A History of the Daniel Boone National Forest
1770 - 1970


It will be remembered that when the Transylvania Convention adjourned in May of 1775, it adjourned with an order that it would reconvene at Boonesborough on the first Thursday in September of that year. However, September came and went without an assembly of that legislature. With the initiation of the Revolutionary War on the eastern seaboard and the coming of people to Boonesborough from that area, revolutionary sentiments of the east had infiltrated into the backcountry of Kentucky. Before the summer of 1775 had ended, the idea of a proprietary government in Kentucky had become obnoxious to the Kentucky settlers.

A meeting of the majority of the members of the Transylvania Company, held on September 25, 1775, in the little town of Oxford, in Granville County, North Carolina, resulted in an immediate step being taken to secure the recognition of the Colony of Transylvania as the 14th member of the United Colonies by an adoption of a memorial to the Continental Congress which was then in session in Philadelphia. James Hogg had been elected as a delegate to that body.

Hogg reached Philadelphia on October 22, 1775, and, although he was not received as an official delegate, he worked faithfully among the leaders of that assembly. One of those leaders, Silas Deane, was so seriously impressed with the possibility of a new colony that he personally drew up a paper to aid in the proper shaping of its economy and government, but advised Hogg to contact the Virginia delegates as the Continental Congress was certainly not disposed to take any action on this matter without their consent.

On Hogg's contact with the Virginia members of Congress, one of them, Thomas Jefferson, indicated that he would like to see a free government established there in Transylvania, but that he would consent to no congressional acknowledgement of such a colony until it was approved by the Virginia Convention. It was quite plain to Hogg that none of the congressmen that he had consulted would countenance a proprietary government. In a report to Judge Henderson, Hogg wrote, "You would be amazed to see how much at earnest all these speculative gentlemen are about the plan to be adopted by the Transylvanians. They entreat, they pray we may make it a free government, and beg that no mercenary or ambitious views in the proprietors may prevent it. Quit rents, they say, is a mark of vassalage, and hope they shall not be established in Transylvania. They even threaten us with their opposition if we do not act upon liberal principles." Hogg stated that he was enclosing a copy of a sketch by John Adams, which he had obtained from Richard Henry Lee, in which Adams, like Jefferson and Deane, urged the adoption of full and complete republican constitutions by all of the colonies. By this time Judge Henderson and the other members of the Transylvania Company must have realized, even though six or eight months would elapse before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, that the prospect for an American colony with a proprietary form of government was not particularly bright.

At the September meeting of the proprietors, they agreed to advance the price of land in Transylvania from 20 shillings per hundred acres to 50 shillings per hundred acres. This raising of the price of land initiated a dissatisfaction which was to increase as time went on.

On the first of December the uncle of Judge Henderson, John Williams, who had recently been elected general agent of the Transylvania Colony, arrived in Boonesborough accompanied by another group of immigrants and there opened a land office for the Transylvania Colony. At this time John Floyd, who had been a surveyor under the government of Virginia, was appointed surveyor, Natianiel Henderson was appointed entry officer, and Richard Harrison secretary. John Williams, in his new capacity as general agent for the Transylvania Colony, soon found that the rise in the price of land was causing great dissatisfaction throughout Transylvania. Some of the residents of Harrodsburg drew up a formal protest which was delivered to him by a special committee. His reply to this protest was not satisfactory to the residents of Harrodsburg or other residents of the colony, and dissatisfaction and trouble grew.

On December 23, 1775, the residents of Boonesborough were amazed, horrified and exasperated by an Indian outrage. The western Indians were still neutral in the struggle of the Revolutionary War. On that day two boys of Boonesborough, one named McQuinney and another named Sanders, left Boonesborough without their rifles, which was a common practice among the settlers, crossed the Kentucky River and climbed the hills opposite the fort where they fell into the hands of lurking Shawnee Indians who fired on another member of the garrison, also on that side of the river. At first, the residents of Boonesborough were alarmed under the impression that a large body of Indians had arrived in the vicinity of the settlement. This alarm increased as the boys did not return. On December 27, the body of the McQuinney boy, killed and scalped, was located in a cornfield about three miles north of the Kentucky River and there was evidence that the slayers had continued travel to the north. A party of Rangers under the command of Jesse Benton, father of the afterwards famous Thomas H. Benton, made an attempt to find the slayers. The Transylvania Colony had made an offer of five pounds for the scalp of each of the fleeing Indians, but no such scalps were secured. The other boy, Sanders, whether killed or a prisoner, was never known as he never returned to the settlement nor was he heard from again. The Transylvania Colony had been free of any attacks by Indians since shortly after the attack on Captain Twetty the previous spring, and the residents of the colony had felt that they were free of such a threat. This outrage came as a shock and the first Christmas at Boonesborough was one of grief, anxiety and tears.

The new year of 1776, opened peacefully enough at Boonesborough and business at the land office continued. The spring was uneventful, but immigration from Virginia and North Carolina was noticeably checked by the Indian attack of the last days of the previous year. While both English and Americans were working for an Indian alliance, it was generally conceded that the Indians, as usual, would side with the strongest party. The outlook appeared gloomy to the residents of the frontier.

In May of 1776, a petition, based on the information contained in the remonstrations of the previous December to Commissioner Williams, was received by the Virginia convention from "The inhabitants and some of the settlers of that part of North America now denominated Transylvania." This was the last time that the name Transylvania was formally recognized as the name of that colony.

Judge Henderson, who was at Williamsburg watching the interests of the Transylvania Company, filed an answering petition while feelings waxed higher in the Kentucky wilderness. The rise in the price of land, coupled with the uncertainty of its title, and the futile features of the quit-rent system was not the only objections of the Congress to the proprietary government.

The government of the Transylvania Colony was not countenanced by any of the old colonies, it had no militia, and these deficiencies grew greatly in proportion as friendly Indians advised the settlers that some of the western tribes were leaning against the whites. The people of Transylvania realized at once the importance of an open and decided recognition of their territory as a part of Virginia. An eight-day election held at Harrodsburg, commencing on June 6, resulted in the selection of two representatives, George Rogers Clark and John Gabriel Jones, from West Fincastle, as the colony was now called, to the convention of Virginia, and of an executive committee to voice the wishes of the people. This was done on June 20, 1776, by the adoption of a petition to the convention which petitioned for the incorporation of West Fincastle as a county of Virginia. This had not been what the adventurous George Rogers Clark had contemplated, but the people had settled the matter, and he agreed. He declares in his Memoirs, "I wanted deputies elected at Harrodsburg to treat with the Virginia Assembly. If valuable consideration were procured we would declare ourselves citizens of the state, otherwise we would establish an independent government."

The convention adjourned before these proceedings could be submitted to it, but not before it made provisions to accurately determine Virginia's chartered interest in Kentucky territory. It also made provisions for an inquiry into the alleged illegal purchase from the Indians. Both of these proposals looked ominous for the Transylvania Company, which issued a warning proclamation as to settlement on disputed land.

This was the beginning of confusion as to title and direction of lands which now lie within the exterior boundaries of the Daniel Boone National Forest. In establishing the national forest, this confusion of land action which followed has cost the government many hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of man days of legal work in attempting to establish true and clear title. Even to this day many cases are in Federal Court questioning the claim of title to land now being administered by the Daniel Boone National Forest.

While these actions were taking place in far-away Virginia, the Transylvania Colony on the banks of the Kentucky River had difficulties and anxieties of their own. While the Indian tribes still claimed to be friends with the white people, it was noted by the hunters that Indian signs in the general vicinity of Boonesborough had again appeared. It was also significant that several of the men who had left the settlement on long hunting trips had never returned. The residents of the Boonesborough settlement were anxious and apprehensive, but more than six months had elapsed since the murder of McQuinney, and no live Indians had been seen by anyone at the settlement.

In spite of the talk about Indian wars, Boonesborough had begun to feel so safe that on Sunday, July 14, 1776, a party of three young girls went for a paddle on the river. Jemima Boone was suffering from a cane stab in the foot, a not infrequent injury since there was lots of stubble and most of the women and girls went barefoot. She wanted to soak the feverish foot in the cool waters of the river. Fanny and Betsy Callaway went with her to paddle. Other youngsters clamoured to go along, but young ladies with suitors felt much too grown up to bother with small fry, although they had been perfectly willing to take Nathan Reid, a dashing young man lately arrived from Virginia. The Callaway sisters paddled safely enough with Jemima Boone dangling her sore foot in the water. The current carried them slowly downstream until they were near one-half mile below the fort and drew them toward the steep bluff on the north side of the river. Not being very skillful or very strong, they had trouble with the canoe and got stuck on a sand bar. The cane came close enough to the water's edge to make an ideal hiding place for five Shawnee warriors who had been watching the fort, and who, observing the girls trials, had quietly waited to see if they might not drift within reach. As they silently waited, the canoe drifted nearer and nearer. The girls' futile struggles with the paddles only brought it closer. When only a few yards from shore, the Indians pounced on them, one ran waist deep into the water to seize the canoe. Resist as best they could, the little white squaws were soon overpowered, dragged through the shallow water for shore, then under cover of the dense thicket in the ravine, rushed to the hills which edged the north side of the river. Their cries and screams were soon silenced by threats of extreme violence. After traveling some seven or eight miles, the war party camped that night not far from the present site of Winchester.

The kidnappers had been so quick and so clever that, according to some, the girls were not missed for some time. It is not clear just how or when they were first missed; by their cries, by the little girls left on the south bank or that they did not show up at milking time.

Colonel Callaway and Daniel Boone got together a group to pursue the Indian party and the girls. Present were Samuel Henderson, who was engaged to marry Elizabeth Callaway, and the suitors of Jemima Boone and Fannie Callaway, Flanders Callaway and John Holden, respectively. There was only one boat available, and it was on the other side of the river where the Indians had put it adrift. A brave deed was rendered by John Gess who swam the river and brought it back, a courageous act in that no one knew whether or not the enemy was concealed and who could easily have taken the swimmer's life.

It was late in the evening when Boone, accompanied by five others, John Reid, John Floyd, Samuel Henderson and William Bailey Smith, set out for the rescue. At the same time, Colonel Callaway and eight or nine other men on horseback rode downstream about a mile to the ford where they crossed and soon joined the other group. A council was held and it was deemed best that Boone's party should pursue on foot, and that the horsemen under Callaway should hasten directly to the Lower Blue Licks to cut off the kidnappers. The first group was forced by darkness to camp in an unfinished cabin.

The pursuit commenced again early the next morning. Three other men, John McMillan, William Bush and John Martin who had been working on the cabin, joined the group. It was not long before they came upon the spot where the Indian party had camped the night before. Boone's superior knowledge of Indian habits and tricks aided them a very great deal. However, several times they followed false trails made by the wily Indians to mislead the pursuers. Even though the girls made numerous attempts to leave trail signs by the use of broken twigs, shoe prints, and torn pieces of clothing, the party had difficulty staying on the right course. Boone finally decided the pursued were getting along faster than the pursuers, and that the best thing to do was to follow a straight route to the mouth of the Scioto River. He did this for two reasons; there was the possibility that the rear guard Indians might see the pursuers and would tomahawk the girls rather than to let them be retaken, also that by a straight route they could make much faster time. On Monday they traveled about 30 miles, passing close to the present towns of Winchester, North Middletown and Carlisle. By ten o'clock on Tuesday, they reached the Hinkston's Fork of the Licking River. There they found fresh tracks and muddy water and because of this, they again commenced to follow the trail.

The first day the Indians did not stop to cook food for fear of revealing their location. The girls were given dried venison and smoked buffalo tongue, both of which were dried, hard, unsalted and not very tasty to them. Betsy Callaway, the most courageous of the three, kept continually trying to keep up the spirits of the other two. She told them not to fret that their boy friends would soon come to their rescue. The second day, however, they were becoming more despaired. The Indians were kind to the girls almost to a show of affection. As was almost a universal custom of the Indians, they did not molest or abuse their female captives.

The first hill which the girls had to climb after being captured was steep and difficult. After reaching the more level ground the girls began using every possible device, and in which they proved to be quite clever, to delay the progress and leave a trail behind them. Jemima Boone, having the sore foot, at first refused to proceed and did not until she was given a pair of moccasins and threatened with bodily harm. Betsy had on heels made of wood, so when she walked she dug her heels as deeply as she could until her practice was discovered by one of her captors. On Monday morning the Indians found a stray pony on which they insisted the girls ride. They proceeded to annoy the poor beast causing it to rear up so that they would slide off the back. Also when going up a steep hill or bank, they would purposely slide off slowing progress as much as possible.

Thursday the Indians killed a buffalo, cutting from it the choice parts. Now becoming more careless, they built a fire to cook the meat.

Boone's party, traveling eight or nine miles from Hinkston's, came upon the slaughtered buffalo. Soon they divided and approached the Indian camp in two groups. The first man of one party advanced and, against previous orders, fired at one of the Indians with poor aim. Boone and Floyd came quickly from behind and saw Fannie and Jemima watching a large Indian spitting meat. He fell, the object of Boone's fire. Jemima cried, "That's Daddy's gun." The injured redskin, half bent, ran away with his companions following close behind. They had left everything behind except one gun. Betsy almost met a sad fate for as one Indian ran, he threw his tomahawk at her head, barely missing it. Also one of the girls, due to her dark coloring, somewhat aided by her fatigue and worry, almost fell to one of the white men who had mistaken her for an Indian leveled the butt of his gun to strike her, only to be prevented by Boone's arm.

After the rescue of the girls, the party did not even pursue the Indians but started joyfully toward home.

This was only the beginning of the Indian troubles for the summer. Before the rescue party returned to Boonesborough, another small band of Indians had arrived at Nathaniel Hart's clearing where they burned his recently completed cabin and destroyed young apple trees which he had set out. Due to the absence of the two rescue parties, it was deemed unwise for the remaining men at Boonesborough to pursue and punish these marauders. The news brought in by hunters and scouts indicated small parties of Indians lurking in the vicinity of all of the stations in Kentucky. It was apparent that the Indians were again on the prowl looking for any small groups of settlers that could be intercepted.

One beneficial effect of this Indian scare at Boonesborough was the fact that it motivated the men of the settlement to do further work on the fort, to fashion a set of clumsy gates at each of the gate openings and to fill in pickets between the cabins to complete the stockade. At last Judge Henderson's efforts to have this fort established for the benefit of the people had paid off, and at times of Indian troubles the surrounding settlers crowded into the fort for its protection and the safety of numbers. However, this Indian scare did have its effect on the Kentucky frontier.

Not all of the happenings at Boonesborough that summer of 1776 were sad or fearful. On August 7, just three weeks after the capture and rescue of the Callaway girls and Jermima Boone, there took place the first wedding to be held in Kentucky. At this wedding Elizabeth Callaway, the oldest of the three girls captured and rescued, was married to Samuel Henderson, a brother of Judge Henderson. The ceremony was performed by Squire Boone, who was a Baptist elder as well as an accomplished Indian fighter. Samuel Henderson had been a member of Daniel Boone's rescue party and had rescued his bride from the Indians. As was customary at such frontier celebrations, there was much fiddle music and dancing as well as the good natured banter which accompanied such events. One of the features of the celebration of this wedding was the treating of the guests to home-grown watermelon, the first grown at the Boonesborough settlement and of which the entire settlement was very proud.

A few days after the wedding, the settlement of Boonesborough was electrified by news brought from a traveler from Virginia. He had brought with him a copy of the Virginia Gazette containing the full text of the recently signed Declaration of Independence. Every word of this immortal document was read aloud to the assembled residents of Boonesborough who indicated their full support by cheer and war-whoops and by a huge bonfire that evening at the fort.

However, all of the news that came to Boonesborough at this time was not good. Judge Henderson had been working with the members of the Virginia Legislature, then being formed, to establish acceptance of his treaty with the Cherokee as a basis for the Transylvania Colony. As he was encountering some difficulties with the members of this new legislature, two other members of the Transylvania Company, John Williams, the company agent, and John Floyd, the company surveyor, left Boonesborough early in September to return to Williamsburg to assist in any way possible with this matter.

The first session of the newly created Legislature of Virginia began its session in Williamsburg in October of 1776. Judge Henderson and his associates of the Transylvania Company had made every effort to contact key members of this legislature and to convince them of the soundness of the Transylvania Company's claim to the land included in their Treaty with the Cherokee. However, they were unsuccessful and in December, 1776, the Commonwealth of Virginia assumed jurisdiction of the disputed territory, which included all of the area which is now the State of Kentucky by the passage of an act which created the County of Kentucky, which included the Henderson Purchase. On November 14, 1778, the Virginia House of Delegates wrote the final chapters by confirming this action of October 8, 1776, to eliminate forever the claims of the Transylvania Company and the proprietary government of Transylvania which now ceased to exist.

Boonesborough suddenly found itself a wilderness settlement in the extreme western county of the State of Virginia. The dream of Judge Henderson and his associates of the Transylvania Company to possess an empire with great territory and to gain for themselves the magnificent revenues it would yield now ended in a struggle for compensation for expenses, labor and trouble incurred in the enterprise.

However, the Virginia Legislature did not fail to recognize the service Judge Henderson and his associates gave in opening up the land beyond the mountains and of increasing the settlement through the establishment of Boonesborough. The same House of Delegates of the Virginia Legislature that declared the claim of Henderson and the Transylvania Company null and void recognized his efforts by awarding him a grant of 200,000 acres of land in Kentucky located on the Kentucky River below the mouth of Green River. This is the area where today the Kentucky city of Henderson is located.

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Last Updated: 07-Apr-2010
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