a groan. He had killed an Indian, who had been waiting to kill him.
In 1775 Boone, with a party of thirty men, chopped a path through the forest from the mountains of Eastern Tennessee to the Kentucky River, a distance of about two hundred miles. This was the first path in that part of the country leading to the great west. It was called the "Wilderness Road." Over that road, which thousands of emigrants travelled afterward, Boone took his family, with other settlers, to the Kentucky River. There they built a fort called Boonesboro'. That fort was a great protection to all the first settlers in Kentucky. In fact, it is hard to see how the state could have grown up without it. So in one way, we can say with truth that Daniel Boone, the hunter, fighter, and road-maker, was a state-builder besides.
Directions: Answer the following multiple choice questions. Also, answer the following questions on a sheet of paper: