Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Portraits and engravings give a glimpse into Boone’s lifestyle

Daniel Boone grumbled about having to sit while artist Chester Harding made his portrait; he was 85 years old, and the artist painted in oils just four months before Boone died on Sept. 26, 1820. The old hunter was wrinkled, bony and gaunt.

Harding didn’t know Boone, and his painting was, of course, of an old, bony and gaunt man. The family saw him as his better self - a young, short, stout fellow. Harding destroyed his oil portrait in 1861. Others - James Longacre in 1860, Alonzo Chappel and James Lewis in 1861 - made "line and stipple engravings" of Harding’s portraits, which were painted from life.

Nathan Boone, Daniel’s last surviving son, told historian Lyman Draper in 1851 that his father was "robust," only "5 feet and 8 inches tall" and "in his prime, he weighed 175 pounds!" Nathan said his father’s chest and shoulders were broad; his form gradually tapering downward; hair moderately black; blue eyes arched with yellowish eyebrows; lips thin, mouth especially wide; countenance fair and ruddy; and his "nose a little bordering on the Roman order." Others said that his voice was high-pitched, like a woman’s.

Longacre’s engraving, Boone sitting on a big rock with gun and dog, and James Lewis’ engraving of Harding’s standing Boone, both show the Harding face with nose "bordering on the Roman order." They show a Quaker-style beaver hat in Boone’s hand; he hated the ’coon skin cap many other woodsmen wore.

The Lewis engraving is noted for its accurate representation of the clothing frontiersmen wore: close-fitting deerskin leggings for protection from brush and thorns.

Deerskin or tougher elk moccasins repelled the sharp points of rocks and thorns in creeks and woods.

People stuffed deer body hair into their moccasins in winter - insulation, because each hair is hollow.

In summer, moccasins were carefully air-dried at night to prolong their usefulness because perspiration rots the hide. Clothing was handmade, including the thigh-length, fringed hunting "shirt" with its wide belt that held the garment against his body and held a large skinning knife in the ready position.

Boone tried farming after his marriage to Rebecca Bryan, the young girl he first met at his brother’s wedding, but he soon concentrated on hunting for a living.

James, the first of their 10 children, was born nine months after their wedding, and "Becky" raised two orphan nephews who lived with Daniel when they married. However, Becky Boone was often alone.

Boone erected a cabin and cleared a small farm on a stream called Sugar Tree - in one of the most productive areas of the grain-growing districts of North Carolina. He engaged in farming and "wagoning" except in the winter months when he was hunting.

At the time of her marriage, this was the flowery description of the bride: "Rebecca Bryan, whose brow had been fanned by the breezes of 17 summers, was like Rebecca of old - very fair to look upon with jet black hair and eyes, complexion rather dark and something over the common size for her sex, her whole demeanor expressive of her child-like artlessness, pleasing in her address, and unaffectedly kind in all her deportment."

Later it was said that, "There was never a more gentle, affectionate, forbearing creature than this fair, youthful bride of the Yadkin."

Rebecca Boone was my maternal grandmother’s great aunt. She had six sons and four daughters, and she often glanced over her shoulder, wondering if Daniel would come home at all.

Life was not easy for Daniel and Rebecca Boone.


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