A Real Pioneer

“When you give your stories, you are giving yourself. You are giving your parents, your grandparents, your great-grandparents to future generations. ” (One Memory at a Time by D. G. Fulford)


I’m kin to Daniel Boone.”

Daniel Boone in Kentucky

After all, my grandmother was Anna Belle Boone and she was from Kentucky. Family legend guaranteed kinship. I’ve always claimed bragging rights to the most famous pioneer in the world. And I’ve always been able to muster just the right degree of snootiness when telling friends — a lift of the jaw and tip of the head while shutting the eye shades in conjunction with lifting the brows and sliding the name Boone out with a musical lilt.

I wanted to be a pioneer myself. I checked out every biography the public library had of early American pioneer women — Abigail Adams, Louisa May Alcott, Nancy Todd Lincoln, Clara Barton, Betsy Ross, and so forth. The books had hardback blue covers with a yellow swirl around the title. I liked the older ones that had softened with use and were easy to hold wide open, their pages bookmarked and worn at the edges. I was hungry for books about strong women who took a stand, women who followed their beliefs and dreams, women who migrated westward into wild land in covered wagons and slept under the stars at night. I wanted to be one of them. I was born in the wrong century. The gripping pull to explore new places on dirt traces with horses and wagons and long full skirts and bonnets pounded in my chest. I longed to sleep on a bed of soft blankets in the back of a Conestoga looking out at the Big Dipper — shaped like the real dipper we used to drink from Grandpa’s well with. I longed to cook a pot of stew over a campfire, then get lulled to sleep by the smell of woodsmoke, the sound of the blaze cracking, and the light and shadows thrown about by fingers of flames spurting out.

One night, when I was full of the spirit, I put a candle on the floor beside my bed. I asked Mama if I could do it, and she said no, but I did it anyway because I wanted to. My bed was about twelve inches from the wall, and I put the candle back there so Mama couldn’t see it. I struck a match to it, then dozed off staring at the flicker. Mama said “something” woke her in the middle of the night and reminded her that I’d asked about a candle. She wouldn’t do it, Mama thought. Would she? Yes, she would. She found the candle flaming two inches from a ruffle on my pretty tiered blue bedspread. She still brings up that incident every time she needs to remind me about the stupid things I’ve done, about how stubborn I can be — and how much like my father. Anyway, I got to sample bedtime by candlelight, and it didn’t take much imagination to pretend I was out in the wilderness under a starlit sky, especially since Mama had stuck luminescent stars to the ceiling in my bedroom.

“You could’ve burned your whole bed up with YOU in it,” she chided the next morning. “And burned your sister up, too.”

“I just wanted to be a pioneer,” I said. That should get her off my back. Besides, Mama encouraged books and storytelling and tall tales of wilderness adventures. She even told a few herself.

“We’re kin to Daniel Boone,” she told me one evening as she stirred buttermilk and eggs into corn meal and poured it over melted Crisco in a black iron skillet. “But I don’t know how,” she said to the rhythm of beating her long wooden spoon on the edge of the pan to knock off all the gritty yellow mixture.

Now everybody knows that Daniel Boone has high visibility as a pioneer. He blazed trails through the Kentucky wilderness and fought Indians and created new settlements.

Anna Belle Boone

My grandmother Anna Belle Boone was born and raised in the wilderness he settled. She played a harmonica and sang “My Old Kentucky Home.” Curious, I thought. She was a sharpshooter. My uncle said he remembered her shooting a rabbit out the front door and cooking it for supper. Even more curious. She loved to eat rhubarb and dandelion leaves and she concocted her own poultice for the Seven Year Itch. Sounded like a true pioneer to me!

“Did you ever ask your mother about Daniel Boone?”

“She always told me we were kin to him, but she didn’t know how.” Mama stuck the heavy skillet in the oven and let the door slam shut.

My shoulders fell. I groaned.

“You have to understand something,” Mama explained, setting her lips tight and shooting me one of those looks that said she had good reason for doing what she was about to tell me and I should not question her motives. “When I was in second grade, my reading book had a picture of Daniel Boone’s wife, Rebecca, jumping over a fence to escape the Indians. I showed my mother the picture and asked, ‘Are we kin to her?’ She said yes. I was embarrassed to be related to Rebecca Boone, that wild-eyed woman with her skirts flared, her legs spread, leaping through the air over that wooden rail with angry feathered Indians at her heels. I didn’t want any of my friends to know I was kin to her. I never brought the subject up again.”

I could understand how having an ancestor that unladylike and uncivilized would lower a seven-year-old a notch in the eyes of her peers. Besides, Mama had already told me she had a big enough burden to bear with her own name — Mahaffey. The kids called her Mahaf-ass. Still, I suffered disappointed.

I opened the encyclopedia and discovered that Daniel Boone helped establish the town of Maysville, Kentucky, in 1786. What made that so curious was that Anna Belle Boone was born there exactly one hundred years later. That made my heart pound. I collected my breath. It was sure evidence that pointed to a strong connection between Daniel Boone and my grandmother.

I came to find out later that Daniel Boone was Maysville’s first trustee. He ran a tavern and a ferry. After his first cousin died in Berks County, Pennsylvania, he visited the widow to persuade her and her grown children to move to Kentucky to have a better life. Three of her sons — cousins one generation removed of Daniel — built a boat and floated down the Ohio River to the site of Maysville. Jacob Boone, who it turns out is my fourth great grandfather, helped Daniel Boone lay out the town on the Ohio, used as a trading post for parties going up and down the river. He was the interpreter between the colonel of the army and the Indian chiefs and warriors. He lived and ran a tavern on Front Street, which was still standing the year my mother was born and during her childhood. The tavern was destroyed by the 1937 Ohio River flood, the same disaster that washed away the house Mama grew up in.

Jacob Boone is buried in the Old Pioneer Cemetery at the county museum in Maysville.

I really am in a real pioneer family.


18 Comments on “A Real Pioneer”

  1. Richard Griffith Sanders says:

    My maternal grandmother, Kate Boone Griffith, was born in Clarksville, MO and was a direct descendent of Jacob Boone, a first cousin of Daniel. We have a portrait of Jacob painted by an itinerant artist when Jacob was probably in his 60’s. If you’d like a photograph of it, I’ll try to get you one when we return to New York in April. Dick

    • William M Boone says:

      I am a direct descendant of Jacob Boone. My father spoke of the portrait of Jacob Boone; however, he had no further information about the portrait. If at all possible I would appreciate obtaining a copy of the portrait. Should you have any questions or want further information, please contact me. Thank you.

    • Pauli Smith says:

      I am also a 4th great granddaughter of Jacob and Mary DeHart Boone. I have tried to locate the location of that photo that my mother’s family said was out there, for years. I know that it has been a few years since you posted this, but if you get this, could you please contact me? Thank you, Pauli Driver Smith-> Betty Lou Polly->Mary Ellen Blythe->Indiana Boone-> John Boone->Jacob Boone. historylover@q.com

    • Nancy J. Chambers says:

      Hi Richard, I am hoping you receive this. Jacob Boone is a direct ancestor of mine and I would very much like to have a photo of his portrait. I had understood that the portrait had been taken to Missouri and have been looking for it for years.
      Thanks, Nancy

  2. Debra Bridges says:

    I am the 8th generation of Jacob Boone. Annah Boone married Thomas Nicholson and had a son Henry Clay Nicholson. I live in Nicholson , KY for which is named for Dr. Henry Clay Nicholson. Do you presently live in Maysville? We just went to Washington and Maysville in Dec. and visited the cemetary but the museum had already closed. We would like to revisit when the museum is open. The Kentucky Encylopedia mentions Jacob Boone on page 621. Years ago I was reading a book on KY and there was a story about Daniel and Jacob ambushing Indians along a creek but I cannot remember the book, if you know of it would you let me know. Thanks , your story was very interesting , I was just googling Jacob Boone and this popped up.

  3. Julie Archer says:

    Anna Belle Boone was my great grandmother. I was very close to her as a small child growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her husband — my great grandfather — was named James Mahaffey. I believe Debra Bridges is incorrect about Thomas Nicholson.

  4. Kathy says:

    Hi Julie,

    It’s a different Annah. Anna Belle Boone Mahaffey was my grandmother. You are my niece…and I wish I knew you!

  5. Dawn Gray says:

    Hello. Jacob Boone is also my fourth great-grandfather. I am trying to fill out my family’s genealogical chart with Jacob Boone’s siblings and children. I would appreciate any information you have. I know only that Jacob’s daughter Annah married a Captain Nicholson, who must be the “Thomas Nicholson” referenced in the reply above. They had a son Harrison Boone Nicholson, whose daughter Sarah married my great grandfather, John Mayo Gray. They were all from Ironton OH or Maysville KY. I would appreciate any more information about Nicholsons as well, if you have any. Thanks so much.

  6. Judy Arnett says:

    Jacob is my 4th great-grandfather. His son, John, married Margaret “Peggy” Cooper. John married Mary DeHart. Their daughter Mary DeHart Boone married Robert Chain. They had a son, Robert Nelson Chain, who married Mary Frances Moore. They had two sons, Vernon Chain and Marion Dennis Chain. Marion Dennis Chain married Georgia Gladys McDonald. Their only son, Marion Dennis Chain, Jr married Eleanor Kathryn Guillory. They are my parents.

    To Richard Grifith Sanders: I would love to have a copy of the portrait of Jacob. Are you able to scan it so that it could be attached to an e-mail?

    My father’s family was also from Maysville. Robert Chain and Mary DeHart Boone are buried in the Boone Family Cemetery at Ginger Ridge, Madison Co, OH
    There’s a Nicholson connection with my family, too:
    James Chain married Margery Nicholson. Margery was born ca 1796 in PA. Margery was possibly a sister of Thomas (Captain) Nicholson.

  7. Judy Arnett says:

    Correction on that last message…
    Ginger Ridge is in Adams County, Ohio. I don’t know where I got Madison County???

  8. Mary Alice Mueller says:

    Please refer to the nessage I sent to Dawn Gray as it pertains to Thomas Nicholson

  9. Joe Browne Nicholson says:

    Jacob is my 4th Great-Grandfather. His daughter Annah married Capt. Thomas Nicholson. Their son Harrison Boone Nicholson married Ann Maria Purcell. They moved to Ashland, KY in 1854. She lived to be 100 upon her death on November 10, 1911.

  10. Tyra Woofter says:

    I’m curious, I read that Jacob Boone was the son of Rebecca and Daniel but that on the way from Kentuckey was tortured along with another boy to death by an Indian they befriended named Big Jim. If thats the case who is the Jacob Boone you are referring to?

    • Pauli Smith says:

      Jacob Boone being referred to in these posts is Jacob Boone son of Joseph and Elizabeth Warren/Warin Boone Jr.. Joseph Boone Sr. whose wife was named Catherine (some claim that Catherine was an Aunt of Elizabeth Warren/Warin) was the brother of Squire Boone who was the father of Daniel Boone the pioneer.

  11. Rose Homan says:

    Hello, I am a descendent of Jacob Boone who had a daughter Annah Boone who then married Thomas Nicholson. Annah and Thomas are by GGGG Grandparents. They had a son Strother Boone who had a son James, who had a son William, who had a son Clarence.

    I am very interested in obtaining copies of any of these kinfolks.
    Thank you

  12. Rose Homan says:

    I am interested in obtaining photo copies of any of the above kinfolks.

  13. ellen langham says:

    kathy: i corresponded with your mother several times re mahaffey genealogy. moses mehaffey is my gggggggrandfather. i am now working regularly [and diligently!] on that family line. are copies of your books available? two cousins, my sister and i visited ireland this spring and are going specifically to donegal next year. thanks for any and all info. ellen

  14. Bruce Carlson says:

    I am creating a park in Maysville ky at limestone street between 1st and 2nd street and the lot was once owned by Jacob Boone, bought in 1807 from a Daniel McKinney. It included rights to the ferry and was right at limestone Landing where the pioneer boats arrived. So I was curious about who Jacob Boone was and his relation to Daniel. Apparently Jacob was the son of Daniels cousin.

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