I’m using my COVID lockdown time to organize some of the genealogical projects I’ve had on the back burner. One of those is joining the Society of Boonesborough, a lineage society for descendants of early settlers at Daniel Boone’s Fort Boonesborough.

My ancestor James Kenney was an early settler at Boonesborough. As James Kenny he signed an agreement there in 1779 with the other men in the settlement.

The application process should be relatively painless. My mother and sister are members of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) through our descent from this same James Kenney.

Settlement of Boonesborough

In 1775 the Transylvania Company hired Daniel Boone to cut a trail from what is now Kingsport (Tennessee) through Cumberland Gap to a spot in the middle of what is now Kentucky. The Company had recently organized with the idea of establishing a new colony to be named Transylvania on land purchased by Richard Henderson from the Cherokees—all of the land bounded by the Kentucky, Cumberland, and Ohio rivers. The trail became known as Boone Trace and the fort they erected was Fort Boonesborough.

Ft. Boonesborough, 1778 (Source: Wikipedia)

The idea was that the fort would be the capital of the newly opened west, and Boone Trace would open the way for settlers.

It didn’t work out that way. In the Proclamation of 1763 the British crown had prohibited settlement west of the Appalachians. Moreover, private land purchases from the Indians were also prohibited. Virginia assumed control in 1776 and turned the Transylvania colony into its Kentucky county.

Siege of Boonesborough

The settlement also had problems with the Shawnees and Cherokees, who objected to Anglo incursion. In February 1778 the Shawnees under Blackfish captured Daniel Boone and a party of settlers who were collecting salt some distance from the fort. They took the captives to the Shawnee town at Chillicothe but, long story short, Boone escaped and raced back to Boonesborough. An Indian coalition under Blackfish and the Detroit militia under Antoine Dagneaux de Quindre laid siege to the fort in September 1778 but were eventually defeated.

The Siege of Boonesborough has become an iconic episode in American history. The story is reenacted yearly at Fort Boonesborough State Park.

Aftermath of the Siege

We don’t know whether our ancestor James Kenney was present at Boonesborough during the siege, but he was there the following spring. In April the men of the area set up a system of keeping watch for Indians as part of their precautions for protecting their corn crop that year. James Kenney was one of the signers. Kenney was an early settler of Kentucky, but as far I’ve been able to discover this is the only evidence we have he was at Boonesborough.

Association of the Settlers of Boonesborough in 1779 for making a crop of corn

Wheras, we the subscribers being willing and desirous of making a crop of corn at the station of Boonesborough, on the Kentucky, do think it essentially necessary for our own safety and the public good, to enter into rules that may be obligatory on each subscriber, and are as follows:

1st. That three men (towit) Nathaniel Hart, George Madden, and Robert Cartwright, be and herby appointed as overseers or directors to said company

2nd That ever subscriber shall immediately enrole his name on a list prepared for that purpose, and shall every morning appear at the beat of a drum or some other notice given, and receive such order as the overseers or directors shall think convenient to give.

3rd That if any man refuse or neglect to perform such tours of duty as shall be assigned him by the overseers or directors he shall be erased out of the list, shall forfeit all pretensions to any claim in such crop.

4th That every morning two or more men be sent out as spies, to range round the grounds and fields to be cultivated by us, and that such number be thought necessary be stationed as a guard, the whole day, or to be relieved by others as occasion requires.

5th That no man be allowed to absent himself from the company on any pretense whatsoever, either hunting horses or provisions, or any other occasion, without leave of the overseers first had.

6th That the managers and overseers shall have full powers and authority to determine all unforseen disputes whatever, and that the subscribers shall be obliged to abide thereby. In testimony whereof, we have hereunto set our hands this 15th of April, 1779.

  • “Association of the Settlers of Boonesborough in 1779 for making a crop of corn” in Lyman C. Draper Manuscript Collection, Kentucky Series 29 CC 59, State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

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