History is viewed through the fashionable lens of the reflecting era. Heroes and villains are seen in varying shades of goodness and wickedness as values shift from brawn to brain, from resourcefulness to judiciousness. Hindsight has cast a shadow on the bravest American breed, and Boone has suffered along with other frontiersmen such as Kit Carson and Davy Crockett who, perhaps, are more deserving of censure by a more enlightened generation.
Boone was already a local hero in 1784, when John Filson published his biography of the celebrated frontiersman as part of a speculating scheme to draw settlers to Kentucky. Filson’s book was ignored in America but sold well among European intellectuals. Boone’s reputation became international, and he still had another thirty-six years of legendary living to do.
Faragher’s Boone is a modest, generous, and honest man of paradoxical character: devoted to his large family, he craved solitude; he lived like (and at times as) an Indian, yet was instrumental in taking the Indians’ land and livelihood for American settlement. The popular image of Boone as Indian killer runs against Faragher’s scholarship. As does the unpopular image, held by many twentieth century historians, of Boone as unscrupulous land agent and speculator. He had been the pathfinder for a society that eventually dispossessed him as he had helped to dispossess the Indians.
Boone’s life, the events of which were not far from the tall tales inspired by them, makes a uniquely American narrative. It may be that DANIEL BOONE’s most significant contribution is its demonstration that objective history is not necessarily bereft of romance.