PHMC Website Banner
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
 
Gold Curve
People Places Events Things


A Kentucky Frontiersman’s Pennsylvania Roots:
The Daniel Boone Homestead
By Sharon Hernes Silverman
This article originally appeared in Pennsylvania Heritage® Magazine
Volume XXIV, Number 3 - Summer 1998

See our Trail of History® Guides


 

Mere mention of the name Daniel Boone conjures images of an American icon: trailblazer of the Wilderness Road, preeminent Kentucky frontiersman, defender of early settlements, a crack shot with a long rifle Boone's real and folkloric exploits are so well-known that his character is often overlooked, as is the fact that his personality took shape during a boyhood not spent in "Kentucke" but in Berks County's picturesque Oley Valley. The Daniel Boone Homestead at Baumstown, southeast of Reading, interprets the way of life of the Boone family and later eighteenth-century residents, highlighting the cultural and environmental influences that shaped Daniel Boone's future and took the area from frontier to developed settlements.

Daniel Boone's ancestors arrived in southeastern Pennsylvania, following an established Quaker migration pattern from England. His father, Squire Boone (1696-1765)--Squire his given name, and not an honorific title--left Devonshire for America in 1713. Squire Boone, traveling shipboard as cabin boy, had been sent with his brother and sister by their father, George Boone, to help decide if the entire family should emigrate. The Boones had contacts with the members of the Society of Friends who lived in Abington (in present-day Montgomery County), where they first settled, and from which they sent favorable reports back home. The remaining Boones arrived four years later, and the family moved ten miles northwest to Gwynedd.

In Gwynedd, Squire Boone met Sarah Morgan (1700-1777), an American-born woman of Welsh Quaker background. They married in 1720 and lived first in Gwynedd, then in Chalfont, Bucks County, before they purchased two hundred and fifty acres in the Oley Valley in 1730. (The valley was part of Philadelphia County until 1752, when it became part of the new Berks County.) His father and brothers had already relocated to the area and enjoyed prominence in business, government, and the Exeter Friends Meeting.

A Lenape word, Oley meant "kettle," "bowl," and "hole." The valley was rich agricultural area full of movement and transition by the mid-eighteenth century. "Oley was a conglomeration of Europeans," explains James A. Lewars, administrator of the Daniel Boone Homestead. "Within a five mile radius were Germans, Swiss, French Huguenots, Welsh and English Quakers, Irish, Swedes--about a dozen different groups. The spirit of the people was reflected in their religious associations.Though he became famout as a Kentucky frontiersman, Daniel Boone developed his essential character in the simple Berks County homestead and surrounding hills and forests of his youth.  Here he acquired his first rifle, mastered the skills of a woodsman, and was exposed to both the ethic of his Quaker heritage and of Native American cultures.  Today this historic site includes unique structures as well as six hundred acres of fields, woods, and farmland.

"Oley had some of the best land in Pennsylvania, as well as early industries, including ironmaking," Lewars adds. "The Blue Mountains, which form the northern border of Berks County about twenty to twenty-five miles away, were the edge of settlement." Europeans were the newcomers to the Oley Valley, and area encompassed today primarily by the townships of Oley and Exeter. Although some Native Americans were beginning to move westward, those who did not still covered the countryside. An alliance between Pennsylvania and the Iroquois Confederacy attracted Native Americans there who had been displaced by European colonization in their traditional homes. Bands of hunter-gatherer Lenape (also known as Delawares) built villages, remained a short time, then moved on after they had exhausted the resources. The Shawnee Path ran down the center of the valley and was used by the Cayuga, the Onondaga and others, as well as the Shawnee. Europeans and Native Americans were in mostly peaceful, and often commercial, contact with each other in the province at the time the Boones arrived, contends John Mack Faragher, the most recent of Daniel Boone's biographers. Indian trade accounted for nearly a third of Pennsylvania's commerce in the first half of the eighteenth century.

Previous PagePage 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6Next Page