"Fort Boonesborough is associated with some of Kentucky's most famous pioneers - Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, Richard Callaway, Nathaniel Hart and Richard Henderson. The legendary fort was the guardian of hundreds of settlers who ventured to the Wester frontier through the Cumberland Gap on the Wilderness Road. The key fortress withstood several major Indian sieges, was a bastion of civilization in an untamed wilderness, and a stronghold of the utmost importance to Kentucky history. Fort Boonesborough looms large in Kentucky history even though it was occupied for a period of less than 50 years"
(Kentucky State Parks).
While the American Revolution brewed in the East, the time was right for migration to the West. The Transylvania Company was founded in 1775 and soon purchased land from the Cherokees. "On March 19 Henderson and the chiefs set their signatures to the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals. By its terms the Indians, in return for trading goods valued at 10,000 pounds sterling, ceded to the Transylvania Company the territory between the Kentucky River and the highlands south of the Cumberland and a strip of land between the Holston River and the Cumberland Mountains" (Rice).
This purchase extended from the Ohio-Kentucky on the north to the most southwesterly branch of the Cumberland River. The American Revolution upset plans for the Transylvania Company and the purchase was declared void when Virginia established Kentucke County.
"Richard Henderson, head of the Transylvania Company named Fort Boonesborough in honor of the path-breaker, Daniel Boone."
(Henderson) He sent Boone and several axmen ahead to begin building the fort. Henderson, Hart and the rest of the party arrived about three weeks later, on April 20, 1775. That summer, the new fort consisted of 26, one-story log cabins and four blockhouses, arranged in a hollow square approximately 260' X 180'.
The back of the fort, comprised of the back row of cabins, ran parallel with the Kentucky River. The front faced the open space in the hollow below the fort where the lick and the two springs were located. There were two gates, one in the front and the other on the back wall facing the river (Kentucky State Parks).
From the very beginning, Boonesborough was the primary target of Indian hostilities in Kentucky. The fort was attacked in December 1775, and in April and July 1777 by large war parties that were more successful than killing a few settlers. The Calloway girls and Boones' daughter were captured in July 1776. A party of men tracked down the Indians, surprised them at their campsite, and rescued the girls.
No attack on the fort, though, rivaled that of the "Great Siege of Boonesborough" in the fall of 1778.
Earlier, in January, 30 men from the fort were led by Daniel Boone to the Lower Blue Licks to gather salt. Here they were captured by Shawnees, taken to Chillicothe in Ohio and eventually to Detroit. Boone made himself such an amiable companion to Chief Blackfish that the Shawnee chief refused to accept the large British reward for him. He adopted Boone and named him "Sheltowee" or Big Turtle. In June, Boone slipped away and made it back to Boonesborough. Here, he was met with much suspicion, especially since his hair had been plucked and he had adopted other Indian customs. The residents of Boonesborough thought he was the forerunner of a savage attack and felt he had befriended the Indians. Later Boone was tried for treason but was acquitted
(Kentucky State Parks).
After the Transylvania Colony ceased to exist, the pioneers restructured the settlement with the Virginia Legislature's approval of a town charter in 1779. But the settlement became one of the West's first ghost towns in the early 19th century. The 1810 Federal Census listed only eight households containing 68 people. The population continued to decline and by 1830 Boonesborough virtually ceased to exist. The fort's chimneys were reportedly dismantled by 1850 and the stones used to build a water gap. Several landowners gained private title to the land and used it for farming until the early 20th century.
In 1963, 57 acres were deeded to the Department of Parks expressly for the purchase of establishing Fort Boonesborough State Park. In 1987, an archaeological dig was begun to locate the physical remains of the fort and town. The projects goals were fulfilled when the most likely site of the fort was identified and at least 12 other documented sites associated with the fort and town were located. In 1996, the original site of Fort Boonesborough was designated a National Historic Landmark
(Kentucky State Parks).