|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
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.
"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.