From the portrait by Chester Harding made in 1819, when Boone was eighty-five years old.
The grandfather of Daniel Boone — George by name — was born in 1666 at the peaceful little hamlet of Stoak, near the city of Exeter, in Devonshire, England. His father had been a blacksmith; but he himself acquired the weaver’s art. In due time George married Mary Maugridge, a young woman three years his junior, and native of the neighboring village of Bradninch, whither he had gone to follow his trade. This worthy couple, professed Quakers, became the parents of nine children, all born in Bradninch — George, Sarah, Squire, Mary, John, Joseph, Benjamin, James, and Samuel. All of these, except John, married, and left numerous descendants in America.
The elder Boones were ambitious for the welfare of their large family. They were also fretful under the bitter intolerance encountered by Quakers in those unrestful times. As the children grew to maturity, the enterprising weaver sought information regarding the colony which his coreligionist William Penn had, some thirty years previous, established in America, where were promised cheap lands, religious freedom, political equality, and exact justice to all men. There were then no immigration bureaus to encourage and instruct those who proposed settling in America; no news-letters from traveling correspondents, to tell the people at home about the Western world; or books or pamphlets illustrating the country. The only method which occurred to George Boone, of Bradninch, by which he could satisfy himself regarding the possibilities of Pennsylvania as a future home for his household, was to send out some of his older children as prospectors.
Accordingly — somewhere about 1712-14, family tradition says — young George (aged from twenty-two to twenty-four years), Sarah (a year and a half younger), and Squire (born November 25, 1696) were despatched to the promised land, and spent several months in its inspection. Leaving Sarah and Squire in Pennsylvania, George returned to his parents with a favorable report.
On the seventeenth of August, 1717, the Boones, parents and children, bade a sorrowful but brave farewell to their relatives and friends in old Bradninch, whom they were never again to see. After journeying some eighty miles over rugged country to the port of Bristol, they there entered a sailing vessel bound for Philadelphia, where they safely arrived upon the tenth of October.
Philadelphia was then but a village. Laid out like a checker-board, with architecture of severe simplicity, its best residences were surrounded by gardens and orchards. The town was substantial, neat, and had the appearance of prosperity; but the frontier was not far away — beyond outlying fields the untamed forest closed in upon the little capital. The fur trade flourished but two or three days’ journey into the forest, and Indians were frequently seen upon the streets. When, therefore, the Boones decided to settle in what is now Abingdon, twelve or fourteen miles north of the town, in a sparse neighborhood of Quaker farmers, they at once became backwoodsmen, such as they remained for the rest of their lives.
They were, however, not long in Abingdon. Soon after, we find them domiciled a few miles to the northwest in the little frontier hamlet of North Wales, in Gwynedd township; this was a Welsh community whose members had, a few years before, turned Quakers.
Sarah Boone appears, about this time, to have married one Jacob Stover, a German who settled in Oley township, now in Berks County. The elder George Boone, now that he had become accustomed to moving, after his long, quiet years as a Devonshire weaver, appears to have made small ado over folding his family tent and seeking other pastures. In 1718 he took out a warrant for four hundred acres of land in Oley, and near the close of the following year removed to his daughter’s neighborhood. This time he settled in earnest, for here in Oley — or rather the later subdivision thereof called Exeter — he spent the remainder of his days, dying in his original log cabin there, in 1744, at the age of seventy-eight. He left eight children, fifty-two grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren — in all, seventy descendants: Devonshire men, Germans, Welsh, and Scotch-Irish amalgamated into a sturdy race of American pioneers.
Among the early Welsh Quakers in the rustic neighborhood of North Wales were the Morgans. On the twenty-third of July, 1720, at the Gwynedd meeting-house, in accordance with the Quaker ceremony, Squire Boone married Sarah Morgan, daughter of John. A descendant tells us that at this time “Squire Boone was a man of rather small stature, fair complexion, red hair, and gray eyes; while his wife was a woman something over the common size, strong and active, with black hair and eyes, and raised in the Quaker order.”
For ten or eleven years Squire and Sarah Boone lived in Gwynedd township, probably on rented land, the former adding to their small income by occasional jobs of weaving, for he had learned his father’s trade. They were thrifty folk, but it took ten years under these primitive conditions to accumulate even the small sum sufficient to acquire a farm of their own. Toward the close of the year 1730, Squire obtained for a modest price a grant of 250 acres of land situated in his father’s township, Oley — a level tract adapted to grazing purposes, on Owatin Creek, some eight miles southeast of the present city of Reading, and a mile and a half from Exeter meeting-house. Here, probably early in 1731, the Boones removed with their four children. Relatives and Quaker neighbors assisted, after the manner of the frontier, in erecting a log cabin for the new-comers and in clearing and fencing for them a small patch of ground.
In this rude backwoods home, in the valley of the Schuylkill, was born, upon the second of November (new style), 1734, Daniel Boone, fourth son and sixth child of Squire and Sarah. It is thought that the name Daniel was suggested by that of Daniel Boone, a well-known Dutch painter who had died in London in 1698, “and who may have been known, or distantly related, to the family.” The other children were: Sarah (born in 1724), Israel (1726), Samuel (1728), Jonathan (1730), Elizabeth (1732), Mary (1736), George (1739), Edward (1744), Squire, and Hannah, all of them natives of Oley.
Born into a frontier community, Daniel Boone’s entire life was spent amid similar surroundings, varying only in degree. With the sight of Indians he was from the first familiar. They frequently visited Oley and Exeter, and were cordially received by the Quakers. George Boone’s house was the scene of many a friendly gathering of the tribesmen. When Daniel was eight years of age, the celebrated Moravian missionary, Count Zinzendorf, held a synod in a barn at Oley, a party of converted Delaware Indians, who preached in favor of Christianity, being the principal attractions at this meeting. Thus young Boone started in life with an accurate knowledge of the American savage, which served him well during his later years of adventurous exploration and settlement-building.
Squire Boone appears soon to have become a leader in his community. His farm, to whose acres he from time to time added, was attended to as closely as was usual among the frontiersmen of his day; and at home the business of weaving was not neglected, for he kept in frequent employment five or six looms, making “homespun” cloths for his neighbors and the market. He had an excellent grazing range some five or six miles north of the homestead, and each season sent his stock thither, as was the custom at that time. Mrs. Boone and Daniel accompanied the cows, and from early spring until late in autumn lived in a rustic cabin, far from any other human beings. Hard by, over a cool spring, was a dairy-house, in which the stout-armed mother made and kept her butter and cheese; while her favorite boy watched the herd as, led by their bell-carriers, they roamed at will through the woods, his duty at sunset being to drive them to the cabin for milking, and later to lock them for the night within the cow-pens, secure from wild animals or prowling cattle-thieves.
While tending his cattle, a work involving abundant leisure, the young herdsman was also occupied in acquiring the arts of the forest. For the first two or three years — his pastoral life having commenced at the tender age of ten — his only weapon was a slender, smoothly shaved sapling, with a small bunch of gnarled roots at the end, in throwing which he grew so expert as easily to kill birds and other small game. When reaching the dignity of a dozen years, his father bought him a rifle, with which he soon became an unerring marksman. But, although he henceforth provided wild meat enough for the family, his passion for hunting sometimes led him to neglect the cattle, which were allowed to stray far from home and pass the night in the deep forest.
Soon each summer of herding came to be succeeded by a winter’s hunt. In this occupation the boy roved far and wide over the Neversink mountain-range to the north and west of Monocacy Valley, killing and curing game for the family, and taking the skins to Philadelphia, where he exchanged them for articles needed in the chase — long hunting-knives, and flints, lead, and powder for his gun.
In those days the children of the frontier grew up with but slight store of such education as is obtainable from books. The open volume of nature, however, they carefully conned. The ways of the wilderness they knew full well — concerning the storms and floods, the trees and hills, the wild animals and the Indians, they were deeply learned; well they knew how to live alone in the forest, and to thrive happily although surrounded by a thousand lurking dangers. This quiet, mild-mannered, serious-faced Quaker youth, Daniel Boone, was an ardent lover of the wild woods and their inhabitants, which he knew as did Audubon and Thoreau; but of regular schooling he had none. When he was about fourteen years of age, his brother Samuel, nearly seven years his senior, married Sarah Day, an intelligent young Quakeress who had more education than was customary in this neighborhood. Sarah taught Daniel the elements of “the three R’s.” To this knowledge he added somewhat by later self-teaching, so that as a man he could read understandingly, do rough surveying, keep notes of his work, and write a sensible although badly spelled letter — for our backwoods hero was, in truth, no scholar, although as well equipped in this direction as were most of his fellows.