Frankfort grave marker detail.
Frankfort grave marker detail.

Boone's Bones Brouhaha

Daniel Boone is hardly a folk hero superstar -- in fact, a lot of people get him confused with Davy Crockett -- but he's been popular enough over the years to merit a Hollywood movie, a lunch box, and a postage stamp. And one thing is certain about folk heroes, even second-stringers: Everybody wants their old bones.

Oklahoma, for example, dug Will Rogers out of California's Forest Lawn Cemetery and buried him in their own memorial park. South Dakota, not content with its Crazy Horse ubermemorial, stole Sitting Bull's bones from North Dakota and reinterred them on their own soil. Even "Mad" Anthony Wayne, an Indian-fighter and a popular subject of pre-interstate monuments, was yanked from his Erie, PA, grave by his son, who boiled the flesh off of the corpse and headed for home (Paoli, PA) with the bones in a bag. Then the bags were stolen. Who knows where Mad Anthony is today?

Marthasville's Boone grave.
Marthasville's Boone grave.

Daniel Boone has suffered similar body-snatching shenanigans but with a twist: He appears to have ended up in two graves.

Everyone agrees that Boone died at his son's home near Defiance, Missouri, in 1820. Everyone also agrees that he was buried nearby in Marthasville (about 14 mi. west), near the grave of his wife, Rebecca. But then the story gets muddled. The folks in Frankfort, Kentucky, would have you believe that Rebecca and Daniel were exhumed 25 years later and reinterred in Frankfort Cemetery. The marker in Marthasville mentions the reinterment, but...

Frankfort's Boone grave.
Frankfort's Boone grave.

According to Marthasville, Frankfort dug up the wrong body. The grave next to Rebecca's was already occupied when Daniel died, they say, so he was buried at her feet. Daniel's relatives were angry at Frankfort and didn't tell them about his true burial plot. They let Frankfort cart away the body next to Rebecca's, the body of a stranger.

Scientific scrutiny seems to support Marthasville's claims. A forensic anthropologist studied a plaster cast of the skull in Frankfort's "Daniel Boone" grave in 1983 and said that it really belonged to a large black man. Frankfort, of course, pooh-poohed those allegations.

Both graves have worthy monuments. Frankfort's is bigger (that was, ostensibly, the reason for the move in the first place) but it's in a big cemetery and must share its surroundings with other dead people. The memorial near Marthasville is out by itself, and it's worth remembering that Daniel Boone's own reason for leaving Kentucky was that it was "too crowded."

We say, since the marker is all you get to see anyway, it's a toss-up. Daniel Boone is buried in the spot easiest for you to get to on your next trip.

Case closed.

June 2010: An official document filed by the Friends of Daniel Boone's Burial Site in Missouri now concedes that some of Boone's bones were dug up and moved to Kentucky, but only the "large" ones. "His heart and brain remain where he was buried." The paper also states that Boone left Kentucky in 1799 on bad terms, and that he swore he'd rather die than set foot there again.

July 2009: Daniel Boone's "lucky nose" bronze plaque at the Marthasville grave was stolen in June 2008 and sold for scrap. It's been replaced by one made of black granite.

Daniel Boone's Grave

Frankfort Cemetery

Address:
215 E. Main St., Frankfort, KY
Directions:
In Frankfort Cemetery, which sits on a cliff overlooking the east side of the Kentucky River, where US Hwy 60/E. Main St. intersects Glenns Creek Rd.
Hours:
Summer daily, 8 am - 8:30 pm; winter to 5:30 pm. (Call to verify)
Phone:
502-227-2403
RA Rates:
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Daniel Boone's First Grave

Daniel Boone Monument

Address:
Boone Monument Rd, Marthasville, MO
Directions:
Drive east on Main St., out of town, then turn right onto Boone Monument Rd. Drive east less than a mile. You'll see a "Daniel Boone Memorial" sign on the left. Pull off on the right shoulder, walk across the road and then up the stairs, up the hillside, to the grave marker.
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