In the 18th century, before the American War of Independence the westernmost frontier of United States of America was Virginia! In the ensuing century the face of United States changed completely because of pioneers like Daniel Boone who forged ahead in spite of natural impediments, hostile natives, disease and death!
The Daniel Boone Bicentennial Half dollar was released to honor and celebrate the 200th birthday of Boone. This post talks about the man behind the legend!
Daniel Boone - The Frontiersman!
Daniel Boone was the quintessential frontiersman and woodsman and was instrumental in finding a path from the east to the west through the Appalachian mountains. The Cumberland Gap, a narrow pass in the long ridge of the Appalachian mountains was already used by Native Americans. Among the European-Americans, it was Thomas Walker who found the gap and named it the Cumberland Gap after Prince William, the Duke of Cumberland son of King George II of Great Britain.
Daniel Boone came a decade and a half later to make a path beyond the Cumberland Gap to reach Kentucky and Tennessee. He was hired by the Transylvania company to lead a party of men through the gap and make a settlement beyond. The path that they hacked out was literally called the 'Wilderness road'. At the end of the road Boone founded a village called 'Boonesborough', Kentucky. A reconstructed fort lies now in the location where Boone finally reached. Thousands of pioneers retraced Boone's steps in the decades that followed and settled in Kentucky or moved further west.
Boone brought his family through the Gap in later years and settled them in Boonesborough. He was a Militia leader and protected Boonesborough from Native American attacks. Boone was actively involved in the American Revolutionary war, which in the western frontier meant fighting with the Shawnees and Cherokees. The Native Americans viewed the war as a way to drive away the European settlers. They kept raiding different settlements and many settlers had to shift from Kentucky to other places. Only a few settlements held on to their lands and Boonesborough was one among them. In 1776, Boone's daughter Jemima and her friends were captured by a Shawnee war party and carried further towards Shawnee lands in Ohio country. Boone and his men were in hot pursuit behind them. At an opportune moment, Boone was able to ambush the Shawnees and rescue the girls.
The British used the Shawnees to keep attacking American settlements. In one such attack, Boone was captured by Shawnee warriors. Shawnee chief Blackfish adopted him into his family as it was their custom to take in prisoners and mark them as Shawnee. Boone bided his time and was able to convince Blackfish to abandon attacks for the time being. When he came to know the Shawnee were planning a decisive attack on Boonesborough, he escaped from them by crossing nearly 160 miles by foot through wilderness to warn his men. When the Shawnee did come his men were ready for them. They withstood a siege of nearly 10 days before which the Shawnees accepted defeat and returned.
Boone wasn't as lucky in his finances as he lacked the shrewdness required to do business. He lost most of the money that he had gained earlier and had to move his family from Boonesborough for a more peaceful life.
Boone's life was fictionalised by James Fenimore Cooper in his novel "The Last of the Mohicans". Other novels came later and they portrayed a larger than life romanticised image of a man who probably had to endure a lot of hardships and losses and had to mete out similar fates on his enemies. But his role in facilitating a better life in the west for most people in the east justifies his status as a legend in American history!
Daniel Boone Bicentennial Half Dollar
The Daniel Boone Bicentennial Half Dollar was first released in 1934 to celebrate the 200th birthday of Daniel Boone. It was designed by Augustus Lukemann. With no portraits available Lukemann created his vision of Boone's profile in the obverse of the coin. The inscriptions surrounding the portrait include “United States of America” and “Half Dollar”.
The reverse of the coin shows a frontiersman holding a chart of Kentucky and a musket. He is facing a Native American who is shown holding a tomahawk. The background features a blockhouse stockade and the sun with rays. The inscriptions read “In God We Trust”, “E Pluribus Unum”, “Daniel Boone Bicentennial Pioneer Year”, and the date of issue.