Rebecca Bryan Boone (1738 – 1813)
Rebecca Bryan Boone was the wife of the famous explorer and frontiersman, Daniel Boone. Her life as a frontier wife was full of hard work, many children, and frequent moves. Like most pioneer women, she left few records to document her life and feelings. But in accounts and records of her husband’s and children’s lives, there are references to her that have helped historians piece together her life.
Rebecca Bryan was born into a Quaker family in Virginia on January 9, 1738. Her ancestors had emigrated from Europe and settled in Pennsylvania in the late 1600s. Rebecca’s father was Joseph Bryan, Sr. and her mother was Alee Linville. Rebecca moved with her family to the Yadkin valley in North Carolina in 1748 when she was ten years old.
Courtship and Marriage
By 1751, Daniel Boone and his family settled near the Bryans in North Carolina. The Boones were also Quakers from Pennsylvania. The Boones and Bryans came to know each other well. Many marriages took place between the two families. Rebecca and Daniel began their courtship at a family wedding in 1753.
Daniel Boone was a hard worker. He helped his father, Squire Boone, clear land and farm, but he preferred to hunt and trap in the woods. He became a professional hunter and played a key role in the deerskin trade in the local economy. He was well known for his marksmanship and hunting ability. Three years after beginning their courtship, Rebecca and Daniel were married by Daniel’s father, who was also a Justice of the Peace, on August 14, 1756. Rebecca was eighteen and Daniel was twenty-two. Their marriage lasted fifty-six years until her death in 1813.
Motherhood and Moving West
Rebecca started married life in a small cabin on Squire Boone’s land, but she moved many times during her long marriage to Daniel. She created homes in North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, and finally Missouri. She had ten children, six sons and four daughters. Her household was made even larger by the addition of children that she and Daniel took in when close relatives died. According to family accounts, Rebecca was a tall and sturdy woman. She had black hair and very dark eyes. She dressed simply and had a mild way of talking that reflected her Quaker background.
Daniel supported his large family by hunting. This meant that he was gone for long periods of time hunting and then selling his hides at market. Other responsibilities also kept Daniel from home. He had legislative duties and became involved in buying and selling land. He is perhaps most famous for leading many parties of men, women and children (including his own family) to dangerous frontier lands and protecting them during the journey.
Daniel’s long absences made Rebecca the head of their household. She was responsible for feeding and clothing her family. Feeding her family involved planting, tending, harvesting, and preserving fruits and vegetables grown in her kitchen garden and crop fields. She managed the care of typical farm animals such as chickens, pigs, sheep, and cows. Rebecca’s daily chores involved gathering eggs and churning milk to make butter and cheese. Her seasonal chores included butchering and preserving meat and gathering sap to make maple syrup.
Clothing her family was also a major operation that involved many steps. She grew flax and cut wool from her herd of sheep to spin, dye, weave, and finally sew into clothing. Since Daniel, and later her sons, wore buckskin when hunting, she knew how to skin, tan, and prepare hides for clothing, too. She made candles and soap, chopped firewood, and also knew how to make bullets and shoot a gun.
Final Home in Missouri
Rebecca spent the last fourteen years of her life in Missouri. In 1799, she and Daniel joined their son, Daniel Morgan Boone, who had scouted land for settlement in Missouri. Many Bryan and Boone family members accompanied them. By 1803 Rebecca and Daniel were settled in their own home in present-day Warren County. Rebecca lived in this house for ten years until her death. This was her longest residence. Several of her children lived close by.
Rebecca Bryan Boone died at the age of 75 on March 18, 1813, surrounded by family members. Daniel had a coffin made for her from local black walnut. She was buried at the Boone-Bryan burying ground in the La Charette community near the Femme Osage River. Daniel was buried beside her in an identical coffin seven years later.
Research and text by Carlynn Trout
Christensen, Lawrence O., et al, eds., Dictionary of Missouri Biography. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1999. pp. 105–6.
Dains, Mary K., ed., Show Me Missouri Women: Selected Biographies. 2 volumes. Kirksville, MO: Thomas Jefferson University Press, 1989, 1993. Volume 1: 13.
McCandless, Perry and William E. Foley, eds. Missouri Then and Now. 3rd ed. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2001. pp. 91–2.