Celebrating 17 years

Daniel Boone's Last Hunt

Daniel Boone Daniel Boone

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 their trip.

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 pelts.

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 his own.

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 Frontier.