Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Daniel Boone was a man...with two graves

Grave #1 in Missouri

Daniel Boone died on this day September 26th, 1820 at the age of 85 in Missouri.
Everyone knows who Daniel Boone was right? He was that big buckskin-clad, coonskin cap-wearing Indian killer, right?
Not quite. Boone dressed like a regular 18th-century gentleman, he never wore a coonskin cap and was of an average build for his day. He also told his son he only knowingly killed three Indians and he felt bad about it too. Boone was an actual complicated human being, not some frontier superhero it turns out. So thank you very much TV and movies and bad biographers. While the TV series that ran from 1964-1970 reinforced many of the folktales, this wasn't solely a modern fable, it started when he was alive in hugely popular 1787 biography by John Filson. Boone once humbly stated later: "Many heroic actions and chivalrous adventures are related of me which exist only in the regions of fancy. With me the world has taken great liberties, and yet I have been but a common man." 

Boone was, of course, a longtime resident of Kentucky. They named a lot of stuff after him in the state he left when it got "too crowded" as the legends say. In reality, while he was skilled frontiersman and hunter he was a very bad land surveyor and businessman. He was also nearly convicted of treason at one point. Most of his KY property was sold off to settle lawsuits and he left for MO on bad terms. He said he would never return to Kentucky. It turned out he did. Maybe. I can't go into his whole story here. If you want that I highly recommend the 2007 book, "Boone: A Biography" by Robert Morgan. This post is really about what happened to his body after he died. It turns out to be just as interesting and unique as his real-life story.

Grave #2 in Kentucky
Daniel Boone has two graves, not two monuments but two actual grave sites that claim to contain his body. Or parts of his body at least. There is one in MO and another in KY.
It seems that 25 years after he died, the people of KY wanted their hero back so they had Boone exhumed from Marthasville MO and reburied in Frankfort KY. The problem is they didn't, at least not all of him...or maybe none of him. The whole issue was in great dispute for years. MO even claimed that KY dug up the wrong body because the grave was improperly marked (a common issue in those days). Meanwhile, KY said they had the right bones the whole time. This went on and on with different variances until 2010 when the Friends of Daniel Boone's Burial Site in Missouri conceded that only some of Boone's bones were removed. Now that wasn't very scientific and didn't really settle the issue. If you want to pay your respects, to be safe, just visit them both, it's only a 6.5-hour drive between the two.

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