Boone's Cave Park is a county favorite destination, offering miles of scenic hiking trails, river access and a glimpse into the young life of American Frontiersman, Daniel Boone. Only a teenager when his family settled along the banks of the Yadkin river, Boone spent much of his time exploring and working in the area surrounding the park. One might speculate that in his time here, Boone developed much of the skill set he utilized during his explorations and settlement of Kentucky - upon which his fame rests. Many fictional works and legends surrounding the life of this cultural icon have circulated both regionally and nationally.
In Search of Daniel Boone –
His presence in the Yadkin Valley
History is the branch of knowledge concerned with ascertaining and recording past events....
Legend is a widely accepted, but unverified story....
....and that's where the fun begins! Nowhere is that more true than with a great American figure like Daniel Boone! [Definitions from The New American Webster Dictionary]
Among those who came to the Yadkin Valley in the 1750’s, one who became better known was 18-year-old Daniel Boone. He came south with his family and grew to manhood here, marrying Rebecca Bryan, the granddaughter of Morgan Bryan. After 17 years here, in 1769, he left his life as a typical frontier farmer and followed his destiny into Tennessee and Kentucky where he would become an American icon.
Our view of the life Daniel Boone is clouded by the many tales told about him, an embellishing process that had begun even before his death. There’s little doubt that some of these tales have a basis in fact, but others seem to be pure fabrication. It’s difficult to separate the history of Daniel Boone from the legend.
Here in Davidson County it has been long believed that Daniel and his family lived along the east bank of the Yadkin south of “The Horseshoe” at some time during his presence in North Carolina. Proof of that story remains elusive. Let’s look at what we do know.
The Boone family’s immigration to the Yadkin Valley
In May of 1750, Squire Boone and his wife along with 9 of his 11 children left his 158-acre farm in Pennsylvania and headed southward. Their departure may have been, in part, a reaction to his ejection from his Quaker Meeting due to his allowing a daughter to marry a non-Quaker. Another factor may have been the declining fertility of his farmland coupled with the expense of buying more in Pennsylvania.
Whatever the reason, the Boones moved into the Shenandoah Valley where they are said to have spent nearly two years along Linville Creek… perhaps near Squire’s older sister Sarah who had moved there several years before. Sometime between the winter of 1752 and the early months of 1753, the Boones finally reached the Yadkin Valley.
In June of 1753, Squire would file an entry for 640 acres of land along Dutchman’s Creek in present day Davie County. Some years later, Daniel and his young wife would buy 50 acres of that land. Then Daniel would move into present day Wilkes County and later across the mountains, leaving North Carolina behind. But where did the Boones live during their first months in North Carolina? Couldn’t they have lived east of the river?
No land records whatsoever have been found to help us answer the question of where the Boones spent their first months in the Yadkin Valley. If Squire had attempted to purchase land from the Granville land office after his arrival, it would have occurred during a confused period when that office was trying to put its procedures in better order. Many records are missing from the early days of the Granville office, so that the absence of any specific Boone records among those that are available isn’t conclusive in any way. Likewise, there are records missing from the early days of the Anson County Courthouse where any deeds might have been registered. Land records haven’t provided any help.
Names of geographic features
In the Davidson County Register of Deeds office an indenture dated 1850 shows that John Calloway sold a tract of land encompassing 615 acres around Davidson County’s “Boone’s Cave Park.” In 1941 a map of the land sold in that transaction was drawn up based on the survey description. On that map there are four geographic features shown and labeled that seem to indicate that there had been a Boone presence on the land at some time. These features are: Boone’s Ford, Boone’s Bottom, Boone’s Spring, and Boone’s Cave.
The question that arises is when did these names become associated with the site? Do they date back to the 1750’s or were they adopted later…. and is the “Boone” referred to Squire or Daniel or someone else entirely?
Researching the John Calloway deed showed us that only Boone’s Ford and the Boone Tract are referred to in the actual deed… the other features had been added in when the map was drawn in 1941.
Further research showed that John Calloway acquired the land in question through an 1830 default on a bond given him in 1821 by one William Loughorne. In that transfer of title the property is referred to only as the “Boone Tract” with no other features identified.
There is another clue. There is mention in the 1830 transfer that Loughorne acquired the property from one Richmond Pearson Sr. A search in the Rowan Register of Deeds office of Mr. Pearson’s land transactions showed that he was very active in the land acquisition, but none of the descriptions mention the word “Boone” nor do they seem to apply to the area around Boone’s Cave.
So, we have evidence that the property along present day Boone’s Cave Road was known in the 1820’s as the “Boone Tract”; but that’s the earliest reference to that name we have found so far.
A subsequent search of Rowan records found a February 12th, 1779 “entry” (see the section on acquiring land in the Yadkin Valley) by William Merrill, Jr. for 300 acres of land below “Boone’s Ford.” That proves that the ford name was in use by that time. But was it Squire or Daniel Boone or someone else? We still don’t know.
Testimonies of family descendants and descendants of neighbors
In the 1880s, while researching Boone for a planned biography, Lyman Draper corresponded with people in the area to record their memories. Two of his respondents mentioned that they had heard that Squire and his family had originally settled east of the river.
One of the respondents was the great granddaughter of Nathan Boone, one of Daniel’s sons. She said that she’d heard that her great grandfather’s family had lived on the area we now call the Boone Tract when they first arrived in North Carolina. The other respondent was one John Foard, who said only that his grandfather had told him that the Boones had lived on the east side of the Yadkin.
Regrettably both these accounts are what would be termed “hearsay” evidence and can’t be considered conclusive.
In the collections of the Davidson County Historical Museum is a small round rock with the initials “DB” engraved into its surface. While the donor felt that there was a connection, there is nothing known about this rock that connects it to Daniel Boone.
Also in the collections is a segment of a deed or indenture with Daniel Boone’s signature. This document appears to be genuine but there is nothing in it to tell us where the Boones may have lived.
It’s possible that Squire Boone and his family may have lived east of the Yadkin immediately after their arrival in the Yadkin Valley; but there is nothing that allows us to say so with certainty. There is circumstantial evidence in the place names and the testimony gathered by Lyman Draper, but circumstantial evidence isn’t sufficient for a conclusion.
So, is it legend or history? Our search for Daniel Boone continues.
Copyright J. M. Daniel, 2006