By Ivy Brashear
Everyone knows Daniel Boone: He’s the wide-eyed frontiersman who opened the Cumberland Gap and started the western expansion. He’s the man who rescued his daughter from Indians and carried a long rifle at his side, the explorer and statesman-recognized as Kentucky’s most famous son.
Eastern faculty, administrators and Madison County Historical Society members met to celebrate Daniel Boone’s 275th birthday on Monday, Nov. 2 in front of Eastern’s iconic Daniel Boone statue.
A plaque donated by the Madison County Historical Society and now attached to the statue commemorated the event.
“I really think this is a nice thing because it takes him (Daniel Boone) from being a cartoon character to being a real person,” William “Bo” Leach, a direct descendant of Daniel Boone, said. “It really puts a human touch to him.”
Multiple speakers at the event gave remarks about Boone’s importance to Kentucky and the state’s citizens, each agreeing that Boone’s significance is unrivaled.
“I will admit that my initial opinion of Boone was one of suspicion,” history professor Dr. Tom Appleton said. “No one could have been that interesting, that brave, that significant; but, once I made the study of Kentucky history my life’s work, I discovered that Boone did indeed merit the esteem in which he is held.”
Appleton lauded the characteristics that make Boone so appealing among Kentuckians.
“It isn’t only the residents of New Hampshire who embrace the motto of ‘live free or die.'” Appleton said. “That was Boone’s credo as well.”
He alluded to the search for the American dream, a search that Boone himself started for all Americans because of his adventurous spirit.
“Like many of us, Boone was a dreamer,” Appleton said, “but one who not only wished for adventure, but who had the courage, or foolhardiness, to pursue it.”
Connie Leach, mother of William Leach and also a direct descendant of Boone, said knowing that she is a direct descendant of such an iconic figure is “an honor.”
She also said she was a resident in Burnam Hall on the second floor when the Daniel Boone statue was erected.
The statue is now included on the Madison County Heritage Walk of Fame, an honor identified by the plaque unveiled at the celebration. The marker, which includes Boone’s birth and death dates, was donated to the university by the Madison County Historical Society.
“I believe the plaque of Daniel Boone is another example of the continuing and enduring bond that exists between Richmond, the entire community of Madison County and Eastern Kentucky University,” Charles Hay, Eastern Archivist Emeritus and Program Director of the Madison County Historical Society, said.
Appleton said he wants others to remember Boone’s character and strong-willed spirit.
“I believe we would do well to emulate Boone’s temperament,” Appleton said. “Boone was ever the optimist – he never became discouraged. He bounced back; he never gave up.”
Eastern President Doug Whitlock agreed, and said he feels Boone is a great example for current generations to follow.
“One of the great messages of Daniel Boone is that he left certainty and the comfort of home to move to the challenges of life on the frontier,” Whitlock said. “As we face our challenges, we have this example that it will work out.