Why do I take this sweltering 103-degree day, July 24, to drag skeletons out of closets and put braggarts in their rightful places in our history? I’m one of the three elderly relatives of Daniel Boone’s wife, Rebecca Bryan Boone. The other two are my brother, James Denver Meyers, and our cousin, Elizabeth Ann Howell Ransdel. We three are survivors, past 90 years, the grandchildren of a Confederate soldier, James Lawrence Henry. We honor Grandpa by sharing brief facts of his life from our memories and from written history. Grandpa Jim Henry’s life story might prompt some reader to write his or her own ancestor’s story on one of these sultry, stay-near-the-air-conditioner days.
Nancy and Walt and I were touring England on our bikes in 1966 when our neighbor back in Boone County was running for county judge. I saw a sign, "Attorney-at-law," and signaled for a stop. The youngsters waited while I took my absentee ballot to have my signature verified for voting. The attorney came to the front office when he heard an American voice. He was flattered to have an American in his office. He read my ballot carefully, "For Presiding Judge of Boone County, Missouri."
"Boone County?" he asked excitedly. He put the ballot down and asked about the TV Boone and the historical Boone.
He was a fan of the television movie, and I didn’t dare admit that I was not. I finally got the ballot notarized, and he said, "Of course there’ll be no charge for people from Boone County, Mo." He wanted more information on the movie star Boone, and I knew almost nothing about the guy. I didn’t recall that Rebecca Boone, Daniel Boone’s wife, was my "long-ago" aunt, about six generations ago! History and ancestors were low on my list of priorities on that occasion. My life was filled with bicycle touring, map reading, youth hostels and safety in traffic. It didn’t seem important whether my great-aunt six or seven generations back was Daniel Boone’s beloved Becky - Rebecca Bryan Boone. Our historical family information was in the Bible with many other names I didn’t recall.
After Mom’s untimely death in 1937, I found her correspondence with an elderly man, a journalist named William Bryan who wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He wrote: "I knew your Bryan and Logan relatives well. Your Mother was my Sunday School teacher; Corelia Logan married Willis Bryan and they are buried in the Daniel Boone Cemetery where Rebecca and Daniel also rest." As I aged, this kind of information became more interesting.
Daniel Boone married Rebecca Bryan, and it is through her that we are related to the couple’s nine children.
John Bakeless’ respected book is "Daniel Boone, Master of the Wilderness." Bakeless wrote, "Rebecca, at age 15, is quite old enough for marriage by the standards of this time and place." He referred to the "dark comeliness of the strapping young creature ... very nice, having good temper and equanimity."
"She was handy with a rifle ... could kill an occasional deer for food ... a tall brunette, fair to look upon with jet black hair and eyes," he wrote. "Something over the common size for her sex, pleasing in her address and unaffectedly kind."
He said she was "gentle, forbearing, expressive in her childlike-ness." Then he said, "But that’s just the way 19th century biographers went on."
Daniel Boone was small and had a voice like a woman’s, yet artists seldom portrayed him as small. Rebecca Bryan married him when she was 17 and he was raising two orphan boys of relatives.
She stayed true to him throughout her life. Her remains and beautiful monument are on a hilltop in Frankfurt, Ky. Art carvings on her monument show her taking care of the farm in her husband’s absence.
I’m Rebecca Boone’s relative and am therefore related to her nine children, but I cannot rightly claim kinship with her famous husband.