Daniel Boone's Last Hunt
Late in the Summer of 1810, two of Daniel Boone's old friends from Kentucky, Michael
Stoner and James Bridges, came out west to hunt and explore the Upper Missouri River.
On the way, they stopped to visit at the Boone Cabin at Femme Osage on the lower
Missouri. Boone had left Kentucky in 1799, disgusted and bankrupt from paying court
claims against him, largely resulting from his unsuccessful career as a land surveyor.
Eastern lawyers and johnny-come-latelys had cleaned him out. In 1800 he took up land
in Missouri, then under Spanish control. He and his family had been there ten years by
the time of Stoner and Bridges' visit.
Boone's rheumatism, which had plagued him for years, was in temporary remission.
He was 76 years old. Feeling good, he could not resist joining Stoner and Bridges on
They set out early in autumn. The company included Stoner, Bridges, Boone, and
Flanders Callaway. Callaway brought along his slave, Mose, to "chew my venison for
me," he said. Boone's grandsons Derry and Will Hays, Jr. (Will, Jr. by now was
frequently taking place of his father as Boone's hunting companion) went along to help
this company of old men. The youngest of them was past his sixtieth birthday.
According to Stoner's son, they "went high up the Missouri trapping". Hays claimed
that they made it all the way to the Yellowstone; quite an accomplishment, but not
unheard of in 1810. They were gone a full six months. Unfortunately, it seems that there
are no further details about this long hunt, except that they returned with loads of
valuable furs packed in mackanaw boats.
A witness, Steven Hemstead, recalled seeing the boats coming down the river in early
1811, "with a housing over the cargo, a sure sign of fur coming from the upper
Missouri". He went down to the St. Charles landing to see who the boatmen were. Derry
was rowing one of them, with Boone at the rudder. The old man shouted ashore that
they were on their way to St. Louis where they could get a decent price for their beaver
After returning to Femme Osage, Boone met John Bradbury, who, along with John
Jacob Astor's fur traders, was headed for the Columbia. Bradbury recorded in his journal
that Boone "had lately returned from his spring hunt, with nearly sixty beaver skins."
At last, after a lifetime of disappointments in virtually all his economic ventures,
Boone experienced success in what he loved to do the most; he had a successful hunt of
Daniel Boone, a true folk hero, brings the wilderness of the 18th century Ohio Valley
and Kentucky frontier to most people's minds. That remembrance is correct; he was an
Ohio Valley frontiersman and pathfinder. What has slipped from our collective
memory is what happened to him after Kentucky became "civilized" and overrun with
more regulations and lawyers than he could cope with.
He and many of the other frontiersmen he worked with as well as the Indians he earlier
did battle with, moved west into Spanish held Missouri, where they reestablished
contact, often friendlier than before. Boone spent the last twenty years of his life in
Missouri. While there he became, for one season at least, one of the very first Mountain
Men in addition to being the most famous of the long hunters.
This anecdote is an extract from a fine new biography of Daniel Boone, written by John
Mack Faragher. The title is: Daniel Boone, the Life and Legend of an American Pioneer.
The copyright date is 1992. Also, Dale Van Every hints at Boone's last long hunt in The
Last Challenge, copyright 1964, the last volume of his 4 volume work on the American