Following in the Footsteps of Daniel Boone

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
July 24, 2015

Between 1912-1915, Daughters from Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky placed 50 historical markers across 400 miles from North Carolina to Kentucky, marking the trail of Daniel Boone from 1769.  Leading the effort was Mrs. Lindsay Patterson (Lucy) of Winston-Salem, NC.  It is remarkable that with just a few years of research, Mrs. Patterson and others were able to document the trail of America’s Frontiersman, almost 100 years since his death. I first became familiar with Mrs. Patterson’s efforts through Randell Jones’ books, “In the Footsteps of Daniel Boone” and “Trailing Daniel Boone.”

The first marker was dedicated on June 30, 1915 with thousands in attendance.  The tenacity of our early members inspires me and I was thrilled to be invited to the rededication of the monument at Cumberland Gap 100 years later. The Cumberland Gap became the gateway to the west and about 300,000 settlers traveled through the Gap. The National Park Service estimates that 47 million Americans are descended from these pioneers. Cumberland Gap National Historical Park preserves 24,000 acres of mountain scenery where the southeastern corner of Kentucky meets the western tip of Virginia.

I traveled to Knoxville, TN from Washington, D.C. the weekend before our 124th Congress.  Marcia Pickel, Tennessee State Corresponding Secretary, greeted me at the airport and drove me through beautiful east Tennessee to Middlesboro, KY.  The commemoration began on Friday evening at a dinner at the Pine Mountain State Resort in Pineville, KY, enjoyed by Daughters from Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Tennessee. Chairing the event was Loretta Cozart from North Carolina.

Greetings were given by Registrar General Sharon Withers as well as State Regents  Barbara Zink, Kentucky; Susan Thomas, Tennessee; Peggy Troxell, North Carolina and Virginia State Historian, Mary White.   Peggy shared excerpts of remarks made by Mrs. Patterson in 1913 when she chaired the Boone Trail Committee:

"Daniel Boone’s Trail through North Carolina, lost for more than a century, has, after two years’ research and hard work, been accurately located and marked. The Trail begins at his home on the Yadkin River, near Salisbury, NC, and enters Tennessee at Zionville, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles. It passes on through east Tennessee into Virginia, crossing Cumberland Gap into Kentucky, and ends at Boonesboro.

Not only was the trail through North Carolina lost, but even historians had forgotten her leading part in building this new-world Appian Way, over which our forefathers traveled in ever-increasing numbers to open up the great Northwest. With them went law and order, civilization and religion. Surely many a sturdy pioneer took courage, as, watching his blazing campfires at night and cloud-capped Cumberland Mountains by day; he remembered how Israel’s God had led His chosen people to the Promised Land by fire and cloud.

It seems strange that the Wilderness Road, naturally one of the most beautiful in the world, and historically one of the most interesting, should have been so long “unhonored and unsung.” Its marking should be a matter of special interest, not only to the States through which it runs, but also to the Western Daughters, whose ancestors traveled over it with high hopes and brave hearts.

We wanted to have a united marker. Cumberland Gap, where Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky come together and North Carolina is not so far away, is a wonderful place. I hope someday all of you can go there. Through a gap in the mountains, you look over into the blue mountains of Kentucky, over the green hills of Tennessee, and into the wonderful hills of Virginia, and a more fitting place for a marker, that four States have put three in love, I do not know.

It is lovely in every way, and each of the four States contributed equal sums. Each gave $100.00. The monument is right in the gap. We changed our minds a little bit; we intended to have it a DAR monument, but in talking with the men, they asked us to put it in the form of a pyramid and leave a place on top of the pyramid so they might petition the Legislature, later on, to have a bronze statue of Daniel Boone. That will be the men’s gift to the Daughters, and that, now, is in their hands.”

Peggy concluded with:  “Well, it is one hundred years later, and we are still waiting for the statue. Perhaps at the next one hundred year celebration, we will have our statue.”

Note: For more information, please read the April 1914 Magazine, page 221, which is available in the Digital Magazine Archive.

Author Sue Ballard spoke about her new book, "My Blessed Wretched Life: The Rebecca Boone Story." It’s a compelling historical fiction and quickly convinced me I’m grateful not to have lived in those tough pioneer times.

On Saturday morning, June 15, hundreds gathered at the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  Historical interpreters were present on the grounds and the Tanasi River Brigade of the Tennessee Society, SAR provided the Salute (firing of rifles). The Watauga Valley Fife and Drum Corps played and Randell Jones greeted me with a gift of a bust of Daniel Boone. 

The State Regents and some of the guests were invited to ride with the Rangers in their 4 wheel vehicles about one-half mile up the trail to the marker.  All were amused when we were required to wear helmets! We encountered several historic interpreters along the path, sharing the stories of their journey across the Gap.  I could only imagine what it was like for Mrs. Patterson and the other intrepid ladies as they walked up the mountain in long gowns and hats.

At the monument, the State Regents each said a few words and placed a wreath.  When invited to make remarks, I shared that I was reminded of the scripture to “Guard that which is committed to thy trust.”  The ladies of 1915 marked the trail and 100 years later, the ladies of 2015 are reminding us all of the historical significance of Daniel Boone’s trail and the Cumberland Gap.

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