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Boone Clan
makes claim on the Coast

Daniel Boone's descendants forged a trail of their own across the state of Oregon and to the coast.

Boone descendants

These members of the Van Daniel Boone family are descendants of Alphonso Boone, great-grandson of Daniel Boone.

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Story by Grace Elting Castle.
Photos Courtesy Lincoln County Historical Society.

Did that famous Kentucky frontiersman, Daniel Boone, dip his toes into the Pacific?

Historians don't agree, but his descendants certainly traveled here. Great-grandsons George Luther and Morris Boone helped develop the western edge of Benton County (now Lincoln County). Their brother 'Phonse, sister Mary Elizabeth, and her daughter Mary Caroline all contributed to the development of Coos County.

Heading west

Daniel's grandson, Col. Alphonso Boone, led 11 wagons from Missouri in 1846. A widower traveling with seven children, he wisely declined the ill-fated Donner shortcut and survived the treacherous Applegate Trail. His is an important Oregon story, but his descendants are more closely linked to Oregon Coast history.

The colonel's 20-year-old son, George Luther, was on a trading trip to where Denver was yet to be when his family left Missouri. Later, George enlisted in the Missouri Volunteers Mounted Cavalry
to fight the war against Mexico. After the war in 1848, he led a wagon train of 300 people west.

George Luther Boone

Arriving months later, he found his father in Oregon City and spent Christmas Day bear hunting with his young brothers Morris and Alphonso before dining with sister Chloe and husband George Curry, a silversmith and Oregon's future governor.

Later Alphonso Sr. and sons were off to the California gold mines, where George ran pack trains to Sacramento.

In 1851, 25-year-old George returned to Oregon, having survived more adventures than most people do in a lifetime. Not the stereotypical grizzled, unsociable mountain man, handsome George won the heart of 13-year-old Mourning Ann Young.

George and Mourning married on March 31, 1852. Her ring was crafted from George's first California gold nugget. Family tradition holds that they made a honeymoon trip on horseback to the Pacific Ocean. They settled on a donation land claim near Corvallis and later moved to a Pleasant Valley farm near Philomath, where, in 1857, they witnessed the tribal survivors of the Rogue River War on their way to coast reservations.

"All night in fear and despair the Indians were groaning. I went out to encourage them and sold provisions to the soldiers. Mourning Ann trembled at the wailing. . . . ," George later told Oregon writer Eva Emery Dye.

Great-grandson George helped carve a wagon road through the mountains from Corvallis to Elk City, a thriving village at the head of the Yaquina River. In 1864, he helped survey the route for the first wagon road over the Coast Range to Yaquina City, which later became the bed for the first railroad to the coast.

Homesteading on Coos Bay

Meanwhile, George's brother, 'Phonse, had returned from California. Within a year he'd sold his share of the family’s Boone's Ferry business on the Willamette River to older brother Jesse and joined Oregon's Citizen's Guard.

In 1869, after establishing a steamboat business, he homesteaded on Catching Inlet near Sumner in Coos County. He raised a large family with his wife Nancy Leathia Barker.

In 1867, Mary Caroline Boone, great-great-granddaughter of Daniel, became the first teacher in Marshfield (Coos Bay). The next year her mother, George and Alphonso D's sister, Mary Elizabeth, traveled by horseback over the Brewster Valley Trail with her husband to homestead on Burton Prairie (Fairview) in Coos County. Many descendants of these Boone and Barker families remained in Coos County.

Boones at Yaquina Bay

In 1870, George and Mourning moved their growing family over the mountains to the stately new home overlooking Yaquina Bay. George piped water into the house and used sprinklers on the lawns, frontier luxuries. The Boone place became a popular site for community picnics and celebrations.

In a September 1941 issue of Oregon Historical Quarterly, Dye described her 1905 visit: ". . . a dignified old Quaker gentleman in gray overcoat and gray broad-brimmed William Penn hat met us with a boat and rowed us across an arm of the bay to the foot of a green lawn sloping up to a commodious farmhouse that would be notable on any frontier." She declared Mourning a "genial, gracious lady."

Dye noted the home was "a beautiful plantation, with climbing yellow roses blooming in February, blooming all year round, and tall plumes of pampas grass waving in the wind . . . and cedars, a young grove springing up around a stately old patriarch."

Mourning Ann Boune

Mourning Ann Boone

 

FYI: In 1981 Florence Gladys (Boone) Biddle, a great-granddaughter of George and Mourning Ann, collaborated with her husband, Philip, to write a family history/genealogy titled Boone, The Oregon Trace. This book is out of print but available at some museums.

Here, the man who had apprenticed as a tailor; worked at his uncle's outfitting store in Missouri; learned several native Indian languages; and, inspired by stories of his great-grandfather, headed with his mules into the Rocky Mountain wilderness to trap and trade where few white men had ventured; fought in the Mexican War and negotiated treaties with the Navajo; led a wagon train to Oregon; helped cast Oregon's first money (the "Beaver coin"); turned a hand press to print the broadside announcing the 1849 establishment of the new territorial government; and traded gold during the California gold rush, all before he was 25 years old, settled comfortably into his life at the Pacific shore.

Boone House He planted a 300-tree orchard, the first on Yaquina Bay, which produced up to 1000 bushels of apples each year. Shipped to the Willamette Valley by rail, they were of such impeccable quality that he never had to pay the dollar offered for any worm found.

George told Dye that in 1871 he and his friend George Collins provided much of the lumber for the new Cape Foulweather (Yaquina Head) lighthouse north of Newport.

"Terrific was the toil dragging lumber up that high promontory and building on the rock in a wind that fairly blew the saws out of men's hands . . .", George recalled.

Brother Morris was reputed to have had a sawmill on the Yaquina. If the gold that Morris claimed to have found on the Siletz reservation was ever located, he could become the best remembered of the Boone clan. In 1873, the editor of the Weekly Corvallis Gazette predicted that 500 to 1000 men could make at least $2 a day mining that gold.

Only historical marker remains

Today, while only a vandalized historical marker notes the once imposing home on Yaquina Bay Road and few remember the Boone steamboats on Coos Bay, many of Daniel and Rebecca Boone's descendants live all along the Oregon Coast. Most, like George and Mourning's great-grandson Ed Fawver, have other surnames, but the Boone traditions remain strong. If you find Ed at his Siletz gun shop on a day when Boone wanderlust hasn't lured him into the coastal forests, you'll hear some great stories, and in the fall, like his great-grandfather before him, he'll probably offer you an apple from his orchard.

Oregon Coast November/December 2007

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