14 Facts About Daniel Boone

Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Daniel Boone was a frontiersman who helped introduce the United States to a little place we like to call Kentucky. He was famous for his extraordinarily long hunts and his navigation skills. ("I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days," he reportedly said.) The myth of him as a rugged gun-toting pioneer, however, doesn't match history. Get to know the real Daniel Boone.

1. HE WASN'T SOUTHERN.

Boone was born and raised in eastern Pennsylvania, about 10 miles from the modern city of Reading. Granted, in the 1730s, this was close to the frontier, and Boone—who was raised by Quakers—was given his first gun at the age of 12 to hunt. But, after two of Boone’s siblings married non-Quakers, their father was expelled from the church. A few years later the family moved to North Carolina.

2. JUST LIKE MANY YOUNG PEOPLE, HE BLEW HIS ENTIRE FIRST PAYCHECK.

When he was a teenager, Boone took his first long hunting trip. Animal furs and hides were in high demand in east coast and European cities, and Boone took his spoils to Philadelphia—and promptly, over the next three weeks, spent all of the money he earned on "a general jamboree or frolick." He was hooked. Boone would be a professional hunter for the rest of his life, and he soon acquired a reputation as an able navigator who could remember every trail he walked.

3. AS A SOLDIER, BOONE WASN'T AFRAID … TO FLEE.

The French and Indian War began as a border dispute over who got to claim land along the Ohio River. In 1755, Boone joined the side of the British colonies and served as a teamster in General Edward Braddock's expedition. While marching toward what is now Pittsburgh, Braddock's men experienced a deadly and embarrassing defeat at the Battle of the Monongahela. One out of three soldiers died. Boone survived by running away as fast as he could.

4. HE WAS A TRAILBLAZER WHO OPENED UP A PORTAL TO KENTUCKY.

Daniel Boone escorting settlers
Botaurus, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

By the 1770s, Boone was known for his geographical know-how. In 1775, a land speculation company hired him to lead a large crew and open a path through the Cumberland Gap, a narrow mountain pass near the modern borders of Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Their successful trek led to the construction of the Wilderness Road, which would allow more than 200,000 settlers to pour into Kentucky.

5. HIS SETTLEMENTS HELPED EXTEND THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE WESTWARD.

When Boone got to the other side of the Cumberland Gap, he established Fort Boonesborough. With 15-foot-high walls and 26 log cabins, it was one of the first English-speaking communities west of the Appalachians (and it's now a state park). While Boone was relatively chummy with Cherokee Indians, his move across the gap created palpable resentment among other native populations, who claimed Boone violated the Proclamation Line of 1763, which guaranteed Native Americans land west of the Appalachians.

6. HE ESSENTIALLY LIVED THE PLOT OF TAKEN.

Daniel Boone rescuing his daughter Jemina
Library of Congress // Public Domain

In July 1776, Boone's daughter Jemima, along with two other teenagers, were abducted by Cherokee and Shawnee Indians while they were out canoeing. With help from the girls—who were breaking twigs and leaving markings whenever they could—Boone managed to find them in just three days (just like Liam Neeson, he had a very particular set of skills). At least two of their captors were killed. The incident later inspired a scene in James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans.

7. HE WAS A SHAWNEE CHIEF'S ADOPTED SON.

In February 1778, Boone and a party of men were captured by Shawnee Indians. Boone made an impassioned case to Chief Blackfish, asking the natives to spare their lives. In exchange, come spring he would ensure that Boonesborough would surrender peacefully. Boone's plea worked. Not only did Chief Blackfish adopt Boone into the tribe, he made the frontiersman his son. "During our travels, the Indians entertained me well; and their affection for me was so great, that they utterly refused to leave me there with the others," Boone said. He was given the name Big Turtle.

8. WHEN HE HAD SOMEWHERE TO GO, HE COULD REALLY COVER SOME GROUND.

Daniel Boone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

While living with the Shawnee, Boone learned that the tribe was planning to attack Boonesborough. (It was the middle of the Revolutionary War, and the Shawnee were allied with the British.) To warn his friends and family, Boone escaped the tribe and traveled 160 miles over rough terrain, returning to Boonesborough in just four days. They successfully withstood a 10-day siege.

9. HE WAS A SURVEYOR (BUT NOT A VERY GOOD ONE).

Because he had such a deep knowledge of the local terrain, land surveyors often asked Boone to be their assistant whenever they explored the woods around Boonesborough. By the 1780s, Boone had picked up enough knowledge to become a surveyor himself. He surveyed at least 150 patches of new terrain. (Some say he went as far west as Texas.) The problem? He wasn't very good. His maps were rarely accurate.

10. HE WAS A POLITICIAN, AND HE HELD AN ECLECTIC MIX OF OTHER PUBLIC OFFICES.

Just look at this resume: Deputy Surveyor of Lincoln County, Sheriff of Fayette County, Lieutenant Colonel of the militia, Coroner of Fayette County, Justice of Femm Osage, and—most notably—a three-time representative in the Virginia General Assembly. (As a legislator, Boone served on committees for religion and was present for debates over the formation of the state of Kentucky.)

11. HE OWNED SLAVES.

Boone's legacy is inextricably linked with slavery—mainly because enslaved people saved his life on more than one occasion. Slaves helped defend Boonesborough during the siege, and a slave named London was one of the few American fatalities. It was also the smarts of an ex-slave (who joined the Shawnee) that helped Boone vouch for his life to Chief Blackfish in 1778. This man, named Pompey, helped translate Boone's desperate pleas. And yet, despite his Quaker background, Boone would buy seven slaves in the 1780s, mostly women, who worked in a tavern he owned.

12. HIS GRANDSON PROVED THAT IT'S NEVER A GOOD IDEA TO BRING A BOOK MANUSCRIPT ON A CANOE TRIP.

In 1809, Daniel Boone dictated his autobiography to his grandson John Boone Calloway. Unfortunately, five years later, Calloway was canoeing down the Missouri River with the manuscript in hand when his boat tipped over. What might have been the most accurate account of Boone's life was swept down the Missouri.

13. FAME ANNOYED HIM.

Daniel Boone hunting
iStock

John Filson's 1784 book The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke made Boone famous. Soon, stories about Boone's life were detaching from reality. He hated it: "Nothing embitters my old age [more than] the circulation of absurd stories … many heroic actions and chivalrous adventures are related of me which exist only in the regions of fancy. With me the world has taken great liberties, and yet I have been but a common man."

14. HE DID NOT WEAR A COONSKIN CAP.

Boone might have been a professional hunter, but he was no bumpkin. He was often carefully groomed. "My father, Daniel Boone, always despised the raccoon fur caps and did not wear one himself, as he always had a hat," his son Nathan said. Boone usually opted for a classic flat, broad-brimmed hat.

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6 Amazing Facts About Sally Ride

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

You know Sally Ride as the first American woman to travel into space. But here are six things you might not know about the groundbreaking astronaut, who was born on May 26, 1951.

1. Sally Ride proved there is such thing as a stupid question.

When Sally Ride made her first space flight in 1983, she was both the first American woman and the youngest American to make the journey to the final frontier. Both of those distinctions show just how qualified and devoted Ride was to her career, but they also opened her up to a slew of absurd questions from the media.

Journalist Michael Ryan recounted some of the sillier questions that had been posed to Ride in a June 1983 profile for People. Among the highlights:

Q: “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?”
A: “There’s no evidence of that.”

Q: “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?”
A: “How come nobody ever asks (a male fellow astronaut) those questions?"

Forget going into space; Ride’s most impressive achievement might have been maintaining her composure in the face of such offensive questions.

2. Had she taken Billie Jean King's advice, Sally Ride might have been a professional tennis player.

When Ride was growing up near Los Angeles, she played more than a little tennis, and she was seriously good at it. She was a nationally ranked juniors player, and by the time she turned 18 in 1969, she was ranked 18th in the whole country. Tennis legend Billie Jean King personally encouraged Ride to turn pro, but she went to Swarthmore instead before eventually transferring to Stanford to finish her undergrad work, a master’s, and a PhD in physics.

King didn’t forget about the young tennis prodigy she had encouraged, though. In 1984 an interviewer playfully asked the tennis star who she’d take to the moon with her, to which King replied, “Tom Selleck, my family, and Sally Ride to get us all back.”

3. Home economics was not Sally Ride's best subject.

After retiring from space flight, Ride became a vocal advocate for math and science education, particularly for girls. In 2001 she founded Sally Ride Science, a San Diego-based company that creates fun and interesting opportunities for elementary and middle school students to learn about math and science.

Though Ride was an iconic female scientist who earned her doctorate in physics, just like so many other youngsters, she did hit some academic road bumps when she was growing up. In a 2006 interview with USA Today, Ride revealed her weakest subject in school: a seventh-grade home economics class that all girls had to take. As Ride put it, "Can you imagine having to cook and eat tuna casserole at 8 a.m.?"

4. Sally Ride had a strong tie to the Challenger.

Ride’s two space flights were aboard the doomed shuttle Challenger, and she was eight months deep into her training program for a third flight aboard the shuttle when it tragically exploded in 1986. Ride learned of that disaster at the worst possible time: she was on a plane when the pilot announced the news.

Ride later told AARP the Magazine that when she heard the midflight announcement, she got out her NASA badge and went to the cockpit so she could listen to radio reports about the fallen shuttle. The disaster meant that Ride wouldn’t make it back into space, but the personal toll was tough to swallow, too. Four of the lost members of Challenger’s crew had been in Ride’s astronaut training class.

5. Sally Ride had no interest in cashing in on her worldwide fame.

A 2003 profile in The New York Times called Ride one of the most famous women on Earth after her two space flights, and it was hard to argue with that statement. Ride could easily have cashed in on the slew of endorsements, movie deals, and ghostwritten book offers that came her way, but she passed on most opportunities to turn a quick buck.

Ride later made a few forays into publishing and endorsements, though. She wrote or co-wrote more than a half-dozen children’s books on scientific themes, including To Space and Back, and in 2009 she appeared in a print ad for Louis Vuitton. Even appearing in an ad wasn’t an effort to pad her bank account, though; the ad featured an Annie Leibovitz photo of Ride with fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell gazing at the moon and stars. According to a spokesperson, all three astronauts donated a “significant portion” of their modeling fees to Al Gore’s Climate Project.

6. Sally Ride was the first openly LGBTQ astronaut.

Ride passed away on July 23, 2012, at the age of 61, following a long (and very private) battle with pancreatic cancer. While Ride's brief marriage to fellow astronaut Steve Hawley was widely known to the public (they were married from 1982 to 1987), it wasn't until her death that Ride's longtime relationship with Tam O'Shaughnessy—a childhood friend and science writer—was made public. Which meant that even in death, Ride was still changing the world, as she is the world's first openly LGBTQ astronaut.