Wednesday, March 5, 2014

#97 Daniel Boone's Long Walk (100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida)

Daniel Boone
Painted in old age by Chester Harding
#97 on our list of 100 Great Things about Jackson County is Daniel Boone's Long Walk. Click here to read previous posts in this series.

It is a little known fact that in 1765 (250 years ago next year), the famed American explorer and pioneer Daniel Boone passed through Jackson County on his long walk across Florida. He later told the story of the journey to his son, Nathan Boone, who recorded it along with many of his father's other memories.

After 250 years of Spanish rule, Florida was surrendered to Great Britain at the end of the French & Indian War in 1763. Spain had sided with France in that conflict and lost Florida as a result.

As the British took over the colony, a steady flow of settlers began to move down from Georgia, the Carolinas and even Virginia. Pensacola and St. Augustine were the primary destinations of these settlers, but others spread out through the back country where they were welcomed by the Lower Creek and Seminole Indians. The British were on good terms with the American Indians who lived in Florida.

Daniel Boone and his dog
Drawing by Alonzo Chappel

Two years after Great Britain gained control of Florida, Daniel Boone joined a party of men headed south on a journey of exploration. He then lived in North Carolina, was 31 years old and had survived Braddock's Defeat, the bloody ambush and defeat of British troops portrayed in the book and movie, Last of the Mohicans. Boone, in fact, was the primary model for the hero of the story, Natty Bumpo (renamed Nathaniel Poe for the movie).

Contrary to legend, Daniel Boone did not wear a coonskin cap. He was from a Quaker family and wore a flat brimmed hat. He had blonde hair and blue eyes.

Boone and his fellow travelers came south through Georgia to St. Augustine. From there, with Boone leading the way, the men set out on a more than 400 mile journey to Pensacola through the vast Florida wilderness. They were following a trail called the Pensacola-St. Augustine Road.

The "road" was really little more than a footpath that wound its way west from St. Augustine to the Suwannee River and then on to Lake Miccosukee near present-day Tallahassee. From there, the trail split into two paths, both of which angled north into what is now Decatur County, Georgia, before reuniting just outside the city of Bainbridge.

Daniel Boone leading a party of settlers
Painting by George Caleb Bingham
A settler and trader named James Burges (or Burgess) had settled where Bainbridge stands today and the explorers crossed the Flint River at his settlement. They then followed the trail on past the present site of Donalsonville, Georgia, and crossed the Chattahoochee River into Jackson County and back into Florida at Ekanachatte ("Red Ground"), a Lower Creek village at what is now called Neal's Landing.

Assuming that Boone and the other men remained on the main trail, from Neal's Landing they passed west along the route of today's State Highway 2. Their journey would have taken them across the sites of today's towns of Malone, Campbellton and Graceville. They crossed Holmes Creek out of Jackson and into Holmes County near Graceville.

1778 Map of the road followed by Boone
None of these towns or counties existed then, of course, and the only people that Boone encountered in what later became Jackson County were the Creek Indians who lived at Ekanachatte and at a small town called Pucknawhitla ("Peach Tree") which stood on the present site of Campbellton.

Section of road followed by Boone through Jackson County
The journey was long and difficult. At one point Boone and the others lost track of the path and became confused in the wilderness. He later told his son Nathan that he never was lost in his life, but was confused once for a few days.

Daniel Boone had not been impressed with the lands he saw between St. Augustine and the Chattahoochee River, but once he crossed into what is now Jackson County he found richer lands and pristine forests. Deer and other animals were plentiful and the pioneer was impressed.

Daniel Boone from Life
Painting by John James Audubon
After the group reached Pensacola, Boone made arrangements to acquire land in West Florida (the British divided the modern state into two colonies, East Florida and West Florida). He planned to relocate to the area and become one of its first English settlers.

The explorer's wife, Rebecca, had other ideas. She firmly objected to the move because it would take her so far from her family in North Carolina. Boone complied with his wife's wishes and the idea of moving to Florida was abandoned.

Other members of the pioneer's family, however, would follow in his footsteps. Among the earliest American settlers of Jackson County was Gilley Crawford Boone Neel, a member of Boone's family. She first settled with her husband and children near Neal's Landing and later lived in the Paront community north of Grand Ridge. She and many other relatives of Daniel Boone are buried at Cowpen Pond Cemetery near Dellwood.

Great Oaks in Greenwood, Florida
Other relatives of the famed pioneer and his wife settled in Greenwood. Rebecca Bryan Boone was a member of North Carolina's noted Bryan family. That family was instrumental in the founding of Greenwood and Great Oaks, a beautiful antebellum home, was originally the Bryan Mansion. Members of the Boone and Bryan families are buried in numerous cemeteries around Greenwood.

The historic Pensacola-St. Augustine Road, which Boone followed across Florida, is interpreted on the new Jackson County Spanish Heritage Trail. A kiosk at City Park on Highway 71 in downtown Malone tells the story of the historic road.  Click here for more information.

Daniel Boone's long walk is an almost forgotten footnote of Florida history, but it is one of the 100 Great Things about Jackson County, Florida.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful snipit of Florida history. I live betwen Greenwood and Twoegg. Being a hustory nut I loved this bit of Florida history.

Dale Cox said...

Thank you for the nice comment! I think you will really enjoy the series as it goes. I have picked some obscure but fun facts like Daniel Boone's visit.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dale, I am related to Gilley Neel. I'd love to know all you know about the Cow Pen Pond Cemetery. Thanks! Patti

Sharry said...

I was so surprised to hear about the Bryan family in the Greenwood area. I have Bryan family from the same area that Rebecca Bryan Boone was from but haven't been able to make the connection to her yet. I would love to visit the mansion. Is it open to the public?

Dale Cox said...

Sharry, If you contact me by sending a note at I would be happy to arrange a tour for you. The house is not open on a daily basis but I do have access.