This illustration depicts Boone and his men cutting the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap. Image Source: National Archives.
10 Facts About Daniel Boone and the Wilderness Road
This video from the Smithsonian Channel provides a short look at Daniel Boone and the Wilderness Road.
- The Allegheny Mountains, spanning from northern Pennsylvania to southern Virginia, posed a significant obstacle to settlers heading to Kentucky and the western frontier in the early 18th century.
- Dr. Thomas Walker, an explorer in 1750, discovered a narrow passage through the Alleghenies, known today as the Cumberland Gap, located at the intersection of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.
- In 1775, Richard Henderson, a wealthy businessman, hired Daniel Boone to create a trail through the Cumberland Gap, with the intention of establishing a colony named Transylvania in Kentucky.
- Boone and his men cut their way through the mountains, forging a path that became known as the Wilderness Road, which still exists today.
- After two weeks, Boone and his men reached the other side of the mountains and established a settlement called Boonsboro, where a reconstructed fort now stands.
- The Wilderness Road attracted hundreds of pioneers who traveled through the Cumberland Gap to reach the frontier outpost.
- While protecting the settlers from Indian attacks, Boone was captured by the Shawnee tribe, led by Chief Blackfish.
- Boone learned of a Shawnee plan to attack Boonsboro but was unable to warn the settlement until he made a daring escape. According to legend, he covered 160 miles of wilderness in just four days.
- When the Shawnee eventually attacked, the settlers were well-prepared and defended the fort for 10 days before the Shawnee retreated.
- Daniel Boone’s real-life adventures were sensationalized in newspapers and magazines, turning him into a legendary hero of the American frontier, with stories of daring escapes and leading pioneers into the western wilderness.