Boone Blog # 5 — Then There Were Three
Updated: Aug 30, 2022
As I dug into the documents Draper had collected, trying to trace the roots of the Boone rumors, it dawned on me that whether the stories were true or not, Rebecca had lived her life under their shadow. A bit more research led to the realization that the Boone children would have been impacted as well, especially the two oldest daughters, Susannah and Jemima.
I can’t recall exactly when the book I envisioned became the story of Rebecca and these two daughters, but the idea took root even before I began writing. The challenge I set myself was to find everything I could about all three women in the historical record. I traced their paths through microfilm, into dusty tomes on library shelves, by interviewing Boone scholars and aficionados, and visiting the locales the women had inhabited.
Every scrap of information was precious, because there was so sadly little of it. I still daydream of all the things we might know about these women if Draper had been able to interview them. It‘s history’s great misfortune that Rebecca, Susannah and Jemima had all passed away before Draper made his first trip into the backcountry.
As irreplaceable as Draper’s collection is, he wasn’t the only amateur historian who gathered information about the frontier. A Presbyterian minister named John Dabney Shane arrived in Kentucky in 1842 to serve congregations in the Lexington area, and in his spare time he interviewed all manner of folks and wrote down their memories of daily life when Kentucky was still wilderness. Although Reverend Shane wasn’t particularly interested in the Boone family, he managed to collect one very telling incident involving the Boone women when he recorded the memories of a woman he identified as Mrs. Samuel Scott.
As a child, Mrs. Scott and her family had sought safety at Fort Moore in the Clinch settlements of southwest Virginia at a time when the Shawnee were pushing back against the pioneers’ ongoing encroachment.
“One summer  Daniel Boone’s wife and 2 daughters were at Moore’s station. (don’t know where Boone himself was). The men had gotten very careless, and while the guards were out they would go out and play at ball, and those that were not playing would go out and lie down without their guns. This time, only old daddy Thompson was left in the fort. Mrs. Boone, her two daughters…and 2 or 3 others, determined to load their guns light, like the Indians, and go out the other side of the fort from the men and fire them off as rapid as they could. They then ran in and slammed the 2 gates so that no one…could get in...Some were in so great haste they ran right through the pond. They were all exceedingly mad and some of them wanted to have the two [sic] women whipped…”
Clearly the Boone women weren’t shrinking violets. When the men acted irresponsibly and put the community in danger, Rebecca and her girls weren’t afraid to shame the men publicly, and their actions that day left such an impression on a young girl that she recounted the story to Shane more than seventy years later. This story provided me with a key insight, a touchstone of sorts, about Rebecca’s character at this stage of her life. While there are far too few of these sorts of scenarios, the fact that there are any at all feels like a miracle.
When Reverend Shane passed away in 1864, his papers were put up for auction, and might easily have been scattered to the four winds. Instead, the winning bidder for a large portion of Shane’s collection was none other than our unlikely hero, Lyman Draper. I continue to thank the history gods that Reverend Shane wrote down Mrs. Scott’s eyewitness account and then, thanks to Draper, the Reverend’s papers survived and continue to offer up eyewitness information about backcountry life in the eighteenth century.