-Recently I was reading a book on Florida history when I was surprised to see that it mentioned the folk hero/frontiersman Daniel Boone. What do you know about the time that Boone spent in Pensacola?
Although the legendary woodsman Daniel Boone is best known for his exploration of what is now Kentucky, for a short time he entertained the idea of a life in West Florida.
Following the Treaty of Paris in 1763, France ceded American land east of the Mississippi River to Britain. In addition, Spain relinquished control of the Floridas to the British in exchange for Havana.
Under British rule, Florida was divided into two provinces: East Florida and West Florida. West Florida’s governor, anxious to make the new province a British settlement, issued a proclamation offering 100 acres of free land to any Protestant who would settle it.
In the fall of 1765, friends of Daniel Boone traveling from Virginia stopped by his farm in North Carolina. They were on their way to western Florida to look at the land being offered. Boone was interested. The land was lightly settled and offered hope of both plentiful game and appreciating land value.
Boone joined the men from Virginia and set out for Florida along with his brother Squire Boone and his brother-in-law John Stewart. He promised his wife Rebecca that he would return home in time for Christmas dinner. The group traveled south to St. Augustine, and then west across Florida to Pensacola. Not much is known about the trip except that the party covered their expenses trading deerskins and gambling.
When the group arrived in Florida, they were unimpressed. The land was sandy and barren, the flies were intense, and the only game they saw was deer and birds. At one point, Boone and the others came close to starving before they stumbled upon a group of Seminole Indians who fed them venison and honey.
Despite the harsh conditions, when they arrived in Pensacola, Boone acquired a house lot. The land provided opportunity for his fur trade. The Gulf Coast was accessible to European markets for exporting pelts and importing supplies. The Creeks, Choctaws and Chickasaws traded in Pensacola, and the backcountry was open for hunting and settlement. Also, Florida was far from North Carolina where Boone was known for owing multiple creditors.
True to his word, Boone returned to his home in North Carolina on Christmas Day, 1765. He proposed the opportunity in Florida to his wife, but she declined the move that was more than 700 miles away. Rebecca wanted to stay close to her family in North Carolina and Virginia. Abiding his wife, Boone abandoned his land in Pensacola and went back to hunting the hills of North Carolina.